Turco-Manjurica: The Turki Translation of Shunzhi’s Moral Exhortations to the People

Turco-Manjurica: The Turki Translation of Shunzhi’s Moral Exhortations to the People

Eric Schluessel

Ph.D. Candidate, Harvard University

I have just had the pleasure of opening a Turkic-language translation of the Shunzhi emperor’s Moral Exhortations to the People (Ch. Yuzhi quan shan yao yan 御製勸善要言) of 1656. This copy is held in the Staatsbibliothek Berlin’s Hartmann Collection under the call number Zu 8390. The text towards the back of the work indicates that it was commissioned under Governor-General Tao Mo 陶模 (g. 1891-1896). The printing took place in late 1893: the Turkic text dates it to 1311 AH (July 1893-July 1894 CE) and Guangxu 19 (1893). According to the back matter, and as Rian Thum has already noted in his dissertation, the book was commissioned by Qing officials from the printing press of Nūr Muhammad Hājjī b. Sarīf Hājjī in Kashgar.[1] This example comes from one of the first of several short runs that eventually resulted in 7,500 copies of the Exhortations. Officials distributed them for free in the hopes of making Turkic Muslims aware of their relationship to the empire and the emperor. Further study will yield interesting insights into Qing efforts to project imperial legitimacy in Turkic Muslim idioms.


In the meantime, I want to draw attention to the very last two pages, which detail, in Turkic and in Manchu, the process by which this translation was created. Before we turn to the back of the book, let us look at the title page, which is trilingual:


Manchu: Han-i araha sain-be huwekiyebure oyonggo gisun

Turkic: Hānniŋ tasnīf qilğan yahši išğä rawāj berädurğan żurūr sözläri

Chinese: 御製勸善要言


The Turkic title, I notice, is a bit awkward. It translates into English, literally, as “The khan’s urgent words, which (he) composed and that encourage one to good works.” Two things immediately suggest that this was translated not from the Chinese title, but from the Manchu: first, the title begins with hān “khan,” paralleling the Manchu title. Second, the Turkic text preserves the genitive suffix -niŋ following “khan.” Whereas in Manchu the genitive suffix -i can mark the instrumental case, in Turkic it does not.[2] Including it in the Turkic translation makes the subject of the first subordinate clause unclear, and then forces the use of a possessive suffix at the end (sözlär-i, “his words”). Compare the Manchu title, which we could render literally as “Important speech admonishing the good, written by the khan.” It looks to me as though the translator was hewing as closely to the Manchu grammar as possible.


The title is actually translated elsewhere in the text as Uluğ hānniŋ yahši išlarğä rawāj berädurğan żurūr sözläri, “The great khan’s urgent words that encourage one to good works.” The alternative rendering does two things: first, it emphasizes that the Qing emperor is not just any khan, but the “great” khan. Second, while preserving the genitive construction (ḫānniŋ … sözläri), it eliminates the subordinate clause to produce a grammatical Turkic phrase.


At the very end of the work, there is a single passage in Manchu detailing the origins of the translation, as follows. I have checked it against the surrounding Turkic text, which provides a more complete narrative.


Ere bithe-be Kašigar-i dooli hafan-i yamun-de ubaliyambukū hafan-i alban-be yabure. Ili Solon aiman-i kubuhe lamun gūsai. Man[dangga] janggin-i jui Fušan. Kašigar-i dooli hafan. Lii amban-de dacilame fonjifi, julergi jugūn-i harangga ba na-i Hūise niyalma irgen hūlame ulhifi. ambula tuke bahame sakini seme. Manju hergen-ci Hūise hergen-i gisun-de ubaliyambufi. Kašigar-i hoton-de. wehei šuwaban folon-de. gingguleme fohobuha..


This book was translated by Fušan, son of the Ili Solon camp’s Adjutant Man[dangga] of the bordered blue banner, doing official service as a translator in the yamen of the Kashgar circuit intendant.


