The Progenitor's Mandate

Pacifying Disorderly (Manchu?) States

Juul Eijk
20 March, 2020

As every year, the new cohort of Manchu students here in Leiden has started their path to mastery of Manchu with the Qianlong period Veritable Records of Nurhaci and Hong Taiji. This work recounts not only the events of the Nurhaci and Hong Taiji reign periods, but in fact commences with a description of the very first beginnings of the Manchu state and imperial clan.

The first pages outline the birth of the progenitor of the imperial clan, Bukvri Yongxon. Due to the divine circumstances of his birth, he is able to talk immediately. His mother, the heavenly maiden Fekulen, then sums up the reason for his auspicious birth in one sentence:

eme hendume . jui simbe abka faquhvn gurun be dasame banjikini seme banjibuhabi . si genefi faquhvn gurun be dasame toktobume banji seme hendufi
‘His mother said: “Heaven has brought you to life, my child, because it wishes you to restore order to the disorderly states. Once you have gone there, live to stabilize and rule the disorderly states!”’

Bukvri Yongxon has been destined by Heaven to function as a deus ex machina to 'disorderly nations.' Is this akin to a Mandate of Heaven? In any case, it is a mandate to bring order to places that currently lack it. Where exactly, is not specified here. Our hero Bukvri simply begins his journey in a canoe, and in accordance with his mother's instructions, manages to put an end to the feuding of three tribes (the ilan halai niyalma) that live downstream.

Whether this mandate extends beyond this land or time to pacify e.g. China, the text does not specify at this point. Any reader of the Manchu text, and also, any Manchu reader of the text, might conclude that Heaven has from these primordial times bestowed upon the Aisin Gioro clan's progenitor Bukvri Yongxon the divine right to restore order to imbalanced states. The same applies to the Chinese, which likewise refers to 'disorderly states' luanguo 亂國.

In this respect, the Mongolian text is (however anachronistically) much more specific. In Mongolian, Fekulen conveys to her son Heaven's instructions in this manner:

Eke inu köbegün-degen ögüler-ün tngri čimayi manǰu ulus-un samaγu törü-yi ǰasatuγai kemen törügülügsen buyu či manǰu ulus-tur odču yabudqun kemen ögüleged .
‘The mother said to her son: “Heaven has brought you to life because it wishes you to correct the disorderly rule of the Manchu state. Behave like this while you proceed to the Manchu state.”’

To a reader of the Mongolian text, this mandate is presented as solely one for rule over the Manchu people(s). Skipping over the obvious anachronism, what does this entail for Daiqing rule over Mongols? In any case, ­this was not the point at which the Daiqing received its mandate for rule over them.

It feels almost as if the text was compiled specifically to prevent offering offense to Mongols. It avoids the suggestion that Mongols might have belonged to faquhvn gurun 'disorderly states.' Submission to the Daiqing has been a voluntary process for some Mongols, and a process of relentless warfare and forceful subjugation for others. Yet, I wonder whether any Mongol prior to submission to the Daiqing would have considered themselves to belong to a 'disorderly state.' The compilers have taken this into consideration, and from a Mongolian perspective, the early Manchus' Mandate of Heaven was limited to the Manchu homelands.

Read the whole text here!

(Image from 笔贴式)

Juul Eijk (1996) is a prospective PhD candidate, doing research into Manchu-Tibetan relations and Qing historiography. He teaches Manchu and Mandarin at Leiden University, and is involved with as one of the project members.