Manchu-Chinese Zidi Shu “Eating the Crab”. Translation from Manchu and Chinese, Introduction and Commentaries

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The origin of the Manchu written texts is connected with the introduction of Manchu script in the early 17th century. Some literary texts, shamanic songs and popular tales are classified under the original literature of the Manchus. During the Qing dynasty existed an unusual genre of short anecdotes zidi shu 子弟书 (“youth books”) which was popular among bannermen and was recited in the tea houses of Beijing, Shenyang and other cities. The texts are written in a mixed Manchu-Chinese language where Manchu words are transcribed in Chinese characters. A rare zidi shu titled “Eating the Crab” was introduced by Stephen Wadley in 1991 in facsimile and English translation. The Manchu words are given in Manchu script and are accompanied by their Chinese translation. The text describes the everyday life of a bannerman family: the husband and his wife do not know how to cook and eat a crab, their aunt comes to save the situation. The whole description is given in a humorous way, and was definitely popular among the visitors of the tea houses. The text is interesting for linguists as an example of a mixed language. It may attract the attention of ethnologists as it gives detailed descriptions of female costume and everyday life scenes. The article presents a Russian translation of the zidi shu with commentaries.

About the authors

Tatiana A. Pang

Institute of Oriental Manuscripts RAS

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2597-2530

Cand. Sci. (History), Leading Researcher, Head of the Department of Far Eastern Studies, Deputy-director for Science

Russian Federation, St. Petersburg


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  2. Liu Xiaomeng 刘小萌。 Qingdai Beijing qiren shehui 清代北京旗人社会 [The Bannermen Society of Peking During the Qing Dynasty]. Beijing 北京: Zhongguo shehui kexue chu-banshe 中国社会科学出版社, 2008 (in Chinese).
  3. Wadley, Stephen A. The Mixed-Language Verses From the Man-chu Dynasty in China. Bloomington: Indiana University Re-search Institute for Inner Asian Studies, 1991 (Papers on Inner Asia, no. 16) (in English).
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  5. 文學∶子弟書珍本百种 [Manchu Singing Literature: Hundred Precious Zidi Shu]. Beijing 北京: Minzu chubanshe 民族出版社, 1999 (in Chinese).

Supplementary files

Supplementary Files
1. The first two pages of the Manchurian-Chinese text "How to eat a crab" (Wadley 1991: 8, 10)

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