Manchu Studies

Since the winter term 2008/09 a reading course in documentary Manchu has been an additional part of the curriculum at the Chair of Chinese History and Society. As the language of the rulers of the Qing empire Manchu was, besides Chinese, the most important language, especially in governmental communication.

Yet Manchu also served as a vehicle of cultural transmission. Jesuit missionaries, for instance, carried out communication also in Manchu during the pre-negotiations to the Treaty of Nerchinsk in 1689. The Jesuit Joseph Moyriac de Mailla used a Manchu edition of the history (Yupi) Tongjian gangmu (御批)通鑒綱目 (Han-i araha tung giyan g’ang mu bithe) for his Histoire générale de la Chine. While this is known quite well, Manchu translations of novels, such as the Gin Ping Me bithe (Jinpingmei 金瓶梅) or of scientific books attracted far less attention by scholars.

Since summer 2015 we are working on an English translation of the Manchu version of a language guide for Korean merchants, Qingyu Lao Qida 清語老乞大, which has been edited and translated into modern Chinese by Zhuang Jifa 莊吉發 (Qingyu Lao Qida yizhu 清語老乞大譯注, 2nd ed., Taibei: Wenshizhe chubanshe, 2014, Series Manyu congkan 滿語叢刊). We also refer to the English translation of the Chinese version of this Korean language guide which was carried out by Stephen A. Wadley ("A Translation of the 'Lao Qida' and Investigation into Certain of its Syntactic Structures", Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Washington, 1987). The direct translation from Manchu into English will not only contribute to the philological branch of Manchu studies, but will add to a deeper knowledge of the economic, social and cultural circumstances under which people under the Manchu dynasty lived in and outside of the capital, and how they dealt with each other in daily life.

Tübingen at the International Symposium on Manchu Studies in Göttingen

From 18 to 23 September 2017, Edward Yong LIANG, M.A. (picture below, second from left), and doctoral candidate in Sinology at the Department of Chinese and Korean Studies, University of Tübingen, was invited to teach Manchu studies at the international conference "Manchu in Global History: A Research Language for Qing Historians," organized by the Department of East Asian Studies & Centre for Modern East Asian Studies, University of Göttingen. Over thirty scholars from East Asia, Central Asia, Europe and North America attended his classes.

During his stay in Göttingen, Mr Liang gave lectures about Manchu sources, primers, diplomatic documents and official archives. As a language teacher, Mr Liang also facilitated the participants to learn Sibe-Manchu conversations, in an effort to revive Manchu as an endangered language.

Furthermore, Mr Liang offered valuable advice for improving papers presented at the conference, e.g. with regard to accessing more sources as well as helping in reading and translating Manchu texts. He also shared his personal collection of Manchu sources with the conference organizers and participants, who remarked that scholars feel thus much encouraged to exchange ideas and sources to enhance research quality.

Through this conference, a community of the Manchu scholars is taking shape, and Manchu studies is reaching a new level. Mr Yong Liang's participation has, moreover, demonstrated that Sinology at the University of Tübingen has appeared as one of the leading forces to revive Europe as one of the centers of Manchu studies.