Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Snow, to the tune of The Black-Naped Oriole

It hasn’t snowed here yet, but we have freezing temperatures and frost, and there is snow on the other side of the Cascades. Snow is a popular theme in Manchu poetry (as in Chinese), so there is no risk that I will run out of snow poems this winter.

Baqiao (灞橋) is a district of Xi’an city. The reference here may be to a line of Huáng Tāo (黃滔) from the late Táng. Here is my tortured translation of those lines:

背將蹤跡向京師,On the trail with a load on my back, I headed for the capital,
出在先春入後時。I left the prior Spring, I got here a while later.
落日灞橋飛雪裏,The setting sun and Baqiao in the flying snow,
已聞南院有看期。I had heard of the southern court, now I have time to see it.

The Horse of Blue Pass (藍關擁馬) is a literary allusion used in poetry about snow back to the Táng. I am not sure what the original reference is, but a commonly cited one is from Hán Yù (韓愈):

雲橫秦嶺家何在?Clouds across the Qinling range. Where is my home?
雪擁藍關馬不前:Snow gathers on the blue passes, and the horse will not go forward.

With the blue passes and the remoteness of the scene, this poem by Hán Yù reminds me of some lines from W. E. B. Du Bois, in The Souls of Black Folk (ch. 4, “On the Meaning of Progress”):
So I walked on and on—horses were too expensive—until I had wandered beyond railways, beyond stage lines, to a land of “varmints” and rattlesnakes, where the coming of a stranger was an event, and men lived and died in the shadow of one blue hill.
Now, to turn to the Manchu poem:

nimanggi,    Snow
Staatsbibliothek 11.7 (View Online)
untuhun deri,    Down through the void
gukiong moo,    the gemwillow trees
sigapi,    have dropped their leaves.
gu-i jalan adali,    It is like a world of jade.
5ba kiyoo [灞橋] ya nofi,    Who has heard
gisun bahambi,    of Baqiao?
lan guwan morin [藍關擁馬] libki,    The horse at the Blue Pass is worn out.
niyengniyeri,    With the plum flowers
nenden ilha —    of Spring —
10juru ufuhi.    a matched set.

Translation Difficulties


gukiong moo. Norman has guki moo, “an exotic tree resembling the weeping willow,” as well as gukiong, “hyacinth (a gem).” This seems like a portmanteau, so I’ve translated it with a portmanteau of my own.

gisun bahambi. I am not aware of this being a set phrase, but the meaning “to hear of” seems possible. Perhaps the lines ba kiyoo ya nofi / gisun bahambi are meant to contrast with the 已聞南院 of Huáng Tāo’s poem, pitting the fame of the Táng court against that of Baqiao, a district that surely would not have been as well known in its own time, but has since become famous in poetry.

juru ufuhi. The word juru means “a pair,” and ufuhi “a portion,” but I’m not entirely sure how to put them together. I think the pair in question must be the snow and the plum flowers (which drift like snow when they fall). Several expressions containing juru, such as juru gisun, have a sense of two different things that fit together, so that is how I have read it.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Moon, to the tune of Black-Naped Oriole

The first eight poems of fascicle 11 of Staatsbibliothek 34981 are set to the Black-Naped Oriole tune, and written on the following themes:

  • The Firsherman
  • The Woodcutter
  • The Plowman
  • The Reader
  • Wind
  • Flower
  • Snow
  • The Moon

Poems 13-20 of the same fascicle are on nearly the same themes, but set to the tune Wind in the Pines. (The only difference is that the theme of poem 16 is “The Herdsman” instead of “The Reader.”) I don’t know what it means that these themes occur in this order, but I previously noted that the second poem on The Wind looks like a response to the first one, so perhaps the entire second set was written in response to the first set.

Since my last post was about the beautiful (and shocking) second poem on the Moon, I thought I would make this post about the first one.


biya,    The Moon
Staatsbibliothek 11.8 (View Online)
bulekui yangse,    This mirror-like thing,
atanggi,    when
werihe,    was it left behind?
tumen jalan genggiyengge,    It has been ten thousand generations of illumination.
5can o [婵娥] wei gege,    Whose princess is Chang’e?
u g'ang ya doose,    Which Daoist priest is Wugang?
guwang han gurung [廣寒宮]    Is the “Vast Cold Palace”
cibsunggeo,    full of silence?
ten-i e,    The lofty feminine,
10šungga moo ai biretei holo.    the osmanthus tree, are they completely false?

Translation Difficulties


werihe. Who is leaving what behind? Does this refer to Chang’e and Wugang leaving the earth behind? Or does it refer to the moon being left behind in the sky? I have decided to read it as the latter because otherwise the first like, bulekui yangse, is left hanging.

cibsunggeo. Norman has cibsu hiyan, “incense used at sacrifices,” apparently connected with the vocalically unusual cibsonggo, “harmony; the right side of an ancestral temple” and cibsen, “quietness; stillness.”

ai biretei holo. The phrase biretei holo seems to clearly mean “completely false,” but what is the ai doing? Since so many of the lines in this poem are questions, I took this to be a final question, rather than an assertion like “alas, they are completely false.”

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Moon, to the tune of Wind in the Pines

Here is another poem to the tune of Wind in the Pines. The theme is the moon (biya) so it has the thematic A-rhyme.

This poem is like a diptych, with the two stanzas of the Wind in the Pines form giving us two starkly different views of the moon. The first stanza describes the moon as an object of beauty, a sphere in space that bathes the world in a cold light. The second stanza abruptly turns to the regret Chang’e feels after being parted from the fertile earth to live out a cold eternity in the vast and empty palaces of the moon.

biya [月],    The Moon
Staatsbibliothek 11.20 (View Online)
untuhun ya bai tana,    From what region of the void is this pearl?
buleku fiyangga,    Mirror-colored,
we-i hungkerehengge,    molded by whom?
5 fosoci, gehun ba ba,    When it shines, everywhere it is bright,
gecen helmen jalu,    full of frost shadows,
muke elden niša,

    replete with water light.

da e simen bakjikan,    Her menstrual flow was once thick,
10 te goidatala,    now, after so long,
ekiyehun erin fulu,    thin times remain.
muheliyen ainu tongga,    How limited is this sphere,
selabun seriken,    happiness is sparse,
seyecun utala.    and regret so plentiful.

Translation Difficulties


e simen. Norman has in-i simen, “menstrual discharge,” which must surely be the same thing, the word in being Chinese 陰, and the word e being the native Manchu word for the feminine principle.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Manchu Song on Winter Rain in Seven-Syllable Couplets

The rain has set in in Portland, and according to the traditional Chinese agricultural calendar we have entered winter, so it seems appropriate to post a song about winter rain.

