Old Miao songs about marriage. 4.
Song about entertaining the Middleman and the Headman.

Collected by Wang Ming-ji.

The arrival of two middlemen, one of whom was also a village headman, set the whole household of the prospective bride into a hive of activity, everyone being concerned to make the best possible impression. The bride’s father personally supervised the entertainment of the visitors, making sure that they occupied the chief places at the table, that is those remote from the door. Uppermost in his mind was the possibility of a substantial addition to the livestock on his farm, which would result from a successful marriage settlement. The following day the prospective bride’s aunt sought further to impress by displaying the garments that the bride would bring with her to her new home. The quantity and quality of these being a sure measure of her industry and skill. The serious negotiations for the marriage were conducted by the men-folk gathered around the open fire after the evening meal, while the women insured that the talks went smoothly by maintaining a more than ample supply of wine. For her part the prospective bride, by assiduous grooming, made sure that every day she was looking her best.

The wine which was used had been fermented and stored in large jars each containing several gallons. When it was required, it was siphoned off using a U-shaped tube made from a length of green bamboo, the internal joints of which had been burnt through with a hot wire. The wine was drawn off into smaller flasks from which the drinking cups were replenished. The metaphors of "fat" and "milk" are used to describe the quality of the wine which the women had made. As the evening wore on, those who were overcome by its potency subsided into slumber beside the fire and had to be dragged back lest sparks or falling embers set their clothing alight.

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