The Jurchen (Manchu: ᠵᡠᡧᡝᠨ jušen; Chinese: 女真,
Nǚzhēn, [nỳ.ʈʂə́n]), also known by many variant names, were a
Tungusic people who inhabited the region of
Manchuria until around
1630, at which point they were reformed and combined with their
neighbors as the Manchu. The Jurchen established the Jin Dynasty,
whose empire conquered the Northern Song in 1127, gaining control of
most of North China. Jin control over
China lasted until their 1234
conquest by the Mongols. The Manchus would later conquer the Ming and
establish the Qing Dynasty, which ruled
China until their overthrow in
2.2 Jin dynasty
2.3 Ming dynasty
2.4 Establishment of the Manchu
3.1 Haixi, Jianzhou, Yeren
6 Possible Jurchen descendants
7 See also
10 Further reading
11 External links
A 1682 published Italian map showing the "Kingdom of the Niuche"
(i.e., Nǚzhēn) or the "Kin (Jin) Tartars", who "have occupied and
are at present ruling China", north of
Liaodong and Korea
The initial Khitan form of the name was said to be Lüzhen. The
variant Nrjo-tsyin (now Nüzhen, whence English Nurchen) appeared in
the 10th century under the Liao dynasty. The Jurchens were also
interchangeably known as the Nrjo-drik (now Nüzhi). This is
traditionally explained as an effect of the Chinese naming taboo, with
the character 真 being removed after the 1031 enthronement of Zhigu,
Emperor Xingzong of Liao, because it appeared in the sinified form of
his personal name. Aisin-Gioro Ulhicun, however, argues that this
was a later folk etymology and the original reason was uncertainty
among dialects regarding the name's final -n.
Jurchen is an anglicization of Jurčen, an attempted
reconstruction of this unattested original form of the native name,
which has been transcribed into
Middle Chinese as Trjuwk-li-tsyin
(竹里真)[a] and into
Khitan small script
Khitan small script as Julisen. The
Sushen (Old Chinese: */siwk-[d]i[n]-s/) and Jizhen (稷真,
Old Chinese: */tsək-ti[n]/) recorded in geographical works like
Classic of Mountains and Seas
Classic of Mountains and Seas and the
Book of Wei are possibly
cognates. It was the source of Fra Mauro's Zorça and Marco
Polo's Ciorcia, reflecting the Persian form of their name.
Vajda considers that the Jurchens' name probably derives from the
Tungusic words for "reindeer people" and is cognate with the names of
the Orochs of Khabarovsk Province and the Oroks of Sakhalin.
("Horse Tungus" and "
Reindeer Tungus" are still the primary divisions
among the Tungusic cultures.)
Janhunen argues that these records already reflect the Classical
Mongolian plural form of the name, recorded in the Secret History as
J̌ürčät, and further reconstructed as *Jörcid, efnThe
modern Mongolian form is Jürčid whose medial -r- does not appear
in the later Jurchen Jucen or Jušen (Jurúna: )[b] or Manchu
Jushen. In Manchu, this word was more often used to describe the
serfs—though not slaves—of the free Manchu people, who
were themselves mostly the former Jurchens. To describe the historical
people who founded the Jin dynasty, they reborrowed the Mongolian name
See also: Timeline of the Jurchens
Siberians capturing a reindeer
At the time of their notice by Chinese historians, the Jurchen
inhabited the forests and river valleys of the land which is now
divided between China's
Heilongjiang Province and Russia's Maritime
Province. In earlier records, this area was known as the home of the
Sushen (c. 1100 BC), the Yilou (around AD 200), the Wuji
(c. 500), and the Mohe or
Malgal (c. 700). Under the Qing and
within modern scholarship,[c] some sources stress the continuity
between these earlier peoples with the Jurchen but this remains
The Tungusic Mohe tribes were subjects of the multi-ethnic kingdom of
Balhae. The Mohe enjoyed eating pork, practiced pig farming
extensively, and were mainly sedentary. They used both pig and dog
skins for coats. They were predominantly farmers and grew soybean,
wheat, millet, and rice in addition to hunting.
Jin dynasty (1115–1234)
Jin dynasty (1115–1234) and Jin–Song Wars
China in circa 1141, superimposed on modern national borders.
By the 11th century, the Jurchens had become vassals of the Khitan
rulers of the Liao dynasty. The Jurchens in the
Yalu River region had
been tributaries of
Goryeo since the reign of Wang Geon, who called
upon them during the wars of the
Later Three Kingdoms period, but the
Jurchens switched allegiance between Liao and
Goryeo multiple times
out of expedience. They offered tribute to both courts out of
political necessity and the attraction of material benefits.
