Face Music - History: Horsmen – Nomads
      • History of the Horsmen

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P & C December 1998
- Face Music / Albi

- last update 03-2016

Manchu alphabet

The Manchu alphabet was commissioned in 1599 by the Manchu leader Nurhaci (1559-1626), the founder of the Manchu empire.

The letters are based on the
Mongolian alphabet, while phonetics is based on the alphabet used by the Khitan-Jurchen people, an earlier Manchu script.

In 1644 the Manchu people conquered China and established the Qing dynasty, which lasted until 1911. For the first about 200 years of the Qing dynasty, Manchu was the main language of the government in China and served as a lingua franca.

Notable features
– Manchu is written in vertical columns running from top to bottom and from the left to the right.
– Most letters have different forms, this being initial, medial and final, which are used at the beginning, middle and the end of a word, respectively. The vowels also have isolated forms.
– Some letters have different shapes depending on which vowel precedes and/or follows.

Used to write
In earlier times, the members of the Tungus people of the Altaic language family used to write Manchu. There are currently about 9 million people of Manchu origin who live in north-eastern China. Thereof, only about 1000 speak Manchu, and only a few can read and write it.

In Xinjiang there are about 27,000 people known as Sibe (Xibo or Sibo) who speak a language closely related to Manchu. They were moved to the region in 1764 by the Qing emperor Qianlong.

Manchu alphabet
Sample text
December 2010 – Albi