(all original material on this site © Pamela Kyle Crossley)

[2.28.2016] "Tribute to the Translator"

Nobody likes everything somebody writes, posts, or tweets but I am fan of the internet blogger 乾隆皇帝专属 for the very fast and pretty good (and very nicely mounted) translation posted of the 2/20/2016 entry on these pages.

乾隆, if I may call him that, favors the view of the world via Cambridge, Massachusetts, but he reads a lot of interesting stuff and you can too if you follow his posts.

All beside the point here, which is the heroic contribution of whipping off a translation like that. Some of our colleagues in China have decided that being able to read English is not a requirement for doing a daily 褒贬 of English-language historiography of China, from the safe perch of rumor, second-hand paraphrases, translations of translations, or translations into Chinese. Therefore we are all prisoners of translators.

乾隆 must have taken a bit of time and cost some inconvenience, but it demonstrates what has to be done if analysis of English-language scholarship by non-readers of English is to remain a viable profession in China. One hopes that Phase II is reading of English texts by those who wish to analyze and criticize them.

Although the translation does an outstanding job of reproducing not only the gist but a great deal of the nuance, two small mistranslations that could cause some difficulty caught my eye. I'll say something here so that nobody gets carried away by the slight misunderstanding:

"他的话使人感到疑惑" --the English text said "He sounds puzzled." The meaning has been inverted here and seems to suggest that something Xu Hong has said will puzzle other people. The meaning was that Xu sounded puzzled over the fact that in the period he was discussing he could find no evidence of ongoing "New Qing History" discourse among American historians. I think my own writing around this phrase made it clear that there was no reason for Xu to be puzzled.

"这似乎多半是不公平的" --this could be rather important. The English text was "This seems mostly fair," so the meaning has been completely inverted. This occurs after Xu's description of how Manchu documents were or were not used by a series of scholars he regards as "New Qing" partisans. I said at this point that his description seemed quite fair, meaning that I thought it was accurate (except for a small disagreement I went on to point out). In the following sentence. I proceeded to discuss what Xu thought the significance of it all was, and on that point I disagreed with him. I don't think I said at any point that Xu was unfair about anything on which he was adequately informed.

Thanks again to 乾隆 for yeoman's work. I was surprised to see it, and hope it is found useful by our colleagues.

[4.16.2016] The other Qianlong Retrospect

In early work I began to look at the ways in the Qing court historians of the eighteenth century, and particularly under the sponsorship of the Qianlong emperor, rewrote the history of Qing origins in the seventeenth century. The fact that there survived a certain number of documents from the seventeenth century allows modern historians a two-pane view, with the original forms behind and the retrospect from the eighteenth century in the foreground --a "translucent mirror" in which one sees something of the past beyond the self-reflective, brighter recreations of it. My first interest was in the history of the hanjun (Chinese-martial) banners which had an origin that could still be deciphered and was quite different from the racialized, politicized representation imposed upon hanjun identity and history by the Qianlong court.

At roughly the same time I was thinking about a different Qianlong retrospect, that represented in the Manzhou yuanliu kao 欽定滿洲源流考, worked on in stages after 1743 and published in 1777 (see subsequent work on this by Niu Guanjie in Central Asiatic Journal, 2015, and additional context from Stephen Whiteman, “Kangxi's Auspicious Empire: Rhetorics of Geographic Integration in the Early Qing" in Jeff Kyong-McLain and Yongtao Du, eds.,Chinese History in Geographical Perspective (2013), 33-54).  In it the emperor's amaneunses present a picture of political and cultural continuity in Northeast Asia --a civilization-- that was one of the sources of the Qing empire and its rulership. In fact it is presented as the foundation layer in Qing legitimacy. The preface, I noted, provided a few specifics about the cultural and political legacy of the Northeast: The "Three Hans" 三韓 of early Korea were actually three Hans 汗, which Chinese scribes had ignorantly construed as tribal names, not as unified political orders. 其妄也若夫三韓命名苐列辰韓馬&# 38867;弁韓,而不詳其義意當時三國&# 24517;有三汗,各統其一,史家不知&# 27735;為君長之稱,遂以音同誤譯,&# 32780;庸鄙者甚至訛韓為族姓. As exemplified by the Bohai (but, in the suggestion of the preface, tracing back to the Fuyu and earlier), these regimes had preferred systems of multiple capitals.  The 單單大嶺即 mentioned in the Hou Han shu, the preface states, was Changbaishan, showing the continuing centrality of the mountains for the religious and political life of the region. 

