Translated by Mark Bender
Burao Yilu in traditional dress of Wa ethnic group, Yunnan
Province. Photo courtesy of Burao Yilu.
Burao Yilu, of the Wa ethnic group in Yunnan Province, began writing in 1986. Her works include numerous poems, many on ethnic minority themes, and the prose collection Pledge to the Sacred Tree: Songs from the Heart of a Wa Woman. In recent years, several of her poems have been translated into English and French. She is a member of the Chinese Writer’s Association.
Retracing the steps of the ancestors
on those ancient caravan trails
Hard not to slip on the winding traces,
On the long road, it is hard to have steady footing.
Some hoarse cowbells
Bellow like buffalos
It’s difficult to touch the ears of the sky
Or to cause a cackling silver pheasant to flush.
That ringing of the cowbells
Is like the yellow raspberries of the Wa Mountains—
Knowing only how to grow,
Never contemplating a harvest.
The sound of footsteps soaks into the horse-trodden earth
on those ancient trails in western Yunnan,
over years of hardships
Cowbells dangle from the necks of cattle
Those simple, honest cowbells
Those ding-dang tinkling cowbells
Not trying to draw attention,
Just doing it for the pay.
The mountain rain arrives loquaciously
The wild winds dash in peals of thunder
Chilling and wracking, rousing the animal herds
Yet not silencing the cowbells
In the Wa Mountains
If cowbells ring, then life can be imagined,
With cowbells, as the warmth of humanity
No matter how the trails twist,
the sounds are a chorus
No matter how long the route,
It leads to the bosom of the village.
From Chinese Literature Today Vol. 4 No. 1