From the Tibetan-Sanskrit transliteration system to the Mongolian
and the Manchu ali-gali script
(62nd Meeting Friedensau, 2019)
Buddhism has influenced East Asia as well as Inner Asia in many aspects for thousands of years. Its influence is evident not only in how religious spirituality still permeates the culture, but also in many traits of the language itself. In fact, translation techniques of Buddhist texts have developed across a variety of languages, including Chinese, Tibetan, Mongolian, and Manchu. The Manchu script, according to the Veritable Records of the Manchus (manju i yargiyan kooli), was invented in 1599 by order of the Jurchen-Manchu leader Nurgaci, and it was largely based on the traditional Mongolian writing system. The script was reformed and revised in 1632 by order of the Khan Hong Taiji and better adapted to the Manchu language; ten graphemes were added to transcribe Chinese loanwords too. Later on, in 1730, a third script, the Manchu ali-gali one, was added by order of the Emperor Hung Li and especially used for Buddhist texts translation. The Manchu ali-gali script was inspired by the Mongolian ali-gali script, which had been created in 1587 and shaped onto the Tibetan-Sanskrit transliteration system. These three transliteration systems all served a religious purpose, i.e. translating Buddhist texts. While the Tibetan-Sanskrit transliteration and the Mongolian ali-gali script are quite well known among scholars, the Manchu ali-gali script has only recently started being re-studied. This is largely due to the fact that Manchu ali-gali script is exclusively used for transliterating Sanskrit and sometimes Tibetan texts.
My presentation at PIAC 2019 is going to compare these three transliteration systems together with the Sanskrit alphabet, in order to highlight mutual influences and similar, shared linguistic features.
STARY, Giovanni (2004). “An Unknown Chapter in the History of Manchu Writing: The
‘Indian Letters’ (tianzhu zi 天竺字)”. Central Asiatic Journal 48(2):280-291. Wiesbaden: