It is generally assumed that, throughout the Qing dynasty, there was only translated literature in the Manchu language and that, by the nineteenth century, the Manchu literati had become too “sinicized” to unleash literary creativity in their native language. Nevertheless the discovery of a mid-nineteenth-century manuscript of Manchu literary verse, penned by the well-known prose translator Jakdan, points to the fact that Manchu belles-lettres existed even at a time when the role of Manchu in practical arenas was much in decline within the Qing empire in China. In addition to a preliminary account of the poetic forms found in Jakdan's Manju gisun i yobo maktara sarkiyan (“Transcript of bantering in Manchu language”), a supplementary volume to the Jabduha ucuri amtanggai baita (“Leisurely delights”), two intricate poems from the collection of Manchu verse are here presented (in transcription), translated and annotated for the first time.
* This study is dedicated to James E. Bosson, my teacher in Altaic philology, under whose recommendation I was first permitted access, in the winter of 2002, to the Cleaves-Fletcher and von Staël-Holstein collections in the Rare Books Room of the Harvard-Yenching Library to help organize Mongolian books; this occasioned the “rediscovery” of the only known copy of Jakdan's anthology of Manchu verse. I am also thankful to Mr Chun Shum, the Curator, for his kind assistance. I am indebted to the anonymous reviewer for comments and criticisms. Any remaining errors are my own.