Manshu (蠻書), written by Fan Chuo in the 9th century, is a Chinese historical text regarding the geopolitics of southwest China, particularly Nanzhao. It is an important historical source for the period. This translation is based upon a digitized version of the recompiled 1774 movable type edition edited by the 武英 (Palace Museum Library).
The married men all wear drapes over their shoulders, (their?) other clothes are not dissimilar to the Chinese, though their tóu náng (頭囊; lit. 'head pocket'; ie. apparently a form of traditional native headgarb) are particularly beautiful.
Nánzhào (南詔) uses fine red silk, and all the others use coarser grade black silk.
Their system for obtaining one is as follows: a slit near the near edge forms the corner, carved wood such as Simaroubaceae (Ailanthus) and bullrush form the head, and align it such that all of the hair flows to the back of the head in a bun, which is held up and in place by the tóu náng.
Beneath a feather feature all items are tied together, (Former transliterator's note: An error is suspected in this sentence.) which completes the tóu náng.
For young boys beneath four (military years?) gauze-like hemp (is used), the foreportion acts as a net to restrain the topknot, and no corner-fold feature will be present. The hair is drawn in to a topknot feature at the crown and released through a felt-leather restraint.
They are normally barefooted, even the prime minister (清平宮) and military officials, who do not consider this shameful.
Beneath the caochang (曹長) are fastenings of lustrous metals and hemp.(Former transliterator's note: The original's error with respect to the character for gold has been corrected according to the New History of Tang.) ...
Or perhaps written records of their department [are carried], though infrequent.
Expensive silks, dark purple color, are extensively embroidered after dyeing.
There are also particularly high grade examples worn by people of importance, which are complete drapes of higher grade skins.
The next highest ranking have skins on their chest and back, which tuck in to their sleeves.
The next ranking again have skins on their chest, which tuck backward.
These are known as "tiger skins" or "boluo skins".
Belts are known as qūjū (佉苴).
Married women do not use cosmetics, but wear thin, silk embroidered, single-piece skirt outfits and decorative embroidery wraps.
Their hair is split in to two topknots, stretching from the crown to the ear, and often sewn with pearls, gold, cowries, ornaments and amber.
The servant-women of wealthy households also have embroidered, single-piece skirt outfits and often embroidery wraps, and cover their hair in gifted silk wraps, which are known as tóunáng.
Chapter 8: Part 2 — Native barbarian customs (蛮夷风俗; mányí fēngsú): Women and courtship
The Nanzhao harem is several hundred women, exclusively for the imperial family.
The prime minister and generals each have tens of women.
(In this respect) their culture makes no distinction between maidens and widows!
The youth parade at night through the village alleys, playing the hulusheng (壺盧笙) or blowing on tree leaves during the beautiful sounds of which they romance and elope.
On the evening of marriage, the groom goes to present himself the bride's household.
If the bride is in breach of the law [by being already married], then the groom may kill without legal guilt, including killing the bride.
If the family is wealthy and of means with someone to beg for their freedom, then they may purchase the right to move to the malarial miasma of Líshuǐ (麗水), in permanent exile, and may not legally return.
Chapter 8: Part 3 — Native barbarian customs (蛮夷风俗; mányí fēngsú): Festivals and holidays
On the first day of the eleventh lunar month every solar year, a great meeting is convened, fruit wine is prepared, cattle and sheep or goats are slaughtered, and friends and relatives celebrate amongst one another for three months, putting business aside to embrace the pleasures of life.
Outside those of a appropriate [sexually mature] age elope together in nature.
They consider the new year to have arrived with the first solar month
Other holidays are roughly similar to Han Chinese ones, with the exception that the custom of abstaining from cooked food for three days around the Confucian tomb-sweeping day (Qingming festival) is unknown to them.
Each time wine is drunk ［toward a balustrade, railing or screen], the head of the banquet at the seat of the table makes the toast.
Particular guests must not drunk, and must instead raise their clasped arms to their foreheads in deference, bow or refuse — this matter of propriety is accorded great importance.
