skip to primary navigationskip to content

Is 'Manchu Literature' an Oxymoron?

Department of East Asian Studies

China Research Seminar

Lent Term 2014

All seminars take place on Wednesdays (unless otherwise arranged) at 5pm in rooms 8 & 9 in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. Tea will be served at the same venue at 4:45pm. All are welcome.

  • Wednesday, 19th February, 2014
    Is ‘Manchu Literature’ an Oxymoron? 
    Translation and Creation in Qing Manchu Texts

    Dr Laura Newby, Oriental Institute, University of Oxford


One of the most eminent Western scholars of Manchu, Prof Martin Gimm, has written that 'Even in the highest period of Manchu rule the native literature was never more than a vehicle for translation'. The indisputable decline in use of the Manchu language from the mid-18th century and the absence of a body of work that can be readily labeled as an 'indigenous literature' has long served as evidence of sinicisaton. It is perhaps not surprising therefore that in recent years Manchu literature has been largely ignored by both students of Qing literature and of the so-called New Qing history.

This paper takes another look at a variety of Qing literary productions in Manchu: novels, opera, drum songs, and poetry. Focusing on both parallel texts (Man-Han hebi满汉合璧) and integrated texts (Man-Han jian 满汉兼), it argues that these works should be considered as unique products of a particular society in which 'code mixing' and 'lexical borrowing' were commonplace, and tentatively suggests an alternative approach to their study.


Dr. Laura Newby is University Lecturer in Chinese at Oxford. Her research interests focus on the border areas particularly the northwest and Islam. She has published on, amongst other things, Qing representations of the Turkic Muslim peoples of Xinjiang, archival sources in Manchu relating to Xinjiang, the Sino-Muslims in local histories of Xinjiang, bondage on Qing China's north-western frontier, etc. She is the author of The Empire and the Khanate: A Political History of Qing Relations with Khoqand c.1760-1860 (Brill, 2005).

For further information, contact:

Dr Adam Yuet Chau
University Senior Lecturer in the Anthropology of Modern China
Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies