POSTPONED-"Vale poco” [of little value]- a Forgotten Spanish-Chinese Dictionary in a Manila archive

Mar 26, 2020, 4:30 pm4:30 pm
216 Aaron Burr



Event Description

In April 2017 researchers from National Tsing Hua University (NTSU) of Taiwan in search of Chinese materials in the Archivo de la Universidad de Santo Tomás (AUST) in Manila “re-discovered” an obsolete Spanish-Chinese dictionary. Its 1944 catalog description—vale poco, of little value—sparked their curiosity. It turned out that the Dictionario Hispanico-Sinicum was comprised of four columns: one each for the Spanish word, its counterpart in Chinese characters, the pronunciation of the Chinese word in romanized Hokkien (Minnan), and the pronunciation in romanized Mandarin. Internal evidence shows that the dictionary was produced in Manila somewhere between 1624-1642. It is thus among the earliest written sources not only for Hokkien, but also for Western-Chinese lexicography; it also “represents an early chapter outside the mainstream of historical lexicography,” according to a German sinologist. Tagalog words in the dictionary also showed that the Manila Chinese had also accepted local words in their language. NTSU, in collaboration with the University of Santo Tomas, published a limited edition of facsimiles of the Dictionario in February of 2019. 

Regalado Trota José is the Director of the Archives of the University of Santo Tomás in Manila. His publications include, Simbahan: Church Art in Colonial Philippines, 1565–1898 (Manila: Ayala Museum, 1991), Faith, Power + Faith + Image (Manila: Ayala Foundation, 2004), and Images of Faith: Religious Ivory Carvings from the Philippines (Pasadena: Pacific Asia Museum, 1990). He was the associate editor of the volume on Architecture of the revised edition of the Cultural Center of the Philippines Encyclopedia of Philippine Art (Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines, 2018).

  • East Asian Studies Program
  • Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Event Category