image: traditional Tujia brocade

Play All)Kujia song lyrics: Kujia Song Cycle (Part 1)

Kujia, literally 'crying marriage' is a custom found among a number of ethnic groups in China, but it is practised to a far more sustained degree among the Tujia than in other minority groups. During the period prior to her wedding, the bride visits various relatives or friends each evening, staying to weep and sing with them. The tradition is hundreds of years old, but appears to have been given special impetus by the gaituguiliu reforms imposed on the Tujia in the early 18th century by the Qing court (see Introduction). Kujia may have developed to this level of sophistication among the Tujia as a covert form of protest against the Qing imposition of matchmaker-mediated arranged marriages, rather than the traditional love match. In the past, brides from wealthy families who could afford the time might weep every night for two or three months, while poorer brides would only weep for a week. Nowadays the practice has almost disappeared, though many older women are still able to perform kujia songs. On this and the next page, Mrs Tian Xintao sings a complete cycle of such songs. See the photo in the photo archive.


5.1.1: The Bride Sings with the Matchmaker
5.1.2: The Bride Sings with her Mother
5.1.3: The Bride Sings with her Aunt

5.1.1: The Bride Sings with the Matchmaker

Tian Xintao, Daba Township, Yongshun County
recorded on 05 August 2002

01 tu3ga3 luo3.
Scolding the Matchmaker
02 Bride: kuo2ti1 ka1pu1pu3 la2 ru1 la2 ru1, bei1si1 tu3ga3 cuo3xie2 ji1la1 di4; su2xi1bu2li1 ka1pu1pu3 bu2li1 ji2, bei1si1 tu3ga3 zi4 kuo1ba1 di4.
Bride: The beans have flowered in pairs, Even at this time of sadness, the matchmaker is pestering me for shoes and socks; The chestnuts have flowered and are bearing fruit, At this unfortunate time, the matchmaker wants a pig's head.
03 ni2 luo4bi3 cuo4 ga2 biu2 cuo4 hhi2, luo4bi3 cuo4 li3 biu2 si3-xi2 ca2; biu2 cuo4 li3 luo4bi3 re4kuo3kui1.
You eat at the groom's home and then head for my home, You tell the groom's family that the bride is pretty, You tell the girl's family that the groom is very handsome.
04 ni2 nga2 ca4-bo3 luo4ba1 cuo4 ye4, luo4die1-nie3 wu2 ge3 da4ye2ze3, luo4die1 jie2 di1di1-bo3 ha3, ha3-ji2 luo3-ji2 me2ga3;
You deceive me into marrying into the groom's home, To become like their cow or horse, People raise their hands to strike me, Even after hitting and scolding me their enmity remains,
05 a4duo3 nga2-nie3 si3 ga2-duo3! a4duo3 nga2-nie3 mie4 hu3-duo3!
They want their pound of flesh! They want every last drop of blood!
06 nga2 li2-nie3 cuo4 wo2tu1 xie2hui1 zu2-duo3, kang3ku1 a3ji1la3 nga2-nie3 cuo4; kang3ku1-nie3 ni2bi1 nga2 da4xi4; kang3ku1-nie3 bu2li1 nga2-nie3 zi3.
I must escape from the tiger's den, The mountains will be my home; The birds on the hills will help me, And wild fruits are my food.
07 ge3di1 nie4 ke2ji1ji1, kang3ku1 ni2bi1 nga2 wo4-bo3 hhi2, me2 ga3ha2 ra2 ca2-xi2 ni1.
These are truly bitter days, Would that a bird from the mountains would bear me away, And fly me high to a better life.
08 Matchmaker: me2 ong3 ta1nie1 me2ze3 tai2, tu3ga3 tai2-nie3 zuo4ni3 be2 tai2; tu3ga3 zi3 ga2 ri3 cuo4 ri3-xi3tai2, ca2 sa3 ri1 mo3 zuo4ni3 xie2.
Matchmaker: Without thunder rain will not fall, Nor will there be marriage without a matchmaker; The matchmaker eats in many a home, Working hard that marriages may occur.

