MANCHU CULTURE AND LIFE

MANCHU LANGUAGE AND NAMES

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Tree coffin, early 19th century
The Manchu language belongs to the Manchu division of Manchu-Tungus group in Altai family of languages. They have their own writing system developed in the 17th century and based on Mongolian but which can also be written with Chinese characters. Many Manchus can not read or speak their language. Their rates of literacy in Chinese are higher than the national average. [Source: Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Russia and Eurasia/ China , edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond (C.K. Hall & Company, 1994)]

The Manchu written language developed from Mongolian, based on the letter "u". Later, a circle or a dot was added on the right of the letter and this was called "Manchu language with a circle or dot" or the "new Manchu language". Originally, Manchu people used the Mongol written language. In 1599, two courtiers Eerdeni and Zhaerguqiergai created the Manchu characters without punctuations under the assignment of the emperor Nuerhachi. In 1632, emperor Huangtaiji ordered Dahai to improve the Manchu characters, this new type of Man characters with punctuation has been used up to the present. [Source: Chinatravel.com chinatravel.com \=/]

Since the Qing Dynasty, a large number of Manchu have immigrated into the central plains area (the heart of China and the traditional home of the Han Chinese), which resulted in the close contact with the Han, with most Manchu gradually learning Chinese to the point where their own language is on the verge of dying out. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, kepu.net.cn ~]

Originally, the family names of the Manchu people were in the Manchu language. These included family names such as Aixinjueluo and Nala. Some family names had the tribe names in front, such as Yehe Nala and Hada Nala. After the Manchu took over China and established the Qing Dynasty they began to use Han Chinese family names and many Manch names were changed to Han names. For example, Aixinjueluoshi was changed to the surname Jin; Fuchashi was changed to Fu; and the Nala shi was changed to Na.

Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “In far western China, near the Kazakhstan border, descendants of a garrison of Qing soldiers still speak a dialect of Manchu, among the few native speakers left in China. The Manchu language is multisyllabic and lyrical; some linguists believe it to be part of the Altaic language group, which includes Mongolian, Korean and Turkish. It can be downright confusing to Chinese speakers: For example, the word for "father" — "ama" — sounds like "mother" in Chinese.” Manchu script is a kind “loopy calligraphy that looks a little like Arabic written vertically.[Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, January 30, 2013 \~/]

“Nowadays, fewer than 100 people are believed to be native speakers of Manchu, the largest cluster of them in a single isolated village, Sanjiazi, in northeastern China. "Only the old people can really speak the language," said Shi Junguang, a part-time Manchu-language teacher who learned from his grandmother and has about 70 students.\~/

“So few people can read Manchu that many Qing Dynasty documents have gone untranslated, scholars say. Courses in the Manchu language are now offered at Ethnic Minorities University in Beijing and at other schools around China. Because the Manchus have no separatist aspirations, they are considered a model minority by the Communist Party, and the government has encouraged some elementary schools in northeastern China, the heartland of old Manchuria, to offer the language so it doesn't die out.” \~/

Good Websites and Sources: Nationalities in Northeast China kepu.net.cn ; Muslims in China Islam in China islaminchina.wordpress.com ; Claude Pickens Collection harvard.edu/libraries ; Islam Awareness islamawareness.net ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Asia Times atimes.com Links in this Website: MINORITIES IN NORTHERN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; MUSLIM MINORITIES IN NORTHERN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; OROQEN, HENZHEN AND EWENKI Factsanddetails.com/China

Sources on Individual on Ethnic Minorities in China: (click the ethnic group you want) Ethnic China (very good site with good academic articles) ethnic-china.com ; Cultural China (site with nice photos) cultural-china.com ; China Travel chinatravel.com ; Wikipedia List of Ethnic Minorities in China Wikipedia ; Travel China Guide travelchinaguide.com ; China.org (government source) china.org.cn ; OMF international (a Christian group) omf.org ; People’s Daily (government source) peopledaily.com.cn ; Ethnic Publishing House (government source)e56.com.cn ; Paul Noll site` paulnoll.com ; China Highlights (on some groups) China Highlights

Sources on Ethnic Minorities in China: Book on Chinese Minorities stanford.edu ; Chinese Government Law on Minorities china.org.cn ; Minority Rights minorityrights.org ; Minority Travel: China Trekking (click under Minority Towns) China Trekking ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; New York Times Interactive Map nytimes.com ; Ethnic Groups in China (Chinese government site) chinaethnicgroups.com

Ethnic Groups in Northern China

The minorities of northern China are closely related to indigenous ethnic groups found in Mongolia, Central Asia, Siberia, and the Russian Far East. Most have traditionally been shamanist, nomadic animal herders, living a basic life in harsh conditions in areas with few people, and migrating over large distances. Those towards the south herded sheep, horses and cattle. Those towards the north herded reindeer. Some were also fishermen, trappers and hunters. Few had written languages.

