Sung by Wang Jie-chuai.
It is characteristic of Miao songs to build up long, descriptive titles which are repeated over and over as though they were proper names. This song affords an extreme example of the practice. The name given to the young man contains no less than twelve syllables, with two more added when it is fully expressed. He is identified first by reference to his mother, "the young woman Yang-nca", then by his marital status, "the unmarried youth", and finally by a nickname which describes his elegance and grace. This nickname is made up of two parts, "gha nza lyu lyu" which means "willow tree", (for the most part, this is abbreviated to "gha nza"), and "da ngga yao" which means "the child". The meaning of the nickname is, accordingly, "The child resembling a willow". In English this has been paraphrased "Willow Sapling"
The young woman, with whom the young man ran away, is given no name of her own, but is always referred to as the young manís "neighbour and friend". This consists of two four-syllable expressions. Thus her designation comprises twenty syllables, that is,
The young manís title (12 syllables) plus "neighbour and friend" (8 syllables).
The continual repetition of these long epithets makes it difficult at times to follow the movement of the story and also hard to know how the song was divided into lines for singing. There is no regularity in the punctuation of the Miao manuscript. It seems as though the editor himself was a little perplexed. The arrangement here chosen is fairly consistent, but whether it corresponds to the manner in which the song was originally sung is uncertain.
The egg in the first four lines is a reference to the bridegroom. He turned out to be a problem which was more than the bride, who had been chosen for him, could handle. The prospective bride, a rather older girl, though still unmarried, had apparently already arrived in the bridegroomís home, but he simply refused to have anything to do with her, and ran away with a local girl of his own choice.
When the couple reached Great Sheep Market it says he "took off" some silk shoes and gave to her, and she "took off" silk braid and gave to him. The verb is the regular one for removing an article of clothing which one is wearing, but here it appears to be used as a periphrasis for "bought". The shoes would have been of the kind prized by young Miao women, made by the Chinese with leather soles but with the uppers covered in black silk. The silk braid which she bought for him, was made into a double loop for holding back the voluminous sleeves of the Miao tribal costume. Normally this was home-woven from yarn made from hemp. Silk braid was something of a luxury.
In describing the house which the couple built for themselves, mention is made of the beehive hung under the eaves. Miao beehives were logs of wood some four feet long and two feet or a little more in diameter. These were hollowed out forming a wooden tube with walls several inches thick. The ends were blocked in with circular pieces of wood sealed in place with clay, leaving a small hole at the bottom for the bees to crawl in and out. The hives were often suspended horizontally under the eaves of the house to keep them safe from robbers. To prevent rain from soaking in and for added protection against frost, they were covered over with a number of large pieces of bark from fallen trees.
This song concludes in the manner of a fairy story. The young couple built a fine dwelling in a delectable river valley, and settled down to a happy family life. How they were able to afford such luxury is left unexplained.
You can see the original documents for this song.
You can also see these pages as Word97 documents
Return to Index of Songs
Return to First Page of the Archive