The man Li-ndang and the woman Ndu-ni-ndang.

Sung by Pan Xie.


In this piece the singer has spliced together two quite disparate songs. The first belongs to the legendary time when magic and superhuman feats of strength were commonplace. The second, though it might be described as fanciful, is set against a background and in a context which Miao living in Yunnan and Guizhou at any time in the last few hundred years would immediately recognise. The two have been linked together by identifying the wife of the main character in the first, where she plays a comparatively minor role, with the central character in the second story. That this conjunction has taken place is corroborated by the fact that Yang Xiu-gong included the second story in his collection, but when asked, had no knowledge of the first.

The first of the two songs, that about the man Li-ndang is basically a contest between the Miao wonder-worker and the Chinese king. The reason for the complaint of the neighbours against him was trivial. The charge they brought, though unspecified, was obviously trumped up, and apparently ignored by the king, who was concerned to examine Li-ndang on a wide variety of matters with a view to discovering what he was afraid of, and hence where he was vulnerable. What exactly the "saw thing" was is not explained. Apparently it operated, not by direct physical action but magically and at a distance, namely far away on the top of a mountain. The end of the story suggests that though, ultimately, the Chinese magic proved more potent, it could not finally destroy the Miao man whose organs continued to live in the swallows "for all to see". The story could be an allegorical statement of the relationship between the Miao and Chinese races. The migration of the swallows reflecting the wanderings of the Miao people after their eviction from the ancient homeland by the Chinese.

The clump of bamboo in front of the man Li-ndang’s house was the large tall variety. To pull up one of the stalks and to break it to pieces with the bear hands was a feat of phenomenal strength. The wings that the man Li-ndang made, were cut out with scissors from the inner lining of large flat bamboo storage baskets.

In the second song Ndrao-ghu and Ndrao-ghv are traditional names for twins. Certain varieties of wild bamboo bear seed, which can be eaten. Miao children, particularly, would collect such seed and eat it for fun as they might eat sunflower seed, pine seeds or melon seeds. To collect enough to feed a family would require hours of work. The bamboo did not bear every year. Rape was widely grown as a source of oil, which could be extracted from the seed. The plant could also be eaten as a vegetable. It was prolific, and often, self-seeded, might be growing in inaccessible places.

Literal Transcription

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