Thoughts of a foolish one.

Sung by a young woman from Hmao-fao-tu.


A note at the beginning of this song explains that, "It was sung by a young woman from Hmao-fao-tu at the time when the Miao first believed the Christian teaching". It affords a glimpse into the mind of an ordinary young Miao woman at the time of the movement towards Christianity in 1904. Detailed accounts of what happened were written by the missionaries, but, of necessity, there is no contemporary Miao record. Having no writing, the only way of transmitting stories and traditions was in the form of folk songs, but the coming of Christianity itself brought the beginnings of education, and other songs to sing, so that the popularity of the folk songs declined. It is remarkable that these fragments have survived, selected and edited by a later generation of Miao teachers, who looking back regarded the singer as a rather silly young woman, and entitled her song accordingly.

The song comprises six short sections only very loosely connected.

Lines 1 to 9 reflect the excitement that the coming of the missionary, Samuel Pollard, aroused, as he travelled around the Miao villages. The title accorded to him, "our mother, our father", was not uncommon. It was regularly applied to any benefactor, and was spontaneously used by Christians in their prayers, in the form, "Our Mother, our Father in heaven…". The order was always, "our mother, our father", never the other way around.

Lines 10 to 13 seem to be the memory of a sermon about "The water of life", based on John 4, v. 14, Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give will never again be thirsty. John 7, v. 38, Whoever believes on me, as scripture says, "Streams of living water shall flow from within him". Psalm 51 v. 7, Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.

Lines 14 to 23 have nothing to do with the coming of the missionary. The date given, is 1903, the year before the movement toward Christianity began. The arrival of telegraph wires near by caused both curiosity and fear. When the latter had been overcome by the good omen of the proliferating ant hills, the whole village went out to touch the wire.

Lines 24 to 28 look like another, half understood, missionary talk based on Matthew 6, verse 26, about God’s concern even for the birds.

Lines 29 to 35 reflect some of the popular hopes and expectations that the coming of the missionary raised, the provision of adequate land for the people to till, and of cotton cloth to replace their own laboriously produced hemp material.

Lines 36 to 43 concern a landslide that destroyed part of the homestead of an Yi landlord with considerable loss of life. Shortly before, the landlord had been visited by the missionary, and the singer knew very well that, normally, in order to gain a hearing, a substantial gift would be required and a number of officials would also have to be bribed. A Miao, seeking a hearing would therefore have to sell livestock in order to raise the necessary cash, and it was assumed that the missionary would have had to do the same.

Literal Transcription

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Word97 Introduction
Word97 Translation
Word97 Transcription
Word97 Notes

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