Cantonese-English phrasebook


Gold miners
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Period of reference
1857 to 1862
Description from source
While no provenance is available for this item, it is reasonable to assume from the contents of the book that it was printed in Guangzhou, China, for the men in that province intending to sail to the Victorian goldfields to join the gold rush. The place names listed in the book indicate it was before the 1870s gold rushes in Queensland.

Of the two Zhu phrasebooks (English through the Vernaculars of the Canton and Shiuhing Prefectures) known to exist, this is the earlier edition. It is probably not a first edition because there are corrections to the original text overprinted in red ink. The first two pages in this copy are missing and/or damaged and it does not have a cover. It contains no information about the publisher or year and place of publication. Nothing is known about its provenance. It was donated to the Chinese Museum around the time of its establishment c1985.

This volume has been dated as between c1857 and c1862. The earlier date is based on research into the years of gold rushes in the Victorian places mentioned in the book. The later date is based on another Zhu phrasebook edition which has a publication date of 1862 and has been identified as being published more recently than this phrasebook based on the fact that the overprinted red corrections in this volume have been corrected in this later phrasebook.

The elegance of the diction used in phrasebook's preface suggests that Zhu was an accomplished scholar. The handwriting is well executed, although there are errors in the English spelling of some words. It contains a preface by the compiler, table of contents, lists of the English letters written in upper and lower case and in different fonts, lists of key goldfield locations in California and Victoria [see map] and then a selection of useful phrases.

Four lines of information are offered for each phrase.
+ The first line is a Chinese translation of the English phrase written using a mixture of vernacular language and classical Chinese.
+ The second line is the English phrase.
+ The third line is the English phrase transliterated into Chinese characters using a Siyi dialect described as 'the speech of Shiuhing Prefecture Zhaofu (???)', which refers to the language of the See Yup region.
+ The fourth line is a transliteration of the phrase into Chinese characters using a vernacular called 'the speech of Canton Prefecture (???)' which is one of the names for Cantonese still used today.
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