Page:A Manchu grammar, with analysed texts.djvu/11

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Introduction




There is as yet no grammar of the Manchu language in English. Wylie's translation of Tsing Wan Ki Mung (清文啟蒙), Shanghai, 1855, a kind of Manchu hand-book for the use of Chinese, though useful and full of interest, is by no means a grammar.

The general interest taken in ever language will, of course, be also extended to Manchu; still a few words seem necessary to show the particular usefulness of its study.

There exist in all about 250 works in Manchu, nearly all of which are translations from the Chinese. They consist of translations from the Classics, some historical and metaphysical works, literary essays, collections of famous writers, novels. poetry, laws and regulations, Imperial edicts, dictionaries, phrase books, etc. Most of these translations are excellent, but they are all literal. Executed under the eyes of intelligent princes, they form a reliable expression of the meaning of the Chinese text and have therefore a right to acceptance equal to that enjoyed by commentaries of good writers. Manchu being infinitely easier to learn than Chinese, these translations are a great help towards obtaining a clear insight into Chinese syntax, and scholars like Stanislas Julien, who owed the remarkable precision in his renderings to his knowledge of Manchu, have repeatedly pointed this out. In a letter addressed to Dr. Legge he alludes to the study of Manchu as being of great assistance in translating the Classics. Dr Legge, however, in the preface to his translation of the Shuking, pronounced himself against it. The reasons advanced by this great scholar are not very cogent, and, in fact, not knowing the language, he was hardly competent to judge. But, even if he were right, others may be in a different position. Dr. Legge was perhaps more fortunate or more gifted than most people and had a thorough mastery of Chinese at the time when St. Julien wrote to him. Those who find Chinese more difficult will be inclined to consider the Manchu translations a great help.

This grammar being intended for the practical purpose of guiding the student in learning to read Manchu works, not of translating into Manchu, everything foreign to the aim is left out, especially all information which properly belongs to the sphere of the dictionary.

Shanghai, February, 1892.

P.G. von Möllendorff.