Wanyan Aguda, chief of the
Wanyan tribe, unified the various Jurchen
tribes in 1115 and declared himself emperor. In 1120 he seized
Shangjing, also known as Linhuang Prefecture (臨潢府), the northern
capital of the Liao dynasty. During the Jin–Song Wars, the
Jurchens invaded the Northern
Song dynasty and overran most of
northern China. The Jurchens initially created puppet regimes such as
Qi and Chu but later adopted a dynastic name and became known as "Jin"
金, which means "gold", not to be confused with the earlier Jin 晋
dynasties named after the region around
The Jin dynasty captured the Northern Song dynasty's capital,
Bianjing, in 1127. Their armies pushed the Song all the way south to
Yangtze River and eventually settled on a border with the Southern
Song dynasty along the Huai River.
The name of the Jurchen dynasty in Chinese — meaning "gold"—is
derived from the "
Gold River" (Jurúna: Anchuhu; Manchu: Aisin)
in their ancestral homeland. The Jurchens who settled into urban
communities eventually intermarried with other ethnicities in China.
The Jin rulers themselves came to follow Confucian norms.
After 1189, the Jin dynasty became increasingly involved in conflicts
with the Mongols. By 1215, after losing much territory to the Mongols,
the Jurchens moved their capital south from
Zhongdu to Kaifeng. After
a siege lasting about a year,
Kaifeng fell to the
Mongols in 1233.
Emperor Aizong fled to Caizhou for shelter, but Caizhou also fell to
Mongols in 1234, marking the end of the Jin dynasty.
A Jurchen man hunting from his horse, from a 15th-century ink and
color painting on silk.
A late Ming era woodblock print of a Jurchen warrior.
Manchuria under Ming rule
Chinese chroniclers of the
Ming dynasty distinguished three different
groups of Jurchens: the
Wild Jurchens (野人女真; yěrén) of
northernmost Manchuria, the
Haixi Jurchens (海西女真) of modern
Heilongjiang Province and the
Jianzhou Jurchens of modern Jilin
Province. They led a pastoral-agrarian lifestyle, hunting, fishing,
and engaging in limited agriculture. In 1388, the Hongwu Emperor
dispatched a mission to establish contact with the Odoli, Huligai and
The issue of controlling the Jurchens was a point of contention
Korea and the early Ming.
Yongle Emperor (r. 1402–1424) found allies among the various
Jurchen tribes against the Mongols. He bestowed titles and surnames to
various Jurchen chiefs and expected them to send periodic tribute. One
of the Yongle Emperor's consorts was a Jurchen princess, which
resulted in some of the eunuchs serving him being of Jurchen
origin. Chinese commanderies were established over tribal military
units under their own hereditary tribal leaders. In the Yongle period,
178 commanderies were set up in Manchuria. Later on, horse markets
were established in the northern border towns of Liaodong. Increased
contact with the Chinese gave Jurchens the more complex and
sophisticated organizational structures.
Koreans dealt with the Jurchen military through appeals to
material benefits and launching punitive expeditions. To appease them
Joseon court handed out titles and degrees, trading with them, and
sought to acculturate them by having Korean women marry Jurchens and
integrating them into Korean culture. These measures were unsuccessful
and fighting continued between the Jurchen and the Koreans.
This relationship between the Jurchens and
Koreans was ended by the
Ming which envisioned the Jurchens as a form of protective border to
the north. In 1403, Ahacu, chieftain of Huligai, paid tribute to
the Yongle Emperor. Soon after that, Mentemu, chieftain of Odoli clan
of the Jianzhou Jurchens, defected from paying tribute to Korea,
becoming a tributary to
China instead. Yi Seong-gye, the first ruler
of Joseon, asked the
Ming dynasty to send
Mentemu back but was
Yongle Emperor was determined to wrest the Jurchens
out of Korean influence and have
China dominate them instead.
Koreans tried to persuade
Mentemu to reject the Ming dynasty's
overtures but were unsuccessful. The Jurchen tribes
presented tribute to the
Ming dynasty in succession. They were
divided in 384 guards by the Ming dynasty and the Jurchen became
vassals to the Ming emperors. The name given to the Jurchen land
Ming dynasty was Nurgan. Later, a Korean army led by Yi-Il and
Yi Sun-sin would expel them from Korea.
In 1409, the Ming government created the
Nurgan Command Post
(奴兒干都司) at Telin (present-day Tyr, Russia, about
100 km upstream from
Nikolayevsk-on-Amur in the Russian Far East)
in the vicinity of Heilongjiang. The Jurchens came under the nominal
administration of the
Nurgan Command Post which lasted only 25 years
and was abolished in 1434. Leaders of the Haixi and Jianzhou tribes
did however accept the Ming titles.
