A song about head-shaving.

Sung by Zhang De-jiu from Hmao-lo.


This song falls into two sections with some thirty lines in each. The sections are almost, though not exactly parallel, line for line. They describe two harvests, which produced unusually heavy yields of buckwheat and barley respectively. These did not occur in consecutive years, for, on the first occasion, the daughter of the home was "the naked one", that is, a baby, while on the second she was "the adult young woman", that is approaching marriageable age.

A feature of the song is the repeated use of the word "su" which means "first". Although its significance is not entirely clear, the probable meaning is that, in the two seasons in question, the woman and the man were the first in the neighbourhood to complete the process of planting, reaping and threshing.

These bumper crops, however, caused the couple concerned some anxiety, which was only relieved when, at a family gathering specially called, the daughter’s head was ceremonially shaved. The reason for this is not explained, but possibly it was feared that the good harvests might attract to the household the attention of some evil spirit which could harm the daughter, and the head-shaving was calculated, in some way, to act as a deterrent. Whatever the explanation, the result seems to have been entirely satisfactory.

Literal Transcription

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