3 New Books Document Manchu-Tungusic Languages, Feature Multilingual Glossaries

A conference was recently held in Beijing by China Social Sciences Press to celebrate the publication earlier this year of three scholarly works of interest to researchers of Manchu-Tungus languages (研讨会). They are all authored by Dulor Osor Chog (aka Chao Ke, 朝克) an Evenki who holds a Ph D. in Japanese Culture and Language that was earned in Japan. All three are mainly in Chinese but have indexes in various languages including English (English titles below are publisher’s, not mine):

满通古斯语族语言词源研究 (Etymological Research of Manchu-Tungusic Language)

  • Includes references to vocabulary with Mongolian, Altaic and Mandarin roots.

满通古斯语族语言研究史论 (Research History of Manchu-Tungusic Language)

  • Lists and assesses various reference works.

满通古斯语族语言词汇比较 (Comparison of Manchu-Tungusic Basic Vocabulary)

  • Includes 5-language glossary of vocabulary in Manchu, Xibe, Evenki, Oroqen and Hezhen, as well as a limited number of Jurchen words. Indexed in Chinese and English.

Hong Kong Book Fair (Jul 16-22): Seminar Topics Push the Envelope

A glance at the topics for seminars starring Chinese writers seem a tad provocative: “KMT Party Member Mao Zedong”; “Hong Kong and Taiwan Literature in the Era of Resistance”; “Mainland Writers — Luxury and Dilemma”.

Glad I don’t have to sell those topics to my Mainland Minder!

At any rate, the schedule for the book fair’s Famous Chinese Writer Seminar Series (名作家讲座系列) is online now here. It is in Chinese, which suggests these events may be in Chinese without simultaneous interpretation. But I’m not sure.

Here are a few of the writers who will be there:

Wu Ming-yi (吴明益); Yan Lianke (阎连科); Li Ao (李敖); Yan Geling (严歌苓); Chen Xue (陈雪); Jiang Fangzhou (蒋方舟)

徐穆实受访:人民日报海外版转载 “建立驻地翻译基金” 的建议

Humes Proposes Translation-in-Residence Fund莫言获诺贝尔文学奖、麦家小说在海外畅销,外国翻译家功不可没。他们以优美的本国语言、适合西方人阅读的视角进行翻译,将中文图书接引到彼岸并焕发出神秘光彩。

最近,美国中文翻译家徐穆实(Bruce Humes)在个人网站上刊出公开信,就中国有关机构近年来推动的文学外译提出若干具体建议,将中国文学“走出去”的战略落到实处:






Xinjiang-based “West” Magazine Announces 2012-13 Awards

西部 magazine (lit, “West”) recently held an award ceremony in Tekes County (located in the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture). Ten authors received awards for texts published in the magazine during 2012-13 (西部文学奖). They are:

Winning poet Maimaitimin Abolizi: Writes in Uyghur and Mandarin

Winning poet Maimaitimin Abolizi: Writes in Uyghur and Mandarin


《龋齿》by 弋舟 (Yi Zhou), and《小说二题》by 流瓶儿 (Liu Ping’er)

Short Stories

《小叙事》by 汗漫 (Han Man);《母亲》by 辛生 (Xin Sheng); and《禾木纪事》by 康剑 (Kang Jian)


《冉冉的诗》by 冉冉 (Ran Ran), and《石头里的天空》by 麦麦提敏·阿卜力孜 (Maimaitimin Abolizi)

Literary Criticism

《诗之思》by 泉子 (Quan Zi), and《巴扎里的时间》by 王敏 (Wang Min)


《英美自然诗文》translated by 松风 (Song Feng)

Wang Lixiong on Xinjiang: “My Western Realm, Your Eastern Homeland”


Book Review:



My Western Realm,

Your Eastern Homeland

By Wang Lixiong

The 2009 Ürümqi riots damaged the reputation of Xinjiang’s Uyghur in the eyes of many Chinese, but the “2014 Kunming Attack” in March this year has surely left a more blood-curdling and indelible image of the “Uyghur-as-Terrorist” imprinted upon the national psyche. Officially, with 197 killed (including both Han and Uyghur), the earlier inter-ethnic violence in Ürümqi events was more deadly. But the lightning attack by assailants wielding long-bladed knives who randomly stabbed and slashed passengers in Kunming Railway Station, leaving 29 travellers dead and well over one hundred injured, was a decidedly one-sided, cold-blooded affair.

 A Han author's voyage into Uyghurdom: Even the title is taboo

A Han author’s voyage into Uyghurdom: Even the title is taboo

Xinhua News Agency quickly announced that the slaughter was carried out by Uyhgurs with a separatist agenda. Whether that claim is based on hard facts is irrelevant; within China, it is widely assumed to be true.

What “ethnic” policies does the central government pursue in Xinjiang, and how have they evolved since 1949? Why have Han-Uyghur relations become so volatile? Can a “Middle Way” be found, and what would it look like?

Openly posing these basic questions in today’s China — much less debating them — is fraught with danger, especially if you are Uyghur. The recent arrest of Beijing Minzu University economics professor Ilham Tohti, an outspoken but moderate Uyghur intellectual since charged with “inciting separatism,” shows where discussing issues relating to ethnic minorities can lead.

Several years back when it was a tad less sensitive — for a Han, at least — to address these topics, writer and rights activist Wang Lixiong published his 473-page My Western Realm, Your Eastern Homeland ( 我的西域,你的东土) (1). “Western Realm” conjures up images of the Silk Road, the Taklamakan Desert and Turkic tribes, all part of the Chinese empire. “Eastern Homeland,” however, is a taboo term in today’s PRC, a homophone for the abbreviation of the short-lived, pre-1949 East Turkestan Republic, whose legacy still gives Beijing splittist migraines. Both of these terms refer, of course, to what is known in the PRC as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Though first published in Taiwan in 2007, the Chinese authorities have banned the work, which both confers it with a certain legitimacy, and suggests that it is not yet out of date.