Geese are afforded no particular elevation in the gastronomy, and are obtained as casually as meat or fish, cut in to cùn (3.5x3.5cm) sized squares, served with raw cucumber and dipped in a [Sichuan] pepper based sauce, a dish known as équē (鵝闕), and is considered a local delicacy.
Nanzhao imperial households eat from gold and silver, whilst lower ranks use bamboo and woven grasses for their tableware.
The wealthy eat with chopsticks and do not use spoons, whereas the commoners eat with their hands.
Chapter 8: Part 5 — Native barbarian customs (蛮夷风俗; mányí fēngsú): Weights, Measures and Currency
One Barbarian chǐ (尺; roughly 'Barbarian foot') is equal to one Chinese chǐ (尺; 'Chinese foot'; ie. 30cm) plus three cùn (寸; 'Chinese inches'; ie. 3cm) [or in other words the 'Barbarian foot' is measured at 33cm].
One Barbarian lǐ (裏; roughly 'Barbarian mile') is equal to 1600 Barbarian feet (尺; chǐ) [or in other words 528 meters].
A Han measure-weight is one third of a Barbarian measure-weight.
Their silk is said to be sized in bolts of four Chinese feet and five Chinese inches (寸) [or in other words the bolts are 1.35 meters long].
Fields are said to be twice the size of those in Han China, being of five Chinese mǔ (畝) in size [or in other words roughly 1/3 of a hectare].
Commerce is not executed with money, but by bartering items in the categories of silk fabrics, silk, felt, rugs, gold, silver, precious gems, cattle and sheep/goats, which are calculated in multiples of silk fabrics and silk, and it is said that some of them are very similar to tree bark.
Regarding the ordinary people's houses, they are always constructed similarly to four ‘山’ characters, with a high ridgepole and lower eaves. They are very similar to Han Chinese houses, but always face north-south-east-west and as such do not properly accord with their endemic environs.
Barns are separate to residences, and are fenced-off. They are a few zhàng (ie. about 10 meters) in height, the upper portion being resistant to rodents, and resembling vehicles in their manner of covering.
When a white barbarian (白蠻) dies in the Western Cuan (西爨), burial funerary rites will be performed within three days, and a grave stelae placed similarly to Han Chinese custom.
Families with some wealth are buried broadly about the fir and pine forests.
Méngshè (蒙舍) and all black barbarians (烏蠻) do not bury bodies, normally cremating them within three days then burying the ashes in the soil, placing but a single tael as a burial offering!
The Nánzhào (南詔) imperial family, in contrast, are cremated to golden flasks which are both heavy and silver coated for brilliance, which are painstakingly concealed from rival families but given ritual offerings at each the four seasons.
Other families may use copper or iron vessels, which are similarly concealed.
Chapter 8: Part 6 — Native barbarian customs (蛮夷风俗; mányí fēngsú): Spoken languages
The language of the White Barbarians (白蠻) is the most standard, after which is that of the Méngshè Barbarians (蒙舍蠻), then the other various tribal languages.
It is notable that their nouns are different to those of the Han Chinese, and do not conform to our four standard tones.
Significant issues are not discussed in person, rather messengers are used in both directions and through such methods an agreement is reached, and this custom is known as xíngnuò (lit. 'The walking of promises').
Tigers are known as boluomi (波羅密), and also known as cǎoluó (草羅).
Rhinoceros are known as 矣 which are pronounced as 鹹 (Middle Chinese /ɦˠɛm/, modern xian).
Belts are known as /kʰɨɑ/ /t͡sɨʌ/ (佉苴), food is known as /jɨoH/ (喻), salt is known as pin (賓), deer are known as /ɕɨk̚/ (識), oxen are known as /ɕiaX/ (舍), river-plains are known as /tʰɑmH/ (賧), valleys are known as /lɑŋH/ (浪), mountains are known as /ɦuɑ/ (和), mountain peaks are known as /t͡sʰuŋ/ /luoH/ (蔥路), dancing is known as /ɡɨɑ/ /bɑŋH/ (伽傍).
The Eastern Cuan (東爨) for city say /luŋH/ (弄), for bamboo say /t͡siᴇnX/ (翦), for salt say ju (眗), for land say /ȵɨuk̚/ (渘), for a request or invitation say /ʃɨoX/ (數), and for sour say /t͡ɕiᴇiH/ (制).
Their speech, moreover, is different to that of the White Barbarians (白蠻).
Chapter 8: Part 6 — Native barbarian customs (蛮夷风俗; mányí fēngsú): Military culture
Whenever departing on a military expedition, each barbarian will take one dou and five sheng of rice and some pieces of fish and will not otherwise be supplied with provisions.
The barbarian army (ie. Nanzhao army) is concerned with the depletion of its provisions, and is thus eager to fight, wanting to pillage as soon as possible after leaving their borders, thus requisitioning from the common people everywhere all of their grain, rice, cattle and livestock, and so forth.
After battle, those who have been injured by blades or arrows on their fronts are allowed to rest and recuperate.
Those who have been injured by blades or arrows on their backs or who fled are killed by stabbing in the back. (Former transliterator's note: This identical sentence also appears in the ninth chapter (juan) of the 《南蠻篇》 — the copyist originally mistakenly excluded it here.)
↑Presumably a type of garment implying a long skirt of processed grass-like vegetation or fibrous material.
↑The term used is 波羅皮 and failing any other explanation I would presume this may be leopard or tiger skin.
↑Possibly a period Tibeto-Burman word meaning "spotted" or "striped" or even a compound "spotted hide" related to the modern Liangshan Yi ꁈ₂popho. n. 痣 "dark spot of pigment in a person's skin." or modern Liangshai Yi ꆭ₂hluɬu³³ n. 皮革 "leather; hide".
↑Probably referring to a particular gemstone; English identity not forthcoming, presumably one sourced from modern Yunnan or Myanmar. Otherwise perhaps some general form of ornament, bell or decorative needle (簪).
↑A very Yunnanese instrument that can still be heard today, see cucurbit flute on Wikipedia.
↑Another Yunnanese tradition. Blowing on tree leaves creates a lively horn-like sound.
↑Explained through a metaphor of peach blossoms and rushes/reeds, but the meaning seems clear enough!
↑Apparently circa 4th February-5th March, similar to the Han Chinese.
↑This part is somewhat unclear to me. The answer probably lies in period formal / ritual vocabulary.
↑A translation is difficult because the meaning of the second character is unclear. If it is taken to mean old, then it would mean "old duck" or "duck of yore", however this would be grammatically abnormal. If it is taken to mean watchtower, then it means "the watchtower (of duck)". More coolly it may mean "duck's mistake". In reality none of these sound like great explanations and a correct or likely interpretation of the dish name remains unknown. It may even be that the second character represents a sound in the native tongue, which may be supposed from other elements in this text to have been an earlier form of the Yi language.
↑筋 is apparently a pronoun sometimes used for long thin things and in this period could be used to refer to chopsticks.
↑Based on period rulers (recovered no doubt from high ranking people's graves) the Tang Dynasty chǐ (尺) is estimated to be 30cm (source), however a perhaps more accurate and lower estimate is given over here on Wikipedia.
↑The text clearly uses 分 as a unit of measure however without detailed evidence as to the meaning of this character in the Tang Dynasty we can only ascertain the proportional relationship which is presented here.
↑This is certainly fish, and almost certainly individual pieces which have been smoked, dried or fermented for transport. The phrase used is 魚牖, the first character of which is fish though the second (牖; English Wiktionary) has unknown semantic content in this context. In attempted reconstruction it would appear to imply from visual analysis of the left-hand radical of this character "piece" or "chunk" and the right-hand radical somewhat "meat-like" which makes perfect sense in context.
↑Interesting explained as 州溪源 meaning "river-plain", "river or stream" and "origin", implying "flatlands, valleys and high-altitude locations alike".