Jurchen people

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Jurchen people
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese女眞 (variant)
Korean name
Hangul여진 (S. Korea)
녀진 (N. Korea)
Khitan name name
Khitan namedʒuuldʒi (女直)[2]
Mongolian name name
Mongolian nameЗүрчид
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Jurchen people
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese女眞 (variant)
Korean name
Hangul여진 (S. Korea)
녀진 (N. Korea)
Khitan name name
Khitan namedʒuuldʒi (女直)[2]
Mongolian name name
Mongolian nameЗүрчид

The Jurchens or Jurcheds[3] (Jurchen language:Jurchen.png jušen) were a Tungusic people who inhabited the region of Manchuria (present-day Northeast China) until the 17th century, when they adopted the name Manchu. They established the Jin Dynasty (1115–1234) (Ancun gurun in ancient Jurchen and Aisin gurun in Standard Manchu) between 1115 and 1122, which lasted until 1234 with the arrival of the Mongols. In 1127 the Jurchens during the Jin–Song wars conquered the Northern Song and gained control of most of northern China, where they migrated and adopted the practices of the local Confucian culture.


The form Jurchen dates back to at least the beginning of the tenth century AD, when the Balhae kingdom was destroyed by the Khitans. However, cognate ethnonyms like Sushen or Jichen (稷真)[4] have been recorded in pre-Christian Era geographical works like the Shan Hai Jing and Book of Wei. It comes from the Jurchen word jušen, the original meaning of which is unclear. The standard English version of the name, "Jurchen," is an Anglicized transliteration of the Mongolian equivalent of the Jurchen term jušen (Mongolian: Jürchin, plural is Jürchid), and may have arrived in the West via Mongolian texts.[5] A less common English transliteration is "Jurched," from the Mongolian plural form.

It is thought by a number of Russian linguists and historians that the Ducher people encountered by Russian explorers on the middle Amur and lower Sungari in the early 1650s (who were evacuated by the Qing authorities further south a few years later) were the descendants of the Amur Jurchens,[6] and that the word "Ducher" itself is simply a variation of jušen.[7]

Jin Dynasty[edit]

Eurasia before Genghis Khan's conquests, 1200

The 11th century Jurchen tribes of northern Manchuria descended from the Tungusic Mohe, or Malgal tribes who were subjects of the ethnic-Goguryeo state of Balhae. The Mohe enjoyed eating pork, practiced pig farming extensively, and were mainly sedentary,[8] and also used both pig and dog skins for coats. They were predominantly farmers and grew soybean, wheat, millet, and rice, in addition to engaging in hunting.[9] By the 11th century, the Jurchens had become vassals of the Khitans (see also Liao Dynasty).

They rose to power after their leader Wanyan Aguda unified them in 1115, declared himself Emperor, and in 1120 seized Shangjing (上京), also known as Linhuangfu (Traditional Chinese: 临潢府), the Northern Capital of Liao.[10] During the Jin–Song Wars, the Jurchens invaded territories under the Han Chinese Northern Song Dynasty and overran most of northern China, first setting up puppet regimes like Qi and Chu, later directly ruling as a dynastic state in Northern China named Jin ("Gold", not to be confused with the several Jin Dynasties named after the region around Shanxi and Henan). Jin captured the Song capital of Kaifeng in 1127. Their armies pushed all the way south to the Yangtze, but through continued warfare and treaties of diplomacy this boundary with the Han Chinese Southern Song Dynasty was eventually stabilised along the Huai River. The Jurchens extorted gifts and rewards from the Korean Kingdom Goryeo by militarily threatening them.[11]

The Jurchen named their Dynasty the Jin ("Golden") after the Anchuhu River (anchuhu is the Jurchen equivalent of Manchu aisin "gold, golden") in their homeland. At first, the Jurchen tribesmen were kept in readiness for warfare, but decades of urban and settled life in China eroded their original warlike lifestyle in Manchurian tundra and marshes. Eventually intermarriage with other ethnicities in China was permitted and peace with the Southern Song confirmed. The Jin rulers themselves came to follow Confucian norms.

After 1189, the Jin became involved in exhausting wars on two fronts, against the Mongols and the Southern Song dynasty. By 1215, under Mongol pressure, they were forced to move their capital south from Zhongdu (modern day Beijing) to Kaifeng, where the Mongol hordes captured the city in 1232. The emperor fled to a small town, and when it fell to the Mongols in the siege of Caizhou in 1234, the Jin Dynasty was extinguished.

Culture and society[edit]

Stone tortoise from the grave of a 12th-century Jurchen leader in today's Ussuriysk

Among the ancestor tribes of the Jurchens were the Heishui Mohe tribes, which were among the various Mohe tribes living along the Amur River (Black Water).[12] The Jurchens generally lived by traditions that reflected the hunting-gathering culture of Siberian-Manchurian tundra and coastal peoples. Like the Khitans and Mongols, they took pride in feats of strength, horsemanship, archery, and hunting. They engaged in shamanic rituals and believed in a supreme sky goddess (abka hehe, literally sky woman). In the Qing dynasty, bowing to Confucian pressure, this reverence for a female sky deity was switched to a male, sky father, Abka Enduri (abka-i enduri, abka-i han).[13] After conquering China, during the Jin Dynasty, Buddhism became the prevalent religion of the Jurchens, and Daoism was assimilated as well.[14]

In 1126 the Jurchen initially ordered male Han within their conquered territories to adopt Jurchen hairstyle by shaving the front of their heads and adopting Jurchen dress, but the order was lifted.[15] Jurchen were impersonated by Han rebels who wore their hair in the Jurchen "pigtail" to strike fear within their population.[16] The later Manchus (who were also Jurchens) similarly made Han men shave the front of heads and adopt the queue (ponytail), or soncoho (Chinese: 辮子 biànzi), the traditional Manchurian hairstyle.

Jurchen society was in some ways similar to that of the Mongols. Both Mongols and Jurchens used the title Khan for the leaders of a political entity, whether "emperor" or "chief". A particularly powerful chief was called beile ("prince, nobleman"), corresponding with the Mongolian beki and Turkish beg or bey. Also like the Mongols and the Turks, the Jurchens did not observe a law of primogeniture. According to tradition, any capable son or nephew could be chosen to become leader.

During Ming times, the Jurchen people lived in social units that were sub-clans (mukun or hala mukun) of ancient clans (hala). Members of Jurchen clans shared a consciousness of a common ancestor and were led by a head man (mukunda). Not all clan members were blood related, and division and integration of different clans was common. Jurchen households (boo) lived as families (booigon) consisting of five to seven blood-related family members and a number of slaves. Households formed squads (tatan) to engage in tasks related to hunting and food gathering and formed companies (niru) for larger activities, such as war.

Until recently, it was uncertain what kind of burial rites existed among the Jurchens. In July 2012 Russian archaeologists discovered a Jurchen burial ground in Partizansky District of Primorye (Primorsky Territory) in Russia. Fifteen graves dating to the 12th or 13th centuries were found, consisting of the grave of a chieftain placed in the centre, with the graves of 14 servants nearby. All the graves contained pots with ashes, prompting the scientists to conclude that the Jurchens cremated the corpses of their dead. The grave of the chieftain also contained a quiver with arrows and a bent sword. The archaeologists propose that the sword was purposely bent, to signify that the owner would no longer need it in earthly life. The researchers planned to return to Primorye to establish whether this was a singular burial or a part of the larger burial ground.[17]

The Jurchens were sedentary,[18][19] settled farmers with advanced agriculture. They farmed grain and millet as their cereal crops, grew flax and raised oxen, pigs, sheep, and horses.[20] Their farming way of life was very different from the pastoral nomadism of the Mongols and the Khitan on the steppes.[21][22] "At the most", the Jurchen could only be described as "semi-nomadic" while the majority of them were sedentary.[11]

Although their Mohe ancestors did not respect dogs, the Jurchen began to respect dogs around the time of the Ming dynasty and passed this tradition on to the Manchu, it was prohibited in Jurchen culture to use dog skin, and forbidden for Jurchens to harm, kill, and eat dogs, the Jurchens believed that the "utmost evil" was the usage of dog skin by Koreans.[23]

The Jurchen leader Nurhaci chose to variously emphasize either differences or similarities in lifestyles with other peoples like the Mongols for political reasons.[24] Nurhaci said to the Mongols that "The languages of the Chinese and Koreans are different, but their clothing and way of life is the same. It is the same with us Manchus (Jušen) and Mongols. Our languages are different, but our clothing and way of life is the same." Later Nurhaci indicated that the bond with the Mongols was not based in any real shared culture, rather it was for pragmatic reasons of "mutual opportunism", when he said to the Mongols: "You Mongols raise livestock, eat meat and wear pelts. My people till the fields and live on grain. We two are not one country and we have different languages."[25]


The early Jurchen script was invented in 1120 by Wanyan Xiyin, acting on the orders of Wanyan Aguda. It was based on the Khitan script that was inspired in turn by Chinese characters. The written Jurchen language died out soon after the fall of the Jin Dynasty, though its spoken form survived. Until the end of the 16th century, when Manchu became the new literary language, the Jurchens used a combination of Mongolian and Chinese. The pioneering work on studies of the Jurchen script was done by Wilhelm Grube at the end of the 19th century.

Ming Dynasty[edit]

A Jurchen man hunting from his horse, from a 15th-century ink and color painting on silk.
A late Ming era woodblock print of a Jurchen warrior.

Chinese chroniclers of the Ming Dynasty distinguished three groups of Jurchens: the Wild Jurchens (Chinese:野人女真) of northernmost Manchuria, the Haixi Jurchens (Chinese:海西女真) of modern Heilongjiang (Chinese:黑龍江) and the Jianzhou Jurchens of modern Jilin province. They led a pastoral-agrarian lifestyle, hunting, fishing, and engaging in limited agriculture. In 1388, the Hongwu Emperor dispatched a mission to establish contact with the tribes of Odoli, Huligai and T'owen, beginning the sinicisation of the Jurchen people.

Yongle Emperor (1360 - 1424, r. 1402 - 1424) found allies among the various Jurchen tribes against the Mongols. He bestowed titles and surnames to various Jurchen chiefs and expected them to send periodic tribute. One of Yongle's consorts was a Tungusic Jurchen (Nu chen) princess, which resulted in some of the eunuchs serving him being of Jurchen origin.[26] Chinese commanderies were established over tribal military units under their own hereditary tribal leaders. In the Yongle period alone 178 commanderies were set up in Manchuria, an index of the Chinese divide-and-rule tactics. Later on, horse markets were also established in the northern border towns of Liaodong for trade. The increasing sinification of the Jurchens ultimately gave them the organisation structures to extend their power beyond the steppe. The Joseon Koreans tried to deal with the military threat that the Jurchen posed to them by using both forceful means and incentives, by launching military attacks on the Jurchens. At the same time they tried to appease them with titles and degrees, trading with them, and seeking to acculturate them by having Korean women marry Jurchens and integrating them into Korean culture. Despite these measures, fighting continued between the Jurchen and the Koreans.[27][28] Their relationship was discontinued by Ming, because Ming was planning to make Jurchens a means of protecting the border. Korea had to allow this as it was in Ming's tribute system.[29] In 1403, Ahacu, chieftain of Huligai, paid tribute to Yongle Emperor of Ming. Soon after that, Möngke Temür, chieftain of Odoli clan of the Jianzhou Jurchens, defected from paying tribute to Korea, becoming a tributary to China instead. Yi Seong-gye, the Taejo of Joseon asked Ming to send Möngke Temür back but he refused.[30] The Ming Yongle Emperor was determined to wrest the Jurchens out of Korean influence and have China dominate them instead.[31] Korea tried to persuade Möngke Temür to reject the Ming overtures, but was unsuccessful since Möngke Temür submitted to the Ming.[32][33][34][35] Since then, more and more Jurchen tribes presented tribute to Ming in succession.[36] They were divided in 384 guards by Ming,[29] and the Jurchen became vassals to the Ming.[37] The Ming dynasty name for the Jurchen land was Nurgan. Later, a Korean army led by Yi-Il and Yi Sun-sin would expel them from Korea.