Minorities found in northern Chinese include the Daur, Dongxiang, Ewenki, Hezhen, Koreans, Manchu, Mongols, Oroqen, Oryat, Tu, Russians, Xibe, and Yugar. The Ewenki are former reindeer herders. The Hezhen and Oroqen are former forest hunters. Tha Manhcu were founders of the Qing Dynasty, China’s last dynasty. The Mongols were the founders of Yuan Dynasty, one of China’s greatest dynasties.

Shamanism in Northern China

The words “shaman” and “shamanism” are derived from Manchu-Tungus language term for "excited", "agitated" or "fury man". Shamanism in its classic form comes from Siberia and Asia (including northeast China and inner Mongolia area). Shamanism is still practiced by the Manchu, Daur, Oroqen, Ewenki, Hezhen, Xibe and some Mongols. Koreans, Uyghur , Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Yugur also once believed in Shamanism. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, kepu.net.cn ~]

Though they have used different texts, had different legends, worshiped different gods and spirits, and had different clan and tribe organizations, the Siberian and East Asian groups that have traditionally practiced shamanism share some roughly identical basic features: 1) they believed in animism and that soul is immortal. 2) They believe in three realms: heaven, the world and hell, with gods living in the heaven, human being live in the world and devils, bad spirits and unhappy ancestor gods living in the hell. 3) They believed that the gods and devils were in charge of everything in the universe and of everyone's woes were the result of evil spirits, good things were attributed to the gods and Shaman acted as intermediaries to summon the help of gods and caste out bad spirits. 4) They believed that shaman were the deputies and avatars of gods, acting as agents between humans and gods or devils, and possessing special characters and theurgies that can help them get rid of misfortune and attract good fortune.

Manchu Religion, Shamanism and Funerals

Shamanism has long been a element of Manchu spirituality among both the elite and the common people. Villages typically had a shaman. The Qing dynasty had its own court shaman, who chanted scripture and performed religious dances at imperial services. Villages shaman came in two types: full time ones that specialized in treating illnesses and part time ones that presided over ceremonies and sacrificial rites to spirits and ancestors. When performing his duties, a shaman typically wore a smock, bronze bells at his waist, a mirror on his chest and pointed cap with colored strips that hand in front of the face.

Court shamanism was generally practiced by priest-sorcerers in the palace. During the early Qing period, those eligible for the office of "shaman" were mostly clever and smart people with a good command of the dialect of the royal Aisin-Gioro clan. Shamans were employed to chant scriptures and perform religious dances when imperial services were held. Shamanism remained popular among the Manchus in the area of Ningguta and Aihui County in northeast China until 1949. [Source: China.org china.org *|*]

Village shamans generally fell into two categories: those performed religious dances to exorcize evil spirits through the power of the gods, and clan shamans who presided only over sacrificial ceremonies. Every village had its own shaman, whose sole job was to perform the spirit dance. Only seriously ill patients saw a real doctor. Religious rites was generally performed by a shaman dangling a small mirror who intoned prayers and dance at a trot to the accompaniment of drumbeats. *|*

Military successes and triumphal marches or returns were inevitably celebrated with sacrificial ceremonies presided over by shamans. Up to the eve of the country's liberation, making animal sacrificial offerings to the gods and ancestors was still a big event among the Manchus in Aihui County. *|*

The Manchu have adopted many of the Buddhist and Taoist religious beliefs of the Han Chinese. They make offerings to ancestor is small shrines on the west side of their sleeping rooms. They believe the dead travel to another world that coexists with the world of the living. Ground burials are the norm. Corpses have traditionally been removed through windows—doorways are only for the living— people were not allowed to die on the west or north of a kang.

