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China and Inner Asia
The Manchu Voices: A Linguistic Method on Zidishu's Authorship Attribution
Individual Paper Presenter(s)
University of Oxford, United Kingdom
As one of the ethnic minorities in China, the Manchus’ voices have been disempowered and neglected since the collapse of the Qing empire in 1912. The impact of political change leads to a narrow view on Manchus among Chinese scholarship. Specifically, on the pre-modern literary firmament, contemporary scholars pay more attention to Chinese literati and their works, rather than Manchu literati—the ruling class of the Qing empire. As such, this paper aims to fill the significant lacuna by focusing on the zidishu (youth tales), a storytelling genre prevalent among Manchu bannermen from around 1735 to 1912. Like other Chinese oral literature, the majority of zidishu remain anonymous and very few with authors’ pseudonyms. Previous means used to deduce the authorship have been unsatisfactory, and the problem of how to determine oral literature’s authorship has been wrestled with by generations of scholars. Taking one of the zidishu writers, the imperial clansman Aisin Gioro Yigeng, and twenty zidishu works attributed to him as a case study, this paper is a first attempt to challenge previous zidishu’s authorship attribution by employing a new linguistic methodology. Among the twenty works, seventeen are commonly attributed to him and the others are controversial. This paper argues that the three controversial works are less likely to have been written by Yigeng, and a “Yigeng style” exists from the linguistic test results of the seventeen works.