Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Manchurian Commendation

Image of the imperial seals of the seventh Emperor of the Qing Dynasty along with text in Chinese and Manchu from the center of the scroll
China is a country made up of more than fifty-five minority groups, with the Han people group comprising over 90% of the population. The Manchu people are the fourth largest minority in China and lend their name to the northeastern region known as Manchuria. While here in the United States, that word most likely brings to mind the title of a movie ("The Manchurian Candidate") and the relatively recent Cold War, The Manchu people have lived in northeast Asia for more than a thousand years. They were re-branded as "Manchus" in 1635 by an emperor of the Qing Dynasy, Hong Taiji; their language, also now known as Manchu and distinct from Mandarin Chinese, is still in existence today.

Here in Special Collections, we are fortunate to have a surviving example of that language in the
An excerpt of Manchu writing from the imperial scroll
form of an imperial decree issued in 1846 by the Daoguang Emperor, seventh emperor of the Qing Dynasty. Written on a silk scroll measuring seven feet long by thirteenth inches wide, the decree is written in both Manchu and Chinese characters and carries the official red chops, or stamped seals, of the Imperial Palace. The text is a posthumous honor awarded to the parents of Wang Fuh Tsai, who was the military governor of a territory in "Chinese Turkestan," or in what is now known as the Xinjiang province in northwest China. Given that the edict is written in both Manchu and Chinese, and it is addressed to Wang Fuh Tsai's parents, it's safe to assume that he was ethnically Manchu.

To see a beautiful example of calligraphic Manchu, and to examine the official seal of Imperial China during the 1800s, come to Rauner and ask for Codex 835654.

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