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0.15% of global population
0.77% of China's population
|Regions with significant populations|
|People's Republic of China||10,410,585|
|Republic of China (Taiwan)||12,000|
|almost all Mandarin Chinese, very few Manchu|
|Mostly non-religious. Manchu shamanism, Buddhism, Chinese folk religion; Christian minority.|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Evenks, Nanai, Oroqen, Udege, Xibe|
and other Tungusic peoples
0.15% of global population
0.77% of China's population
|Regions with significant populations|
|People's Republic of China||10,410,585|
|Republic of China (Taiwan)||12,000|
|almost all Mandarin Chinese, very few Manchu|
|Mostly non-religious. Manchu shamanism, Buddhism, Chinese folk religion; Christian minority.|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Evenks, Nanai, Oroqen, Udege, Xibe|
and other Tungusic peoples
The Manchu [note 1] (Manchu: ᠮᠠᠨᠵᡠ; Möllendorff: manju; simplified Chinese: 满族; traditional Chinese: 滿族; pinyin: Mǎnzú; Wade–Giles: Man3-tsu2) are a Chinese ethnic minority and the people from whom Manchuria derives its name. They are sometimes called "red tasseled Manchus" (Manchu: ᡶᡠᠯᡤᡳᠶᠠᠨ ᠰᠣᡵᠰᠣᠨ ᠮᠠᠨᠵᡠ; Möllendorff: fulgiyan sorson manju; 红缨满洲), a reference to the ornamentation on traditional Manchu hats.
Manchus form the largest branch of the Tungusic people and are distributed throughout China, forming the fourth largest ethnic group in that country. They can be found in 31 Chinese provincial regions. They also form the largest minority group in China without an autonomous region. Among them, Liaoning has the largest population and Hebei, Heilongjiang, Jilin, Inner Mongolia and Beijing has over 100,000 Manchu residents. About half of the population live in Liaoning province and one-fifth in Hebei province. There are a number of Manchu autonomous counties in China, such as Xinbin, Xiuyan, Qinglong, Fengning, Yitong, Qingyuan, Weichang, Kuancheng, Benxi, Kuandian, Huanren, Fengcheng, Beizhen[note 2] and over 300 Manchu towns and townships.
The Manchus are descended from the Jurchen people who earlier established the Jin dynasty (1115–1234) in China but as early as the semi-mythological chronicles of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors there is mention of the Sushen, a Tungusic people from the northern Manchurian region of North East Asia, who paid bows and arrows as tribute to Shun and later to Zhou. The Sushen used flint headed wooden arrows, farmed, hunted, and fished, and lived in caves and trees. The cognates Sushen or Jichen (稷真) again appear in the Shan Hai Jing and Book of Wei during the dynastic era referring to Tungusic Mohe tribes of the far Northeast. The Mohe enjoyed eating pork, practiced pig farming extensively, and were mainly sedentary, 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.
Following the fall of Balhae the Jurchens were vassals of the Liao dynasty. The Koreans had been beaten into submission to the Jurchens by the Jurchen leader Wu-ya-shu, who secured the Jurchen-Korean border. In the year of 1114, Wanyan Aguda united the Jurchen tribes and established the Jin dynasty. His brother and successor, Wanyan Wuqimai defeated the Liao dynasty. After the fall of Liao, the Jurchens went to war with the Northern Song, and captured most of northern China in the Jin–Song wars. During the Jin dynasty, the first Jurchen scripts came into use in the 1120s. It was mainly derived from Khitan script. The Jurchens extorted gifts and rewards from the Korean Kingdom Goryeo by militarily threatening them.
The Jurchens were sedentary, settled farmers with advanced agriculture. They farmed grain and millet as their cereal crops, grew flax and raised oxen, pigs, sheep, and horses. Their farming way of life was very different from the pastoral nomadism of the Mongols and the Khitan on the steppes. "At the most", the Jurchen could only be described as "semi-nomadic" while the majority of them were sedentary.
In 1206, the Mongols who were vassals to Jurchens rose in Mongolia. Their leader, Genghis Khan, led the Mongol troops to fight against Jurchens. The Jin dynasty could not withstand the Mongols' attack and was finally defeated by Ögedei Khan in 1234. Under the Mongols' control, the Jurchens were mainly divided into two groups and treated differently: the ones who were born and raised in North China and fluent in Chinese were considered to be Chinese (Han); but the people who were born and raised in the Jurchen homeland (Manchuria) without Chinese-speaking abilities were treated as Mongols politically. From that time, the Jurchens of North China increasingly merged with the Han Chinese, while those living in their homeland started to be Mongolized. They adopted Mongolian customs, names[note 3] and the Mongolian language. As time went on, fewer and fewer Jurchens could recognize their own script.
