“King Yalu”: Miao Oral Epic Published in Chinese

For the first time ever, the Miao historical epic King Yalu (亚鲁王), has been rendered in a written form: Chinese.  The first part, consisting of 1,089 lines, has been published by Zhonghua Book Company (中华书局).

Traditionally sung over several days at a funeral, King Yalu is the epic story of war, defeat and migration of the western Miao tribes to the dry highlands of Mashan (麻山) in Guizhou that are much more difficult to cultivate than their former territories in places such as Anshun (安顺).  According to legend, King Yalu was the 18th in a line of Miao rulers.

According to Baidu Encyclopedia (百度百科), in 2009 a full version of the oral epic—some 26,000 lines of verse—was discovered among traditional singing story-tellers in Guizhou’s Ziyun County (紫云县).  There are reportedly still some 3,000 Gēshī (歌师), a handful in most villages, capable of performing it at funerals in Mashan County.

Some experts believe that King Yalu may first have been chanted around the time of China’s ancient Book of Songs (诗经), placing it several hundred years before the birth of Jesus.

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