The king who sought a son-in-law and found a beggar.

Told by Yang Xiu-gong.


This story is about Chinese, in a Chinese setting, with very few references to the Miao. It is clearly related to the traditional Chinese "opera", translated into English under the title "Lady Precious Stream". That some stories, which have a Chinese origin, should be found in Miao is to be expected, but when and how they were introduced is impossible to determine. The subject may be Chinese, but the telling of the story is thoroughly Miao.

The beggar did not try to catch the silver piece with his hands as one might catch a ball, but allowed it to drop into the lap of his gown which he held out in front of him. When it had been caught, presumably, the king turned the silver back into his daughter, though the story does not say so.

The mandarinís question, "How much do you want to eat each time?" means, what wages do you require for each period?" The Miao word used simply means "time" or "occasion" and does not make it clear on what terms the workmen were hired. Most probably it was on a daily basis, in which case the question means, "What wages do you want per day?" The wages were fixed in measures of grain, presumably rice, and not in money. The beggarís request for three "dyu" was extremely high for one individual, but very reasonable from the mandarinís point of view, since he could dismiss the rest of the work force, and the job would be completed in two days. The measures for grain were not standardised, and varied widely from locality to locality. The word "dyu" is used in the Miao New Testament as equivalent to the English "bushel", which translation is also adopted in the present story.

Literal Transcription

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