The closeness of the Manchus to the cultural and political traditions of Fuyu, Mohe, and Bohai is asserted, again with a few specifics. Among them, the customs of the Zhenhan 辰韓 with regard to the deformation of infants heads by use of a hard surface were identical to those of the Manchus. In addition, the political terms had included a leadership title mafa and sound variants (瑪法,莫弗) that went back at least as far as the northern Mohe 靺鞨 of pre-Tang times, together with a term 莫弗瞞咄, which the Qianlong scribes proceed to connect to Manchu this way: Manchu "leader" = da, "old man" = sukeda [sakda], therefore the reference is to damafa/damofo (senior leader), and 瞞咄 is close in sound to 滿珠, which to the emperor suggested that "Manchu" may have its origins in designation of a leading or dominant class among the Mohe. 卷4)

Among these early Northeastern regimes, the emperor went on to suggest, "gold" (金) appears quite early as a distinct designation, and proves that those named "gold" --meaning, the predecessors of the Aisingioro-- had never been subordinate to any other rulers, including the Wanyan of the imperial Jin era (this is evidently proved by the fact that at the time of the composition of 欽定滿洲源流考 the Wanyan were all servants of the Aisingioro). The "Manchus" were the leaders among the Northeastern peoples, and the Aisingioro were the leaders of the Manchus, since ancient times, blah blah.

This much is well known by now, but at the time I did not take the historical presumptions of the MYK very seriously.  Its ideological purposes were clear, and the developing literary connections between Qing imperial sensibilities of the Kangxi and Qianlong courts and the developing geographical familiarity with Changbaishan were also becoming very clear. In the seventeenth century the certain air of urgency created by Russian ambitions in the Amur, and in the early eighteenth century by the tensions with Joseon regarding boundary demarcations in the Yalu-Changbai region were also patent. The historiographic value of the MYK preface seemed moot. I didn't think a great deal more about it until I recently completed an essay on the 渤海 and the "渤海" region during the Liao period.

There is a great deal of fright-wig rhetoric these days between Chinese and Korean official academic quarters regarding the spectrum from 扶余 (or even 高句麗) to 渤海, and one is hesitant to travel the territory, but Peter Yun asked me to contribute an article to International Journal of Korean History and 渤海 had been an interest of mine every since writing my dissertation, in which I was able to touch upon them a little bit. I had recently completed a long article on Liao and so I wondered if what I argued there regarding so-called 漢 could work for 渤海 as well. The results were mixed; some aspects of the argument work just fine, others must recede before the special considerations of the importance and the exploitation of the former 渤海 territories. The details are interesting, but what I'm thinking about just now is the fact that in my earlier work on 欽定滿洲源流考 I had assumed that since the 渤海 people had been largely dispersed during the Liao period and their culture had disappeared (or all but), the continuities asserted on behalf of the Qianlong emperor could not be possible, if for that reason only (there are others). But, in my own article on 渤海 I had to conclude that the old wisdom about the repatriations and subsequent disappearance of the 渤海 could not reasonably be credited. It appeared far more probable that 1) as of about 926 the 渤海 population in 渤海 territories was deeply agricultural and large, probably at least as large as the 燕雲 population later incorporated (938) from Hou Tang, 2) the economic losses and expenses to the Liao of repatriating a majority of 渤海 would have been prohibitive, even if advantageous for some strange reason, and 3) a minority (but still numerically substantial) portion of the 渤海 population was in fact distributed as booty to some Kitan federations as a political strategy primarily (as some portion of the 燕雲 population was a decade later) , and 4) for financial, administrative and political reasons the former 渤海 administrative structure (apart from its military) was left largely intact, along with the major part of its population. This not only helps explain the archeology of the Russian Primorye, but also how the Jurchens of the twelfth century so rapidly and effectively staged their revolt and subsequent destruction of Liao --they based themselves on the 渤海 foundation. 

I didn’t get into this in the article, but there is a little bit of corroboration of this from genetic studies. In 1995, a paper published by DB Goldstein, L Ruiz-Linares, L Cavalli-Sforza and MW Feldman (
here) found that haplogroups of Northeast Asia, Korea and Japan fell into two groups. The best defined was a cluster based on the Buryat, Yakut, Uighur, Manchu, Korean, Japanese, and two Chinese adjunct groups —one from modern Hebei and Shandong, one from Yunnan province. The second was more loosely defined as being composed of the Evenks, Tibetans, Tujia and Hui. What is interesting in light of the history of the Northeast is fact that the Evenks and the Manchus fell into two different clusters. Our present understanding of 渤海 history is parallel to that (which is not to say that I think one is causally related to the other). The 高句麗 period antecedent to 渤海 is the watershed where 粟末/松漠 Mohe 靺鞨 were those who stayed with the traditional economy while the group becoming 渤海 were becoming agricultural and closely affiliated economically with Sui/Tang China. If Evenks are connected to the 粟末靺鞨 ancestral population, they would show some differentiation today from the Manchus. This is, I should say, a reflection on historical connections that are economic and demographic, not linguistic. While Manchu is a "southern" Tungusic language and Evenk a "northern" Tungusic language, there is no evidence that either of them is more closely related to 渤海 than they are to each other; nevertheless, the Evenks and Manchus appear to me to be more closely related linguistically than the haplogroup distribution would suggest, but there are a number of ways in which this could be explained.

What I found the most fun in terms of considering the continuities was the persistence and recurrence of what might be a single name. Most historians understand the dynastic titles of Liao, Jin, and Qing as references to rivers that had figured prominently in their formative histories. In the Jin case, it was supposed to be a reference to the Anchu (Jurchen “gold”) River, where gold was panned by local peoples. Debates about the introduction of the name and its relationship to the actual political history of the early Jurchen state have flourished. In the Jin shi, Aguda gives his reasons for calling his state 大金 as “gold is stronger than iron,” which doesn’t make a lot of sense, since it is clearly not true. But this is interesting: the inspiration was supposed to have come from a Liao 渤海 official who surrendered to Aguda and became a valued assistant. This was the second time (at a minimum) that a 大金 state had existed in Manchuria. The earlier had been the first state founded by the 渤海 leader 大祚榮 in 719. The state was founded in a period of enthusiasm across eastern Eurasia for Maitreya-inspired millennial ideology, probably related to Wu Zetian’s brief interregnum in China between 690 and 705. “Great Jin” could have been inspired by the Indian name for China, Mahācinasthana, “Great China Place” —if so, it would indicate 大’s own pretensions to Maitreya-endorsed rulership, and claims to have displaced China as the center of Maitreya revelation.

Use of the name was very brief, but it appeared again when Kim Kungye seceded from Silla in 901, calling his state Later Goguryeo and soon changing the name to Majin —a possible contraction of Mahācinasthana, a probable referent to the earlier 大金 state of the 渤海 and an indication of Kim’s own claims to Maitreya-linked legitimacy (you can read more about that in Richard McBride, Domesticating the Dharma, 2008). Perhaps independently, “Jin” seems to have lingered around the general vicinity of lower Manchuria, evident not only in 大金 and Majin, but probably also in 大震 (振), the alternate name for 大祚榮’s state of 大金, and revived in the Jin-period rebel state name of 大振 /大震 in the former Bohai territories. The monosyllable might even have stabilized the -zhen element in nuzhen (earlier written as nudi 奴狄 and nuzhi 奴直). I think it is also worth considering whether the first manifestation of the reference is not in the name 辰韓 —as the Qianlong emperor would have had it, the 韓 of 辰. Whether Buddhist or local in origin (we have too few Mohe or Bohai words to know if is meant something else), the name persisted in the Jin-Zhen complex, and is evidently the Kitan “Dan” of Dan gur and Dongdan (Liao period names, in Kitan and Chinese respectively, for the 渤海 territories). Its meaning is not as important to us now as its signification of acknowledged political and possibly cultural continuity in southern Manchuria, at least from the early eighth century to the end of the Jurchen Jin in the thirteenth century —and possibly beyond, reflected in the Qing founding lineages selection of aisin [“gold”] as part of the lineage name.

In any event, the Qianlong emperor would be unlikely to approve of the haplogroup evidence, since his historians were inclined to insist that Evenk customs and language could be used as guides to Manchu culture and language before the transfer to China —consistent with the Aisingioro insistence upon a pristine, Changbaishan-oriented origin for both Aisingioro legitimacy and the early state order. Nevertheless, the haploroup evidence, together with other evidence for the continuities in 渤海 during the Liao period, does suggest that the 渤海 population remained largely in place. Like the broken clock that is correct twice a day (at least in the 12-hour countries), Qianlong ideological history of the Northeast appears to have anticipated a modern recovery --the persistence of 渤海 as a cultural and administrative entity, as well as a population.