A Collection of Manchu court poetry

Volume 728 of the 故宮珍本叢刊 series contains scans of a large collection of Manchu poems and songs on various topics: birthdays of the Qianlong emperor and his mother, military events, tributary countries, and many shorter pieces like the one translated below. All in all, it seems to me that the poems stem from the Manchu court and can be labelled as “court poetry”. Most of them make use of the following metrical scheme:

Some of these are presented together with gongche notation, as can be seen on the picture below. The presence of this notation can be set against what Amiot wrote in 1779 in his introduction to the copy of the Manchu hymn he sent to Europe:

Ceux que j’avais chargé du soin de me procurer les notes exactement extraites de l’original m’ont répondu après s’être donné bien du mouvement pour tâcher de me satisfaire, que les Mantchoux n’avoient point encore inventé des notes ; qu’ils s’en tenaient à leur routine, et que leurs chants et les évolutions dont ils les accompagnoient n’étoient enseignés que par voye d’exercice à ceux qui devoient les exécuter.

Those I had entrusted with obtaining for me the musical notation accurately extracted from the original answered, after sparing no effort on my behalf, that the Mandchus had not yet invented a musical notation; that they did things according to their custom, and that their songs and the dance which accompanied them were taught only by practice to those who had to perform them.


musei morin katarambi.
mukei gese dulendembi.
mutengge yebken fiheme tefi.
mujilen acafi sebjelembi.

mukūn hūncihin hajilambi.
murušeci bayan wesihun isanjimbi.
mudandari hūntahan daraburengge seci.
mujakū nure i amtan nonggibumbi.

Our horses are trotting,
Passing by like water.
Those who are skilled sit filling the place,
Hearts meet and rejoice.

Clan members love each other,
It seems the wealthy and honored come together.
Each time a glass is served,
The wine tastes much better.

Leping’s dog?

This is a shortened version of a research note I wrote in 2015-2016. For all its faults, I thought it might be of better use out here than sitting on my hard drive.


The decline in Manchu language skills among bannermen, as well as the “institutionalization” [1] of Manchu translation examinations in 1722, set up the scene for the development of Manchu learning during the 18th c. Either because they responded to the Court’s discourse on the importance of the Manchu language as a token of Manchu identity, or because they wanted to benefit from the employement opportunities Manchu language skills could now offer [2], learning Manchu became an integral part of life in Manchu garrisons. This development can be seen in the publication of various textbooks for learners, some of them undergoing several editions, as well as in the presence in modern-day Manchu collections of several students’ schoolbooks.

These two kinds of learning material often went hand in hand, with dialogues from textbooks like the Cing wen ki meng or the Tanggū meyen being assigned to students for copying and learning [3]. There is also evidence in the preserved schoolbooks of the existence of many dialogues that cannot be traced back to the two previously mentioned textbooks. This reseach note aims at drawing attention to three seemingly unrelated manuscripts, kept by three different institutions, which nevertheless contain slightly different versions of the same dialogues.

The manuscripts

Among its numerous Manchu manuscripts, the Harvard-Yenching Library possesses a short volume entitled Muwa gisun, ‘Plain Talk’, the contents of which consist of several discourses on rather mundane matters. The first dialogues, as well as corrections made throughout the book, indicate that it was the school book of an eleven year-old boy named Leping.

In previous literature this manuscript has been described as “unique” [4], a qualification that is certainly hard to deny since personal details about its owner make the first dialogues unique indeed. It is nonetheless worth noting that many pieces, especially in the later part of the book, can be found in two other manuscripts: one held by Nagasaki University (no. 404) and the other by the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Hs. or. 8448).

Each one of these three manuscripts has its own distinct character. While H [5] is a monolingual book, dialogues in B and N offer a bilingual Manchu-Chinese text. The Nagasaki copy stands out because of its much “cleaner” aspect. Mistakes, corrections, dates and grammatical paratextual markings in red ink can be found in the other two manuscripts, the Nagasaki text has none of these. It is thus possible that the N was not an exercise book but maybe a textbook or a teacher book.


As far as their content is concerned, none of the manuscripts is identical. Some dialogues can be found in all three manuscripts, while others appear in only one of them. Muwa gisun is by far the longest one, containing 81 sections [6]. The Nagasaki text is divided in 50 [7] and the Berlin manuscript has only 23. In some cases, a few dialogues follow one another in the same order whatever the manuscript but the overall order of the texts differs notably.

Common to all three manuscripts are pieces centered around typical Manchu activities, as well as scenes, often seemingly comical in nature, bearing no obvious relationship to Manchu life. We present below two of these, found in all three manuscripts.

Hs. or. 8448

dukai jakade ya niyalma jamarahabi. muse booi kabari adaki booi kesike be saiha. ceni booi takūršara haha jui. kesike be tooda seme jamarahabi. tere haha jui ai sambi. suwe sain gisun i hoššome gisurefi. terebe unggici uthai wajiha:

– Who’s been quarrelling at the door ?
– Our Pekingese dog bit the neighbours’ cat. Their young servant has been quarrelling, saying we should pay for the cat.
– What does this boy know? You, appease him with nice words and send him away, that will be the end of it!

Hs or. 8448

donjiha bade. ere aniya geli coohai ahūra baicame tuwara mejige bi sembi. suwe uksin saca loho sirdan be tucibufi tuwa. sebdenehengge bici. nilara faksi i buseli de benefi nilabu. jebele dashūwan ledu ibeli jergi jaka aika efujehengge bici. niyeceteme dasta:

The word is that this year, there will be another inspection of weapons. After you have taken out the armors, helmets, swords and arrows, check them. If they are rusty, send them to the polisher’s shop and have them polished. If bow cases, quivers, ladu-quivers, back parts of helmets and the like are broken, repair them!

As can be seen from the second example, there is a thin line between scenes we may want to deem humorous and scenes about martial Manchu skills. It is doubtful whether the second piece, featuring rather unprepared soldiers with possibly rusty or broken weapons, would have fared well against the court insistence on constant military training for the Manchus.

Scenes like this one throw some light upon the fact that Manchu life in the garrisons might well have fallen short from imperial expectations. There is of course the risk that these short pieces, written with the learner in mind, should not be taken at face value. Caution is thus needed when using them to reconstruct a picture of everyday Manchu life.

It is nonetheless remarkable that few of the scenes depicted in the manuscripts match the court’s expectations about Manchu behaviour. Whether low military achievements and frequent quarrels were the whole story of life in the Manchu cities may be open to debate, but the fact that this was the kind of material offered to (at least some) students of Manchu throws an interesting light on how rank and file Manchus may have developed their own discourse about Manchu life.


As teaching Manchu became an evermore relevant activity in increasingly Chinese speaking garrisons, it was only natural that teaching materials should have been created in great numbers. One teaching device that become widespread is the use of dialogues or short pieces about everyday life for copying and/or memorization, a fact that is attested by the large number of school books written by students that include such texts.

A second level of harmonization is reached by the content of the texts themselves. Readers of school books cannot help but notice the stereotyped content of many pieces. Since no official curriculum, that we know of, was ever designed for Banner schools, this level of standardization is somewhat surprising.

While some printed textbooks can be identified as common “suppliers of dialogues”, the existence of manuscripts such as the ones studied here emphasizes the fact that many of the texts offered to the students of Manchu circulated in a much less obvious (to us, at least) way. This may take away something from the originality first ascribed to Leping’s experience – we cannot be sure anymore that it actually was his Pekingese dog that bit the neighbours’ cat – but, on the other hand, this sharing of texts underlines the fact that learners of Manchu were engaging in a common cultural experience. That this experience made use of material somewhat at odds with the imperial discourse on Manchu identity only makes these texts more interesting [8].

[1] Elliott, The Manchu Way, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 2001, p. 301.
[2] Both can be seen in Jakdan’s Manchu preface to his translation of stories from the Liaozhai zhiyi (published in 1848), “The Manchu language is our people’s native tongue (…) Because my family was poor, when I was a young man, I studied Manchu for a little while, thinking only of getting some kind of government job.”, translated by Chiu and Elliott, “The Manchu Preface to Jakdan’s Selected Stories Translated from Liaozhai zhiyi”, The China Heritage Quarterly, 2009.
[3] See for instance Mss. or. 8400 (dated XF19) and 8399 (dated DG18) kept at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin for students’ manuscript copies of dialogues from, respectively, the Cing wen ki meng and the Tanggū meyen.
[4] Treasures of the Yenching: Seventy-fifth anniversary of the Harvard-Yenching Library, Exhibition Catalogue, Harvard University Press, 2003, p. 86.
[5] Hereafter B stands for the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin manuscript, H for the Harvard-Yenching Library manuscript and N for the Nagasaki manuscript.
[6] Transcription and translation of the whole text are available at http://www.manchustudiesgroup.org/translations/muwa-gisun-section-two.
[7] Though its contents are not related to the printed dialogue book bearing the same name, N bears the title Tanggū meyen. Does it mean that half of the work is missing?
[8] For similar considerations, see Trachsel, Substance Abuse Among Bannermen and Banner Self-perception: An Analysis of Qing Language Primers, Saksaha 15, 2018.

How much for a Manchu translation of the 西遊記 in 1772?

In 1790, the reviser of a Kangxi era Manchu translation of the 西遊記 started his preface by the following:

sahaliyan muduri aniya. bolori ujui biyai tofohon i ilaci inenggi. bi hū guwe sy juktehen de genefi tuwaci. hūdai bade ere bithe uncambi. emu yohi uheri susai debtelin. bithei wajima de. elhe taifin i jai aniya tuweri omšon biyade ubaliyambume wajiha seme ejeme arahabi. ubaliyambuha manju gisun umesi fe. buyeme ofi. duin ulcin jiha de gaime udaha.

“In the year of the black dragon [QL37=1772], on the 3rd day of the half of the first month of autumn, I went to the Hū Guwe temple [1]. On the market, this book was for sale, the complete set was made of fifty volumes. At the end of the book, it was written: “Translation completed on the 11th month, winter of the 2nd year of the Kangxi era”. The language used in the translation was very old. Because I liked it, I bought it for four strings of cash.”

The preface itself is dated QL55.6.10 (July 21st 1790). In it, the author explains that he wanted to modernize the language of the Kangxi translation but that it took him ten years to get to it and around nine years to complete his work.
The preface is followed by a short piece on the 西廂記 and by around 35 pages of considerations in which the author (i.e. the buyer of 1772) touches upon various topics pertaining to translation choices, the Manchu language, other books, etc. I hope I’ll be able to post some of these in the near future.

[1] Ch. 護國寺.

A Manchu learner’s composition book? (4)

This is text 4 in the manuscript BNF Mandchou 270 (see here for a first post about this text).
As usual, there are a couple of interesting words/spellings: diyanlambi, sarakū (although the latter is not a surprise, being rather common in earlier Manchu texts).

(f°2a) emu falga boo[1] ibagangga hutu dobori dari daišame nakarakū: booi ejen gelefi encu boo be gurifi beyei boobe gūwade (f°3b) diyanlabuhabi diyanlaha niyalma turgun be sarakū boode dosifi teki serede. ehe hutu an i balai fekuceme daišara wehe maktara ahūra tetun efujere sele futa ušara fulenggi gaifi buda sogi de maktara ersun jilgan tucibufi niyalma be gelebure jakade. ice ejen ekisaka ojorakū be safi boobe waliyafi gurihebi. ereci niyalma gelhun akū terakū oho.
In(?) a house, there was a spectre who spent each night constantly acting wildly. The landlord, being scared, had moved into another house and rented his own house. The person who rented it knew nothing about this and, when he wanted to settle in the house, the evil spirit did what it usually did: jumping here and there, acting wildly, throwing stones, breaking things, pulling iron chains, taking ashes and throwing them into the food, screaming and being frightening. The new landlord, seeing that it could not be quiet, left the house and moved. From then on, nobody dared to live there.

[1] I assume something like de is missing here.

