1849 – Unpublished Manuscripts on Translating Chinese Texts – Gingell

Unpublished Translations of Chinese Texts
History of Amoy
Royal Ceremonies – Trade – Military
by William Raymond Gingell
interpreter and Consul in China
1849-1854

Amoy [Xiamen], Foochow [Fuzhou], 1849-1854. Archive of mostly unpublished manuscript documents being Chinese works translated into English by William Raymond Gingell, Sinologist, interpreter and Consul in China, comprising what appears to be the only translation of the “History of Amoy” which contains texts dated as early as 1788 and which predates the work for which Gingell is best known [an abridged translation of the Chow Le classic, completed in 1852]; also presenting a wide array of subjects surrounding customs, ancient inscriptions, government, riots and civil wars, by his translations of several short accounts and decrees by difference Chinese writers or offices; as well as a traditional Chinese calendar. Together with a contemporary manuscript letter to Gingell from the Consul at Foochowfoo containing praises from British diplomats for Gingell’s work on the History of Amoy, double folio leaf, 2 pages. Together with some original Chinese texts in manuscript and in print, 17 pages combined. History of Amoy manuscript translation: Qto. approximately 300 pages, string-tied in five parts (one part in duplicate), penned to rectos only on blue leafs watermarked J. Whatman and J. Gater 1845 and measuring approximately 24,5 x 20,5 cm. Other manuscript translations: Varied sized leafs, approximately 485 pages combined, each account titled and string-tied separately, also on blue watermarked leafs measuring approximately 24,5 x 20,5 cm. Some creasing, otherwise in very good condition, exceedingly early manuscript documents made in China.

Note: Only one of the shorter translations in the present archive is known to have been published (Forms of Ceremonial suitable to be adopted in the Fokien Province on the occasion of the Dowager Queen…). All others appear to be unpublished. An excellent linguist with a notable reputation for his superlative understanding of the Chinese language, as he was translating the “History of Amoy” from about 1847/48 to 1849, Gingell was Interpreter to the Amoy General-Consulate. The majority of the other translations were performed in 1853 while he was Vice-Consul of Foochow. As such, rather than publication, it was gaining personal and professional understanding of the Chinese people and their history that motivated his endeavour.

William Raymond Gingell (1816-1863) was a surgeon by trade. Employed by the East India company, he arrived in China in the first half of the year 1842, and within a year, having already become proficient with the Chinese language, he would find himself in consular service, being appointed Chinese interpreter at Chusan [Zhoushan] 23 November 1843. He was transferred to Amoy on 10 October 1844 as Assistant Chinese interpreter, rising to the post of interpreter on 1 July 1845. In this role, in 1848 he was commissioned by Temple Hillyard Layton, Consul at Amoy, to board the barque Nimrod at Hong Kong, to witness the signature of the 120 Chinese “coolies,” each of whom were engaged in a contract as indentured laborer and provided payment for the passage from Amoy to Moreton Bay, Australia, prior to departure in December. [During this period, mainly from 1848 to 1853, large numbers of Chinese people went to Australia as indentured labourers to work as shepherds and irrigation experts for private landowners and the Australian Agricultural Company. Most came from Fujian province via the port of Amoy.] Gingell was subsequently transferred from Amoy to Foo-chow-foo [Foochow, Fuzhou] in 1849 where he served as the Consular Interpreter and Vice-Consul until 1850, and again from 1853 to 1855 [possibly longer]. For a short period in 1857 he was Consul at Bangkok. In 1859 he was appointed Consul at Amoy [Xiamen], and in 1861 became Consul at Hankow, retaining this post until his death in 1863.

The earliest and most substantial of Gingell’s unpublished works in the present archive are his translations of eighteenth and nineteenth century Chinese texts compiled and published by a Chinese historian in a monumental sixteen volumes, here headed “History of Amoy” and partially translated into English by Gingell in a manuscript work-in-progress.

This work is accompanied by a manuscript letter addressed to Gingell, 15 November 1849, by the Consul of Foochowfoo Richard B. Jackson who relays praises for the work on the history of Amoy , from Hong Kong Governor Sir Samuel George Bonham as well as Henry John Temple 3rd Viscount Palmerston.

Excerpts from the letter: “In a despatch… from Mr. Bonham… in China… I have been instructed to acquaint Mr. Gingell that his Lordship highly approves of his having devoted a portion of his leisure to the Translation of the History of Amoy; and further to state that Viscount Palmerston has no objection to Mr. Gingell communicating any parts of the work in question to the Asiatic Societies of London and Paris… R. B. Jackson.”

“Translation: History of Amoy in 16 Volumes”, Gingell titles the aforementioned work, leaving the Chinese authorship yet to be ascertained. Following a general description of all sixteen parts, volumes 1 and 2 string-tied together, as well as volumes 3, 4 and 7 are translated in full, with the first chapter of the 3rd volume further being copied and string-tied separately. It is unknown whether Gingell began or completed the translation of the remaining volumes, nor what type of access he had to the original Chinese title. It is quite conceivable that the work was protected in a Chinese government institution owing to public censorship or literary privilege offered only to the elite. If so, when Gingell was relocated to Fuzhou in 1849, it would have been most inconvenient to travel back to Xiamen to continue his work. The second volume addresses literary censorship and restricted access outside of colleges, which only the upper class could attend. [In ancient China censorship was considered a legitimate instrument for regulating the moral and political life of the population; the first censorship law was introduced in 300 AD. Still today, the view of censorship as a benevolent task in the best interest of the public, is upheld in China.]

Throughout this substantial and already detailed work, Gingell adds explanatory notes, and writes names of places and people in Chinese characters beside the English.

The first volume consists of “Imperial Discourses” pertaining to Qing ruled Formosa – providing a rare opportunity to study the matter from the Chinese perspective. The first of these records “the extermination of the Formosa rebels” followed by the translation of an imperial tablet which announces “the subjugation of Formosa” by the Qing Dynasty. A very detailed account ensues, describing the invasion by Chinese troops General Shi Lang in 1683. Leaping ahead one century, another Imperial Discourse recollects the Lin Shuangwen rebellion of 1787-88 including the role of Fuk’anggan, and the capture of self-proclaimed king of Taiwan Lin Shuangwen.

[The Qing dynasty ruled over Formosa (modern-day Taiwan) and the Pescadores (Penghu) from 1683 to 1895. Commander-in-chief General Shi Lang led the Qing naval fleets during the conquest of Taiwan in 1683. Qing rule over Taiwan ended when Taiwan was ceded to Japan by the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895.]

Simply titled “Amoy” the second volume concerns the history of the city, especially its fortifications through army and naval defences, the distribution of military stations, the erection of a walled castle on Xiamen Island by Zhou Dexing in 1387, and the like. The striking natural features of the region are described in a most interesting fashion by recounting how early dynasties utilized the land and sea passages, also presenting historic place names. Stone inscriptions, caverns, natural springs, gateways, pagodas, temples, and sacred spots are mentioned. Further chapters are devoted to descriptions of islands, sreams and bays, parishes and wards as they evolved over time, specific streets and markets, ferries, and so forth. The office of the Amoy Magistrates, situated on the outskirts of the city, is the subject of detailed observations. A thorough assessment of the local granaries discusses the regulations by which they operate, profitability, and the complexities of the principle Amoy granary being under general public control of but under the protection of government appointed militia. In the vein of spirituality and s superstition, the text continues with fascinating information on temples, gateways with mythical ornamentation and marks of royal favour, tombs and graves, public cemeteries, idolatry, and specific rituals of sacrifice observed at specific locations – for healing, for prosperity, for the departed, and more. In this volume, the chapter titled “The Present Dynasty” mentions the viceroys of Chekiang and Tokien who, in 1806, had two iron guns cast and placed at the city’s west gate, alterations and repairs made to a temple in 1828, the work of an engraver in 1831 in one of the historic colleges, as well as a burial place purchased in 1832 by a man of “literary rank” called Woo Teng Tsae. The latter reveals that the original Chinese historian’s work being translated by Gingell dates no earlier than 1832.

