Printed in Manchu

Daicing Gurun I doro eldengge I Juwan nadaci aniyai erin forgon I ton I bithe [Calendar for the Seventeenth Year of the Daoguang Reign of the Great Qing Empire].

93 folding leaves. Small folio (340 x 212 mm.), orig. wrappers (upper wrapper much repaired but with the printing very largely intact), new stitching. Beijing: Bureau of Astronomy (Qin tian jian), 1837.

Very rare; our calendar appears to be unique in the West. Books printed in Manchu rarely appear on the market.

This government Manchu-language calendar was prepared and printed for distribution throughout the Qing empire before the Chinese New Year in 1837. Calendars were prepared in both Manchu and Chinese. Because the rulers of the Qing dynasty were ethnically Manchu, Manchu was the dynasty’s official language. Legal regulations required core government documents and texts to be produced in both Manchu and Chinese. Manchu ritual calendars are far rarer than Chinese calendars, as they were often prepared only for members of the central government and for offices in border territories.

The annual preparation of the official calendar took months. The yearly presentation of the calendar to the emperor and the ceremonies marking the formal publication and promulgations of the document and distribution to various members of the Imperial Household, the boards of Civil Appointments and War, and civil and military officials throughout China were elaborate solemn rituals, involving kowtowing and musical processions.

“The history of calendars in China goes back to the origins of Chinese civilization itself. As is well known, every official dynastic history included a substantial section on the calendar, since one of the most important acts of any new regime was to fix the time (fshoushi or shiling) and to regulate the calendar (shili)…Calendrical science in the Qing period thus involved much more than mathematics and technology. Although continual efforts were made by the Bureau of Astronomy to predict celestial events as accurately as possible, and to calibrate the year into various precise subdivisions, calendar-making was also based on complex cosmological calculations. These calculations — made with the assistance of official sources such as the voluminous guide to astrology known as the Xieji bianfang shu provided specific and detailed guidance for all levels of Chinese society, and made possible attainment of the Chinese ritual ideal: doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right place, facing the right direction…

“At the core of all state calendars…is a month-by-month, day-by-day breakdown of the entire year, obviously designed to coordinate and control all aspects of Chinese political, social, ritual, and economic life.”–Prof. Richard J. Smith, “A Note on Qing Dynasty Calendars” in Late Imperial China, Vol. 9, No. 1 (June 1988), pp. 123-45–(a fine article with a strong bibliographical slant).

These calendars guided everyone from the imperial family to government officials to ordinary people in all matters ranging from when to make administrative or business decisions to auspicious days to marry to when to clean the house.

With thanks to Devin Fitzgerald and Soren Edgren, who guided us and held our hands throughout the making of this description.

Apart from the upper wrapper repairs, in fine and fresh condition. A few natural paper flaws and light marginal dampstaining in upper margin of final third of the book. Contemporary note, dated 1837, at the lower edge of the first page of text.

❧ Kornicki, Languages, Scripts, and Chinese Texts in East Asia, p. 70–”Throughout the Qing dynasty, Manchu was used extensively in China for administrative purposes and was also used for translation up to the early part of the twentieth century, but the language and scripts have since fallen largely into disuse.”.

Price: $10,000.00

Item ID: 6772

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