The 7th Dalai Lama’s death in Manchu documents

The events surrounding the 7th Dalai Lama‘s death are well documented in Manchu sources since the Manchu officials in Lhasa regularly reported to the Qianlong emperor (1). In this series, I’ll try and post transcriptions and translations of several of these documents.The first one is a memorial by Umitai and Sarašan, dated QL22.2.3 (March 22, 1757) and informing the emperor that the Dalai Lama’s health had taken a turn for the worse.

aha umitai sarašan gingguleme wesimburengge. donjibume wesimbure jalin.
duleke aniya aniya biyade. oktosi lii de ming. dzang de isinjifi. dalai lamai nimeku be dasabume okto omibuha ci. dalai lamai nimeku ulhiyen ulhiyen i sain oho. damu kemuni majige fucihiyara babe. aha be. onggolo gemu. donjibume wesimbuhebi.

Your servants Umitai and Sarašan respectfully memorialize. To inform.
During the 1st month of last year, the physician Lii De Ming arrived in Tibet and treated the Dalai Lama’s illness by having him take medecine, the Dalai Lama gradually recovered. We previously memorialized that he was only still coughing a little.

ere aniya aniya biyai orin jakūn de. dalai lamai beye šahūrun goifi. fe nimeku fukderefi umesi hejeme beye gubci hūsun akū. asuru jeterakū. cira labdu yadalinggū oho. ede aha be uthai oktosi lii de ming be gaifi. dalai lamai sudala be tuwafi. udu mudan okto omibuha. umai yebe ojoro muru akū.
On the 28th day of the 1st month of this year, the Dalai Lama caught a cold and his previous illness surfaced back. He was breathing with difficulty and his whole body had no strength. He wasn’t eating much and his face became long and weak. We then brought the physician Lii De Ming, who took the Dalai Lama’s pulse and had him take medecine several times. There was no sign of improvement at all.

juwe biyai ice juwe de. g’ablon i gung bandida se jifi alahangge. dalai lamai nimeku be tuwaci. ulhiyen ulhiyen i ujen ombi. umai yebe ojoro muru akū ofi. šang ni jaka hacin be tucibufi. dzang de bisirele juktehen de lamasa be isabufi. gurim nomun hūlabucibe. be alimbaharakū geleme ofi. ambasa de donjibumbi seme alambi.
On the 2nd day of the 2nd month, Count Bandida of the G’ablon(2) and others came and reported: “As for the Dalai Lama’s illness, it is gradually becoming serious. Because there is no sign of improvement, even if we bestowed all kinds of things(3), assembled the lamas in every temple of Tibet, and had sutras recited, we are scared and inform the ambans.”

ede aha be uthai oktosi lii de ming de kimcime fonjifi. lii de ming ni gisun. dalai lamai ere mudan nimeku fukderekengge umesi ujen. sukdun yadalinggū. hejerengge nimecuke. mini muterei teile gūnin akūmbume udu mudan okto omibuha gojime. umai tusa ohakū. te bi yargiyan i encu arga baharakū oho sembi.
Consequently, we carefully interrogated the physician Lii De Ming, he said: “This time the Dalai Lamai’s relapse is very serious. His breath is weak and he has terrible breathing difficulties. I did everything I could think of and made him take medecine several times but it did not help in any way. Now I truly cannot think of anything to do.”

aha be. dalai lamai muru be tuwaci. nimekulehengge ujen gelecuke. oktosi lii de ming. inu yebe obume dasame muterakū ohongge yargiyan. ubai g’ablon seci. geren lamasa. tanggūt urse de isitala alimbaharakū gūnin jobošome gelerakūngge akū. kemuni ejen kesi isibume. encu sain oktosi šangnara be erehunjeme gūnimbime. dalai lama inu ejen i kesi isibure be ereme gūnire muru be dahame. bairengge. ejen kesi isibume. encu emu sain oktosi šangnafi unggireo. uttu ohode. dzang ni gubci ursei gūnin be tohorombumbime. dalai lamai nimeku de inu tusa ombi. erei jalin oktosi lii de ming ni nikan afahari be suwaliyame gingguleme donjibume wesimbuhe.
If we consider the Dalai Lama’s situation/appearance, his illness is frightfuly serious. That the physician Lii De Ming could not heal him is true. From the local G’ablons to the lamas and the inhabitants, there is no one who is not greatly worried and frightened. Still there is hope that the Emperor will show his kindness and send another skilled physician, and because the Dalai Lama also hopes that the Emperor will show his kindness, we beg that the Emperor may show his kindness and send another skilled physician. If so, the minds of all the inhabitants of Tibet will be appeased and this will also be beneficial to the Dalai Lama’s health. For this reason, we have respectfully memorialized and joined to this memorial a document written in Chinese by Lii De Ming.

