Miao (specifically, Hmub) Creation Epics

[texts in a humorous style, publicly sung for popular entertainment : each (short) section being introduced by a quaestion]


pp. x-xi [Part 0 =] "Key to Pronunciation"

p. x tone-markers for tone-contours ("1" is the lowest pitch; "5" the highest pitch)





























pp. xiii-xiv [Part 00 =] "Praeface" , by Jenb Dank

p. xiv earlier publications of these materials

"My major translations are the Miao epics, best represented by Hxak Hmub : Miao Epic Poems, produced in collaboration with Professor Ma."

"Certain of the epics, such as Song of Gold and Silver, and Song of Butterfly Mother, were published in Folklore (Minjian wenxue) in 1955 and 1956, respectively."


pp. xv-xli [Part 000 =] "Introduction", by Mark Bender

pp. xv-xvi, 189 000.0 tribal names

p. xv

The Miao are known in southeast Asia {Laos} as Hmon.

p. xvi

"In Southeast Guizhou, many Miao were once known in Chinese as the "Black Miao" ("Hei Miao") ... . ... The most common native designation in Southeast Guizhou today is "Hmu" (Hmub)".

189, n. 1

This book is descriptive of the literature of "groups in and around the cities of Kaili and Taijiang in Southeast Guizhou who commonly ... go by the ethonym Hmu (Hmub)."

pp. xvi-xxiii 000.1. "Traditional Culture and the Epics"



Miao people and their customs



There are the rivers ‘Clear-water’ (Qin-s^ui-jian) and ‘Sword’ (Jian-he) in southeast Gui-z^ou.



"Culturally and linguistically, the Miao in Southeast Guizhou are closest to ... the Yao ethnic group ... . They also have considerable cultural affinity with the Dong (or "Gaem") ethnic group".



"In some river towns giant three-hulled dragon boats over twenty meters long (used ... at festival times) are stored in long sheds."



"Traditional courting activities ... consist of antiphonal sining of love songs, playing the lusheng (a type of bamboo reed-pipe, ... called gi [gix] in the local Miao dialect)".



"The soul of the deceased was instructed by a ritual specialist to follow the path back to the east – the legendary ancestral home. ... copper was forbidden in graves, as luck-bringing dragons fear the metal."

"unusual rock formations or weirdly gnarled trees, were though to have souls".

pp. xxiv-xxv 000.1.6 caeremonies held once in each 12-year cycle


the caerimonies


"Three drums were used in the twelve-year ceremonies.

The largest pair was chiseled out of nanmu (Phoebe nanmu) logs and the ends covered with the skin of a yellow cow. These drums were about five-and-a-half feet long and a foot in diameter. ...

A smaller single drum was made especially for each sacrifice."










"the pair of large drums was escorted from the keeper’s house to that of the new master of ceremonies."





"a group went to the mountain hiding place of the small single drum to perform a ceremony known as "Turning the Drum," in which the old drum was rolled over and the Ancestors told that a new sacrifice was beginning."





"was the Miao New Year, so everyone young and old in the drum society danced the "Wooden Drum Dance.""





"a nanmu tree was cut to make the new drum".





"a yellow cow was killed for its skin."





"a rice harvest festival called "Eating the New" when a ceremony was held to turn the new drum."





"the skin was fastened on the new drum".





"water buffalo bulls ... were pained black with tung oil and their necks were draped with live chickens and ducks."





"eight or nine ceremonies were held and the reed-pipes were played day and night."





"people danced around the beating drums".





"the paired drums were moved to the second master’s house for dancing."





"the "drum pig" was killed."





"the bamboo reed-pipes were played day and night."





" " " " " " " "





"the paired drums were moved to the home of the new host family.


The single drum was then escorted to the mountains where it was left".

pp. xxvi-xli 000.2.1-2 "Epics and Their Performance"




000.2.1 "Epics of culture heroes are also found in ... the tales of the Zhyge Alu of the Yi people living in the mountains of Sichuan and bordering areas of Yunnan. ... the story of Zhyge Alu tells how he was conceived out of wedlock by a eagle dripping blood on his mother’s skirt. The fatherless child was abandoned in the mountains were he was raised by dragons. Becoming a skilled archer, Zhyge Alu later shot down the extra suns and moons, saving the earth’s people from ... global warming."


000.2.2 "In local Miao language the epic songs are referred to as "old songs" (... hxak lul hxak ghot)." The epics glorify "major figures such as the trickster-hero Jang Vang (Jangx Vangb), Butterfly Mother, the flesh ball, Gho Do (Ghot Dol), and the creator Bang Xang Ye (Bangx Xangx Yel)".


