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WRITING AN EMPIRE: AN ANALYSIS OF THE MANCHU ORIGIN MYTH AND THE DYNAMICS OF MANCHU IDENTITY*

  • Lin Sun (a1)

Abstract

The first known record of the Manchu origin myth is found in Qing documents dating from 1636. These documents provide an official account of the origin of the Aisin Gioro lineage, including the story of the ancestor Bukūri Yongšon, who is depicted as the Manchu primogenitor, from his birth to his ascension to the throne. This article argues that the Manchu origin myth reflected the dynamics of Manchu identity, which shifted from constructing a Manchu group to securing Manchu rule during the period from the seventeenth to the eighteenth centuries. By tracing the development of this myth from its earliest version in the seventeenth century to four different versions that appeared by the mid-eighteenth century, written in both Manchu and Chinese, this article endeavors to shed new light on how the Manchus saw themselves, their ancestor, and their empire.

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Footnotes

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Acknowledgements: This article is based on my master's dissertation at the University of Oxford. I would like to thank my supervisors, Laura Newby and Henrietta Harrison, for their invaluable supervision of my work. I am also grateful to Gu Songjie, Li Hui, Katharine Biddle, Peter McDonnell, Tu Liwen, and the editors and two anonymous reviewers of the Journal of Chinese History for their inspirational comments on this article. Where it has been deemed necessary to clarify the language in which a proper noun or term is being rendered, the following abbreviations are used: Ch. = Chinese, Man. = Manchu, Ko. = Korean.

Footnotes

References

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1 Crossley, Pamela, Siu, Helen F., and Sutton, Donald S., eds., “Introduction,” in Empire at the Margins: Culture, Ethnicity, and Frontier in Early Modern China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 1.

2 Crossley, Pamela, “Thinking about Ethnicity in Early Modern China,” Late Imperial China 11:1 (1990), 30.

3 Crossley, Pamela, A Translucent Mirror: History and Identity in Qing Imperial Ideology (Berkeley; London: University of California Press, 1999), 3.

4 Elliott, Mark, The Manchu Way: The Eight Banners and Ethnic Identity in Late Imperial China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), 17.

5 Campbell, Cameron, Lee, James Z., and Elliott, Mark, “Identity Construction and Reconstruction: Naming and Manchu Ethnicity in Northeast China, 1749–1909,” Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History 35:3 (2002), 101.

6 Elliott, Mark, “Ethnicity in the Qing Eight Banners,” in Empire at the Margins: Culture, Ethnicity, and Frontier in Early Modern China (Berkeley; Los Angeles; London: University of California Press, 2006), 39.

7 Besides the sources noted above, see Cheng, Xun 程迅, “Sanxiannü shi nüzhenzu gulao shenhua ma” 三仙女是女真族古老神話嗎, Minzu wenxue yanjiu 4 (1985), 115.

8 Crossley, Pamela, “An Introduction to the Qing Foundation Myth,” Late Imperial China 6:2 (1985), 2123 ; Crossley, A Translucent Mirror, 192–205, 296–306.

9 Elliott, The Manchu Way, 46.

10 On the importance of using both Chinese and Manchu versions of Qing documents, see Crossley, Siu, and Sutton, “Introduction,” 4.

11 Flood, Christopher, Political Myth (New York;London: Routledge, 2002), 37.

12 This version quoted from Sun Jianbing and Song Lili's paper, in which the full text of the Chongde version is reprinted. See Sun and Song, “Cong manwen wenxian kan sanxiannü chuanshuo de yanbian,” 50. There has been considerable debate among scholars concerning the date of the version, because the documents themselves do not contain any information about the date. The Veritable Records of Taizu and Taihou was not handed down, because of a fire in the tenth lunar month of 1797, but its draft, the Old Manchu Chronicles, had been finished earlier than the fifteenth day of the eleventh lunar month (Dec. 11) of 1636. Moreover, use of the term Jurchen (Man. jušen), which appears in this text was prohibited after the thirteenth day of the tenth lunar month (Nov. 10) of 1635, suggesting that the date of version two must be earlier than that date and later than the sixth day of the fifth lunar month (June 20) of 1635, the date of Muksik's narration. For more details of the date of the Veritable Records of Taizu and Taihou, see Chen Jiexian 陳捷先, Manwen qingshilu yanjiu 滿文清實錄研究 (Taipei: Dahua shuju, 1978), 10.

13 Rawski, Evelyn S., The Last Emperors: A Social History of Qing Imperial Institutions (Berkeley; London: University of California Press, 1998), 36.

14 Dan yao 丹藥” literally “cinnabar medicine.” In Chinese culture cinnabar was traditionally associated with immortality and the elixir of life.

