Qinding Liaoshi yujie [Imperially Authorized Explanations of Terms in the History of the Liao]. Printed throughout in Manchu & Chinese.

A Prominent Example of the Plurilingual Philology
Practiced at the Qianlong Court

Qinding Liaoshi yujie [Imperially Authorized Explanations of Terms in the History of the Liao]. Printed throughout in Manchu & Chinese.

72; 71 folding leaves. Ten juan in two vols. 8vo, orig. wrappers (frayed), stitched as issued. [China]: Jiangsu Shuju, 1878.

This work is part of a set, each published separately, collectively referred to as Qinding Liao, Jin, Yuan san shi guoyu jie [Imperially Authorized Explanations of Terms in the National Language in the Three Histories of the Liao, Jin, and Yuan] (although this title does not appear in the books themselves). They list the non-Chinese names of people, places, titles, etc., in the dynastic histories of the Khitan Liao, Jurchen Jin, and Mongol Yuan — three empires that ruled parts or all of China and Inner Asia from the early 10th century CE (Liao) to the late 14th century (Yuan).

The histories, compiled in the 14th century, contain words from the languages of these peoples transcribed into Chinese characters. In the 18th century, the Qianlong emperor, who initiated several large-scale editorial projects on the history of the Manchu people and their Inner Asian predecessor states, found fault with these transcriptions. When read in Mandarin Chinese of the period, the transcriptions often did not accord with the corresponding words in Mongolian, Manchu (which stood in for Jurchen), etc., of the 18th century. The emperor thus ordered the transcriptions revised and recorded in Chinese characters and in the Manchu script.

These revised transcriptions for the Khitan Liao dynasty are collected here. The pronunciation of the Chinese key words is given in Manchu transliteration, while the latter is transcribed back into Chinese according to the fanqie system. From the point of view of modern linguistics, Qianlong’s premise was faulty, since the sounds of both the Chinese language and the languages that the transcriptions sought to represent had changed in the meantime (or disappeared altogether, such as the Khitan language). Our work is thus primarily interesting as a prominent example of the plurilingual philology that was practiced at the Qianlong court.

The books were commissioned in 1782, finished in draft in early 1786 (Qianlong 50, 12th lunar month, hence not 1785), and collated for inclusion in the manuscript transcript of the imperial library — the Complete Books of the Four Repositories [Siku quanshu] — in early 1789 (Qianlong 54, 2nd month).

Our reprint of 1878 was published by the Jiangsu Book Bureau, which had been set up in that province after the Qing government regained control of the lower Yangzi region following the Taiping rebellion.

Fine set.

❧ Yong & Peng, Chinese Lexicography. A History from 1046 BC to AD 1911 (O.U.P.), pp. 382-83.

Price: $2,250.00

Item ID: 8118

See all items in China, Chinese, Dictionary, Language, Manchu