Manchu Family Trees

The Manchu family tree, also called pedigree or chart, is a book for every family, which records births, marriages, descent and the stories of important persons in a family. For a long history, Manchus have paid a lot of attention on the emendation (correction or revision) and composition of the family tree. They have believed that the emendation of family tree could strengthen family positions and merits and virtues of individuals a family, which could be passed down to "descendants who respect their ancestors". [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, kepu.net.cn~]

The Manchu family tree is written or printed on paper or cloth and silk textiles, according to the surname, from generation to generation. It is made up of a family tree book and family tree list. Generally speaking, ordinary families only write names of ancestors on a piece of paper or cloth and silk textiles, according to the generation position, from ancestors to descendants, from ancient time to nowadays, which forms the shape of a pagoda and makes the generation position clear at a glance. This chart is called the "family tree list". Rich and powerful families compile much more data and place into a volume called the "family tree book". The family tree book cannot be printed or copied. ~

The contents of the family tree generally includes: family order, origin, pedigree, fete decorum, family instruction (instructiona on wedding and funeral), models (the biography of ancestors and officers), graves, bestow (imperial mandate and appointment), formulary of naming (according to generation, literary name and nickname) and so on. The family tree is often kept by the patriarch of the family and can be emended by family consultation. It is said that the custom of family tree emendation goes back to the period of Nurhachi in the 16th century. In that period, after Nurhachi had unified all the Nuchen tribes and had set up the Posterior Jurchens power, he ordered the official Erdeni to record the significant events in newly created Manchus. Erdeni was a diligent, prudent, clever and versatile person. From then on, he recorded cautiously and conscientiously "all the good policies" of Nurhachi such as political policies, military action, court life and so on. This is the earliest documents of The Manchus and the earliest family tree of the Aisin Gioro clan. ~

In the past, it was a great event for Manchus to emend the family tree. It was mostly carried out in the year of "dragon or tiger". At that time, the clansmen came together. They sacrificed pigs and lambs for their ancestors and for the gods in Heaven. Nowadays, the custom of emending the family tree is carried on but a lot less fanfare than in past and the procedure has been simplified a lot. ~

Manchu Marriage and Family Customs

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Manchu wedding

Monogamy has always been the norm among Manchus. Traditionally, marriages were arranged by parents and couples were wed when they were 16 or 17. A bride price was paid and reciprocated with gifts of wine, jewelry, clothing and pork to the groom’s family. The dowry was regarded as the bride’s property. In the countryside, many Manchu still live in three-generation households. In the cities, nuclear families are the norm.

On the wedding day, the bride had to sit the whole day on the south "kang", an act inaugurating "future happiness." When night fell, a low table with two wine pots and cups would be set. The bride and bridegroom would, hand in hand, walk around the table three times and sit down to drink under the light of a candle burning through the night on the south "kang". They were congratulated amid songs by one or several guests in the outer room. Sometimes the ceremony was marked with well-wishers casting black peas into the bridal chamber before they left the new couple. On the fourth day, the newlyweds would pay a visit to the bride's home. [Source: China.org china.org]

Babies are kept in suspended cradles. The customs dates back to a time when the Manchu hunted regularly on horseback and suspended the cradles from tree branches so that wild animals would not get the babies while the parents were out hunting.

Manchu Houses and Kangs

In the old days the Manchu were organized on the basis of paternal clans. Now they are organized on the basis of villages and town. Traditionally, the Manchus lived in houses that were similar to those used by Han Chinese. A typical house had three divisions: a central room used as a kitchen and two quarters that served as sleeping and living areas. The sleeping rooms were heated by kangs, brick beds that be could heated in the winter and were laid against the west, north and south walls. Warm in the winter and cool in the summer, the houses were open to south and west and usually had a three-generation family with seven or more people living in it.

Many people in northern China sleep on or around a kang, a traditional brick bed or concrete platform, built over a stove, oven or fireplace which is heated with coal, wood or animal dung and provides warmth in the winter. Kangs are usually covered with cotton mattresses and colorfully embroidered quilts. Houses south of the Yangtze generally don’t have kangs or central heating.

Houses of the Manchus were built in three divisions, with the middle used as a kitchen and the two wings each serving as bedroom and living room. By tradition, the bedroom had three "kang", which were laid against the west, north and south walls. Guests and friends were habitually given the west "kang", elders the north, and the younger generation the south. Traditionally, to the west of the kang was an altar used to hold sacrifices for ancestors. With windows generally open to the south and west, the houses stayed warm in winter and cool in summer. [Source: China.org china.org ]

Manchu Customs and Taboos

The Manchu have a long tradition of honoring the elders and respecting the ancestors. Whenever there was festival or a big event such as marriage, child birth, building of a new house, or promotion Manchu people would carry out large-scale ancestor worship ceremonies to pray for good fortunes. [Source: Chinatravel.com chinatravel.com \=/]

A variety of manners observed by the Manchus show respect towards the elderly. Children were required to pay formal respects to their elders regularly, once every three to five days. In greeting their superiors, men were required to extend their left hand to the knee and idle the right hand while scraping a bow, and women would squat with both hands on the knees. Between friends and relatives, warm embraces were the commonest form of greeting for all men and women. [Source: China.org china.org *|*]

Manchu people have a special fondness for dogs. Beating or killing dogs are strictly forbidden. The Manch do not eat meat of dogs, do not wear dogskin hats or wear clothes with dogskin cuffs. Do not chase or scold dogs before a Manchu host. Never say anything bad about dogs, or your Manchu host might think you are insulting him and ask you to leave immediately. Additionally, Manchu are not allowed to hit pied magpies and crows, or to tie livestocks on the Suoluo tree poles. See Nurhachi and Respect for Dogs and Crows Above.

The Manchu views the West as superior. It is a taboo for common people, especially young people to sit on the west Kang, and women are even more strictly forbidden to give birth to her child on the west side of Kang.

In the old days female members of the Manchu elite didn't cut their hair, their feet remained unbound and the nails of their third and forth fingers were allowed to grow, sometimes over four inches long.

It is not uncommon for teenage girls to smoke pipes. Elderly people like to smoke long pipes.

Steamed Buns and Other Manchuria Foods

A favorite traditional Manchu meal consisted of steamed millet or cakes of glutinous millet. Festivals were traditionally celebrated with dumplings, and the New Year's Eve with a treat of stewed meat. Boiled and roast pork and Manchu-style cookies were table delicacies. [Source: China.org china.org ]

The Manchuria steamed bun is a traditional food of the Manchus and is now popular snack and carry-out item in northeast area—and for that matter all of China and large parts of Asia. The Manchus called these buns: steamed bread and steamed stuffed bun. A variety of foods are referred to by the name of Manchuria bun. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, kepu.net.cn ~]

Manchus enjoy many kinds of pastries and cakes. Among them are: 1) Sanzi made from kneaded buckwheat flour or glutinous broomcorn millet flour dough rolled into threads and steamed in lattice cooker or fried with oil, and then mixed with bittern sauce and made into soup. When the Manchus have fetes, Sanzi is often offered. 2) Tamping cakes are made from glutinous broomcorn millet, glutinous millet or polished glutinous rice steamed in a lattice cooker. When prepared with glutinous cooked rice, water is poured on the rice, which is then placed on a flag stone and hammered into dough. The dough can be rolled into various cakes. They are often with sugar or honey. ~

3) Cakes with sauce are made from up glutinous broomcorn millet flour, glutinous millet or polished glutinous rice scooped into a cloth bag mixed with some sauce into the container, steamed in a lattice cooker and cut into diamonds or blocks, then. They have a smooth and soft texture in addition to a good flavor. 4) Scattering cakes are made with glutinous rice and steamed in a lattice cooker. According to the size of the lattice cooker, a thin layer scattered beans is alternated with a layer of glutinous rice flour. After the first layer is cooked a second layer is made. The process is repeated until the desired number of layers is prepared. 5) Candied fritters are cooked in the same fashion as tamping cakes with cooked rice placed on a flag stone and tamped repeatedly into dough. Afterwards, the dough is dipped into cooked bean flour, kneaded into bars and ,after frying, cut into blocks and covered with a sprinkled of cooked bean flour or sugar. ~

6) Glutinous millet buns are made of glutinous millet mixed with other ingredients. According to the different production seasons and different ingredients, the buns can be classified into: bean flour buns (offered in spring, made of pulverized glutinous millet and other things and baked) and linden leaves bun (offered in summer, linden is a kind of plant whose egg-shaped leaves are like hibiscus). To make linden leaves buns: knead the flour into dough and roll the dough into skins. After bean stuffing is placed in the skins, the skins are bound together with linden leaves and steamed in a lattice cooker. for heating. ~

There are also perilla leave buns, gold cakes, sun cakes, cool cakes, glutinous millet bun (offered in autumn, with bean sauce) and Lvdagun (a pastry made of steamed glutinous millet flour mixed with sugar). Perilla leave buns are made using the same methods as the linden leaves bun. The only difference is that perilla leaves are used instead of linden leaves. ~

The traditional Chinese banquet served today has its origins the Manchu court feast of the Qing Dynasty. Said to have been introduced during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor, it mainly employs Manchu baking and braising and Han frying. The feast includes many famous dishes and cakes. There are over 200 dishes in all, of which 134 dishes are hot and 48 are assorted cold. There are also dozens of cakes. In Qing times, the raw materials for the dishes often came from articles of tribute. Delicacies of every kind such as mountain food, seafood, rare animals, fresh vegetables, and rare fruits were found in this feast. The dishware was also delicate and mainly made up of gold cup, silver plate, jade calyx, ivory chopsticks and so on. After the Revolution of 1911, the dishware and food has been simplified. ~

Cheongsam and Manchu Clothes

The cheongsam, a women’s dress associated with the Chinese, originated with the Manchus. Known as a "qi pao" in Mandarin, the cheongsam is a tight form-fitting Chinese dress with thigh-high slits and a high-collar. Traditionally a dress worn by Manchu women, it received some international exposure in the Suzie Wong film. The slit is supposed to rise no higher than mid thigh. If it goes any higher it is considered sluttish.

The cheongsam worn by Manchu women was loose and reached to the ankles. It evolved into a tight-fitting dress extending below the knee, with a high neck, narrow sleeves, slender waist and two slits, on the left and right, buttoning down the right side. The dress was known for showing off the figures of eastern women.

The Manchus were a horse-riding people. Wearing the qipao made it easier for the women to mount horses. Leonard Yiu, a Malaysian collector of ethnic clothes and jewelry told The Star: “Only later on did the qipao become more curvaceous because of Western influence, and then it became a one-piece costume. “In the old days, the colour red was worn only by the young while the elderly wore blue and black was for widows,” Which era the qipao originated from can be deducted from how wide or curvaceous the cut is.

Manchu men have traditionally worn a long gown and mandarin jacket. The traditional costumes of male Manchus are a narrow-cuffed short jacket over a long gown with a belt at the waist to facilitate horse-riding and hunting. Women wore earrings, long gowns and embroidered shoes. Linen was a favorite fabric for the rich; deerskin was popular with the common folk. Silks and satins for noble and the rich and cotton cloth for the ordinary people became standard for Manchurians after a period of life away from the mountains and forests. Following the Manchus' southward migration, the common people came to wear the same kind of dress as their Han counterparts, while the Manchu gown was adopted by Han women generally. [Source: China.org china.org *|*]

History of the Cheongsam

Because of the frigid cold in the Manchu homeland in northeast China and the needs of the hunting life, in the past, nearly all the Manchu, both men and women, wore gowns and robes with U-shaped sleeves. After Nurhachi established the "Eight Banner" system in the 17th century, the gown became the costume of "banner man". That is why we called the gown "Cheongsam"("Yijie" in Manchu). [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, kepu.net.cn ~]

Cheongsams can be classified into monolayer, cotton and fur types. In the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, the Cheongsam was a gown with patches on the sides and no collar. Its design suited for horse-riding and on-horse shooting methods of the Manchu. When going out for hunting, the Manchu people stored food in the foreparts. This kind of Cheongsam had two prominent traits: the first one was no collar. On the uniform of his bannermen, Nurhachi stipulated: "Each court dress must have a rebato and must be a mere garment in everyday life." That is to say, daily clothes mustn't have a collar and only the court dress can be added with a big shawl-shaped collar. The second prominent trait is the so-called horse-hoof sleeve (U-shaped sleeve): a sleeve broad at the top and narrow at the bottom, sort of like the shape of a horse-hoof. The design of the sleeves allowed them to be rolled up in daily life. However, in the course of hunting and fighting, the sleeves could be dropped to cover and warm hands as the gloves. Even when covering the hands the sleeves allowed a mounted warrior to pull his bow and shoot arrows. Thus, they were also called "arrow sleeves" (in Manchu, it is called "Waha"). After Manchu became the rulers of China, "putting down Waha" became a prescribed act of Qing Dynasty protocol. When officers went to court to call on the emperor or other princes and courtiers, they were required to wear a cheongsam and to reach out with their U-shaped sleeves, then bow on bended knees, with both hands on the ground.

Customarily, a short jacket was worn outside the cheongsam. This short jacket, whose sleeves were long enough to reach the elbow, had a round collar and was long enough to reach the navel. Because this kind of jacket was first worn for horse-riding and horseback-shooting, it was called "horse jacket"(mandarin jacket). In the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, the mandarin jacket was the "army uniform" for the "Eight Banner" soldiers and later gradually became popular among the common people, which resulted in its usage as a ceremonial dress and its diversity in style and material.

