Behind the Animal Names: The Wild being Category (獸部) and the Animals in Wuti qingwen jian五體清文鑒


Sunja hacin i hergen kamciha manju gisun i buleku bithe or Wuti qingwen jian 《五體清文鑒》(The five language compendium or The Pentaglot Dictionary) reflects the Manchu-deployed comprehensive cognition of the Qing world up to, also beyond, this dictionary’s completion in 1794. Chapter 31 of the Dictionary, Shoubu 兽部 or “Section for wild animals” delivers the Qing-time knowledge of the animals and the human relationship with the animals. In the modern concept, the words under the Shou (wild animals) category in this Qing Dictionary belong to two kinds of animals -- the wildlife animals in the natural world and the mythological animals in the human imagination. In our current word categorization, these two kinds of animals are separately placed into the natural science section and the cultural section of the ancient belief. Jumbling them together under the same word category conveys the Qing knowledge of animals without such a division. This knowledge had a strong Chinese influence since many of the mythological animals in this Dictionary were from the Chinese tradition. The word categorization with the Qing concept needs scholarly investigation. This investigation will provide current historians with the Qing perception of human-animal connections. Much more than a multi-language dictionary in the field of linguistics or beyond a reference tool to assist a multi-language reading, Wutiqingwenjian is an inappreciable resource for history and cultural studies through a scholarly word journey.

Author Information
Ning Chia, Central College, United States

Paper Information
Conference: ACAS2021
Stream: Chinese Studies

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon