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吳城日記 translation: Diary of Inner City Suzhou, Part 1

This is Part 1 in a translation of an extract from 《吴城日记》 (‘Diary of Inner City Suzhou’). It’s the official log of Suzhou (specifically the small, walled area in the centre) from the year 1645, a year after the Manchus took Beijing, marking the end of the Ming dynasty (明) and the beginning of the Qing (清).

Part 1 · Part 2 →

乙酉五月十一日,始聞北兵入南京確耗,弘光遁走被執,馬士英逃亡。 1645, Lunar Month 5, 11th: We have heard for the first time reliable reports that the Manchu Army has entered Nanjing; the Hong Guang Emperor tried to flee but was captured; Ma Shiying has fled. 馬士英 was an important statesman and assistant to 弘光.

豫王已撫定南京,知大兵將及我蘇,吳城士民驚懼,紛紛挈家竄徙。 The Prince of Yu has pacified Nanjing; we know that a great army will soon reach our Suzhou; the people of Wu are in panic; in a flurry they are fleeing with their families to relocate elsewhere. 豫王 is a class of duke or marquis, but has been translated here as Prince of Yu.

是日舊撫台張鳳翔、新撫台霍達、按院周師盛,將暮時,俱於南馬頭舟中會晤。 Today the former Grand Co-ordinator Zhang Fengxiang, the new Grand Co-ordinator Huo Da and Surveillance Commissioner Sheng Zhoushi, just before dusk, they all held a meeting on the Southern Wharf. 撫台 is the Grand Co-ordinator of a province or county. 按院 is the Surveillance Commissioner.

舊撫台及按台俱於是夕遁去,新撫台停駐舟中,不登岸。 the former Grand Co-ordinator and Imperial Censor both left that evening; the new Grand Co-ordinator stayed on his boat and did not come ashore.

六門徹夜不關,任避兵者入出,恐一禁閉。 The Six Gates were not closed all night, to let those fleeing the armies go in and out; they feared this would be forbidden as soon as the gates were closed.

則人愈張惶,或生於內變之故也。 Because of that people were even more alarmed; this may have been the cause of disturbances within. 張惶 is a variant of 张皇, which means ‘alarmed’.

十二日,遷下鄉者愈多,每轎一肩,索銀一、二兩,少亦索錢一、二千。 12th: Those moving into the countryside have increased in number; every sedan carrier demands one or two taels of silver; lower prices were still one or two strings of a thousand copper cash. Having any silver at all would be unusual for peasants at the time. The more common currency was copper coins on strings, supposedly with a thousand per string but ranging as low as about seven hundred and seventy.

小舟一隻,索銀數兩,或索錢十餘千。 One small boat costs several taels of silver or over ten thousand copper cash.

得者以為幸,不吝重價也。 Those who can get them feel lucky and do not reject the high price.

至十四日,霍院將搶奪亂民四人斬於泊舟水次。 Come the 14th: the court of Grand Co-ordinator Huo has beheaded four rioters, who had looted, at the riverside mooring point. Beheading was a more severe punishment than hanging as it was believed the victim would be headless in the afterlife, presumably causing them much inconvenience.

十七日,又將鄉間亂民一人梟斬。 17th: Another rural trouble-maker was beheaded and his head put on display. 梟斬 was a specific form of capital punishment where the accused was not only beheaded, but also had their severed head stuck on a pole as a warning to others.

Part 1 · Part 2 →

Series: Diary of Inner City Suzhou

  1. 吳城日記 translation: Diary of Inner City Suzhou, Part 1 (this article)
  2. 吳城日記 translation: Diary of Inner City Suzhou, Part 2
  3. 吳城日記 translation: Diary of Inner City Suzhou, Part 3
  4. 吳城日記 translation: Diary of Inner City Suzhou, Part 4
  5. 吳城日記 translation: Diary of Inner City Suzhou, Part 5
  6. 吳城日記 translation: Diary of Inner City Suzhou, Part 6
  7. 吳城日記 translation: Diary of Inner City Suzhou, Part 7
  8. 吳城日記 translation: Diary of Inner City Suzhou, Part 8
  9. 吳城日記 translation: Diary of Inner City Suzhou, Part 9
  10. 吳城日記 translation: Diary of Inner City Suzhou, Part 10
  11. 吳城日記 translation: Diary of Inner City Suzhou, Part 11
  12. 吳城日記 translation: Diary of Inner City Suzhou, Part 12
  13. 吳城日記 translation: Diary of Inner City Suzhou, Part 13
  14. 吳城日記 translation: Diary of Inner City Suzhou, Part 14
  15. 吳城日記 translation: Diary of Inner City Suzhou, Part 15
  16. 吳城日記 translation: Diary of Inner City Suzhou, Part 16

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