Manchu-Mongolian-Chinese textbook from 1909-1910

The Manju monggo nikan ilan acangga šu i tuktan jergi den jergi ajige tacikūi tanggin / 满蒙汉合璧教科书 is a very interesting resource, highlighting the changes that were taking place at the very end of the Qing dynasty. This work, as stated in the foreword (dated 1909), was intended to become the textbook used in schools for children.

The lessons are at first very simple, being short lists of words, but they gradually increase in length and complexity. The content is resolutely modern in tone, with lessons devoted for instance to describing the five continents (1) and to the Qing empire.

Eight fascicles have been pusblished in facsimile (2), each fascicle contains sixty lessons and was intended to cover a semester. The introduction states that 18 fascicles were planned thus providing a complete course for 9 years of schooling, from 8 year old to 16 year old (3). Since the 8th fascicle is dated 1910, it may be that the publication was interrupted due to the end of the Qing dynasty.

I find this work fascinating (even if I only read a few lessons) because of its trilingual nature (4) and its status as a witness of the very last moments of the Qing dynasty and the efforts made at the time to modernize the education system. On the more practical side of things, this textbook offers a wealth of graded readings that could be very useful to modern students of Manchu.

Fascicle 1

ujui tacibure kicen. abka. na. šun. biya. alin. muke. boihon. moo.

Lesson 1. Heaven, earth, sun, moon, moutain, water, soil, tree.

jai tacibure kicen. ama. eme. jui. sargan jui. hūcin. boigon. usin. hūwa.

Lesson 2. Father, mother, son, daughter, well, household, field, yard.

Fascicle 6

susai ningguci tacibure kicen. hutu akū.

(…) seibeni yoo guwang antaha be tanggin de sarilahade. emu antaha gaitai nimekulefi bi. goidatala yebe ohakū ofi. yoo guwang fonjiha de. antaha jabume. onggolo nure buhe be alire de. hūntahan i dolo meihe bisire be sabufi. mujilen de ubiyambihe. omiha manggi. nimeku fukdereke sefi. yoo guwang fajiran i ninggude uihe i beri bisire be gūninafi. hūntahan i dolo i meihe. uthai beri i helmen kai. uthai dahūme daci ba de nure dagilafi. antaha de alame fonjime. hūntahan i dolo dahūme saburengge bio. antaha hendume. saburengge nenehe i adali sefi. uthai turgun be alaha de. antaha gaitai gūnin subufi. nimerengge aimaka ufaraha gese:

Lesson 56. No ghost.

(…) Some time ago, when Yoo Guwang was banqueting with some guests in his hall, one of the guests suddenly started to feel unwell. When, after some time, he did not get better, Yoo Guwang asked him [what had happened] and the guest answered “Earlier when taking the cup of wine you gave me, I saw a snake in it and my heart was troubled. After drinking it, I felt unwell.” Yoo Guwang, realizing that there was a horn-bow on the wall, [said] “The snake inside the cup, that was the reflection of the bow!”. Then he put wine at the same place as before and asked the guest “Do you again see [a snake] in the cup?” The guest said “I see the same thing as before.” Upon telling this, the guest suddenly felt relieved, as if his illness had ended.


(1) Named ya si ya, o lo ba, ya fei li giya, ya mei lii giya, hai yang (fasc. 6, lesson 1).

(2) Vol. 724-725 of the 故宫珍本丛刊 series published by 海南出版社.

(3) tuktan jergi ajige tacikūi tanggin ci den jergi ajige tacikūi tanggin de isitala. bodoci uyun aniyai erinde. bithe juwan jakūn debtelin be arame bahafi. erei nadan jakūn se ci tofohon juwan ninggun se de isitala baitalara de acabumbi.

(4) Fascicle 8 ends on the following words: gehungge yoso i jai aniya šanyan indahūn bolori uju biyade. abkai imiyangga goloi monggo bithei tacikūi tanggin i gebu algingga tuwame kadalara hafan. tojin i funggala meiren i janggin jergi. nenehe monggo gūsai da amban žungde gingguleme ubaliyambuha. If this is indeed the name of the translator of the entire work (and not just of the last piece in the 8th fascicle), as it seems reasonable to suppose, this would be another testimony to the large part Mongols played in the production of Manchu texts.



