Concerning the Miao flight to Wu-ding in Yunnan.

Written by Yang Jing-de.


The use of the word "slave" in this piece, is somewhat misleading. There is no doubt that the treatment that the Miao received at the hands of their landlords was oppressive and often harsh and cruel. Now the landlords and yeoman farmers, the "Black Yi", as they were called, did possess slaves, for the most part people of their own race who were called "White Yi". The Miao, however, were not in quite this category. They were serfs, tenants on the landlordís estates. For the poor land they had to cultivate they paid an annual rent in kind, often a quite exorbitant rent, and also they were required to give the landlord a certain amount of unpaid labour, which could be, and often was, both excessive and unreasonable

A report, even just a rumour, that conditions were more favourable in some other locality, could cause a family to pack up and move without notice. Once this happened it could easily become a general exodus.

Many years earlier such a migration took place from the estates of Byu-no to those of Sao-no (See songs M251 to M257). This was apparently prompted by the marriage of daughter of Byu-no to a son of Sao-no. It is referred to in the opening passage of the present piece, and the writer goes on to say in effect that history was now repeating itself. The demand that this young woman made was no trivial matter. To her father the removal of forty Miao families would mean the loss of rent on forty small holdings and very many hours of compulsory labour. On the other hand it was in the interest of both families that a marriage should be arranged, but the brideís consent was essential. Within the relatively small group of top ranking landlords the number of eligible brides and bridegrooms was limited, and though the bride insisted in taking a number of her fatherís Miao tenants, he in turn received a considerable marriage settlement from the bridegroomís family.

The Miao who went with the bride would have been given land in their new home, possibly at a lower rent to make the move attractive. The glowing reports which came back, were doubtless exaggerated. The maize cob story remains a considerable overstatement even if the classifier used in the text refers to a whole maize plant and not just to a single cob.

In the early years of the twentieth century the movement of the Miao into Christianity spread to the Wu-ding area where the China Inland Mission was in charge. The two teachers named in the footnote were doubtless teacher-preachers belonging to that or to the Methodist Mission.

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