Rain is an uncommon theme for Manchu poetry, and winter rain seems all the more dreary and unlikely as a topic of verse. But as the last lines make clear, this song is really about being happy regardless of your circumstances. It may be cold, but the rain at night is fragrant, and instead of flimsy flowers the world is decorated by yellow chrysanthemums and red maple leaves.

tuweri aga be irgebuhe manju uculen    A Manchu Song on Winter Rain
Staatsbibliothek 4.10 (View Online)
emu dobori beikuwen,    One night it was cold,
dule agai šahūrun,    it was actually the chill of rain.
erin ba be burakū,    I could not tell you where or when,
ara tuwahai gecuhun,    but oh, in the blink of an eye, there was frost,
5

wangga wa wen wasika,

    and an aromatic scent descended.

fiyangga fiyen fiyan filtahūn,    Bare of colorful makeup,
eiten ilha sigapi,    every flower had fallen,
boco ice juwe hacin,    but there were two new kinds of color,
bojiri hon sohokon,    the chrysanthemum being very yellow,
10 molo ele fulahūn,    and the maple all the more red,
elemangga kalcunggi,    but nonetheless vibrant,
utulihekū gecen,

    despite the frost.

sasa tuweri bolori,    Winter together with Autumn,
uhei kulun dahasun,    the Celestial and Earthly together,
15ainu cingkai encu ni,    aren’t they vastly different?
ere yala ai turgun,    So what is the reason for this?
teisu teisu banjitai,    They each have their nature,
meni meni sukdun wen,

    their various vital forces.

ilakangge hahiba,    That which blooms is quick,
20baharangge nekeliyen,    that which can do it is flimsy.
sigahangge amala,    After the falling of leaves,
alihangge jiramin,

    what remains is thick.

fulibuha giyan fiyan-i,    There is an order to the forms things take,
neigen akū de neigen,    an equality in their inequality.
25 tere tenteke giru,    That one has an appearance like that,
ere enteke banin,    this one has a shape like this,
ere tuttu jilakan,    this one is pitiful in that way,
ere uttu elehun,    this one is composed in this way.
daci adali akū,    Fundamentally different,
30

aide gese teheren,

    how are they equally balanced?

sence seci se seri,    A mushroom’s years are scanty,
jakdan jaci jalafun,    the pine has a very long life,
goiha goidaha,    stricken, and long-lived,
baji banjiha banjin,

    appearing only scarcely alive.

35manda bime hon manda,    When something is slow, it is really slow,
hūdun dade ten hūdun,    when quick it is fundamentally quick,
ehe dade ten ehe,    when bad it is fundamentally bad,
sain bime hon sain,    when good it is really good.
erei haran ai seci,    What do you say is the reason for this?
40

gemu meimeni sukdun,

    They are all vital forces.

hafu tuwaha sehede,    When you have seen through it,
teksin akū-i teksin,    it is a neatly arranged disorder.
arbun bisirelengge,    All forms that exist,
dubentele efujen,    in the end are subject to destruction,
45taka bisire beye,    the temporary body,
yaha tuwai fon erin,

    the seasons and hours of embers and fire.

sebjen bici sebjele,    When there is happiness, rejoice.
ainu urui jobocun,    Why be constantly miserable?
kuwai fai seme gūnici,    If one thinks about it lightly,
50

ne je yooni selabun,

    immediately one is entirely content.

jalan doroi mengde fa,    This is a window on the way of the world,
agu hūtukan neilen,    sir, a quick revelation:
encu emu abka na,    Different yet the same are heaven and earth;
nimaha še urgun ten,    fish and black kite are both extremely happy.
55 elhe baire dasargan,    A formula for seeking peace,
ere emu uculen.    is this single song.

Translation Difficulties


erin ba be burakū. Literally “not giving the time or the place.” The “giving” here is presumably metaphorical, but what type of giving is this? Who is the giver and who is the receipient? The default subject would be the topic of the previous line, “the chill of rain,” but I can’t make sense of that. Instead, I am reading this as the poet being unable to give the reader the time and place that the event occurred.

utulihekū gecen. From the verb utulimbi, “to be aware,” I take utulihekū to be a converb literally meaning “having been unaware,” but by extension “regardless of.”

encu emu abka na / nimaha še urgun ten. I wrestled with this for a very long time, and while I am not entirely happy with the reading I landed on, it is the best I could come up with. The poet has repeatedly touched on the idea of sameness within difference, in lines like neigen akū de neigen and teksin akū-i teksin. In these lines I think he means to say that heaven and earth are both different and the same, like the fish and black kite, which inhabit different realms yet both experience happiness.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Weiqi, a third poem, to an (as yet) unknown tune

The 11th fascicle of Staatsbibliothek 34981 has turned up a third poem on weiqi, this one is apparently set to a -style tune, but I’m not sure what the tune is. The metrical scheme seems to consist of two stanzas of the form 7,6,7,5,5 with rhyme x,A,A,x,A.

This poem uses an EO-rhyme, which consists of certain words ending in EO and IO. I think these words probably ended in a rising diphthong, such as [əw], and therefore do not rhyme with other words ending in -o, which fall into the E rhyme.

It seems likely that the poet chose the EO-rhyme because it rhymed with the theme, but interestingly the author of the first weiqi poem I looked at chose an E rhyme, suggesting that tonio could have been pronounced in two different ways, perhaps as [tɔɲɔ] at some times, and [tɔɲəw] at others.


tonio [碁],    Weiqi
Staatsbibliothek 11.22 (View Online)
yacin šanyan juwe siden,    Black and white, the two sides,
maka kimun binio,    I wonder, is there some enmity?
arga bodon unenggio,    Are the plans and calculations genuine?
etehe seme,    Suppose you win,
5aibe bahambio,    what do you get?
galai afambi seci,    As for attacking moves,
yala bucunuheo,    haven’t you just died together?
wara deribun sureo,    Is it wise to begin killing?
efin dabala,    It is only a game.
10batai adalio.    Are you like enemies?

Translation Difficulties


bucunuheo. I don’t find this in my dictionaries. I have read it as *bucenuheo, from *bucenumbi, “to die together.”

Friday, November 24, 2017

Wind, to the tune of Wind in the Pines

This poem seems like a response to the the previous version of Wind, which was set to the Black-Naped Oriole tune. The two poems use the same rhyme, but while the previous poem described the wind in sublime and lofty terms, ending with a reference to the primordial eldest sister, this poem takes the eldest sister and imbues her with might and power.

The Manchu poems set to Wind in the Pines in Staatsbibliothek 11 and 14 consist of two stanzas with the metrical pattern 7,5,7,7,6,6 and rhyme pattern A,A,x,A,xA. This is essentially the same as the  tune 風入松 as used by Song poet Wú Wényīng in a work titled 鄰舟妙香 (“Wonderful fragrance of the neighboring boat.”)

In addition to fitting the Chinese  pattern, this poem also makes every line alliterative.

edun [風]    Wind
feng žu sung [風入松] sere mudan    To the tune of Wind in the Pines
Staatsbibliothek 11.17 (View Online)
ere eyungge eyun,    This eldest sister,
dosire dosin,    her entry, when she enters,
ara arbun amba ni,    doesn’t she take a mighty form?
asuki, ai ajigen,    A faint noise, but nothing small,
5 fafuri fafungga,    stern when fierce,
nemeyen nesuken.

    tender when gentle.

lasihire lalahūn,    The soft one that shakes
wenere weren,    is the ripple that melts.
10were wara encu ba,    She will nurture and kill in different places,
enteke encu erin,    she does so in different seasons.
mutubure muten,    The force that raises to maturity
šahūrara šajin.    is the holy power that makes cold.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Wind, another Black-Naped Oriole poem

I’ve been busy the last week looking at poems in fascicle 11 of Staatsbibliothek 34981. I had not originally thought that these were autochthonous Manchu poems, but on re-reviewing it I now think they are. (If you want to know more about how I decide what is an original Manchu poem and what is a translation, see my page on the Staatsbibliothek poems.)

Here is one of the poems from that fascicle. It is another Black-Naped Oriole poem, concise and somewhat obscure. The theme is “the wind” and the rhyme is EN, comprising words ending in -en, -in, -un and -ūn, including the theme word edun.