Jakdan, Mucihiyan and friends

Or ‘Walking the streets of Beijing with the publishers of the Manchu Liao zhai zhi yi (聊齋誌異)’.

Reading through the first part of the Xian chuang lu meng yi bian (閒窗錄夢译编) and enjoying it very much. There is something oddly satisfiying in following the everyday life of the author, Mucihiyan, as he records even the tiniest events of his life in Beijing during the late 1820s. What he ate, things he bought, friends he visited, places he went to, death of family pets, etc, nothing seems too mundane to him.

I will probably post translations of some entries later but for the moment I would like to share something that makes this reading even more interesting to me (1).

While we know the author of the diary is one ‘Mucihiyan’ (based on the name mentioned in instructions sent to him and that he quotes), it is possible to link him to the Mucihiyan Ioi Fan which features in Jakdan’s Liyoo jai jy i, the (partial) Manchu translation of the Liao zhai zhi yi.

This identification relies on the presence in the diary of (at least) three persons, close friends of Mucihiyan, who also appear among the people who had a hand in the publication of Jakdan’s translation: De Weiyi (德惟一), Qing Xichen (慶熙臣) and Chang Xiangpu (長祥圃 ). In the Liyoo jai jy i, they are listed as Deyentai (starting with vol. 13, Desin) Wei Yi, Kingsi (starting with vol. 13, Kingcang) Hi Cen and Canghing Siyang Pu (see image below).

Liyoo 1
From the 1848 edition of the Sonjofi ubaliyambuha liyoo jai jy i bithe (vol. 1)

There is also more anecdotical evidence to support the identification of Mucihiyan Ioi Fan with the author of the diary. In Jakdan’s translation Mucihiyan Ioi Fan is said to be from the Peng Lai county (蓬萊) in the Shandong province (see image above). Now, this resonates strongly with the following entry in the diary in which a letter is brought to him (8th year of Daoguang, first day of the fifth month, p. 466):

bi tuwaci dule šandung goloi peng lai hiyan i 沙住寺 juktehen ne dasatame weilere jalin fulehun baimbi. bi angga aljaha.

Looking at it, I saw it was in fact requesting donations for repair work in the 沙住 temple of Peng Lai in the Shandong province. I promised [to send some money].

闲窗录梦, p. 466

Mucihiyan did not limit his activities in the realm of Manchu literature to the writing of his diary and the publishing of the Manchu Liao zhai zhi yi. He also edited the Ubaliyambuha simnehe bodon i durun kemun i bithe, a collection of Chinese examination essays (2), translated by Io Pu Ming (abkai wehiyehe dulimbai fonde. io pu ming gung). This Io Pu Ming, aka Ming Youpu, is not a new face in the world of Manchu literature, his work being signaled by Jadkan himself as the ones that gave him the impetus to begin working on his own translation of the Liao zhai zhi yi (cf. the Manchu introduction of the work, presented and translated by Elliott and Chu at the China Heritage Quarterly).
For more on Ming Youpu (although his translations of examination essays are not mentioned), see Hoong Teik Toh and 卓鴻澤, ‘Translation, Poetry and Lute Tunes Some Manchu Writings of Mingsioi and Jakdan‘, Central Asiatic Journal Vol. 51, No. 2 (2007), pp. 223-246.

Knowing more about these men and their relations not only sheds light on the publication of Jakdan’s translation in 1848, but it also enables us to better understand the milieu in which Manchu literati in the first half of the 19th c. produced their works.


(1) Of course, this might not be news at all for everyone but since I don’t have access to a reference library I could not check if all this has already been pointed out.

(2) Incidentally, this work may also be used to support the identification of Mucihiyan Ioi Fan with the author of the diary since the main body of the Ubaliyambuha simnehe bodon i durun kemun i bithe is written in a Manchu handwriting that is nearly identical with the one used to write the introduction of the diary.

On hold

Due to other commitments, I will stop posting here for a while.

