THE Miao SSee are scattered in the Provinces of Se tchuen, Koei tcheou, Hou quang, and Qangsi, and upon the Frontiers of the Province of Qang tong. Under this general Name divers People are comprised ; the greatest Part only differing from one another in certain Customs, and by some small Variety m the Language. Such are the Miao Ssee of Se tchuen, of the West of Hou quang, and of the North of Koei tcheou. They are more cruel and savage than the Lolos, and greater Enemies of the Chinese.
To subdue them, or at least to keep them under, they have built large Forts in some wretched Places with an incredible Charge ; but by it they Have succeeded in hindering their Communication with one another. So the most powerful of the Miao ssee are block'd up with Forts and Towns , which are very expensive to the State, but which preserve the Peace.
Those which we are now speaking of, are as unlimited Masters of their People as the Lo los, but they have not, like them, received the Dignity of Tchi fou of Tchi tcheou, &c. They are accounted subdued if they remain quiet : If they do any Acts of Hostility, either to revenge themselves of the Chinese, who are often very troublesome Neighbours, or to give Proofs of their Valour, upon which they much value themselves, believing they are better Horsemen than any other Nation, the Chinese are Content with driving them back into their Mountains, without attempting to force them thence. The Viceroy of the Province in vain cites them to appear even by Proxy, for they do just as they please. One of these Miao Ssee Lords having been invited to come to a Meeting, where he was expected by the Viceroys of Yun nan and Koei tcheou se tchuen, and two Grandees of Peking sent by the Court to examine the Complaints which one of the Governors had made of his Conduct, resolutely refused to go thither ; upon which the Grandees of the Court thought fit to dissemble, and treat with him by way of Negotiation.
These Lords have not only their Officers like the Lo los, but have under them Lords of a lower Rank, who, although Masters of their Vassals, are feudatory, and obliged to bring their Troops when they are ordered. These Lords Houses are as good as the best of the Chinese, their usual Arms are the Bow and the Half Pike. The Saddles are well made, and different from the Chinese, being narrower, higher, and having Stirrups of painted Wood.
Their Horses are very much valued, either on account of their Swiftness, with which they climb up the highest Mountains, and come down on Gallop, or for their Agility in jumping over the widest Ditches. There are same sold in these Parts, but at an extravagant Price.
The Chief Mandarins sometimes have them as Presents from their under Officers, who buy them at a great Price, to get the Favour of their Protector (or even of the Lords of Miao Ssee, when they have a good understanding with them. The Chinese relate surprising things concerning them which seem very fabulous.
What they relate, which is not altogether incredible, is, that when they are about to choose the Officer of the Troops, they oblige the Candidates to make the Horses which they ride upon, jump over a Ditch of a certain Breadth, wherein there is lighted a bright Fire, and to order the Soldiers to ride full speed down the highest Mountains. They relate many other things like these, in which they run great Risques, if it is possible for a few Heroes of this Nation to perform such Wonders.
The Miao ssee, which are in the midst, and on the South of the Province of Koei tcheou, differ from these only in respect of Liberty ; for without minding the different Names which the Chinese of the Country give them, which are the Names of Colonies, come from other Places, or sent by the Emperors and Conquerors of this province, one may divide them Miao Ssee Unconquer'd, and Miao Ssee Conquered.
These are still of two Sorts; some obey the Chinese Magistrates, and make a Part of the Chinese People, from whom they are distinguish'd by nothing but a Sort of Head Dress, which they wear instead of the common Cap which the Chinese use.
The others have hereditary Mandarins, who were originally little Officers , that serv'd in the Chinese Army of Hong vou, in the beginning of the last Royal Family, and who by way of recompense were made Masters, some of fix, others of ten, or even a greater Number of Villages of the Conquered Miao ssee.
These new Masters were supported by Garrisons placed in different Posts, which were the best of the Country, Wherein are the Cities which are seen to this Day. The Miao ssee accustom'd themselves by degrees to the Yoke, and now they look upon their Mandarins as if they were of their own Nation, and they have received almost all their Customs.
Nevertheless they have not forgot their Country. They talk of what Province and City they belong to, and how many Generations they compute in th, Province of Koei tcheou. The greatest Part compute fourteen, some sixteen, which agrees with the Aera of Hong vou.
