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.
There were now six of us, so we hired a minivan taxi to take us 30 minutes south to Sanjiazi. We got in. Secretary Wu was in the front, I was behind her and next to Mrs Guan, and everyone else was in the back. Suddenly it became apparent that someone got up on the wrong side of the bed that morning, and somehow picked me as a scapegoat, probably just because I happened to be sitting next to her. She told me to refrain from joining in the conversation. I didn’t take the directive seriously, and continued my participation in the chatter. Then she blew up. Knowing that escape is often the best ukemi, at the next traffic light I did just that, which would have ended the trip for me.
Mrs An stayed behind with me and pointed out that if I left, I would have come all that way for nothing and that would be regrettable. She suggested that she and I go to Sanjiazi in a separate minivan taxi. I gave in on the condition that I pay the fare.
We went straight to the elementary school.
Here are the two sides of the front gate (click on them for bigger versions). On the brass plates it says Sanjiazi Manchu School — on the left in Manchu (ilan boo i tokso manju gisun tacikv), and on the right in Chinese (三家子满族学校, sānjiāzi mǎnzú xuéxiào).
What’s carved into the stone is even more surreal than what happened in the minivan. On the right side is Chairman Mao’s famous quotation 好好学习, 天天向上 (hǎohāo xuéxí, tiāntiān xiàngshàng, study hard and improve daily), famously mistranslated as “Good good study, day day up”. On the left it appears that this quotation from the Great Helmsman of Communist China has been translated into the royal language of the Qing Dynasty (who Mao, as a soldier in the 1911 Revolution, personally had a hand in overthrowing). To trump that I’d have to find a copy of Mao’s little red book in Manchu. Who knows?
Going inside the gate, we can see the school, which is very tidy.
In the hall outside the classrooms, we can see some students’ work, which is in sharp contrast to the Manchu writing (if you can call it that) we saw in Wulajie. (Again click on each one for a bigger version.)
There are a few spelling errors here and there of course, which you would expect from elementary school students, but this is real Manchu! And each student has their own distinct handwriting style!
Here we can see indisputable evidence that an effort is being made to preserve this dying language by passing it on to the youth of this village. The major players in this effort are the students themselves, their teacher, 石君广 (Shí Jūnguǎng), who we’ll meet in the next post, and the former Manchu teacher, 赵金纯 (Zhào Jīnchūn), who now is the vice mayor of Fuyu.