One of the ways in which the Manchus tried to preserve their cultural identity was by

Numbering fewer than a quarter of a million, the Manchus conquered the Chinese empire, establishing the Qing dynasty m 1644. Today, they am a national minority of about three million - one of the several 'more advanced' nationalities (the Han being the 'most advanced') as opposed to the 'retarded' nationalities such as the Tibetan, Yi and Dai peoples. They can be found throughout China, but live mostly in Beijing, in the northeastern provinces of Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang and Hebei, and in Inner Mongolia.

The Manchus' identity as a race or nationality has tended to elude both Manchus and non-Manchus alike. In a sense, they invented themselves: People of Jurchen, Mongolian, Han Chinese and Korean descent who lived in the northeast and had developed a distinctive society first identified themselves using the collective term 'Manchu' only in 1635. The fact that they were barbarians who had been kept beyond the empire's north-east border, and were so weak numerically compared with the Han Chinese, must have made the fall of the Ming all the more humiliating to the Hans.

One of the ways in which the Manchus tried to preserve their cultural identity was by

Divide and rule

The Chinese empire was conquered by about 120,000 Manchus. They had the strengths of discipline, unity, military readiness and brilliant strategy, but the decline of the Ming dynasty was just as important to their success. The Ming's glory had diminished to near collapse in the space of a few decades, and at the beginning of the seventeenth century the dynasty faced threats from barbarians on all sides, political in-fighting, rebellion throughout the country, and low levels of morale and loyalty in the military.

In 1644, the Manchus took advantage of the rebellion and chaos in the Chinese empire and moved south. Forming an alliance with a Ming loyalist general, they entered Beijing in June and almost immediately took power for themselves. A combination of military campaigns and diplomacy enabled them to wipe out the remains of Ming resistance, and they soon won the all-important support of the Yangzi valley gentry. By 1673 they had completed their conquest of China, though they continued to expand well into the next century, bringing Xinjiang and Taiwan into the motherland.

Despite a number of problems at the beginning of the Qing dynasty - their small number, the fact that the first emperor was mentally unstable, and remaining pockets of Ming resistance, especially in the south - the Manchus managed not only to take power but to hold onto it for 250 years.


Manchu society was basically tribal. Warring tribes had been largely united by Nurgaci, a brilliant military leader and grandfather of the first Qing emperor. The unified Manchus were organized into the Eight Banners (baqi), a 'banner' being a social/military organization transcending the old tribal groupings.

Strictly speaking, a bannerman was one who served the Qing emperor, but the term is often used synonymously for Manchu. Most Manchu men aged between 15 and 60 served in the army. The bannerman had, on the surface, a slave-master style relationship with his ruler (as opposed to the Confucian son/father model of the Hans). In reality, however, the Manchu rulers were careful to keep their bannermen happy.

While Manchus had a higher status than their Han subjects, there was also a rigid class system among bannermen. They prided themselves on their horsemanship and archery, which were indeed the foundations of their culture and the reason for their military strength. Later, during the reign of the Qianlong emperor (1736-95), it was felt that traditional values and skills were dying, and attempts were made to revive the importance of horsemanship and archery. Learning the Manchu language was encouraged as well.

Separate identity

While eagerly learning from Han literati culture, the Manchus also were careful to keep a separate identity. They were a society within a society. In every government department there were Manchus in a superior position working alongside Han officials. They set up their own civil service examination system, which meant that they did not have to compete in the extremely competitive Han examinations. There were Manchu garrisons, largely supported by the state (a source of considerable resentment among the Han), in cities throughout China.

Manchu women were perhaps less oppressed than their Han counterparts. Female children were not despised, and did not have their feet bound - one of the things that perpetuated Han contempt for the 'barbarian' Manchus. The Manchus, like the Hans, prized chaste widowhood, although the suicide of loyal widows was strongly disapproved of. Marriage between Manchus and Hans was forbidden, and the Han were obliged to adopt Manchu dress and wear the pigtail as a sign of their subjugation.

On the other hand, the Manchus cleverly consolidated their power by preserving the status quo of land ownership in China proper, and perhaps more importantly, by winning over the scholar/official class.

Winning over the intellectuals

Towards the end of the Ming dynasty, from the late sixteenth century on, intellectuals had become increasingly disaffected with the Ming and had tacitly withdrawn their support. Many scholars had spent most of their lives preparing to hold an official post, only to end up with nothing. When the Ming first fell the literati were inclined to take the customary loyal-to-the-dynasty stance. But the new dynasty needed men of talent, and shrewdly made a show of respecting scholars. They were won over.

Apart from giving members of the scholar/official class posts in government, the Manchus also initiated a number of important research projects. The Kangxi emperor led the way by commissioning encyclopaedic works on the features and achievements of the empire - this, perhaps, was the Manchus' way of conquering China spiritually as well as militarily. One of the most important of these projects was the so-called Kangxi Dictionary, a massive undertaking which some people believe the emperor organized as a way of distracting scholars from their Ming loyalism.

In fact Han culture did well under the Manchus, as the emperors came to appreciate Han Chinese learning. Some of the greatest novels were written during the Qing, there were accomplished poets among the Manchu nobility, and Peking opera flourished due to the Manchus' great love of the theatre.

After gaining control of the Chinese empire the Manchus quickly absorbed much of Han high culture. But they always retained a sense of being the Manchu rulers of the subjugated Han; to say that they themselves were absorbed or sinicized is an exaggeration. Nevertheless, the Manchus were clearly conscious of that possibility, and front time to time there were attempts to revive traditional Manchu values.

Han resentment

The economic situation went into a serious decline in the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries; rebel movements sprang up, which were suppressed by the government. This aroused Han nationalist feelings. Resentment towards the Manchus grew, and they came to be blamed for almost everything. Secret societies were set up, dedicated to getting rid of the foreign rulers and restoring a Han Chinese dynasty. The situation worsened with the advent of the fiercely nationalistic Taiping Rebellion (1851-64). The feeling among the Han Chinese was that the interests of the European imperialists and the Manchus were the same, and this further incited resentment.

After the revolution of 1911 the Manchus were still blamed for society's problems, and it was strongly in their interests to pass themselves off as Han if they could. Periodic persecution of Manchus has continued throughout the twentieth century. The famous writer and dramatist Lao She, who was murdered during the Cultural Revolution, was a Manchu, and it is possible that the attack was racially motivated.

Identity crisis

Psychologically, the Han never really came to terms with the fall of the Ming. It is still the case that the glories of the Qing dynasty tend to be attributed to the Manchus being 'sinicized'. Their greatness is usually played down and their supposed cruelty, barbarism and decadence emphasized. The brief existence this century of Manchuguo, a Japanese puppet state in north-east China which could be seen as the Manchus' last desperate bid for identity, further contributed to their negative image. Today, Manchus may, if they choose, register as a national minority. But unlike most other ethnic minorities in China, the Manchus no longer inhabit a traditional homeland and have all but lost their language and traditions. While elderly Manchus might still be aware of their clan designations, the young have largely been cut off from their heritage.

In recent years, however, there have been signs that young Manchus do still have a sense of their identity. In 1987 the Chinese government opened a language school in Beijing to train people to read old Manchu official documents. Although they expected that they would have to recruit students, there were nearly twice as many applicants as places available.

© Copyright Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (SACU) 2006, reprinted from SACU's magazine China Now 135, Page 30, December 1990

The Sinicization of the Manchus is the process in which the Manchu people became assimilated into the Han-dominated Chinese society. It had occurred most prominently during the Qing dynasty when attempts were made by the new Manchu rulers of China to assimilate themselves and their people with the Han under the new dynasty to increase its legitimacy.

One of the ways in which the Manchus tried to preserve their cultural identity was by

The Guangxu Emperor of the House of Aisin-Gioro, penultimate Emperor of the Qing dynasty

By the time the Qing dynasty fell, many Manchu had already adopted Han Chinese customs, languages and surnames. For example, some descendants of the ruling imperial House of Aisin-Gioro adopted the Han Chinese surname Jin (金) as both Jin and Aisin mean gold.[1]

The ancestors of the Manchu people, the Jurchen, originally formed the Jin dynasty located to the Song dynasty's northeast. The Jurchen Jin already started assimilating Han Chinese language, and even their Jurchen script was influenced by Chinese characters (hanzi). When both the Jin and Song were absorbed by the Yuan dynasty (Mongol empire), the Jurchen became further assimilated into Chinese society while living as subjects alongside Han, Mongol, and various other ethnicities under one unified empire. After the Yuan, the Jurchens became subjects of the Ming empire, with many Jurchen people even studying the Han Chinese language and adopting Chinese culture themselves, while still maintaining their original identity, language, and customs.

In 1583, Manchu chieftain Nurhaci began to unify the Jurchen ministries. After the establishment of the Later Jin dynasty the Manchu-Han relationship was further developed. Later, during the Huang Taiji period, the communication and trade between Manchu and Han became closer. In 1644, the regent king Dorgon led the Eight Banners soldiers to enter the Shanhai Pass, the Qing dynasty replaced the Ming dynasty as the ruling dynasty in China. The bureaucratic system, land management, military establishment, and culture of the Qing Dynasty were all subject to drastic changes due to the prevalent influence of the Central Plains region in China.[2][3]

During the Qianlong period, Han culture was revered among Manchus, and the relationship between Manchus and Han people also gained a lot of advantages. Many Han officials also promoted the development of the Qing dynasty. It can be said that without these Han officials, the demise of the Qing dynasty would be faster.

Although Manchus were not of Han Chinese origin, especially in southern China where they were strongly resisted, they absorbed a lot of Han Chinese culture before conquering the Ming dynasty. The new Manchu rulers retained many of the systems that existed in the Ming dynasty.[4]

The central government system of the Qing Dynasty mostly followed the Ming Dynasty, but adjusted to the needs of the current society they ruled. The duties of cabinet of the Qing Dynasty granted fewer rights than the previous generation. After a long period of exploration, the Manchu dynasty finally completed the highly centralized political system structure of the imperial power and developed the centralized political system to the peak.[5] During Emperor Yongzheng's reign, he established a secret reserve system. This system is based on the special historical traditions and political culture of the Manchu society.[6] It is a major change to the ancient Chinese tradition of the succession of the throne. It is also a modification of the Manchuria state and development.

During and after the Qing Dynasty, the Manchu people and the Han people lived together, and Manchu people learned the Han people's life and production methods. The Manchu people gradually absorbed the advanced Han culture. With the deep communication between the Manchu and Han nationalities, and mutual marriage, the change of Manchu identity became more and more pronounced.[7] The primary manifestation of this change is shown in the way of production, especially in the management of land.

Due to the long-term wars between the Ming and Qing Dynasties, large numbers of Han farmers were forced to leave their hometown and move to other places.[2] On the above conditions, the rulers of the Qing Dynasty used their political privileges to plunder huge amounts of land from the hands of the Han people and forcibly redistribute the land. This caused certain damage and blockade of agricultural production in the north.[3]

Therefore, the Manchu rulers could not impose their own mode of production which is the serf system on the Han and only let the Han's original mode of production which is the rent system to continue.[5] Under the strong influence of the feudal tenancy system, the serfdom system gradually declined. In terms of production methods, Manchu and Han are basically the same, and the original differences have gradually disappeared.[1]

