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1. The Pentaglot Dictionary

The Pentaglot is perhaps the most famous of all dictionaries which were compiled under the Qing in the 17th and 18th centuries. Its lemmata are recorded in five languages: Manju, Tibetan, Mongolian, Uighur and Chinese; its full title in all languages reads as:


han-i araha sunja hacin hergen kamciha manju gisun-i buleku bithe


rgyal pos mdzad pa'i skad lnga shan sbyar gyi manydzu'i skad gsal ba'i me long .


xaGan-u bicigsän tabun züil-ün üsüg-iyär xabsuruGsan manzu ügän-ü toli bicig


han-ning pütügän bäsh qysmi qoshqan hät mancu söz ning ayri majin häti


Yuzhi Wu Ti Qing Wen Jian

Based on earlier lexicographical work (most of these are Manju-Chinese dictionaries), the Pentaglot differs from most of the Manju dictionaries by the number of languages (it has five, hence the name; the above-mentioned Manju, Tibetan, Mongolian, Uighur and Chinese), the notational systems (Tibetan is accompanied by a transliteration and a transcription in Manju, Uighur is accompanied by a transliteration in Manju whereas Mongolian appears without Manju transliteration as seen in early Manju and Mongolian dictionaries) and the arrangement of entries which is strictly semasiological (classified by meanings). Including several appendices, the Pentaglot has a total of 18671 entries, but no index. Words in any given language can be looked up only by browsing its huge table of contents which runs all five languages in parallel. In contrast to classified dictionaries called jian in Chinese, dictionaries arranged by alphabetical order are frequently called hui in Chinese.

Manuscripts (there does not seem to be an official printed edition of the 18th century) survived in the Imperial Palace in Beijing and Manchuria. The Imperial Palace Pentaglot was reproduced photomechanically in three volumes in Beijing in 1957 with a total of 4973 corpus pages each featuring usually four entries. Besides the corpus it has a useful annex stating in tabular form the history of the Pentaglot. Differences between the manuscripts exist as can be seen from the Japanese romanized edition (see below). Occasionally there are technical mistakes to be found like repeated Mongolian items where the keyword has changed, and omissions of single Chinese characters (most probably by negligence of the copyist). Also, the Mongolian orthography of dotted consonants (like G) is not stable; sometimes Gurban looks like xurban (just one frequently mentioned example), and suffices appear frequently in a colloquial form: -bar becomes -var and is attached to the stem of the word.

The Beijing 1957 edition of the Pentaglot was reprinted in 1997/1998 and was (at least during 1998) available at the Nationalities' Publishing House (Minzu Chubanshe) bookshop in Beijing. The 1957 edition can be found at most major Central Asian and Sinological libraries (at least the author saw it in all the ones which he visited so far). Its Chinese name (by which it is usually referred to) reads:

[Yuzhi] Wu Ti Qing Wen Jian

A mirror (jian) of Manju (Qing wen) in five incarnations (wu ti) where jian stands for dictionaries arranged by meaning. Sometimes the prefix [Yuzhi made by Imperial {order}] is carried, sometimes not; the book itself remains the same.

In 1966/67 a group of Japanese scientists (Tamura Jitsuzou, Imanishi Shunjuu and Satou Hisashi) compiled a translation of and an index to the Wu Ti Qing Wen Jian (Gotai Shinbun Kan Yakkai, Institute for Inland Asian Studies, Faculty of Letters, Kyouto University) but despite its volume the books has its shortcomings. Mongolian is transcribed according to vaguely applied Manju readings which makes it difficult enough to read, let alone retransliterate the Mongolian entries. Also, the oddities in the Mongolian orthography are not carefully reflected in the transcription.

In 1956, a Mengwen Fenlei Cidian (Classified Mongolian Dictionary) was produced by the Nationalities Press (Minzu Chubanshe) which was then given a second edition in 1978 (mongGol udx=a-yin züil xubiyaGsan toli bicig). With no word the preface mentions that this is the Mongolian-Chinese subset of the Pentaglot! The preface just says things like ``is a piece of national culture heritage, useful for translating and researching Mongolian...''.

This title does not show the original pagination and uses simplified characters throughout the Chinese glosses; also the sometimes awkward orthography of Mongolian entries is flattened to a modern standard orthography which forces the reader to use the original edition if she is interested in orthographic issues. Anyway, this edition is useful to the extent that one does not have to carry the three huge volumes of the 1957 issue when on travel.

In 1990, Qinghai Minzu Chubanshe issued a Chinese-Tibetan extract of the Pentaglot, Yuzhi Wu Ti Qingwen Jian - Han-Zang Wenjian Zhuanji. It shows similar limitations: the entries are arranged in Chinese-Tibetan order rather than the original Tibetan-Chinese, the pagination is not documented (which makes things a bit complicated because entries belonging into the original annex were relocated into the main text), the Chinese equivalents are presented in simplified characters, etc.

Portions of the Pentaglot were described and reviewed earlier by Haenisch (Die Abteilung ``Jagd'' im fünfsprachigen Wörterspiegel, Asia Major X (1934), p. 59-93), K. Himly (Die Abteilung der Spiele im Grossen Wörterspiegel, T'oung Pao V (1894), VII (1896), VIII (1897), IX (1898), X (1899)) e.a. but these portions usually cover only single sections (mong. züil, chin. lei, tib. skor) of the original text.

The author does not know whether there are any editions of the Manju or Uighur subsets of the Pentaglot.

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