To help the Manchus find their place in the world and to introduce the Manchus to the world







Professor Mark C. Elliott 

Harvard University Summer School

24 June – 18 July 2013

Professor Mark C. Elliott
Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations
617 496 5343

MTWTh 9 am – 12 pm, MW 1-3 pm
2 Divinity Ave., Room 213

About Manchu

Manchu is the major representative of the southern branch of the Tungusic languages, traditionally thought to be part of the Altaic language family (or sprachbund), which also includes Mongolic and Turkic languages. It was the language of the Jurchen tribes who inhabited what came to be called Manchuria and who, after 1635, decided to call themselves “Manchus.” When they went on shortly thereafter to take over all of China, Manchu became one of the official languages of the empire they created, the Qing (1636-1912), and remained in fairly wide use until the early 20th c. Though it has practically died out in its original homeland, a dialect of Manchu continues to be used by the Sibe, a minority nationality living in the Ili Valley.

Once dismissed as all but irrelevant for historical research, it is now recognized that a significant proportion of the imperial Qing archives (about one-fifth) consists of documents written in Manchu. Knowledge of the language has become essential for original research in a variety of areas, ranging from the pre-dynastic history of the Manchus, to ethnic history, frontier history, and many areas of institutional history from the 17th to the early 20th centuries. There are also a great many historical, religious, scientific, philosophical, and literary works composed in Manchu. For these reasons, Manchu is of considerable interest and value to students of Qing history and literature, as well as linguists.

Overview/Goals of the Course

This course offers an intensive one-month introduction to the Manchu language and to Manchu studies. It is designed with the needs of the beginner in mind, but it is also suitable for those who have had some previous exposure to Manchu (either through coursework or self-study) and would like to build on or refresh their knowledge and skills. We will start by learning the Manchu writing system and the peculiarities of Manchu orthography. Once these basics have been covered, we will develop comprehension skills through the study of Manchu grammar and the reading of original texts. By the end of the course, students should be able to correctly read, transcribe, and translate materials of an intermediate level of difficulty, whether in printed or manuscript form, with the help of a dictionary. Alongside morning language class, afternoon meetings provide a survey of key materials in the field of Manjuristics, which it is hoped may provide some guidance in research.

Course structure

The course will move at a fast pace. We will meet for a total of 16 hours per week. Morning sessions, 3 hours in length, 4 times a week, will be devoted to study of the literary Manchu language. The basics of script and grammar will be covered during the first two weeks, using short readings. During the second two weeks, we will turn our attention primarily to the reading and translation of a range of historical and literary texts; further elaboration of points of grammar and syntax will also be covered. Afternoon sessions, which meet for 2 hours twice a week, will introduce students to the reference works, primary sources, and secondary scholarship essential in the study of Manchu history and culture in the Qing.

Course Requirements

No prior study of Manchu is expected or required. However, students should have a good command of literary Chinese. Knowledge of modern Japanese will be very helpful in accessing materials relating to the study of Manchu. Attendance at class is mandatory. Students are expected to prepare texts assigned for class by making a transcription and looking up unfamiliar vocabulary; you should be ready to read the original text aloud and provide a tentative translation if called upon in class. Student progress in the language portion of the class will be evaluated on the basis of grammar, writing, and vocabulary quizzes, and on class performance. In lieu of a final examination, students will be assigned to translate an unfamiliar passage of suitable length. For the afternoon session, students will be asked to submit a short bibliographic essay on a subject of individual interest. Final grades will be determined on the basis of quizzes, classroom performance, final translation, and bibliographic essay.


The text for this course is Manchu: A Textbook for Reading Documents, by Gertraude Roth Li (University of Hawai’i Press, 2000), which is available for purchase at the Harvard Coop. Note, however, that we will also make use of a variety of other materials as well, and will not read all the way through the book. Students with a knowledge of Japanese are also encouraged to purchase a copy of Manshūgo bungo nyūmon 満洲語文語入門 by Kawachi Yoshihiro 河内良弘. The Coop is unable to get this book in stock, but you can order it through Amazon’s Japan site.

The following dictionaries have been placed on reserve at the Harvard-Yenching Library:
HANEDA Toru 羽田亨, Manwa jiten 満和辞典 (Kyoto, 1937).
standard Manchu-Japanese dictionary, essentially a translation of Qingwen zonghui 清文總彙;
very useful, contains Chinese translations as well
Erich HAUER, Handwörterbuch der Mandschusprache (Leipzig, 1952-1955); 2nd revised ed., Oliver Corff (Harrassowitz, 2006).
widely considered the best dictionary of Manchu in any language; long out of print, the revised
edition makes this valuable tool accessible once again
HU Zengyi 胡增益, Xin Man-Han da cidian 新滿漢大詞典 (Beijing, 1994).
excellent Manchu-Chinese dictionary; many examples; idiosyncratic transcription
system should not pose too many problems
Jerry NORMAN, A Concise Manchu-English Lexicon (Seattle, 1978). (out of print)
the sole Manchu-English dictionary; no examples of usage but still extremely useful
Schedule of meetings
Morning session
Manchu language, 9 am - 12 pm Afternoon session
Manjuristics, 1-3 pm
Week 1 (24-27 June)

24 Jun Introduction; Script & Orthography 1; transcription conventions; the “twelve stems”

homework: script writing and recognition Introduction to Manjuristics; modern reference works, catalogues, and bibliographies
25 Jun Script and Orthography 2

homework: script writing and recognition
26 Jun Grammar 1 – Phonology, morphology, syntax

homework: review script writing and recognition Qing dictionaries, grammars, and primers
27 Jun Quiz 1
Grammar 2 – Nouns, pronouns; cases & particles; numbers; dates

homework: Reading selection A-1
Week 2 (1-5 July)

1 Jul Grammar 3 – Verbs; perfective and imperfective converbs; verbal nouns

homework: Reading selection C-1 Pre-conquest historical sources
2 Jul Grammar 4 – Verbs; sentence final forms; derivational suffixes and infixes

homework: Reading selections C-2, C-3
3 Jul Grammar 5 – Adjectives & adverbs

homework: Reading selection C-4 Institutional, historical, and geographical sources
5 Jul Quiz 2
Grammar 6 – Postpositions; question words

homework: Sun Wencheng palace memorials
Week 3 (8-11 July)

8 Jul Grammar 7 – Onomatopoeia

homework: Manju-i yargiyan kooli Literary, philosophical, and religious sources
9 Jul Grammar 8 – Plural forms

homework: Manbun rōtō
10 Jul Grammar 9 – Verbs (converbs, imperative, voluntative)

homework: Dzengšeo Biographical sources
11 Jul Quiz 3
Grammar 10 – Periphrastic structures

homework: Dzengšeo
Week 4 (15-18 July)

15 Jul Reading: Liyoo jai jy i bithe
Archival sources
16 Jul Reading: Liyoo jai jy i bithe

17 Jul Reading: Muran gi bithe
Epigraphic sources
18 Jul Reading: Yongzheng rescripts