Since this blog never really served its intended purpose (see the Avant-propos/About page), it is not clear if I will resume posting.

Crime at the Russian ecclesiastical mission


Just found and “read” the very nice article by Tatiana A. Pang, entitled Маньчжурские документы о деятельности Пекинской духовной миссии (published in Studia Orientalia 97, 2003). It is in Russian (which I do not read) but the Manchu texts it presents are very interesting. They come from the Manchu manuscripts collection in Saint Petersburg and deal with the Russian ecclesiastical Mission in Beijing.  As such they offer a glimpse on the everyday life of these men.

For more on the Russian Mission see Widmer, The Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Peking During the Eighteenth Century (1976), and this post by Gregory Afinogenov on the Manchu Studies Group blog.

Here is the first of the documents, as transcribed by the author of the article since there is no photo in the article. There are quite a few mistakes (or are they accepted variants, or typos?) in the text (boolari/boolara, alhabi/alahabi) and the language on the whole gives me the feeling of being a bit…akward. Because it was written by a learner? Well, maybe this is just me not being a good enough reader…

Oros da lama Iwakingfu-i bithe / oros kuren-i baita be kadalara hafan Boo looye de aliburengge. / boolari jalin.

ninggûn biyai gûsin de jaci lama Arkadii / minde [alaha] bithe alibuha bade.

bi ilan tacire urse. aisilame nomun / hûlara niyalma Pi halangga-i baru amargi tanggin de genefi / šun dabsiha erinde marifi tuwaci. mini hûlaha fa // deri dosika songko bi. amala kimcime baicame tuwara de / fa neihe bicibe. An-i yaksifi da hadaha jinggeri be / dasame hadaha. dorgi giyalan booi yoose be anakû be baifi yoose be neifi dorgi giyalan boode / sindaha. sithen-i yoose be inu anakû be / baifi yoose be neifi etuku jaka be hûlhame gaifi. da // an-i yooselafi anakû be an-i bade seme alhabi. /

ubabe getukeleme / Boo looye de donjibume boolafi / wesihûn beye meni kuren de jifi kimcime tuwafi. adarame / icihiyaci acara babe fonjime icihiyarao.

erei jalin gingguleme boolaha.//

Letter by the Russian head-priest Iakinf (1). A communication to Mr Bao, official in charge of the Russian establishment. To report.

On the 30th day of the 6th month (2), the vice-priest Arkady reported to me in a letter:

“I and three students went to the northern study of the lector Pi (3). We returned at dusk and saw that there was evidence of my window having been broken into(?) (4). Upon further careful inspection [we saw that], although the window had been opened, it had been closed and the peg put back in place. As for the lock of the inner room, one had looked for the key and opened the lock. As for the lock of the chest placed (5) in the inner room, one had again looked for the key, opened the lock, stolen the clothing items, locked it back and put the key at its usual place.”

Having clearly informed Mr. Bao and asking what should be done, would You please come to our establishment, inspect things and handle the matter? (6)

To this effect we have respectfully reported.

(1) Hyacinth (Bichurin) (1777-1853).

(2) 21 August (1811).

(3) I guess this stands for Peter since in the following document (dated 1830) a spelling Piyeter is found.

(4) Litt. “There was evidence of entering from my having-been-broken-into(?) window”. Not sure about hûlaha, my best guess at this stage is that it stands for hûlhaha (but can the verb hûlhambi be used with this meaning?).

Another, maybe more satisfiying, solution is to consider that the word mini is misplaced. hûlaha mini fa // deri dosika songko bi, “there was evidence of a robber having entered from my window” gives a very satisfying meaning. If so, maybe the author wanted to write mini fa // deri, “decided” then to add hûlaha, but did not correct the sentence.

The spelling hûlaha for hûlha is sometimes found in documents so I’m not sure it can be labelled a mistake (see for instance the memorial by Mamboo, studied by Kim, 2013, “Uncovering a Minor Arcanum”, in which this is the normal spelling) .