Since the ancestors of the Manchus were a hunting nation, they were good at riding and shooting, and the soldiers were very strong. After the Qing Dynasty, under the impact of the Han's highly feudal economy, the Manchu people and the Han people lived together and absorbed the advanced system of the Han nationality, and Nurhachi created the Eight Banners system. Nurhachi's successor, his eighth son, Hong Taiji (r. 1626–1642), went further in adopting Han system and using more Han officials. At the same time, the preparation of the Eight Banners has also expanded.[8]

The evolution of Manchu language is a major event in the Manchu culture. It promoted the progress of the Manchu society and expanded their trade with neighboring peoples. The evolution of the Manchu language helped the Manchus transform from a tribal to a bureaucratic society, helping them to further carry out administrative practice according to the experience of the Han people. In 1644, after the establishment of the Qing Dynasty, the rulers of the Qing Dynasty actively absorbed the Han culture on the one hand, and opposed the complete Hanization of the Manchu on the other hand, and strongly advocated preserving fundamental Manchu customs.[9]

However, according to the social environment at that time, the Manchus were sparsely populated, and when they first arrived in the Central Plains, the language was unreasonable and the geography was unfamiliar. If the aristocrats of the Manchu depended only on the strength of their own people, they would rule the vast territory with a minority population of less than one million to rule over hundreds of millions of Han and other ethnic groups, which would be quite difficult. At the same time, the Manchu did not originally possess the advanced technological or bureaucratic systems that the Han Chinese did, nor did the Manchu originally have their own writing system (which would develop during the formation of the Qing under Nurhaci and others). Therefore, the Manchu people adapted to new forms of social organization and absorbed and learned from the advanced political, economic, and cultural systems of the Central Plains. In the process of learning and integration, the language of the Manchus and Han nationalities blended in various activities. In order to facilitate communication, the Manchu language borrowed many Han Chinese loanwords as well as Chinese language structures and grammatical elements. During the course of the Qing, the Manchu developed their own alphabet (based on the Mongol script), and their language became deeply influenced by Han Chinese language and culture.[7]

The Sinicization of the Manchus played a great role in stabilizing the civilization and establishing the foundation of the Qing Dynasty. The following points can be summarized on the development of the Manchu-Han relationship and integration during the Qing:

  1. The formation and growth of the Manchus has a close relationship with the absorption of the Han population. A large number of Han Chinese were incorporated into the Eight Banners, which effectively promoted the development of the Manchu. In 1644, after the Qing army entered the customs, the establishment of the Eight Banners was rapidly expanded. These inhaled Han people imported new blood into the Manchu community. They can also be said that they were Manchurian and played an important role in promoting the development of the Manchu.[3]
  2. The Manchus were enculturated into the Han culture, and the Manchus learn from each other and advance and retreat together. This is an inevitable trend of historical development. The close communication between Manchu and Han and their mixed offspring effectively promoted the integration of the nation and the progress of the Manchu.[3]
  3. The Manchus have been martial and pragmatic in character since ancient times. The Han people were deeply influenced by the Four Books and the Five Classics and the Confucian traditional morality.[6] On the other hand, the rulers of the Manchu dynasty were incorporated into the profound Chinese culture unconsciously; on the other hand, under the psychological drive of maintaining the ancestral system, the rulers strive to maintain the national identity.[8] Therefore, in such a large environment, Manchu culture constantly collides and merges. However, the Sinicization of the Manchu is not completed, it is a process of learning from the Han culture with the characteristics of the Manchu nationality.
  4. The process of the Sinicization of the Manchus can be seen from another perspective as a process for the rulers of the Qing Dynasty to consolidate their rule. The rulers of the Qing Dynasty studied the official system of the Ming Dynasty politically, expanded the Eight Banners military system in the military, culturally respected the Cheng–Zhu school and Neo-Confucianism as the orthodoxy, and governed the country in ways other than Confucianism. It gradually settled local rebellions at all levels and established the feudal dynasty which lasted for 268 years. This is inseparable from the absorption, learning and use of Chinese culture.[4]
  5. In general, the Sinicization of Manchus expanded the cooperation of the Manchu ruling class and laid the foundation for the consolidation of the Qing Dynasty. It also promoted the national integration with the Han nationality as the main body and maintained the unity of the multi-ethnic countries.[10]