The Mongol domination of China was replaced by the Ming dynasty in 1368. In 1387, the Ming defeated the Nahacu's Mongol resisting forces who settled in Haixi area and began to summon the Jurchen tribes to pay tribute At the time, some Jurchen clans were vassals to the Joseon dynasty of Korea such as Odoli and Huligai. Their elites served in the Korean royal bodyguard. 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. 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. 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. The Ming Yongle Emperor was determined to wrest the Jurchens out of Korean influence and have China dominate them instead. Korea tried to persuade Möngke Temür to reject the Ming overtures, but was unsuccessful since Möngke Temür submitted to the Ming. Since then, more and more Jurchen tribes presented tribute to Ming in succession. They were divided in 384 guards by Ming, and the Jurchen became vassals to the Ming. The Ming dynasty name for the Jurchen land was Nurgan. The Jurchens became part of the Ming dynasty's Nurgan Regional Military Commission under the Yongle Emperor, with Ming forces erecting the Yongning Temple Stele in 1413 at the headquarters of Nurgan. The stele was inscribed in Chinese, Jurchen, Mongolan, and Tibetan.
In 1449, Mongol taishi Esen assaulted the Ming dynasty and captured Zhengtong Emperor in Tumu. Some Jurchen guards in Jianzhou and Haixi cooperated with Esen's action, but more were attacked by the Mongol invasion. Many Jurchen chieftains lost their hereditary certificates granted by the Ming. They had to present tribute as secretariats (中书舍人) with less reward from the Ming court than in the time when they were heads of guards - an unpopular development. Subsequently, more and more Jurchens recognised Ming's declining power due to Esen's invasion. Zhengtong Emperor's capture directly caused Jurchen guards to go out of control. Tribal leaders publicly plundered Ming's area, such as Cungšan[note 4] and Wang Gao. At about this time, the Jurchen script was officially abandoned. More Jurchens adopted Mongolian as their writing language and fewer used Chinese.
The Manchu way of life (economy) was described as agricultural, farming crops and raising animals on farms. Manchus practiced slash-and-burn agriculture in the areas north of Shenyang. 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". Han Chinese society resembled that of the sedentary Jianzhou and Maolian, who were farmers. Hunting, archery on horseback, horsemanship, livestock raising, and sedentary agriculture were all practiced by the Jianzhou Jurchens as part of their culture.
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, or eat dogs. The Jurchens believed that the use of dog skin by Koreans was the "utmost evil".
For political reasons, the Jurchen leader Nurhaci chose variously to emphasize either differences or similarities in lifestyles with other peoples like the Mongols. 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. It was for pragmatic reasons of "mutual opportunism", since Nurhaci 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."
A century after the chaos started in the Jurchen lands, Nurhaci, a chieftain of the Jianzhou Left Guard, began a campaign against the Ming in revenge for their manslaughter of his grandfather and father in 1583. He reunified the Jurchen tribes, established a military system called the "Eight Banners", which organized Jurchen soldiers into groups of "Bannermen", and ordered his scholar Erdeni and minister Gagai to create a new Jurchen script (later known as Manchu script) using the traditional Mongolian alphabet as a reference.
In 1603, Nurhaci gained recognition as the Sure Kundulen Khan (Manchu: ᠰᡠᡵᡝ
ᡥᠠᠨ; Möllendorff: sure kundulen han, "wise and respected khan") from his Khalkha Mongol allies then in 1616 he publicly enthroned himself and issued a proclamation naming himself Genggiyen Khan (Manchu: ᡤᡝᠩᡤᡳᠶᡝᠨ
ᡥᠠᠨ; Möllendorff: genggiyen han, "bright khan") of the Later Jin dynasty (Manchu: ᠠᠮᠠᡤᠠ
ᡤᡠᡵᡠᠨ; Möllendorff: amaga aisin gurun[note 5], 後金). Nurhaci then launched his attack on the Ming dynasty and moved the capital to Mukden after his conquest of Liaodong. In 1635, his son and successor Hong Taiji changed the name of the Jurchen ethnic group (Manchu: ᠵᡠᡧᡝᠨ; Möllendorff: jušen) to the Manchu. A year later, Hong Taiji proclaimed himself the emperor of the Qing dynasty (Manchu: ᡩᠠᡳᠴᡳᠩ
ᡤᡠᡵᡠᠨ; Möllendorff: daicing gurun[note 6]). Factors for the change of name of these people from Jurchen to Manchu include the fact that the term "Jurchen" had negative connotations associated with it, since the Jurchens had been in a servile position to the Ming dynasty for several hundred years and it also referred to people of the "dependent class". In 1644, the Ming capital of Beijing was sacked by a peasant revolt led by Li Zicheng, a former minor Ming official who became the leader of the peasant revolt, who then proclaimed the establishment of the Shun dynasty. The last Ming ruler, the Chongzhen Emperor, committed suicide when the city fell. When Li Zicheng moved against the Ming general Wu Sangui, the latter made an alliance with the Manchus and opened the Shanhai Pass to the Manchurian army. After the Manchus defeated Li Zicheng, they moved the capital of their new empire to Beijing (Manchu: ᠪᡝᡤᡳᠩ; Möllendorff: beging) in the same year.
