Yeu-rang-zi-lao and the orphan.

Told by Yang Xiu-gong.


In this version of the story, Yeu-rang plays a major role. He is given the added title "zi-lao", meaning "the old one", and is depicted as a fearsome individual, and his daughters and grandson take after him.

At the beginning of the story the orphan, having collected his sticks of firewood, had bundled them together, and crouching down in front of them, had tied the bundle on to his back. To stand up, lifting the heavy load, required all his strength, and as he was struggling to get to his feet, he exclaimed aloud, "Ai-zho, help me up". Once on his feet he could carry the load. On the way back from the Chinese village Yeu-rang, having drunk well, suggested to his daughters that they should go and "help him up" and make a mandarin of him. The two elder daughters rejected the suggestion with expressions of disgust equivalent to expletives in English. The youngest daughter, in accepting the challenge declared that she would not simply make a mandarin of him but make him a "gi-my". For this term the usual translation is "king". All we are told about him is that he possessed seven cities and seven wives. A mandarin was the official in charge of one city and the country around about, like an English county. The person in charge of seven cities would have been a Provincial governor, and the term used for the kingís chief city, "a-nie-lao", is the Miao name given to Kunming, the Provincial Capital of Yunnan.

The set of buildings provided by Yeu-rang was exactly like the residence of some powerful Chinese of Yi landlord. It was this resemblance that made the orphan want to run away, afraid of being caught where he had no business to be.

The two pigeons were intended to be eaten as snacks during the drinking bout. Like the flask of wine, they proved to be inexhaustible.

The expression "Heavenly Father" in line 181 of the Miao text has slipped into the story from Yang Xiu-gongís Christian upbringing. In their pre-Christian days the Miao had no such conception. Possibly, in the original song the expression was "the sky people".

The point of the request of his friends for some of the grandsonís "papers" was that he was so good at his compositions that his less able classmates wanted some of his manuscripts to help them in their own work.

The Miao did not normally use animal milk. The milk the child had to drink was his motherís. By all normal standards he should have still been an unweaned baby. His motherís milk was apparently very potent, imparting both the strength and the desire to go on the rampage. The high place that he trampled was a stretch of rough ground, uncultivated because it contained graves or sacred rocks or trees. To trample down the vegetation in such a place was to risk incurring the wrath of the spirits.

When Yeu-rang had discovered who the trouble maker was, he required him to undertake a test, to produce a written essay in the manner of the old Chinese civil service examinations. The essay had to equal that which Yeu-rang could write, and thereby prove that the boy was indeed the old manís grandson. The text of the story does not actually say so, but it was explained orally that by spitting on them, the blank sheets were magically filled with writing which the boy did not now have time to complete. The name Ndrao-mi-hlu means "Youth of the exchange".

We are told that, having been informed by his classmates, the boy ran after his mother and clung to her skirt. Presumably she was returning at the time with her elder sister and father from one of their regular visits to the wine vendor in the Chinese village. In the earlier paragraphs of the story this does not appear to have been in any way a long or arduous journey. Later, however, when Yeu-rang dispatched his daughter and grandson back to earth to find the childís father, even by the shorter route, the sky road, it was going to take seven months, with formidable obstacles to be encountered along the way. Nowhere is any explanation of this anomaly offered.

Literal Transcription

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