Baraγun Liyang ulus-un üliger The Story of the Western Liang State


Cassette: 131-132
Transcription: hdl:11341/0000-0000-0000-2764
Transcription Number: Mo 64-65
Transcription Pages: 131 pp.
Recording: In 1991 in Kökeqota (Hohhot), Walther Heissig recorded the text from the recitation of the bard Qoosbayar of Darqan (Darkhan) Banner.
Transcription Note: On March 5, 1992, Rinčindorǰi finished writing down the text, including the names of fifteen theme-melodies the bard Qoosbayar uses in his tales. Rinčindorǰi also added notes to the text.
Peculiarities: -
Further Information: -
Language Archive Cologne: hdl:11341/0000-0000-0000-2716


The story begins with a song, presenting Li Yuan as the founder of the Tang dynasty and his son Li Shimin as his successor to the throne. Li Shimin, continues the song, has been on the battlefield since his youth and enjoys an excellent reputation. He is versed in letters and has a fondness for scholars (song: pp. 4-6). The story goes on to narrate that while the county is at peace suddenly enemies arise in Eastern Liao and the enemy Ge Suwen threatens to usurp the throne. This prompts Emperor Li Shimin to set out against the enemies of Eastern Liao and fight fierce battles lasting for thirteen years. General Xue Rengui , who is an incarnation of the White Tiger Star, leaves his native Longmen and joins Li Shimin in the battle against Eastern Liao. Xue Rengui displays his valour in battle, subduing the enemies with his heavenly-square lance. After the victory over the Eastern Liao, in recognition of his valorous achievements, Li Shimin confers the titles of two defeated kings of Eastern Liao on Xue Rengui. Then Xue Rengui returns to his native Longmen in Shanxi. A song follows which narrates how Xue Rengui returns to his native place and rebuilts the tomb of his ancestor. The song also includes lines which reflect on the unpredictable and changing nature of all things as when all at once mist covers a cloudless blue sky; as when all at once suffering comes just when a man is at the height of his glory (song: pp. 4-6). The Xue Rengui who returns to his Longmen is not the same man as the one who left a modest home thirteen years before. He now holds high titles, his accomplishments are unrivalled and he has thousands of soldiers under his command. In his homeland, Xue Rengui builds a palace worthy of a king and his success and good fortune soar.

Three years pass. One day a decree from the Emperor arrives, commanding that Xue Rengui come to Chang’an, the capital of the empire, “as fast as fire”. Since an imperial decree cannot be disobeyed, Xue Rengui mounts his steed and sets off. He rides day and night and reaches Chang’an after dusk. He enters the city and while he is gazing around him, a palanquin carried by eight men stops in front of him. The man seated in the palanquin is no ordinary man. He is Li Daozong, the paternal uncle of Emperor Li Shimin. Li Daozong is a wicked man and no one is despised and hated like him in the country, but since he is the imperial uncle, nobody will interfere with him. The story, at this point, mentions a treacherous man named Zhang Shigui, who also fought in Eastern Liao. Zhang Shigui falsely attributes Xue Rengui ’s achievements in battle to his son-in-law He Songxian. When Xue Rengui discovered the truth, he informed Li Shimin of this. Fearing that he will be charged with a crime, Zhang Shigui flees Eastern Liao. He attempts to usurp the throne before Li Shimin and his army returns to Chang’an from Eastern Liao, but Xue Rengui chases him and kills him. Now Li Daozong’s second wife is the daughter of Zhang Shigui , and Li Daozong wants to avenge his father-in-law. He has used the Emperor ’s name to call Xue Rengui back to Chang’an. On meeting Li Daozong, Xue Rengui greets him and Li Daozong invits him to his palace and gives him wine mixed with a drug to drink. Then Li Daozong carries Xue Rengui to his daughter’s private residence and leaves him lying intoxicated in that place. The next day Li Daozong goes to Li Shimin and accuses Xue Rengui of having disgraced his daughter and ruined his reputation. Li Shimin orders Xue Rengui to be arrested and condemned to death. He is put in a prison underground. A song narrates how misfortune befalls Xue Rengui just when he is enjoying peace and well-being, how he is put in prison and faces the suffering of death, and how Xue Rengui’s friends and supporters at the court feel heartbroken when they hear that Li Shimin has condemned him to death (song: pp. 18-19). They all wondered why a man of many achievements like Xue Rengui, who is regarded as a pillar of the state, should be punished in this way.

