The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Monday, March 19, 2007

Extinction


Below is an excerpt from an article in the New York Times about how indigenous ethnic languages in China are falling out of use, and in some cases, becoming extinct.

What I thought was especially poignant about this particular story is that the language in focus is Manchu. The Manchus once ruled China as the Qing Dynasty. You can learn more about the Qing Dynasty here:


I am reminded of a couple of quotes. Thoreau said "you don't gain something, but you lose something."

The opening sentence in the Chinese classic, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms:

"Under Heaven, kingdoms cleave together and fall asunder. It has been this way since antiquity."

So it is. Who conquers whom? Only time tells.

Chinese Village Struggles to Save Dying Language
By DAVID LAGUE
SANJIAZI, China —

Seated cross-legged in her farmhouse on the kang, a brick sleeping platform warmed by a fire below, Meng Shujing lifted her chin and sang a lullaby in Manchu, softly but clearly.
After several verses, Ms. Meng, a 82-year-old widow, stopped, her eyes shining.
“Baby, please fall asleep quickly,” she said, translating a few lines of the song into Chinese. “Once you fall asleep, Mama can go to work. I need to set the fire, cook and feed the pigs.”
“If you sing like this, a baby gets sleepy right away,” she said.
She also knows that most experts believe the day is approaching when no child will doze off to the sound of the song’s comforting words.
Ms. Meng is one of 18 residents of this isolated village in northeastern China, all over 80 years old, who, according to Chinese linguists and historians, are the last native speakers of Manchu.
Descendants of seminomadic tribesmen who conquered China in the 17th century, they are the last living link to a language that for more than two and a half centuries was the official voice of the Qing dynasty, the final imperial house to rule from Beijing and one of the richest and most powerful empires the world has known.
With the passing of these villagers, Manchu will also die, experts say. All that will be left will be millions of documents and files — about 60 tons of Manchu-language documents are in the provincial archive in Harbin alone — along with inscriptions on monuments and important buildings in China, unintelligible to all but a handful of specialists.
“I think it is inevitable,” said Zhao Jinchun, an ethnic Manchu born in Sanjiazi who taught at the village primary school for more than two decades before becoming a government official in Qiqihar, a city about 30 miles to the south. “It is just a matter of time. The Manchu language will face the same fate as some other ethnic minority languages in China and be overwhelmed by the Chinese language and culture.”


1 comment:

C360CHIEFARCHITECT said...

China has a 5000 yr culture where playing for the "long term" gain is the norm.

Most Chinese understands it. Only a few plays it for the long term gain.