Old Miao songs about marriage. 8.

Transcribed by Yang Yung-xin.


The father of the young woman in this song and the man who was hoping that she might become his future daughter-in-law, are both called "the man, the father". The confusion is somewhat mitigated by the fact that throughout the song the two men are kept apart, and, in addition, the young woman’s father is always accompanied by his wife, while the prospective mother-in-law, and, for that matter, the prospective bridegroom do not appear at all. For the sake of clarity in the translation, however, "the man her father", and "the woman her mother" are used for the prospective bride’s parents.

The story behind the song seems to be that the appearance of skeins of yarn drying in the sun on the fence around the vegetable plot could not but draw comment from the neighbours. Moreover, the quality and the quantity of the yarn were sure indications of the skill and application of the maker. This talk reached the ears of a man on the look out for a good daughter-in-law, and he at once set to work to produce the livestock necessary to celebrate a marriage and to pay the marriage settlement. Before any official approach had been made through a middleman, however, the girl’s family let it be known that they were not interested. It is quite possible that this was not a final rejection, but simply a bargaining ploy, since the prospective father-in-law responded by arranging with a relative, whether one of his or one of theirs is not clear, to invite the girl’s parents to a meal in his house and presumably do a little special advocacy. As an added incentive, the relative chosen was one who had the reputation of being a very good cook! Whether this manoeuvre was successful, we are not told.

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