These facts should be understood as reflective of the issues the Qing dynasty faced in its rule of China, issues related to traditional Chinese culture and issues related to the national language of the multi-ethnic state.The Qing dynasty ruled by amalgamating into its territory a number of different ethnic groups including the Manchu, Han Chinese, and Mongolians. Such an enterprise made the task of translating Manchu texts into Chinese and Chinese texts into Manchu very important, and so it was necessary to set up a translation institution and appoint official translators. However, as it had become apparent that the changing times had led to a decreasing number of Qing bannermen practicing martial arts (their traditional duty) and speaking their mother tongue, the Qing dynasty implemented an official translation examination to test the bannermen’s language proficiency. The aim of this measure was to prevent the decline of Manchu and Mongolian language proficiency and to promote the distinct culture of the bannermen. It also aimed to make it easier to widen the scope for recruiting and promoting bannermen.3 There remains a lack of clarity as to the nature of the transitional process for the bannermen’s language proficiency during the Qing era. However, official documents written in Manchu, the first official language of the Qing dynasty, continued to exist unchanged until the establishment of the Republic of China following the Xinhai Revolution. In addition, as the nature of the writing itself made it impossible to determine the contents from a quick glance, there were, in particular, many examples of documents written in Manchu in situations where information leaks needed to be strictly prevented. A major characteristic of the Qing era Manchu documents is that, because only roughly one hundred years have elapsed since the fall of the Qing dynasty, there remains a daunting volume of diverse materials ranging from primary sources, such as imperial archives, through to historical compilations, such as veritable records.4Thus, an effective way of studying the history of the Qing dynasty is to gather, examine, and make full use of Manchu documents in addition to Chinese documents, as opposed to relying only on Chinese documents. However, Manchu documents of the Qing era are currently scattered across a number of regions. The current situation can be summarized as follows: “A large proportion of valuable Manchu documents were damaged following the Xinhai Revolution, and the documents that still remain in the world today represent only a drop in the ocean compared to those published before.”5 For this reason, surveying and examining the Manchu documents that are still kept in the various regions has become a matter of urgency.I will therefore discuss the nature and significance of documents written in Manchu, the first official language of the Qing dynasty, and by doing so, I aim to contribute to the search for a new way of studying the history of the Qing dynasty system.I Manchu Translations of Chinese ClassicsI should first mention the fact that there are a great many translations of Chinese classics (as represented by Confucian writings). The volume and types of such translations are staggering. An idea of the sheer scale can be gaged from the content listed in catalogues such as the following: Li Deqi (ed.), Man wen shu ji lian he mu lu,6 Fu Li (ed.), Shi jie Man wen wen xian mu lu: chu bian,7 Huang Runhua and Qu Liusheng (chief ed.), / Wang Xiaohong and Li Song Ling (ed.), Quan guo Man wen tu shu zi liao lian he mu lu,8 Watanabe Shigetaro, ZΩtei manshπgo tosho mokuroku,9 Kawachi Yoshihiro and Zhao Zhan (ed.), Tenri Toshokan zΩ manbun shoseki mokuroku,10 and TΩkyΩ Daigaku Bungakubu kanseki kΩnΣ manshπbun shoseki mokuroku.11,12 Even if we confine our search to those documents stored in Gakushuin University under class number “334,” we still find a 002MODERN ASIAN STUDIES REVIEW Vol.5