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The Manchu Legacy

Nurhaci (also known as Kundulun Khan), who united various Jurchen tribes, moved his empire’s capital from Dongjing in Liaoyang to Shengjing in Shenyang to advance his plans of conquering the Ming Dynasty. His grandson, the Shunzhi Emperor, succeeded in doing so in 1644 and became the foreign ruler of China. At the time, the total population of different Manchu tribes barely exceeded 400,000. So what gave them power over more than a billion Han Chinese?

The name “Manju” (Manzhou) was invented by Nurhaci’s son, Hong Taiji. In order to give the nomads scattered throughout the empire a sense of belonging, he imparted this name to their ethnic group and installed the newly-created Manchu language as the official tongue. The emperor realised that he could only dominate the realm by combining the strengths of each tribe. Included on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2004, the Shenyang Imperial Palace (also known as Mukden Palace) combines the architectural characteristics of the Han, Manchu, Mongolian and Tibetan people, and is dubbed “The Exemplar of Chinese Palatial Architecture”.

While the Manchu people embraced Han culture during its rule of China, their own customs were gradually being assimilated. Although they comprise China’s third largest ethnic minority group with a population of over 10 million, Manchu culture is at the brink of extinction and waiting to be rescued.

At present, many devoted individuals are dedicating themselves to the preservation and passing down of Manchu culture. At Nurhaci’s birthplace, Hetu’ala City (the current Xinbin Manchu Autonomous County of Liaoning Province), Manchurian primary schools have designed classes on Manchu language and culture for their students. Meanwhile, Mr. Guan Changsheng, the inheritor of the art of Manchurian paper-cutting, is recording the ethnic group’s traditions using his craft. Despite ulabun, a storytelling entertainment which is performed in the Manchu language, being a lost art, Mr. Cha Shuyuan, who has been involved in its performance for almost 60 years, continues to hope that Manchu legends and folktales can be passed down through a mixture of singing and recital.

爱新觉罗‧恒绍, the seventh-generation grandson of the Qianlong Emperor, is the current head of the Aisin Gioro clan. In July each year, he leads his family, tribe, and other Manchu descendants in paying respects to their ancestors at the Yongling Tombs, an ancestral burial ground, as a sign of ethnic unity and to uphold the traditional virtue of ancestor reverence.

Producer: Joseph Hung

Broadcast on 2nd March 2016
on RTHK TV31 6:30 p.m.

Cultural Heritage-Ancient Capital

‘Cultural Heritage - Ancient Capital’ is the 5th series of 'Cultural Heritage' programme, with 8 episodes of documentary to explore different important capitals throughout the thousands of years in the Chinese history. These capitals, though all facing modernization nowadays, the marks of civilization glories can be traced, and the precious value of traditional spirit can still be found.
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