The Jurchen tribe was the predecessor of the Manchu nationality. For a long period of time, it inhabited the areas north and south of the Songhua River(Chinese:松花江) and around the Heilong River. During the late Ming and early Qing eras, the Jurchen tribe in the northeast was divided into 3 parts called Haixi (海西, "west of the sea"), Jianzhou (建洲, "establishing a state") and Yeren (野人, "wild people").

The Haixi Jurchens were "semi-agricultural, the Jianzhou Jurchens and Maolian (毛怜) Jurchens were sedentary, while hunting and fishing was the way of life of the "Wild Jurchens".[38] Han Chinese society resembled that of the sedentary Jianzhou and Maolian, who were farmers.[39] Hunting, archery on horseback, horsemanship, livestock raising, and sedentary agriculture were all practiced by the Jianzhou Jurchens as part of their culture.[40] The Manchu way of life (economy) was described as agricultural, farming crops and raising animals on farms.[41] Manchus practiced slash-and-burn agriculture in the areas north of Shenyang.[42]

“建州毛怜则渤海大氏遗孽,乐住种,善缉纺,饮食服用,皆如华人,自长白山迤南,可拊而治也。" "The (people of) Chien-chou and Mao-lin [YLSL always reads Mao-lien] are the descendants of the family Ta of Po-hai. They love to be sedentary and sow, and they are skilled in spinning and weaving. As for food, clothing and utensils, they are the same as (those used by) the Chinese. (Those living) south of the Ch'ang-pai mountain are apt to be soothed and governed."

— 据魏焕《皇明九边考》卷二《辽东镇边夷考》[43] Translation from Sino-J̌ürčed relations during the Yung-Lo period, 1403-1424 by Henry Serruys[44]

The Yeren tribe lacked a fixed dwelling place. The Haixi and Jianzhou tribes were engaged in fishing, hunting, animal husbandry, and farming, and had relatively fixed abodes. A gap between the rich and the poor and the division of classes emerged. According to standardized nomenclature of socialist historiography, the three tribes were in the patriarchal-slavery stage of the late slavery clan system.

The Ming dynasty had set up a horse market at a Jurchen dwelling-place to carry out trade with the Haixi and Jianzhou tribes, whose main commodities were horse, fur, ginseng, and other special local products. Commodities from the Han regions included iron farming tools, farm cattle, seeds, rice, salt, textiles, etc.

History of the Nurkal Command Post and the achievements of Yishisha[edit]

In 1409, the Ming government set up a post called Nurkal Command Post (NCP) at Telin in the vicinity of Heilong River. The three parts of the Jurchen tribe came under the nominal administration of the NCP,which lasted only 25 years and was abolished in 1434. Leaders of the Haixi and Jianzhou tribes had accepted the Ming government's honorable titles.

From 1411 to 1433, the Ming eunuch Yishiha 亦失哈 (who himself was a Haixi Jurchen by origin[45]) led ten large missions to win over the allegiance of the Jurchen tribes along the Sunggari and Amur rivers. His fleet sailed down the Sunggari into the Amur, and set up the nominal Nurkal (Nu'ergan) Command (奴兒干都司) at Telin 特林 (now, the village of Tyr[46] about 100 km upstream from Nikolayevsk-na-Amure in the Russian Far East) near the mouth of the Amur.

These missions are not well recorded in the Ming dynastic history, but an important source on them is two stone steles erected by Yishiha at the site of the Yongning Temple (Chinese:永宁寺), a Guanyin temple commissioned by him at Telin.[47] The inscriptions on the steles are in four languages: Chinese, Jurchen, Mongol, and Tibetan. There is probably quite a lot of propaganda in the inscriptions, but they give a detailed record of the Ming court's efforts to assert suzerainty over the Jurchen.

After the setting up of the NCP, Yishiha and other Ming dynasty eunuchs, under orders from the Emperor, came several times to promote Ming influences. When Yishiha visited Nuergan for the 3rd time in 1413, he built a temple called Yongning Temple at Telin and erected a stele in front of it. The stele bore an inscription written in 4 languages - Han, Jurchen, Mongolian, and Tibetan.

Yishiha paid his 10th visit to Nuergan in 1432, during which he re-built the titled Yongning Temple and re-erected a stele in front of it. The stele bore the heading "Record of Re-building Yongning Temple". The setting up of the NCP and the repeated declarations to offer blessings to this region by Yishiha and others were all recorded in this and the first steles.

Transition from Jurchens to Manchu[edit]

A 1682 published Italian map showing the "Kingdom of the Niuche" (i.e., Nǚzhēn) or the "Kin (Jin) Tartars", who "have occupied and are at present ruling China", north of Liaodong and Korea

Over a period of thirty years from 1586, Nurhaci, a chieftain of the Jianzhou Jurchens, united the Jurchen tribes, which was later renamed Manchu by his son Hung Taiji. He created a formidable synthesis of tribal and inter-ethnic institutions, providing the basis of the Manchu state and later the conquest of China by the Qing dynasty.

The creation of the Manchu ethnic group from the Jurchen people is linked to the creation of the Eight Banners by Hung Taiji.