Under the influence of the Han Chinese clothes, with their "large collar and large sleeves", the style of the cheongsam began to change. The arrow sleeves were changed into horn-shaped sleeves and the patches on four sides were changed to patches on two sides. The traditional gown with arrow sleeves was worn only when officers went to court and the common banner men formally went out. After the period of Jiaqing and Daoguang, the arrow sleeves began to die out. By the 1930s, the old-fashioned gown with arrow sleeves had been replaced by the long and cylindric gown with a broad front and large sleeves. Since the 1940s, under the influence of modern styles and new kinds of clothing, the man's cheongsam disappeared and the woman's cheongsam became almost unrecognizable from its original form. The broad sleeves were replaced by narrow sleeves, the length was extended to the ankles, the loose-fitting design suited for riding horses bowed out to a tight-fitting design best suited for appearing sexy in.

Manchu Hairstyles and Skullcaps

Manchu males let the back part of their hair grow long and wore it in a plait or queue. During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) the queue became the standard fashion throughout China, eventually becoming a political symbol of the dynasty.Women coiled their hair on top of their heads. [Source: China.org china.org *|*]

In the Qing era, Manchu women wore their hair in a broad and long fashion, somewhat like a fan and sort of like a crown. At that time, most Manchu girls, like Manchu boys, had their hair shaved off around the head in the childhood, with the hair on the back of the head left and cued into braid. It was not until they grew up that Manchu women could let their hair grow. After marriage, Manchu women rolled their hair into tray-shaped hairdos, shelf-shaped hairdos, two halves hairdo and others. The two halves hairdo was the typical. In it, hair on top of the head was divided and tied into two locks, with each lock cued into a hairdo. The hair on the lower part of the head was cued into a "swallow-tailed" long and flat hairdo. A hair clasp called " the flat pane"— which was 20 or 30 centimeters in length and two or three centimeters in width—was inserted into the hairdo. At festivals, or when welcoming the guests, women were expected to wear traditional crown-style hairdos. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, kepu.net.cn ~]

The bone of the crown-style Manchu women’s hairstyle was made up of iron thread or bamboo strip while the cover of the crown was made of cyan flat satin, cyan wool or cyan gauze. The crown was fan-shaped, with a length was over 30 centimeters and a width over 10 centimeters. When worn, the crown served as frame for the hairdo and was often decorated with patterns, embroidery, jewels, flower, ribbons or tassels. This kind of headgear was mostly worn by upper class Manchu women. Ordinary Manchu women only wore it on their wedding day. The broad and long crown restricted the movement of neck and required women to keep their bodies straight. ~

In the past, the Manchu often wore a skullcap with peaked top and broad bottom, sewed from six parts. This "six parts unification" skullcap featured three-centimeter-wide or had brocaded margin with no brim. The hat adopts with a black flat satin surface were worn in winter and spring while hats with black gauze were worn in summer and autumn. A black or red knot at the top of the hat was called the "abacus knot". Under the brim, in the middle, was the " cap center" sometimes made of pearl, agate, silver or glass. This kind of hat can be traced to the period when Ming Tai Zu Zhuyuanzhang was in Emperor. The six sewed up parts symbolized the six sides of the universe and represented unification. After Manchu took over China, the "unification" skullcap became popular among Han Chinese as well as Manchus. Nowadays, we can still see those caps in TV dramas set in the Qing Dynasty and the period of the Republic of China.

Manchu "Banner Shoes"

The "mandarin shoes" of Manchu women were also very special. Known by the name "chopine", they were embroidered and came in two main types: "flowerpot-shaped soles" shoes and "horse-hoof soles" shoes. These wooden-soled shoes featured high heels around 5 to 10 centimeters in height, with some reaching the height of 14-16 centimeters and the highest around 25 centimeters. Generally, the heels were wrapped in white cloth and were inlaid in the middle. The heels had two shapes: the first one was broad at the top and narrow at the bottom, forming the shape of a trapeziform flowerpot. The second one was narrow at the top but broad at the bottom and flat in front but round in the back, forming a horse-hoof shape. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, kepu.net.cn ~]

The upper parts of these "flowerpot shoes" and "horse-hoof shoes" were decorated with cicadas and butterflies. Parts of the wooden heels were ornamented with embroideries and strings of beads. On the tips of some shoes, were silk thread-braided tassels that could touch the ground. The wooden soles with high heels were very solid. Often when the upper part of the shoe wore out but the soles were still intact and could be used again. Chopine with high heels were generally worn by upper class young women over the age of 13 years old. Older women wore shoes with flat wood soles that were were called "flat sole shoes" The fronts of these carved to facilitate walking. These are not worn now. ~