Although their Jurisdiction is small, they do not want for Riches: Their Houses are large, commodious, and kept in good Repair; they hear at the first Demand the Causes of their subjects; they have a Right to punish them, but not to put them to Death. From their Courts they appeal immediately to the Tribunal of the Tchi fou, and they have only the Prerogatives of Tchi Hien.
They wrap up their Heads with a Piece of Linen, and wear nothing but a sort of Doublet and Breeches : But their Mandarins and their domestick Servants are clothed after the same Manner as the Mandarins and Chinese of the Country; especially when they go to the City, to visit the tchi fou or any other Mandarin.
It is by these Mandarins of Miao Ssee that the Missionaries who made the Maps of these Provinces, have had some Intelligence of the Unconquer'd Miao ssee, who are in the Province of Koei tcheou towards Li ping fou, and who take up more than forty of our Leagues. For although they coasted along the North and West of their Country, in making the Map of the Chinese Cities, and of the Posts taken up by the Soldiers, who are round about almost within Sight of their Borders, they never saw one of the Unsubdued Miao Ssee.
They told them that these Unconquer'd Miao Ssee have Houses built of Brick of one Story high, and like those of the Conquer'd Miao Ssee. In the Ground Room they put the Cattle, Oxen, Cows, Sheep, Hogs, for in these Parts one hardly sees any other Animals, not even Horses; this makes their Houses dirty and stinking, in so much that those who are not used to it, can scarcely lie in the Upper Room. And indeed the Tartars choose rather to lie in the poor Lodgings of the Soldiers, than in these Houses, which in other respects appear pretty well built.
These Miao Ssee are divided into Villages, and live in great Unity together, although they are governed by none but by the Seniors of every Village. They cultivate the Earth, make Linen, and sorts of Carpets, which serve them for Coverlets in the Night. This Linen is not good, and is like bad Muslins , but the Carpets are well woven. Some are of Silk, of different Colours, red, yellow, and green ; others of raw Thread, made of a fort of hemp, which they dye after the same Manner. Their dress is only a Pair, of Drawers, and a sort of great Coat which they fold over their Stomach. The Chinese Merchants find means, by the Procurement, very likely, of the Mandarins of the Conquered Miao Ssee, to trade with the Savage Miao Ssee , and to buy the Wood of their Forests which they cut down, and throw into a River which runs through the middle of their Country. The Chinese who are of the other Side, a little lower, receive it, and make it into great Floats. The Price of the Merchandise is left in the Hands of him whom they agree upon ; this Price consists commonly of a certain Number of Cows, Oxen, and Buffaloes. Of the Skins of these Animals the Miao Ssee make Cuirasses, which they cover with little Plates of Iron, or beaten Copper, which makes them very ponderous, but very strong, and of great Use to these Nations.
Amongst the Conquered Miao ssee, there are some who have Chiefs of their own Nation; but these chiefs have not the Civil Power. Moreover they differ from the Chinese, because they always make their Abode in the Villages, and never come to the City but on some extraordinary Occasion.
Those which the Chinese call Mou lao, which signifies, Rats of the Wood, and who are situated but three or four Leagues from the Posts of Yun nan, by the Province of Koei tcheou, are better cloath'd than any other Miao Ssee of the Province. The Shape of their Garment is like a Bag, wide at the Bottom, and cut in two Pieces below the Elbow. Underneath there is a sort of Vest of another Colour, the Seams are covered with the smallest Shells they find in the Seas of Yun nan, or in the Lakes of the Country. The Cap and the rest of their dress are much the same. The Stuff is made of large Threads, twisted from a sort of Hemp and Herbs, which is to us unknown. It is probably that which they make use of in the Carpets before mention'd, which is sometimes woven all plain, and of one Colour, and sometimes in little squares of different Colours.
Amongst the Instruments of Musick which they play on, there is one composed of many small Pipes inserted into a greater, which has a Hole, or a fort of Reed, whole Sound is sweeter and more agreeable than the Chinese Chin, which they look upon as a little Hand Organ. They know how to keep Time in Dancing, and express in it, very well, the gay and the grave Airs, and sometimes they play upon a fort of Guitar ; at other times they beat upon an Instrument composed of two little Drums, set one against another; afterwards they turn it upside down , as if they were about to throw it down and dash it into pieces.