From 1411 to 1433, the Ming eunuch
Yishiha (who himself was a Haixi
Jurchen) led ten large missions to win over the allegiance of the
Jurchen tribes along the
Songhua River and Amur River. His fleet
sailed down the Songhua into the Amur, and set up the
at Telin near the mouth of the Amur River. These missions are not well
recorded in the Ming histories, but there exist two stone steles
Yishiha at the site of the Yongning Temple, a Guanyin
temple commissioned by him at Telin. The inscriptions on the
steles are in four languages: Chinese, Jurchen, Mongol, and Tibetan.
There is probably quite a lot of propaganda in the inscriptions, but
they give a detailed record of the Ming court's efforts to assert
suzerainty over the Jurchen. When
Nurgan for the 3rd
time in 1413, he built a temple called Yongning Temple at Telin and
Yongning Temple Stele in front of it.
Yishiha paid his
10th visit to
Nurgan in 1432, during which he rebuilt the Yongning
Temple and re-erected a stele in front of it. The stele bore the
heading "Record of Re-building Yongning Temple". The setting up of the
Nurgan Command Post and the repeated declarations to offer blessings
to this region by
Yishiha and others were all recorded in this and the
Establishment of the Manchu
Main article: Ethnic identity in the Eight Banners
Over a period of 30 years from 1586, Nurhaci, a chieftain of the
Jianzhou Jurchens, united the Jurchen tribes, which was later renamed
Manchu in 1635 by his son and successor, Hong Taiji. He created a
formidable synthesis of tribal and interethnic institutions, providing
the basis of the Manchu state and later the conquest of
China by the
The creation of the Manchu ethnic group from the
Jurchen people is
linked to the creation of the
Eight Banners by Hong Taiji.
Our gurun (tribe, state) originally had the names Manju, Hada, Ula,
Yehe, and Hoifa. Formerly ignorant persons have frequently called [us]
jušen. The term jušen refers to the Sibo and Chaomergen barbarians
and has nothing to do with our gurun. Our gurun establishes the name
Manju. Its rule will be long and transmitted over many generations.
Henceforth persons should call our gurun its original name, Manju, and
not use the previous demeaning name.
— Hong Taiji
Stone tortoise from the grave of a 12th-century Jurchen leader in
Jurchen culture shared many similarities with the hunter-gatherer
lifestyle of Siberian-Manchurian tundra and coastal peoples. Like the
Khitans and Mongols, they took pride in feats of strength,
horsemanship, archery, and hunting. Both
Mongols and Jurchens used the
title Khan for the leaders of a political entity, whether "emperor" or
"chief". A particularly powerful chief was called beile ("prince,
nobleman"), corresponding with the Mongolian beki and Turkish beg or
bey. Also like the
Mongols and the Turks, the Jurchens did not observe
primogeniture. According to tradition, any capable son or nephew could
be chosen to become leader.
Unlike the Mongols, the Jurchens were a sedentary and
agrarian society. They farmed grain and millet as their primary cereal
crops, grew flax and raised oxen, pigs, sheep, and horses."At the
most", the Jurchen could only be described as "semi-nomadic" while the
majority of them were sedentary.
Jurchen similarities and differences with the
Mongols were emphasized
to various degrees by
Nurhaci out of political expediency. Nurhaci
once 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 on any
real shared culture, but rather on pragmatic reasons of "mutual
opportunism". He said to the Mongols, "You
Mongols raise livestock,
eat meat and wear pelts. My people till the fields and live on grain.
We two are not one country and we have different languages".
During the Ming dynasty, the Jurchens lived in sub-clans (mukun or
hala mukun) of ancient clans (hala). Not all clan members were blood
related, and division and integration of different clans was common.
Jurchen households (boo) lived as families (booigon) consisting of
five to seven blood-related family members and a number of slaves.
Households formed squads (tatan) to engage in tasks related to hunting
and food gathering and formed companies (niru) for larger activities,
such as war.
Haixi, Jianzhou, Yeren
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". Hunting, horseback
archery, horsemanship, livestock raising, and sedentary agriculture
were all practiced by Jianzhou Jurchens. The Jurchen way of life
(economy) was described as agricultural. They farmed crops and raised
animals. Jurchens practiced slash-and-burn agriculture in the
areas north of Shenyang.
"The (people of) Chien-chou and Mao-lin [YLSL always reads Mao-lien]
are the descendants of the family Ta of Po-hai. They love to be
sedentary and sow, and they are skilled in spinning and weaving. As
for food, clothing and utensils, they are the same as (those used by)
the Chinese. (Those living) south of the Ch'ang-pai mountain are apt
to be soothed and governed."