The Eight Banners were made out of people of vastly different social and ethnic origins.[48] The Eight Banners consisted of three principal ethnic components: the Manchu, the Han, and the Mongols, and various smaller ethnic groups, such as the Xibe, Daur,and Evenks. Beginning in the late 1620s, Nurhaci's successors incorporated allied and conquered Mongol tribes into the Eight Banner system. The first Chinese additions were merely sprinkled into existing banners as replacements. Eventually, the sheer numbers of Han Chinese soldiers caused Manchu leaders to form them into the "Old Han Army" (舊漢軍, jiù hànjūn), mainly for infantry support. In 1631, a separate Han Chinese artillery corps was formed. Four Han Chinese banners were created in 1639 and finally the full eight were established in 1642.

The Han Chinese banners were known as the "Nikan" Banners, made out of a massive amount of Chinese POWs and defectors. Jurchen women married most of these Chinese since they came with no family of their own.[49] There were so many Han Chinese entering the Banners that there were more of them than the Jurchen.[49] Attempts by Hung Taiji were made to separate Han Chinese and Jurchen banners. In Chinese and Jurchen of Liaodong were mixed in culture. Many bannermen forged genealogies of their origin since they did not have any, and then these decided whether or not they were in a Chinese or a Jurchen banner.[49] The Eight Banners were then created from the old black Han Chinese banners and Jurchen banners and made equal to each other. The Mongol Eight banners were also created at this time, and anyone who was not classified into a Chinese or a Mongol banner became a Manchu, an ethnic group which Hung Taiji created.[50]

Ethnogenesis of Manchus from Jurchen[edit]

Manchu Bannermen and Han bannermen were not categorized according to blood or ancestry or genealogy, they were categorized by their language, culture, behavior, identification and way of life. Many Chinese bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) were descended from Sinicized Jurchen who spoke Chinese and served the Ming, while some ethnic Manchu Bannermen (Baqi Manzhou) were of ethnic Han origins who had defected to the Jurchens, assimilated into Jurchen language and culture and lived among them in Jilin before 1618.

The Qing regarded Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) and the non Bannerman Han civilian general population (Han min, Han ren, minren) as separate. People were grouped into Manchu Banners and Chinese Banners (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) not based on their ancestry, race or blood, but based on their culture and the language they spoke. Han who deserted the Ming and who had moved to Nurgan (Jilin) as transfrontiersmen before 1618, assimilated with the Jurchen, practiced Jurchen culture and spoke Jurchen became part of the ethnic Manchu Banners, while descendants of sinicized Jurchen who had moved to Liaodong, adopted Han culture and surname, and swore loyalty to the Ming and spoke Chinese, eventually became part of the Chinese Banners (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) after being conquered by Nurhaci after 1618.

Han who actively defected to the Jurchen in Nurgan before 1618 were called "transfrontiersman" since they crossed the frontier over into Jurchen territory and adopted Jurchen identity and later became part of the Manchu Banners, while Han in Ming ruled Liaodong who only defected after the Qing conquered Liaoding were called "frontiersman" since they only lived on the frontier of Ming territory and they were put into the Chinese Banners (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) .

Han Chinese defectors who fled from the Ming joined the Jurchens in Nurgan before 1618 were placed into Manchu Banners and regarded as Manchu, but the Ming residents of Liaodong who were incorporated into the Eight Banners after the conquest of Liaodong from the Ming from 1618-1643 were placed into the separate Chinese Banners (Chinese:Hanjun, Manchu: Nikan cooha or Ujen cooha), and many of these Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) from Liaodong had Jurchen ancestry and were not classified as Manchu by the Qing.[51] Geography, culture, language, occupation and lifestyle were the factors used by Nurhaci's Jianzhou Jurchen Khanate to classify people as Jurchen or Nikan, those who were considered Jurchen lived in a Jurchen lifestyle, used the Jurchen language and inhabited the eastern part were considered Jurchen, while those who were considered by Nurhaci as Nikan (Han Chinese) even though some of these Nikan were of Korean or Jurchen ancestry, were the ones who used Chinese language, and inhabited villages and towns on the west.[52]

The Manzhou 滿洲 (Manchu), Menggu 蒙古 (Mongol), and Hanjun Baqi 漢軍 (Chinese-army) labels referred not to the ethnicity of the people who were in those banners, but instead to their original way of life, both actual Han Chinese and sinicized ethnic Manchus ended up in the Hanjun Banners.[53]

Hong Taiji had appropriated the term "Hanjun" from the Jin dynasty Jurchen Meng'an-Mouke (猛安謀克) military system, and used it as the name for the Chinese Banners, which contained numerous Chinese in Liaodong who were actually sinicized Jurchens.[54] The original meaning of Hanjun in the Meng'an Mouke system of the Jin and the new meaning in the Eight Banner system of the Qing differed in usage, the Qing used "Hanjun" collectively as an adjective for Chinese Banners or Chinese Bannermen while the Jin used Hanjun according to its literal meaning in Chinese, as the "Han Army".[55][56]

People from both sides often moved over the cultural and territorial division between the Ming Liaodong and Jurchen Nurgan, Han Chinese soldiers and peasants would moved into Nurgan while Jurchen mercenaries and merchants would moved to Liaodong, with some lineages ended up being dispersed on both sides, and the Jurchen viewed people as Nikan depending on whether they acted like Han Chinese. People from the same lineage like the Sinicized Jurchen Tong lineage of Fushun in Liaodong served both Ming and the Qing, with some like Tong Bunian staying as diehard Ming loyalists and others having faithfully serving the Qing conquest, after Liaodong was conquered and the Tong were enrolled in the Han Plain Blue Banner by the Qing. Eventually, the Kangxi Emperor even transferred some members of the Tong lineage like Tong Guogang and a few of his close relatives to the Manchu Bordered Yellow Banner after Tong requested the transfer.[57][58][59][60]

Tong Guogang justified his asking for transfer to a Manchu Banner was because the Tong were of Jurchen origin, but only Tong Guogang's immediate family and company were transferred to the Manchu but the other Tong companies were left as Chinese. It was Qing policy to for every closely related in-law of the Emperor to get transferred into a Manchu Banner even if they were from another ethnicity and this was the most probable reason why Tong's request was granted by Kangxi, and more like than his appeal to his Jurchen origin.[61] The beginning of the Qing showed flexibility and political expedience was used when determining ethnicity, both regarding Tong's transfer from a Han to a Manchu Banner and Han Chinese who assimilated to the Jurchens.[62]

The geographical, political, and cultural division was between the Ming Liaodong and the Jurchen dominated Nurgan, which traded and interacted with Liaodong through Fushun.[63]

Nurhaci and Hongtaiji both viewed ethnic identity as determined by culture, language, and attitude, not by ancestry (genealogy), and these identities could be changed and people transferred from different ethnic banners to another. Mongols were associated with the Mongolian language, nomadism and horse related activities, Manchus were associated with Manchu language and foremost being part of the Banners, and Han Chinese were associated with inhabiting Liaodong, the Chinese language, agriculture, commerce.[64] Biological determinants and ancestry were disregarded in determing Manchu and Han identities, culture was the primary factor in differentiating between Manchu and Han, and occasionally identities were blurred and could be altered.[65] The Qing creation of the separate Manchu, Mongol, and Han Banners was not rooted in distinguishable classifications of people, but of fluxing categories defined by the Qing, their membership in the different banners primarily depending on whether they spoke the Manchu, Mongolian, or the Chinese language.[66] It has been suggested that the Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) themselves were not very familiar with the exact meaning of "Hanjun", as the Qing changed the definition of what it meant to be a Manchu or a Han Bannerman.[66]

Manchu Banners had (non-bondservant) Han Chinese families inducted into them, like the family of the Manchu Bordered Yellow Banner member Chang Wen-hsing, the Governor of Kansu (Gansu) in 1647, who was of Han Chinese origin despite being in a Manchu Banner.[67] The Manchu official Duanfang had Han Chinese ancestors originating from Zhejiang- towards the end of the Ming, they had defected to the Qing and moved to southern Manchuria from their original home in Zhejiang province, they changed their surname to Tohoro from Tao to make it sound Manchu and registered it in the Manchu Plain White Banner.[68][69][70][71] Since the Manchus were willing to accept assimilated strangers, Han Chinese who defected to the Jurchens or were captured by them had integrated well into Manchu society.[72] These Han Chinese transfrontiersman from Liaodong embraced Manchu customs and changed their names into Manchu to the point where[73] they identified as Manchu rather than Chinese and resembles Manchus in their speech, behavior, and looks.[74] It is hard for historians to tell whether a Manchu was originally a Han transfrontiersman since they no longer used Chinese names or regarded themselves as Han Chinese, Frederic Wakeman suggested that is evidence that the Manchu Dahai's ancestors were Han Chinese transfrontiersman.[75] The Jurchen headman of Turun-hoton and arch-enemy of Nurhaci, Nikan Wailan, was also suggested to be a Han transfrontiersman by Wakeman, since his name literally meant "Chinese official".[76] The pre-1618 Han defectors and transfrontiersmen who had joined the Jurchen became part of the Later Jin elite and were extremely assimilated into Jurchen culture to the point where their Han ancestry was the only thing that differentiated them from Jurchens.[77] Nurhaci differentiated between different groups of Han Chinese based on the date they became part of his Later Jin state. After the Jurchens conquered part of Liaodong, Han Chinese residents revolted against Jurchen rule in 1623. A furious Nurhaci then ordered that these Han Chinese in Liaodong be discriminated against and receive the death penalty for certain crimes while Jurchen should be let off. However, Nurhaci also ordered that Han Chinese who joined the Jurchens between 1603-1619 (the Tai Nikan) be treated equal to the Jurchen in these cases and not be discriminated against.[75][78][79]

The Manchu word for Han, "Nikan" was used to describe people who lived like Han Chinese and not their actual ethnic origin, the Han Bannermen (Hanjun) was not an ethnic category and the Han Banners included people of non-Han Chinese blood.[80] When Liaodong was invaded in 1619 by Nurhaci, it became imperative for the Jurchens to secure the loyalty of the Han (Nikan) in Liaodong to their cause, by treating them equally as Jurchens were treated and even seizing Jurchen properties, grains, wealth, possessions and homes to grant them to Han, and having the aristocracy expand to include Han families in order to get Han to defect to Nurhaci's side.[81]

Some Han Bannermen and their lineages became successful members of the Qing nobility and their descendants continued to be awarded noble titles, like that of Li Yongfang who was ennobled by Nurhaci as third class viscount and enrolled in the Plain Blue Chinese Banner (Hanjun, or Han Banner), and his descendants continued to be nobles to the final years of Qianlong's rule and were ennobled with even greater titles.[82] The Manchus gave extensive titles and honors and marriage to Aisin Gioro women to pre-1644 Han defectors, like the marriage of Nurhaci's granddaughter to Li Yongfang and his sons registered in the Chinese Plain Blue banner (Hanjun, or Han Banner), and the title granted to the son of a Ming defector, Sun Sike (Sun Ssu-k'o) in the Chinese Plain White Banner, (Hanjun, or Han Banner) and the marriage of one of Kangxi's daughters to his son.[83]

At the begninning of the Qing, originally the sharpest distinction was drawn by Qing policy to emphasize difference between Han civilians and all Bannermen, and not between Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) and Manchu Bannermen. The Manchus used Nikan to describe Ming subjects in Liaodong who lived a Chinese lifestyle like sinicized Jurchens, Mongols, and Koreans, and not as a racial term for ethnic Han Chinese. A person only had to be originally a Ming subject and not ethnic Chinese to get categorized as a Han bannerman so people of Jurchen origin ended up in Mongol and Chinese Banners.[84] Nurhaci used culture to categorize people and allowed Han transfrontiersmen to identify as Manchu after assimilating, and ethnicity was regarded as flexible when Han Chinese and Mongols families were moved by Kangxi to Manchu Banners from their original Mongol and Chinese Banners (Hanjun, or Han Banners) .[85]

