Practical Effect of Endangered Manchu on the 21st Century Chinese Language Learning: Reading Wutiqingwenjian五体清文鑑, a Qing (1636-1911) Dictionary of Five Languages

Dr Ning Chia1

1Central College, United States

Wutiqingwenjian (1794) was the Qing-compiled dictionary of Manchu, Tibetan, Mongolian, Uighur, and Chinese under the Qianlong (r. 1736-1795) emperor’s instruction. To promote the deliberation of this dictionary’s inappreciable language diversity, my presentation, standing as one among many possible efforts, demonstrates the inter-exchange of the vocabulary equivalents between two official languages of the Qing dynasty, Manchu and Chinese. Manchu is the 1599-born Southern Tungstic language which has been for decades in danger of disappearing from the alive Manchu communities. Chinese is a populous language in contemporary world with consistent progress in the lengthy Chinese history. To the many interpretation-flexible Chinese vocabularies in Wutiqingwenjian, the description-specific Manchu correspondence serves as the explanation tool to indicate their Qing use, if one has the Manchu training. The endangered Manchu in this case remains its practical function and two languages together bring us into a critical part of the Qing language environment. The Wutiqingwenjian’s vocabulary grouping of 18,671 words into 36 categories and 293 sub-categories, furthermore, significantly discloses the language-bounded Qing cultural concepts on material and spiritual subjects. Thus, historical Manchu today still exerts its effects on our Chinese language learning and also furnishes the historical message for us to comprehend the Qing epistemology.


Dr Ning Chia is a co-editor of Managing the Frontier in Qing China: Lifanyuan and Libu revisited (2016); author of “The Solon Sable Tribute, Hunters of Inner Asia and Dynastic Elites at the Imperial Center” (2018) and “The Manchu Language Resources in the People’s Republic of China: A Comprehensive Review of Sixteen Manchu Textbooks” (2010).


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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