Concerning the Man Li-dao, section two.

Sung by Tao Zi-gai.


Section one of this song describes the settlement of the Miao clan Li-dao in their ancient homeland, and also tells of the people's eventual eviction from that homeland by the Chinese. Section two, traces their subsequent migration until their settlement in the valley of the river A-na on the estates of the Yi over-lord Byu-no, who is called throughout this song "the Lord Shi-byu".

In Yang-zhi's version of the story, when the Miao arrived in Byu-no country, they were given a friendly welcome and at once assigned the valley of the river A-na as a place in which to live. This song states that, though the Lord Byu-no received them kindly, the Miao were still fearful that, in time to come, the Chinese might turn on them as they had done before. The Lord Byu-no was apparently unable to offer them reassurance, so, with his blessing, they travelled on to the domains of another Yi over-lord, Sao-no, called "the Lord Gha-sao" throughout this song. After enquiry and investigation and a journey to consult with the Lord Byu-no, Lord Sao-no proposed that Byu-no, Sao-no and the Man Li-dao should form a mutual defence pact to guard against future Chinese aggression. Given this assurance the Miao decided to remain in Byu-no territory to which they had apparently returned with Lord Sao-no, and they were granted leave to settle in the forests along the A-na river.

The following points of detail need some further explanation.

  1. In the passage beginning at line 20 we are told that the women and children grieved in particular for the loss of the plentiful supply of running water which flowed past their houses and gardens. This reflects the fact that in a Miao household the task of carrying water for domestic use usually fell to the women and girls. A constant supply close at hand greatly lightened their work.

In lines 96 and 97 the Lord Gha-sao declared that his "hands were able" and his "hands were skilful". This is a conventional formula in the songs which usually takes the following form:

"So and so's hands were able, his hands were skilful. What were his hands able, his hands skilful to do? His hands were able, his hands were skilful to make ..."

  1. Commonly the objects made were boats to cross a river or fire crackers to frighten the enemy. In this song the usage is slightly different. The Lord Gha-sao had just received a strongly worded appeal from a rival landlord requesting him to give the bearer of the message preferential treatment, but the Lord Gha-sao, apparently, took exception to being told what he should do. In observing that his "hands were able and skilful", he was saying, "I am perfectly capable of handling this matter myself, and I will make up my own mind what should be done". 
  2. The expression, "While the sky remained constant", is a convention used regularly in the songs to indicate the passage of time. Thus lines 107 and 108 which read,

"Unfortunately, while the sky remained constant, 
The Man Li-dao could not dwell there".

simply mean,

"Later, unfortunately, there came a time 
When the Man Li-dao could not dwell there"

Translation in verse
Literal Transcription

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Word97 Introduction
Word97 Translation
Word97 Transcription
Word97 Notes

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