As a result of their conquest of China, almost all the Manchus followed the regent prince Dorgon and the Shunzhi Emperor to Beijing and mainly settled there. Few of them were sent to other places such as Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet to serve as garrison troops. There were only 1524 Bannermen left in Manchuria at the time of the initial Manchu conquest. After s series of border conflicts began with the Russians, the Qing dynasty's emperors started to realize the strategic importance of Manchuria and gradually sent Manchus back to where they originally came from. However, during the rule of the Qing, Beijing was always the only focal point of the ruling Manchus in the political, economic and cultural spheres of this era of Chinese civilization. The Yongzheng Emperor noted: "Garrisons are the places of stationed works, Beijing is their homeland."
While the Manchu ruling elite at the Qing imperial court in Beijing and posts of authority throughout China increasingly adopted Han culture, the Qing imperial government viewed the Manchu communities (as well as those of various tribal people) in Manchuria as a place where traditional Manchu virtues could be preserved, and as a vital reservoir of military manpower fully dedicated to the regime. The Qing emperors tried to protect the traditional way of life of the Manchus (as well as various other tribal peoples) in central and northern Manchuria by a variety of means, in particular, restricting the migration of Chinese colonists to the region. This ideal, however, had to be balanced with practical needs, such as maintaining the defense of northern China against the Russians and the Mongols, supplying government farms with a skilled work force, and conducting trade in the region's products, which resulted in a continuous trickle of Chinese (Han) convicts, workers, and merchants to the northeast.
However, this policy of artificially isolating the Manchus of the northeast from the rest of China could not last forever. In the 1850s, large numbers of Manchu bannermen were sent to central China to fight the Taiping rebels. (For example, just the Heilongjiang province - which at the time included only the northern part of today's Heilongjiang - contributed 67,730 bannermen to the campaign, of which only 10-20% survived). Those few who returned were demoralized and often exposed to opium addiction. In 1860, in the aftermath of the loss of the "Outer Manchuria", and with the imperial and provincial governments in deep financial trouble, parts of Manchuria became officially open to Chinese settlement; within a few decades, the Manchus became a minority in most of Manchuria's districts.
Dulimbai Gurun ᡩᡠᠯᡳᠮᠪᠠᡳ
ᡤᡠᡵᡠᠨ is the Manchu name for China (中國, Zhōngguó; "Middle Kingdom"). After conquering the Ming, the Qing dynasty identified their state as "China" (Zhongguo), and referred to it as "Dulimbai Gurun" in the Manchu tongue. The Qing equated the lands of the Qing state (including present day Manchuria, Xinjiang, Mongolia, Tibet and other areas as "China" in both the Chinese and Manchu languages), defining China as a multi-ethnic state, rejecting the idea that China only meant Han areas, proclaiming that both Han and non-Han peoples were part of "China", using "China" to refer to the Qing dynasty's empire in official documents, international treaties, and foreign affairs, and the term "Chinese language" (Manchu: ᡩᡠᠯᡳᠮᠪᠠᡳ
ᠪᡳᡨᡥᡝDulimbai gurun i bithe) referred to the Chinese, Manchu, and Mongol languages, and the term "Chinese people" (中國人 Zhōngguó Rén ; Manchu: ᡩᡠᠯᡳᠮᠪᠠᡳ
ᠨᡳᠶᠠᠯᠮᠠ Dulimbai gurun i niyalma) referred to all the Han, Manchu, and Mongol subjects of the Qing.
When the Qing conquered Dzungaria in 1759, they proclaimed that the new land was absorbed into "China" (Dulimbai Gurun) in a Manchu language memorial. The Qing expounded in their ideology that they were bringing together the "outer" non-Han Chinese like the Inner Mongols, Eastern Mongols, Oirat Mongols, and Tibetans together with the "inner" Han Chinese, into "one family" united in the Qing state, showing that the diverse subjects of the Qing were all part of one family. The Qing used the phrase "Zhongwai yijia" 中外一家 or "neiwei yijia" 內外一家 ("interior and exterior as one family"), to convey this idea of "unification" of the different peoples of their empire. A Manchu language version of a treaty with the Russian Empire concerning criminal jurisdiction over bandits called people from the Qing empire as "people of the Central Kingdom (Dulimbai Gurun)". In the Manchu official Tulisen's Manchu language account of his meeting with the Torguth leader Ayuka Khan, it was mentioned that while the Torghuts were unlike the Russians, the "people of the Central Kingdom" (dulimba-i gurun 中國, Zhongguo) were like the Torghut Mongols, and the "people of the Central Kingdom" referred to the Manchus.
Many Manchu Bannermen in Beijing supported the Boxers in the Boxer Rebellion and shared their anti-foreign sentiment. The Manchu Bannermen were devastated by the fighting during the First Sino-Japanese War and the Boxer Rebellion, with massive casualties sustained during the wars and subsequently being driven into extreme suffering and hardship. Much of the fighting in the Boxer Rebellion against the foreigners in defense of Beijing and Manchuria was done by Manchu Banner armies which were destroyed while resisting the invasion, the German Minister Clemens von Ketteler was assassinated by a Manchu. Thousands of Manchus fled south from Aigun during the fighting in the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, their cattles and horses were then stolen by Russian Cossacks who then burned their villages and homes until only ashes were left. The clan system of the Manchus in Aigun was obliterated by the despoliation of the area at the hands of the Russian invaders.
By the 19th century, most Manchus in the city garrisons no longer spoke Manchu, instead they spoke the Beijing dialect of Mandarin Chinese or Standard Chinese- which still marked them out as distinctive compared to their Han neighbors in southern China who spoke non-Mandarin dialects. The fact that they spoke Beijing dialect (but not Manchu) made recognizing Manchus relatively easy. It was northern Standard Chinese which the Manchu Bannermen spoke instead of the local dialect which the Han people around the garrison spoke, so that Manchus in the garrisons at Jingzhou and Guangzhou both spoke Mandarin despite the fact that Cantonese was spoken at Guangzhou, and the Beijing dialect marked out the Manchu bannermen at the Xi'an garrison apart from other people. Many Manchu Bannermen got jobs as Mandarin teachers, writing textbooks for learning Mandarin and instructing people in Mandarin. In Guangdong, the Manchu Mandarin teacher Sun Yizun advised that the Yinyun Chanwei and Kangxi Zidian, dictionaries issued by the Imperial government, were the correct guides to Mandarin pronunciation, rather than the pronunciation of the Beijing and Nanjing dialects. For teaching the Beijing dialect, Kyugaigo, the Japanese foreign language school, hired a Manchu in 1876.
As the end of the Qing dynasty approached, Manchus were portrayed as outside colonizers by Chinese nationalists such as Sun Yat-Sen, even though the Republican revolution he brought about was supported by many reform-minded Manchu officials and military officers. This portrayal dissipated somewhat after the 1911 revolution as the new Republic of China now sought to include Manchus within its national identity. In order to blend in, some Manchus switched to speaking the local dialect instead of Standard Chinese.
By the early years of the Republic of China, very few areas of China still had traditional Manchu populations. Among the few regions where such comparatively traditional communities could be found, and the Manchu language was still widely spoken, were the Aigun (Manchu: ᠠᡳᡥᡡᠨ; Möllendorff: aihūn) District and the Qiqihar (Manchu: ᠴᡳᠴᡳᡤᠠᡵ; Möllendorff: cicigar) District of Heilongjiang Province.
Until 1924, the government continued to pay stipends to Manchu bannermen; however, many cut their links with their banners and took on Han-style names in shame to avoid persecution. The official total of Manchu fell by more than half during this period, as they refused to admit to their ethnicity when asked by government officials or other outsiders. On the other hand, in warlord Zhang Zuolin's reign of Manchuria, a much better treatment than the situation of Manchus in mainland China was reported. There were not any particular persecution towards Manchus. Even the mausoleums of Qing's emperors were still allowed to be managed by Manchu guardsmen like it was in the past. In this case, many Manchus joined Fengtian clique, such as Xi Qia who was a member of Qing's imperial clan.
As a follow-up action of Mukden Incident, Manchukuo, a puppet state in Manchuria, was created by Imperial Japan which was nominally ruled by the deposed Emperor Puyi in 1932. Although the nation's name was related to Manchus, it was actually a complete new country for all the ethnicities in Manchuria which had a majority Han population and was opposed by many Manchus like other ethnicities who fought against Japan in World War II, too.
In 1952, after the failure of both Manchukuo and the Nationalist Government (KMT), the newborn People's Republic of China officially recognized the Manchu as one of the ethnic minorities in 1952. In the 1953 census, 2.5 million people identified themselves as Manchu. The Communist government also attempted to improve the treatment of Manchu people; some Manchu people who had hidden their ancestry during the period of KMT rule thus became more comfortable to reveal their ancestry, such as the writer Lao She, who began to include Manchu characters in his fictional works in the 1950s. Between 1982 and 1990, the official count of Manchu people more than doubled from 4,299,159 to 9,821,180, making them China's fastest-growing ethnic minority. In fact, however, this growth was not due to natural increase, but instead people formerly registered as Han applying for official recognition as Manchu.
Eight-Banner system is one of the most important ethnic identity of today's Manchu people. So nowadays, Manchus are more like an ethnic community which not only contains the descendants of Manchu bannermen, also has a large number of Manchu-assimilated Chinese and Mongol bannermen. However, the ones who were mostly considered as Manchu bannermen under the Qing dynasty, such as Solon, Xibe and Nanai people, were separated as independent ethnic groups by the PRC government.
