Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/330

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

these legends no one knows. They are taught by the older men to the younger ones. All that we have heard are in verse, five syllables to a line, the stanzas being of unequal length, one interrogative and one responsive. They are sung or recited at their festivals by two groups, generally one group of young men and one group of young women, one group interrogating and the other responding. Among these legends is a story of the Creation, including a description of how the heavens were fixed up on pillars, and how the sun was set in its place. There is also the story of a deluge, in which it appears all the earth and the people on it were submerged except one man and his sister. As there was no other woman for the man to marry, he married his sister, and from these two the world was repeopled.

It is undoubtedly difficult for a stranger to learn the religious beliefs of people like the Miao. But we have known them so long and some of them so intimately as to justify us in venturing an opinion on the matter. The Miao are now living so close to the Chinese and sometimes so intermixed with them that they are naturally adopting some of the superstitions of their neighbours. If any one were to ask a Miao what was the object of their worship, he would probably say he worshipped heaven and earth. This we believe they have learned from the Chinese, and learned from them recently. As a matter of fact, we have been unable to discover among them any indigenous object of worship. As far as we know, they build no temples, and if in some places little shrines may be found, we believe they have recently learned from the Chinese to build them. They have at certain seasons of the year musical festivals at which there are horse races and bull fights. They believe that the crops of the year depend on these celebrations, but in what way the weather or crops are influenced they do not profess to understand. To the onlooker there is nothing religious about these observances; they are always regarded by the people as times of relaxation from work and opportunities for enjoyment and social intercourse.

They believe in the existence of the soul after death, and