(5) Despite the dot after sindaha, I take this word as refering to the chest mentioned afterwards. If not, the sentence seems akward to me: yoose be neifi dorgi giyalan boode / sindaha, “One opened the lock and placed in the inner room”.

(6) The precise syntax of this sentence eludes me and the translation might not be completely accurate.


In the second chapter of the Manchu translation of the 水滸傳 (Shui hu zhuan/Water Margin), there are quite a few occurences of the word leolo. Since the word cannot be found in the lexicographical tools I consulted (Hauer, Norman, Zakharov, 新满汉大词典) nor online (in the texts at, here or elsewhere) I thought it would be nice to list these examples here for future reference.

tereci cen da ineku hanci isinjifi leolo be faidan faidanbuha manggi. (p. 44b, l. 1)

geren leolo burulaha. (p. 45b, l. 2)

yang cun alin i ing ni dolo tefi bisirede leolo alanjime jifi hendume. (p. 45b, l. 5)

gūsin yan aisin belhefi juwe leolo be takūrame. dobori biya de (1). ši jin de benebuhe. juwe leolo ši jin i gašan de isinjifi. duka de forire jakade. gašan i niyalma tucifi leolo be dosimbuha. juwe leolo dosifi aisin be alibufi hendume. (p. 47b, l. 3-6)

geli leolo be takūrame benebure jakade. (p. 47b, l. 10)

As can be seen, the word roughly means “rank and file”. So far, I have only found it used to designate outlaws but maybe it can also be applied to any kind of low rank subordinate. I guess further reading will clarify that.

(1) While inenggi šun de “in the daytime” has found its way into dictionaries, this does not seem to be the case for its counterpart dobori biya de.

“Cimari yamji” in the Manchu Gin ping mei bithe

 Following on the interesting discussion that began in the comments section of Language log about “Manchu illiteracy”. Since comments are closed there I thought I would add the following here.

The question at hand is the meaning of the sentence songkoi cimari yamji baica. Two points seem to be problematic, 1) the absence of a complement before songkoi (which is usually a postposition) and 2) the exact meaning of cimari yamji.

I have posted there examples (one at least) supporting the idea that songkoi can be used not as a postposition but as an adverb, meaning “accordingly” and refering to something said/written before.

The meaning of cimari yamji has been debated and Pamela (K. Crossley?), while not ruling out a meaning “tomorrow night”, supports a meaning “all through the day”, cimari yamji being understood as a contraction of cimari erde ci yamji de. (1)

I, on the other hand, favor a translation of cimari yamji by “tomorrow evening/night” for several reasons:

cananggi yamji et sikse yamji mean “(the day before) yesterday evening”

examples I have been able to find of cimari yamji in the Manchu Jin Ping Mei seem to unambiguously mean “tomorrow night”.

See for instance chap. 69:

lin ši minggan tumen jergi urgunjeme dahafi. cimari yamji ilaci looye boode akū amala. sarin dagilafi aliyaki. habšara baita be yandure be anagan obufi. somishūn i acaki sehe babe giyan giyan i alara jakade. si men king donjifi ambula urgunjeme. dai an be juwe suje gajibufi buhe: (f°7a-b)

Or chap. 90:

si kemuni jio ai gelere babi. mini gisun be lai joo i sargan de hendufi. sinde alabure. bi cimari yamji. ere jai dukai dorgi fu i adame araha hetu boode simbe aliyambi sefi. yasa arara jakade. lai wang gūnin be ulhifi hendume. ere jai duka be yamji yaksimbio. akūn: (f°14b)

si cimari yamji geli jio. (f°19b)

These examples support a translation of cimari yamji by “tomorrow night” but this is of course very fragmentary evidence. Only by finding more examples will it be made clearer wether cimari yamji always means “tomorrow night” or if other meanings are possible.

(1) See her comment written April 24, 2016 at 2:22 pm. I hope I’m not misrepresenting her position.


Kangxi and his son’s clothes

Touching bit from a letter sent by the Kangxi emperor to his son and heir in June 1696.

te urgun-i amasi marire jakade. simbe alimbaharakū kidumbi: te erin halhūn oho sini etuhe. kubun ša. kubun jodon-i sijigiyan duin kurume duin-be (1) unggi. urunakū fe ningge-be unggi. ama bi simbe kidure-de etuki.