15 Sun and Song, “Cong Manwen wenxian kan sanxiannü chuanshuo de yanbian,” 50.

16 Cai Meibiao 蔡美彪, “Da Qingguo jianhao qian de guohao, zuming yu jinian” 大清國建號前的國號、族名與紀年, Lishi yanjiu 3 (1987), 144.

17 Crossley, A Translucent Mirror, 92, 96, 207.

18 Elliott, The Manchu Way, 71.

19 Kanda Nobuo 神田信夫 et al., trans., Mambun rōtō 滿文老檔 (Tōkyō: Tōyō Bunko, 1955), “Taiso” 1:20.

20 童 or 佟, both of which he used frequently. For more details, see Crossley, Pamela, “The Tong in Two Worlds: Cultural Identities in Liaodong and Nurgan during the 13th-17th Centuries,” Ch'ing-Shih Wen-T'i 4:9 (1983), 2146 .

21 Jin Yiling 金藝玲, “Chaoxian yu Manzu shenhua zhi bijiao: Yi zhumeng shenhua yu bukuli yongshun wei zhongxin” 朝鮮與滿族神話之比較:以朱蒙神話與布庫裡雍順為中心, Xinan minzu daxue xuebao (renwen sheke ban) 4 (2008), 154.

22 Jinshi 金史 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1975), 1:2.

23 Namely, the Haixi, Jianzhou, and Yeren Jurchen tribes, who dwelt in this region of present-day Northeast China during the early and middle Ming period.

24 Despite the fact that one of these is not a blood-brother. See Jinshi, 1:2.

25 Ximei, Yang 楊希枚, “Lun shenmi shuzi qishier” 論神秘數字七十二, in Xianqi wenhuashi lunji 先秦文化史論集 (Beijing: Zhongguo shehui kexue chubanshe, 1995), 710.

26 Bibo, Zhang 張碧波, “Yinshang, Gaogouli, Manzu sianxiannŭ zuyuan shenhua de bijiao yanjiu” 殷商、高句麗、滿族三仙女族源神話的比較研究, Manyu yanjiu 1 (2000), 5051 .

27 For more details of the Eight Banner system, see Elliott, The Manchu Way.

28 The four senior beiles during the Nurhaci's reign were Daišan 代善, Amin 阿敏, Hong Taiji 皇太極 and Manggoyltai 莽古爾泰. These names are written in Manchu.

29 The four junior beiles were Jirgalang 濟爾哈朗, Ajige 阿濟格, Dodo 多鐸, and Dorgon 多爾袞. These names are written in Manchu.

30 “Taizong wen huangdi shilu” 太宗文皇帝實錄, in Qing shilu 清實錄 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1985), 11:2b.

31 Jialu, Guan 關嘉祿 and Tong Yonggong 佟永功, “Manzu mingming chuyi 滿族命名芻議,” in Manzu lishi yu wenhua 滿族歷史與文化 (Beijing: Zhongyang minzu daxue chubanshe, 1996), 56 .

32 Yue Fei (1103–42) was a Han Chinese military general during the Southern Song dynasty. In 1126, the Jurchen-led Jin dynasty invaded northern China, captured Emperor Qinzong, and forced the Song dynasty to move out of its capital, Kaifeng. This marked the end of the Northern Song dynasty, and the beginning of the Southern Song dynasty under Emperor Gaozong. Yue Fei led a northern expedition to recapture the places the Jin state had conquered. During this campaign, however, Yue Fei obeyed the emperor's orders recalling him to the capital, where he was imprisoned and executed on false charges. After his death, Yue Fei was depicted as a patriot and a personification of loyalty in folklore.

33 Elliott, “Ethnicity in the Qing Eight Banners,” 39.

34 Elliott, “Ethnicity in the Qing Eight Banners,” 39.

35 Crossley, A Translucent Mirror, 194.

36 Elliott, The Manchu Way, 9.

37 Yoshimichi, Kusunoki 楠木賢道 et al. , trans., Naikokushiin tō:tenchō hachinen 內國史院檔天聡八年 (Tōkyō: Tōyō Bunko, 2009), 380.

38 Kusunoki et al., trans., Naikokushiin tō:tenchō hachinen, 380.

39 Kusunoki et al., trans., Naikokushiin tō:tenchō hachinen, 380.

40 Nobuo, Kanda 神田信夫, Jun, Matsumura 松村潤, and Okada Hidehiro 岡田英弘, trans., Kyū manshūtō: tenchō kunen 舊滿洲檔天聰九年 (Tōkyō: Tōyō Bunko, 1972), 124.