Since the 1980s, the reform after Cultural Revolution, there has been a renaissance of Manchu culture and language among the government, scholars and social activities with remarkable achievements. It was also reported that the resurgence of interest also spread among Han Chinese.
The actual etymology of the ethnic name "Manju" is debatable. According to the Qing dynasty's official historical record, the Researches on Manchu Origins, the ethnic name came from Mañjuśrī. The Qianlong Emperor also supported the point of view and even wrote several poems on the subject.
Meng Sen, a famous scholar of the Qing, agreed, too. On the other hand, he thought the name "Manchu" was also related to Li Manzhu, the chieftain of the Jianzhou Jurchen. It was just the most respectful appellation in the society of the Jianzhou Jurchens in Meng's mind.
Another scholar, Chang Shan, thinks Manju is a compound word. "Man" was from the word "mangga" (ᠮᠠᠩᡤᠠ) which means strong and "ju" (ᠵᡠ) means arrow. So Manju actually means "intrepid arrow".
There are other hypothesis, such as Fu Sinian's "etymology of Jianzhou"; Zhang Binglin's "etymology of Jianzhou"; Isamura Sanjiro's "etymology of Wuji and Mohe"; Sun Wenliang's "etymology of Manzhe"; "etymology of mangu(n) river" and so on.
Most Manchu people now live in Mainland China with a population of 10,410,585, which is 9.28% of ethnic minorities and 0.77% of China's total population. Among the provincial regions, there are two provinces, Liaoning and Hebei, which have over 1,000,000 Manchu residents. Liaoning has 5,336,895 Manchu residents which is 51.26% of Manchu population and 12.20% provincial population; Hebei has 2,118,711 which is 20.35% of Manchu people and 70.80% of provincial ethnic minorites. Manchu is the largest ethnic minority in Liaoning, Hebei, Heilongjiang and Beijing; 2nd largest in Jilin, Inner Mongolia, Tianjin, Ningxia, Shaanxi and Shanxi and 3rd largest in Henan, Shandong and Anhui,.
Manchu autonomous area in Liaoning.[note 7]
Manchu people can be found living outside mainland China. There are approximately 12,000 Manchus now in Taiwan. Most of them moved to Taiwan with the ROC government in 1949. One notable example was Puru, a famous painter, calligrapher and also the founder of the Manchu Association of Republic of China. There are also Manchus who settled in the United States and Japan, such as John Fugh, Garry Guan and Fukunaga Kosē.
The Manchu language is a Tungusic language and has many dialects. It has its own standard language called "Standard Manchu". It originates from the accent of Jianzhou Jurchens and was officially standardized by the Qianlong Emperor under his reign. During the Qing period, Manchus at court were required to speak Standard Manchu or face the emperor's reprimand. This applied equally to the palace presbyter of shamanic fete when performing sacrifice. Due to the regional difference, there are also many dialects. For example, Beijing dialect is one of the most commonly used ones. It was a mixed by several dialects since the Manchus who lived in Beijing were not only Jianzhou Jurchens, but also Haixi Jurchens and Yeren Jurchens. Over time, the mingling of their accents produced Beijing dialect (京语). Beijing dialect is very close to Standard Manchu. Mukden dialect, aka Mukden-South Manchurian dialect (盛京南满语) or Mukden-Girin dialect (盛京吉林语), is another popular used dialect which was originally spoken by the Manchus who lived in Liaoning and the western and southern areas of Jilin, having an accent very close to the Xibe language spoken by the Xibes living in Qapqal. There are also Ningguta dialect, Alcuka dialect, etc., of Manchu which have their own particular characteristics.
Jurchens, ancestors of the Manchu, had created Jurchen script in the Jin dynasty. After Jin collapsed, Jurchen script was gradually lost. In the Ming period, 60%-70% of Jurchens used Mongolian script to write letters and 30%-40% of Jurchens used Chinese characters. This persisted until Nurhaci revolted against the Ming reign. Nurhaci considered it a major impediment that his people lacked a script of their own, so he commanded his scholars, Gagai and Eldeni, to create Manchu characters by reference to Mongolian scripts. They dutifully complied with the Khan's order and created Manchu script, which is called "script without dots and circles" (Manchu: ᡨᠣᠩᡴᡳ
ᡥᡝᡵᡤᡝᠨ; Möllendorff: tongki fuka akū hergen; 无圈点满文) or "old Manchu script" (老满文). Due to its hurried creation, the script has its defects. Some vowels and consonants were difficult to distinguish. Shortly afterwards, their successor Dahai used dots and circles to distinguish vowels, aspirated and non-aspirated consonants and thus completed the script. His achievement is called "script with dots and circles" or "new Manchu script".
