Practices of Reading Official Calendars under the Qing and Some Evidence on the Religion of the Eight Banner’s Russian Company (Oros niru/Eluosi zuoling 鄂羅斯佐領) in the Late 18th Century
(64th Meeting Budapest, 2022)
Every year the Qing state issued calendars, to members of the imperial family and court, nobles, officers, and civil servants — in Chinese, Manchu, or Mongolian, and in various formats, depending on the ethnicity and status of the recipient. As well as calendrical information (length of day and night, moments of sunrise and sunset, etc.) given exactly for hundreds of different localities across the Empire’s territory, the calendar also included day-by-day almanachal information on propitious and taboo activities. The library of the Société Asiatique holds a woodblock printed Manchu calendar (F° 315) for the year Qianlong 48 (1783). Uniquely for a known Manchu calendar, Manchu manuscript annotations have been added to the day-by-day almanachal section, forming a sort of diary of the notable events of the owner’s year. This paper presents a transcription and translation of these annotations, which give us a rare insight into how these calendars were actually read and used. By piecing together clues from the annotations, it is possible to deduce that the author most probably belonged to the “Russian Company” (Oros niru/Eluosi zuoling 鄂羅斯佐領) of the Eight Banners, which was composed of the descendants of soldiers captured on the frontier at the end of the 17th century. The annotations therefore provide a glimpse into the ritual year of the soldiers of this company as it had developed by the late 18th century.