The Manchu alphabet was commissioned in 1599 by the Manchu leader Nurhaci (1559-1626), the founder of the Manchu state. The letters are based on the Classical Mongolian alphabet while the phonetics are based on Jurchen, an earlier Manchu script. The alphabet was modified slightly in 1632.
In 1644 the Manchus conquered China and established the Ch\'ing (Qing) dynasty, which lasted until 1911. For the first 200 years or so of the Ch\'ing dynasty, Manchu was the main language of government in China and served as a lingua franca. By the mid 19th century many of the Manchus had adopted Chinese as their first language, however they continued to produce Manchu version of Chinese documents until the end of the dynasty and for sometime afterwards.
- Manchu is written in vertical columns running from top to bottom and from left to right.
- Each letter has three different forms: initial, medial and final form, which are used at the beginning, middle and end of a word respectively.
- Numerals are the same as for the Mongolian alphabet.
Used to write:
Manchu, a member of the Tungusic group of Altaic languages. There are currently about 9 million Manchus living in north-eastern China, of whom between 70 and 1,000 speak Manchu. Most speak only Chinese.
In Xinjiang in the west of China about 20,000 people of Manchu origin, who are known as Sibe, Xibo or Sibo, still speak Manchu. The Sibe were moved to the region in 1764 by the Ch\'ing emperor Qianlong.
There are also Manchus in North Korea and Siberia.