*hese wasimbuha. uthai ubaci unggimbi.
abkai wehiyehe i orin juweci aniya juwe biyai ice ilan.

*An edict has been sent. [A physician] will be sent from here.
Abkai Wehiyehe, 22nd year, 2nd month, 3rd day.

(1) For an overview of the 7th Dalai Lama’s death and the events that followed, see Wang, “The Qing Court’s Tibet Connection: Lcang skya Rol pa’i rdo rje and the Qianlong Emperor“, in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 60 No. 1, 2000, pp. 138-151.
(2) The council of ministers, or one of the ministers.
(3) To monks taking part in the ceremonies.

Hojis, beg of Turfan


Saw this recently on Twitter: the portrait of Hojis, beg of Turfan was up for sale. It is apparently a recent addition to the already known portraits of meritorious generals. The manchu poem at the top reads:

giyūn wang hojis:

dade jiyanggiyūn i selgiyehe bithe be dahame.
dawaji be uthai jafame baha.
dahaha amala udu majige tathūnjame deribucibe.
dahanduhai geli musei cooha be okdonjiha.

ede amba cooha be dahame dosifi.
ese inu kara usu de kabuhabi.
ere hoisei dorgi gebungge mukūn ofi.
erebe gemun hecen de tebuhebi:

abkai wehiyehe i šanyan muduri aniyai niyengniyeri han i arahangge:

Following the orders sent out by the general,
he then captured Dawaji.
Although some doubt arose after submitting,
He later came to meet our army.

He then followed the imperial army and invaded,
And they were surrounded in Kara Usu.
Being from a clan famous among Muslims,
He was resettled to Beijing.

The Preface of the Jiha efire be targabure juwan hacin

An interesting preface from a late 19th c. reprint [1] of a late 18th c. translation by a certain Gionai (Ch. 九鼐), both for the nice drowning metaphor that runs through it and for the indication it gives that knowledge of written Manchu was still widespread enough at this point in time (at least where the author was stationed).

jiha efire be targabure juwan hacin.

bi kemuni siden ci mariha sula šolo de. nenehe ursei koolinga gisun be ubašatame tuwara de. jiha efire be targabure juwan hacin sere emu meyen be sabuha. yargiyan i dogon fambuhangge be doobure boobai ada. jalan i nimekungge be dasabure niktan siktan i gese ojoro jakade. muse manju kūwaran i niyalma. manju bithe bahanarangge labdu. nikan hergen takarangge komso seme gūninafi. tuttu beyei tacihangge cinggiya albatu be bodorakū. balai ubaliyambufi folobufi šuwaselabuha. ere esi ambula taciha urse de basubure ci guweme muterakū be sacibe. inu damu irubuhangge be aitubure ajige niyececun okini seme ereme gūniha. kemuni ne bisire. amaga jalan i den genggiyen ursei nisalame [2] tuwancihiyame. dasatara be. yargiyan i hing seme erehunjehei bi:

alban tacikūi baita be kadalara gūsai da Gionai ubaliyambuha.

Saicungga Fengšen i ilaci aniya aniya biyai sain inenggi.

