12/10 Elvin Meng

PhD student, Comparative Literature and East Asian Languages & Civilizations

“Joining Jades and the Piping of Heaven: Toward a Diagrammatology of Translation in Early Modern China



Time: Friday, Dec 10, 3-5 pm CT

Zoom Registration Link: 



The Art and Politics of East Asia (APEA) workshop is proud to host Elvin Meng (PhD student, Comparative Literature and East Asian Languages & Civilizations), who will be presenting a draft of his paper, “Joining Jades and the Piping of Heaven: Toward a Diagrammatology of Translation in Early Modern China 合璧與天籟:中國近世翻譯的構象”. Jacob Reed (PhD student, Music) will offer a response.

Elvin summarizes his paper as follows:

“Strictly speaking, this project is a reconsideration of print and manuscript Chinese-to-Manchu translations from the Qing (1644-1912) outside bureaucratic settings by means of their specific mise-en-page and contemporaneous understandings of language. I emphasize that the latter was informed by scholastic phonology and Buddhist theology. In its general consequences, this project seeks to understand how “language,” and a fortiori “translation,” emerge and disperse as concepts in a multilingual milieu through articulations of sound and script, forces of thought and the body.

In the pre-circulated segment of the project, I give a briefly profile of the Manchu language as it is relevant to my discussion, and critically review how “translation” qua information transfer has been central to New Qing History’s reevaluation of Manchu sources in the last few decades. I then theorize at length the “joining jade” (Ma. kamcime, Ch. hebi 合璧) mise-en-page format in which many Chinese-to-Manchu translations during the Qing were presented, decentering “language” as the habitual framework for understanding these texts and turning instead to their mediatic affinities to oral interpretation manuals, music scores, and Buddhist spells. I locate the specificity of the format vis-à-vis preexisting strategies of presenting multilingual or translation works on the page, and highlight the prominent role embodied and scripted activities of sounding has played in the history of the “joining jade” form.”

Presenter: Elvin Meng is a joint PhD student in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Department of East Asian Languages & Civilizations at the University of Chicago. His research interests include East Asian & European thought, media history & theory, translation, Manchu studies, history of linguistics & mathematics, and modernism.

Respondent: Jacob Reed is a PhD student in music theory and history at the University of Chicago, whose research centers on overlap, conflict, and compensation between words and music. Recent projects have addressed these issues in jazz aesthetics, early Chinese poetics, and recent American popular music.

Please contact Siting Jiang (sitingjiang@uchicago.edu) and Nick Ogonek (nogonek@uchicago.edu) with any questions or concerns.

Nick and Siting, Co-coordinators, Art and Politics of East Asia Workshop, 2021-2