Did you ever think that critics take more delight in pointing out your little typos and brain slips than anybody else's? You're wrong. They take more delight in pointing out mine than anybody else's.

It could be because I make more typos and brain slips than anybody else. Like millions of other people, I have Irlen's Syndrome, that forces me to interpret text in any language in whole sentences. If I see a single word on a board or sign, without any context, I'm very likely to read it wrong. In reading sentences I can make out the meaning without actually noticing whether all the words are spelled correctly. Since 1984 I have been able to program desktop computers to help with reading and writing, and nowadays there are spell-checkers to help me make somewhat fewer mistakes writing the kind of stuff that gets people like me mixed up. But there will still be a lot of errors that I cannot catch and if an editor also misses them, there they are.

In my book A Translucent Mirror I discussed at a little length the long-term confusion in English-language writings about early Qing history between the places Ninguta and Ningguta. I surveyed a number of publications that mixed up the places or thought they were the same, without targeting any particular author; in fact the erroneous texts included ECCP, which I think it is well known is a sacred text to me, and my book was in fact dedicated to the authors whose errors I was citing on that page. My discussion there may have contributed to the opinion of Stephen MacKinnon, who if I recall correctly called the book "arrogant," and I have meditated for some years on the issues involved here. On the one hand, errors will be and probably must be pointed out regardless of what they are (part of the reason for this site). On the other hand, there are errors that are fundamental to interpretation and errors that are not. In the case of Ninguta/Ningguta, my point was that these places had never been taken seriously enough, or been central enough to anybody's understanding of history, to have been clearly identified. The errors, when made, did not matter. But in my interpretation of early Qing history, it mattered that Ninguta was a place that, from eighteenth century Beijing, was distant and that Ningguta was quite nearby. I argued that for my purposes what had not previously been significant should become so for at least a moment, and so past confusions that were established in our understanding of Qing origins had to be pointed out. It did not occur to me, especially when I had dedicated the book to some of the authors indirectly invoked, that anybody would interpret my attention to these small errors as constituting an indictment of the professionalism of the authors who made them. But there are historians do regard incidental errors that are marginal or irrelevant to interpretation as hugely significant; if reviewers take me for such a historian then that is my fault, and if historians reviewing my work want to suspend a distinction between fundamental errors invalidating certain interpretations and irrelevant errors with no connection to interpretation, that is their right.

I have not yet found that any of the genuine errors (I contrast this to imaginary errors that have been misreported, or manufactured errors that can only be forced to appear by taking phrases out of context or giving them bizarre readings that were clearly not intended) have anything to do with the substance of what I have written. It could happen, even though I try my best to keep it from happening. Fortunately, the volume of correspondence suggests that most if not all readers easily recognize the errors for what they are, and nobody is being misled into thinking that things happened in unlikely times or places; only copy-editors, so far as I can see, are blind to the bloopers. If I could magically correct all the errors that have been kindly and unkindly pointed out (they do get corrected as opportunity arises), they would not have the slightest effect on the line of my interpretations or my evidence for those interpretations. But it would make things nicer for my teachers and colleagues, so I wish it could happen.

The pages included in this site concentrate on known genuine errors, of which there are many...