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.


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 (…)”.

“No different than a Manchu”

 In 1773, during the Jinchuan war, the Qianlong emperor appointed officials for each of the three roads to be taken by the army on its way to attack the Cucin. While doing so, the emperor praises the Chinese official Han Guwe Hing. The way he does it is interesting and shows how much ethnic distinction was a factor to be reckoned with.

Also to be noted is the fact that only in the case of Han Guwe Hing did the emperor feel it was necessary to provide some explanation for his decision. The nomination of the Manchu officials Šucang and Hailanca to the same post is done without any justification.

dzanla cucin i ba be necihiyeme toktobuha bodogon i bithe. dehi sunjaci debtelin: (f° 1a-2b)

jorgon biyai sahahūn coko inenggi. dorgi yamun de dergi hese wasimbuhangge. wargi julergi juwe jugūn i coohai kūwaran. emgeri ishunde mejige hafumbuhabi. ereci cooha acafi uhei dailame dzanla be necihiyeme toktobuha manggi. uthai cucin de cooha guribufi. dalaha hūlha be jafafi jecen i ergi amaga jobolon be enteheme geterembuci ombi. te coohai jeku elgiyen tumin. giyan i ilan jugūn obume dendefi. coohai horon be algimbuci acara be dahame. wenfu be jecen be toktobure jiyanggiyūn sinda. agūi. fengšengge be gemu aisilara jiyanggiyūn sinda. jiyanggiyūn jai aisilara jiyanggiyūn i doron be. ashan i amban fuk’angga be tucibufi. giyamulame benebufi. uthai coohai kūwaran de bibufi meyen i amban de yabukini. wenfu i jugūn de šucang be hebei amban obu. agūi i jugūn de hailanca be hebei amban obu. han guwe hing udu niowanggiyan turun i nikan hafan bicibe. cooha gaifi afara bade dulembuhe bime. daci kiyan cing men i hiya de yabuha bihe. manju amban ci encu akū. fengšengge i jugūn de. uthai han guwe hing be hebei amban obu. jugūn dendefi sasa dosime. abkai dailan isibume. amba gungge be hūdun mutebufi. aiman i jobolon be enteheme geterembume kicekini sehe. (1)

Military annals of the war against the two Jinchuan. 45th fascicle (f°1a-2b)

“(…) Despite being a Chinese official of the Green Standard army, Han Guwe Hing has taken troops, experienced combat, and was formerly on guard at the Kiyan Cing Men (2). He is no different than a Manchu high official. Consequently, appoint Han Guwe Hing as Councillor for Fengšengge’s road. (…)”

It would be interesting to see how this passage is treated in the Chinese version of the text…


(1) To be read here.

(2) I. e. the Gate of Heavenly Purity (乾清门, qiánqīng mén).


Dai Yuwan gurun i suduri (5)

Taken from the Dai yuwan gurun i suduri, the Manchu History of the Yuan dynasty.

sahahūn ulgiyan aniya: wang han i ama juse. taidzu temujin be waki seme hebešeme toktobufi niyalma takūrafi. taidzu temujin i baru hendume: seibeni sadun jafaki sehe weile be te gisun gaiha: sini beye jio: muse sarin sarilame toktobuki: taidzu temujin tere gisun de akdafi juwan moringga niyalma be gaifi generede jugūn de taidzu temujin jing mujilen kenehunjeme ofi emu moringga niyalma be takūrafi. taidzu temujin tereci amasi bederehe: wang han ini arga muterakū ofi. uthai cooha ilifi taidzu temujin be afame jidere be. taidzu temujin i morin tuwakiyara cilisi gebungge niyalma tere mejige be donjifi alanjiha manggi: taidzu temujin uthai nuktei niyalma be gūwa bade guribuhe.

The year of the blackish pig, Wang Han’s father and his sons discussed the matter and decided to kill Taidzu Temujin. The sent someone to Temujin to say : “Having wanted to become in-laws a long time ago, now is the time! Come yourself, we will have a banquet”. Taidzu Temujin believed them and set out with ten horsemen. While traveling, he started to have doubts and sent a horsemen while he himself came back. As he could not be successful with his plot, Wang Han had his army get ready and went to attack Taidzu Temujin. After Cilisi, a horsekeeper of Taidzu Temujin, heard about this and he reported it, Taidzu Temujin moved the people of his pasture area to another place.

(Klaproth, 1828, Chrestomathie Mandchou, p. 162-163)

The 9th year of the Xuantong emperor

One can often read, at least in benevolent accounts, that Manchu remained in use as an official language until the end of the Qing dynasty, that is 1911-1912. It seems that this could be stretched even a bit further as is exemplified by a stone rubbing found in the 北图中国历代石刻拓本汇编, vol. 90. It is dated gehungge yoso i uyuci aniya ilan biya, i. e. april 1917, a rather unusual date for a Qing document.