At this moment the aged Lord Cheng Yaojin (or Yaojing) thinks that the only man who can save Xue Rengui’s life is Lord Yuchi Jingde, who used to be a great military commander and also fought in Eastern Liao. He is also a smith, and after the victory over Eastern Liao, Emperor Li Shimin gets him to supervise the renovation of the Great Buddha Monastery and the gilding of a golden statue of the Buddha. Cheng Yaojin writes a letter and gives it to a messenger on horseback, ordering him to ride at a full speed to the Great Buddha Monastery and hand the letter to Yuchi Jingde. A song describes how the messenger who brings the letter reaches the Great Buddha Monastery (song: pp. 21-22). When the messenger asks the craftsmen in the monastery where Yuchi Jingde is, they reply that Yuchi Jingde is drinking wine, but they do not know in what place he is. Yuchi Jingde , who drank wine early in the morning is swimming in the river to refresh himself. The messenger finds him and tells him about the letter from Cheng Yaojin. Yuchi Jingde has been a smith since his childhood and is illiterate. He pretends that his eyesight was poor due to age and gets the messenger to read the letter for him. In the letter Cheng Yaojin writes that Emperor Li Shimin has unjustly sentenced Xue Rengui to death, and that he must come back to Chang’an, since Xue Rengui’s life and death depend on him. A song describes Yuchi Jingde as becoming furious upon hearing about Xue Rengui being sentenced to death. He begins to yell, his face changes colour and his beard stands on ends. He stamps his feet in anger, curses Li Shimin , calling him a stupid emperor who has sentenced to death the most meritorious man in the country, just when peace has been restored, weapons have been hung up on hooks, and swords put in sheaths (song: pp. 27-28). Yuchi Jingde dresses in a hurry, mounts his black horse and gallops to Chang’an. A song depicts Yuchi Jingde as a man loyal to the empire, who has enjoyed prestige since the time of Li Shimin’s father. He reaches Chang’an, a city that before looked to Yuchi Jingde as a place resplendent with lights, but now that he is angry the city seems to him like a mound of earth (song: p. 32).

Since the hour is late, Yuchi Jingde decides to go to his palace and plead with the Emperor for Xue Rengui’s life the next morning. As he approaches his palace gate, his beloved black horse comes to a standstill. A song describes how the black horse will not move and neighs three times with the voice of a foal as if he were missing the water and the grass in the pasture. This causes Yuchi Jingde’s heart to feel pain. He wonders why this should happen to his horse who run thousands of miles without getting tired, never stopped in the middle of a battle, and dodged thousands of arrows (song: p. 34-35). Yuchi Jingde loves his horse as he loves his own life, and now that they have reached the palace gate his horse dies. A song includes Yuchi Jingde’s lament for the death of his horse. He remembers how the horse has protected him with the strength of a lion ever since they first met, and how he helped in battle. He recalls how the horse jumped and played on a rugged terrain without stumbling, and how his horse has now abandoned him (song: pp 36-37). When a servant maid hears Yuchi Jingde wailing she goes to tell his two older sons that their father is in front of the gate hugging the horse’s neck and wailing. A song relates that Yuchi Jingde’s two sons become alarmed and run to see their father (song: p. 39). When the two sons see that it is for his dead horse their father is grieving they do not attach much importance to it, and a furious Yuchi Jingde threatens to kill them. Yuchi Jingde’s sons run to the palace at the rear where their father’s two wives are staying. A song describes how Yuchi Jingde’s two wives greet him and ask him why he is angry with their two sons (song: pp. 44-45). First Yuchi Jingde tells his wives how Cheng Yaojin has written him a letter to inform that Xue Rengui is about to be put to death, and since, he says that he cannot stand idly by and let him die, he has come back. His two wives tell him that in the meantime officials at court have pleaded with Emperor Li Shimin for Xue Rengui’s life, without success, and that the Emperor says that anyone who pleads for Xue Rengui’s life will be charged with the same crime as Xue Rengui. In view of this, they warn Yuchi Jingde to handle the matter carefully. On hearing this, Yuchi Jingde shows no fear and states firmly that if he is unable to save Xue Rengui’s life he will also die. Then Yuchi Jingde tells his wives that he was angry with their two sons because they showed indifference to his dead horse. After this, orders are given to bury Yuchi Jingde’s black horse.

Early next morning, officials and ministers get ready for the audience with Emperor Li Shimin to discuss affairs of state with him. A song describes high-ranking officials donning garments which the Emperor awarded them. It also narrates how Yuchi Jingde is taken to the Emperor’s golden palace on a palanquin, while officials from distant places come to the audience on horseback. The song also relates that Emperor Li Shimin has many wives, and that nobody knows where he will spend the night, except for the officials who guard the Emperor. When these officials see a dragon lantern hanging on the wall of a palace they know that the Emperor is spending the night there. The song also describes Li Shimin preparing to hold court. Li Shimin rised early in the morning and eunuchs in attendance on the Emperor enter. Li Shimin dons a robe adorned with strings of precious stones and covered by a silk robe interwoven with nine dragons. Then the eunuchs tie a sash with a jade buckle around the Emperor’s waist. On his head the Emperor puts a hat adorned with precious pearls inlay. Afterwards, Emperor Li Shimin is invited to sit down in a palanquin with a golden top and is taken to the main palace. He ascends the jade steps and sits down on a nine-dragon throne (song: pp. 49-55).

When officials of civil affairs have arranged themselves in a circle on both sides of the throne, Emperor Li Shimin begins to inquire them about the situation of the empire. The song which follows has Emperor Li Shimin asking the officials if the empire is at peace, if rain comes at the right time, if enemies in all directions have arisen, if his subjects live in peace, if any epidemics have broken out (song: pp. 56-57). After Li Shimin has asked these questions, the Ministers of State prostrate themselves nine times before him and report that peace reigns in the country, no enemies have invaded the borders, etc. Since there are no other matters to discuss, Li Shimin gets the officials to return to their respective palaces. At this moment, Yuchi Jingde rises from his seat. A song extols Yuchi Jingde who has been meritorious from the time of Li Shimin ’s father, who gave him a golden whip. The song goes on to describe Yuchi Jingde rising from his seat and shouting in a high voice “Emperor!”. Then he walks to the side of the jade steps to plead with Li Shimin for Xue Rengui’s life in recognition of his achievements. While he is doing this, all the officials who are present feel happy about Yuchi Jingde, who has come back to save Xue Rengui’s life (song: pp. 59-61). The imperial uncle Li Daozong, who has caused harm to Xue Rengui, is not so happy to see Yuchi Jingde and cannot not help feeling nervous. He breaks into a hot sweat, and begins to fear that something bad will happen to him.

Li Shimin is delighted to see Yuchi Jingde back in Chang’an, and asks him how the work in the Great Buddha Monastery is proceeding, but Yuchi Jingde has not come back to talk about the monastery. He holds in his hand a whip of steel with thirteen knots, although officials are not permitted to hold weapons in the Emperor’s palace . The story has it that Li Shimin ’s father had given Yuchi Jingde a whip together with a document which gave him the authority to use it to punish with it any emperor who proved incompetent. Both the Emperor and the officials know about this practice. Seeing Yuchi Jingde holding the whip, the officials hope that he will persuade Li Shimin to release Xue Rengui . The words Yuchi Jingde addresses to Li Shimin are given in song. First Yuchi Jingde praises Li Shimin, saying that the Emperor is enjoying an excellent reputation, that he loves his subjects as if they were his own children, that he makes use of talented men to subdue the enemies, and that people revere him like a holy person. Then Yuchi Jingde rebukes Li Shimin for unjustly sentencing to death the hero Xue Rengui, relying only the claims of his close relatives (song: 67-68). Yuchi Jingde continues to defend Xue Rengui , stressing that Xue Rengui is not the kind of man who would indulge himself in women and wine. He has struggled for the sake of the country, fighting fierce battles in Eastern Liao for thirteen years. He caused the enemies of the Middle Kingdom to retreat in disarray with the heavenly-square lance in his hand. For all these reasons, he continues, killing a man like Xue Rengui could only reveal the Emperor ’s lack of judgment. A song describes Yuchi Jingde urging the Emperor to act in accordance with the opinion of the majority of people and release Xue Rengui at once (song: p. 69).