At the end of the poem the author says that the wind is an eldest sister. Apparently each of the trigrams can be understood as a member of a family, and in this model the trigram of the wind corresponds to the eldest daughter (長女).


edun [風]    The Wind
Staatsbibliothek 11.5 (View Online)
jijuhan dosin,    The entry of the trigram,
asuki,    is a faint noise,
untuhun,    an emptiness,
halhūn beikuwen ai kemun,    heat and cold without order.
5hūwašarai tucin,    It is the reason for growth,
sigarai yarun,    the origin of leaf-fall,
were wara kūbulin,    the cycle of nurturing and killing.
da fukjin,    At the very beginning,
sargan jusei —    among the daughters it was —
10eyungge eyun.    eldest sister.

Translation Difficulties


were wara kūbulin. The phrase were wara doesn’t appear in my dictionaries, but the phrase banjire were is given in Norman for “livelihood”, and wara could be the imperfect participle of wambi, “to kill.” I have long thought that the verb wambi is somehow connected with words related to the sense of downward motion, like wasimbi, wasihūn, wala and wargi. Perhaps the verb wembi, now meaning “to melt; to warm; to civilize,” is connected with words with an upward sense like wesimbi, wesihun. If so, perhaps it originally had a meaning in opposition to wambi, with a sense of “to give life to something.” For the purpose of this translation, that is how I have read it.

ai kemun. This would technically be a rhetorical question (“what order is there...?”) but based on Jakdan’s translation of the Ever-Turning Horse Lantern I feel free to decode the rhetorical question as a statement that “there is no order....”

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Ever-Turning Horse Lantern, a translation by Jakdan

The 17th translated poem in Jakdan's second fascicle is titled Torhoho moringga dengjan be irgebuhengge 咏走馬燈詩, by the Monk Wu Ji.

I was initially interested in this poem because of the word “lantern” in the title, which I thought could shed some light on the Manchu lantern poems.

團團游了又來游, šurdeme šurdeme sarašame wajinggala geli ebsi sarašahai,
無箇明人指路頭。 jugūn on be jorire getuken niyalma ai.
除卻心中三昧火, dulimba ba-i ilan unenggi tuwa akū ohode,
槍刀人馬一齊休。 gida loho niyalma morin gemu aššarakū bai.

My somewhat free translation from the Manchu (which is subtly different from the Chinese):

Around and around it goes, it stops, and then it goes again,
There is no lucid person there to point it on its way,
But when the fire of Triple Truth is extinguished from the center,
Neither spear nor sword nor man nor horse will move.

When I read this poem, I imagine some kind of clever shadow paper lantern where the hot air rising from a candle causes a lightweight frame to turn, casting moving shadows onto the outside of the lantern. In this case, the shadows would show a man with sword and spear riding a horse.

The word 三昧 (samādhi) is the clue that tells us that the lantern is a metaphor for the mind, and that the extinction of the candle in the middle, which causes the restless movement of the mind to stop, is a metaphor for enlightenment.

There are a number of interesting little features in Jakdan’s translation from the Chinese:

無 X -> X ai. Autochthonous Manchu poetry frequently uses the formula X ai or X ya, which is not very commonly seen in non-poetic Manchu texts. I have been interpreting it as a rhetorical question, as in In Praise of Fire where I translated cing cing serengge gidabure ai as “When it is blazing, what can stamp it out?” Given that that Jakdan uses this formula as a translation for “there is not” (無), perhaps we could read the line from Fire above as “Nothing can stamp it out when it is blazing.”

三昧 -> ilan unenggi. The Chinese term 三昧 originates as a phonetic representation of the Sanskrit term samādhi, referring to a set of meditative states of mind. Jakdan could have used a literal translation like samadi, but instead he chose a play on words and gave us ilan unenggi, “the Three Truths.”

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Weiqi of Political Advancement, in Seven-Syllable Couplets

The anonymous Manchu poet(s) behind fascicle 14 of Staatsbibliothek 34981 liked weiqi enough to write two poems about it.

This second poem opens with a pair of officials, superior and subordinate, and a sheet of paper listing names and positions. Through a double entendre, the power dynamic between the two officials is compared to the power differential between two players in the end-game of weiqi, where one has attained a position of advantage over the other.

The sheet of paper between them is the board. Like weiqi, the correct move may not be obvious, and to win at the game you must be ruthless in your calculations. Your wealth and connections count for more than your aspirations.

The previous short poem, Weiqi, used a technical term that I could not translate, afari tongko. This longer poem, in seven-syllable couplets with an AN-rhyme, gives us more weiqi vocabulary to throw around the next time we’re looking across the board at a Manchu opponent.

Here are some of those terms, some of which are calques of Chinese terms, and others of which are borrowed from other sports and games popular with the Manchus.

buya ambakan hafan. The Chinese terms 大官 and 小官 refer to the apparent numerical advantage or disadvantage of each player going into the end-game.

gala. This apparently means “a move,” a calque of Chinese 手, which has this meaning in the context of weiqi.

lala. According to Norman one of the meanings of lala is “the last throw in gacuha.” In this context it could mean the last play of the game (收後) or perhaps it refers to playing white, which moves after black at the opening of the game.

mayan. Norman has mayan baha, “obtained a kill, won at dice, won at gambling,” as well as mayan, “blood from a wounded animal; good fortune.” Presumably in weiqi this refers to the capture of pieces or territory with a move.

teisulen. Norman has “correspondence, encounter.” From the sense of “encounter” I think this could have a meaning in weiqi of “connections” (Chinese 接).

ton, tolombi. The ordinary meaning of ton is “number” and tolombi is “to count.” In this context, these probably mean “score” and “keep score.” Perhaps this same ton morpheme lies behind the name tonio for weiqi itself, and perhaps also behind tongki, below.

tongki. The ordinary meaning is a “dot,” and in this case I think it refers to a point in the game.


hafan wesire nirugan-i amcara
tonio be irgebuhengge,
    Verses on Pursuing Political Advancement
as a game of Weiqi
Staatsbibliothek 14.18 (View Online)
buya ambakan hafan,    A lowly official and a superior,
emu afaha hoošan,    and a sheet of paper,
oron ubu-i gebu,    the names of posts and responsibilities,
bithe cooha-i tušan,

    official and civilian posts.

5 emke emken-i teku,    Seat after seat,
jergi ilhi-i tangkan,    a succession of ranks,
arahangge ne en jen,    what was been written is now finished,
faidahangge hon giyan fiyan,    what was lined up is very orderly,
toloho de kemun bi,    there was a system to the counting,
10

siberefi yaka an,

    it was massaged in some orderly way.

erdemungge jingkini,    The virtuous are upright,
doosidara miosihon,    the covetous are corrupt.
baita faššan ilgabun,    To judge affairs and effort,
muten gunggei faksalan,    to discern ability and merit,
15

yasa tuwahai hūi kimcin,

    is to examine with eyes wide open.

gala daci ai boljon,    What inherent certainty is there in a move?
wasimbime wesike,    In rising, you fell,
jabšacibe ufaran,    though you succeeded, it was a mistake.
wala seci dele ten,    The lower position may better than the high one,
20

lala bime bonggo ton,

    the last to play may have the foremost score.

forgošoro kūbulin,    An turn of fortune,
bekterere mongniohon,    a gasp of terror,
tongki erin ai kemun,    what sense is there to points and time?
gūnin seolen bai bodon,

    The only thought and consideration is calculation.

