Turco-manjurica (sort of…)

I readily admit that the title is somewhat clickbaity since what follows is (sadly) not a new bilingual Chaghatay-Manchu text. It consists of a few Manchu lines that appear at the very end of Ms. or. oct. 1660 (f°124-125/p. 132-133), a Chaghatay manuscript kept at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin.

The Manchu text (written by a trained hand) is as follows:
badarangga doro i juwan juweci aniya. nadan biyai. ice
nadan i inenggi. X doo tai amban i afabuha
gisun. dobori dari yamun \de/ tungši molo. idurame
yendembi seme afabuhangge be jurceci ojorakū.

“On the 7th day of the 7th month of the 12th year of the Guangxu emperor[1], the circuit intendant X ordered that the translator Molo should get up[2] to be on duty at night in the yamen. This order is not to be disregarded.”

orin? sunja?
aweguste sere biyai
emu minggan jakūn tanggū. jakūnju ningguci aniya?

“25? of the month called August 1886”

Apart from the use of the Gregorian calendar on p. 125, one point of interest is that the writers used the titles doo tai and tungši, which are taken straight from the Chinese (respectively 道臺 and 通事), instead of their, by then current, Manchu equivalents dooli hafan and hafumbukū. This points to the rich, dynamic and not always well-understood interplay between Manchu, Eastern Turki, and Chinese in Xinjiang at the time, a topic that has been broached by Eric Schluessel in two very interesting articles at the Manchu Studies Group blog:

While the Manchu text uses Manchu titles, the Turki sticks to transliterations of Chinese. I am curious to know if there was any point when Turki translations were issued of Manchu titles, or if the Turki was always figured through Chinese, perhaps out of tradition or a sense that the positions bound the King of Qumul to a distinctly Chinese order. That said, Chinese words were at this point not uncommon in colloquial Turki.
(Turco-Manjurica Revisited: a Closer Look at Haenisch 1951)

Albert von le Coq, who published one of a pair of scholarly editions of the Turkic Qing Code, forgotten now for over a century, comments that the Code seems awkward in Turkic, as though it were translated word for word from the Chinese.[4] Perhaps what von le Coq read as a poor translation was actually a good translation from Manchu. Further research is needed.
(Turco-Manjurica: The Turki Translation of Shunzhi’s Moral Exhortations to the People)

Apart from the two blogposts mentioned above, this topic received a detailed treatment in Brophy & Onuma, The Origins of Qing Xinjiang: A Set of Historical Sources on Turfan, CERS 12, 2016, especially p. 39-58.

[1] August 6th, 1886.
[2] I am more familiar with yendembi meaning “to rise up/be prosperous/flourish” but the more prosaic meaning “to get up” seems to be called for here.



One of the sections in the Sacred Instructions of the Tongzhi emperor (1) makes use of a word that has apparently not found its way into the Manchu dictionaries I could consult.
The text is as follows (debtelin 59, f°64-65):
yooningga dasan i jai aniya sahahūn ulgiyan. omšon biyai šahūn honin inenggi. dorgi yamun de dergi hese wasimbuhangge. booyūn. taigiyan dorkūlame gisurehe turgunde. ciralame isebuki seme hese be baime wesimbuhebi. aliha amban booyūn. ere biyai orin nadan de. jalafun tob hošoi gungju i fu de genefi tuwašatame icihiyara de. harangga fu i dalaha taigiyan jang ioi tsang. fuhali dergi adun i jurgan i lorin morin sain akū ofi. sonjome halaki sere gūnin tebuhe turgunde. booyūn de dorkūlame gisureme bime. kemuni harangga amban be beye nikenefi sejen faidakini seme gisurehe be tuwaci. horon de ertufi etuhušeme yabume. gurun booi ambakan hafan be gidašame girubuhangge. yargiyan i fahūn amba balai yabume. gūniha ci tulgiyen baita. aika ciralame isebume icihiyarakū oci. amaga inenggi geren ba i taigiyasa der seme alhūdame yabuha de. eyehe jemden atanggi nakambini. ere tacin ba ainaha seme jendebuci ojorakū be dahame. jang ioi tsang be uthai dalaha taigiyan nakabufi. erun be gingguleme fiyenten de afabufi ciralame sibkime beidefi. fafun i bithei songkoi weile tuhebufi wesimbu sehe:

If I understand the text correctly, one day during the winter 1863-1864, Booyūn, an aliha amban, went to the residence of a princess on some kind of inspection. Upon noticing that the mules and horses were not what they should be, he asked for them to be replaced. The chief eunuch of the residence, Jang Ioi Tsang, spoke dorkūlame-ly and said that the official should come himself and arrange things up.
The word dorkūlame is used twice to describe the way the eunuch spoke. Given the context it seems quite clear that it is made of doro akū ‘without principle’ and the suffix –lA-, used to build verbs having roughly the meaning ‘to make/be/act as/perform X’ (for instance da ‘head’ > da-la-mbi ‘to lead’; gucu ‘friend’ > gucu-le-mbi ‘to make/be friends’; aba ‘(a) hunt’ > aba-la-mbi ‘to hunt’, etc.).

To be read in the same debtelin, the documents chronicling the demise of eunuch An Dehai.

(1) That is, the Daicing gurun i Muzung filingga hūwangdi i enduringge tacihiyan (Ch. 大清穆宗毅皇帝聖訓), a recent (and massive) addition to the corpus of Manchu texts online for which we can again thank the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin.

Shen Qiliang’s Manchu works

To celebrate the fact that the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin recently digitized Shen Qiliang’s Manju bithei jy nan, I thought I would post a list of his works, together with links to a digital copy (if known to me).

Shen lived in the second half of the 17th c. and despite not being Manchu he developed an interest in the Manchu language and published several works aimed at making its study easier. For more about him, see the article published in the 2014 issue of Saksaha by Mårten Söderblom Saarela mentioned below.

Manju bithei jy nan (清書指南), an introduction to Manchu with syllabary, dialogues and grammar
Daicing gurun i yooni bithe (大清全書), the “oldest preserved Manchu lexicon” (see here for more details)
Ioi jy be giya sing (御製百家姓滿漢合集), a commented edition of the Hundred Family Surnames
Sy šu tuwara oyonggo bithe (四書要覽), extracts of the Four Books
Shier zitou jizhu, not a full publication but a detailed presentation of this work dedicated to the Manchu script

Shen Qiliang also published bilingual editions of the Thousand Character Classic but I haven’t been able to locate a copy online. Instead here is a version kept at the Waseda University Library: 歴朝聖賢篆書百体千文.

A Manchu learner’s composition book? (3)

Another text from the Manchu manuscript BNF 270 (see here for more about this manuscript):

mini boode ilan šorho teile ujimbihe mini emu gucu jifi šorho be gaifi šaolafi(1) wacihiyan jekebi. eden daden(2) funcehengge maktafi ini indahūn ulebuhe: yala tere gucu kabula kai. jai jici mini duka fita yaksifi dosimburakū oho. akū oci mini boode bisire ele jetere hacin uthai wajimbi:

‘At home I was raising only three chicks. A friend of mine came, took one, roasted it and ate the whole thing. Moreover, he threw away what was left and fed his dog. This friend is such a glutton! If he comes back, I will lock my door tightly and he won’t come in. If I fail to do this, my food supply at home will run out.’

(1) For šolombi?
(2) For ede dade?

A Manchu learner’s composition book? (2)

This is the eigth text in the manuscript BNF Mandchou 270 (see here for a first post about this text). There are several interesting spellings in this extract, some of which may reflect actual pronunciation (getuken ni, basuraho) while others are perhaps just mistakes (girakūfi).

fonjime ainaci ojoro juwe biya funceme manju gisun tookan akū (f°6a) tacimbi tuttu bicibe ninggun nadan gisun getuken ni ejehebi. gūwa gemu fuhali onggoho. uttu oci atanggi manju gisun wacihiyame bahafi saci ombi. jabume age ere gisun be ume firgembure niyalma basuraho ayoo si damu inenggi dobori akū gūnin girakūfi daci encu hetu baita ume dara. talude niyalma be ucaraci ume nikara goidarakū tang seme manjuraci ombi. fonjime age labdu baniha sini tacibure be (f°7b) alime gaifi gingguleme dahaki sembi:

Question. What can I do? I have been learning Manchu for more than two months without interruption and, although I remember clearly six or seven words, I have forgotten everything else. If so, when will I be able to master Manchu?
Answer. Sir, do not say that! People might make fun [of you]. Just keep at it day and night and do not pay attention to what may at first be unfamiliar. If you happen to meet someone, do not speak Chinese and in no time you’ll be able to speak fluent Manchu.
Question. Sir, thank you very much! I will heed your instructions and follow them carefully.

