Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Chinese Kyrgyz People

The Kyrgyz are a ethnic group found primarily in Kyrgyzstan.


There are several etymological theories on the name "Kyrgyz." First, the name Kyrgyz may mean "forty girls" , a reference to the . This is symbolized by the yellow sun in the center of the flag of Kyrgyzstan, which has 40 rays referring to forty Kyrgyz tribes. Next, a meaning of "forty tribes" which makes more direct sense. Finally, a meaning , meaning "imperishable", "inextinguishable" or "undying". This version has an obvious popular appreciation. Historical evidence for many conflicts with other peoples also supports this theory.

The Chinese transcription ''"Tse-gu" '' allows to restore the pronunciation of the ethnonym as ''Kirkut '' and ''Kirkur ''. Both forms go back to the earliest variation ''Kirkün'' of the term "Kyrgyz" meaning "Field People", "Field Huns". The term ''Kirkün'' went through a notable evolution: ''Kirkün = Kirkut = Kirkur = Kyrkyz ''. The evolution is traced well chronologically. The semantic connection between ''kün '' and ''gür'' is obvious, chronologically consecutive development of the concept ''kün = "female progenitor" = her offsprings = "tribe" = "a people"'' at the last stage coincides with the ''gür = "people"'', like in the Khitan title Gurkhan. Application of affixes of plurality "t" - "r" - "z" in the ethnonym ''Kirkun'' shaded the initial sound, and then also the meaning, making its roots enigmatic. By the Mongol epoch, the initial meaning of the word ''Kirkun'' was already lost, evidenced by differing readings of the earlier reductions of the Uanshi. The change of ethnonym produced a new version of an origin, and the memory about their steppe motherland, recorded in Uanshi, survived only as a recollection of the initial birthplace of forty women. Subsequently, however, that recollection was also lost.


The early Kyrgyz people, known as Yenisei Kyrgyz or Xiajiasi, first appear in written records in the Chinese annals of the Sima Qian's ''Records of the Grand Historian'' , as ''Gekun'' or ''Jiankun'' . The Middle Age Chinese composition ''"Tanghuiyao"'' of the 8-10th century transcribed the name "Kyrgyz" Tsze-gu , and their tamga was depicted identical with the tamga of present day Kyrgyz tribes Azyk, Bugu, Cherik, Sary Bagysh and few others. According to recent historical findings, Kyrgyz history dates back to 201 BC. The Yenisei Kyrgyz lived in the upper Yenisey River valley, central Siberia. Yenisei Kyrgyzes in the Late Antique times were a part of the tribes. Later, in the Early Middle Age, Yenisei Kyrgyzes were under the rule of Kaganate and Kaganate. In 840 a revolt led by Yenisei Kyrgyzes brought down the Uigur Kaganate, and brought the Yenisei Kyrgyzes to a dominating position in the former Turkic Kaganate. With the rise to power, the center of the Kyrgyz Kaganate moved to Jeti-su, and brought about a spread south of the Kyrgyz people, to reach Tian Shan mountains and Eastern Turkestan, bringing them immediately to the borders of China and Tibet. By the 16th century the carriers of the ethnonym ''"Kirgiz"'' lived in South Siberia, Eastern Turkestan, Tian Shan, , Middle Asia, Urals , in Kazakhstan. In the Tian Shan and Eastern Turkestan area, the term ''"Kyrgyz"'' retained its unifying political designation, and became a general ethnonym for the Yenisei Kirgizes and aboriginal Turkic tribes that presently constitute the Kyrgyz population. Though it is obviously impossible to directly identify the Yenisei and Tien Shan Kyrgyzes, a trace of their ethnogenetical connections is apparent in archaeology, history, language and ethnography. Majority of modern researchers came to a conclusion that the ancestors of the southern Kyrgyz tribes had their origin in the most ancient tribal unions of Sakas and , Dinlins and Huns. Approximately 300,000 Yenisei Kyrgyzes survived in the Tuva depression until present.

Chinese and Muslim sources of the 7th–12th centuries AD describe the Kyrgyz as red-haired with fair complexion and green eyes.

The descent of the Kyrgyz from the autochthonous Siberian population is confirmed by recent genetic studies. Remarkably, 63% of modern Kyrgyz men share Haplogroup R1a1 with Tajiks , Ukrainians , Poles and Hungarians , and even Icelanders . Haplogroup R1a1 is variously believed to be a marker of the Proto-Indo-European language and Turkic speakers.

