Miao (specifically, Hmub) Creation Epics, III.1-2

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


pp. 71-110 Part III = "Song of the Antient Sweet-Gum"


(pp. 73-82 – III.1 The Seeds’ House)

pp. 73-74 origin of the Sweet-Gum Tree




"The branches of that ancient Sweet Gum grew ... till their tips touched the edge of the Sky. The leafy branches spread out wide; thousand of mountains shared their shade; their coolness was given to ten thousand valleys. ...


Mother Rusty Water [" "Rusty water" is a kind of orange liquid ... dye ... with the leaves of a plant called de ja ji (det jab jib) (huaxiang in Chinese; Platycarya strobilicea)." (p. 198, n. 1)] bore it, That ancient Sweet Gum Tree ... .


When Grandfather Xang Ye died, his leftover blood gave birth to Sulphur Water[= Rusty Water]’s father. ...


The mountains collapsed sixteen times, the flood rose to the Sky sixteen times, burying the ancient Fir Trees ...; that caused Rusty Water’s mother to be born."

pp. 74-75 layers of seeds




"every kind of Seed was in the east;

they all lived in Ghe Lu’s house [" "Ghe Lu’s house" is "Nge Ge Lu" (Ngex Ged Lul). Nge (Ngex) ... means an animal stable". (p. 199, n. 2)]

in the eastern place called Wentian Province. ["In some versions, it is Fengtan Mountain." (p. 199, n. 3)]


The Seeds ... like stacks of pine sapwood on the cliff sides, piled layer upon layer.


the __ layer

was __ Seeds



Rusty Water







p. 75 architects of various houses

the house __

was built by __

at Nan Te, for the Seeds

Mother Fu Fan [Fux Fanb (p. 71)]

in the mountain-forest

Mother Feral Sow

at the head of the shoal

Mother Whitefish

p. 76 mensuration-instruments for aedification of houses

"the ink lines [strings soaked in indigo, to mark house-beams for carpenters’ saws (p. 199, n. 5)] were woven by spiders. ...

A tall mountain was the center pole ... . ...

The "measuring pole" (for the house-posts) "was fashioned from the horns of a male dragon."

p. 77 assistants in construction-labor

"Xiu Niu was the master craftsman who helped Fu Fang build the house. ...

Wang Wu took a hammer ["This is said to be a mountain rock." (p. 199, n. 7)] to pound,

Ghe Lu brought beams to set in place."

p. 78 congratulations by Water-Dragon

"The clever, kindhearted Water Dragon came, carrying ... firecrackers ... . Thus he sent his congratulations for the new house ... ." {with firecracker cf. explosive-mine, having the appearance of a sea-urchin, ekhinos, whence are named the Ekhinades isles, formed by Akheloios}

"When Fu Fang was building the new house, he [she according to p. 75] had gone to the Water Dragon’s place, wanting a horn for a measuring pole; thus he [she] had made friends with the Water Dragon, and that was their only relationship." {cf. Akheloios the river-god’s donation of a horn from his own head for use as cornucopia; this was given when he was visited by the woman Deianeira.} {"A measuring pole is ... made out of bamboo." (p. 199, n. 6) Bamboo is commonly used to drink from; and the cornucopia contained fruits (for fruit-juices?).}

p. 79-80 construction-materials for house


the houses’ _-

was constituted of __


ropes to secure the rafters

Yellow Mud


"pair of chopsticks" [tied to coin-bundle at central roof-beam]



thread (twined around coin-bundle)





p. 81 Dead Grandpa Ban Xian Ye’s "eyelashes turned into cogon grass."

p. 80 how the foundation of the house was tamped down

"Xong Tin’s grandmother came carrying a child, and did the drum dance at the foot of the building, so the foundation was stamped very hard."

pp. 80-82 accidental conflagration of house




"Fearing the Seeds would run away, Fu Fang made a barricade that surrounded the house. Niu Xiang [Niux Xanb (p. 71)] set the house on fire by accident; the Seeds shrieked".


"The Sky gave birth to Niu Hxi Du ["This is the god who ... wears red clothes".], one bolt fell from the Sky, ... that ancient kind of fire." ["The reference here is to ... meteors." (p. 199, n. 12)]


"While Grandmother Niu Xang was grinding grain, she grabbed the edge of the Sky in one hand. The Sky wobbled back and forth, and down fell five balls of fire, which ignited the Seed’s house.

Niu Xang accidentally started a fire ... melting three horse legs {cf. Zaratustrian mythic 3-legged ass?}, ... accidentally losing three kinds of Rites ... . The fire in the Seeds’ house frightened away three brothers of the Dong people. Three Principles were lost by accident, three ancient Practices were lost."


"Old Man Tiger, ... whose whole body was scorched, stripe by stripe."


"clever Old Cat, whose whole body was burned, till it became tabby-spotted."

p. 80 normally, a fire-drill is made of pine-roots and carambala-vine [Actinidia chinensis, ni-hou-tao], with mugwort as tinder


(pp. 82-91 -- II.2 Seeking the Tree-Seeds)

p. 82 how the house-conflagration was doused

"It burned for thirteen days ... . The fire burned from the Third ... coming around again to the Third Earthly Branch ... . ...