Behe, 18th c. author and translator

The recent batch of Manchu works put online by the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin featured the Nadan tacihiyan be urunakū hūlabure bithe, a work translated by Behe (博赫). I learnt of its existence in Puyraimond’s catalogue of the BNF Manchu collection and had long wanted to see it since Behe is an author/translator I had encountered before. A member of the Mongol Bordered Yellow banner, Behe has indeed translated/authored several Manchu books during the second half of the 18th c.:

Nadan tacihiyan be urunakū hūlabure bithe (Ch. 七訓須讀)
The preface is dated QL 29 (1764) and signed kubuhe suwayan i monggo gūsai yafahan coohai uheri da yamun i ejeku hafan behe. tušan ci aljafi nimeku ujire šolo de isamjame araha.

Manju gisun be ja i gisurere bithe (Ch. 清語易言)
The preface is dated QL 31 (1766) and gives the same information as the preceding work.

Bayan wesihun jalafun baha i bithe (Ch. 延寿格言)
On the last page is given the date QL 44 (1779), Behe is then kubuhe suwayan i monggo gūsai. da tušan g’an su goloi jyli cin jeo i jeo i saraci behe ubaliyambufi folobuha.

Among these, the Manju gisun be ja i gisurere bithe is maybe the most interesting since this short treatise about the Manchu language gives us many indications about the pronunciation of the language (among other things). Thus, we learn that hendumbi was pronounced as henumi, umesi as emeši, yali as yanli, ainci as anci, saiyūn as sanyo, and so on.

I hope that more works by Behe are known to others or will surface eventually. In addition to the intrinsic interest of his works, his activity as a translator and author of Manchu works is a good reminder of the important part members of the Mongol banners played in the literary activity in Manchu.

Manchu poetry in the 翻譯詞聯詩賦

While reading through the Ubaliyambuha uculen juru gisun irgebun fujurun (ch. 翻譯詞聯詩賦), a bilingual Manchu-Chinese work published in the 19th c. (1), I noticed two things:
1) a lot of the pieces in this work seem to rhyme in Manchu
2) the first uculen seemed vaguely familiar.

1) The fact that they rhyme is enough to show that despite their being translations from the Chinese, these translations are indeed genuine Manchu poems (in terms of language at least, rather than content). Apart from rhymes, it seems to me that the translator(s?) may also have tried to obey some constraints regarding verse length. For instance in the following couplet, taken from the second uculen in the first volume (f°15):

aniya aniya emu adali ningge ilha.
aniya aniya adali akūngge niyalma.

I was expecting that the parallelism begun with aniya aniya would extend to emu adali but the second verse features adali alone. Was it because less syllables were needed in the second verse for both verses of the couplet to have a matching number of syllables? I have, obviously, no competence in Manchu poetry nor in Manchu syllabification so this is just an hypothesis.

2) The first piece in the book is already known by two different recensions (one by Jakdan, the other in a BNF manuscript), as demonstrated by Brian Tawney in this post at Manjurist. The version in the Ubaliyambuha uculen juru gisun irgebun fujurun is intriguing because where the Jakdan and the BNF versions differ it offers a text that sometimes agree with the former, sometimes with the latter (2). It does also exhibit many unique features (3) which only makes the whole thing more interesting. A close comparison of the three texts seems to be in order.
The fact that this very poem was chosen to be the first one in both Jakdan’s collection and the Ubaliyambuha uculen juru gisun irgebun fujurun makes me wonder about possible links between the two works. Could Jakdan have been involved in the publication of the Ubaliyambuha uculen juru gisun irgebun fujurun?

