Last words: language of China's emperors in peril

It was the language of China’s last imperial dynasty which ruled a vast kingdom for nearly three centuries. Traders and farmers from what are now the borders of China and Korea, the Manchus took advantage of a crumbling Ming state and swept south in the 1600s to establish their own Qing Dynasty. Now after centuries of decline followed by decades of repression, septuagenarian Ji is the youngest of some nine mother-tongue speakers left in Sanjiazi village, one of only two places in China where they can be found.

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