Crime at the Russian ecclesiastical mission

rusmissionchina

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.

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