In summary, after long-term mixed living, mutual learning and intercommunication, the consistency of the production mode, class structure, language and customs between Manchu and Han increased, and the original differences became significantly reduced. After the middle period of the Qing Dynasty, in the political, economic, cultural and other aspects, the Manchus have developed to a level that is socially equal to the Han nationality, and the relationship between the Manchu and Han nationalities became increasingly close. It can be said that the Sinicization of Manchus is a two-way integration of Manchu and Han nationality. This kind of integration promotes the development and prosperity of the two ethnic groups in politics, economy and culture.[10]

After the Qing dynasty fell, many Manchu had assimilated and adopted Chinese customs. For example, the ruling emperors of the House of Aisin-Gioro would adopt the Han Chinese surname Jin (金) as both Jin and Aisin mean gold in their respective languages. One of the modern heads of the Aisin house is Jin Yuzhang.

Despite the past status of Manchu as a royal language, it is declining drastically and faces the risk of extinction. By the 1980s, there were only 2,000 Manchu speakers in the country.[11]

The schools in China teaching minority languages consist of less than 5% of the education system. Currently, there are only two schools in China that can teach Manchu. Most Manchus today speak Mandarin.[12]

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  • Qing dynasty in Inner Asia

  1. ^ a b "Sinicization vs. Manchuness". UCSD Modern Chinese History Research Site. 2010-05-01. Retrieved 2018-10-19.
  2. ^ a b "Chinese Academy of Social Sciences throwing shade at The New Qing History". Jeremiah Jenne. Retrieved 2018-11-09.
  3. ^ a b c d Jian, Zhang (2016-01-02). "Manchu Sinicization: Doubts on the Ethnic Perspective of New Qing History". Contemporary Chinese Thought. 47 (1): 30–43. doi:10.1080/10971467.2016.1215107. ISSN 1097-1467.
  4. ^ a b "Why the Manchus Matter – In Conversation with Mark Elliott | The China Story". Retrieved 2018-11-09.
  5. ^ a b Hang, Lin. "Re-envisioning Manchu and Qing History: A Question of Sinicization". Archiv Orientální.
  6. ^ a b Huang, Pei (2011). Reorienting the Manchus: A Study of Sinicization, 1583-1795. East Asia Program, Cornell University. ISBN 9781933947921.
  7. ^ a b "Manchu Sinicization: Doubts on the Ethnic Perspective of New Qing History". ResearchGate. Retrieved 2018-11-09.
  8. ^ a b Ho, Ping-Ti (1998). "In Defense of Sinicization: A Rebuttal of Evelyn Rawski's "Reenvisioning the Qing"". The Journal of Asian Studies. 57 (1): 123–155. doi:10.2307/2659026. JSTOR 2659026.
  9. ^ Nianqun, Yang (2016). "Moving Beyond "Sinicization" and "Manchu Characteristics": Can Research on Qing History Take a Third Path?". Contemporary Chinese Thought. 47 (1): 44–58.
  10. ^ a b Theobald, Ulrich. "The Manchus (". Retrieved 2018-11-09.
  11. ^ Zheng, Dahua (2019-12-30). "Modern Chinese nationalism and the awakening of self-consciousness of the Chinese Nation". International Journal of Anthropology and Ethnology. 3 (1): 11. doi:10.1186/s41257-019-0026-6. ISSN 2366-1003.
  12. ^ Golik, Katarzyna (2014). "Facing the Decline of Minority Languages: The New Patterns of Education of Mongols and Manchus". Rocznik Orientalistyczny. 67 (1).

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