China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - Managing Daily Life in Nineteenth-Century Beijing: A Bannerman's Diary

Thursday, March 22
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Maryland Suite A, Lobby Level

Siyan cuwang lu meng, the diary of a low class bannerman living in Beijing during the Daoguang era (1820-1850), provides a rare peek into daily life in the inner city of the Qing capital. Writing in Manchu, the diarist records in extraordinary detail his day-to-day routines, such as the shops and restaurants he visited, the goods he purchased and pawned, and the food he consumed. In particular, the diary contains meticulous descriptions of the author’s relationships with many different types of people he interacted with on a daily basis, including his friends and relatives, his superiors and colleagues at work, and the Chinese merchants in his neighborhood. These daily records allow the diarist to keep track of who owes him money and whom he owe money to, who he provided a favor to in the past and who he needs to return a favor in the future. By analyzing three specific episodes in his life as recorded in the diary, this paper examines how this bannerman managed and expanded his social network, and utilized his various connections to provide financial, political, and emotional support for himself and his family. Through these analyses, this paper will discuss the significance of such personal diaries in accessing the intricacies of social relations in nineteenth-century Beijing, both within the Eight Banners and between bannermen and Chinese civilians, as well as the limitations of this medium in understanding the background and motivations of the diarists themselves and the people they mention in their records.

Bingyu Zheng

Princeton University, New Jersey


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1 - Managing Daily Life in Nineteenth-Century Beijing: A Bannerman's Diary

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