Tangut Language and Manuscripts: An Introduction


Author: Jinbo Shi
Translator: Hansong Li
This book is the first comprehensive introduction to the Tangut language and culture. Five of the fiſteen chapters survey the history of Western Xia and the evolution of Tangut Studies, including new advancements in the field, such as research on the recently decoded Tangut cursive writings found in Khara-Khoto documents. The other ten chapters provide an introduction to the Tangut language: its origins, script, characters, grammars, translations, textual and contextual readings. In this synthesis of historical narratives and linguistic analysis, the renowned Tangutologist Shi Jinbo offers a guided access to the mysterious civilisation of the ‘Great State White and High’ to both a specialized and a general audience.

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Shi, Jinbo is a Fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Shi has published widely on Tangutology, including Study of the Sea of Characters (1983), Western Xia Publishing (2004), and Economic Records of Western Xia (2017).

Li, Hansong, B.A. University of Chicago, M.Phil. University of Cambridge, is a scholar of intellectual and international history at Harvard University.
Translator’s Preface
List of Illustrations

 1 The Purpose of Studying Tangut
 2 Some Notes on Learning Tangut

1 History and Society of Western Xia
 1 History of Western Xia
 2 Tangut Society
 3 Religions in Western Xia
 4 Tangut Culture
Tangut Vocabulary (1)

2 Tangut Manuscripts
 1 Discovery of the Corpus of Tangut Manuscripts
 2 Types and Quantities of Tangut Texts
 3 Introduction to Tangut Manuscripts
 4 Compilation and Publication of Tangut Manuscripts
Tangut Vocabulary (2)

3 Tangut Bibliology and Bibliography
 1 Types and Versions
 2 Binding of Books
 3 Structure and Design
 4 Illustrations, Letter Code, and Attachments
 5 Papers
Tangut Vocabulary (3)

4 Structure and Features of Tangut Characters
 1 The Structure of Tangut Characters
 2 Pictograms and Simple Ideograms (Simple Indicatives) Comparisons with Chinese Characters
 3 Tangut Radicals
 4 Write and Search Tangut Words in a Dictionary
Tangut Vocabulary (4)

5 Phonetics and Vocabulary
 1 The Tangut Language
 2 Tangut Phonetics
 3 Tangut Words
Tangut Vocabulary (5)

6 Parts of Speech
 1 Nouns
 2 Pronouns
 3 Numerals and Classifiers
 4 Verbs
 5 Adjectives
 6 Adverbs
 7 Particles
 8 Prepositions
 9 Conjunctions
 10 Interjections, Mood Particles, and Onomatopoeia
Tangut Vocabulary (6)

7 Phrases and Word Order
 1 Phrases
 2 Syntax
Textual Interpretation (1)

8 Sentences
 1 Judgments, Descriptions, Statements and Interrogations
 2 Indicatives, Imperatives and Exclamations
 3 Simple and Compound Sentences
 4 Active and Passive
 5 Autonomous and Causative
Textual Interpretation (2)

9 Cases and Case-Markers
 1 Nominative
 2 Genitive
 3 Accusative
 4 Presentative
 5 Subject of the Performative
Textual Interpretation (3)

10 Existential Verbs
 1 Categories and Usages
 2 Definitions and Applications of Existential Verbs in the Sea of Characters
 3 Features of Usage
Textual Interpretation (4)

11 Prepositional Particles
 1 Types and Usage
 2 Features
 3 Tactics in Translating Tangut Texts
Textual Interpretation (5)

12 Rime Transformation and Person Agreement in Tangut Verbs
 1 Categories of Person Agreements
 2 Rime Transformation in Person Agreement
 3 Explanations Found in the Sea of Characters and the Homophones
 4 In Textual Translations
Textual Interpretation (6)

13 Proper Nouns and Kinship Terms
 1 Names of States and Ethnicities
 2 Imperial Titles and Era Names
 3 Titles of Civil Servants
 4 Family Names and Given Names
 5 Addressing Families and Relatives
Textual Interpretation (7)

14 Interpretation of Tangut Social Documents and the Cursive Script
 1 Tangut Social Documents
 2 Tangut Cursive Script and Social Documents
Textual Interpretation (8)

15 Translation and Punctuation
 1 Some Notes on Translation
 2 How to Pause Properly When Reading a Tangut Text
Textual Interpretation (9)


Tangutologists, scholars of East Asia & Inner Asia, especially medieval China, ethnology and linguistics, medieval Eurasia and Tibet, history of Steppe regimes.