These People have not amongst them any Bonzes who adhere to the Religion of Fo. Being thus free from this unhappy Engagement, which is a great Obstacle to the Chinese and Lolos, they might more readily embrace the true Religion ; if they have not amongst them (which we are ignorant of) some worse Seducers, such as some Tartar Jugglers are.
In that Part of Hou quang which is nearest the Province of Quang tong, and that of Qangsi which is dependant on Yung tcheou fou, are Miao ssee less civiliz'd, although they are thought to acknowledge the Jurisdiction of the Neighboring Mandarins, and pay the Tribute, which they carry such as they please, and when they please; for in some Places they do not admit any Officer of the Chinese Tribunal to enter upon their Borders, and if he does, he runs the Risk of his Life. They go with their Feet naked, and by continual running upon their Mountains, they hive so inur'd themselves, that they clamber up the steepest Rocks, and walk upon the most stony Grounds, with an incredible Swiftness, and without receiving the least Inconvenience.
The Head-Dress of the Women is something odd and fantastical. They put upon their Heads a light Board, more than a Foot long, and five or fix Inches broad, which they cover with their Hair, fastening it with Wax, so that they seem to have a Hair Hat. They cannot lean, nor lie down, but by leaning upon their Necks; and they are obliged to turn their Heads continually to the Right and the Left along the Roads, which in this Country are full of Woods and Thickets. The greatest Difficulty is when they would comb themselves; they must sit whole Hours by the Fire, to melt the Wax. After having cleaned their Hair, which they do three or four times a Year, they begin again to dress their Heads in the fame Manner.
The Miao Ssee think that this Headdress is very agreeable, and that it especially becomes the Young Women. The Old Women don't take so much Pains, but content themselves with gathering their Hair upon the Top of the Head with knotted Twists.
These Miao Ssee are likewise called by the Chinese Li gin,and Yao Ssee, they have many other Names, or rather many Nick Names, for all these Names (which may have been remarked already) and others such like, are so many Names of Contempt and Raillery, which the Chinese are not sparing of. Those which they call Pa tcha i, upon the Frontiers of Qang tong, and the Lou tcha i upon those of Quang si, are more feared than scorn'd by the Chinese their Neighbours, whether of Hou quang or Quang tong. The first are called so, because their principal Towns are in Number eight; and the last, because they have six, which serve them as Refuges.
The Chinese have built fortified Towns on the North, East, and West of these Countries; which seem to have been built for no other purpose than to hinder the Incursions of these little Nations, for their Situation is very inconvenient. If one adds to these Towns all the Forts which have been erected about their Territories, there are above twenty.
Some of these Forts are neglected under the present Family; yet there are more than half which they still keep in Repair, and which are pretty well Garrisoned. These Miao Ssee were wont to fall upon the Chinese, but they have at last obtained that they should put one of their People in the Hands of the Neighbouring Mandarin, who should be a Hostage for their good Behaviour. Moreover they have engaged themselves to live peaceably with the Chinese, either because they have a Design to come and traffick in their Cities, or because they don't like to come out of their Mountains,
The Miao Ssee of the Province of Quang si are upon another Footing: They exercise upon their Subjects the Jurisdiction of Tchifou of Tchi hien, &c. by a Prerogative which has been hereditary to them for many Centuries. They are originally Chinese, their Ancestors followed the two Conquerors of these Countries and Ton king, whose Names were Fou pao and Ma yuen. The first was the Generalishmo of the Armies sent by the Emperor Quang vou ti against the Rebels of the South, and the Tong kinois, who taking Advantage of the Troubles of the Empire, had taken by Force the Places which they found convenient for them,
Ma yuen the General march'd against them, and drove them back within their ancient Borders, and so frighten'd them, that his Name, after six Centuries, is still fear'd amongst them. He caus'd a Pillar of Brass to be rais'd upon the Mountain, which serves for a Boundary, with these Chinese Words: Tong tchou Tchi tche Kio tchi tchi mie, which signify, that they should destroy the tong kinois, if they pass'd that Brazen Pillar.
The Tong kinois still look upon this Inscription, one of the oldest of all China, as a Prophecy, which denotes the Duration of their Monarchy, and which shall continue till that Brazen Column shall be entirely consum'd by Time; therefore they take great Care to shelter it from the Injuries of the Weather, and surround it with great Stones, to render it more steady. They believe that in preserving this, they fix the Destiny of their Kingdom.
