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The Manchu ethnic minority (5)

(People's Daily)

09:57, August 11, 2011

Early in the 13th century, the Nuzhens were conquered by the Mongols and later came under the rule of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). With the largest concentration in Yilan, Heilongjiang Province, they settled on the middle and lower reaches of the Heilong River and along the Songhua and Wusuli rivers, extending to the sea in the east. The Yuan Dynasty enlisted the service of local upper-strata residents to create five administrations each governing 10,000 house-holds, known respectively as Taowen, Huligai, Woduolian, Tuowolian and Bokujiang. The Nuzhens at this time were still leading a primitive life. They developed and progressed, until Nurhachi's son proclaimed the name of Manchu towards the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

The Ming Dynasty had 384 military forts and outposts established in the Nuzhen area, and the Nuergan Garrison Command, a local military and administrative organization in Telin area opposite the confluence of the Heilong and Henggun rivers, was placed directly under the Ming court. While strengthening central government control over northeast China, these establishments aided the economic and cultural exchanges between the Nuzhen and Han peoples.

From the mid-16th century onwards, repeated internecine wars broke out among the Nuzhens, but they were later reunified by Nurhachi, who was then Governor of Jianzhou Prefecture.

In 1595, the Ming court conferred on Nurhachi the title of "Dragon-Tiger General" after making him a garrison commander in 1583 and public procurator of Heilongjiang Province in 1589. Frequent trips to Beijing brought him full awareness of developments in the Han areas, which in turn exerted great influence on him. A talented political and military leader, he later proved his outstanding ability by welding together within 30 years all the Nuzhen tribes that were scattered over a vast area reaching as far as the sea in the east, Kaiyuan in the west, the Nenjiang River in the north and the Yalu River in the south.

Once the Nuzhens were united, Nurhachi initiated the "Eight banner" system, under which all people were organized along military lines. Each banner consisted of many basic units called "niulu" which functioned as the primary political, military and production organization of the Manchu people, and each unit was formed of 300 people. Members of these units hunted or farmed together in peace time, and in time of war all would go into battle as militia.

In 1619 Nurhachi proclaimed himself "Sagacious Khan" and established a slave state known to later times as Late Kin.

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