History, Knowledge


Although the Manchu, as invaders in the early days, had a clear enemy image, the two peoples were soon indistinguishable. The original Manchu culture quickly merged with that of the Han. The language was also lost more and more. Conversely, the Han also adopted many Manchu customs. The two peoples merged. In 1880 the linguist Paul Georg von Möllendorf wrote in a letter that Manchurian was only used orally for ceremonial purposes at court. It is very likely that the disappearance of the Manchurian language among the people began much earlier.


The Manchu or Manchurian people originate from the northeast of China. They emerged from the numerous tribes of the Jurchen who conquered this area. A tribal lord named Nurhaci probably united the tribes in 1616 in the late Ying Dynasty into a single people, the Manchus. His son, Huang Taiji, took over the leadership from his father and founded the Qing Dynasty.

After 1644 when the ‘peasant emperor’ Li Zicheng conquered Beijing from the last Ming emperor, a great chaos arose. Huang Taiji took advantage of this and conquered the city. Beijing became the capital of the young Qing Dynasty. Within a few years the Manchu conquered the entire Ming territory. In the course of this conquest the southern Shaolin monastery was destroyed.

On the one hand, the Manchu took over Chinese traditions and integrated the Han into the administration of the territories, but on the other hand they also strictly separated Han and Manchu. For example, mixed weddings were strictly forbidden. The male Han were also forced to wear the typical plaits with the shaved forehead.

It could not be prevented, however, that the two peoples living together on the same land came closer and closer together. The Manchurian language, for example, began to die out more and more until finally, in 1880, almost no Manchu was spoken anymore. The language was only used for ritual purposes. Likewise, the Manchurian plaits, the sign of submission, became more and more part of the Han culture, until the men finally wore them with pride.

The Manchu era ended in the twentieth century with the last emperor Yuan Shikai after years of turmoil. Today the Manchus are a recognized minority. Their language is spoken only by a few old people and is practically extinct.

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