Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/331

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257
THE PROVINCE OF KWEICHOW

when questioned will vaguely reply that the soul of the deceased has gone to be with its ancestors. On the death of a parent they sacrifice a bull or a cow, and explain this by saying it is their custom to do so. They also believe in demons, and are all their lives in bondage to the fear of them. If a traveller passing through their districts should see one or a group of them going through what was manifestly some sort of religious observance, he would find on making inquiry that this was in connection with the dead or with demons. In every village there are one or two men who are regarded as exorcists, whose business it is, for a consideration, to expel or counteract the influences of those malevolent beings. If a man or his cattle be ill, or if any misfortune befall him, he attributes it to demons, and one of these exorcists is in request. Their modes of procedure are various, but might be generally summed up as unintelligible mutterings, extraordinary gestures, accompanied with throwing things about. Sometimes a man is accused of having a demon, and this is a bad thing for the man if it is generally believed. This does not mean that he is possessed by a devil, but that he possesses a demon who does his will to the injury of his neighbours. They fear the demons but do not reverence them, and would laugh if it were suggested that they worshipped them. They also believe in the use of medicine; but it is not very clear when the medicine should be taken or when the exorcist should be sent for. We believe that the medicine is first taken, and should that fail it is assumed that there is a demon present, and the exorcist is sent for. Of all the Miao in Kweichow, the Heh or black Miao seems to be the most numerous and the most intelligent. Most of them own the land they cultivate, many of them are well-to-do, and in all respects seem equal to the Chinese peasantry around them. They not only bring their produce and cattle to the markets, but many of them engage in trade and open stalls in the market-place. On the river that flows from Kaili to Hungkiang in Hunan all the headmen appear to be Miao. Elsewhere, however, the Miao seem to be poorer than ands