Translation from Sino-J̌ürčed relations during the Yung-Lo period,
1403-1424 by Henry Serruys.
In 1126, the Jurchens initially ordered male
Han Chinese within their
conquered territories to adopt the Jurchen hairstyle by shaving the
front of their heads and adopting Jurchen dress, but the order was
later lifted. Jurchens were impersonated by Han rebels who wore
their hair in the Jurchen "pigtail" to strike fear within their
population. During the Qing dynasty, the Manchus, who descended
from the Jurchens, similarly made
Han Chinese men shave the front of
their head and wear the rest of their hair in a queue, or soncoho
(辮子; biànzi), the traditional Manchu hairstyle.
Although their Mohe ancestors did not respect dogs, the Jurchens began
to respect dogs around the time of the
Ming dynasty and passed this
tradition on to the Manchus, it was prohibited in Jurchen culture to
use dog skin, and forbidden for Jurchens to harm, kill, and eat dogs,
the Jurchens believed that the "utmost evil" was the usage of dog skin
Until recently, it was uncertain what kind of burial rites existed
among the Jurchens. In July 2012, Russian archaeologists discovered a
Jurchen burial ground in Partizansky District of Primorye in Russia.
Fifteen graves dating to the 12th or 13th centuries were found,
consisting of the grave of a chieftain placed in the centre, with the
graves of 14 servants nearby. All the graves contained pots with
ashes, prompting the scientists to conclude that the Jurchens cremated
the corpses of their dead. The grave of the chieftain also contained a
quiver with arrows and a bent sword. The archaeologists propose that
the sword was purposely bent, to signify that the owner would no
longer need it in earthly life. The researchers planned to return to
Primorye to establish whether this was a singular burial or a part of
the larger burial ground.
Jurchens practiced shamanic rituals and believed in a supreme sky
goddess (abka hehe, literally sky woman). The Jurchens of the Jin
dynasty practiced Buddhism, which became the prevalent religion of the
Jurchens, and Daoism. Under Confucian influence during the Qing
dynasty the gender of the female sky deity was switched to a male sky
father, Abka Enduri (abka-i enduri, abka-i han).
Jurchen script was invented in 1120 by
Wanyan Xiyin, acting
on the orders of
Wanyan Aguda. It was based on the
Khitan script that
was inspired in turn by Chinese characters. The written Jurchen
language died out soon after the fall of the Jin dynasty, though its
spoken form survived. Until the end of the 16th century, when Manchu
became the new literary language, the Jurchens used a combination of
Mongolian and Chinese. The pioneering work on studies of the Jurchen
script was done by
Wilhelm Grube at the end of the 19th century.
Possible Jurchen descendants
A caste of "degraded" outcasts said to be descended from the Jurchen
existed in Ningbo,
Zhejiang Province, during the Qing dynasty, around
3,000 people in a class called to-min (惰民; duòmín). Samuel Wells
Williams gave an account of them in his book "The Middle kingdom: a
survey of the ... Chinese empire and its inhabitants":
There are local prejudices against associating with some portions of
the community, though the people thus shut out are not remnants of old
castes. The tankia, or boat-people, at Canton form a class in some
respects beneath the other portions of the community, and have many
customs peculiar to themselves. At Ningpo there is a degraded set
called to min, amounting to nearly three thousand persons, with whom
the people will not associate. The men are not allowed to enter the
examinations or follow an honorable calling, but are play-actors,
musicians, or sedan-bearers; the women are match-makers or female
barbers and are obliged to wear a peculiar dress, and usually go
abroad carrying a bundle wrapped in a checkered handkerchief. The
tankia at Canton also wear a similar handkerchief on their head, and
do not cramp their feet. The to min are supposed to be descendants of
the Kin, who held northern
China in A.D. 1100, or of native traitors
who aided the Japanese, in 1555-1563, in their descent upon Chehkiang.
The tankia came from some of the Miautsz' tribes so early that their
origin is unknown.
Ethnic groups in Chinese history
List of Chieftains of the Jurchens
^ The Japanese government and Franke give the modern Mandarin
^ First attested in a late 15th-century glossary for the Ming Bureau
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Jin dynasty (1115–1234)
Jin dynasty (1115–1234) topics
Alliance Conducted at Sea
Battle of Huangtiandang
Treaty of Shaoxing
1194 Yellow River flood
Mongol conquest of the Jin dynasty
Jin dynasty coinage (1115–1234)
Zhaocheng Jin Tripitaka
History of Jin
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