41 One li is c. one-third of a mile.

42 Kanda et al., trans., Kyū manshūtō: tenchō kunen, 124–25.

43 Neige cangben Manwen laodang 內閣藏本滿文老檔 (Shenyang: Liaoning minzu chubanshe, 2009), “Taizong“1.1; Kanda et al., trans., Kyū manshūtō: tenchō kunen, 82–83. For more details of various versions of the Old Manchu Chronicle, see Mark Elliott's Note on the English translation of The Old Manchu Chronicles at http://sites.fas.harvard.edu/~mnch210a/tomc.cgi?t=intro.”

44 The text is extracted from Matsumura Jun's article in which a full text of the Shunzhi version is reprinted. See Jun, Matsumura 松村潤, “Qing Taizu shilu yanjiu” 清太祖實錄研究, trans. Aɣula 敖拉, Mengguxue xinxi 3 (2002), 2325 .

45 Matsumura, “Qing taizu shilu yanjiu,” 23–25. The Shunzhi version appeared in 1655 in Manchu and was entitled the Veritable Records of Wu Huangdi. There were two editions of the Shunzhi version, one in Manchu and the other in Chinese, with almost the same content.

46 The Chinese text is “longxing zhidi” (The Land of Dragon Rising). See Jinshi, 35:819.

47 Chen, Manwen qingshilu yanjiu, 36.

48 “Taizong wen huangdi shilu,” 5:32b, 15:14b.

49 Matsumura, “Qing taizu shilu yanjiu,” 23–25.

50 Crossley, “An Introduction to the Qing Foundation Myth,” 13–18.

51 Dudu Mentemu (1370–1433) was the Jurchen chieftain of the Odoli tribe that later became the Jianzhou Jurchens. He was considered as the successor of Bukūri Yongšon, see “Taizu gao huangdi shilu” 太祖高皇帝實錄, in Qing shilu, 1:3b. In the Veritable Records of Manchus, Dudu Mentemu's name appears; see “Manzhou shilu” 滿洲實錄, in Qing shilu, 1:9a.

52 Flood, Political Myth, 24.

53 Zhenyu, Luo 羅振玉, Taizu Gao huangdi shilu gaoben sanzhong 太祖高皇帝實錄稿本三種 (Taipei: Dahua shuju, 1973), 3273–78. The Kangxi version was finished in 1686; the title of the Veritable Records of Wu Huangdi was revised to The Veritable Records of Gao Huangdi. However, the Chinese edition of the version was lost, so this article makes reference to three drafts of the Chinese version which were published. For more information on these draft, see Luo, Taizu Gao huangdi shilu gaoben sanzhong, 2862–66, 3052–56, 3273–78.

54 Chen, Manwen qingshilu yanjiu, 39.

55 The 1736 edition written in Manchu is found in Taizu Gao Huangdi benji (Man. Daizu Gegi Hūwangdi i ben gi bithe debtelin dergi), which appeared in 1736. The document itself does not contain any information about the date, which is suggested by Chen Jiexian. See Jiexian, Chen 陳捷先, Manwen qingbenji yanjiu 滿文清本紀研究 (Taipei: Mingwen shuju, 1981), 7.

56 The 1739 edition appears in the Taizu Gao Huangdi shilu, which was revised in 1739. This article refers to both the Chinese and Manchu editions. For the Chinese edition, see “Taizu gao huangdi shilu,” 1:1b–3b. For the Manchu edition, see Sun and Song, “Cong Manwen wenxian kan sanxiannü chuanshuo de yanbian,” 54–55.

57 Crossley, Pamela, “Manzhou Yuanliu Kao and the Formalization of the Manchu Heritage,” The Journal of Asian Studies 46:4 (1987), 779.

58 For more information on Manzhou yuanliu kao, see Crossley, “Manzhou Yuanliu Kao and the Formalization of the Manchu Heritage.”

59 Elliott, “Ethnicity in the Qing Eight Banners,” 48.

60 Elliott, “Ethnicity in the Qing Eight Banners,” 48.

61 Crossley, A Translucent Mirror, 270.

62 Crossley, “Manzhou Yuanliu Kao and the Formalization of the Manchu Heritage,” 762.

63 Crossley, “Manzhou Yuanliu Kao and the Formalization of the Manchu Heritage,” 781.

* Acknowledgements: This article is based on my master's dissertation at the University of Oxford. I would like to thank my supervisors, Laura Newby and Henrietta Harrison, for their invaluable supervision of my work. I am also grateful to Gu Songjie, Li Hui, Katharine Biddle, Peter McDonnell, Tu Liwen, and the editors and two anonymous reviewers of the Journal of Chinese History for their inspirational comments on this article. Where it has been deemed necessary to clarify the language in which a proper noun or term is being rendered, the following abbreviations are used: Ch. = Chinese, Man. = Manchu, Ko. = Korean.

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Journal of Chinese History 中國歷史學刊
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  • EISSN: 2059-1640
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