The author originally intended to pen a book on Xinjiang that would serve as a sister volume to his controversial Sky Burial: The Fate of Tibet (天葬). No expert in this field, he set out for Xinjiang to do onsite research, and to get his hands on background material and statistics that he believed were key to understanding the Xinjiang question. Unwisely, he employed his guanxi to obtain reports from government archives and for this, he was arrested, jailed and intensely interrogated; he won freedom only by promising he would work as an informant for China’s intelligence services. [Read more...]

Siberia: 21st Century Greater China Territory?

In Why China Will Reclaim Siberia, Frank Jacobs explains how vulnerable Russia’s northeastern territory is to eventual annexation by the awakened dragon to the south. What if China were to—à la Putin in Crimea—”hand out passports to sympathizers in contested areas, then move in militarily to ‘protect its citizens’ “? Certainly, that scenario is still far off, but large numbers of (rather successful) Chinese businesspeople have already emigrated there. An excerpt from Jacobs’ essay:

Siberia – the Asian part of Russia, east of the Ural Mountains – is immense. It takes up three-quarters of Russia’s land mass, the equivalent of the entire U.S. and India put together. It’s hard to imagine such a vast area changing hands. But like love, a border is real only if both sides believe in it. And on both sides of the Sino-Russian border, that belief is wavering.

The border, all 2,738 miles of it, is the legacy of the Convention of Peking of 1860 and other unequal pacts between a strong, expanding Russia and a weakened China after the Second Opium War. (Other European powers similarly encroached upon China, but from the south. Hence the former British foothold in Hong Kong, for example.)

July 2014: Update on Uyghur Writers and Writing as Crackdown Gains Traction

In the wake of two high-profile and deadly attacks reportedly carried out by Uyghurs outside of their traditional

Open Letter by Uyghur Intellectuals Denouncing Terrorism

Open Letter by Uyghur Intellectuals Denouncing Terrorism

homeland, the Chinese authorities have launched a multi-faceted campaign to crush what they see as a terrorist movement that aims at founding an independent state in the Xinjiang autonomous region that represents one-sixth of Chinese territory.

I am referring here to the Beijing “2013 Tian’anmen Square Attack” in which a 4 x 4 crashed into a crowd and burst into flames near Mao’s famous portrait, killing the passengers and two tourists, while injuring 38. On March 1 this year, eight knife-wielding attackers appeared at the Kunming train station in Yunnan Province, and slashed 29 people to death and injured 140 others.

As we enter Ramadan (June 28-July 27), when Muslims worldwide fast from sunrise to sunset, Radio Free Asia (Anti-Terrorism Measures) reports that the authorities in Ürümqi are taking the strictest measures ever to ensure that there are no “incidents” during this, the most important month in the Muslim calendar. They include: newly installed surveillance cameras in mosques; preparation for “sudden-strike” searches of Uyghur households to break up unauthorized gatherings; requiring Halal restaurants to remain open during the hours of the fast; and Muslim students at university will attend “patriotic study” classes and eat in the school canteen during the day so that they cannot practice fasting. It should be noted that some of RFA’s information about the crackdown came from a spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress, an organization of exiled Uyghur groups that is based outside China.

Meanwhile, how is the crackdown impacting the “official” literary scene? Here are a few May-June factoids for your reference: [Read more...]

Unveiled: List of “2014 China Classics” to Benefit from Translation/Publication Subsidy

Tenzin's collection of autobiographical works

Tenzin’s collection of autobiographical works

In yet another move that emphasizes how much $$ China is spending to take its literature global, the 2014 list of finalists for the “China Classics International Publication Project”  (经典中国国际出版工程) has just been announced. It comprises 256 titles that will be translated into 27 languages, according to an article on China Book Int’l (入围). You can find the full (but unprintable!) list here in Chinese.

The translation and publication of these works will be subsidized, but the specific amounts are not detailed. Obviously, this represents an opportunity for enterprising foreign translators and publishers to follow up. [Note: I've just been asked how to apply for your share of the subsidy pie, and all I can suggest is: contact the publishers of these works direct.]

Works of fiction represent but a small number of the finalists. Authors whose fiction appear on the list include [Read more...]

Altaic Storytelling Quote of the Week: Mathematics of “One Country, Two Systems”

However many people take part in Hong Kong’s illegal public vote, there will never be as many as 1.3 billion

(June 23, 2014 headline in Chinese-language 环球时报 (Global Times), a reference to the unofficial referendum on how the next leader of Hong Kong should be chosen. As of June 25, over 700,000 Hong Kong citizens had already voted.)

Chinese Publishers Discover Spanish

族长的秋天ThinKingdom Media Group Ltd (新经典) has just launched the Chinese edition of Gabriel Marquez’s El otoño del patriarca, and plans to publish another dozen or more of his works (!) within 2015, according to China Daily.

Entitled 族长的秋天, it is translated by Xuan Le (轩乐), who is currently studying in Spain. The previous edition was translated from the Russian, but the new version is from the Spanish original.

Chi Zijian’s 额尔古纳河右岸 (Last Quarter of the Moon) was recently translated into Spanish as A la orilla derecha del Río Argún by native Chinese speaker Xu Yingfeng (徐颖丰), and then edited by a Spaniard.