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.



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.


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 (…)”.

The 小兒 論: a(nother) Manchu-Korean primer


Following from an earlier post on the 八歲兒 (P’alsea/Eight-year-old Child), a Manchu-Korean primer, here is the transcription of the 小兒論 (Soaron/Conversation with a Little Child).

Like the P’alsea, this short book is another of the “Four books of Qing Studies”(1) and also features a child prodigy. The difference is that this time the child is only three years old and gets to be tested by Confucius himself.

小兒論 (2)

julgei han gurun i fonde
fudz gurun boo be dasame
abkai fejergi
geren golo de šurdeme yabuhai
jiyang giyang hecen de isinambi
fudz genere jugūn de
ajige ilan juse kame ilifi
hecen sahafi efimbihe
fudz be tuwafi
efirakū baibi tehebi
fudz hendume
ere jui si ainu efirakū bio
ilan se jui jabume
hafan niyalma efin de amuran oci
gurun i weile facuhūn
irgen niyalma efin de amuran oci
usin nimalan be we bargiyambi
tuttu ofi hafan irgen bodorakū
efire be buyerakū
fudz hendume
ajige jui si ainu tuttu ambula sambi
si mini fonjire weile be
gemu sain jabumbio
ilan se jui jabume
fudz i fonjire gisun be
sain jabumbi
fudz fonjime
ajige jui si donji
den alin be akū obuki
šumin bira be akū obuki
hafan niyalma be akū obuki
tuttu oci
neigen ojorakūn
ilan se jui jabume
den alin be akū obuci
tasha lefu
ai daniyan de banjimbi
šumin bira be akū obuci
aihūma nimaha
ai daniyan de bi
hafan niyalma be akū obuci
fafun doro be adarame tacime
irgen niyalma wede hūsun bahambi
abka fejile
neigen ojoro be boljoci ojorakū
fudz hendume
ajige jui si ainu tuttu
gemu weile be sambi
bi geli emu weile be fonjimbi
ilan se jui
amasi bederefi
juwe gala joolafi hendume
ai weile be fonjimbi
fudz hendume
ai niyalma de
sargan akū
geli ai hehe de
eigen akū
geli ai niyalma de
gebu akū
geli ai hecen de
hafan akū
geli ai sejen de
hude akū
geli ai muke de
nimaha akū
geli ai tuwa de
šanggiyan akū
geli ai ihan de
tukšan akū
geli ai morin de
unahan akū
geli ai temen de
deberen akū nio
ere gese weile be sambio
ilan se jui jabume
fucihi de
sargan akū
enduri hehe de
eigen akū
teni banjiha jui de
gebu akū
untuhun hecen de
hafan akū
kiyoo de hude akū
juciba tuwa de
šanggiyan akū
moo morin de
unahan akū
boihon ihan de
tukšan akū
ufa temen de
deberen akū
hūcin muke de
nimaha akū kai
fudz hendume
ajige jui si tuttu saci
bi geli fonjimbi
sishe ninggude
ungge banjimbi sere be sambio
booi juleri ulhū banjimbi sere be sambio
coko ulhūma ubaliyambi sere be sambio
indahūn ini ejen be
gūwambi sere be sambio
ilan se jui jabume
ungge serengge
sishe de sektere narhūn jijiri
ulhū serengge
fudasihūn ilibuha hida
coko ulhūma ubaliyambi serengge
giranggi adali ofi
tuttu kai
adarame ini ejen be gūwambi serengge
baibi geren antaha be acafi
gūwambi kai
fudz hendume
ajige jui si ainu tuttu ambula sambi
si minde jai fonji
ilan se jui
uttu hendure be donjifi jabume
bi ai gisun fonjire sain
fudz i fonjirakū bade adarame sain
te mujilen de gūniha weile fonjiki
geren moo i dorgi de
jakdan moo adarame
tuweri juwari akū niowanggiyan
garu niongniyaha
muke de niyerere sain
kekuhe guwendere jilgan amba nio
fudz hendume
jakdan moo mailasun moo
dolo fili ofi
tuweri juwari akū niowanggiyan
garu niongniyaha
bethe onco ofi
muke de niyerere sain
kekuhe monggon golmin ofi
guwenderengge amba kai
ilan se jui jabume
jakdan moo mailasun moo
dolo fili ofi
tuweri juwari akū niowanggiyan seci
cuse moo ai dolo fili ofi
tuweri juwari akū niowanggiyan
garu niongniyaha
bethe onco ofi
muke de niyerere sain seci
aihūma nimaha ai bethe onco ofi
muke de niyerere sain
kekuhe monggon golmin ofi
guwendere jilgan amba seci
ajige waksan ai monggon golmin ofi
guwendere jilgan amba sembi
fudz hendume
bi simbe cendeme jortai fonjiha bihe
sini sarangge umesi getuken seme ambula saišambi
tere fon i donjihala niyalma
ilan se jui be
mujakū sain seme hendumbi
ere dahame wajiha


(1) The four books that were used to learn Manchu in Korea. On these, see Choe Y., “Manchu Studies in Korea“, Journal of Cultural Interaction in East Asia, Vol. 3, 2012, p. 89-101.

(2) Images of the book can be found on the website of the Kyujanggak Insitute for Korean Studies, together with the 三譯總解/Samyeok Chonghae (selected chapters from the Ilan gurun i bithe/三國志, which, to the best of my knowledge, is not available elsewhere on the internet.

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.

“Beijing” in Manchu/Sibe

Prompted by a discussion at Reddit on the rendering of “Beijing” in Manchu, here are a few examples I have met in my readings:

1) In the official biography of Sahaliyen (Uksun i wang gung sai gungge faššan be iletulere ulabun, fasc. 2, f°32a (1)):

omšon biyade. taidzung hūwangdi be dahame ming gurun be dailaname beging de nikenefi. geren beile sei emgi ming gurun i yuwan cung hūwan. dzu da šeo i dame jihe cooha be afame gidaha.

“In the eleventh month, following Hong Taiji, he approached Beijing in order to fight the Ming. With many beile, he defeated the army of Yuan Chonghuan and Zu Dashou that had come to help.”

2) In a Sibe primer, Niyamangga gisun (2006 edition), vol. 4, p. 99 (2):

bi beijing be hairambi. I love Beijing.

beijing oci musei gurun i gemun hecen. Beijing is the capital city of our country.


(1) Published in 1765 according to the StaatsBibliothek zu Berlin website, but maybe written earlier?

(2) Same in the 1992 edition, vol. 2, p. 32.

“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)