King Yalu – the first heroic epic of the Miao ethnic group
King Yalu is the first heroic epic of the Miao ethnic group in history. Usually sung and chanted in the funeral of the Miao people, the epic has been passed down orally, without word record. It tells about the origin of the Miao ethnic group and their immigration and war history, the protagonist, King Yalu, was the chief of the Miao people and a hero that has been extolled generation after generation.
King Yalu became a key cultural heritage project in need of preservation in 2009, and it was listed as a major discovery of Chinese culture at the same year by the Ministry of Culture. Later it was inscribed in the Intangible Cultural Heritage List of China.
King Yalu was the first heroic epic in the history of the Miao ethnic group. Created in the same period as The Book of Songs, it is generally chanted in funerals. For over thousand years, King Yalu has been passed down orally without systematic compiling and arrangement.
The spreading of King Yalu relies on the mouth instead of words, and it is mostly sung in the funeral ceremony, closely connected with the funeral procedures; the chanting runs through the whole ceremony, the main function not for entertainment of course, so it is actually for the minors; there are quite a few rules and taboos during the apprenticing process, for instance, it can only be taught in the first and seventh months of the lunar calendar, quite mysterious indeed.
King Yalu has been spread mainly in Ziyun County, and neighboring areas like Luodian County, Wangmo County, and Pingtang County. In addition, the epic is also circulated in places west of Guizhou like Huaxi, Qingzhen, Zhenning, Guanling etc where Miao people live in compact communities.