Old Miao songs about marriage. 10.

Transcribed by Yang Yung-xin


Miao spinning wheels, constructed of bamboo, made a distinctive squeaking sound as they turned. The interior of the houses being rather dark, spinning was regularly done out of doors, and the sound could carry a considerable distance. In the present song, the persistent squeaking of the spinning wheel alerted the prospective parents-in law that there was an industrious, and therefore very desirable prospective bride in the vicinity.

When the middleman arrived, the young woman’s parents at first refused to let her go, and the reason given was that "her body was not worn out". The word used is that which is regularly employed to describe knives or hoes, which have been worn away by constant use. The heavy labour which Miao women had to do in the home and in the fields resulted in premature ageing and a shortened life expectancy. The expression as used here means that the young woman was still strong and capable of hard work, and therefore her parents decided that she should "lay hold of the spirits". The reference is to the spirits of her parents’ ancestors, and the meaning is that she should remain within her own family. Once married her obligation to these ancestors ceased, as she became a member of her husband’s family.

The young woman, however, was determined to go, and the in-laws soon discovered that they had a "great bee" in their midst. Constantly busy herself, and organising everyone else, she took charge of the domestic arrangements, reorganised the farm, and even got an extension built on to the house.

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