5.1.2: The Bride Sings with her Mother

Tian Xintao, Daba Township, Yongshun County
recorded on 05 August 2002

01 Bride: me2 ga3ha2 xi4bu2li1 ri3, su3su3 jia1jia1-da2, a3ba1 a1nie3 nga2 bo3 long1ke3si2li1 niao3:
Bride: The sky is full of stars, but the moon does not shine, My father and mother have worked hard for me:
02 la2 ge4 biu2 bo3 li2a4, sa4, nie1 ge4 biu2 bo3 suo4ti3 di2, suo1 ge4 biu2 da2-nie3 luo4die1-nie3 ca2-da2.
Afraid lest their daughter should be hungry or cold, Afraid lest their daughter should suffer illness, Afraid lest their daughter's clothes should not be as good as others'.
03 a2lie1 qie3 ke2ji1 se1 li1kuo1li1 si4-ji2, a1nie3 ca2-xi2 li3-ji2-da2, ong1 se1tong1 a1nie3 nga2 jie3-bo3 jie2ri1.
My parents plough and sow with all their strength; I cannot describe all my mother's kindness, When I was five, my mother taught me how to farm.
04 la2 jie3 biu2 mo3 zi3 ri1-duo3, o nie1 jie3 biu2 mo3 ce3ku1 pi3, suo1 jie3 biu2 mo3 ka3 wo4-duo3, a re1 jie3 biu2 mo3 ka1pu1 ri1, ong1 jie3 biu2 mo3 ci1ci1 a2.
Taught me how a daughter should cook, Taught me how a daughter should twist hemp, Taught me how a daughter should fetch firewood, Taught me how a daughter should embroider, Taught me how a daughter should write.
05 ni2 biu2 long4-bo3 mo3 gei1 qi4, ni2 nga2 be4 a be4-lie3 yi1 be4 la, ni2 nga2 wo4 a wo4 a yi1 wo4 la.
You raised your daughter to adulthood, But it was in vain you nurtured me, In vain you bore me on your back.
06 [long4-lie3] biu2-die1-nie3, suo1ce3 ha3-nie3 pu2ta1 da4ye2ze3, re2su4 su4-ji2 ke3du1 ra2; ce3 ha3-nie3 bu4 ka3 da4ye2ze3, ce3 lao3ga3 la2 ha3 duo3 [yi3-dao2].
I'm born a woman, Like leaves nipped by frost, Blown by the wind, they fly in all directions; Like a ship's timbers buffeted by the waves, The waves break once and are seen no more.
07 nga2 xie2hui1 a3ba1 a1nie3 pie4-bo3 hhi2, ji2-nie3 bu1ce3 duo3-xi2 ri3, biu2 si3 a3ba1 a1nie3 long4-ta1ti1, luo4bi3 du4 biu2 ru4 a4se3 ze2 be2 ca2-da2.
Soon I will be uprooted from my mother and father, Shedding endless tears, Raising a daughter does not benefit her parents, Valuing male over female is so unfair.
08 nga2-nie3 sa2qi1 ong2 hhe3-da2, nga2-nie3 suo4ti3 ong2 qi4-da2, ce3ku1 ce4, tu4mong3 za2 a4duo3 ha1tai2;
My hair has not grown long, My body has not grown tall, Twisting hemp and spinning thread I have not learnt;
09 ce3 la1 ke4 be2 ke4-ta1ti1, a ka3 la1 wo4 be2 wo4-ta1ti1, du4ji3ji3 biu2 ri1 mo3 me3jie2-da2, re1 ji1-nie3 pii2 ao ri1 mo3 se2-bo3-duo3.
A load of water I cannot carry, Nor can I bear a load of firewood, I haven't finished enjoying life as a precious daughter, A lowly wife must work until she dies.
10 zi3 la2 su1 ga2, me3ga2 hi2 po2 zi3-nie3 xie2; wu2qi1qi1-nie3 zi3, ha1ce1 ga2-ta1ti1, sa4-nie3 sa3 ze2 ru3-ta1ti1.
For every bowl of rice I eat, I will have to endure a bushel of woe; I cannot bear to eat cold rice and vegetables, I cannot cope with heartless words.
11 wo3 si1 lao3ci3 ta2 se2-da2, zuo4ni3-die1-nie3 ye3 ri3 a2ci1 mo3 se2, se2ni2 li1kuo1li1 wo3ki1ki1! suo4ti3 si3-nie3 biu2 jie4 mo3 la1ming3 zu2!
For six months the sun shines without fading, People are envious of my sisters' beauty, You are truly cruel to me! Pushing your own daughter out of the door!
12 nga2 luo4die1-nie3 jie2zu1 pe1, luo4die1-nie3 a3ba1 a1nie3-nie3 luo3; nga2 luo4die1-nie3 xi1ba1 da2, luo4die1 la2 cuo4 nga2 luo3, ha3;
I will put on other people's headscarves, I have to endure scolding from my parents-in-law, I have to wear other people's clothes, I have to endure harsh words from another household,
13 suo4ti3 luo4die1-nie3 ku3 da2, luo4die1 la2 cuo4-nie3 sa3 ru3-duo3; luo4die1-nie3 ji2la1 pe1, luo4die1 la2 cuo4 nga2 ha3, luo3.
I have to wear other people's trousers, I have to obey those from another household, I must wear other people's leggings, I have to endure scoldings and beatings.
14 ge3di1 nie4 qing3mo1 ka1, nga2-nie3 a3ba1 a1nie3 a!
How can I get through the days, My father, my mother!
15 Mother: nga2-nie3 biu2 a! ni2-nie3 a1nie3 qi3qie1 ye3 be2 tai2! nga2 ni2 bo3 suo1 pi1 cu4-nie3 la2 pi1 be2 tai2, nga2 ni2 bo3 suo1 ye3 cu4-nie3 la2 ye3 be2 tai2.
Mother: My daughter! Your mother has no possessions! I should give you three sets of clothing, but not one do I have, I should give you three kinds, but not one do I have.
16 nga2 lei4 ye3 tai2 ta2si1-liao3, kuo1-nie3 wo4-nie3 ni2 ba4 ti3-bo3-da2, ka3-nie3 mu4nie3-nie3 wo3sa3 wo4-nie3 wo4-xi2 be2 tai2, ni2 cuo4zu4 nga2 si2-xi2 tai2.
Today I am penniless and weak, Gold and silver you will not be able to see, Not even wooden or bamboo back-baskets, Nothing to send when I give you in marriage.