He asked Kashgar circuit intendant Li [for permission – see Turkic text]. So that the Muslim people of the subordinate localities of the Southern Route [South Xinjiang] should read it, understand, and know it rather well, it was translated from Manchu writing into the Muslim language, and it was respectfully engraved upon stone printing plates in the city of Kashgar.


The Moral Exhortations was thus translated from the Manchu version into Turkic at the Kashgar circuit intendant’s yamen by a member of the Ili Solon Camp, Adjutant Mandangga’s son Fušan. (The full name Mandangga appears in another edition.)


How did he manage such a task? The Turkic text elaborates: two local Turkic officials, Muḥammad qāḍī (Islamic judge) and Ṭālib mīrāb (irrigation chief) approached Intendant Li together with Fušan with a proposal to translate the text. Presumably they checked the translation or participated actively in producing it.


I serendipitously ran across a second account of the translation project in the memoirs of a missionary, Johannes Avetaranian, an Ottoman Turkish Muslim convert to Protestantism with an Armenian name who was living in Kashgar at this time.[3] Avetaranian claims he was a close friend of Fušan and that he daily brought draft excerpts of his Turkic-language Bible translation to Fušan for comments. On several visits, Fušan read to Avetaranian from the Manchu-language Exhortations, probably translating it on the fly into Turkic, which I suspect was their common language of communication on these occasions. The missionary was impressed by its message, and he encouraged his friend to make a formal written translation. Fušan, it seems, was a very capable translator for the Kashgar circuit intendant, and his duties brought him regularly to the British and Russian consulates. There, Avetaranian says, Fušan developed a drinking problem; the Exhortations translation was meant consequently as an exercise in personal moral rectification.


Apart from the two Muslim officials mentioned above, Fušan also had the help of Avetaranian’s hired secretary, Mīrzā ʿAbd ul-Karīm. Mīrzā is an honorific title for a gentleman, but in late-Qing Xinjiang is often simply indicated a Turkic Muslim employed by the yamen. The circuit intendant became interested in the project, as did a number of other local officials, as indicated by a page towards the end of the Exhortations translation listing the project’s patrons. Nūr Ḥājjī was hired for the printing, and an order was issued to scrape together soot to use in place of printer’s ink, which was in short supply. (This may explain the blotting, smudging, and distortions of some of the later printings.)


The text is remarkable in its appropriation of the forms and language of Turkic Muslim cultural production for an originally Manchu text. Take, for example, the Turkic-language poem added to the end of the translated Exhortations. According to the preceding text, it is a tārīḫ, a poem that celebrates an event by encoding its date, in this case 1311 AH, through the abjad alphanumerical code. Like most Turkic-language poetry from Xinjiang, it is written in the ramal meter and either reflects or simulates a genuine effort to praise the translation of the Exhortations.


I picked up this text only a few hours ago, and now I am greatly intrigued. Besides the Moral Exhortations, Qing officials in this period also ordered a translation of the Qing Code into Turkic, as well as a pair of texts on smallpox and on the rearing of silkworms. Albert von le Coq, who published one of a pair of scholarly editions of the Turkic Qing Code, forgotten now for over a century, comments that the Code seems awkward in Turkic, as though it were translated word for word from the Chinese.[4] Perhaps what von le Coq read as a poor translation was actually a good translation from Manchu. Further research is needed.



Image of  Fušan from: Avetaranian, Johannes, A Muslim Who Became a Christian: the Story of John Avetaranian, an Autobiography, (London: AuthorsOnline, 2002), pp 296.

[1] Rian Thum, “The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History,” (PhD dissertation, Harvard University, 2010), 242.

[2] János Eckmann, Chagatay Manual, (The Hague: Mouton and Co., 1966), 84-85.

[3] Avetaranian, Johannes, A Muslim Who Became a Christian: the Story of John Avetaranian, an Autobiography, (London: AuthorsOnline, 2002), 80-82.

[4] Albert von le Coq, “Das Lî-Kitâbî,” in Kőrösi Csoma Archivum 1:6 (1925), 439-480, 440.

Leave a Reply


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: