Concerning the Man Li-dao, section one.

Sung by Tao Zi-gai.


Recorded in Document F and reproduced in Documents K, L, M and N, this piece comprises more than 350 lines. In fact it is not a single song. Section one does indeed run straight on into section two without any formal division, but the subject matter is sufficiently distinct to make a break desirable. The first section is a detailed account of how the Miao established themselves in their ancient homeland, together with a less detailed account of their eventual eviction by the Chinese after one successful defence of their territory. Section two traces their flight from the homeland and ultimate settlement by the A-na river in an area ruled by powerful Yi over-lords. Section three concerns the use of drums in the worship of the ancestors. It appears to be a variant of a song recorded by Wang Ming-ji, and belongs with that and other songs to a group associated with the worship of the spirits. Section four, unrelated to any of the fore- going, has, in fact, nothing to do with the Miao at all. It is an account of the seizure, by the Chinese, of the Zhaotung plain and the surrounding country from the original Yi rulers. This song is much more nearly related to the concluding part of the song by Yang Zhi describing the draining of the lake, which at one time covered the Zhaotung plain, by the legendary folk-hero Nzyu-fa-lao.

In Document F, compiled by Yang Yong-xing in 1950, this song is prefaced by the following introduction written in Miao:

"The Miao, having fled from the plains of the Yi-bang country, continued their flight and reached Ngga-yi-shi-lw country. At that time the Elder Gi-no, Gha-sao-hmao-byu and the Elder Gi-chi were all dead, leaving only one elder, called the Man Li-dao, as leader living there. Afterwards the Ruling Race came and drove them out, so that the Miao fled thence and arrived in the Byu-no country".

When, in 1953 Yang Yong-xing included the song in Document K, this preface was replaced by a brief heading in Miao which read:

"The time when they were living in the Ngga-yi-shi-lw country, also called Ngga-yi-shi-lu country".

Underneath this is a note placed in brackets and written in Chinese:

"A place in West Hunan".

Document K was transcribed and re-issued by a group of Miao teachers in Weining in 1981. This is Document L, and here both the introduction from Document F and the heading from Document K are reproduced, but when this song was selected by the same group of teachers for a place in Document M, neither were retained, nor do they appear in Document N.

Why Documents M and N discarded Yang Yong-xing's comments is not explained, but it is possible that it was realized that they were in fact mistaken. The Man Li-dao, the Elder Gi-vu and the others were representatives of Miao clans rather than individual people. The modern name for the Li-dao clan is Hmao-dang, and its members are known by the Chinese surname Wang. With small variations in detail, the narrative is identical to that in the other stories of the conflict with the Chinese, and the name Ngga-yi-shi-lw, far from being some indeterminate region in Western Hunan, is in fact a variant form of the name of the Ndu-na-yi-mo or Yi-bang, the great river that ran through the ancient homeland. Furthermore the circular city with its rows of fine houses bears the name Lao-gi-jiai which is the name found in other songs by Tao Zi-gai, and is equivalent to Lao-gu or Lao-u in Yang Zhi's songs.

One point of detail needs clarification. Lines 59 to 65, describing how the fields were irrigated, mention crops of rice and also of peas and broad beans. The former was the main crop planted in the spring in the flooded fields and harvested when the fields had been drained in the autumn. It was then possible to plant a winter crop of peas and broad beans which would be gathered before it was time to prepare the fields for planting the rice seedlings again.

Translation in verse
Literal Transcription

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Word97 Introduction
Word97 Translation
Word97 Transcription
Word97 Notes

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