25 sain arga baitakū,    A good plan is useless,
butui nashūn toktohon,    certainty lies in hidden opportunities.
hojo: ulin teisulen,    Beautiful are wealth and connections,
baliyan: niyalmai cihalan,    pitiful are people’s aspirations.
ici tamin yenden jing,    With all the hairs aligned, ascent is continuous
30

ini cisui erin giyan,

    time and reason operate of their own accord.

ere acun de cacun,    This one gets mixed up,
tere huwekiyen ci mayan,    that one gets a lucky kill.
tere eici ai turgun,    Now this one wonders why,
ere geli ya haran,    then that one again wonders why.
35 icanggangge we eden,    Who lacks something interesting?
icakūngge ya kiyangkiyan,    How is there excellence in being boring?
gaibuhangge munahūn,    The loser is morose,
eterengge gicihiyan,    the winner gloats.

hafu tuwaha sehede,
   
When one has seen through it,
40jakai forgon niyalmai fon,    the season of things, the age of man,
dubentele efin kai,    in the end it is just a game.
nambuha de ai amtan,    What delight is there in happenstance?
jalan baita jing uttu,    The affairs of the world are ever thus,
baibi efire mudan.    a simple playing tune.

Translation Difficulties

gicihiyan, this word is not in my dictionaries, but from context this is how the winner of a game feels, in contrast with the user’s feeling of moroseness. My choice of the translation “gloat” is influenced by the similarity of this word to gicuhe, “disgraceful,” as well as gincihiyan, “shining.”

Monday, November 6, 2017

A Chrysanthemum at the End, to the tune of the Black-Naped Oriole

I had originally intended to post another weiqi poem, but I got bogged down in the details, so it will have to wait till later. In the meantime, keeping with the autumnal theme, here is another Black-Naped Oriole poem about a chrysanthemum at the end of the season.

The last line is a reference to the one of the Chinese names for chrysanthemum, 陶菊 táo jú, whose first character is the same as the surname Táo. In my translation I have taken the subject to be singular, though it could have been plural, and I have read the last line to mean that the chrysanthemum is a member of the Táo family, because I think this reading works well as an homage to an elderly person of the surname Táo.


dubesilehe bojiri [殘菊] ilha    A Chrysanthemum at the End
Staatsbibliothek 14.9 (View Online)
geren ududu,    Although numerous are
cak sehei,    the sudden
edun su,    gusts and whirlwinds,
ilha tuhenjirakū,    the flower will not fall.
5 banin wen gulu,    Simple in appearance,
dubei se guigu,    it is mighty in its old age,
salgabuha bekitu,    ordained by fate to be strong.
da uju,    Root and head
tuwakiyan fili —    it is resolute in watchfulness —
10too [] halai gucu.    our friend from the Táo family.


Translation Difficulties

geren ududu, the word ududu, “several, many” is a reduplication of udu, “several.” In this case I feel it is intended to simultaneously evoke the other meaning of udu, “although.”

too halai gucu, this is ambiguous, and we could read it as meaning that the chrysanthemum is a friend of the Táo family, or that the chrysanthemum is a friend of ours who is a member of the Táo family. Furthermore, nothing in the poem says we are talking about a single chrysanthemum instead of many of them. My reading reflects my specific interpretation of this poem as an homage to an elderly person.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Weiqi, to the tune of The Black-Naped Oriole

Here is another poem from Staatsbibliothek 34981 set to the tune of the Black-Naped Oriole. The theme is the game of weiqi, often better-known in English by its Japanese name, go. The Manchu name is tonio, and according to common practice the poem rhymes with the theme, so this poem has an E-rhyme, meaning that all rhyming words end in either -e or -o.

I have not been able to translate one line, afari tongko, which I suspect is a special term (or pair of terms) from the game of weiqi. You might think that Manchu terminology for weiqi would be borrowed from Chinese, but like the word tonio itself, the origin of these terms is difficult to place. Who taught the Manchus to play weiqi, anyway?

tonio [碁]    Weiqi
tonio aniya fe,    Weiqi is ancient of years,
yoo han ci,    passed down
werihe,    from Emperor Yao.
yacin šanyan e a juwe,    The pairs, black and white, yin and yang,
5afari tongko,    afari and tongko,
bodogon noho,    are saturated with calculation.
tuwakiyarangge oyonggo,    Observation is critical,
ya dele,    and what more than that?
gūnin narhūn —    A mind that is fine —
10funiyehei gese.    like a hair.

Translation Difficulties

afari tongko, I could not find either of these words in my dictionaries. Given the preceding line they might be a contrasting pair, but there is no guarantee of that. One possibility is that afari might come from afa-, “to fight,” and so this might mean “attacker and defender” or “offense and defense.” On the other hand, tongko could be a form of tonikū, “weiqi board,” in which case the pair might mean “stones and board.” But the traditions of weiqi are also rich in specialized terms, making it difficult to guess what might be meant here.

Monday, October 30, 2017

In Praise of Fire

In the surviving body of Classical Manchu poetry, Jakdan was the master of the symmetrical couplet poem. This is a poem built of couplets where the primary rule of meter is that the two lines of a couplet must have the same number of syllables as each other, but may have a different number of syllables from other lines in the poem. (I used to think that the term fujurun applied exclusively to this type of poem, but now I think the evidence for that is quite weak.)

The poem In Praise of Fire has been previously translated in Bosson and Toh (2006). My translation below explores a few ideas that I have about the poem. Among these is the idea that Jakdan was playing with multiple meanings of the words tuwa and ya in the first three lines.

The word tuwa may be the imperative “look!” or the noun “fire.” Similarly, the word ya can mean “which” or “what,” but can also be an exclamation. There is no textual way of knowing whether Jakdan meant to play on these multiple meanings, but I wouldn’t put it past him.

Another possible instance of word-play is in the line weniyere wembure aisi. In the previous lines Jakdan has touched on the relationship between Fire and the elements Earth, Wood and Water, but he has conspicuously left out Metal, aisin. This line, which refers to melting and refining could be his indirect reference to that fifth element, with the word aisi, “aid” being a near-homophone to aisin, “metal.”

I have not been able to determine what places are referred to by Chibi Mountain and Efang Palace, but I hope to find that the former is a volcano and the latter was destroyed by fire.

tuwa i maktacun    In Praise of Fire
tuwa tuwa tuwa,    Look at Fire! Look!
ya ya ya,

    What is it? Oh, what?

na i juwe,    Paired with Earth,
šun i da,

    and the foundation of the Sun.

5mooi tucin,    Arising by means of Wood,
mukei bata,

    and enemy of Water.

e i boo,    The house of yin,
a i hūwa,

    and the garden of yang.

dolo butu,    Dark within,
10

oilo fiyangga,

    and brilliant without.

weniyere wembure aisi,    Helpful for refining and melting,
bujure boolara tusa,

    and advantageous for boiling and roasting.

fulhureci umesi heni,    It takes only a little to germinate it,
badarakai mujakū amba,

    but when it grows it is truly great.

15cing cing serengge gidabure ai,    When blazing, what can stamp it out?
hūr hūr serengge mukiyebuci ja,

    Yet when flaming it is easy to douse.

aššan eldehen jijuhan,    The trigram of movement and light,
fulgiyan fulahūn aniyangga,

    and the “red” and “reddish” heavenly stems.

abka de bici,
    akjan nioron usiha i acabun,
    When in the heavens,
    its effect is thunder, rainbows and stars,
20


niyalma de bici
    sukdun jili girucun i harangga,

    and in people
    it is the cause of zeal, anger and shame.

cy bi alin tede sanggū,    Mount Chibi is gratified therein,
o fang gurung ede waliya,

    the Efang palace is dismayed herein.

tuwa ya adada.    What, indeed, is fire!

Translation Difficulties

adada, Norman has “Brrr–an exclamation used when it is very cold,” and also adada ebebe, “1. an exclamation of surprise 2. clicking the tongue in amazement.” In this context I think this is intended to convey wonder, but I’m not sure how to render it in English. Traditional exclamations like “lo!” seem awkward and stuffy, while more modern exclamations like “wow!” seem out of place. I handled this by a combination of the somewhat stuffy “indeed” and the enthusiastic exclamation mark!

gidabu- vs. mukiyebu-, Jakdan says of a blazing fire that it is difficult to gidabu- but easy to mukiyebu-. I had some trouble sorting out the distinction he was trying to make, but it seems that mukiye- could be etymologically connected with muke, “water” and refer to the extinguishing of fire by water, while gidabu- could refer to the more literal stamping out of fire.

sukdun, the core meaning is “breath” which does, of course, exist in human bodies. But since it was coordinated with jili and girucun—“anger” and “shame”—I felt it should refer to a powerful emotion. Treating it as within the same semantic domain as 氣, I decided to read it as “zeal.”

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Shadow Play, to the tune of Matching Jade Bracelet / Prelude to Clear River

In Staatsbibliothek 14 there are eight poems set to a tune called 对玉環帶清江引. This is a Chinese  tune popularized by a late Yuan poet named Tāng Shùnmín (湯舜民), and also the title of a work set to the same tune by a Ming poet named Táng Bóhǔ (唐伯虎). All lines rhyme, and the metrical scheme is 4,5,4,5,5,5,4,5,4,5,7,5,5,5,7. In addition to meeting the requirements of meter and rhyme, the author of Shadow Play also made extensive use of alliteration in the first four lines.

Of the eight Staatsbibliothek poems set to this tune, five have titles ending in the word dengjan, “lantern,” such as giogiyan bethe dengjan, “Bound Foot Lantern.” One possible explanation for this is that these are a kind of riddle meant to be written on a lantern (燈謎) in the Spring Lantern Festival.

The poem below doesn’t have the word dengjan in the title, but it looks like a riddle anyway. The last three lines seem like an admonition to the reader who figures it out to not reveal the answer.

helmešere jucun [影戯]    Shadow Play
tekte takta,    flickering and guttering,
talihūn tuwara,    uncertain to the eye,
buru bara,    dim and hazy,
buruhun baita,    shadowy events.
5oilo hoošan fa,    A paper pane on the outside,
dolo dengjan tuwa,    a lantern flame within,
goci tata,    restless and unsettled,
jucun durungga,    in the form of a play,
ulu wala,    unclear and muddled,
10mudan urkingga,    the sound is noisy.
elden gaire dabala,    It is merely catching the light,
fosorongge gūwa,    something different from shining.
jooci joocina,    If you’re going to mention it, then mention it,
aiseme kūwasa,    but why boast?
15neifi tuwaci ai baliya.    If you open it and look, what a pity.

Translation difficulties

tekte takta, I was not able to find this term in any of my dictionaries. From context I take it to refer to the way candle light flickers.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Fallen Leaves, to the tune of The Black-Naped Oriole

Thirteen of the poems in Staatsbibliothek 34981 are set to a tune called The Black-Naped Oriole (黃鶯兒). There is a Chinese  tune by the same name, but it is different in structure from the Manchu version, which is much shorter and allows for fewer words per line.

Chinese Black-Naped Oriole

        Manchu Black-Naped Oriole

(First Stanza)        (All Stanzas)
    平平平仄平平仄 (Rhyme)            5 syllables (Rhyme)
    仄仄平平            3 syllables
    平仄平平            3 syllables (Rhyme)
    平平平平            7 syllables (Rhyme)
    仄平平仄 (Rhyme)            5 syllables (Rhyme)
    平仄仄仄平平            5 syllables (Rhyme)
    仄仄平平仄 (Rhyme)            7 syllables (Rhyme)
    仄平平仄平平            3 syllables (Rhyme)
    仄仄平平平仄平仄 (Rhyme)            4 syllables
            caesura
(Second Stanza)            5 syllables (Rhyme)
    平仄 (Rhyme)
    仄仄仄平平
    仄仄平平仄 (Rhyme)
    仄平平仄
    仄仄平平
    平平仄平平仄 (Rhyme)
    平仄仄仄平平
    仄仄平平仄 (Rhyme)
    仄仄仄仄平平
    平仄平平仄 (Rhyme)

The caesura in the Manchu version stands before the last line of the poem, and is marked in the Staatsbibliothek manuscript by either a small dot (instead of a circle) or a long line, as in the example to the right. The last line of this type of poem usually carries a kind of surprise or punch-line that clarifies an image at the end.

The Manchu Black-Naped Oriole challenges the poet with extremely short lines, and when combined with an N-rhyme it must have been very difficult to achieve. Below I have shared another take on autumn leaves, composed according to this strict form.

The reference to the Sunggari river places this poem in the far Northeast, but it is difficult to imagine it being crossed by a fallen tree anywhere except in its upper reaches in the Long White Mountains. Perhaps the poet intends to invoke the memory of this legendary Manchu homeland, or perhaps it is intended to be reminiscent of one of the Odes of Wei, which asks: “Who says the river is broad? A reed crosses it.” (誰謂河廣,一葦杭之, we bira be onco sembi? ulgū-i dombi).


sigaha abdaha

    Fallen Leaves

aimaka dondon,    Seeming like butterflies,
jing tui tui,    always overlapping,
hūi son son,    and freely scattered,
pita piti-i yangšan,    with a drip-dripping sound.
moo ci gorokon,    Farther from the trees
non de hancikan,    and nearer to you, little sister,
hamirakū ya toron,    I am unable to reach. Alas, the way
mukei on,    is a stretch of water
emgi kamni –    with a narrow passage –
sunggari tuhan.    a tree fallen over the Sunggari.

Translation Difficulties:

Many of my difficulties arose from how I understood the first line. I visualized leaves in the air looking like butterflies in flight, but the title of the poem in fact refers to leaves that have already fallen (sigaha), and once I realized that it was easier to make sense of the rest.

tui tui, Norman: “from mouth to mouth; from hand to hand.” I initially thought that tui tui must mean something like “fluttering,” but after standing in the rain looking at fallen leaves I decided it must refer to the way that fallen leaves overlap each other on the ground.

pita piti, Norman has pata piti, “the sound of fruit falling from a tree.” Initially I thought this must somehow refer to the sound of leaves falling, but later decided it must refer to the sound of drops falling on wet leaves, either dripping from the branches of the trees or of rain.

non, “little sister”. Though there is no explicit reason to read this as a direct address to the intended recipient of the poem, I decided to treat it as an analog of agu, which can be used in that way.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Elegy for Monggojeje

The 20th of October this year marks the beginning of the ninth lunar month according to the traditional calendar. It was in the ninth lunar month, 416 years ago, that Nurhaci’s young wife Monggojeje died. The following passage from the Manju-i yargiyan kooli tells of her death, and its effect on Nurhaci.

In describing Monggojeje the text departs from the usual narrative style of the Yargiyan kooli and adopts instead a poetic form with vivid imagery, ragged short lines, and a kind of rhyme involving the repeated use of verbs ending in -kū. I believe this may be the oldest surviving Manchu poem, though it has probably suffered at the hands of a few editors between the time that it was originally composed and when it was printed in its final version.

The prose section following the poem is raw and brutal. Nurhaci has Monggojeje’s four handmaidens “follow her” in death, and over seven days he sacrifices a hundred horses and a hundred cattle. He wages war on Yehe because they refused to allow Moggojeje’s mother to visit her when she was sick, captures two walled towns and seven villages, and brings back two thousand captives.

tere aniya bolori uyun biya de manju gurun i taidzu sure beilei dulimbai amba fujin nimeme urihe.

