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.


Chinese chan poetry in Manchu garb

Update. Many thanks to Dr. Alan Wagner, who has been kind enough to point out that I erred in attributing the poems to Yan Bing, while they are in fact the works of others and have been inserted in his text as commentary. I have modified the text below to reflect this.

The SOAS-University of London digital library recently put online a Manchu work I knew nothing about. Its title is Bolgo weilen be dasara bithe. wara be targara bithe / 浄業文 戒殺文 (1). There is no preface or publishing date, but at some point somebody twice wrote a date belonging to the year QL57 [1792] at the beginning of the book.

As the title shows, there are in fact two different works in this fascicle (with separate pagination), whose full titles are:
– the ši dz fung ba i žu žu yan bing ni araha bolgo weilen be dasara be hacihiyara bithe (f°1-16)
– the liyan cy daši i araha wara be targara ergengge be sindara be gubci tafulara bithe (f°1-4)

The first one is the work of Yan Bing (顏丙, aka ‘Layman Ruru’/如如居士, d. 1212), a ‘Chan Buddhist layman of the Southern Song’. The other is the work of Zhu Hong (祩宏/蓮池大師, 1535-1615).

This is cause enough for interest since I am not aware that many texts of this kind have been translated into Manchu. As far as I know, Manchu translations of Buddhist texts consist mainly of common sutras (that are shared with other traditions) or of texts that are specific to the Tibetan tradition. This is probably the result of translators generally devoting themselves first to the main canonical texts and of Qianlong’s personal interest in this particular branch of Buddhism, an interest which eventually led him to publish a complete Manchu Buddhist Canon modeled on the Tibetan one (2). Going against this trend, the work now online at the SOAS website shows that translation of Buddhist works belonging purely to the Chinese tradition also took place.

Another very interesting aspect of this book is that the part authored by Yan Bing features many poems by various authors, which serve as commentary. These poems are rendered in Manchu verse, characterised by initial alliteration and final rhyme, according to the following scheme:


Here is the first of the poems (together with a translation which probably does justice neither to the Manchu, nor to the Buddhist content):

siowei fung ni tukiyecun i gisun.

emteli dengjan dabufi dobori eldešembi.
ereci besergen de tafafi fomoci sabu be sumbi.
ere ilan fayangga nadan oron tolgin deri geneci.
eici cimari jidere jiderakūngge boljon akū ombi (sehebi).

A hymn of praise by Xuefeng (雪峯)

A single lamp has been lit and keeps shining in the night.
One then goes to bed and removes socks and shoes.
When these three yang-souls and seven yin-souls (3) move away from the dream,
One might become without waves, wether tomorrow comes or not .

I hope the SOAS Library will go on with their Manchu books digitalisation program, especially since they seem to have plenty of interesting material (4).

(1) It appears in T. Pang’s Descriptive Catalogue of Manchu Manuscripts and Blockprints in the St. Petersbourg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies, 2001, p. 150-151, n°355.

(2) See M. Bingenheimer’s History of the Manchu Buddhist Canon for a good history of how the Manchu Canon came into being (especially p. 207-208 for Qianlong and the Changja Khutugtu’s somewhat distrustful attitude towards aspects of the Chinese Buddhist tradition).

(3) San hun qi po, 三魂七魄.

(4) There is for instance another intriguing work which is presented as [Unidentified Manchu text]. Given the title (Dai yuwan i kooli ningguci. Sidzu) and what I have read of the content, I would be tempted to see in it the drafts of the translations of the Yuan dynastic history (Dai yuwan gurun i suduri) published in 1646. This would be a fantastic find but I cannot confirm it, not having access the the printed text of the Dai yuwan gurun i suduri.

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

(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.

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).

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.


In the second chapter of the Manchu translation of the 水滸傳 (Shui hu zhuan/Water Margin), there are quite a few occurences of the word leolo. Since the word cannot be found in the lexicographical tools I consulted (Hauer, Norman, Zakharov, 新满汉大词典) nor online (in the texts at, here or elsewhere) I thought it would be nice to list these examples here for future reference.

tereci cen da ineku hanci isinjifi leolo be faidan faidanbuha manggi. (p. 44b, l. 1)

geren leolo burulaha. (p. 45b, l. 2)

yang cun alin i ing ni dolo tefi bisirede leolo alanjime jifi hendume. (p. 45b, l. 5)

gūsin yan aisin belhefi juwe leolo be takūrame. dobori biya de (1). ši jin de benebuhe. juwe leolo ši jin i gašan de isinjifi. duka de forire jakade. gašan i niyalma tucifi leolo be dosimbuha. juwe leolo dosifi aisin be alibufi hendume. (p. 47b, l. 3-6)

geli leolo be takūrame benebure jakade. (p. 47b, l. 10)

As can be seen, the word roughly means “rank and file”. So far, I have only found it used to designate outlaws but maybe it can also be applied to any kind of low rank subordinate. I guess further reading will clarify that.

