On Some Manuscript Copies of the Secret History of the Mongols Collected in the Chinese National Library
(53rd Annual Meeting of the PIAC, St. Petersburg 2010)
The Rare Books Section of the Chinese National Library has in its collection four manuscript copies of the Secret History of the Mongols (henceforth abbreviated SHM), which respectively are Gu Guangqi‘s Certified Text, a second manuscript copy formerly belonging to Sun Xing-yan, a third formerly in the possession of Weng Tong-shu and a forth formerly in the collection of Qu Yong. Gu’s Certified Text is the most precious, both for its origin from a good facsimile copy of the printed edition made at the early Ming and for the least number of mistakes it contained. It is the best manuscript copy of the SHM among all those preserved and known to us so far. This certified copy was completed in 1805, and divided into 12 volumes, which later came into the possession of an imperial clansman Sheng Yu at the late Qing. Li Wen-tian and Wen Ting-shi severally copied out a facsimile text according to Gu’s Certified Text at the end of the 19th century. Not long after, Li made his annotations to his own copy of the SHM, and Wen recopied his own copy to make a duplicate for the Japanese scholar Naitou Konan. Ye Dehui made a printed edition out of the first facsimile copy of Wen and published it in 1908 (generally known as the Guan Gu Tang edition). And it was just for the copy available to Naitou Konan that Naka Michiyo could publish his famous annotated translation of the SHM entitled the Veritable Records of Cinggis Qan. Not long after Sheng Yu died, Gu’s Certified Text was acquired by the Commercial Press of Shanghai. The Press reproduced it photographically and published it in 1936 in the third series of the Si Bu Cong Kan. This edition contains 41 leaves of the printed edition of the early Ming discovered in the Imperial Palace of Beijing in 1933, which replaced the corresponding original leaves in Gu’s Certified Text. Hence the new edition is regarded as the best modern edition by academia. Gu’s Certified Text was almost damaged during the war in the 1930s, but fortunately it has extricated itself from flames of war and ultimately lie safely in the collection of the leading library of China.
The other three manuscript copies are all in 15 volumes. According to their characteristics, Sun‘s copy is close to both the copy of Jing Jia Tang (formerly in the possession of Lu Xin-yuan) and that of Pankratov (formerly in the possession of Bao Ting-bo), from which it might well be assumed that all of them should come down from a common original one, while on the other hand Wen’s copy is similar in format to Qu’s. All the three copies are not only of good quality and but in good conditions, and thus could be used as the collating copies for the edition in the Si Bu Cong Kan.