Editorial Work in Manchu Dictionaries Compiled by Imperial Decree
(63rd Annual Meeting Ulaanbaatar, 2021)
Manchu dictionaries were produced during the Manchu Empire. The 18th century was the most intensive time for dictionary compilation. During this period, seven dictionaries were compiled serially under the Emperors’ decrees. The names of all of these dictionaries include the Manchu phrase Han-i araha “Written by the Emperor”.
The first Manchu dictionary was published in 1708. The next step was the addition of the Mongolian part (published in 1717). Later, it was expanded by adding Chinese equivalents (1771), and finally, Tibetan and Uyghur translations. The first two dictionaries were published during the reign of Emperor Kangxi and the next, under the reign of Emperor Qianlong. Only four of the dictionaries (i.e., those published in 1708, 1717, 1743 and 1771) have explanatory notes on the meanings of headwords. The lexical entries in all of these dictionaries are organized according to their semantic values, although not in alphabetical order.
In the explanatory dictionaries, all headwords are accompanied by commentaries which explain their meanings. In the dictionaries of 1708 and 1771, such explanations are only provided in Manchu, while in the dictionary of 1717, commentaries are given in two languages, i.e. Manchu and Mongolian. All definitions given in the Manchu and Manchu-Mongolian dictionaries can be conveniently classified as basic or additional. The range of additional definitions is rather wide. The number of additional definitions can reach four to five. Such definitions can explain other meanings of a headword, such as specific meanings used in certain contexts, secondary or figurative meanings, meanings of the headword in combination with other words, meanings of certain grammatical forms of the headword, and meanings of colloquial variants of the headword.
After the creation of the Manchu explanatory dictionary of 1708, in each subsequent dictionary, not only were new languages added, but continuous editorial work was also undertaken to improve the dictionaries, correct dictionary entries, add new headwords or delete old ones, move dictionary entries, correct typographical errors and other errors, and to change grammatical forms.
Most of the editorial work is noticeable in the bilingual Manchu-Chinese dictionary published in 1771. For the trilingual dictionary of 1780 and the two subsequent dictionaries, in which there are Mongolian translations of headwords, the dictionary of 1771 was taken as an example, accounting for most of the changes made in the editorial process. However, in some cases, the dictionary of 1780 follows the dictionary of 1717, excluding the editorial work undertaken in 1771. It should be kept in mind that when speaking about the dictionary of 1780, it is possible to compare only the composition of headwords, since there are no interpretations included in any of the dictionaries produced after the 1780 edition.