Excerpt from the text, volume 2: “Colleges… The allowance of the Head Instructor was paid out of the Treasury’s Fund & prohibited the private use of of the volumes outside the college – beside abolishing the practice of giving allowance to those who had before undergone examination & likewise fixed the amount for food money… In the 11th year Taonkwong 1831 the Taoutae Chaoun Kae directed the Magistrate Sen Yuen Tsing to again institute a thorough investigation into the affairs of the College… according to a tablet…

Volume three is titled “Research into the Military Regulations” which ultimately serves to provide an understanding of the so-called “sea barriers or sea fences” of Amoy. Looking back as far as the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), this text describes the division of various types of troops including marine encampments. Fascinating information is found here, such as earnings by class and duties assigned – marching earned a special allowance, troops who were required to cultivate land in 1560, a fixed compliment of 10 vessels at Amoy – a little known historical fact even locally, military defences for walled cities, officer titles which were introduced and omitted during the then-present dynasty, the composition of men and vessels at each station, a description of the Rendezvous Guards, unique aspects of specific regiments, soldiers of the marine squadron receiving an annual loan in silver pieces for land tax, allotment of horses, notes of war vessels and weapons, and even more.

Volume four is essentially a detailed nautical guide imparting practical information for safe navigation between the Pescadores Islands [Penghu] and into the bays of the Formosa Strait [Taiwan], for passage to and from Amoy [Xiamen]. This text further provides a history of trade and commerce with the mainland.

Volume seven deals with customs and duty tariffs, addressing matters such as prohibition, fixed duty servants, land revenue, salt duty, and the Amoy Customs House. This volume begins with a history of the Customs House which was established when Formosa was annexed. Fixed duty rates are listed. Customs passes are named. Remarks are made on the evolving practices of investigation and collection, and on specific trade items.

Excerpt from the text, volume 7: “… The selling of the yellow metal gold to the outside lead was punishable in the same manner as for iron goods and coffee casks… In the 14thyear it was further sanctioned that the offence of taking red and yellow copper utensils… and privately selling them to the outside nations should be punished according to its magnitude and the vessel and cargo be confiscated to government…

It was only 7 years prior to Gingell translating this historical sketch of Amoy, that the city was opened to foreign trade. Xiamen Island was considered to possess one of the world’s great natural harbors in Yundang Bay, but Fujian’s international trade was long restricted to Quanzhou or to Guangzhou in Guangdong. At the conclusion of the First Opium War, by the Treaty of Nanking in 1842, the British established the first treaty ports in China. As well as ceding the island of Hong Kong to the United Kingdom in perpetuity, the treaty also established five treaty ports at Shanghai, Canton (Guangzhou), Ningpo (Ningbo), Fuchow (Fuzhou), and Amoy (Xiamen). The following year the Chinese and British signed the Treaty of the Bogue, which added provisions for extraterritoriality and most favoured nation status for the latter country.

Documents and notes made in Chinese characters are present in the archive, and some may correspond to the shorter of the works here translated into English.

One of these is a manuscript work, consisting of 9 numbered documents, which appear to be announcements, decrees, broadsides, or something of the like, 10 pages in length, written in ink recto and verso to five large leafs (approximately 33 x 23 cm). English dates found throughout the text range from 4 January to 11 March 1854.

Gingell has also made a 5 page table of the sexagenary cycle, being a reverse chronological calendar of years showing, in Chinese characters, the sixty terms used for the Chinese calendar years. The chart covers 4490 years in the Gregorian calendar, from 1853 AD to 2637 BC. Another manuscript work, 5 pages in string-tied titled wraps, folio leafs measuring approximately 32 x 20 cm. [The sexagenary cycle, also known as the Stems-and-Branches or ganzhi, is a cycle of sixty terms used for reckoning time in China and East Asia. It appears as a means of recording days in the first Chinese written texts, the Shang oracle bones of the late second millennium BC. It was use to record years began around the middle of the 3rd century BC. The cycle and its variations have been an important part of the traditional calendrical systems in Chinese-influenced Asian states and territories, particularly those of Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, with the old Chinese system still in use in Taiwan (formerly Formosa). Each term in the sexagenary cycle consists of two Chinese characters, the first being one of the ten Heavenly Stems of the Shang-era week and the second being one of the twelve Earthly Branches representing the years of Jupiter’s duodecennial orbital cycle.]

Two folio leafs (approximately 28 x 44 cm) are copies from a Chinese document, its text being in the traditional Chinese characters, produced with a nineteenth century letter copying press. The text is divided into sections with annotated manuscript numbers.

One illustrated manuscript receipt in Chinese script, bearing two red ink stamps, is annotated in blue ink to note the charges and date a transaction which occurred 27 March 1862. Hand torn tissue paper measuring approximately 20,5 x 7 cm.

Finally, a scant few manuscript leafs in Chinese script are found loosely placed within the English works of translation.

The archive continues to yield an abundance of primary source translations made with the original Chinese text in hand, these being accounts of events more contemporary to Gingell’s day, and also describing traditions. Originating from various Chinese writers and state offices, these works Gingell completed while residing at Foo-chow-foo [Foochow, Fuzhou] where he served as the Consular Interpreter and Vice-Consul.

Most of these translations were made and written in 1853, during the reign of the Xianfeng Emperor (1831-1861) who was the ninth Emperor of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty, and the seventh Qing emperor to rule over China – from 1850 to 1861.

Following is a list of the 17 various treatises, war narratives, poetic compositions, royal decrees, and traditional ceremonies, translated into English. String-tied leafs of multiple pages each, various sizes, some have titled wraps, some are bound together and other individually. All are the manuscript working papers of then Vice-Consul Gingell, and for most he annotates the year his work was done.

Pertaining to the Sovereign Royals of the Empire of China:

“Chronological and detailed list of the Emperors and Kings of China, beginning with the now reigning monarch 1853.” Names are in Chinese characters transliterated into English; with extensive notes on geneology and history. The list starts with the ruler in Gringell’s present day, and goes back to the 31st century BC. 67 pages, 1853.

“Royal announcement declaring the election of an Empress.” This is a fascinating treatise which deals with female companionship for the Emperor, other women living in his multiple palaces including his concubines, the wives of three ranks of nobles, also addressing matters of royal favour to princes of noble blood, and so forth. 16 pages, 1853.

“Royal Announcement by the present Emperor of China on the Interment of the late Dowager Queen mother of the late Emperor Taou Kwang.” [Empress Xiaoherui (1776-1850), born in the Manchu Niohuru clan, was the second Empress Consort of the Jiaqing Emperor of the Qing dynasty. She was posthumously granted the title “Empress Xiaoherui”, and was interred in 1850 in a separate tomb near the Changling Mausoleum in the Western Qing tombs.] 23 pages, 1853.

“Forms of Ceremonial suitable to be adopted in the Fokien Province on the occasion of the Dowager Queen having ascended to a distance on her long journey.” A fascinating translation of the official announcement made by the Board of Rites, concerning customs to be observed following the death of the Queen Dowager [Empress Xiaoherui, as above] who had been a former concubine of Emperor Kea-King (1796-1821). Includes the proclamation of the State of Mourning, etc. 34 pages, comprising four short works, text on rectos with notes on facing versos. [This translation was published in 1852, together with “Forms of Ceremonial, &c, on the Death of the Dowager Queen, and of the Emperor Taoukwong; Also an Account of the Celebrated Porcelain Tower of Nanking.” It was published again in 1870, in “The Siam Repository: Containing a Summary of Asiatic Intelligence,” Volume 2.]

Pertaining to Military and War:

“Imperial Commands, edicts, and Memorial.” This string-tied lot contains various Imperial decrees from 1852-53, concerning a revolt of the Small Knife Society, military exercises for the defence of villages, the Board of Revenue establishing bank notes, and royal bounties paid to special armies. 29 pages altogether, 1853. [The Small Knife Society (Hsiao-tao-hui) was a secret society active in and around Shanghai, between about 1840 and 1855. Members of the society rebelled against the Qing dynasty. The society was suppressed and expelled from Shanghai in February 1855.]

“3 Memorials by Viceroy of Fokien: (1) Loss of Amoy &c; (2) Reinforce guards for Keany Lu &c; (3) Capture of Amoy.” Campaigns against the Qing Dynasty are the theme herein, with accounts of the insurgent Small Knife Society in revolt against the Qing dynasty, and the British being the opponent in the Battle of Amoy which took place in August 1841. Altogether 32 pages, 1853.

“Memorials Recapture of Amoy,” four official reports on the early stages of the suppression of the “Little Knife” rebellion. 28 pages, 1853.

“Two narratives [of] the capture of Nanking by the insurgents.” An excellent firsthand account of the Battle of Nanjing in 1853 from one who “escaped”, and who describes “rebels and thieves…. attacking and destroying the provincial cities along the seaboard and plundering and pillaging, slaughtering and killing in every imaginable manner…a calamitous revolution… spreading abroad idle and false stories…The Eastern King and Western King of the thieves go barefoot… the tyranny and cruelty of these thieves cannot be entirely narrated…” The second account describes the aftermath, being titled, “An Account of the distresses which befel the city of Nanking Alas!” 37 pages combined, 1854.

“9 Ranks of Officers”, with explanation of Chinese characters. 12 pages.

“Forms of Ceremonial observed by the Civil & Military of China“, with Chinese characters, transliterations and definitions. 40 pages.

“An Epitome of the events which occurred at Foochow during the year 53. Anonymous. Written in a satirical style. 1853”, an account of the Taiping Rebellion at Fuzhou with explanatory notes by Gingell, 33 pages, 1853. [The Taiping Rebellion or the Taiping Civil War was a massive rebellion or civil war in China that lasted from 1850 to 1864.]

Two works describe inscriptions, as follows:

“Inscription on an antique jar. Thesis written by Wang Po aged 14 years”, with a commentary. 49 pages, 1853.
“Translation of Tablet in the Monastery. Koo Than.” 29 pages, 1853.

The following treat subjects of literature, philosophy, and ancient traditions:

“An Elegy on the Virtuous government of Wang. Lieut Governor, formed on quotations from the four Books.” 12 pages, 1853.

“King siu Luk or Chinese Creed: A narrative or Transcribed record on the subject of Belief; enlarged and revised Foochow 1844, Kea Shiu year of Cycle.” 71 pages, 1852.

“Appellations of Graduates [&] Names of documents to the Throne.” This is a succinct explanation of the civil ranks attainable through state colleges, some degrees being purchasable, all titles being desirable in order to elevate one’s family or clan in social prestige and wealth. 12 pages.

String-tied together, altogether 25 pages including the translator’s notes, with dates from 1850-1853.
“A Proclamation issued by the Leo Tae or Literary Governor”
“The Feast of Lanterns”
“The Dragon Boat Feast”
“Monumental Tablet to Fanchin Moo formerly viceroy of Fokien Province”

There is also one (1) offprint of an ancient Chinese poem translated by Gingell, dated 8 March 1853, Foochowfoo.

William Raymond Gingell (1816-1863) was a surgeon for the British East India Company, serving in India and in China, where he would learn the language so proficiently as to become a consular interpreter. He wrote many papers on Chinese customs, and translated Chinese books. In his later years, he served as Consul at Amoy and at Hankow.

Following in the footsteps of his father Daniel Gingell, and his elder brother, who were both also physicians, he studied medicine at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, qualifying in 1839. Also like his father before him, he was a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

In January 1840, having studied the necessary Indian languages, he went to Madras as a surgeon for the East India Company. After 2 years, he was transferred to China, arriving there during the final battles of the First Opium War. Within one year he became proficient with the Chinese language, and changed careers to join the consular service, being first appointed Chinese interpreter at Chusan [Zhoushan] 23 November 1843. He was transferred to Amoy on 10 October 1844 as Assistant Chinese interpreter, rising to the post of interpreter on 1 July 1845. In this role, in 1848 he was commissioned by Temple Hillyard Layton, Consul at Amoy, to board the barque Nimrod at Hong Kong, to witness the signature of the 120 Chinese “coolies,” each of whom were engaged in a contract as indentured laborer and provided payment for the passage from Amoy to Moreton Bay, Australia, prior to departure in December. [During this period, mainly from 1848 to 1853, large numbers of Chinese people went to Australia as indentured labourers to work as shepherds and irrigation experts for private landowners and the Australian Agricultural Company. Most came from Fujian province via the port of Amoy.]

