Proverbs as a Window: The Case of Multilingual Textbooks in the Qing Dynasty


Proverbs as a Window:
The Case of Multilingual Textbooks in the Qing Dynasty

(66th Annual Meeting of the PIAC Göttingen, 2024)

During the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912), the administration of a culturally diverse empire prompted the adoption of multilingual parallel writing, referred to as 合璧 hebi (Man. kamcime Mon. Qabsurγaγsan/Qadamal), to facilitate effective communication. This method resulted in the creation of numerous documents, dictionaries, and grammar books in multilingual formats. Alongside these publications, conversational textbooks emerged, albeit in limited quantity and garnering scant attention from scholars. These conversational textbooks were developed with the intent of enriching the understanding and application of the Manchu language while fostering interethnic communication. They were presented in bilingual parallel writing, featuring combinations such as Manchu and Chinese, Manchu and Mongolian, or Mongolian and Chinese, as well as trilingual parallel writing incorporating Manchu, Mongolian, and Chinese, often with the Mongolian text body written in Manchu scripts. These conversational textbooks documented the daily interactions of the Manchu Banner people, blending colloquial and formal language styles and encompassing rich resources of proverbs, idiomatic expressions, and common sayings. Their significance lies in their substantial academic value for research across various domains, including language, culture, and history, rendering them crucial resources for cross-linguistic and cross-cultural studies.

This study delves into the cultural development, interaction, integration, and adaptation apparent in the proverbs presented within conversational textbooks. By focusing on a particular conversational textbook as a case study, it aims to elucidate how these proverbs reflect the cultural dynamics of the Qing Dynasty. Through textual analysis and comparative study approaches, the research endeavors to contribute to cross-linguistic and cross-cultural studies, offering valuable insights into the linguistic and cultural heritage of the Qing Dynasty.