The Manchu have a long history of "getting shoes from whittling wood" custom. About the origin of this kind of shoes, there are a lot of opinions. According to one opinion, in the past, Manchu women often went into the mountains to collect wild fruits and mushrooms. To protect themselves from the biting of insects and snakes, they bound a wood block onto their shoes and later developed making them into a handcraft and raised the height of the soles. There is another opinion. Some say that the ancestors of Manchu imitated white cranes and bound tree branches to their shoes to cross a muddy pit and recapture the city occupied by an enemy. To remember this event, Manchu women began to wear high-heel wooden shoes and passed the tradition to their families. The shoes became more and more delicate and finally turned into what they look now. ~

Manchu Culture

Since 1949 Many Manchu writers and artists have gained fame throughout China since liberation. Cheng Yanqiu was a distinguished Manchu Beijing Opera singer as well as a patriot. During the Japanese occupation he quit the stage and returned to a quiet life on the western outskirts of Beijing. But soon after the national liberation of the country, he plunged himself into the work of training young opera singers. [Source: China.org china.org *|*]

Lao She, widely known as a patriotic writer and people's artist, was born into a poor Manchu family and had tasted all the bitterness of life in his childhood. Before liberation he wrote Camel Xiang Zi (or Rickshaw Boy) to make a thorough critique of the old society. During the Japanese occupation he founded the National Writers' and Artists' Resistance Association, uniting and organizing Chinese writers and artists. He continued to write novels after liberation. From 1950 to 1966, he wrote more than a score of plays including Dragon-Beard Ditch, A Woman Shop Assistant and Teahouse, winning wide acclaim among the people. *|*

Luo Changpei, a famous Manchu linguist, was distinguished for his expert knowledge of the dialects and phonology of the Han language and for his studies in phonetic classification of classical Chinese, its pronunciation and its history. He also studied Chinese grammar, compiled dictionaries and promoted researches into the languages of minority nationalities. He helped create the language science of New China.

Manchu Science and Literature

The Manchu people have produced many works of scientific and cultural significance in China. These include Shu Li Jing Yun (Essence of Mathematics and Physics), Li Xiang Kao Cheng (A Study of Universal Phenomena) and Huang Yu Quan Lan Tu (Complete Atlas of the Empire) compiled during the reign of Emperor Kang Xi. Man Wen Lao Dang (Ancient Archives in Manchu), Man Wen Tai Zu Shi Lu (A Manchu Biography of the Founding Emperor) and Yi Yu Lu (Stories of Exotic Lands) by Tu Lichen are among the famous works written in the early years of the dynasty, while Qing Wen Qi Meng (Primer of Manchurian), Chu Xue Bi Du (Essential Readings for Beginners), Xu Zi Zhi Nan (A Guide to Function Words) and Qing Wen Dian Yao (Fundamentals of Manchurian) are important works in the study of the Manchu language. [Source: China.org china.org *|*]

“A Dream of Red Mansions” written in the 18th century by the Manchu writer Cao Xueqin is a classic that occupies a prominent place in the history of world literature. With its story drawn from the life of a Manchu noble family, the novel gives incisive analysis and exposure of all the decadence of the Manchu ruling class. By dissecting China's feudal society, the author brought the country's literary expression to an unprecedented height. Zhao Lian's Xiao Ting Za Lu (Random Notes at Xiaoting), a true account of the events, rites, personalities and institutions of the early Qing Dynasty, was a work of academic value for the study of the history of the Manchus and Mongols. *|*

Also outstanding among the Manchus were many works by women writers. These include Qin Pu (Music Score) by Ke De, Hua Ke Xian Yin (Leisurely Recitation of Poems by the Flower Beds) by Wanyan Yuegu, Xiang Yin Guan Xiao Cao (Poems from Xiangyin Pavilion) by Kuliya Lingwen, and Tian You Ge Ji (Poems Written in Tianyou Pavilion) by Xilin Taiqing (Gu Taiqing). Her Dong Hai Yu Ge (Song of East Sea Fishermen) won her reputation as the greatest poetess of the Qing Dynasty. *|*

Yang Ge

Old Manchu people---and old Chinese too---like to do the yang ge (yangge or yangke) a traditional northern Chinese folk dance accompanied by singing, drums and gongs and featuring colorful fans, which are held over the head. Developed as a fertility dance by farmers planting in their rice fields, it was introduced to all parts of China by the People's Liberation Army as part of campaign to its win supporters in World War II and was popular in the 1950s and allowed in the Cultural Revolution. Today it is most often seen in Beijing and other cities in the north.

