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  • Manchu Archives and Studies on Frontier and Ethnic Groups in Qing Dynasty ed. by Uyunbilig
  • Chia Ning (bio)
Uyunbilig, editor. Manchu Archives and Studies on Frontier and Ethnic Groups in Qing Dynasty 满文档案与清代边疆和民族研究. Beijing: Shehui kexue wenxian chubanshe, 2013 (北京社会科学出版社, 2013). iv, 488 pp. Paperback 98 RMB, isbn 978-7-5097-4752-0.

This monograph with fourteen chapters, all written in Chinese, is dedicated to the Manchu language archives in topic research on Qing frontier history. The six contributors are the researchers at the Center of the Manchu Archival Materials, a very new institution established in May 2012 as part of the Qing Research Institute, and the People’s University in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). They are among the best PRC scholars of three generations who have received formal Manchu language training in higher education and are devoted to Qing studies, using Manchu-language resources. A high point in worldwide scholarship in the last three decades in terms of exploring new topics based on the latest released Manchu archives, the monograph presents specific studies in Qing Mongolia, Tibet, Xinjiang, and Manchuria. Manchu archival studies, Qing history studies, and China’s Inner Asian frontier studies should all celebrate its accomplishments.

Uyunbilig, the chairperson of the Center of the Manchu Archival Materials, points out in his preface that in the Manchu-ruled Qing dynasty, the Manchu language, as the first imperial language, is unique in preserving Qing history. During the early Qing period, a good number of Qing government documents were written only in Manchu, and the Chinese-language documents can hardly replace them. Since more than half of Qing history was about nationality and frontier issues, the Manchu materials are precious for examining the formation of the multinational society of the Qing. The particular value of the Manchu archives is, furthermore, that they were not written for edited official history, as were Shilu (Veritable records), Qijuzhu (Chronicle of the emperor’s daily life), huidian (Collected statutes), and liezhuan (Collected biographies). They were the original communications or records of events and, therefore, a candid reflection of historical facts. The reconstruction of the true Qing history, argues Uyunbilig, must rely on these documents.

The opening chapter is titled “The Manchu Archives of the Qing Dynasty,” written by Wu Yuanfeng, the noted scholar at the Number One Historical Archives in Beijing. Wu has been devoted to the translation and publication of the Manchu materials for decades and now is an invited researcher at the Center of the Manchu [End Page 47] Archival Materials. The chapter introduces the origin of the Manchu archives, the birth of the old and the new written Manchu, and the use of the Manchu language in Qing government documentation together with the use of Chinese, Mongolian, Tibetan, and Uighur languages. The thirteen forms of the emperor’s edicts and the eleven forms of official reports to the emperor, their relations with the governmental institutions, the regulations of their categorization and ordering storage, the history of their damage and survival, and their current state and locations in China’s libraries under Wu’s discussion are necessary knowledge for all Qing academics. The chapter lists six types of the Manchu archives with sufficient details, covering Neige (Grand secretariat), Junjichu (Grand council), Neiwufu (Imperial household department), Heilongjiang Jiangjun Yamen (Headquarters of the general of Heilongjiang), Ningguta fudutong yamen (Headquarters of the vice commander-in-chief of Ningguta), and Guihuacheng fudutong yamen (Headquarters of the vice commander-in-chief of Hohhot). Qing historians who need to use archival resources for the study of the central government or local frontiers should follow this guidance to understand the primary sources. The chapter further provides all the published archival works—twenty-three titles of the multiple volumes and nineteen topic-specified volumes, each with a description. In his conclusion, Wu highlights the value of the Manchu archives in history and linguistic research. Compared to the officially edited documents in Chinese, which contain biased opinions, the Manchu archives are a primary and original record of historical events. The archival language itself is also natural rather than being polished by compilers.

The next two chapters are also written by Wu Yuanfeng. The first chapter gives a...


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