5.1.3: The Bride Sings with her Aunt

Tian Xintao, Daba Township, Yongshun County
recorded on 05 August 2002

01 Bride: nga2-nie3 ma3ma1 a! ni2 di1ga3 ang2 cuo4 hhi2, hu4ca3-bo3 la1ming3 wo4ta3 hhi2, nie4li1nie4ga2 nga2 ni2 a3-xie2.
Bride: My aunt! You used to come to my house, Running up outside our door, Happily I welcomed you.
02 lei4 ni2 ang2 cuo4 eng3qie2, nie4 gu2 lie3 ji2 [gu2] ri1-duo3. a3ba1 a1nie3 si3 ca2 si2 ca2-da2, si2-nie3 cuo4 si3tie2 pe2ti1 tai2, ga2-ci3 tai2 da2-ci3 tai2, a1di1 nie4 qing3mo1 ka1?
Today you have come to my home, You must mask your tears with smiles. My parents raised me but cannot see me off, Without house or land to be my dowry, Nothing to eat, nothing to wear, How can I live through those days?
03 Aunt: nga2-nie3 biu2 a! ni2 ta4 ji2! ni2 bu1ce3 ta4 duo3, ang2ni1 si3-bo3 ma3ma1-die1,
Aunt: My daughter! Do not weep! Stop crying, We were born women,
04 ong2 qi4 cuo4zu4-duo3; ga2me1-nie3 biu2 be2 luo4ba1 ni1-duo3, kua2-nie3 biu2 be2 cuo4zu4-duo3.
When we grow up, we all must marry; Even a chieftain's daughter must find a husband, And an official's daughter be given in marriage.
05 ni2 ce3 tie1bi1-nie3 ce3ci1ke3 da4ye2ze3, xing3di1xing3ga2; ni2 me2 ga3ha2-nie3 xi4bu2li1 da4ye2ze3, jia1jia1-ga2, ni2 wo1la1 wo2tu1 la1be1 da4ye2ze3, ni2 tie2ba1.
You are fairer than the willow trees across the water; You are brighter than the stars of heaven, Everyone notices you, like the largest turnip in the garden.
06 ma2ni1 ze2 ni2 ca2di3ca2ga2, luo4die1 ni2 ba4-ca2-ta1ti1, ni2 luo4die1-nie3 luo4 be2 cai3mo1 ri1-duo3; luo4die1 a2qi4 jie3, ni2 ta3tie3bo1 ru3-bo3-duo3.
We all praise your comeliness, People yearn to see you, You must honour other people; When others shout out to you, You must listen carefully.
07 ni2 luo4die1-nie3 pa3pu1 a3ba1 bo3 ra2ce3 la2 su1 tu2, ni2 luo4die1 luo4ba1-die1 bo3 [ke2ka4] la2 zi2 si2. ni2 a3ba1 a1nie3 xie2, ni2 qian1ngai4-die1 be2 xie2, luo4die1 ni2 luo3-ta1ti1, ha3-ta1ti1.
You must pour tea for the elders of another household, You must offer pipes for the men of another household to smoke. You have a mother and father, Brothers you also have, Other people will not dare scold or strike you.
08 ni2 ma3ma1 si3-zu2 be2 ke2ji1-nie3 luo4, ka3ke3 se2-ji2 qing2die1 bie4, nga2 la2 hu3 wo4-bo3 la2 hu3 be4, cuo4 wo2tu1 a4duo3 ga4 la1hu3 po1; zao4gu1die1 zi3 ga2-ji2 ong1ga3 tai2, ga2-ci3 tai2, da2-ci3 tai2 qing3mo1 si3.
Your aunt was also born to a harsh fate, My husband died, leaving the children, I bore one on my back and carried another in my arms, Yet still more remained at home; Breakfast eaten, there was none left for lunch, No food and no clothing, how could we live?
09 si2sang1-nie3 ze1ge3 ke2ji1ji1, nga2 ze1ge3 hi2 xi1 ke2ji1; si2sang1-nie3 xi3bu2li1 jian2, nga2 xi3bu2li1 bo3 hi2 xi1 jian2.
In the world nothing is as bitter as goldthread, Yet my bitterness is ten times worse; In the world nothing is of less value than grass seed, Yet I am ten times more despised.
10 ang2 cuo4-nie3 luo4 yi2xi1 ke2ji1-xi3tai2, ce3 ha3-nie3 bu4 da4ye2ze3; nga2 ni2 bo3 die2-xi2 ca2 ri1-xi2 tai2, ni2 bo3 ye3 la2 ye3 be2 si2-da2.
My whole family has a bitter fate, Like a boat buffeted by the waves; That which I would do for you I cannot, Not a single present can I give you.






Copyright (C) 2004 Philip & Cecilia Brassett