In The Charms of Qing TV, The Economist takes a closer look at the popular Qing historical dramas that are so popular on China’s video-sharing sites.
Is Mark Elliot—author of “The Manchu Way”, one of the first studies to use Manchu sources in the research of Qing history—bothered by Chinese TV’s monolingual Manchus?
“I’d say there is little doubt that the Manchu emperors could all speak decent Chinese. Kangxi’s was almost certainly not as good as that of his son and grandson, but he could get by just fine. Still, it seems he was more comfortable speaking Manchu, and preferred communicating with the Jesuits at court in Manchu rather than in Chinese. So the issue is not so much that the emperors are speaking Chinese, but that they are never found speaking Manchu, which they most definitely could and did do, especially in dealings with Manchu officials.”
This soap opera representation of the Manchu ruling class as curiously dependent on the Han tongue is at odds with a fresh but problematic interpretation of rule under the Manchus, known as “New Qing History.” For the details, see The Charms of Qing TV.