Sung by a man from Hmao-a-gw-gw.
The language of this song is, in places, obscure. It is not always easy to distinguish the facts of the story from the descriptive metaphors, however the main outline of the narrative is clear.
The Miao never spoke of "selling" their daughters, and the expression "bride price" would have been offensive, but it is clear that the size of the marriage settlement was the prime consideration in the minds of these parents as they arranged for their daughter's marriage. Having arrived at the bridegroom’s house the bride soon found out that things were not as they had been represented to her. In particular the paddy fields which, by this time of the year, should have been tilled and planted, were just lying fallow, grazed by the cattle. The implication of this discovery was that her bridegroom was, in reality, a lazy, good-for-nothing. Unwilling to acquiesce and accept the situation she decided to return home. When, however, she arrived, she found herself locked out, and realised that her family had tricked her into this marriage; that, in fact, she had been snared like a bird. The twisted silk cord long enough to stretch right across the river is a metaphorical description of the intrigue.
In Miao marriages the bride carried with her a number of garments embroidered in the tribal manner, which she had made over many months, even years, as gifts to the bridegroom’s family. This young woman had the presence of mind to bring them back with her when she ran away. These are the "ninety-nine bundles" referred to in line 32. "Ninety-nine" is a convention for a considerable number. These Miao people, the Ahmao, in contrast to other Miao groups, were generally not wealthy enough to possess silver ornaments. The bracelets would have been of copper, relatively inexpensive and bought from the Chinese at the local market. These were prized by young girls, but got in the way when the heavy duties, which were the lot of a married woman, began.
Translation in verse
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