Song of Gold and Silver – There are "the sky and earth created and the pillars that hold up the sky set at various places ... . A tiny crab and Hxu Niu (Hxub Niux), a mythical unicorn (... rhinoceros), open the waterways to allow the personified metals, Gold and Silver, to be transported to make {to be made into} the suns and moons."


Transporting Gold and Silver – "the metals are "born." They suckle their mother, have their hair cut, their faces washed, and marry.


... the tone is often light-hearted ..., as when it is asked what sort of horseshoes the transport boats wore. When Gold and Silver’s ox (water buffalo) leaves for the east to have its hair whorls painted on its shoulders and its horns attached ... the metals all follow, later to be pursued and captured in the east. ... After the suns and moons are made, the tools are all escorted to various places and then change into other things ... . When it is found that too many suns and moons have been made, the archer Hsang Sa (Hsangb Sax) shoots down all except those that remain today."


Song of the Antient Sweet Gum – "the various tree seeds are born, then raised in a house built by the mythic being Fu Fang (Fux Fangb). ... Later, the seeds’ house is burned down by Grandma Niu Xang (Niux Xangb) ... . The seeds escape east and are pursued by the mythic being Xang Liang (Xangb Liangx), captured, and returned to the west. ... The tree seeds are planted and a sweet gum grows beside a pond where Xang Liang raises fish. When cranes steal some of his fish, Xang Liang accuses the sweet gum, for its leaves are covered with fish scales dropped by the feasting birds. ... Several wisemen are invited to defend the tree in court, but all fail and the tree is felled in punishment."


"The Song of Butterfly Mother was only performed by ritual specialists every twelve or seven years ... . The cycle describes the birth of Butterfly Mother from the heart of the sweet gum tree. Her lovemaking with Wave Foam, the birth of the twelve eggs from which the Ancestors hatch, and the cutting of the umbilical cords of the infant Ancestors. After Jang Vang is elected "Elder Brother" because of his cleverness, the nestlings disperse ... . ... Jang Vang finds an ancient ax in the overgrown foundations of the houses of the previous era’s gods ... . ... he runs into a centipede that is intent on retaining its ancestral graves, suggesting ... the first people to dwell in Southeast Guizhou (... an ancient group called the Ka by the by the Miao still exist in the region). ... Waterbugs and bees teach Jang Vang to do the drum dance".


Great Flood – "the Thunder God ... threatens to flood the earth. The Thunder God is tricked into delaying the inundation for several days, allowing Jang Vang enough time to grow a huge calabash. ... The floodwaters rise and nothing is left in sight but the floating calabash, duly reported to the Thnnder God as a mountain by a series of bird ... messengers ... . When the floodwaters recede, Jang Vang is left ... with the only other survivor, his sister. ... The result of their incest is a misshapen ball of flesh, which Jang Vang ... hacks into bits with a sickle on a spruce chopping block. The bits are placed in nine manure buckets and spread over the earth, changing into untold numbers of people, none of whom can speak. The secret of speech is discovered by ... the Thunder God, and the different languages are voiced."

pp. xxxii-xxxiii 000.2.3 formal structure of language


Miao language


"Sentences follow a subject-predicate-object order.


Unlike Chinese, however, Miao adverbs follow verbs, and adjectives follow nouns."

"The Miao epic poems ... have five syllables in each line."

pp. xxxvi-xxxix 000.2. performance; collection & translation






"epics are sung antiphonally. ... Pairs of singers may be of the same sex or mixed. Some singers prefer to sing with or against singers of the opposite sex."



"The question-and–answer style of singing is very important, for it is the stimulus of the questions ... that allow the singers to go on singing ... . ... If singers cannot answer a question, the askers must answer it themselves ... . (It is interesting that ... some individual singers find it difficult to sing ... without being prompted by questions.)"



"The main storyline of the epics is known as the "bone."" {In Maori, the word for ‘bone’ (iwi) is used figuratively to signify ‘tradition’.}



"The collection of the epics began about 1952 ... . The well-known Chinese linguist Ma Xueliang, and a young Miao scholar ... named Jin Dan (... Jenb Dangk in Eastern Miao dialect ...), were part of the collection effort in Southeast Guizhou. The singers that performed the epics were ... from the village of La Ci." "The work was finally published in 1983 under the title Hxak Hmub : Miao Epic Poems (Hxak Hmub : Miaozu shishi) (Ma and Jin)."


pp. 1-7 Part I = "Praelude"


(pp. 1-3 Introduction to the Praelude)

construction of 4 bridges in heaven




"it was Grandpa ... (Xongt Jangt) ... who built a bridge in the heavens." {cf. [Norse] heavenly Bi-frost bridge of Heim-dalr}