My attempt at a translation (necessarily poor, in keeping with Gionai’s words!):
“Often, when I am away from duty, I consult the instructions of past authors and I saw a book whose title was Ten paragraphs to refrain from gambling. Truly, it is a precious raft for those who have lost the ferry, a divine elixir to cure the disease of the world. It came to my mind that there are many among us, people of the Manchu garrisons, who are acquainted with the Manchu script and few who know the Chinese characters. Consequently, I disregarded the fact that I am lacking in knowledge and produced a poor translation, got it carved and printed. Although I know it will certainly be mocked by learned people (that cannot be avoided [3]), I only hoped that it may provide some vital help to those who have drowned. As for now, I truly and sincerely hope that enlightened people of the future generations will identify its defects, straighten and correct it.

Gionai, Regiment Colonel in charge of the School of the Imperial Household, has translated [this book].

Third year of Saicungga Fengšen, on an auspicious day of the first month (=1798).”

[1] It was reprinted along with at least seven other instructional works, in what seems to have been a private effort to spread proper ethics and knowledge of Manchu.
[2] I am not sure what nisalame exactly means here. Since Norman has a word nišalame “to pick off lice”, I guess it may be used here to roughly say something like “to identify defects”.
[3] I wonder if guweme muterakū should not rather be taken as “it [my translation] cannot be forgiven”: “Although I know that it will certainly be mocked by learned people and that it cannot be forgiven, I only hoped that…”.

Yaqub Beg and the Qing (2)

The following entry (the very last of the whole Tongzhi Sacred Teachings) illustrates quite well how Yaqub Beg tried to show his good will towards the Qing by sending back captured officials or, as is the case here, persons of importance. It also shows how the Court (voluntarily/mistakenly?) took this as a sign of him wanting to submit.

Daicing gurun i Muzung filingga hūwangdi i enduringge tacihiyan (大清穆宗毅皇帝聖訓), debtelin 160, f°44b-46b.
sohon honin inenggi. coohai nashūn i ambasa de dergi hese wasimbuhangge.
wenlin sei baci uju hūsiha hoise be takūrame tomilafi besir i fujin be okdome karmame hami de maribuha babe wesimbuhebi.
besir i fujin. duleke aniya fudaraka ehe hūlha de tabcilabume ciktengmu de isinaha. anjiyan i julergi jugūn i aiman i da pa hiya de duribume tucifi. bugur bade icihiyame tebuhe. harangga fujin i neome samsiha babe tuwaci yala umesi jilame gūnicuka. pa hiya i baime alibuha bithei dangse de. hami i amban i doron gidaha ulhibure bithe be alime gaiha manggi. uthai harangga fujin be amasi benebumbi seme alibuha be tuwaci. tere fudaraka be waliyafi ijishūn i dahanjire babe. murušeme saci ombi. wenlin se ne hoise wang maihamut de takūrafi. hoisei da be sonjome tomilafi harangga bade unggihe be dahame. uthai besir i fujin be sain hūdun i okdome karmafi hami de maribu. banjire ba be ufarabuci ojorakū. harangga pa hiya unenggi julergi jugūn i geren hoton i aiman niyalma be kadalame gaifi gaiharilame dahanjiha bime. geli turfan i hoton be alibume tucibume muteci gurun boo esi urunakū kesi isibuci acambi. erebe wenlin sede afabufi unenggi tucibume ulhibume selgiyefi. arga deribufi elbime jibufi. amba arbun de tusa arakini harangga pa hiya i amasi karu ungginjihe bithe be alime gaiha de uthai hahi hūdun i wesimbu sehe.