After the 1800s, most Manchus had perfected Standard Chinese and the number who knew Manchu was dwindling. Although the Qing emperors emphasized the importance of Manchu language again and again, the tide could not be turned. After the Qing collapsed, the Manchu language lost its status as a national language and its use officially in education ended. Manchus today generally speak Standard Chinese. The remaining skilled native Manchu speakers number less than 100, most of whom are to be found in Sanjiazi (Manchu: ᡳᠯᠠᠨ
ᠪᠣᠣ; Möllendorff: ilan boo), Heilongjiang Province. Since the 1980s, there has been a resurgence of Manchu language among the government, scholars and social activities. In recent years, with the help of the governments in Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang, many schools started to have Manchu classes. There are also Manchu volunteers in many places of China who freely teach Manchu in the desire to rescue of the language. Thousands of non-Manchu speakers have learned the language through these measures.
The history of Manchu family names is quite long. Fundamentally, it succeeds the Jurchen family name of the Jin dynasty. However, after the Mongols extinguished the Jurchen empire, Manchus started to adopt Mongol culture, including their custom of using only their given name till the end of the Qing, a practice confounding non-Manchus, leading them to conclude, erroneously, that they simply don't have family names.
A Manchu family name usually has two portions: the first is "Mukūn" (ᠮᡠᡴᡡᠨ) which literally means "branch name"; the second, "Hala" (ᡥᠠᠯᠠ), represents the name of a person's clan. According to the Book of the Eight Manchu Banners' Surname-Clans (八旗滿洲氏族通譜), there are 1,114 Manchu family names. Gūwalgiya, Niohuru, Šumulu, Tatara, Gioro, Nara are considered as "famous clans" (著姓) among Manchus.
Manchus given names are distinctive. Generally, there are several forms, such as bearing suffixes "-ngga", "-ngge" or "-nggo", meaning "having the quality of"; bearing the suffixes "-tai" or "-tu", meaning "having"; bearing the suffix, "-ju", "-boo"; numerals [note 8] or animal names[note 9].
Nowadays, Manchus primarily use Chinese family and given names, but some still use a Manchu family name and Chinese given name,[note 10] a Chinese family name and Manchu given name[note 11] or both Manchu family and given names.[note 12]
The Jurchen and their Manchu descendants originally practiced cremation as part of their culture. They adopted the practice of burial from the Han, but many Manchus continued to cremate their dead.
The traditional hairstyle for Manchu men is shaving the front of their heads while growing the hair on the back of their heads into a single braid called a queue, which was known as "soncoho" in Manchu.
Manchu women wore their hair in a distinctive hairstyle called Liangbatou 兩把頭.
The early phase of Manchu clothing succeeded from Jurchen tradition. White was the dominating color. To facilitate convenience during archery, the robe is the most common article of clothing for the Manchu people. Over the robe, a surcoat is usually worn, derived from the military uniform of Eight banners army. During the Kangxi period, the surcoat gained popularity among commoners. The modern Chinese suits, the Cheongsam and Tangzhuang, are derived from the Manchu robe and surcoat which are commonly considered as "Chinese elements".
Wearing hats is also a part of Manchu traditional culture, and Manchu people wear hats in all ages and seasons in contrast to the Han Chinese culture of "Starting to wear hats at 20 year-old" (二十始冠), . Manchu hats are either formal or casual, formal hats beign made in two different styles, made of straw for wear in spring and summer, and made of fur for wear in fall and winter. Casual hats are more commonly known as "Mandarin hats" in English.
Manchus have many distinctive traditional accessories. Women traditionally wear 3 earrings on each ear, a tradition that is maintained by many older Manchu women. Males also traditionally wear piercings, but they tend to only have one earring in their youth and do not continue to wear it as adults. The Manchu people also have traditional jewelry which evokes their past as hunters. The fergetun (ᡶᡝᡵᡤᡝᡨᡠᠨ), a thumb ring traditionally made out of reindeer bone, was worn to protect the thumbs of archers. After the establishment of the Qing Dynasty in 1644, the fergetun gradually became simply a form of jewelry, with the most valuable ones made in jade and ivory. High-heeled shoes were worn by Manchu women.
Riding and archery (Manchu: ᠨᡳᠶᠠᠮᠨᡳᠶᠠᠨ; Möllendorff: niyamniyan) is significant to the Manchu. They were well-trained horsemen from their teenage years. Hong Taiji, the Qing Taizong emperor, said, "Riding and Archery is the most important martial art of our country". Every generation of the Qing dynasty treasured Riding and Archery the most. Every spring and fall, from ordinary Manchus to aristocrats, all had to take a riding and archery test. Their test results could even affect their rank in the nobility. The Manchus of the early Qing had excellent shooting skills and their arrows were reputed to be capable of penetrating two people.
