This language is still in theory the National Language of the Chinese Empire, but in reality it is disappearing day by day in the the face of the rapid invasion of the language of the Chinese. Manchu is no longer used at court, except in a minor way. In the streets of Peking … one almost never hears people speaking this language.
The anti-Manchu nationalist revolution of 1911 ended the dynasty and Manchu identity, linguistic and cultural, became a negative. By the 1950s, it was observed that only five people in Beijing knew Manchu well, and they were the curators of the Manchu archives. At the end of the twentieth century, the Manchu fall from grace was so complete that only a handful of elderly people in Heilongjiang still spoke Manchu natively, along with a variant of Manchu, Sibe, which is spoken in Xinjiang.
As elsewhere in China, there seems to be a paradoxical official attitude toward Manchu: interest in Manchu culture seems to be on the increase – the 1980s and 1990s saw a resurgence in Manchu as a subject for study, with translations, dictionaries and professional journals appearing – but as a mother tongue and its mother script, Manchu continues to decline outside of a small but fervent group practicing Manchu calligraphy and advocating for the script, especially online.
Update March 2023: The modern Sibe script, which is slightly modified from the Manchu script, is still very much in use in the Sibe Autonomous County of Cabcal, where it is used to publish newspapers, books, and other materials.
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General Script, Language, and Culture Resources
- Omniglot (Manchu)
- Omniglot (Xibe)
- Wikipedia (Manchu)
- Wikipedia (Xibe)
- Manchu Ethnic Minority Background
- Manchu Language Encyclopedia Britannica
- Wikibooks Manchu Script Lesson
- Xibe Ethnic Minority Background
- Xibe Ethnic Group Profile
- Scriptsource (Manchu)
- Scriptsource (Xibe)
- Manchu – A Textbook for Reading Documents
- Xibe Newscast
- Xibe People Blog Post
- Leiden University Manchu Article
- Manchu Calligraphy
- Manchu Language Facebook
- Seoul National University Department of Linguistics
- Manchu Discussion Forum (Chinese)
- Manchu Stides Group