Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Dahai

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
3637568Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period, Volume 1 — DahaiGeorge A. Kennedy

DAHAI 達海, d. 1632, age 38 (sui), of the Plain Blue Banner, belonged to a family that had long been settled in Giolca, home of Desiku (see under Anfiyanggû), the granduncle of Nurhaci [q. v.]. His grandfather and his father early entered the service of Nurhaci where Dahai had opportunity to learn Chinese as well as Manchu. He devoted himself to study, and after he came of age was put in charge of written communications with the Ming government and with Korea, involving the preparation of Chinese texts. His knowledge of the Chinese language was so valuable that when condemned to death in 1620, for being intimate with and receiving presents from a maid-servant, he was reprieved by Nurhaci on the ground that he could not be spared. Nurhaci commissioned him to translate into Manchu, in the system of writing developed by Erdeni [q. v.] and others, the sections relating to the penal code in the 大明會典 Ta Ming hui-tien and two works on military science—the 素書 Su-shu (an edition of 1704 is extant) and the 三略 San-lüeh. When the Wên Kuan, or Literary Office, was established under Nurhaci's successor (see under Abahai) Dahai was appointed with four others to continue the translation of Chinese works. In 1629 and 1630, when the Manchu attack penetrated the Great Wall and reached the gates of Peking (see under Man Kuei), he was responsible for the proclamations and messages in the Chinese language. On the completion of some of his translations in 1630 he was given a hereditary rank, being the first of the non-military officials ever to be so honored. In the following year he was given the title, baksi, or "teacher".

Dahai systematized the Manchu written written language, classifying the words according to Mongol practice under twelve types of opening syllables (十二字頭 shih-êr tzŭ t'ou). These types were differentiated according as they ended in a simple vowel, a diphthong in i (ai, ui, etc.), a diphthong in o (ao, eo etc.) or in one of the nine consonants, r, n, ng, k, s, t, b, l, and m. In 1632, with the encouragement of Abahai [q. v.], he made some improvements in the Manchu writing which had been borrowed from the Mongol in 1599. Since in that script no distinction was made between a and e, o and u, or h, g, and k, the correct reading of a word could be determined only from the context. Translations from the Chinese, as done by Dahai and others, showed the inadequacy of this medium, particularly for the transliteration of of personal and place names. A system of diacritical marks was therefore added, consisting of a dot placed to the right of a letter to distinguish e from a, u from o, and g from k, and a small circle in the same position to distinguish h from k. After the introduction of these improvements the earlier unpointed manuscripts were referred to as documents without circles or dots (無圈點老檔 wu ch'üan tien lao-tang). Some thirty volumes of these have been found in the Palace Museum, accompanied by translations into the "modern" pointed script made during the Ch'ien-lung period. Dahai invented in addition a few new signs for the representation of unusual Chinese sounds like ts and ssǔ. Equipped with these tools, the Literary Office commenced translations of Mencius; the 鋼鑑會纂 Kang-chien hui-tsuan compiled by Wang Shi-chên (see under Ch'ên Chi-ju); the 三國志 San-kuo chih; and a supposedly ancient treatise on military science, the 六韜 Liu-t'ao. But the work of translation had not gone far when Dabai died in 1632 at the age of thirty-eight (sui). He was granted the posthumous name Wên-Ch'êng 文成 in 1636, and his services were commemorated by a tablet erected in 1669. The translation of the Kang-chien hui-tsuan was printed in 1664 in 80 volumes (ts'ê).

[1/234/2b; 2/4/10a; 3/1/14a; 4/3/20b; 11/3/20b; 34/175/3a; Man-chou lao-tang pi-lu (see under Nurhaci) 上/8b; Wylie, Chinese Researches (1897) pp. 253–271; Union Catalogue of Manchu Books in the Nat. Lib. of Peiping and the Palace Museum (1933) pp. 33, 36; Fuchs, Walter, Beiträge zur Mandjurischen Bibliographie und Literatur (1936) p. 40 ff.]

George A. Kennedy