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Pang T., Stary G. New Light on Manchu Historiography and Literature. The Discovery of Three Documents in Old Manchu Script. Wiebaden, Harrassowitz, 1998. IV+340 cc.


Preface

The discovery in the library of the Musee National des Arts Asiatiques Guimet in Paris of two manuscripts and one blockprint in the so-called old Manchu script “without dots and circles”, which − according to official Qing historiography − was in use in Manchuria before 1632, determined a considerable progress in the field of Manchu bibliography. Their great value as historical sources for early Manchu history is shown by the revelations on hitherto unknown aspects of the inside struggle for power among the Manchu Khan Nurhaci (Qing Taizu), his son Hong Taiji (Qing Taizong) and, in a few cases, their ancestors. Some episodes, reported in a very condensed or incomplete way in "classical" works such as the Qing Shilu, find a comprehensible explanation and reveal the real background of events which in official accounts were handed down according to the strict rules of orthodox Confucian historiography.

At the same time, these three works discovered in 1996 occupy an important place in Manchu literature for being the first autochthonous compilations not based on administrative necessities or burocratic practices. The old script used in two of these works, and its transitional phase to the reformed script in the third one, allow a detailed inside look in the evolution of Manchu script over a period of around thirty years (1599-1632).

To be sure, these works deserve further accurate analyses from various points of view − especially with reference to their unknown compilators and bibliographical data. This necessity was also felt by the conservateur of the library of the Musee Guimet, Mr. Francis Macouin, who immediately supported the idea of making these documents accessible to a larger number of scholars in a facsimile edition, and thus procured permission to publish them.

The authors therefore wish to express their gratitude to the Musee Guimet and especially to Mr. Francis Macouin for his precious help and kind collaboration.

T. Pang, G. Stary

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