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Mapping in Manchu: The Development of Usage of the Manchu Script and Language on Qing Imperial Mapping Projects

Juul Eijk

Abstract


The Qing Overview Maps of the Imperial Territories are heterogeneous in nature: from the production process and production techniques to the different languages and scripts in the finished works, each complete edition is different from the others. This article focuses on the heterogeneity found in the usage of the Manchu language, which functions as the descriptive language of the Outer parts of the empire in all editions of the Overview Maps. After the transcriptions of toponyms, synonymous head addition occurs; e.g. in the Manchu transcription hvwang ho bira (Yellow River), both the Chinese character he 河 transcribed in Manchu script as ho and the Manchu bira mean ‘river’. The use of the Manchu language separates the Outer from the Inner regions, but it takes varying forms; Manchu is even written in Chinese characters in several editions, and it conceals a profound variety of languages used in toponyms across the maps. Through a comparison between the different editions, Manchu emerges not merely as a tool to accurately represent geographical space and names, but also as a way to idealize the division of space in the empire.

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