Li Yongfang's rewards for surrendering Fushun to the Jurchens and defecting included promotion in rank, Nurhaci's granddaughter as a wife, battling along with Nurhaci and induction into the Jin aristocracy as a Chinese frontiersman, which was different from how Nurhaci handled both the Han transfrontiersmen who assimilated into Manchu identity and captured Han bondservants.[86] The Chinese frontiersman were inducted into the Han Banners.[87] Nurhaci offered to reward Li Yongfang with promotion and special treatment if he surrendered Fushun reminding him of the grim fate that would await him and Fushun's residents if they continued to resist.[88] Freeholder status was given to Li Yongfang's 1,000 troops after his surrender, and the later Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) Bao Chengxian and Shi Tingzhu also experience good fortune in Qing service after their surrenders in 1622 at Guangning.[89]

Nurhaci used semi-literate interlocutors of Han (Nikan) origin to translate between different languages and trusted them a lot, developing close and friendly personal relations with some of them like Kanggūri and Fanggina. The Han Chinese Gong Zhenglu (Gong Zhengliu) who was abducted in he 1580s by the Jurchens from Liaodong with tens of thousands of others, originally came from Shaoxing in Zhejiang became a close confidant of Nurhaci and tutoring his sons, adopting the Manchu name Onoi, and being showered with wives, slaves, and a house by Nurhaci.[90]

The Manchu leader Nurhaci embarked on the conquest of Liaodong from the Ming dynasty, luring Han Chinese to his side to defect by threatening them with destruction and at the same time also promising them rewards, with important positions.[91] A massive revolt against the Jurchens by the Liaodong Chinese broke out in 1623, due to the Jurchens squeezing the Chinese for labor and stationing Jurchen in Chinese households. Acts of sabotage and slaughter of the Jurchen were carried out by the Chinese rebels in retaliation.[92] Hong Taiji, who succeeded Nurhaci, began to include many Chinese in his government and copy the Chinese style of governing.[93] After defeats inflicted by the Chinese General Yuan Chonghuan upon the Manchus with artillery such as at the Battle of Ningyuan,[94] the Manchu then decided to absorb Han Chinese prisoners who knew how to use guns into their army to supplement their forces.[94]

The Manchus also lured Han Chinese Generals into defecting and joining the Banners by marrying them to women from the Imperial Aisin Gioro family.[95] One Han Chinese General, Li Yongfang (Li Yung-fang) was bribed by the Manchus into defecting by being married to an Aisin Gioro wife, and being given a position in the banners. Many more Han Chinese abandoned their posts and joined the Manchus.[96] A mass marriage of Han Chinese to Manchu women numbering 1,000 took place in 1632 after Prince Yoto came up with the idea. They were either generals or officials.[95] It was said by the Manchu leader that "since the Chinese generals and Manchu women lived together and ate together, it would help these surrendered generals to forget their motherland."[95] Women from the Imperial family were also married to other Han Chinese officials like the Three Feudatories' sons, who defected to the Qing after their conquest of China.[95] The Manchus also created an artillery unit out of Han Chinese, which they used against the Ming army.[96] Han Chinese were also lured by the Manchus into defecting and entering their employ in civil service by granting them privileges such as calling themselves "ministers", while Manchus in the same position were regarded as "slaves".[97]

The Han who classified in different ways had come under Manchu rule in three different eras, before 1618 the Han "transfrontiersmen" who threw in their lot with Nurhaci were effectively only Han Chinese by ancestry and blood since they practiced Jurchen culture and became part of Manchu companies (Niru) within Manchu Banners, while the from 1618-1622 the Han captured in Liaodong and Liaoxi became either bondservants to Manchu Banners or Han Bannermen, and then finally the Han who deserted the Ming during Hong Taiji's rule to join the Manchu, and these were first placed into separate all Han companies (Niru) attached to Manchu Banners, and then when in 1642 the Manchu Banners ejected all their Han companies they were placed into separate Chinese Banners (Hanjun, or Han Banners) since they were the mostly not assimilated to Jurchen culture.[98]

At Guangning, Shi Tingzhu, a Ming soldier of Jurchen descent but who practiced Chinese culture, had surrendered to Nurhaci's Later Jin in 1622 along with Bao Chengxian and they were eventually placed into Chinese Banners (Hanjun, or Han Banners), after Bao suggested creating separate Chinese Banners (Hanjun, or Han Banners) . Neither were all Han Chinese in the Eight Banners part of the Chinese Banners (Hanjun, or Han Banners), nor was the Chinese Banners (Hanjun, or Han Banners) made out of only Han Chinese, Han Banner membership did not automatically mean they were actual Han Chinese.[99] Manchu Banners inducted some Han Chinese and Mongols while Chinese Banners included ethnic Manchus like Shi.[100] Shi Tianzhu claimed to be the son of a man from the Gūwalgiya clan named Sigan and his adopted Chinese surname "Shi" derived from "Sigan".[101] One of Shi Tingzhu's son's, Huashan (Hūwašan) petitioned to be transferred to a Manchu Banner on the basis of his ancestry, and although he may have been distantly descended from the Gūwalgiya, the specific genealogy he submitted was bogus.[102] The specific lineage Tong Guogang submitted in his petition to be transferred to a Manchu banner was also bogus, but both Huashan and Tong's requests for transfer were granted, however, since they had so many relatives, only their close relatives were transferred with them to Manchu Banners while the rest of their relatives were left behind in Chinese Banners.[103]

The Jurchens under Nurhaci had classified people as Han Chinese (Nikan) according to whether they were former Ming subjects, behaved like Han Chinese, had a Chinese lifestyle, spoke Chinese language, dressed like Han Chnese, and had Han Chinese names, and all Jurchens who had moved to Ming China adopted Chinese surnames.[104] Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) rose to many powerful positions and prominence under Shunzhi, these Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) were descendants of Han defectors in Liaodong who joined Nurhaci and Hong Taiji, in the third or second generation.[105] They "were barely distinguishable from Manchu nobility." Geng Zhongming, a Han bannerman, was awarded the title of Prince Jingnan, and his son Geng Jingmao managed to have both his sons Geng Jingzhong and Geng Zhaozhong become court attendants under Shunzhi and get married to Aisin Gioro women, with Haoge's (a son of Hong Taiji) daughter marrying Geng Jingzhong and Prince Abatai's granddaughter marrying Geng Zhaozhong.[106]

