Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Realizations from Chiu’s Bannermen Tales

I have just received a copy of Elena Chiu’s 2018 book on zǐdìshū, and as I read I realize how much work could be done on Manchu poetry to understand how it fits into the cultural ecosystem of the Qing. The tunes, styles and subjects used in various poems could give us some idea of other cultural influences, and might hint at the eras in which the anonymous poems were composed.

The immense wealth of scholarship in Chiu’s book is also showing me where I have missed important details in some of my translations. For example, it seems clear that the poem Diagram of Official Advancement is about the game of shēngguān tú (陞官圖), which is the subject of a zǐdìshū by that name. That poem occurs in a group of four similar ones that I now realize may be descriptions of four games. The complete list is:
  • hafan wesire durugan, “Diagram of Official Advancement,” about the game shēngguān tú (陞官圖)
  • nadan faksingga durugan, “Diagram of Seven Clever Things,” about the game qīqiǎo bǎn (七巧板), known to the West as the “tan gram.”
  • sejen ušara durugan, “Diagram of Pulling a Cart.” Is there a game called yè chē tú (拽車圖)?
  • meiren teyere durugan, “Diagram of Resting the Shoulders.” Is there a game called xījiān tú (息肩圖)?

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