Ma yuen permitted his Officers and valiant Soldiers towards the Frontiers to secure a Possession, and he made them Matters of every Thing which he distributed to them. So these Mandarins of the Miao Ssee hold, from the Beginning, their Authority from the Emperor, to whom they are Tributary. They have their Soldiers, their Officers, and do not want for Fire Arms, which they either make themselves in their Mountains, or buy privately of the Chinese.
That which is very troublesome for these People, is, that they are at War continually with, and destroying one another : Revenge never dies amongst them, but descends to their Posterity, the Great Grand Child shall endeavour the Revenue of his Great Grandfather's Death, if he believes it is not sufficiently revenged before. The Chinese Mandarins do not care to run any Hazard, to establish Peace amongst these People; they willingly wink at that which they cannot hinder, without risking the Lives of the Chinese Soldiers.
The Language of the Miao ssee of Se tchuen, of the West of Hou quang, of the north of Koei tcheou, is the same, there is only some Difference in the Pronunciations, and some particular Words : But that of the Miao ssee, towards Li Ping fou, is accounted mixt with the Chinese and the true Miao Ssee, for the People of both Nations understand one another very well. They say that there are some Countries between Quang si, Hou quang, and Koei tcheou, of which those that are to the North the Miao Ssee do not understand; this is what the Conquer'd Miao ssee affirm.
The Chinese give all these Miao Ssee a very bad Character; they say, these People are wavering, treacherous, savage, and particularly very great Thieves, This did not appear true to P. Regis, and the Missionaries that accompanied him in making the Map of these Provinces, on the contrary they found them very faithful in returning the Clothes with which they were trusted, very attentive to, and diligent in obeying their Orders, laborious, and ready to do any thing. But perhaps the Miao Ssee have Reason to be dissatisfied with the Chinese, who have taken from them all their best Lands, and who continue to seize on whatever they find is for their Conveniency, if not prevented by the Fear of those they endeavour to plunder. However, it is certain that the Chinese neither love nor value the Miao Ssee and the Lo los, that these People have still less Affection for the Chinese, whom they look upon as hard and troublesome Masters, who keep them shut up by their Garrisons, and as it were wedg'd in by a long Wall which deprives them of all Communication with other Countries, from which they might get assistance.
If one sees in the Koei tcheou, and in the other Territories, which formerly belong'd to them, or which they at present possess, any Towers, Cities, or Bridges, they were all built by the Chinese. The Iron Bridge, as it is call'd, which is in Koei tcheou, upon the great road to Yun nan, is the Work of a Chinese General, whose name is cut in a large Piece of Mable on one Side of the Pan ho : This is a Torrent, which is not wide, but very deep. On each Bank there is a great Door built between two Stone Piers, which are six, or five Feet broad, and seventeen or eighteen high. From each Pier, On the East Side, hang four Chains by great Rings, which are fasten'd to the Piers on the other Side, and kept together by little Chains, which make it look like Network with great Meshes. There are laid upon this some great Planks fasten'd to each other, but as they do not come quite home to the piers, because the Chains belly out, especially when they are loaded, therefore there are fasten'd Consoles or Brackets on the same Level with the Poor, which support a Floor that reaches to the Planks upon the Chains: On the Sides of the Planks there are placed little Pilasters of Wood, that support a Roof of the same. Matter continued from one Side to the other, the Ends resting upon the Piers.
The Chinese have made some other Bridge in imitation of This, which is famous thro' the whole Empire, there is one especially, that is pretty well known, upon the River Kin cha kiang, in the ancient Country of the Lo los of the Province of Yun nan; and in the Province of Se tchuen there are two or three more, which are only Supported by great Ropes, but these, tho' small, are tottering and unsafe, and nothing but Necessity could make one venture to cross them.
They have succeeded better in some Parts, both in the Province of Se tchuen, at the Foot of the Mountains possess'd by the Miao ssee, and in the Province of Chen si, and in the District of Han tchong fou: They have, by the assistance of Consoles, fasten'd Pieces of Timber into the Rocks, upon which they have laid thick Planks, and to have made Bridges over Vallies, which serve for Roads, and sometimes are of a considerable Length.
All these Works were done by the Ancient Chinese, who were settled in these Provinces; which plainly shews the Superiority of Genius of these People, not only over the Miao Ssee, and the Lo los, but even over all their neighbouring Nations, whether of West or South;