"As a result of building this [1st] bridge, Grandpa ... (Nos) is born [and] ... Granma ... (Nos)."{cf. [<ibri^] >NOS^ ('sick'), in whose era "the earth was flooded." (LB, p. 63) [S^into] Izana-gi & Izana-mi stood on a bridge over the primaeval waters.}


Xont Jant "also builds a [2nd] bridge by which ... is born" Banx Xanb Yel, whose "eyebrows turn into indigo plants". {cf. [Norse] "Ymir's eyebrows were used to make a fortification around the world, to protect against the giants. Inside the fortification is Miðgarð, the realm of man." (C) This middle region of blue indigo may be the reason for the assignment, to the centre, of the blue god Vai-rocana -- all such Vajra-yana symbolism being derived, as usual, from indigenous Chinese sources. Also, there is a "Kapuyt Berd ("Blue Fort")" in Armenia (VDzM), and a Qasr Azraq ('Blue Fort') in Urdan (AWR).}


"Another [3rd] bridge that" Xont Jant "builds results in the birth of ... (Hsenb Yel) ... similar to the Han Chinese ... "immortal, transcendent" (xianren) ...


Whatever the origin of his name, the being [Hsenb Yel] also builds a [4th] bridge to one side of the sky, by which ... (Xangb Liangx) is born. In the Song of the Ancient Sweet Gum this figure clears and tills the wastelands {cf. the activities of S^en-nun} in preparation for the planting of trees that cover the earth (one of which is the nest of the Butterfly Mother)."

LB = Louis Ginzberg : Legends of the Bible.

C = http://valhs.org/history/articles/mythology/myths/text/creation.htm

VDzM = http://www.armeniapedia.org/index.php?title=Rediscovering_Armenia_Guidebook-_Vayots_Dzor_Marz

AWR = http://www.rscn.org.jo/AdventuresActivitiesAzraq.asp?ID=ctr3_2


(pp. 4-5 the Antient Songs)

p. 4 superlatives of the Antient Songs



beautiful ("most beautiful girl" -- p. 190, n. 2)

Nianx Eb Seil


Mais Banx Dianl ('Birth of Butterfly Mother') (= "Song of the Black Drum Society" -- p. 191, n. 3)


Banx Xanb Yel


Qab Jenb Qab Nix ('Transporting Gold, Transporting Silver')


Nionx Jib Bonb


Zab Ganx Nal ('5 Pairs of Parents')

p. 191, fn. 4 Banx Xanb Yel

"a man eats the ... (Deb Lel) fruit in the sky and returns to childhood : ...

He lived for 89,000 ... After he died

his mouth became a cave,

his hair turned to grass,

his eyebrows changed to indigo, and

his teeth to borax ...

This story is similar to the myth of Pan Gu ..."

p. 191, fn. 6 Nionx Jib Bonb

"a pheasant that searched for wild chestnuts in the mountains. Its pecking caused rock to fall down and kill a girl who was fishing. ... the pheasant was later tired. During the interrogation, ... it claimed that it could not possibly have dislodged the rocks with its small beak. Then it blamed the deed on a wild pig, claiming that the animal ... had rooted up the mountain stones. Later, when the case was investigated further, the real culprit was found."


(pp. 6-7 Cosmogony)

pp. 5-6 the 2 winds




"A lone blast of wind came blowing down a river --

that blast of wind gave birth to him," Xont Jant.


"There was also a steady blast of wind that blew against the river cliffs. ...

It bore Grandma Who Supports the Sky and gave birth to Grandpa Who Holds Firm the Earth."


"If the one who bore them ["(unspecified)" -- p. 2] had panted {panting is the "fire-breath of Agni Yoga}, they might have been spoiled {suggesting why the fire-breath is located at the opposite corner (the southeast) from the wind which is in the northwest}; but the bearer held her breath {pran.a-yama 'breath-restraint'} and they were born."

primaeval egg




"this egg refuses to hatch after "nine thousand springs and autumns" and then ... after "seventy thousand years."


"it was the Egg from which Jang Vang [Janx Vanb -- p. 1] hatched"

the __

piece of eggshell became __

who __


Fu Fan [= earth (p. 192, n. 17)]

supported sky & earth


Bu Pa [= waves (p. 192, n. 18)]

dug river-channels


Ye Xin [meditator (p. 192, n. 19)]

gave the Principles


Niu Dlian [enormous woman (p. 192, n. 20)]

measured the earth


Hu Li [creator of fire (p. 192, n. 21)]

brought the 1st sparks


Jin Dan ("Jenb Dangk" in Miao; compiler and translator from Miao into Chinese); Ma Xueliang (editor of the Chinese version); Mark Bender (translator from the Chinese) : Butterfly Mother : Miao (Hmong) Creation Epics from Guizhou, China. Hackett Publishing Co, Indianapolis, 2006.