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.

It turned out that Mrs Guan’s daughter also was keen on learning English, so much of the train ride was taken up with me giving her English lessons.  She was very nice and pleasant, so I even ended up offering that she could come to my school anytime and study for free.

When we got to Haerbin, we got in line for the next leg of the trip, which was through Qiqihaer to Fuyu.  But the sign said “Fuyu (Wenzhou)”, meaning that Wenzhou is the final destination of that train.  Being the only person in our group who had looked at a map, I thought it was awfully strange that the train should go northeast to Qiqihaer, then north to Fuyu, and then south all the way down to Wenzhou.  But our tickets said 扶余 (Fúyú), and that’s what it said on the sign.  I kept asking people about it (Chinese people in my experience are horrible at geography), and finally got someone that said that Fùyù is in Qiqihaer prefecture (Heilongjiang province), and that our tickets had us going to Fúyú, which is in Jilin province, not Heilongjiang province.  It’s a good thing we hadn’t gotten on that train.

As a foreigner (foreigners struggle a lot with the tones in the Chinese language) I thought this was hilarious (though I didn’t say anything to that effect).  Here a Chinese native speaker screwed up the tones and bought the wrong tickets!

After getting tickets to the right place, we had to wait several hours for that train, which didn’t get in until midnight.  On the train, I had the good fortune of sitting next to Mrs Wu, who was talking about history a lot.  At one point she mentioned that when she was little she learned a rhyme about how to tell the difference between Manchu and Mongol script:

yì gēn gùnr, zhǎngmǎn cìr, jiāshang quānr hé diǎnr, jiùshi mǎnzú zìr.
A stem, grown over with quills; add circles and dots, that’s Manchu script.

Of course, the wondrous internet can help us find more complete versions.  Here’s one:

shùzhe yì gēn gùnr, liǎngbian̄ máomáo cìr, jiāshang quān hé diǎnr, jiùshi mǎnwén zìr.
shùzhe yì gēn gùnr, liǎngbian̄ máomáo cìr, shàngxià yìníng quānr, jiùshi měngwén zìr.
A vertical stem, hairy quills on both sides; add circles and dots, that’s Manchu script.
A vertical stem, hairy quills on both sides; up and down twist circles, that’s Mongol script.

Some others start with 中间一根棍儿 (zhōngjiān yì gēn gùnr, a stem in the middle).  There are many variations.

Anyway, we finally got into Fuyu at midnite and checked into a hotel.

The next installment in this series will cover the unfortunate thing that happened in the minivan taxi in the morning, and our arrival at Sanjiazi and a few of the things we saw there.

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