Mongolian and Manchu translations of Chinese classics

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Xinhuanet has a feature article on a "Mongolian sinologist devoted to translating Chinese classic works" (8/31/19).  His name is Menerel Chimedtseye, and he is a professor at the National University of Mongolia in Ulan Bator.  The scholar's Mongolian Cyrillic edition of The Book of Mencius was just published this past Saturday.  With the appearance of his Mencius, Chimedtseye has now completed the translation of all of the Four Books, which also include the Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean, and the Analects of Confucius, and constitute the foundation of the core belief system of Confucianism.  He has also translated Sun Zi's Art of War and other early Chinese works into Mongolian.

It is well known that the Manchus, starting already in the late 16th century before they established suzerainty over China with the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), had embarked on the large scale translation of Chinese texts into their own language.  These works included the classics, histories, political and philosophical texts, medical and religious treatises, and fiction.  What I do not know is how widespread were premodern translations of Chinese texts into Mongolian and, if there were a substantial body of them, whether they differ significantly from the modern Mongolian translations of Chimedtseye and other contemporary scholars.

[h.t. Geoff Wade]


  1. Bathrobe said,

    September 7, 2019 @ 7:29 am

    The only source I've seen that gives some estimate of Qing era translations into Manchu and Mongolian is Evelyn Rawski's "Qing Publishing in Non-Han Languages". If I remember rightly, there was less translation into Mongolian than there was into Manchu, maybe because of a focus on Tibetan Buddhism among the Mongols.

    I personally bought a Mongolian translation of the Dream of Red Mansions last year, published in Hohhot (2016), which still lies unread. It was translated by Sainbayar et al and seems to be modern, although no date is listed. I did note at least one literary/archaic feature, the form of the dative-locative (-dur).

  2. Bathrobe said,

    September 7, 2019 @ 7:45 am

    Perhaps it is worth mentioning that the late Qing Inner Mongolian author Injinash was influenced by Chinese novels like the Dream of Red Mansions in his works The One-Storey Pavilion and The Chamber of Red Tears (see linked article). He is regarded in Mongolia as an early modern writer and exponent of Mongolian nationalism.

  3. Pamela said,

    September 7, 2019 @ 8:58 am

    nice comment on this here:

    i would add in the 1630s while constructing a tri-lingual exam system Hung Taiji commissioned translations into Manchu and Mongolian of the Lunyu and the Mencius; the translations into Manchu were complete but I don't know whether the Mongolian translations were. The The court also sponsored a Mongolian translation of Sanguo yanyi, and commissioned Mongolian translations of the histories of the Liao, Jin and Yuan dynasties.

    the court commissioned many works in Mongolian –philosophical, historical and religious– but the volume never approached what it sponsored and completed in Manchu. I think there were lots of reasons for that, including: Mongols were better at using Mongolian in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries than Manchus were at using Manchu; so, the court was more insistent that Manchu translations (and primers, dictionaries, etc) be completed and distribvuted. also, the exams never played exactly the same role in the education and prerequisites for office of Mongol elites that they did for Manchus and civilians. as a consequence, translations of classics into Mongolian in the early Qing was never as urgent as translations into Manchu.

    The late Qing (say, after 1865) wasa bit different, as a new vigorous Mongolian elite worked to advocate and produce new translations into Mongolian of classic Chinese works. I believe some of these translations were not from Chinese directly, but via Manchu.

  4. Bathrobe said,

    September 7, 2019 @ 4:38 pm

    Also perhaps tangential:

    There are two young translators (Undrah and Sodbileg) in Ulaanbaatar who have privately translated and published the History of the Ming in Mongolian. If I remember there were one or two other works published the same way.

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