The mistaken views applied to Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) about race and ethnicity missed the fact that they were actually a "cultural group" since a person could be a Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) without having to be an actual Han Chinese.[107] It was Qianlong who redefined the identity of Han Bannermen by saying that they were to be regarded as of having the same culture and being of the same ancestral extraction as Han civilians, this replaced the earlier opposing ideology and stance used by Nurhaci and Hong Taiji who classified identity according to culture and politics only and not ancestry, but it was Qianlong's view on Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) identity which influenced the later historians and expunged the earlier Qing stance.[57]

Qianlong also promulgated an entirely new view of the Han Bannermen different from his grandfather Kangxi, coming up with the abstract theory that loyalty in itself was what was regarded as the most important, so Qianlong viewed those Han Bannermen who had defected from the Ming to the Qing as traitors and compiled an unfavorable biography of the prominent Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) who had defected to the Qing, while at the same time Qianlong had compiled a biography to glorify Ming loyalists who were martyred in battle against the Qing called "Record of Those Martyred for Their Dynasty and Sacrificed for Purity".[108] Some of Qianlong's inclusions and omissions on the list were political in nature, like including Li Yongfang out of Qianlong's dislike for his descendant Li Shiyao and excluding Ma Mingpei out of concern for his son Ma Xiongzhen's image.[109]

From 1618-1629, the Han Chinese from eastern Liaodong who joined the Eight Banners were known as "tai nikan", the Han who defected to the Qing at Fushun were known as Fushan Nikan and were considered part of the tai nikan. The Tai Nikan were distinguished from the later Han Chinese who joined the banners between 1629-1643 and originated from western Liaodong, Shanxi, Shandong, and Zhili, and were known as "fu xi baitangga".[110] Both groups were part of the Chinese Banners before the Qing crossed over Shanhai pass in 1644, and as such were both distinguished from Han who were incorporated into the Chinese Banners after 1644 when the Qing ruled China. The pre-1644 Chinese Bannermen were known as "old men" 旧人 .[111] A mass transfer into the Manchu banners of every single Fushun Nikan, and specifically chosen tai nikan, Koreans, and Mongols was enacted by the Qianlong Emperor in 1740.[112]

Manchu Bannermen in Beijing were driven into poverty just decades after the conquest, living in slums and falling into debt, with signs of their plight appearing as soon as 1655. They were driven to the point where they had to sell their property to Han Chinese, in violation of the law.[113]

Originally in the early Qing the Qing Emperors both took some Han Chinese as concubines and a 1648 decree from Shunzhi allowed Han Chinese men to marry Manchu women from the Banners with the permission of the Board of Revenue if they were registered daughters of officials or commoners or the permission of their banner company captain if they were unregistered commoners, it was only later in the dynasty that these policies were done away with and the Qing enacted new policies in their xiunu system of drafting Banner girls for the Imperial Harem by excluding daughters of Han commoners.[114][115]

Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) frequently married Han civilian women and this was permitted by the Qing Emperors, however the Qing emperors were distressed to find girls in the Banners as a result of these intermarriages following Han civilian customs in clothing and jewelry when they ended up being drafted for palace service.[116] The Qing formulated policies to remove and shut out daughters of common Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) from serving in the Imperial palace as maids and consorts, exempting them from the draft, asserting that it was doing it out of concern due to the economic plight of Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen), however, it may have been doing this after the Qing court was alarmed to find girls from Chinese Banners (Hanjun, or Han Banners) following Han Chinese civilian customs like wearing robes with wide sleeves, feet binding, and wearing a single earring, all of which were contrary to Manchu custom, daughters of Manchu and Mongol bannerman still had to submit to the draft where they would be selected to serve in the Imperial palace as maids or potential consorts.[117] Daughters of Han Bannermen were exempt from having to submit themselves to palace service.[118] It was not permitted for daughters of Chinese Banner (Hanjun, or Han Banner) to enter the selection as concubines to the Emperor.[119]

The Manchu bannermen typically used their first or personal name to address themselves and not their last name, while Han bannermen used their last name and first in normal Chinese style.[120][121]

A lot of Han Chinese bannermen adopted Manchu names, which may have been motivated by associating with the elite. One Han Chinese bannerman named Cui Zhilu who knew Manchu had changed his name to the Manchu Arsai, and the emperor asked him how he came about his name.[122] Chinese bannermen also adopted Manchu personal naming practices like giving numbers as personal names.[123]

Chinese bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) manchufied their last names by adding "giya" at the end.[124] However, some Han Chinese bannermen like Zhao Erfeng, Zhao Erxun and Cao Xueqin did not use Manchu names.[124] Many other Han Chinese bannermen used Manchufied names, one Han bannermen with a Manchu name of Deming also had a separate Chinese name, Zhang Deyi.[124]

Within the Manchu banner companies, there were various Han Chinese and Mongol persons dispersed among them, and there were Mongol, Korean, Russian, and Tibetan companies in the Manchu Banners. The Manchu Banners had two main divisions between the higher ranking "Old Manchus" (Fo Manzhou, Fe Manju) made out of the main Jurchen tribes like the Jianzhou whom Nurhaci and Hong Taiji created the Manchu Banners from, and the lower ranking "New Manchus" (Chinese transliteration: 伊車滿洲. 衣車滿洲 Yiche Manzhou; Chinese translation:新滿洲 ;Manchu:Ice Manju) made out of other Tungusic and Mongolic tribes like the Daur, (Dawoer), Oroqen (Elunchun), Solun (Suolun), Hezhe, Kiakar (Kuyula), and Xibe (Xibo) from the northeast who were incorporated into the Manchu Banners by Shunzhi and Kangxi after the 1644 Qing invasion of Ming China, in order for them to fight for the Qing against the Russian Empire in the Amur River Basin.[125]


