Article on Linguistic Compartmentalization and the Palace Memorial System



"Linguistic Compartmentalization and the Palace Memorial System in the Eighteenth Century," Late Imperial China 41.2 (2020): 131–179.

The article looks at the Qing dynastic language of Manchu as an issue of governance. It examines instances in which the choice of language rose to the level of discussion in two related genres of official documents that emerged in the eighteenth century: palace memorials and court letters. I argue here that the coexistence of the two written languages of Manchu and Chinese within the government, a fait accompli after 1644, posed a constant problem for official communications. Various attempts were made to solve this problem, with limited success. Toward the end of the article, to expand discussion to language use within the bureaucracy as a whole, I bring these genres to bear on the issue as it appeared in lateral communications.