Experimenting with the National Language: Use of Manchu in Bannermen Poetry and Songs in the Nineteenth Century
- CHINOPERL: Journal of Chinese Oral and Performing Literature
- University of Hawai'i Press
- Volume 39, Number 1, July 2020
- pp. 90-110
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It is commonly assumed that by the beginning of the nineteenth century, most members of the Eight Banners were no longer fluent in their native Manchu language. The Qing court certainly feared at this time that the bannermen had lost touch with their Manchu identity and become acculturated to the ways of their Chinese neighbors. This article will show, however, that late Qing bannermen were not only still using Manchu in their literary production during this period, but were also creating hybrid texts that mixed Manchu and Chinese scripts and literary forms, leading to the emergence of a body of language that made use of their native language in innovative ways heretofore not attempted. Through analyzing various examples of such compositions, including poems and songs, this paper explores how their authors developed new genres and styles that expressed ambivalent feelings concerning their social role and cultural identities.