Narrated by Wang Ming-ji.
This is an interesting attempt to construct a single account of Miao history out of information gathered from the old songs. At the same time it seeks to link those stories with certain Chinese records, and hence to fix the location of the various events geographically and historically. This proved to be no simple task, as the following comments will indicate.
In the songs the narratives read as though they are stories about the exploits of great individual leaders, the elder Gi-vu, the elder Gi-no, Gha-sao-hmao-byu, the Man Li-dao, the Woman and the Man Cao, and so forth. In fact these are actually names of clans, not of individuals. Thus, for instance the Man Li-dao is the leader of the Hmao-dang clan, and represents the clan, but is a different individual in different generations and it is not always easy to be sure where a generation change has taken place.
The various Miao clans were called by different names in different strands of the tradition. Of this Wang Ming-ji was fully aware, and went to some trouble to sort them out. However, in this account he tends to jump about, sometimes using one name, sometimes another, for the same clan, so that the reader often has difficulty in keeping up.
At a number of points further explanations would be valuable but are not offered. Thus in several of the songs mention is made of "The Twelve Clans", but nowhere are the names of the clans given. In one of his notes in Chinese, Wang Ming-ji mentions the number twelve, but again furnishes no details. In modern Miao usage there are eight clan names. Presumably the other four were subdivisions of the eight.
The songs are full of names, of regions and rivers, of cities and plains, but merely to assume that they are all different places is precarious. The songs come down through different lines of tradition and, as in the case of the clan names, different strands may use different names for the same place. Before geographical locations can be established therefore, a critical analysis of the song material needs to be undertaken. So, for example, there are good reasons for assuming that Lao-gu and Lao-u are not two cities, as Wang Ming-ji assumes, but two forms of the name of a single city. (See the note in the introduction to song M219). Lao-gi-jiai may well be yet another name for the same place. (See the introduction to song M221).
We are told that the man Hxai had a nickname "chicken breast man". This requires a little further explanation. He was armed with a crossbow, with quivers of arrows, probably poisoned, and wore a grass cape. The latter was for concealment , because he had to lie in wait until the enemy came within range. The cape was made from long grass plaited together in such a manner that the loose ends on the outside all hung downwards like thatch on a roof. The cape was quite water proof and of a speckled greenish brown colour which blended well into the scrub and undergrowth, but which also resembled, more or less, the speckled feathers on a chickenís breast.
Translation in verse
You can see the original documents for this song.
You can also see these pages as Word97 documents
Return to Index of Songs
Return to First Page of the Archive