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  • Walking Towards Flower Mountain (Suite), and: Great Migration
  • Yang Ke (bio)
    Translated by Denis Mair (bio)

walking towards flower mountain (suite)

Translator's Note: Flower Mountain (Huashan) is in Ningming County, Guangxi province, along Mingjiang River. Around 1,500 rough-edged human figures, bursting with raw vitality, are painted on a cliff face in cinnabar. The largest of the figures is three meters tall, and the shortest is around thirty centimeters. The figures are spread over an area about fifty meters high and nearly two hundred meters wide. This place is widely thought to be the cultural fountainhead of the Zhuang Minority.


Hey-yo hey-yoI am a paean in blood I am a tribute to fireFrom the tip of a boar's tusk I cameFrom a pheasant's fluffed-up feathers I cameFrom strange power of bone ornaments I cameHaving snuffed out the ravenous glow in a wolf's eyes I cameHaving faced down the flaming stripes on a tiger's brow I cameFrom a straight arrow and a stout bow I came hereStepping over death agonies of my preyHey-yo blood hey-yo fireHey-yo fierce beautyWith sword raised beating a drum to a gong's beat I cameNi-lo!

. . .From nodding ears of millet I cameFrom corn tassels lit up by sunlight I cameFrom ravines and garden strips no wider than a conical hatTo the whiz of a full-swung machete blade I cameBy power of flames to clear planting grounds I cameHey-yo blood hey-yo fireHey-yo for ripe, bursting beautyWith joyful songs hopping like sparrows we come dancingA bride tosses an embroidered ball in our wake [End Page 145]

Red-dyed eggs smack shell-to-shell as we comeBarn-houses of spotted and yellow bamboo rise at our heelsWe carefully press rice cakes in family moldsSteam from our five kinds of rice wafts downwindWe are a paean in blood We are a tribute to fireHey-yo blood hey-yo fireHey-yo for beauty of things exalted


A series of arrowheads aimed at the blood-red sun loosedAt a wild bull with eyes as red as the sunA mountain man of Luoyue clad in rawhideBellows straight from his rawhide-clad soulHis bellow is like that of a red-eyed fighting bullSounds of his own footsteps cheer him onAll across the wild slopes . . . he steps overMoans of companions fallen in bamboo thicketsThe might of his armDrives the shaft of his spearStraight into a leopard's mouth

The cliff seethes with raging bloodWind whips past the forest treesPast the heart's flapping banner

Luscious smells of eveningHang over a hearth fireSnapping of green firewoodShoots up sparks to join stars in the skySending up tales of Old Buloto,* who fought Thunder KingAnd of Mother Le's visit to heavenAnd dreams of a feathered man

The embers long ago died downNow only this timeless messageStill blazes across the cliff faceMore primitive than pictographic signsMore sacred than the sun [End Page 146]


Even the wind was massacredGutted moorlands final resting placeOf skulls that kissed the sword blood that drenched arrowsCorpses puddled in bloodHoof-pounding melee now recumbentClanging massacre blades hacking fleshOutright cruelty or cold tortureRising crescendo of war gongsSummoning bows and swords summoning rattan shieldsNot despairing even when mothers wailFrom ruins of established tribesYouthful stockades sprang upBy way of more deaths barbarity led the way to civilizationOh the maiden who sounded a drum with her severed armWas passed down in folk songsWorshipped as the heroine of her people

Although cooking smoke was severed by sharp bladesSome found a riverbank where it could grow ranklyA marsh once soaked in bloodCast off the heroic era of brass drumsYet never once did war turn rustyBlood in grim and vivid huesSinful and holy, washed over the land

Through wind-whipped waves past...


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pp. 145-148
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