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.