20080303-Yang ge Pattern2 princeton99.jpg
Yang ge patterns

Yang ge is very easy to do. It consists of three quick steps forward, one step backward, pause and repeat, accompanied by hand clapping and swaying movements. In the old days it was performed by male and female dancers facing each other with farm implements such as rakes or hoes, and accompanied by call-and-response singing between the males and females. The dances movement were often sexually suggestive. In World War II, the Communists replaced farm implements with rifles and flags. After the they came to power a number of yang ge troupes were organized and children who showed talent for dancing were recruited and trained for these troupes, which were used to convey political messages to the general public. In many parts of China, yang ge performances were weekly events, with some productions lasting four hours or more.

In the mid 1990s yang ge experienced a dramatic surge un popularity. It became so popular that the government set up regulations prescribing when and where the dance could be performed. One official told the Washington Post, "I don't think the old folks are paying too much attention. They're pretty much doing whatever they please.” The popularity of the dance is attributed to a desire to have fun, nostalgia and desire for good health among the elderly. Many of those who do it say the dance has helped them lose weight and cure their back problems. One woman in her 50s who performs the dance every morning in Ritan Park in Beijing told the Los Angeles Times, “If you are happy, you won’t get sick. Dancing gives me energy.”

Traditional Manchu Sports

An ethnic group originally living in forests and mountains in northeast China, the Manchus excelled in archery and horsemanship. Children were taught the art of swan-hunting with wooden bows and arrows at six or seven, and teenagers learned to ride on horseback in full hunting gear, racing through forests and mountains. Women, as well as men, were skilled equestrians. Jumping onto galloping horses from one side or onto camels from the rear was the most popular recreational activity among the Manchus. Another favorite sport was horse jumping in celebration of bumper harvests in the autumn and on New Year holidays at the Spring Festival.[Source: China.org china.org *|*]

There are many sports and entertaining activities enjoyed by the Manchu. Skating is also a long established sport enjoyed by the Manchus, as it is by the whole Chinese people. In the Qing Dynasty before the mid-19th century, skating was even undertaken by Manchu soldiers as a required course of their military training. Pole climbing, swordplay, juggling a flagpole, and archery on ice are the more interesting sports of the Manchu people. "Walking on snow" and "picking pearls" are two popular festival sports of them. "Walking on snow" is a kind of traditional woman sports. The participants wear Cheongsam and mandarin shoes to take part in walking race. It is called "walking on snow", because walking with mandarin shoes is like walking on snow. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, kepu.net.cn ~ *|*]

"Picking pearls" is also a kind of traditional sports and was once popular in the northeast China. Participants are divided into two teams with six persons on each team. The ground is divided into four parallel quadrants: 1) water area, 2) limited area, 3) block area and 4) score area. One goal means a "pearl". In each group, there is a person playing the part of "fishing net". With a net in hand, he catches the ball (fishes peals) in the score area. Each team also has two history playing the part of the "clams". With clam-shaped wooden rackets in hand, they stand in front of the "fish net" of their opponents and try to block the ball cast towards the "fish net". The other three persons are the "pearl divers". They dash into the "water" (the intermediate range) to scramble for "pearls " against their opponents. When they get the ball, they try cast the "pearl" into the "fish net" of their own group and avoid having the ball intercepted by opponents. Each goal (picking a pearl) is scored with a ball thrown successfully into the net. Ten scores terminate an inning. Winners and losers are decided in three innings.

Pearls—"Nichuhe" in Manchu—are regarded as the symbol of brightness and happiness. It is said that the Manchu women ancestors once picked pearls in Mudan River and this sports came into being by imitating this kind of activity. The sports equipment is very simple. There are no strict requirements as to the size of the playing area. The game is still played in parts of northeast China with large concentrations of Manchus.

Like the Daur, Manchus are good field hockey players. The best players on the Chinese national team come from Gansu Province. They are mostly Manchu, who grew up in Inner Mongolia.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: 1) Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Russia and Eurasia/ China , edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond (C.K. Hall & Company; 2) Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, kepu.net.cn ~; 3) Ethnic China ethnic-china.com \*\; 4) Chinatravel.com chinatravel.com \=/; 5) China.org, the Chinese government news site china.org *|* New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Chinese government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated September 2016

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