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The Manchus who spoke Manchu

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I’ve literally just made a breakthrough. (A little personal one, mind, but a breakthrough I’m about to share nonetheless.)
It’s a total non-big deal, but something I actually saw for the first time in the Forbidden City while my parents were here.
I remember discussing it with them, and then snapping a picture so that I could ask some people later on, which I did, but nobody knew.

Here’s the picture:


Just the sign above one of the many gates or buildings within the Imperial Palace

The issue here was that when I saw this, I tilted my head to the left and tried to read the right-hand column in the same way I would read Arabic. As you might guess (and for those who don’t read Arabic, take my word for it) this didn’t work. I pointed it out to my parents, and once it was obvious that they had about as much idea as I did, I decided that seeing as I was the one studying in China, I should have an idea at least, and so, to keep my pride, I totally made up a plausible suggestion, and announced that it was probably Uyghur, the language of the Uyghur Muslims (would you have guessed that) who are largely concentrated in the Northwest of China. (Totally explains why their language was on equal par with the dominant Mandarin Chinese to this sort of extent, right?)

Ignoring my ignorance from that time, I have just discovered what it is, thanks to research (aka click a link to another link to another non-related topic, google unknown thing that appears on this page, follow multiple further links) for background research for research for my project (better late than never..!)

Right, well I’ll tell you now.

It’s Manchu. A language spoken by the Manchus. The Manchus were the people of the Qing Dynasty rule of China (approx. 1644-1911). Considering the Forbidden City did serve as the Imperial Palace during the Qing Dynasty, the fact Manchu features on the entrance gates would make sense.

Copy and paste: highlight downwards?! What.

It looks difficult.
This may be largely due to the fact that even now, after I know it’s NOT Arabic, I’m still trying to find the similarities.
I just read on Omniglot that it’s a language only spoken by about 100 people, and only 20 who can read/write.
It’s a dying language. 😦

I’m happy to have finally found out what it is, though. So next time someone asks me, I will be able to tell them.
And plus, thanks to Wikipedia, a partial minor victory for me:

The Manchu language uses the Manchu script, which was derived from the traditional Mongol script, which in turn is based on the vertically written pre-Islamic Uyghur script.



About Ibtehaal

I graduated with a degree in Chinese and Economics, which involved spending a year studying Chinese in Beijing. This turned out to be the hardest but most rewarding thing I think I have ever done. I've now returned to China for another year, to study in Shanghai and figure out my next steps.

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