Translating Manchu in the Qing


Henry Luce Foundation/ ACLS Program in China Studies Collaborative Reading-Workshop Grants


East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and History


Along with Chinese, the Manchu language played an important role in the state communications structure and in urban society during the Qing period (1636-1912). Despite widespread acknowledgement of the significance of the Manchu language, we have neither a comprehensive understanding of the scope and use of Manchu texts, nor a sophisticated understanding of the relationship between Chinese and Manchu textual production. This grandscale project began no later than the 1630s, when countless officials, scholars, soldiers, clerks, and teachers, along with the emperors themselves, joined in the creation of thousands of documents, treatises, and histories; philosophical, religious, and moral works; conversation manuals and phrase books; and travelogues, novels, plays, poems, and songs. Relying heavily upon translation, this was a highly cosmopolitan venture, involving not only court scribes and Manchu and Chinese littérateurs, but also Mongolian, Tibetan, Korean, Japanese, Russian, and European scholars. Through a close examination of a range of paired Manchu-Chinese texts, the primary goal of this workshop is to capture and appreciate more fully the neglected dimensions of Manchu literary production and consumption, which remained vital through the nineteenth century. By looking closely at Manchu-Chinese translation in the Qing, the workshop aims to advance and transform our understanding of the Manchu language as a political and literary tool, and of the role of language in empire more generally; by bringing history and literature into closer dialogue, and employing the theoretical approaches of translation studies, the workshop will lay the basis for new methodologies and modes of reading Qing texts.

Date of Workshop: May 2015

Location of Workshop: Harvard University