I have begun reading the Manchu Nogeoldae, a dialogue book published in Korea during the 17th/18th c. Together with a couple of other books, it was aimed at Korean students of Manchu: each Manchu sentence comes with a transliteration in Hangul, and is followed by a Korean translation (see picture below).
Instead of being a collection of random dialogues thrown together, there is some sort of storyline: the reader follows a Korean merchant on his way to Beijing. Throughout the various situations he encounters, the student learns everyday life vocabulary.
The text has been around for roughly 600 years, first as a Chinese language textbook, with the Manchu and Mongolian versions being created in the 17th and 18th c. It is well known in Manchu studies and I have read parts of it over the years but never the whole work. Since I don't have that much time available for Manchu at the moment, I thought I would use it for light, "maintenance", reading. The matters dealt with in the dialogues are very mundane (introductions, lodgings, trading, etc.) but there is something I like in being able to follow a fictional 17th c. Korean merchant on his way to Beijing.
I have read most of book 1 (there's eight of them) and the Korean merchant has met and befriended a Chinese one. So far the topics covered have been:
- where are you going? Why so slowly?
- you are Korean, how did you learn Chinese?
- what was it like learning Chinese?
- why did you learn Chinese?
- since we're both going to Beijing, let's travel together!
- how expensive is life in Beijing at the moment?
- what prices do horses and linen sell for in Beijing?
- where are we going to sleep tonight/in Beijing?
Taken from one of the dialogues:
- Muse enenggi dobori aibide dedume genembi?
- Muse julesi yabufi juwan ba i dubede emu tiyan bi gebu be wase tiyan sembi. Muse erde ocibe yamji ocibe tubade dedume yoki. Aikabade duleme geneci, cargi orin ba i sidende niyalma boo akū.
- Tuttu oci, julesi gašan be amcarakū, amasi tiyan be baharakū ombi, muse tubade dedume yoki.
- Erdeken i isinaci, musei morin ihan be teyebufi cimari erdekesaka yoki.
- Ubaci gemun hecen de isinarangge udu babi?
- Ubaci gemun hecen de isinarangge amba muru sunja tanggū ba funcembi. Abka gosifi beye elhe oci, jai sunja inenggi ohode isinambi dere.
- Where do we go to spend the night today?
- We'll go 10 lis further, there is an inn called Wase Tiyan. Wether it's early or late, we will go and spend the night there. If we pass it, there is nothing for another 20 lis.
- If it is so, there's no way to reach a village further down the road or to go back and find an inn, we will go and spend the night there.
- If we get there rather early, we will rest our horses and our oxen, and then leave early tomorrow.
- From here, how many lis to reach the capital?
- From here, roughly more than 500 lis to reach the capital. If everything goes fine, we might get there in another five days.
In Manchu dialogue books, there is no indication of who's saying which sentence, so it is often possible to assign the same line to different speakers.