“Now that I come back joyfully, I miss you very much. Now the weather has become cold, send me four gowns and four jackets of cotton silk gauze and cotton grass linen that you have worn. Make sure to send old ones. I will wear them when I miss you”.

(Text taken from Cimeddorji, Die Briefe des K’ang-Hsi-Kaisers, 1989, p. 149)
(1) I am not sure wether the specifications about the fabric apply to the gowns only or to the jackets also. Cimeddorji chose the former solution and translates “Schik mir vier Mäntel aus Baumvollgaze und aus Grasleinen, sowie vier kurze Jacken (…)”.

The 小兒 論: a(nother) Manchu-Korean primer


Following from an earlier post on the 八歲兒 (P’alsea/Eight-year-old Child), a Manchu-Korean primer, here is the transcription of the 小兒論 (Soaron/Conversation with a Little Child).

Like the P’alsea, this short book is another of the “Four books of Qing Studies”(1) and also features a child prodigy. The difference is that this time the child is only three years old and gets to be tested by Confucius himself.

小兒論 (2)

julgei han gurun i fonde
fudz gurun boo be dasame
abkai fejergi
geren golo de šurdeme yabuhai
jiyang giyang hecen de isinambi
fudz genere jugūn de
ajige ilan juse kame ilifi
hecen sahafi efimbihe
fudz be tuwafi
efirakū baibi tehebi
fudz hendume
ere jui si ainu efirakū bio
ilan se jui jabume
hafan niyalma efin de amuran oci
gurun i weile facuhūn
irgen niyalma efin de amuran oci
usin nimalan be we bargiyambi
tuttu ofi hafan irgen bodorakū
efire be buyerakū
fudz hendume
ajige jui si ainu tuttu ambula sambi
si mini fonjire weile be
gemu sain jabumbio
ilan se jui jabume
fudz i fonjire gisun be
sain jabumbi
fudz fonjime
ajige jui si donji
den alin be akū obuki
šumin bira be akū obuki
hafan niyalma be akū obuki
tuttu oci
neigen ojorakūn
ilan se jui jabume
den alin be akū obuci
tasha lefu
ai daniyan de banjimbi
šumin bira be akū obuci
aihūma nimaha
ai daniyan de bi
hafan niyalma be akū obuci
fafun doro be adarame tacime
irgen niyalma wede hūsun bahambi
abka fejile
neigen ojoro be boljoci ojorakū
fudz hendume
ajige jui si ainu tuttu
gemu weile be sambi
bi geli emu weile be fonjimbi
ilan se jui
amasi bederefi
juwe gala joolafi hendume
ai weile be fonjimbi
fudz hendume
ai niyalma de
sargan akū
geli ai hehe de
eigen akū
geli ai niyalma de
gebu akū
geli ai hecen de
hafan akū
geli ai sejen de
hude akū
geli ai muke de
nimaha akū
geli ai tuwa de
šanggiyan akū
geli ai ihan de
tukšan akū
geli ai morin de
unahan akū
geli ai temen de
deberen akū nio
ere gese weile be sambio
ilan se jui jabume
fucihi de
sargan akū
enduri hehe de
eigen akū
teni banjiha jui de
gebu akū
untuhun hecen de
hafan akū
kiyoo de hude akū
juciba tuwa de
šanggiyan akū
moo morin de
unahan akū
boihon ihan de
tukšan akū
ufa temen de
deberen akū
hūcin muke de
nimaha akū kai
fudz hendume
ajige jui si tuttu saci
bi geli fonjimbi
sishe ninggude
ungge banjimbi sere be sambio
booi juleri ulhū banjimbi sere be sambio
coko ulhūma ubaliyambi sere be sambio
indahūn ini ejen be
gūwambi sere be sambio
ilan se jui jabume
ungge serengge
sishe de sektere narhūn jijiri
ulhū serengge
fudasihūn ilibuha hida
coko ulhūma ubaliyambi serengge
giranggi adali ofi
tuttu kai
adarame ini ejen be gūwambi serengge
baibi geren antaha be acafi
gūwambi kai
fudz hendume
ajige jui si ainu tuttu ambula sambi
si minde jai fonji
ilan se jui
uttu hendure be donjifi jabume
bi ai gisun fonjire sain
fudz i fonjirakū bade adarame sain
te mujilen de gūniha weile fonjiki
geren moo i dorgi de
jakdan moo adarame
tuweri juwari akū niowanggiyan
garu niongniyaha
muke de niyerere sain
kekuhe guwendere jilgan amba nio
fudz hendume
jakdan moo mailasun moo
dolo fili ofi
tuweri juwari akū niowanggiyan
garu niongniyaha
bethe onco ofi
muke de niyerere sain
kekuhe monggon golmin ofi
guwenderengge amba kai
ilan se jui jabume
jakdan moo mailasun moo
dolo fili ofi
tuweri juwari akū niowanggiyan seci
cuse moo ai dolo fili ofi
tuweri juwari akū niowanggiyan
garu niongniyaha
bethe onco ofi
muke de niyerere sain seci
aihūma nimaha ai bethe onco ofi
muke de niyerere sain
kekuhe monggon golmin ofi
guwendere jilgan amba seci
ajige waksan ai monggon golmin ofi
guwendere jilgan amba sembi
fudz hendume
bi simbe cendeme jortai fonjiha bihe
sini sarangge umesi getuken seme ambula saišambi
tere fon i donjihala niyalma
ilan se jui be
mujakū sain seme hendumbi
ere dahame wajiha


(1) The four books that were used to learn Manchu in Korea. On these, see Choe Y., “Manchu Studies in Korea“, Journal of Cultural Interaction in East Asia, Vol. 3, 2012, p. 89-101.

(2) Images of the book can be found on the website of the Kyujanggak Insitute for Korean Studies, together with the 三譯總解/Samyeok Chonghae (selected chapters from the Ilan gurun i bithe/三國志, which, to the best of my knowledge, is not available elsewhere on the internet.

From the Jin ping mei to the school book

That the Jin ping mei (金瓶梅/Gin ping mei bithe) could have been translated in Manchu and published in 1708, not so long after the book had been banned, is remarkable. The reputation of the novel was such that the circumstances leading to the production of a Manchu translation, apparently done in circles close to the court, remain to this day something of an enigma.

Given these facts, you would not expect the Jin ping mei to be used as reading material for learners of Manchu in the 18th and 19th c. This is why it is funny to note that at least one sentence of the Manchu translation of the novel found its way into the classic Manchu primer Cing wen ki meng (清文启蒙, published in 1730), where it illustrates the use of the construction bihe seme.

Gin ping mei bithe (1708, chap. 1, f°15b)

damu meni geren niyalma uthai singgeri uncehen de yoo banjiha adali. niyaki bihe seme giyanakū udu:

“But we are like ulcers on a rat’s tail, there’s not much pus in them.”, i. e. “we don’t have much money”.

Cing wen ki meng (1730, ilaci debtelin, f°11b)

singgeri i uncehen de yoo banjiha i adali niyaki bihe seme giyanakū udu

And this is not the whole story. The same sentence can also be found in the Muwa gisun, i. e. the school book of Leping, an 11-year old boy learning Manchu, possibly in the late 18th c. There, the sentence is used as part of a dialogue.

Muwa gisun (late 18th c.?, f° 23b)

bi uthai singgeri i uncehen de nišargan banjiha adali. niyaki bihe seme giyanakū udu.

Despite minor differences in detail (genitives overtly marked or not, use of nišargan instead of the chinese loanword yoo, adaptation to the context by changing meni geren niyalma to bi), the filiation seems clear enough.

Of course the sentence may have traveled indirectly from the Jin ping mei to the Cing wen king to the Muwa gisun. Still, it shows that despite its ambiguous status the Manchu Jin ping mei could have acted as a source for Manchu idioms, to be passed on to learners of the language. Maybe a more extensive reading of three works mentioned above would reveal other similar cases.