Song of the creation of heaven and earth.

Sung by Yang Zhi.


Although the Miao had a number of ancient songs about the fashioning of earth and sky, they never attempted to harmonise these into a consistent cosmology or scheme of creation. This song, which is of considerable literary merit, is principally a description of earth and sky, of sun, moon and stars, of valleys and mountains, of rivers and lakes and forests, and of the birds and beasts who lived there. Except for the oft-repeated assertion that "Lie-ndlao-shi-tru gi-myu Yeu-jio-dlang-hnu, he made them", the singer was apparently not interested in the actual process of creation. There is no hint at all as to how it was all brought into being.

Long names are a feature of Miao songs. No doubt originally they all had obvious meanings, but it is not now always easy to determine what those meanings were. Very often, to the central name itself, consisting of two or three syllables, titles or descriptive phrases have been added and the whole used as a single name. A Miao reader or hearer would recognize it as such, but would also appreciate the meaning of the constituent elements. For the reader who does not understand Miao the best thing to do is to transliterate the central name and, where possible, to translate the titles and descriptive phrases, but to write them with capital initials to show that they are still, in fact, part of the name.

The long name, Lie-ndlao-shi-tru gi-myu Yeu-jio- dlang-hnu, used throughout this song, divides into two parts containing six and four syllables respectively, and forming two separate names used in apposition to each other. The phrase "gi-myu" in the middle means "king", "lie" is possibly the word for "red", and "ndlao" is widely used to describe the coloured patterns of the tribal costume or the markings of animals and birds. It is also used in "ndlao-ji" which is the word for "glory". The expression "lie-ndlao" may therefore mean "glorious". In one song describing the ancient homeland, it says that at the Golden City there was a tree called "hi-tru" where they sacrificed chicken. Now "hi-tru" and "shi-tru" are alternative forms of the same expression, so that "shi-tru" is probably the name of a sacred tree, used here as a personal name. "Yeu-jio" is widely used in names, and simply means "the man", while "dlang-hnu" is "the sun", but again used as a personal name. In the interlinear text this compound name is left untranslated except for the title "gi-myu", "king", since this is the way it was written in the Miao. For the English translation, application of the method outlined above yields, "The Glorious King Shi-tru, the Man Dlang-hnu".

In the two names "Gi-niao-ndlie-za" and "Gi-niao-ndlie-bang", "Gi-niao" is a title which can be translated, "the Master". According to a song sung by Tao Zi-gai, these two individuals were folk-heroes who, early in the history of the race, had been leaders, and teachers of the people. Sadly both died young, but their spirits went to dwell, each in an inaccessible cave or cavern. However, before his death, the Master Ndlie-bang had left directions that, if need arose, the shaman-healer would be able, both to locate the departed spirits and to bring them back into the sacred rock or sacred tree associated with each village. Thus the power and wisdom of the Masters remained available to the people of the village as they made their annual pilgrimage to the sacred rock or the sacred tree with their offerings of food and drink.

"Earth's people" is a literal translation of the Miao phrase "ndlie-di dw-nw". In the context of the story of creation it is an appropriate rendering, but elsewhere it is clear that the expression does not mean "the human race" but "we Miao people", and it is more correct to translate it as simply, "the people". "Golden stones" are the stars, and "sifted stones" are the milky way. The great river, which flowed through the ancient homeland of the Miao, emptied into the nine lakes of Gi-nzyu, beyond the mountain ranges.

Translation in verse
Literal Transcription

You can see the original documents for this song.

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Word97 Introduction
Word97 Translation
Word97 Transcription
Word97 Notes

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