(1) While inenggi šun de “in the daytime” has found its way into dictionaries, this does not seem to be the case for its counterpart dobori biya de.

“Cimari yamji” in the Manchu Gin ping mei bithe

 Following on the interesting discussion that began in the comments section of Language log about “Manchu illiteracy”. Since comments are closed there I thought I would add the following here.

The question at hand is the meaning of the sentence songkoi cimari yamji baica. Two points seem to be problematic, 1) the absence of a complement before songkoi (which is usually a postposition) and 2) the exact meaning of cimari yamji.

I have posted there examples (one at least) supporting the idea that songkoi can be used not as a postposition but as an adverb, meaning “accordingly” and refering to something said/written before.

The meaning of cimari yamji has been debated and Pamela (K. Crossley?), while not ruling out a meaning “tomorrow night”, supports a meaning “all through the day”, cimari yamji being understood as a contraction of cimari erde ci yamji de. (1)

I, on the other hand, favor a translation of cimari yamji by “tomorrow evening/night” for several reasons:

cananggi yamji et sikse yamji mean “(the day before) yesterday evening”

examples I have been able to find of cimari yamji in the Manchu Jin Ping Mei seem to unambiguously mean “tomorrow night”.

See for instance chap. 69:

lin ši minggan tumen jergi urgunjeme dahafi. cimari yamji ilaci looye boode akū amala. sarin dagilafi aliyaki. habšara baita be yandure be anagan obufi. somishūn i acaki sehe babe giyan giyan i alara jakade. si men king donjifi ambula urgunjeme. dai an be juwe suje gajibufi buhe: (f°7a-b)

Or chap. 90:

si kemuni jio ai gelere babi. mini gisun be lai joo i sargan de hendufi. sinde alabure. bi cimari yamji. ere jai dukai dorgi fu i adame araha hetu boode simbe aliyambi sefi. yasa arara jakade. lai wang gūnin be ulhifi hendume. ere jai duka be yamji yaksimbio. akūn: (f°14b)

si cimari yamji geli jio. (f°19b)

These examples support a translation of cimari yamji by “tomorrow night” but this is of course very fragmentary evidence. Only by finding more examples will it be made clearer wether cimari yamji always means “tomorrow night” or if other meanings are possible.

(1) See her comment written April 24, 2016 at 2:22 pm. I hope I’m not misrepresenting her position.


From the Jin ping mei to the school book

That the Jin ping mei (金瓶梅/Gin ping mei bithe) could have been translated in Manchu and published in 1708, not so long after the book had been banned, is remarkable. The reputation of the novel was such that the circumstances leading to the production of a Manchu translation, apparently done in circles close to the court, remain to this day something of an enigma.

Given these facts, you would not expect the Jin ping mei to be used as reading material for learners of Manchu in the 18th and 19th c. This is why it is funny to note that at least one sentence of the Manchu translation of the novel found its way into the classic Manchu primer Cing wen ki meng (清文启蒙, published in 1730), where it illustrates the use of the construction bihe seme.

Gin ping mei bithe (1708, chap. 1, f°15b)

damu meni geren niyalma uthai singgeri uncehen de yoo banjiha adali. niyaki bihe seme giyanakū udu:

“But we are like ulcers on a rat’s tail, there’s not much pus in them.”, i. e. “we don’t have much money”.

Cing wen ki meng (1730, ilaci debtelin, f°11b)

singgeri i uncehen de yoo banjiha i adali niyaki bihe seme giyanakū udu

And this is not the whole story. The same sentence can also be found in the Muwa gisun, i. e. the school book of Leping, an 11-year old boy learning Manchu, possibly in the late 18th c. There, the sentence is used as part of a dialogue.

Muwa gisun (late 18th c.?, f° 23b)

bi uthai singgeri i uncehen de nišargan banjiha adali. niyaki bihe seme giyanakū udu.

Despite minor differences in detail (genitives overtly marked or not, use of nišargan instead of the chinese loanword yoo, adaptation to the context by changing meni geren niyalma to bi), the filiation seems clear enough.

Of course the sentence may have traveled indirectly from the Jin ping mei to the Cing wen king to the Muwa gisun. Still, it shows that despite its ambiguous status the Manchu Jin ping mei could have acted as a source for Manchu idioms, to be passed on to learners of the language. Maybe a more extensive reading of three works mentioned above would reveal other similar cases.