Here is the text of the first composition as found in the Ubaliyambuha uculen juru gisun irgebun fujurun (3):

jalan de ulhibure uculen.

ai bithei urse usin i haha.
weilere faksi hūdai niyalma.
inenggidari kata fata.
niyalma banjinjifi untuhusaka.
erebe gaisu terebe gama.
hendure balama.
wesihun fusihūn de teisu bi.
jabšara ufararangge bodoro de mangga.
ai gin gu yafan i bolori edun.
u giyang birai dobori biya.
o fang gurung fulahūn.
tung kiyoo karan aba.
gemu han dan tolgin i gese tolgišaha.
yargiyan i nasacuka.
yargiyan i usacuka.
eiterecibe abka de sebjeleme hesebun be sacina.
teisu be dahame an be tuwakiya.
nenehe han amaga han sere be ai gana.
yendehe gurun gukuhe gurun sere be ai hala.
bucere hamici.
ukcara de mangga.
julgeci ebsi baturu kiyangkiyasa siran siran i ufaraha.
iletu derengge saikan ilha i dergi silenggi.
bayan wesihun orho i oilorgi gecen dabala.
jalan i baita gemu uttu oho be tuwaci.
yendere gukure be aiseme mujilen de dara.
muduri taktu garudai asari sere be joocina.
aisi jugūn gebui tangka sere be nakacina.
sula fonde ekisaka tefi.
irgebun nure i emhun sebjelecina.
emgeri gingsifi.
bedereci ai tookan.
emgeri ucun uculefi.
šanyan muke buru bara.
edun be gingsime biya be irgebume.
amtangga wangga be gaicina.
hacingga ilha ilaci alha bulha.
geren gasha guwendeci jiji jija.
eici alin i dalba.
eici mukei dalba.
bigan tala aba saha.
ere nerginde absi saišacuka.
taka emu coman i nure be wacihiya.
yasa habtašara sidende juwe ergi šulu šaraka:

(1) Based on the appearance of the work. There is no indication of a publication date anywhere in the book as far as I can see.
(2) To quote just a few instances among many: it shares garudai asari and han with Jakdan’s version but gaisu and šanyan muke with the BNF text.
(3) To quote, again, just a few: bodoro de, birai, ai hala, eiterecibe, etc.
(4) Line division simply follows the punctuation of the printed text and does not aim at representing Manchu verses (although the editors seem to have taken care that punctuation generally matches rhymes).

A Manchu learner’s composition book?

The Bibliothèque Nationale de France holds a copy of a Manchu work(1) in which are found several short texts which seem to have been written by a Christian learning Manchu (a missionary?). Some of them are explicitly Christian in content (the Lord’s prayer for instance), others are more mundane and some even seem to have been written in a joking tone. Two of them are concerned with the learning of Manchu, here is the first one in which the author reflects on the fact that he must be a student of no oustanding ability since his teacher comes to teach him as often as possible:

bi tuwaci manju gisun tacibure urse šabisa i sure albatu tuwambi. sure oci hacihiyame tacibumbi. albatu seci heolendeme šušuri mašari tacibumbi. bodoci sefu mimbe albatui ton de obuhabi. uttu ofi sefu daruhai jiderakū. damu šolo be tuwame mudan mudan jimbi. albatu faksi mudangga moo be tuwancihiyame muterakū: mergen faksisai gala de isinjici uthai tondo ombi:

It seems to me that Manchu teachers look upon students as intelligent or ordinary. If one is intelligent, they teach him with speed. If one is ordinary, they teach him slowly(2) and meticulously. Upon consideration, my teacher put me in the ‘ordinary’ category. Consequently, he does not come often but each time he has the opportunity he comes. An ordinary craftsman cannot straighten a curved piece of wood; if it comes into the hands of a skilled craftsman, then can it be straightened.

I will post other texts from this work since they are often light reading with a few interesting lexical items.


(1) The work is mislabeled as are many others at Gallica. It should also be noted that although the lines on each page are to be read in the normal left-to-right order, pages follow one another from right to left.

(2) heole(n)dembi appears as “to be careless, to be negligent, to be idle” in Norman’s Lexicon but I think the context here calls for something without pejorative association, like “slowly”.