The Aha were made out of enslaved Jurchens, Koreans, Han Chinese, and Mongols before 1616, they then became part of the booi (bondservants) attached to Manchu Banners, there is no evidence that after 1621 most of the booi were Han Chinese despite the mistaken view held by many of this topic, many different ethnic groups were booi including Koreans and ethnic Manchu bondservants as well.[126] Both Koreans, Han Chinese, and Jurchens who were prisoners of war or abducted became part of the Aha, the forerunner of the booi (bondservants) in the Banners, although the Jurchens integrated into their own some of the earlier captured Han Chinese and Koreans.[127] The Jianzhou Jurchens accepted some Han Chinese and Koreans who became Jušen (freeholders) on Jianzhou land.[128]

Convergence of Manchu identity with the Eight Banner system[edit]

The term "Manchu" could vary in meaning, various groups within the Eight Banners could be considered Manchu depending on how broad the definition was, one definition of Manchu was the "Old Manchu" including the Aisin Gioro clan, of the original founding population who spoke Manchu and who were the basis of the Banner system whom the Qing relied on the most. Another definition was both the Old Manchus and New Manchus who together made up the Eight Banner Manchus (Chinese translation: 八旗滿洲 Baqi Manzhou), after 1644 the Manchu Banners incorporated other Tungusic peoples (like the Xibe, Daur, Evenki, Oroqen, Hezhe) and these were the new Manchus (Chinese transcription : 伊車滿洲. 衣車滿洲 Yiche Manzhou ; Chinese translation: 新滿洲 ; Manchu : ice manju), and the third definition of Manchu, when the Qing were differentiating between Bannermen (Man or Qiren) and non-Banner Han civilians (Han or min), included all people in the Eight Banners, including the Manchu, Mongol, and Han Banners (Hanjun) who were all Banner people (Qiren), so Man-Han and qi-min both referred to the same difference, of the entire Eight Banners being Manchu vs the general Han civilian population, and this broad view of all Banner people being Manchus vs the general Han civilian population was used by the Qing Emperor and government.[129]

Even though the concept of the Manchu ethnic group 'Manzu" was around during the time of the late Qing and early Republic of China period, people, including the ethnic Manchu Bannermen, identified themselves foremost as members of the Eight Banners (qiren) in contrast to civilians (min) and not by emphasizing their ethnic group, "qiren" and not "Manchu' was the most often used word to identify Manchus.[130]

Most people during that time viewed everyone in the Eight Banners as a Manchu, including anti-Qing revolutionaries like Liang Qichao. The Manchus were referred to most often as qiren, Manren, or Manzhouren, which were not ethnic terms, while the word "Manzu", which indicated Manchu as an ethnicity, was mostly unused.[131]

The identification and interchangeability between "Manchu" and "Banner people" (Qiren) began in the 17th century, with Banner people being differentiated from civilians (Chinese: minren, Manchu: irgen, or Chinese: Hanren, Manchu :Nikan), the term bannermen was becoming identical with Manchu to the general perception. Qianlong referred to all Bannmen as Manchu, and Qing laws did not say "Manchu" but referred to and affected "Bannermen".[132] The identification of "Bannerman" (Qiren) with "Manchu" grew stronger due to Qing policy of reinforcing Manchu identity using the Banners from the 18th century, and became more so up to the Xinhai Revolution in 1911 and finally, all Bannermen and their descendants were recognized as ethnic Manchu (Manzu) by the People's Republic of China.[133]

Edward Rhoads asserts that the identity of the Manchu ethnic group is identical to that of the entire Eight Banners ever since after the Boxer Rebellion down to this day when the People's Republic of China recognized the Manchu ethnic group.[134]

When the Communist Party was creating new classifications for ethnic minorities in the 1950s, since the entire Eight Banner system fit most of the definitions used to determine an ethnic group and shared those definitions across all the Banners, all members of the Eight Banners, whether Manchu, Mongol Bannermen, or Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen), could opt to join the newly created Manzu (Manchu) ethnicity which replaced the term qiren ("Banner people"), but the Mongol and Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) were also given the option of getting classified as Mongol or Han Chinese instead of Manchu.[135] The "New Manchu" Daur, Xibe, Evenki, Oroqen, and Hezhe were allowed to form their own separate ethnic groups from the Manchus by the Communists.[136]

Possible Jurchen descendants[edit]

A caste of "degraded" outcasts said to be descended from the Jurchen existed in Ningbo city during the Qing dynasty, around 3,000 people in a class called to min. Samuel Wells Williams gave an account of them in his book "The Middle kingdom: a survey of the ... Chinese empire and its inhabitants":

There are local prejudices against associating with some portions of the community, though the people thus shut out are not remnants of old castes. The tankia, or boat-people, at Canton form a class in some respects beneath the other portions of the community, and have many customs peculiar to themselves. At Ningpo there is a degraded set called to min, amounting to nearly three thousand persons, with whom the people will not associate. The men are not allowed to enter the examinations or follow an honorable calling, but are play-actors, musicians, or sedan-bearers; the women are match-makers or female barbers and are obliged to wear a peculiar dress, and usually go abroad carrying a bundle wrapped in a checkered handkerchief. The tankia at Canton also wear a similar handkerchief on their head, and do not cramp their feet. The to min are supposed to be descendants of the Kin, who held northern China in A.D. 1100, or of native traitors who aided the Japanese, in 1555-1563, in their descent upon Chehkiang. The tankia came from some of the Miautsz' tribes so early that their origin is unknown.[137][138][139][140]

See also[edit]


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 This article incorporates text from The Manchus: or The reigning dynasty of China; their rise and progress, by John Ross, a publication from 1880 now in the public domain in the United States.

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