Gingell was subsequently transferred from Amoy to Foo-chow-foo [Foochow, Fuzhou] in 1849 where he served as the Consular Interpreter and Vice-Consul until 1850, and again from 1853 to 1855 [possibly longer]. For a short period in 1857 he was Consul at Bangkok. In 1859 he was appointed Consul at Amoy [Xiamen], and in 1861 became Consul at Hankow, retaining this post until his death in 1863.

In 1852, Gingell published two books of translations of classic Chinese texts. In a preface, his teacher, Lin Kow Hwaie, tells of his extraordinary and unusual gifts as a linguist. Examples of his Chinese script are in the archives at Kew. One of these translation works was the “Chow Le” classic, an ancient work from the dynasty ruling the Chinese Empire in the twelfth century. [The shoo king, also known as the books of Chow, was the “Historical Book of Documents” made in the twelfth century by the celebrated Chow-kung, brother to the founder of the Chow dynasty and for a time regent of the empire, as an instructional guide for his nephew, a young prince, on the rites and ceremonies that would secure peace in the empire.]

Gingell’s translation of the Chow Le classic is titled, “The ceremonial usages of the Chinese, B.C. 1121, as prescribed in the Institutes of the Chow Dynasty Strung as Pearls, or Chow Le Kwon Choo, Being an abridgment of the Chow Le Classic.” by Hoo Peih Seang (Mung Chew), Translated from the original Chinese, with notes, by W.R. Gingell, then interpreter to Her Majesty’s Consulate at Foo-chow-foo. It was published in London by Smith Elder and Co., 1852. 4to. 107 pages.

Apart from another work described above on the Queen Dowager Empress Xiaoherui, he also published a translation of the “Tcheou Laws; Tckeou-li” by the ancient Chinese philosopher Mencius, V. ii. 2

An excellent linguist, in the early 1850s, he was made Interpreter to the British Consulate in Amoy. In 1855 he married Fanny Sullivan, the widow of the Consul at Amoy (Xiamen), who had died a few years earlier. They had no children. For a short period in 1857 he was Consul at Bangkok, during which time King Mongkut presented Mrs Gingell with a brooch.

In 1859, he was appointed Consul at Amoy [Xiamen]. In 1861 he was appointed Consul at Hankow, from where he wrote letters describing the dangers from flood and rebel activity, as well as the difficulties of setting up his home and office. In March 1863 he wrote to Lord Bruce, the Chief Superintendent, requesting permission to return home because of his poor health. This was refused. In August he made a second request, but two days later he died, aged only 46. His memorial in St Mary’s Church, Thornbury is inscribed with Chinese characters, which mean ‘Waiting, Watching, Longing’.

In 1850, Gingell was involved in the Shen-kuang-szu Incident, one of the earliest conflicts between local Chinese and foreign Protestant missionaries. When CMS missionaries, Robert David Jackson and William Welton brought with them a letter from the bishop of Hong Kong to the Consul in June 1850, expressing their desire to reside within the city, Dr. William Raymond Gingell, who was the then consular interpreter in Fuzhou, provided assistance. Having formerly been informed about the availability of a temple on Wu-shih-shan called Shen-kuang-szu, Gingell arranged a meeting with the county magistrate Xinglian to discuss its rental opportunities. Without putting much detailed thought into the matter, Xinglian placed his seal on the agreement. The Chinese, however, were not pleased with the outcome of the meeting, protesting that foreigners other than consular officers should not be permitted to reside within the walled city. Two days after the conclusion of the rental agreement, Gingell began receiving urgent communications from Xinglian and other Chinese officials requesting to undo the rental agreement at Shen-kuang-szu. Gingell refused, taking the position that foreigners had the Treaty rights to reside within the city, and that the magistrate himself had already placed his seal on the agreement.


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