A Manchu poem about cassowaries by the Qianlong emperor

The 2013/1 issue of Transcultural Studies (1) contains a very interesting article by Lai Yu-Chih on paintings representing cassowaries. These were produced by the imperial workshops and are significant witnesses of the flux of informations coming from western sources and finding their way to the Qing empire, as well as how they were integrated into the Qing worldview. The article focuses mostly on four pages that were added to the Niao Pu (鳥譜), Album of Birds, some fifteen years after its completion. These four pages consist in one painting of a cassowary, its description in Chinese and Manchu and a poem by the Qianlong emperor, also in Chinese and Manchu. In his discussion of the texts accompanying the picture, the author relies on the Chinese version of the text but it can be noted that the Manchu text itself is a poem following the rules of Manchu poetry (2). It also seems that it does not match exactly the Chinese text. This makes the Manchu version a work of its own, to be added to our corpus of Manchu poetry.

I give below the Manchu text and a (clumsy) translation.

han i araha e mo gasha be irgebuhe juwan mudan i irgebun:
Poem in ten rhymes on the cassowary written by the emperor.

te i ere h’alaba i gasha.
tesu bade inu tongga sabumbi.
teike mederi jahūdai deri gajifi.
terei arbun be cohome nirubuhabi:

This bird of Indonesia
is rarely seen in its native country.
Recently it has been brought from a ship
and its picture has been especially painted.

erebe foranggiya ba i niyalma de takabufi.
ere da hūng mederi tun de banjimbi sehe.
erei nirugan leolehe gisun gemu bi.
ejeme arahangge akūmbuha bime getukelehe:

It is said to have been discovered by people from France
and to live on an island of the Da hūng sea.
Here are its image and description.
Record of it has been made complete and it has been explained.

banin nomhon ofi dasihirakū.
ba i halhūn be baime beiguwen de sengguwembi.
banjiha beyei gubci funggaha fulahūri boco bime.
banitai konggolo de fulgiyan sukū tuheme banjihabi:

Quiet by nature, it is no bird of prey.
Seeking heat, it fears cold.
All feathers of its body are deep-red
and its crop is made of red skin at the bottom.

asha de dethe akū ofi deyeme muterakū.
an i arbušacibe uncehen mokto saka.
adarame bahafi ubade isinjiha ni.
aibici baime gajihangge geli waka.

Because its wings have no pinions, it cannot fly.
While it moves normally, the tail is somewhat bald.
How did it manage to come here?
Looking everywhere, no one has brought it. (3)

ume ši lo gasha seme sabi obure.
umesi julge de hafan i hergen obuhakū kai.
udu ferguwecuke gasha obume ujirakū bicibe.
ulabuha manggi inu emu tongga donjin kai:

Do not mistake it for the ši lo bird, taking it as a good omen,
It was not chosen as a rank badge for officials.
Although this marvelous bird cannot be fed,
after it has been handed down, it is indeed a rare thing to hear.

(1) Available at http://heiup.uni-heidelberg.de/journals/index.php/transcultural/article/view/10769/4681.

(2) The poem makes use of initial alliteration and final rhymes:
Stanza 1

Stanza 2 and 5

Stanza 3 and 4

(3) I am not sure I got this verse right, especially the aibici baime part.


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