MANZHOU SI LI JI [Four Ritual Collections of the Manchus].

Printed largely in Chinese characters with some Manchu printing. 56; 15; 31; 53; 26 folding leaves. Five vols. 8vo, orig. wrappers, orig. block-printed title labels on upper covers, later stitching. [China]: apparently privately printed by Xingfei Tang (or Shengfei Tang), “Hall of Reflecting on One’s Wrongdoings” or “Hall of Reducing Wrongdoings,” 1801.

First and only edition of this rare collection of five works on Manchu rituals, customs, and cultural practices, published by Soninggan (fl. 1776-1801), a Manchu aristocrat, in March-April 1801. Apparently privately printed, it is a composite collection, composed and put together at various times during the 18th century before its eventual publication as a set.

The text appears quite understudied, but with its origins in one of the great Manchu clans during the peak of Qing power in the 18th century, it promises to be a rich source for Manchu upper-class culture in the period.

The oldest text is Shenzhong ji [Collection of “Careful Attention to the Funeral Rites” (a quote from Book 1 of the Analects)], published as Manzhou shenzhong ji [The Manchus’ Collection of…etc.], written in 1737 by Soninggan’s father, whose name we have been unable to find. Soninggan’s older brother, Sonomts’ering (or Sonomcering, both spellings occur in contemporary Manchu documents) (fl. 1756, d. 1782), wrote a colophon to this text in 1776, which is included here.

The remaining four texts all carry prefaces by Soninggan, so it is tempting to assume that these four are the “Four Ritual Collections on the Manchus” mentioned in the book’s title, with Soninggan’s and Sonomts’ering’s father’s book being a kind of addendum. Soninggan’s prefaces are dated 1796. One of them furthermore carries a colophon by Sonomts’ering dated 1771. The collections cover various topics, including sacrifices to heaven, at the family altar, and the rituals and customs of Manchu weddings. The book is in Chinese with ritual texts in Manchu.

The family belonged to the Niohuru clan and the Bordered Yellow Banner. Soninggan and Sonomts’ering were descendants in the fifth generation of Eidu (1562-1622), a prominent military leader in the early years of the Manchu state. Sonomts’ering had a career similar to many other Manchu aristocrats, beginning with service in the imperial bodyguard and finishing as the Military Governor of Mukden, the highest-level post in southern Manchuria, the Manchus’ ancestral homeland. Soninggan’s career was less illustrious, but it included positions in the Chinese provincial administration as well as in the central government in Beijing.

There is only one edition of the work. It appears that it was published privately, which was a common practice among rich and educated elite families (not just Manchus).

Fine set, preserved in an old hantao.

❧ Our description is entirely dependent on the researches of Prof. Marten Soderblom Saarela of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, Taiwan. He has used the Academia Sinica and National Palace Museum biographical databases. See also Liu Zhijun, “Qing keben Manzhou si liji kaolüe” in Manzu yanjiu, No. 2 (2010), pp. 32-34.

Price: $4,950.00

Item ID: 7859

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