In the ninth month of that year, the middle principal wife of the Wise Prince Taizu became sick and died.


    fujin-i hala nara    The lady’s clan was Nara,
    gebu monggojeje    Her name was Monggojeje,
    yehei gurun-i yangginu beilei sargan jui,    The daughter of Prince Yangginu of Yehe,
    juwan duin se de,    when she was fourteen
    taizu sure beile de holboho,    she married the Wise Prince Taizu.
    banjin fiyan saikan    Lovely in appearance,
    jaluka biyai adali hojo bime,    beautiful like the full moon,
    banin mujilen onco urgun,    generous of heart and happy,
    ujen ginggun    respectful of what is important 
    sure mergen gisun dahasu,    obedient to wise words,
    saišaha seme balai urgunjerakū    not vainly pleased by praise.
    ehe gisun be donjiha seme,    On hearing slander
    da banin i urgun i fiyan be gūwaliyandarakū,    her happy countenance was undisturbed. 
    angga ci ehe gisun tucirakū.    wicked words never left her mouth,
    haldaba saišabukū be yebelerakū.    displeased with flattery and admiration,
    acuhiyan koimali be saišarakū,    she never praised sycophancy and deceit,
    hetu weile, facuhūn gisun be donjirakū.    she never listened to gossip and insubordinate talk,
    mujilen be wacihiyame taidzu sure beilei gūnin de acabume.     she completely harmonized her mind with the Wise Prince Taizu’s thoughts,
    daci dubentele sain be akūmbufi.    from beginning to end she strove to do good,
    ufaraha endebuhe ba akū.    she had neither fault nor flaw.

taidzu sure beile haji fujin ofi delheme yadame fujin i takūraha duin sain hehe be dahabuha.

Because the beloved lady had passed away, the Wise Prince Taizu had the four good women who were employed by the lady follow her.

morin tanggū ihan tanggū wame nadan waliyaha.

He made seven sacrifices, killing one hundred horses and one hundred cattle.

taidzu sure beile emu biya funceme arki nure omirakū. yali jeterakū. inenggi dobori akū songgome.

For more than a month, the Wise Prince Taizu drank neither liquor nor wine, ate no meat, and wept day and night.

giran be hūwai dolo sindafi sinagalame ilan aniya oho manggi. giran be hūwa ci tucibufi niyaman alin gebungge munggan de eifu be sindaha.

He placed her body in the courtyard, and after three years of mourning, had her body taken out of the courtyard and placed in the mausoleum called Heart Mountain.

tereci taidzu sure beile haji fujin, eme be acaki seci unggihe akū de korsofi niowanggiyan muduri aniya, aniya biyai ice jakūn i inenggi, yehe be dailame cooha jurafi, juwan emu de, yehei jang, akiran gebungge juwe hoton be afame gaifi, tere goloi nadan gašan be gaiha.

The Wise Prince Taizu was angry that they had not sent the beloved lady’s mother to see her when she asked, and so on the eighth day of the first month of the Green Dragon Year he set out with an army to wage war on Yehe. On the eleventh day they attacked and captured the cities of Yehe called Jang and Akiran, and seized the seven villages of that district.

juwe minggan olji be bahafi cooha bederehe.
They took two thousand captives, and the army returned.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Poems about feelings

My first impression of the Verses on Red Leaves is that it is too sentimental for my taste. But if I look past my own personal preferences and ask why this poem exists and what it is trying to say, I find that it has an interesting kind of depth. It is not really about autumn leaves, but about the feeling of seeing autumn leaves.

Like the Lament on the State of the Times, this poem is written in a way that is completely divorced from any particular era, place and person. We don't know where it is that red leaves are falling, or what kind of trees they are falling from, and we don't know who sees them. All we know, by the end of the poem, is how the narrator felt. Each couplet expresses some aspect of that feeling in a semi-independent way.

The first two couplets introduce the theme. Like many introductory couplets, both lines of the first couplet rhyme, and the rhyme of the poem reflects the theme (fulgiyan, “red”, is an an-rhyme). The mongniohon of the second line means “gasping for breath” (according to Norman) and describes the narrator’s physiological response to the scene.

Part of the experience of surprise is confusion, which begins with the narrator not being able to identify the source of the brilliant color. In lines 5-12, the narrator walks in slow-motion through a pantomime of confusion, mis-identifying the brilliance as lighting, rainbows, a forest fire, or morning clouds illuminated by the sun.

At line 13 the confusion is resolved, the narrator looks closely, and understands that the source of these brilliant colors is a pink autumn wood. From the tension of surprise we move to a more relaxed enjoyment of the experience. The colors are compared to peaches and apricots, and even the biting frost is compared to the flush of wine.

In the final couplet, the narrator departs the scene in a carriage, which he hopes will bring him to a halt in the springtime.

One of the interesting features of the poem is that the couplets can really stand on their own as self-contained expressions of feeling. This could make the poem ripe for allusion, because you could pull out a single couplet and re-use it somewhere else. It will be interesting to see how often one Manchu poem alludes to another in this way.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Verses on Red Leaves

The poems in the 14th fascicle of Staatsbibliothek 34981 often focus on a single concrete theme, like a still life painting, and reveal little or nothing about the poet’s inner mind except the emotional response to the scene. With autumn setting in, I thought I would share Verses on Red Leaves. Like all of the Staatsbibliothek poems, no author is named. This is a seven-syllable couplet poem with an -an rhyme.

I imagine the setting to be a clear, crisp autumn day. The poet, looking out from his carriage, sees the wooded slopes and is astonished by the brilliance of the fall colors.



fulgiyan abdaha be irgebuhengge     A Composition on Red Leaves
Staatsbibliothek 14.5 (View Online)
jing sigara erin fon,The season of the ever falling leaves,
alin bira mongniohon.

mountains and rivers are breathtaking.

gūnihakū gūwaliyapi,They have unexpectedly transformed
elemangga gincihiyan.

to become all the more bright.

5umai agahakūbi,It has not rained at all,
aide kejine talkiyan.

so how is there so much lightning?

maka tulhušehenio,Could it really be cloudy?
ainci gocika nioron.

It seems rainbows have appeared.

dekjin tuwa ai tayahao,Has a forest fire broken out?
10

ainu akū ai šanggiyan.

Why is there no smoke?

tugi šun de fosokoo,Are the clouds lit by the sun?
abai daruhai jaksan.

How is it like a constant morning sky?

cincilame tuwaha de,If you look closely
dule jamu moo bujan.

it is really a pink wood.

15dubei bolori fonde,At the end of autumn
tuwabun nememe saikan.

the scene is even more beautiful.

toro guilege waka,It is neither peach nor apricot
encu hacin nilgiyan.

but another kind of glow.

abka dembei faksi,Nature is an artisan of high degree
20

boco soningga hihan.

its colors are precious and rare.

gecen eniken dame,The frost has only begun to bite,
bahabuha nurei fiyan.

like the drunken flush of wine.

yala tuwamehanggai ten,So exceedingly lovely,
beikuwen erin sabugan.

the experience of the cool season.

25aga silenggi aibi,How can the rain and the dew
ini cisui gincihiyan.

shine of their own accord?

sejen ilinjicina,Let the carriage come to a stop,
ilha sarašara ton.at the flower-strolling half-month.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Jakdan’s predecessors

Despite the glowing praise that Jakdan receives in the preface for being an expert translator of poetry, he wasn't the translator of the first poem in his collection—or at least he wasn't the only translator, or the first.

