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Archives in Old Manchu

Tags: documents | National Palace Museum


Archives in Old Manchu
Anonymous, Ch'ing Dynasty (1644-1911)
Various sizes 
In 1599, the Manchu leader Nurhaci, in order to solve the need to transmit written messages and make government records, ordered the scholars Erdeni and others to create a written language for the Manchu, based on the Mongolian alphabetic system and combined with Jurchen phonetics. This early form of Manchu, derived from Mongolian and without punctuation, was called Old Manchu. In 1632, the scholar Dahai was ordered to create punctuation in order to improve the form and phonetics of Manchu, which became known as New Manchu. The Museum possesses a rich collection of archives in Manchu. Among them are 40 large volumes, 20 of which are composed of records from 1607 to 1636, representing the early years of the Manchu government before they conquered the Chinese Ming dynasty and established the Ch'ing dynasty. The source of the paper for these archives was mainly from old Ming government documents and Korean paper. The writing in the archives includes Mongolian, unpunctuated Old Manchu, semi-punctuated transitional Manchu, and fully punctuated New Manchu. This is a direct source of information for scholars to study legends of the origins of the Manchu and their Eight-Banner system, social customs, economy and lifestyle, development, foreign relations, and the period from the fall of the Ming to the establishment of the Ch'ing. It is also an important source for documenting the early development of the Manchu language. Thus, these archives in Old Manchu correlate to the period before the formal establishment of the Manchu Ch'ing dynasty in China and provide crucial information for this period.

Text and images are provided by National Palace Museum