Song of the Woman Cao and the Man Cao.

Recorded by Wang Ming-ji.


At the end of this song in Document N there is a footnote explaining that the Cao family belonged to the Hmao-njiao branch of the Hmao-dang clan. That is the clan which took the Chinese name Wang.

Internal evidence makes it clear that Wang Ming-ji had collected two songs about the Cao family. One traces their flight from their original home, their arrival on the estates of Lord Byu-no, and the subsequent oppression they suffered at his hands. The second song begins with a graphic description of the increasingly heavy demands made upon the family by Lord Byu-no, even in a year when all the crops failed. It then tells how the family fled to Sao-no when Lord Byu-no was killed and his estates seized by the Chinese.

Whether these two songs were collected from the same singer is not clear. The first is a different version of the story, also narrated in a song by Yang Nggai-xing, and the second presents yet another angle on the Miao migration from Byu-no to Sao-no. The interesting thing is the unique manner in which Wang Ming-ji combined the two songs. He began with the second song, but having reached the point where the family was fleeing after the Chinese attack on Byu-no, he inserted the first song as a "flash back" to the last occasion when the Cao family had had to flee before Chinese aggression. After this he took up the second song again, completing the story of the flight to Sao-no. In this way the songs were not simply strung together, nor was there any conflation. The integrity of each was preserved, and it is quite obvious where each began and ended, though it is just possible that the linking stanza, lines 43 to 47, together with line 91 were added by Wang Ming-ji. For the sake of greater clarity the inserted song has been printed in italics in the English translation.

Document N presents the piece much as Wang Ming-ji had edited it, but the compilers of Document M, had already included Yang Nggai-xing's song and did not wish to cover the ground again. Having therefore quoted the first four lines of Wang Ming-ji's version, that is as far as line 51, they omitted the rest and passed straight on to the arrival at Sao-no, which is line 92.

The following detached notes will assist in understanding the song.

  1. Rent had to be paid in kind and not in cash, hence the measures of capacity mentioned in lines 16 to 18. The Miao text uses Miao words. In the translation the Chinese equivalents have been employed. The table runs as follows,


10 shi = 1 dyu

10 dyu = 1 lu


10 shen = 1 dou

10 dou = 1 dan

The actual size of these measures varied from place to place.

  1. Lines 61 and 104 both read, "When the morrow came". This is a conventional expression marking a change of subject. It does not signify literally "the next day".
  2. This song, and several others, reflect the fact that, in earlier times, small individual bamboo baskets and wooden spoons were used for eating. The use of pottery bowls and chopsticks was copied at a later date from the Chinese. See line 114.
  3. The Miao word "tai" means a slab of stone. It is used for the large pieces used for building flights of steps and for the stone pillars over which the wooden decking of a bridge was laid. It is also the name given to up-standing natural outcrops of rock. "Rock pinnacle" is probably a fair translation in the present context.

Translation in verse
Literal Transcription

You can see the original documents for this song.

You can also see these pages as Word97 documents

Word97 Introduction
Word97 Translation
Word97 Transcription
Word97 Notes

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