From the middle period of Qing, archery became more a form of entertainment, in the form of games such as, hunting swans, shooting fabric or silk target. The most difficult is shooting a candle hanging in the air at night. Gambling was banned in the Qing reign but there was no limitation on Manchus engaging in shooting skill contests. It was common to see Manchus putting signs in front of their houses to invite challenges. After the Qianlong period, Manchus gradually neglected the practice of riding and archery, even though their rulers tried their best to encourage Manchus to continue their riding and archery traditions, but the tradition is still kept among some Manchus even nowadays.
Manchu wrestling (Manchu: ᠪᡠᡴᡠ; Möllendorff: buku)  is also an important martial art of the Manchu people. Buku, meaning "wrestling" or "man of unusual strength" in Manchu, was originally from a Mongolian word, “bökh”. The history of Manchu wrestling can be traced back to Jurchen wrestling in the Jin dynasty which was originally from Khitan wrestling; it was very similar to Mongolian wrestling. In the Yuan Dynasty, d he Jurchens who lived in northeast China adopted Mongol culture including wrestling, bökh. In the latter Jin and early Qing period, rulers encouraged the populace, including aristocrats, to practise buku as a feature of military training. At the time, Mongol wrestlers were the most famous and powerful. By the Chongde period, Manchus had developed their own well-trained wrestlers and, a century later, in the Qianlong period, they surpassed Mongol wreslers. The Qing court established the "Shan Pu Battalion" and chose 200 fine wrestlers divided into three levels. Manchu wrestling moves can be found in today's Chinese wrestling, Shuai jiao, which is its most important part. Among many branches, Beijing wrestling adopted most Manchu wrestling moves.
As a result of their hunting ancestry, Manchus are traditionally interested in falconry. Gyrfalcon (Manchu: ᡧᠣᠩᡴᠣᡵᠣ; Möllendorff: šongkoro) is the most highly valued discipline in the Manchu falconry social circle. In the Qing period, giving a gyrfalcon to the royal court in tribute could be met with a considerable reward. There were professional falconers in Ningguta area (today's Heilongjiang province and the northern part of Jilin province). It was a big base of falconry. Beijing's Manchus also like falconry. Compared to the falconry of Manchuria, it is more like an entertainment. Imperial Household Department of Beijing had professional falconers, too. They provided outstanding falcons to the emperor when he went to hunt every fall. Even today, Manchu traditional falconry is well practised in some regions.
Ice skating (Manchu: ᠨᡳᠰᡠᠮᡝ
ᡝᡶᡳᠨ; Möllendorff: nisume efime efin) is another Manchu pastime. Emperor Qianlong called it “national custom”. It is one of the most important winter events of the Qing royal household, performed by "Eight Banner Ice Skating Battalion" (八旗冰鞋营) which was a special force trained to do battle on icy terrain. The battalion consisted of 1600 soldiers. In the Jiaqing period, it was reduced to 500 soldiers and transferred to the Jing Jie Battalion (精捷营) originally, literally meaning "chosen agile battalion".
In the 1930s-1940s, there was a famous Manchu skater in Beijing whose name was Wu Tongxuan, from the Uya clan and one of the royal household skaters in Empress Dowager Cixi's reign. He frequently appeared in many of Beijing's skating rinks. Nowadays, there are still Manchu figure skaters; world champions Zhao Hongbo and Tong Jian are the pre-eminent examples.
The Tale of the Nisan Shaman (Manchu: ᠨᡳᡧᠠᠨ
ᠪᡳᡨᡥᡝ; Möllendorff: nišan saman i bithe; 尼山萨满传) is the most important literature of Manchus. It primarily tells the process of how Nisan Shaman helps a young hunter revive. The story spreads not long among Manchus, but also in Xibe, Nanai, Daur, Oroqen, Evenk and other Tungusic peoples. It basically has four versions: the handwriting version from Qiqihar; two different handwriting versions from Aigun; the one which was written by a Manchu writer Dekdengge in Vladivostok (Manchu: ᡥᠠᡳᡧᡝᠨᠸᡝᡳ; Möllendorff: haišenwei). The pilot of four versions are similar, but the version of Haišenwei has the most complete content. It is already translated in Russian, Chinese, English and other languages.
Octagonal drum is a type of Manchu folk art that was very popular among bannermen, especially in Beijing. It is said that octagonal drum originated with the snare drum of the Eight-banner military and the melody was made by the banner soldiers who were on the way back home from victory in the battle of Jinchuan. The drum is composed of wood surrounded by bells. The drumhead is made by wyrmhide with tassels at the bottom. The colors of the tassels are yellow, white, red, and blue, which represent the four colors of Eight Banners. When artists perform, they use their fingers to hit the drumhead and shake the drum to ring the bells. Traditionally, octagonal drum is performed by three people. One is the harpist; one is the clown who is responsible for harlequinade; and the third is the singer.