Li Shimin smiles and tells Yuchi Jingde that he is aware of Xue Rengui’s achievements, but, by disgracing a princess of the imperial family, he has committed a crime that an emperor cannot not take lightly. Actually, he adds, he could have ordered Xue Rengui’s entire clan to be extinguished, but he did not do this. Finally, he says that from then on he will not listen to any other appeals for saving Xue Rengui’s life. On hearing this, Yuchi Jingde flies into a rage and threatens to kill Li Shimin, if he kills Xue Rengui. He approaches Li Shimin with his whip lifted to strike, while the frightened officials exhort Yuchi Jingde to control his anger. Li Shimin quickly dodges to avoid the blow, and the whip strikes the throne, smashing it into four pieces. Li Shimin runs away with Yuchi Jingde after him. Li Shimin reaches the vermilion coloured wall of his palace and goes in through the northern gate, ordering the soldiers on guard to shut the gate. When they do this, the rear hem of Li Shimin’s robe gets caught in the gate, and he cannot move. Yuchi Jingde, who is outside of the gate, grabs the hem of Li Shimin’s robe in his hand and pleads with him for Xue Rengui ’s life again and again, but in vain. Moved to anger, Yuchi Jingde strikes the gate with his whip, and the whip breaks in pieces.

At this moment, Yuchi Jingde remembers how, when he was young, his teacher predicted that as long as he had his horse and the whip he would remain in good health, but his life would end if his horse died and his whip broke. Thinking of this, Yuchi Jingde’s mind blurs, and, at this point, a song describes Yuchi Jingde imploring the Emperor to free Xue Rengui, also reminding him that if the country is at peace it is because of clever civil officials, and if the enemies were defeated it was thanks to the strength of heroic army commanders. Once more, he asks Li Shimin whether or not he will set Xue Rengui free (song: pp. 80-82). At this moment, Li Shimin takes his dragon sword and cuts off the hem of his robe. A song comments on this event, stressing that such an action will come to signify to Yuchi Jingde that the relationship between him and the Emperor has been cut severed. This is more than a loyal official can bear. Thinking that his life has come to an end, Yuchi Jingde takes ten steps back, and without closing his eyes, he addresses the Emperor, saying that the time has come for them to go their separate ways (song: pp. 83-85). Now Yuchi Jingde steps back and then he runs forward and hits his head on the gate. His head splits open, and so he dies. Li Shimin is alarmed and orders the gate to be opened, and a song narrates how Li Shimin is saddened by the death of Yuchi Jingde. Grieving for him, Li Shimin pays tribute to the loyal and courageous Yuchi Jingde (song: pp. 85-86). Then Li Shimin embraces the dead Yuchi Jingde , and a song describes Li Shimin turning to the heavenly God Father Qormusta and asking the God why he let him act recklessly on that day, and why he did not show any compassion for Yuchi Jingde (song: p. 87). After this, Li Shimin orders Lord Yuchi Jingde’s body to be laid in the coffin that has been prepared for the Emperor if he dies after living for a hundred years.