The Kangxi emperor apparently produced two works (or two versions of a single work) titled A Free and Unfettered Poem (逍遙詞), of which Jakdan chose the second version as the opening poem for his collection. Despite the carefree feel of the original title, Jakdan calls his version A Lament on the World (Ma. jalan be nasara uculen, Ch. 嘆世詞). In fact, I think some of the wording may have been changed to make it more mournful, but that will have to wait for another blog post.

I say that Jakdan’s translation of this poem is not completely original because much the same Manchu text can also be found, without a Chinese parallel text, in a volume at the Bibliothèque nationale de france. At the end of the BNF poem there is a date of Kangxi 60 (1721), which was probably 60 years before Jakdan was born. Of course that may be a date associated with the original poem and not of the translation, but I believe most of the Manchu materials at the BNF were gathered during the Jesuit missions, which ended with the expulsion of the Jesuits in the mid-18th century. Even if one discounts the date at the end of the poem, it would be quite a stretch to date this text to any time in Jakdan's lifetime.

The most reasonable explanation, I think, is that Jakdan included this earlier translation because he considered it an excellent work, and wanted to begin by paying homage to a predecessor, or to the tradition of poetic translation itself. Perhaps he started with a slightly different version of the text, and maybe he made some minor changes that he saw as improvements, but overall he left much of it alone.

An interesting feature of this poem is that it “works” in both Manchu and Chinese. As a Chinese poem it has an -ang rhyme, and as a Manchu poem it has an -a rhyme. In fact, I have seen nothing textual to say whether the poem was originally composed in Chinese or Manchu, or whether it was composed in both languages at the same time (as was probably done for some other imperial poems.)

Here are the Manchu versions:

BNF

Jakdan Manchu

han-i araha emu meyen-i uculen

jalan be nasara uculen

aya,ai,
bithei urse,bithei urse,
usin-i haha,usin-i haha,
weilere faksi,weilere faksi,
hūdai niyalma,hūdai niyalma,
udu,
inenggidari kata fata,inenggidari kata fata,
niyalma banjifi, niyalma banjifi
untuhusaka,untuhusaka,
erebe gaisuerebe gaju 
terebe gama,terebe gama,
hendure balame,hendure balama
wesihun fusihūn teisu bi,wesihun fusihūn teisu bi,
jabšara ufararangge,jabšara ufararangge
bodoro mangga,bodoro mangga,
gin gu-i yafan,ai gin gu yafan
bolori edun,bolori edun,
u giyang ni bira,u giyang ula
dobori biya,dobori biya,
o fang gurung fulahūn,o fang gurung fulahūn,
tung ciyo kara aba,tung ciyo kara aba,
dule emgeri haṇ dan-i gese tolgišaha,dule emgeri haṇ dan-i gese tolgišaha,
yargiyan-i nasacuka,
yargiyan-i usacuka,
erebe saci,
abka be sebjeleme,damu abka de sebjeleme
hesebun be sacina,hesebun be sacina,
teisu be dahame,teisu be dahame
an be tuwakiya,an be tuwakiya,
nenehe wang,nenehe han
amaga wang serebe ai gana,amaha han sere ai tusa,
yendehe gurun,yendehe gurun
gukuhe gurun serebe, ai gana,gukuhe gurun sere ai ganaha,
bucere hanci uksalara de mangga,bucere hamici ukcara de mangga,
julgeci baturu haha siran siran-i ufaraha,julgeci ebsi baturu kiyangkiyan sa siran siran-i ufaraha,
muduri taktu,
garudai-i leose serebe jocina,
aisi jugūn,
gebu tangka serebe yakacina,
derengge saikan iletu ilgai dele,yala derengge saikan ilhai dele 
silenggi,silenggi,
bayan wesihun orhoi dubei gecen dabala,bayan wesihun orhoi dubei gecen secina,
jalan-i baita uttu oho be saci,jalan-i baita be tuwaci gemu uttu be dahame,
yendere gukure be aiseme mujilen de dara,yendere gukure be aiseme mujilen de dara,

muduringga taktu

garudai asari sere be jocina,

aisi-i jugūn

gebu-i tangka sere be naka,
yargiyan-i nisicuka-i usacuka,

jabduha ucuri ekisaka tefi,
alin-i dalba,
bigan tala,
aba saha,
sula tehe de,
irgebun irgebume,irgebun nure-i emgi sebjeleme bicina,
nure omime,
gūnin-i cihai emgeri gingsifi bedereci,emgeri gingsici, bedererengge
ai tookan,ai tookan,
emgeri uculefi,emgeri uculeci,
šanyan muke buru bara,mederi muke buru bara,

edun biya be irgebume,

buyecuke sur sere be baihana,
hacingga ilha ilaci,hacingga ilha ilaci,
alha bulha geren gasha guwendeci,alha bulha, geren gasha guwendeci,
jiji jaja,jiji jaja,

alin-i dalba,

muke-i dalba,

bigan tala

aba saha,
ere nergin de absi saišacuka,ere nergin absi saišacuka,
taka emu coman nure be wacihiya,taka emu coman nure be wacihiya,
yasa habtašara sidende,yasa habtašara sidende
juwe erei šulu herecun akū de šaraka.juwe erei šulu herecun akū šaraka.

elhe taifin-i ninjuci aniya


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Jakdan's Preface

The following is a rough translation of the preface to Jakdan's eight-fascicle work of translations and original compositions. I'm pretty sure I've gotten the general gist, but I will probably come back to it and fiddle with the details over the next week.

I suppose it may have been written by Haiyu, but it isn't clear.

irgebun uculen be ubaliyambuha bithei šutucin.

Preface to the book of translations of poetry and songs


sio feng ja halangga agu serengge, sede oho bime tacire de amuran, gala ci bithe hokoburakū, yala amgacibe getecibe manju bithe debi, omirelame jeterelame ubaliyambure babe gūnirengge secina.

The gentleman Xiufeng (秀峰) of the Ja (扎) clan, being of a certain age and loving to learn, whether asleep or awake he is at his Manchu books, a book never leaving his hands. I would say he is thinking about points of translation even while he is drinking and eating.

tere inenggi de agu-i ubaliyambuha irgebun uculen ucun gargangga ucun be gajifi fusihūn minde tuwabuha bime, geli šutucin arakini serede, fusihūn bi ini gūnin be jendu gaime, fisembume hendume ubaliyambumbi serengge, terei nikan hergen-i gūnin be sibkifi, manju gisun-i ubaliyamburengge kai.

One day he brought the poetry and songs that he had translated and allowed me to see them, and when he said that someone should write a preface to it, I understood his unspoken thought, and obliquely said, "Translation means examining the meanings of the Chinese characters and rendering that into the Manchu language.



nikan hergen be sibkiha, manju gisun-i ubaliyambume jabduha manggi, udu gisun ubaliyambure mudan acabure, sijirhūn ubaliyambure forgošome ubaliyambure lakcabure sirabure nemebure meiterei adali akū ba bicibe, unenggi anggai mudan fuhali yargiyan ome, gisun-i ici yala acaname muteci, tuwarala urse, esi šungkengge ocibe arsaringge ocibe, gemu ferguwebuci ome ofi, faitan be tuwara adali getuken, falanggū be jorire gese iletu ojorakūngge akū ombi

After you examined the Chinese characters and rendered them into the Manchu language, even though there may have been places where it did not seem possible to translate the words, to match the rhyme, to render the straightforward as well as the convoluted, to expand on what is terse and to reduce what is verbose, nonetheless you have created truly natural rhymes, and you have indeed been able to fit them correctly to the words, such that all who see them, whether they be people of refinement or ordinary folks, they might all wonder at it. Everything is as clear as looking at an eyebrow, as plain as pointing at the palm of the hand.


aika irgebun uculen ucun gargangga ucun be ubaliyamburengge oci, šu fiyelen be ubaliyambure ci uthai cingkai encu ohobi.

