Twelve families of Miao, fleeing, reached Nuo country.

Sung by Yang Zhi.


Two songs in Document N are given this title. For the present song, which contains no reference to the people arriving in Nuo country, it is scarcely appropriate. It has, however, a sub-title, "Celebrating the fifth moon festival", which is considerably more to the point.

When the Miao decided finally to abandon their ancient homeland, it was not a simple matter of slipping away quietly and swiftly. Small children and the elderly had to be considered, and it would be necessary to carry as much food as possible with them. Moreover, since their wealth was chiefly in their livestock, the pace of their flight would be determined by the speed at which flocks and herds could be moved. In the initial stages, until they had got beyond the range of a Chinese raid, they would be particularly vulnerable. Had everything suddenly gone quiet in their villages, the alarm would surely have been raised, but they chose to depart at the Fifth Moon Festival when the celebrations included considerable commotion and the beating of drums. The noise made by the rams and the billy-goats dragging around small drums created the impression that all was proceeding normally in the Miao settlements, and gave time for the people to get away safely.

The Miao used the same cycle of twelve animals as the Chinese for counting time. This was applied to years, and we are here told that hostilities between the Miao and the Chinese continued over a full cycle of twelve years. It also applied to the lunar months of the year, which was kept in step with the solar year by the addition every few years of an intercalary month. The cycle of twelve animals was also applied to days, but this ran independently, and was not tied to the cycle of months. The flight of the Miao was in the year of the Cockerel, that is the fifth year of the cycle, in Cockerel-month, that is the fifth month, and on the fifth day of the month, which that year fell on Cockerel-day.

There is a convention in the old Miao songs that in giving the name of a year or a month it is prefixed with the name of the previous year or month. So here we have not simply "Cockerel-year" or "Cockerel-month", but "Monkey-year bringing Cockerel-year" and "Monkey-month bringing Cockerel- month".

According to the old songs, if one were to travel far enough, one would reach the limit of the sky and the end of the earth, the point where the dome of the sky rested down upon the earth. In lines 28 and 29, repeated in lines 67 and 68, the people longed to be able to flee to that place where there would be no more conflict. In these lines mention of striking with the hands and with the feet is a little obscure. It is possible that the reference is to the use of the Miao people's most formidable weapon, the crossbow. To stretch and to shoot with it required considerable strength and the use of both hands and feet.

Translation in verse
Literal Transcription

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