[On the 13th year, 11th month,] the day of the yellowish sheep, an edict was sent to the officials of the Great Council:
Wenlin and co. have memorialized about dispatching turban-headed Muslims[1], going to meet Besir’s wife and bringing her back safely to Hami.
Last year[2], Besir’s wife was captured by evil rebels and arrived in Ciktengmu. Having been seized by the Andijan Pasha, the leader of the tribes of the Southern Circuit, she has been taken care of and resettled in Bugur. The said wife’s wanderings are truly something that provokes compassionate thoughts. In the document he presented, Pasha says he will send back the said wife after he has received a letter of instructions bearing the seal of the Hami amban. Considering this, it can more or less be seen that he is abandoning his rebellion and obediently submits. Now, let Wenlin and co. dispatch people to the Muslim wang Maihamut, and Muslim leaders be chosen and sent to the aforementioned place. Then, have Besir’s wife be met with and quickly brought back safely to Hami. We cannot have this opportunity be lost[3].
After having conquered them, the said Pasha truly rules over the people of the towns of the Southern Circuit, and suddenly he has made offers to submit[4]. When he will have given back the town of Turfan, it will be appropriate to bestow great favor upon him.
After you have handed this over to Wenlin and co. and have truly informed him, let him come up with a plan to win over and make [Pasha] come. This will be beneficial to the overal situation.[5]
When the answer of the said Pasha will have been received, memorialize without delay.
[1] Turkic-speaking Muslims (Ch. 纏頭 chantou).
[2] See the entries starting of f°63b (the capture) and 83a (the freeing of Maihamut) for these events.
[3] I don’t find banjire ba easy to translate. Literally “opportunity of living”, meaning the chance of getting the wife back and alive.
[4] Although dahanjiha can mean “he suddenly came to submit”, it should not be taken literally here. It is more akin to “he made offers of submission” (that is, in the eyes of the Qing of course).
[5] The series of -fi…-kini has to be broken down for translation but I hope I haven’t made a mess of it.

Yaqub Beg and the Qing (1)

The Dungan revolt (1862-1877) in Xinjiang, which had started as a Hui Muslim rebellion against Manchu-Chinese forces in Gansu and Shaanxi, soon spread to Xinjiang where Turkic Muslims cooperated with the Hui. This situation was altered when the insurgents in Xinjiang required help from Kokand’s ruler, who answered their call by sending Yaqub Beg in 1865. After establishing his authority over the Kasghar region, Yaqub Beg declared a jihad against the Dungans, basically turning the revolt into a three-party affair: the Qing dynasty (bent on getting back the whole region), the Dungans (now sandwiched between the Qing and Yaqub Beg), and Yaqub Beg (quickly expending his dominion at the expense of the Dungans).[1]

After defeating the Dungans at Turfan and Urumci, Yaqub Beg was for the first time in direct contact with the Qing and in 1871 he sent a letter explaining the legitimacy of his rule over the region. Wenlin, the Qing official in charge in Hami, was nonplussed and answered with a “Letter of Admonition” in which he thanked Yaqub Beg for defeating the Dungans but also made it very clear that the territories he now held were part of Qing empire. This exchange has been studied in depth in Onuma, ‘First Contact between Ya’qub Beg and the Qing‘, JAAS 84, 2012, p. 5-37. I thought it would be interesting to see what the Tongzhi Emperor’s Sacred Teachings had to say about Yaqub Beg and gathered a couple of entries that deal in some depth with his actions.

The first one shows the court reaction to the exchange of letters mentioned above between Yaqub Beg and Wenlin. It is interesting in showing that, while Yaqub Beg’s intentions are becoming clear, the court is still very much in the dark about who he is. He is throughout referred to as ‘Pa Hiya’ (from the word ‘Pasha’) but the court apparently still doesn’t know whether it is the title of a ruler or a personal name.

