Where is Lolo?

As soon as my kids got out of school for the Spring Festival (mid-February), I stuffed them in the car and headed up to Harbin to see the Ice Festival. We passed a village on Route 202 called 拉林 (lālín), and it crossed my mind that with a little phonetic change, maybe it used to be Lolo, the village mentioned in the opening sentence of The Book of the Nisan Shaman.  On the way back I stopped there to get some snacks and found that it was a Manchu village and there was Manchu writing on signs everywhere. Continue reading Where is Lolo?

Sanjiazi 07: Showing off students

Previous entries: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

A couple of students came to the office to demonstrate their Manchu skills.  Mrs Guan was given the third book I mentioned in the last post (which you can open up and look at to follow along, if you like), so she could say some words in Chinese and have the students say their Manchu equivalents.  Continue reading Sanjiazi 07: Showing off students

Sanjiazi 06: Textbooks

Previous entries: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

After dressing up and taking pictures, Shi Junguang, the Manchu teacher, brought out the books he uses to teach the children in their Manchu language classes.

They are not professionally published, but rather printed out using a color printer.  I’m not sure who wrote these books, but I suspect they were written by Zhao Jinchun, who was the former Manchu teacher at the elementary school, and who now is the vice commissioner of Fuyu county. Continue reading Sanjiazi 06: Textbooks

Manchu books from Taiwan

I’m in Taiwan attending a conference on English language teaching and testing.  My friend the eminent linguist Geoff Pullum gave a mind-blowingly sharp plenary lecture on grammar in the afternoon, and later there was a panel discussion about the design and use of small corpora (or Tiny Little Corpora, as I have called them here).

A couple days ago I went to the National Palace Museum library and met a Manchu scholar, 莊吉發, who has been quite prolific in producing published Manchu materials.  He gave me the address of a publishing company that he uses, and the next day I went to go find it.  Continue reading Manchu books from Taiwan

Sanjiazi 05: Dress-up time

Previous entries: 1, 2, 3, 4.

There’s an old stereotype about Asians and cameras.  When I was a boy growing up in the Midwest, I remember hearing my father say “I’ve never seen a Chinaman without a camera.”  Of course by “Chinaman” he meant anyone with “yellow” skin.  This kind of talk sounds almost racist these days, but that’s just how people talked back then, regardless of their views on race.  Looking back on my father’s life at that time, I couldn’t say he was racist in any way.  During that time I rarely knew or even saw any Asians, but my father worked with people from all over the world every day.

Stereotypes don’t come out of nowhere though.  After I got married (to a Chinese girl), my wife and I were living in Manhattan’s Chinatown, and once decided to take a Chinese bus tour to Washington DC.  As soon as we got there, the bus stopped in front of the Capitol building and everyone (all Chinese except me) proceded one by one to have their pictures taken in front of it.  Then we got back on the bus, drove to the next attraction, and then the same thing again!  And again!  My wife and I finally decided we would escape and catch up with them later.

Back to Sanjiazi: when the Manchu teacher Shi Junguang (see previous posts, listed above)  and I got back to the school office, some of the others were looking at the school’s collection of traditional Manchu costumes.  Then someone pointed at me and I was doomed. Continue reading Sanjiazi 05: Dress-up time

Sanjiazi 04: The school museum

Previous entries: 1, 2, 3.

We put our bags down in the office and then headed over to a little building near the school gate.  It’s the school museum — if you go in the school gate, it’s just to the right.  On the way over, I asked Shi Junguang, one of the school’s two Manchu teachers, how he started learning Manchu when he was little. Continue reading Sanjiazi 04: The school museum

Sanjiazi 03: A bump in the road, and arrival

Previous installments are here and here.

We woke up, went to the lobby, and were met by two women from the Fuyu County government. One was 吴旭英 (Wú Xùyɪ̄ng), the Fuyu County Secretary of Ethnic and Religious Affairs, and the other was 安晓丽 (An Xiǎolì). I didn’t catch her title; maybe she was one of Secretary Wu’s subordinates. We had breakfast in the hotel, and then set off.

Continue reading Sanjiazi 03: A bump in the road, and arrival

Sanjiazi 02: Journey to the … South?

On Monday morning, October 12th, we met at the train station for a 7:40 train.  On Saturday, I had called Mr Guan (the Jilin City Manchu Association’s resident Manchu language expert), and he said he couldn’t go.  This was very unfortunate because that left me as the only one going who was interested in the language.  So only Mrs Guan, Mrs Wu, and Mrs Guan’s 26-year-old daughter, who is a graduate of a Changchun college of Chinese Medicine, were to be my traveling companions.  We boarded the train and set off on our way. Continue reading Sanjiazi 02: Journey to the … South?

Sanjiazi 01: An Unexpected Party

On Thursday, October 9th, I took my computer to a shop to get it fixed (my fan wasn’t on right, causing the CPU to heat up, in turn causing the C drive to crash, apparently).  I had brought my copy of Gertraude Roth Li’s wonderful book Manchu: a Textbook for Reading Documents along so I could study while I was waiting, and since it looked like it would take a while, I took a cab over to the local Manchu Association to ask the Manchu language teacher there about his opinion on the meanings of some of the phrases and sentences in the first reading lesson of the book.  Little did I know that this would lead into a trip to Sanjiazi, a place that still has living Manchu native language speakers. Continue reading Sanjiazi 01: An Unexpected Party

Wall Mystery Solved!

I went to Wulajie again earlier this week.  A fellow school headmaster had arranged a trip there for his school so the students could learn about Manchu culture and spend part of the afternoon drawing.  His school is an art school, and he said he chose Wulajie partly because he was inspired by my interest in Manchu language and culture, and also that it makes sense for kids to know more about Manchu culture since this area (Northeast China) used to be their country.

He filled up two tour busses and hired two tour guides, one for each bus.  The tour guides talked about the usual things — Manchu people don’t eat dog meat, their chimneys run under their beds to provide a heated surface to sleep on, they are great archers, etc.  Not much linguistic stuff outside of the fact that there is only a handful of mother-tongue speakers left.

Our first stop was the same government outpost that I mentioned in an earlier post, where I saw a strange word in Manchu script on an outside wall.  The word is strange because it spells “kisi”, which is not in any Manchu dictionary that’s available to me.  So what is this word? Continue reading Wall Mystery Solved!