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吳城日記 translation: Diary of Inner City Suzhou, Part 2

This is Part 2 in a translation of an extract from 吳城日記 (‘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 · Part 3 →

郡守日夕惶惶,漸聞豫王差官取鎮江、常州冊籍,次第將及蘇郡,地方官長漫無主持,鄉紳但知潛避,無一倡義守御者,小民無以倚恃,咸思投順,以苟全性命。

The crowds are panicked day and night; we have gradually heard reports that the Prince of Yu has dispatched officials to get the Zhenjiang and Changzhou files and household registers, and will eventually reach Su Prefecture; the local head official has completely lost control; the local gentry know only how to hide and flee; no-one has initiated a defence of justice; the people have nothing to rely on; all are considering surrender and submission, to protect their lives at any cost.

For an attacking army, claiming the enemy’s household registers was a useful record of victory. 鄉紳, here translated as ‘local gentry’, are most likely retired officials who have residences in the countryside. 倡義 means “to instigate a righteous cause”. 投順 means “surrender and pledge allegiance to” and has a sense of throwing oneself at the feet of the attackers to beg for mercy. 苟全 means “to protect one’s life at all costs” and is derogatory, suggesting they are cowardly lacking honour.

二十二日,向有吳江舉人潘爾彪 ,遷居郡中,荐一方術兼業醫者曰李滴春於官,謂能行兵,欲以為將。 22nd: Formerly in Wujiang was the Provincial Degree Holder Pan Erbiao, who has shifted his residence into the county; he has recommended a fortune-teller who simultaneously works as a doctor called Li Dichun to the officials; he [Pan Erbiao] claims he [Li Dichun] can command the army, and wishes him to be made a general.

潘爾彪 and 李滴春 are names. Note that other versions of the text have 才術 (“talented and capable”) rather than 方術. This makes more sense but you’d better go with the version used in class, so ‘fortune-teller’ it is. This ‘fortune-teller’ is more of a general bullshit vendor, dealing in divination, horoscopes, necromancy, magic healing, homeopathy etc.

擬翌日登壇受鉞,群心大駭,慮李非有才略足恃,輕舉挑釁,難免揚州覆轍,遂率眾擊毀二家,太尊陳師泰即朱示撤兵,以安眾心。 The plan is that the next day he will [Li Dichun] ascend the terrace and be made a general; everyone is astonished, and concerned that Li does not have enough ability or wits to be relied upon; recklessly choosing him is provocative, and it will be hard to avoid a repeat of the disaster of Yangzhou; because of this, the mob attacked and destroyed both the Pan and Li households; Prefect Chen Shitai immediately posted orders disbanding of the troops to quell the hearts of the people.

登壇 means to step on to the ceremonial platform during a ceremony. 受鉞, literally ‘receive the battle-axe’, means to formally be made a general in a ceremony. 太尊 is a Prefect. 朱示 means to post up official flyers on red paper giving important orders or notices.

二十五日,南京差來安撫鴻臚寺卿黃家鼒 、通判周荃、參將某,先至虎邱,移文坐管游擊府、知會迎接,索取蘇州府冊籍。 Day 25: Nanjing sent as pacifiers Minister of Court and State Ceremonies Huang Jiazi, Assistant Prefect Zhou Quan, Senator General Wu Whatshisname; they went first to Tiger Hill and issued a circular to the incumbent officials to break open the government archive - the notification was received; they demanded the Suzhou government files and household registers.

黃家鼒, 周荃 and 吳 are names. 鴻臚寺卿 is ‘Minister of Court and State Ceremonies’. 通判 is an ‘Assistant Prefect’. 參將 is a military rank. 某 is used in place of Zhou’s name because it’s unimportant or the writer has forgotten it. 移文 is an official letter between separate government departments. 知會 here is a notification letter. Note that this last bit is my own guesswork and hasn’t been confirmed in class so anything could happen yet!

← Part 1 · Part 2 · Part 3 →

Series: Diary of Inner City Suzhou

  1. 吳城日記 translation: Diary of Inner City Suzhou, Part 1
  2. 吳城日記 translation: Diary of Inner City Suzhou, Part 2 (this article)
  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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