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Persian translating at the Ming court

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posted on 2022-03-28, 02:16 authored by Graeme Ford
Persian was used in tributary activities at the Ming court, in letters from tributary rulers, and in the Emperor's edicts to tributary rulers. Surviving documents and historical records show Persian was used for communications with Hami, Turfan, Samarkand, Herat and other Central Asian countries, with Tibet, and with countries along the sea route to Calicut and Hormuz. It was used for tributary letters, edicts and petitions, stele inscriptions and other documents. A Persian college was one of ten language translating colleges established within the Hanlin Academy. The colleges recruited and trained officers for translating and other duties within the court secretariat. Court records show that tributary activity took place on a large scale during the reigns of the Yongle and Xuande emperors (1403-1436). Zheng He's voyages stimulated tributary missions from maritime countries as far as Calicut and Hormuz, and a series of exchanges took place with countries along the route to Herat, capital of the Timurid Empire. This was the time of greatest activity for Persian translators. Tributary activity decreased after that time, but a small number of Chinese translations of Persian letters show that Persian was used for petitions and tributary letters during 1472-1512. These are embedded within a collection of bilingual language testing materials, which were later incorporated into the Huayiyiyu collection of bilingual wordlists and exemplary texts. The original Persian letters are lost. The word-for-word Persian glossings of the Chinese texts are not documents of tributaty use, but texts used for official testing of students within the Persian College. They don't indicate what the standard of translating from Chinese into Persian was at that time.


Table of Contents

Chapter One - The translating colleges -- Chapter Two - The Timurid Empire -- Chapter Three - The Persian language text in the Tsurphu Scroll -- Chapter Four - The Western Ocean -- Chapter Five - The Persian College Laiwen.


Bibliography: pages 203-216 Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Ancient History

Department, Centre or School

Department of Ancient History

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Danny Kane

Additional Supervisor 1

Gunner Mikkelsen

Additional Supervisor 2

Samuel Lieu


Copyright Graeme Ford 2016. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (vi, 216 pages) colour illustrations

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