duin biyai niowanggiyan indahūn inenggi coohai nashūn i ambasa de dergi hese wasimbuhangge. welin sei baci. anjiyan i dalaha hoise dangse be alibume benehe. urumci hoton i fudaraka hoise anjiyan de dahanaha. dalaha fudaraka hoise ma jung. urumci hoton ci bithe alibufi bilure de dayanjiki seme baiha babe. hacin hacin i wesimbuhebi.
anjiyan pa hiya turfan i hoton be kame afafi. ehe hoise be gisabume burulaha. harangga pa hiya unenggi gurun i jalin hūsun bume faššaci. ainu alibuha dangse i dolo. umai unenggi i dahanjire hoton be amasi afabure gisun akū ni. ere dade harangga hoton i nikan irgen be leksei uju fusibufi julergi jugūn de unggihe secibe. ya bade icihiyame tebure be sarkū. harangga pa hiya ne hoton i tule kūwaran ilibufi yohoron fetefi uju hūsire hoise be tomilame takūrafi. hoton be tuwašatame tuwakiyabuha be tuwaci. ba na be ejelefi tomoro jalin kicerengge. iletu bime ja i sambi. ede bime urumci hoton i fudaraka hoise be hafirame dahalabuha bime. kemuni ma jung be wen de dahabuha jeo i uheri da obuha. yargiyan i dorgideri ehe mujilen hefeliyehe.
wenlin se. ne arga deribufi sidereme jafatafi. ulhibure bithe bufi. tesebe unenggi i baime dahanjibufi hoton be amasi afabubuki seme toktobuha be tuwaci. inu tooselame gamarakū ome muterakū. damu urunakū olhošoho dade geli olhošome. cira narhūn i seremšeme belhebuci acambi. majige oihorilame gamafi. harangga pa hiya de eiterebure de isibuci ojorakū.
wenlin se. harangga pa hiya de buhe ulhibure bithei dolo. turgun be tucibume baime wesimbufi. kooli ci tulgiyen kesi isibufi. pa hiya be dabali saišame huwekiyebuki. hese be gingguleme alime gaiha manggi. uthai pa hiya de beneme afabufi. gingguleme tuwabuki seme toktobufi wesimbuhe bime. bukdari i dolo ere hacin be adarame icihiyara babe. umai getukeleme tucibuhekū erebe wenlin sede afabufi icihiyara arbun dursun be saikan tulbime bodofi. an i emu derei donjibume wesimbu. su hūwan jang nimeme akū oho sehengge. yargiyan yargiyan akū. pa hiya anjiyan i hoisei da i gebu inuo wakao. eici niyalmai gebu inuo. erebe kemuni suwaliyame wesimbu.

On the fourth month, on the day of the greenish dog, an edict was sent to the members of the Great Council:
Welin and co. have memorialized about the following, “The Muslim ruler of Anjiyan has sent a document. The Muslim rebels of Urumci have surrendered to Anjiyan. Ma Zhong[2], the leader of the Muslim rebels, sent a letter from Urumci and wants to submit.”
The Andijan Pasha besieged the town of Turfan and wiped out the evil Muslims, who fled away. If the said Pasha truly exerted himself on behalf of our country, how come his letter makes no mention of giving us back the town which is submitting to him? Moreover, he had the whole Chinese population of the said town have their head shaved and sent them to the Southern Circuit[3], and nothing is known about their present whereabouts. Now the said Pasha has set up a camp outside of the city and has dug ditches; he has sent turban-headed Muslims[4] and has them keep a close watch on the city. If we consider all this, it is very clear that he is bent on controlling the area and staying there. He has also made Ma Zhong commandant of the Urumci area. This truly shows that his intentions are bad.
Wenlin and co. have now come up with a plan, keeping him in check and sending him a letter, instructing him to give us these towns back after they have genuinely submitted. If we consider these decisions, it is essential to ponder cautiously. Not only should we be prudent but it is also fitting to have a defence prepared very carefully. It won’t do to treat things with even the slightest carelessness and expose us to be deceived by the said Pasha.
Wenlin and co. have memorialized, informing us about the matter contained in the letter of instructions given to the said Pasha and asking [for instructions]. They have memorialized about their decision to bestow exceptional favor upon Pasha and to nurture his zeal by praising him beyond measure. After an edict has been received, they will send it to Pasha and will inform us[5]. They did not bring out clearly at all in the document how these things would be taken care of. After this [edict] has been transmitted to Wenlin and co. and the circumstances have been well pondered, send an ordinary memorial about these. Memorialize also about Suo Huanzhang[2] having died, is it true or not? Is Pasha the name of the chief of the Andijan Muslims or not? Maybe it is a personal name?

[1] This very crude summary does not do justice to the complex situation that existed at the time. For a detailed account of the events, see Kim Hodong, Holy War in China. The Muslim Rebellion and State in Chinese Central Asia, 1864-1877, Stanford University Press, 2004.
[2] A Dungan leader.
[3] Ch. 南路 (nanlu)
[4] That is Turkic Muslims, as opposed to the Dungans/Hui Muslims.
[5] I find the syntax here a bit convoluted and the translation can probably be improved.