"Zidishu" is the main libretto of octagonal drum and can be traced back to a type of traditional folk music called "Manchu Rhythm". Although Zidishu was not created by Chinese people, it still contains many themes from Chinese stories, such as Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Dream of the Red Chamber, Romance of the West Chamber, Legend of the White Snake and Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio. Additionally, there are many works that depict the lives of Bannermen. Aisin Gioro Yigeng, who was pen named "Helü" and wrote the sigh of old imperial bodyguard, is the representative author. Zidishu involves two acts of singing, which are called dongcheng and xicheng.
After the fall of the Qing dynasty, the influence of the octagonal drum gradually reduced. However, the Chinese monochord and crosstalk which derived from octagonal are still popular in Chinese society. Many famous Chinese monochord performers and crosstalkers were the artists of octagonal drum. Such as De shoushan and Zhang Sanlu.
Ulabun (ᡠᠯᠠᠪᡠᠨ) is a Manchu storytelling entertainment which is performed in Manchu language. Different from octagonal drum, ulabun is popular among the Manchu people who lives in Manchuria. It has two main categories. One is popular folk literature such as the Tale of the Nisan Shaman; Another classification is from folk music which is informative and has independent pilot, complete structure. Song Xidong aka. Akšan (ᠠᡴᡧᠠᠨ) is a famous artist in performing ulabun.
The religions of the Manchus are diverse. Originally, Manchus, and their predecessors, were principally Shamanists. After the conquest of China in the 17th century, Manchus came into contact with Chinese culture. They were markedly influenced by Chinese folk religion and retained only some Shamanic customs. Buddhism and Christianity also had their impacts. Manchus are today mostly irreligious.
Shamanism has a long history in Manchu civilization and influenced them tremendously over thousands of years. John Keay states in A History Of China, shaman is the single loan-word from Manchurian into the English language. After the conquest of China in the 17th century, although Manchus widely adopted Chinese folk religion, Shamanic traditions can still be found in the aspects of soul worship, totem worship, belief in nightmares and apotheosis of philanthropists. Since the Qing rulers considered religion as a method of controlling other powers such as Mongolians and Tibetans, there was no privilege for Shamanism, their native religion. Apart from the Shamanic shrines in the Qing palace, no temples erected for worship of Manchu gods could be found in Beijing. Thus, the story of competition between Shamanists and Lamaists was oft heard in Manchuria but the Manchu emperor helped Lamaists to persecute Shamanists which led to their considerable frustration and dissatisfaction.
Jurchens, the predecessors of the Manchus, were influenced by the Buddhism of Balhae, Goryeo, Liao and Song in the 10-13th centuries, so it was not something new to the rising Manchus in the 16-17th centuries. Qing emperors were always entitled "Buddha". They were regarded as Mañjuśrī in Tibetan Buddhism and had high attainments. However, Buddhism was used by rulers to control Mongolians and Tibetans; it was of little relevance to ordinary Manchus in the Qing dynasty.
Manchus were affected by Chinese folk religions for most of the Qing period. Save for ancestor worship, the gods they consecrated were virtually identical to those of the Han Chinese. Guan Yu worship is a typical example. He was considered as the God Protector of the Nation and was sincerely worshipped by Manchus. They called him "Lord Guan" (关老爷). Uttering his name was taboo. In addition, Manchus worshipped Cai Shen and The Kitchen god just as the Han Chinese did. The worship of Mongolian and Tibetan gods has also been reported.
There were Manchu Christians in the Qing dynasty. In Yongzheng and Qianlong's era, Depei, the Hošo Jiyan Prince, was a Catholic whose baptismal name was "Joseph". His wife was also baptised and named “Maria”. At the same time, the sons of Doro Beile Sunu were devout Catholics, too. In the Jiaqing period, Tong Hengšan and Tong Lan were Catholic Manchu Bannermen. These Manchu Christians were proselytized and persecuted by Qing emperors but they steadfastly refused to convert. There were Manchu Christians in modern times, too, such as Ying Lianzhi, Lao She and Philip Fugh.
Manchus have many traditional holidays. Some are derived from Chinese culture, such as "Spring Festival" and Duanwu Festival. Some are of Manchu origin. For instance, Banjin Inenggi (ᠪᠠᠨᠵᡳᠨ
ᡳᠨᡝᠩᡤᡳ), on the 13th day of the tenth month of the lunar calendar, is the anniversary of the name creation of Manchu. This day in 1635, Qing Taizong Emperor, Hong Taiji, changed the ethnic name from Jurchen to Manchu. Food Extermination Day (绝粮日), on every 26th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, is another example which was inspired by a story that once Nurhaci and his troops were in a battle with enemies and almost running out of food. The villagers who lived near the battlefield heard the emergency and came to help. There was no tableware on the battlefield. They had to use perilla leaves to wrap the rice. Afterwards, they won the battle. So later generations could remember this hardship, Nurhaci made this day the "Food Extermination Day". Traditionally on this day, Manchu people eat perilla or cabbage wraps with rice, scrambled eggs, beef or pork.
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