Hmong Oral Epics Published in Trilingual Format

September 9, 2013

DEALL professor of Chinese Literature and Folklore, Mark Bender was part of a team of researchers who have produced a tri-lingual text of a creation epic of the Hmong (Miaozu) ethnic minority group in Guizhou province, SW China.  The work of over 700 pages was initiated by Hmong scholar and editor Jin Dan in the 1950s in conjunction with Chinese ethno-linguist Prof. Ma Xueliang.  The project, spanning over 50 years, has seen several manifestations in print, including a Chinese version by Ma and Jin from 1983 and an English translation by Mark Bender in 2006 (under the title Butterfly Mother, Hackett Publishing). The present volume, entitled Hxak Hlieb/Miaozu Shishi/Hmong Oral Epics is the result of a team consisting of Jin Dan, his son and daughter Wu Yiwen and Wu Yifang, Mark Bender, and Levi Gibbs (a former DEALL graduate who aided in translating the supporting matter).  The book is printed in three languages: Miao Romanization, Han characters (Chinese), and English.  This adventurous format was created in order to allow maximum access to the text, allow readers a sense of the original, and as a monument and inspiration to Hmong/Miaozu oral literature.   The text concerns the creation of the earth and its many creatures, including humans.  Traditionally, the songs were sung in an antiphonal format between pairs of epic singers.  The book was published in late 2012.  Bender received his copies in June 2013 during a trip to Guizhou to investigate the King of Yalu epic, another epic recently discovered from another Hmong group in Guizhou.