If this is what it means to translate verse, poetry, songs and lyrics, then it is something utterly different from the translation of essays.

aici šu fiyelen oci, golmin foholon-i gisun bimbime, mudan uran-i hergen baitalarakū.

With regard to the translation of essays, lines may be long or short, and one doesn't make use of rhymes and verses.

ubaliyambure de manggašarakū oci tetendere, fuhašahai gūninjara be baibure aibi.

In the case that there are difficulties with translation, one can just think it over carefully, can't one?


terei irgebun uculen-i jergi duin hacin oci, hergen-i ton-i memerebumbime, geli urangga-i wajima-i kemnebumbi.

[But] these four types of things, verse, poetry, songs and lyrics, one must be stubborn about the number of syllables, and parsimonious with the ends of verses.

ere yargiyan-i mangga ningge kai.

This is what is really difficult.
jaide oci banjibure niyalma, gūnin be gisun ci tulgiyen baktambuci tetendere, ubaliyambure niyalma, gisun-i dorgide mujilen dursukileme muterakū.

And then, while the original author can put up with the meaning that is outside of the words, the translator cannot tamper with the ideas that are within them.


urunakū fudarame forgošofi mudan acanara, kemuni jurcenjeme hiyaganjame gisun banjinabure ohode, faksikan-i gūnin teni bultahūn-i ofi, banjibure niyalmai gūnin be buruburakū ojoro be dahame, ere ele murin tarin-i acanaci mangga ningge.

It is all the more difficult to accommodate awkward cases, such as when the rhyme has been turned upside down and inside out, when contradictory and disorderly language has been used, or when the original author's intent has been obscured because only his witty ideas have come to the fore.


aikabade manju gisun-i kooli kemun waka seme wakašaci, toktofi amba deribun ci jurcehe da ci aliha.

If one disparages the Manchu language, saying it has neither rule nor measure, then certainly one undertakes the great beginning from a contradictory foundation.

ganio be algimbuha yobo be ilibuhangge be, ulebuci ojorakū seme hendumbidere.

I would say that it should not project strangeness and provoke humor.

tuttu seme tere duin hacin oci, sunjata nadata hergen bicibe, minggan tumen gūnin baktakabi.

In which case, as for those four types of things, if they are five or seven syllables each, then they can encompass ten million ideas.

aika fe durun-i songkoi memereme ubaliyambuci, terei muru urunakū ubaliyambume tucibuhengge moco laju, hergen gisun sijihūn memereku ofi, oilorgingge gaifi yargiyangga be waliyahabi seme basuburakū oci, toktofi gisun nemebufi gūnin be dalibuhabi seme deribumbime, irgebure jorin ci ambula calabure de isinambi.

If one translates slavishly according to the old forms, then what one produces from translating their shapes will certainly be awkward and clumsy. Because the syllables and words will be stiff and inflexible, if people don't mock you for grasping the surface meaning and missing the deeper truth, then they will certainly start to say you have increased the words and obscured the meaning, and you will have greatly departed from the aims of poetry.


tuttu urunakū hergen-i oilo be dulemšeme dorgideri fuhašame, gisun-i giyangna be waliyafi bakcilame ubaliyambume memere waka hokotai waka.

Thus to take no care for the surface meaning of the words and be fastidious about the inner meanings, to discard the commentary and translate in opposition to it, is neither slavish nor divergent.

fetereku akū gakarashūn akū ome, fulu nonggire ba akū bime, lak sere ferguwecuke eṇ jeṇ-i, banjibure niyalma-i anggai ici gisun-i mudan be, hoošan-i deleri iletusaka, hūlaci fatar sere de isibure ohode, amala teni ganio be algimbuhakū bime esi ganio ombi. yobo be ilibuhakū bime esi yobo ombime, deribun da ci umai jurcehekū nikai seme ferguwembikai sehebe arafi, sio feng siyan šeng de alibufi tuwabuhade, siyan šeng fuhali uru sehe turgunde, erebe šutucin araha.

Being neither overly critical nor overly detached, without any case of excess, with marvelous and exact completeness, you take the correct rhythm of the original authors' words and make it clear on paper. When one reads it, if one does so diligently, then what is strange about it is that it does not project strangeness, and what is amusing is that it does not become a joke. One wonders at the fact that it has not deviated from its fundamental origin." I wrote this down, and when I presented it to Mr. Xiufeng, the gentleman said it seemed to be correct, so I made it into this preface.



julge te-i gebungge saisai uculen ucun be sonjofi ubaliyambuha bithe.

A book of translations of selected poetry and songs of famous intellectuals from ancient times to the present.

gulu fulgiyan-i manju gūsai ubaliyambure dosikasi jakdan ubaliyambuha.

Translated by Jakdan, metropolitan graduate translator, of the plain red Manchu banner.

gulu fulgiyan-i manju gūsai ubaliyambure tukiyesi hainioi acabuha.

Collated by Haiyu (海玉), provincial graduate translator, of the plain red Manchu banner.

Poetic departures

Manchu grammar is usually fairly structured and predictable. In poetry, many departures from the usual rules appear to be permissible.

In my last post I translated an anonymous Lament on the State of the Times, and here I want to look at two of the cases of poetic usage I had to deal with.


Missing genitive marker


It is not normally permissible to drop the genitive marker in Manchu, except under specific circumstances. In Old Manchu, for example, it was permissible to drop the genitive marker -i after words ending in -i, but not in other cases.

In the Lament, there are at least three clear cases where the genitive appears to have been dropped after a word ending in -n, and some other cases that could be read that way. This was probably metrically motivated, since the genitive marker would have added an extra syllable after a word ending in -n.

The clearest cases are the following phrases:

taifin fon, "season of peace", for taifin-i fon
irgen ergen, "the spirit of the people", for irgen-i ergen
irgen banin, "the state of the people", for irgen-i banin


Wistful ya


The word ya can be found in ordinary literary Manchu, where it has the meaning of “which? what?”. However, this reading is often awkward in poetry, where the word ya occurs much more frequently.

The Lament uses it twice, and based on this usage I am inclined to understand it as a wistful or despondent exclamation.

1) dasarangge weke ya

Norman defines weke as “hey you! (word used for calling people whose name is unknown or forgotten)”. Presumably this is somehow related to the word we, “who?”. I suppose we could read dasarangge weke as “Hey you, repairer!” But then what do we do with the ya?

The line occurs in a context describing how the country is in disorder, and the feeling of the poem suggests that the speaker longs for a repairer who is not there. A despondent exclamation would fit the feeling of this line.

2) mergen jiyanggiyūn ya waci

The heart of this phrase is mergen jiyanggiyūn waci, “if the heroes and generals kill’, but normally that expression cannot stand on its own in Manchu because the conditional -ci is a converb, not a finite form.

I think the poet is using ellipsis here, and leaving the remainder of the phrase unspoken. “If the heroes and generals would kill [them, then we wouldn't have so much trouble].” We do the same thing in English when we say “If only the heroes and generals would kill them!” I think the ya in this phrase serves a similar adverbial function to the “only” in the English phrase, expressing a wish that the proposition of the sentence were true.