Grave-tober 11 – Chow Manderien

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October 11, 2018 by Bret Kramer (aka WinstonP)

New England’s merchant ships ranged across the globe in the 18th century; sometimes we find a reminder of that carved in stone…


Here lies Interr’d the Body
a Native of China,
Aged 19 Years: whofe death
was occasioned on the 11th. Sept.
1798 by a fall from the Maft head
of the Ship Mac of Bofton.
This Stone is erected to his Memory
by his affectionate Mafter

This gravestone can be found in the Central Burying Ground on the Boston Common.  This is likely the least-visited of Boston’s historic cemeteries, having only a few notable burials and lacking the more spectacular carvings of nearby Granary or King’s Chapel.

Modern readers will no doubt realize that “Chow Manderien” is not the deceased’s name.  Mandarin is an English word derived from the Portuguese word mandador (“one who commands”), itself possibly coming from Sanskrit via Malay, a general term for any Chinese official.  As the dialect of Chinese spoken by court officials was called “the Mandarin language” the name was erroneously thought to be another name for China as a nation.  Chow is likely a rough attempt to transliterate the Chinese family name Zhou () into English.  So, all we know about this young man was his age, his family name (currently the 10th most common in China) and that he was Chinese.  Whoever he was, in death he demonstrated the attachment of his employer, Captain Boit, as having him buried and marked with a stone was a not small expense – remember that in the 18th century that about 1/8 people had a gravestone erected in their memory.

Captain Boit (1774-1829) himself authored several books, including A New Log of the Columbia, recounting his exploration of the coastal Pacific Northwest.

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