The orphan who went fishing.

Told by Yang Xiu-gong.


Early in his collection of stories Yang Xiu-gong included this one. Some months later he wrote what was obviously the same story in a much more elaborate form. He explained that the form he had first recorded was what he remembered hearing as a boy at home. The second form was as he had recently heard it from a friend who had come to stay with him in Weining. Subsequently I received the same story, this time in the form of a song, from Wang Ming-ji at Shi-men-kan.

Taken together these three versions, M473, M474 and M475 offer an interesting illustration of the manner in which oral tradition can be changed. In this shortened form the original opening has been replaced by one taken from the Ndlie-jia story, M451, and Yeu-rang and his family, who figure so prominently in the longer forms, are not even mentioned by name, although the young woman and her parents are clearly no ordinary people. Again there is the anomaly of the certificate which the orphan gave to his wife. A destitute Miao orphan would never have been able to write Chinese, and there was no written form of Miao. In the fuller forms of the story the piece of writing was in fact a legal form of exchange drawn up by the Mandarinís secretary.

Miao houses were usually oblong in shape with solid walls of pounded earth, and a roof properly thatched. The orphanís hut had no walls, It was a booth of sloping poles fixed together at the top and roughly thatched. It was little more than one of the temporary shelters erected at harvest time for guarding the crops.

The young woman is initially called ngao-kha, which means literally "girl guest", but is the regular term for a bride.

Literal Transcription

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Word97 Introduction
Word97 Translation
Word97 Transcription
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