The Thunder God carried water buckets ... to douse the fire." The "Principles" Seeds, the Tree Seeds, and the Paper Seeds were thus submerged.

pp. 82-83 primordial knowers of knowledge


knowledge of __

knower of it


antient Paper

Ton Yan


antient Sweet-Gum Seeds

Xan Lian [Xanb Lianx (p. 71)]


the "Principles", the antient Rites

Hsen Yi


"every sort of fruit"

White-necked Cow

p. 83 the colors of 3 species of tree-seeds

__ Seeds

their color







pp. 83-84 locations of seedlings



seedlings of __


"inside" [scil., the house]



in the West Garden

Bamboo Shoots

p. 84 return of Seeds et al. from Sky into a pool

"When the Seeds went to the Sky, they lived there for three whole years."

"the clever one who slowly opened the Sky Door to let the Seeds come down from the Sky" : "Brother Wind’s clasp knife ["with a curved wooden handle. It is held by a ring on the third or fourth finger". (p. 199, n. 2)]; he went to the Sky and cut ..., and the Seeds floated down, twirling just like spinning wheels. ... Brother Wind ... carried the hoe to clear a road so the Seeds could go ... .

The "Principles" cane down lightly,

the Written Words came down slowly –

the Seeds came down with a "bop." "Plop," they fell in a big cluster into a deep pool, a pool nine thousand feet deep." [" "nine thousand pool" (ji je hsang [jid jex hsangb])." (p. 200, n. 3)]"

pp. 84-85 retrieval of the Seeds from the pool by aquatic mammals {cf. Siberian & other myths about an "earth-diver"}




"Water Rat went deep into the abyss; ... and thus the Seeds floated to the surface.


But some of the Seeds ... Water Rat couldn’t ... free. ...


Otter saw the Seeds and said they were grass carp; ... and the Seeds floated to the surface."

pp. 85-86 pursuit of the Seeds by terrestrial mammals




"But the Trees Seeds were unwilling to go West, so they made off for Nang Liang."


n. 5

"when the Tree Seeds were in the East, the rat made a contribution by looking for them. Therefore, at the beginning of every ... grain harvest, a small amount of the crop was left on the ground ... for ... the mythical rat".


"the Seed Chasing Dog ... was born in the Sky."

pp. 86-89 transmutations of Seeds’ detritus and of seed-praeparing implements




"The Seeds were on the opposite bank; ...

but a boat of wave foam carried the Seeds across, bobbing them across the river. ...

Old Grandfather Xang Liang ... grabbed the Seeds to his waist, then hoisted them to his shoulders. ...


The Seeds’ faces were white as be, and they happily went on Westwards. ...

When Xang Liang invited his wife to husk, ...


He gave her ... a fan with two wooden handles;

with one wave of the fan, she could fly to the Sky. ...


[When the Tree Seeds were de-husked,]

The rough chaff turned into Mosquitoes;

the broken bits became Ants ... .


... the husking pestle ... was sent to a mountain saddleback.

... later ... It turned into a Turtledove ... .


... a treadle beam ... was sent to a corner of the field, where

it later turned into a didi bird ... . ["It like to live with huangdou sparrows and has unkempt feathers". (p. 200, n. 7)]


a sifter ... was sent to the West. ...


It turned into a wisp of cloud".

pp. 89-92 transportation of the Tree-Seeds toward the West




"to carry the Seeds, ...

the pole was like a duck feather.

Using the chestnut burr as a model, all sorts of baskets were made to carry the Tree Seeds for taking them to the West.


Xang Liang carried the Sweet Gum Seeds,

transported those Seeds back to the West.

But halfway back, he turned a corner too quickly and fell "plop" flat on his back! The Seeds in the baskets scattered everywhere {cf. [in North American Indian mythologies] the escape by ghosts of the dead when they were being carried back into the land of the living in a basket by the Coyote-god}, and some went into a cleft in the ground. Xang Liang quickly used both hands to scoop them up. But ... beside the cleft as he scooped ... He saw a pair of big, poisonous snakes ... ready to bite him! ...


The ancient Sweet Gum Seeds ... came to a steep, dangerous cliff,

and at it foot was a deep, muddy pool. ...

It was Old Xiu Niu, who hammered out [using] a chisel shaped like a fish mouth,


then chiseled through House-Mouth Cliff[;]

to the East he also chiseled out Monkey-Mouth Cliff. He cut a channel to let the water flow east,

chiseled a road on land for the Seed to go West. ...


Brother Wind grabbed his hand; Brother Wind ... whipped him to the top of the dangerous cliff. ...


It was a pair of flying children ... that ... said to the Tree Seeds :"


__ soil

is in the __

deep as a horse’s __










"The Seeds ... came to the side of a hill. ... Icicle ... hammered out an iron chain of six links, then chained the Seeds to the hillside. ...


The Sun King {cf. Inca as "Sun King"?} ... cut apart the six links in the iron chain. {cf. iron-ore mountain in Peru`?}

Thus the Seeds could go Westwards. ...


The clouds were the loom, and the misty rain was the needle.

Thus the threads were woven into cloth for new clothing, the [resultantly] green-clad mountains were so beautiful! {This green clothing became the green vegetation on the "saddles" in saddle-back mountain-ranges : cf. /Gala`pago/ ‘saddle’?} ...


Coming, ... one saddleback after another, ... they came to the mountains of Xang Liang in the West. The high mountains looked like duck eggs".


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.