Fake Gelao 仡佬 writing system and manuscript.

I found a copy of this newly-published book in my mailbox last week.
Jing Tinghu 景亭湖. 2013. Pu Zu Jing: Han Yi Gelao Tianshu 濮祖經:漢譯仡佬天書. Beijing: Wenshi Chubanshe 文史出版社.

It purports to be a publication of a Gelao 仡佬 manuscript book – the Pu Zu Jing 濮祖經 or Classic of the Ancestors of the Pu People – with photographs of the original and a Chinese translation. The manuscript and the script do bear a passing resemblance to similar items produced by other groups in China’s linguistically diverse Southwest. Casual inspection reveals this one to be a transparent attempt at deception, interesting only because of the enthusiastic and credulous reception that it (and a previous discovery of the same kind) received from the Guangming Daily 光明日報. There is no sign that it is intended to be a joke. Here is an English version of the story.

A debunking of another “Gelao manuscript” – the Jiu Tian Da Pu Shi Lu 九天大濮史錄 – appears on this Chinese blog.

The following page appears as p. 165 of the 2013 publication:

fake_ms_crop
fake_ms_xiehewanbang

協和萬邦

This page, like all the others in the manuscript, is “translated” into Chinese in such a way that each “Gelao” graph corresponds to exactly one Chinese character, the same Chinese character each time (except for a few slips – see below). Word order is preserved. The end result makes sense in Chinese. This alone tells us that this is not a translation. It is also puzzling to find not a single mention of an actual Gelao word in the entire publication.

Furthermore, phrases straight out of Chinese literature emerge by this process. The 4-character phrase on the left, for instance, is translated as 協和萬邦. But notice that second Gelao character: elsewhere in the manuscript, it corresponds to 合 in the translation. And sure enough, the translators have rendered this 4-character phrase as 協合萬邦, not 協和萬邦. Clearly, the composers of the manuscript text were led astray by the homophony (in Mandarin!) of 和 and 合.

A related confusion occurs in the immediately previous 4-charater phrase: the phrase translated as 設立和王 is also written with the character elsewhere used for 合, not the one used for 和.

fake_ms_hewanggongyi

和王宮邑

Further on in the text on p. 165, we find the “normal” writing for 和 – the three prongs with circles on the top, as in the phrase 和王宮邑 (image on the right).

fake_ms_puwanggongdian

濮王宮殿

Evidently, the manuscript text is in Chinese not in Gelao. The Chinese translation isn’t a translation – it’s the text from which the manuscript was produced.

The “script” is clearly a set of symbols invented so as to be easy to remember by someone who knows the Chinese script. The character corresponding to 宮, for instance is clearly 宀 over 王. 邑 is immediately recognizable. 濮 (image on left) is just stripped down a little, and 殿 (left) is barely modified at all.

And the content?  I haven’t had the patience to go through it in detail, but it looks like Chinese dynastic history rehashed, with an extra role for the 僕人 as heroic ancestors of the Gelao. Plus some stuff about the smelting of silver, and cinnabar, and Laozi, and divination.

“Fake, fake, fake, fake.”

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