GY 9

The Kangxi emperor on his health

 Kangxi’s instructions to Similai, quoted in a memorial by Funingga (KX61.9.21/30.10.1722)

si isinaha manggi. jiyanggiyūn. geren ambasai sain be fonji. bi onggolo aniya ci gala bethe umesi hūsungge. jetere omirengge sain bime. singgerengge inu sain. beye umesi mangga. yamji cimari hono muran i aba de genembi. erebe jiyanggiyūn ambasa de ala.

“After arriving, ask after the general’s and the officials’ health. As for me, arms and legs have been very strong during last year. Eating and drinking go fine, as well as digestion. My body is robust. Tomorrow evening (1), I am going to the Mulan hunt. Tell that to the general and the officials.”


(1) Not sure about that. Hauer (p. 524) has “die ganze Nacht” for yamji cimari but this does not seem to fit very well here. See the Muwa gisun on the Manchu Studies Group website for a translation by “tomorrow night”.


Taken from a manuscript kept at the BNF (Mandchou 149). This manuscript is a collection of short biographies of Mongol individuals, recording mainly when they were promoted to a new rank or bestowed some title.

kalkai jasak i gurun de aisilara gung bahai i da sekiyen.

bahai i dade kalkai taiji bihe. hūwaliyasun tob i uyuci aniya suke aldaho i bade geren ci colgorome faššahangge ambula saišacuka seme cohotoi kesi isibume jasak i uju jergi taiji obuha. amala erdeni joo i bade geli hūlha be ambarame wafi gung ilibuhangge ambula saišacuka seme hūwaliyasun tob i juwanci aniya dabali kesi isibume imbe gurun de aisilara gung obuha:

Origin of Bahai bulwark duke of the Khalkha jasak (1)

Originally Bahai was a Khalkha taiji. Because in the 9th year of Yongzheng (1732) at Suke Aldaho he surpassed everyone and his efforts were highly praiseworthy, special favor was bestowed on him and he was made first rank taiji of the jasak. Because later at Erdeni Joo (2) he killed a great number of rebels and showed great merit, bestowing additional favor he was made bulwark duke in the 10th year of Yongzheng (1733).

(1) jasak is translated in Norman as “chief of a Mongol banner”, but here it seems to mean the banner itself.
(2) Erdeni Zhao/Erdeni Zuu.

Dai yuwan gurun i suduri (4)

“Temujin can not be trusted” (Klaproth, Chrestomathie Mandchou, p. 151-152).

taidzu temujin geli naiman aiman i cioi siowei u. sabar gebungge juwe jiyangjiyūn i cooha be ucarafi. šun yamjire jakade: cimaha inenggi afaki seme boljofi. meni meni ing de bederehe: samuho aiman i ejen niyalma takūrafi wang han i baru hendume: bi. si seci šanggiyan ashangga cecike i adali: tereci gūwa gemu niongniyaha i adali kai: šanggiyan cecike šahūrun halhūn ocibe kemuni amargi bade bimbi: niongniyaha šahūrun ohode halukan babe baime julesi deyeme genembikai: temujin i mujilen de akdaci ojorakū:

Then Taidzu Temujin met the army of Cioi Siowei U and Sabar, two generals of the Naiman tribe. Because the sun was setting, they decided that the fight would take place on the morrow and they all went back to their camp. The chief of the Samuho tribe sent someone to Wang Han to say : “You and I, we are like small white-winged birds. Compared to us, the others are like geese. Should it be cold or hot, small white-winged birds remain in the north. But geese, when the cold has come, they go south, looking for heat. Taidzu Temujin can not be trusted.”

Let the Sibe in!

Not much time for Manchu lately but here is a 1723 edict allowing Sibe to become members of the guard.

The Sibe were not originally part of the Manchu confederation. They had to wait an imperial audience in 1692 and the fact that the Kangxi emperor noticed they were speaking Manchu to be “freed from [Mongol] Khorchin’s rule and incorporated in the Eight Banners” (1). The process however did have its limitations (2) which is apparent from the fact that it took another 30 years for them to be drafted into the guard.

hūwaliyasun tob i sucungga aniya juwe biyai ice jakūn de.
dergi hese wasimbuhangge. sibe sebe bayara de gairakū bihe. ereci amasi esei dolo. haha sain ningge be inu bayara de gaikini. cohome wasimbuha:

On the 8th day of the 2nd month of the 1st year of the Yongzheng era, an edict was sent:
“(Until now) the Sibe were not chosen for the guard. From now on, let able men be chosen among them for the guard. Special edict.”

(1) Stary G., “Sibe: An endangered Language”, in Language Death and Language Maintenance: Theoretical, practical and descriptive approaches, CITL 240, John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2003, p. 81, but see (2) for a more nuanced view.
(2) The Sibe (and other groups) “were never wholly integrated with the Manchu Eight Banners” (Elliott M. The Manchu Way, p. 85 and n. 7, p. 502).