Told by Yang Xiu-gong.
There is a bird in South West China which the Miao call the "ndlie-jia bird". It is described as being of medium size, brownish in colour, having a distinctive white cap on its head. Its habitat is along the courses of swiftly flowing streams, where it is constantly seen flying back and forth across the water. This bird is the subject of one of the best known Miao stories, which is told to explain the white cap upon its head and its characteristic flitting over the surface of the streams. The Ndlie-jia bird is, in all probability, the white capped river chat, which is also called the white capped river start. It is found widely in mountain valleys from Nepal to Indo China.
There are a number of points in this story which need some explanation. The expression "ngao kha", used to describe the young woman Ndlie-jia discovered in his house when he returned with a torch to re-light his fire, means literally, "a young female guest", but it is the name regularly given to a bride as she arrives at her new home.
Chinese thimbles could be purchased in any of the markets. They were not cup shaped, but took the form of a ring made from a flat strip of brass bent around so the ends overlapped. This ring could be adjusted to fit any size of finger. From the end of the strip it was not difficult to break off a small piece of the soft brass.
The pot and the steamer. The former was a black earthenware basin, about fifteen inches in diameter, which could be heated on the fire. The latter was made of wood with a bamboo basketwork bottom fitted some two or three inches up on the inside. The steamer stood in the boiling water in the pot and was used for cooking rice or maize meal. In Yunnan these were always cooked by steaming and not by boiling.
The well dressed Miao girl used to wear strips of coloured cloth some six inches wide bound like bandages around the legs from the ankle to the knee. When removed these left ring-like marks on the skin of the legs for a short time. Ndlie-jia’s cousins suggested to him that these marks were a sign of leprosy.
White being the colour of mourning, the cloth he was given to wear was the sign of perpetual mourning, as the Ndlie-jia bird skims for ever over the surface of the streams in his vain search for Nggu-ra-jio-ni-bang.
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