News of Yuchi Jingde, who died by hitting his head on the gate of the imperial palace , reaches his two wives, and this event is conveyed in song, describing Yuchi Jingde’s wives as losing their senses upon hearing the sad news. Then they blame Li Shimin for their husband’s death and also vow to avenge him. They saddle their horses quickly, send for weapons, and call their three sons Yuchi Baolin, Yuchi Baocheng, and Yuchi Baohuai (song: pp. 90-92). When the two mothers tell their three sons how their father died, the sons ask their mothers where they are going. A song narrates how the mothers urges their sons to wear armour, take weapons, saddle the horses quickly, and set out with them to the imperial palace, because, they add, the two of them will never find peace until they have avenged their father (song: p. 94). Another song describes Yuchi Jingde’s three sons making ready for battle. They saddle the horses, then they enter the play-room and take off their plain clothes and put on strong armour and wear warrior’s boots. On their head they put helmets of steel and grab their weapons. Mothers and sons set off escorted by their troops with their hands raised and shouting loudly (song: pp. 94-96). They reach the vermilion coloured wall of the imperial palace and enter through the Wuchu gate to seize Li Shimin . Meanwhile, thousands of people from the city have joined them.

When Li Shimin is told that the imperial palace is in turmoil, he sends out Cheng Yaojin to persuade Yuchi Jingde’s wives to give up fighting and tell them that the Emperor is willing to satisfy their demands. When asked by Cheng Yaojin if they have any demands for the Emperor, Yuchi Jingde’s wives answer that they want flowers growing from a tree of iron. They want Yuchi Jingde to come back to live. Finally, they want to seize the Emperor to avenge their husband. The song which follows narrates how Cheng Yaojin tells Yuchi Jingde’s wives that there is no such thing as flowers growing from a tree of iron in the country, and that to bring Yuchi Jingde back to life is impossible. Then he urges the two women to control their anger and listen to him (song: p. 102). When Cheng Yaojin tells Yuchi Jingde’s wives that Emperor Li Shimin promises to lay their husband’s body in a jade coffin that was prepared for himself, the two women calm down. Then they demand that the Emperor transfer Yuchi Jingde’s ranks and titles to their oldest son Yuchi Baolin, that the Emperor himself should bury Yuchi Jingde, and, above all, they demand that Xue Rengui should be set free, because their husband has died to save his life. Li Shimin accepts the demand that Yuchi Jingde’s ranks and titles should be bestowed on Yuchi Jingde’s oldest son , and that he should bury Yuchi Jingde himself. He also promises to consider releasing Xue Rengui after one hundred days of mourning.

One hundred days pass, and on the third or fourth day after the end of the mourning Xue Rengui’s wife and daughter and eight high-ranking officials followed by their troops come to Chang’an to rescue Xue Rengui. They surround the city. A song describes how, suddenly, people seated in carriages pulled by horses and mules approach the city wall (song: p. 108). The troops that has come to rescue Xue Rengui wonder who these people are. As the story goes, the military advisor Xu Maogong and his retinue have returned to the capital. Xu Maogong has been in Wild Tiger City in Eastern Liao for one hundred days so as to have a religious service performed on imperial orders in commemoration of the countless people who were killed in battle during Li Shimin’s campaign in Eastern Liao. Seeing Xu Maogong, who is like a brother to Xue Rengui, Xue Rengui’s wife, Liu Yinhua, comes before him weeping, and a song describes Liu Yinhua telling Xu Maogong that they have come to take Xue Rengui alive, and after they have accomplished the task, Xue Rengui will not take any allowance from the Emperor. Instead, he will return to his homeland to do farming (song: p. 111). Then Xue Rengui’s wife implores Xu Maogong to save her husband’s life and to release him. Xu Maogong promises that he will do this. Afterwards, Xu Maogong has an audience with Emperor Li Shimin and reminds him of how he predicted that, three years after the end of the war in Eastern Liao, Xue Rengui would be sentenced to death. Then Xu Maogong produces a document written by Li Shimin himself. In it, Li Shimin states that even if Xue Rengui committed a crime as huge as the sky, killed the Emperor, and usurped his throne, it would not matter. On the evidence of the document, Li Shimin has no other choice but to release Xue Rengui, to the joy of all.
At the end of the performance the bard Qoosbayar, in song, expresses his happiness at meeting Walther Heissig, who recorded the tale.