Political development

The Kyrgyz state reached its greatest expansion after defeating the Kaganate in 840 AD. Then Kyrgyz quickly moved as far as the Tian Shan range and maintained their dominance over this territory for about 200 years. In the 12th century, however, the Kyrgyz domination had shrunk to the Range and the Sayan Mountains as a result of the rising Mongol expansion. With the rise of the Mongol Empire in the 13th century, the Kyrgyz migrated south. In 1207, after the establishment of Yekhe Mongol Ulus , Genghis Khan's oldest son Jochi occupied Kyrgyzstan without resistance. They remained a Mongol vassal until the late of 14th century.

Various Turkic peoples ruled them until 1685, when they came under the control of the Kalmyks .


Kyrgyz are predominantly Muslims. was first introduced by Arab traders who travelled along the Silk Road in the seventh and eight century.

In the 8th century, orthodox Islam reached the Fergana valley with the . Atheism, on the other hand, took some following in the northern regions under Russian communist influence. As of today, few cultural rituals of Shamanism are still practiced alongside with Islam particularly in Central Kyrgyzstan. During a July 2007 interview, Bermet Akayeva, the daughter of Askar Akayev, the former President of Kyrgyzstan, stated that Islam is increasingly taking root even in the northern portion which came under communist influence. She emphasized that many mosques have been built and that the Kyrgyz are increasingly devoting themselves to Islam, which she noted was "not a bad thing in itself. It keeps our society more moral, cleaner."

The Kyrgyz in China

The Kyrgyz form one of the officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. There are more than 145,000 Kyrgyz in China. They are known in China as ''Kēěrkèzī zú'' .

They are found mainly in the Kizilsu Kirghiz Autonomous Prefecture in the southwestern part of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, with a smaller remainder found in the neighboring Wushi , , Shache , Yingisar, and Pishan , and in Tekes, Zhaosu , Emin , Bole , Jinghev and Gonliu in northern Xinjiang. Several hundred Kyrgyz whose forefathers emigrated to Northeast China more than 200 years ago now live in Wujiazi Village in Fuyu County, Heilongjiang Province.

Certain segments of the Kyrgyz in China are followers of Tibetan Buddhism.

Notable Kyrgyz people

*Chinghiz Aitmatov - author
*Askar Akayev - politician, scientist, first President of Kyrgyzstan
*Kurmanbek Bakiyev - politician, current President of Kyrgyzstan
*Kurmanjan Datka - politician, former stateswoman
*Felix Kulov - politician, former Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan
*Abdylas Maldybaev - actor/musician
*Zamira Sydykova - journalist/ambassador
*Omurbek Tekebayev - politician, speaker of the
*Kasym Tynystanov - a prominent Kyrgyz scientist, politician and poet, first minister of education
*Nasirdin Isanov - politician, first Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan
*Orzubek Nazarov - former World Boxing Association lightweight boxing champion

See also

* Kyrgyz language
* List of indigenous peoples of Russia
* History of Kyrgyzstan
* History of Kazakhstan
* History of Tuva
* History of China
* Eagle hunting
* Turkic languages
* R1a1

References and further reading

* Abramzon, S.M. ''"Kirgizes and their ethnogenetical historical and cultural connections"'', Moscow, 1971, ISBN 5-655-00518-2 ''''.
* Kyzlasov, L.R.''"Mutual relationship of terms ''Khakas'' and ''Kyrgyz'' in written sources of 6-12th centuries"''. Peoples of Asia and Africa, 1968, ''''.
* Zuev, Yu.A. ''"Kirgiz - Buruts". Soviet Ethnography, 1970, No 4, ''''.
* Shahrani, M. Nazif. ''The Kirghiz and Wakhi of Afghanistan: Adaptation to Closed Frontiers and War''. University of Washington Press. 1st paperback edition with new preface and epilogue . ISBN 0-295-98262-4.
* ''Kyrgyz Republic'', by Rowan Stewart and Susie Steldon, by Odyssey publications.

Chinese Taiwanese People

Taiwanese aborigines is the term commonly applied in reference to the indigenous peoples of Taiwan. Although Taiwanese indigenous groups hold a variety of , recent research suggests their ancestors may have been living on the islands for approximately 8000 years before major Han Chinese immigration began in the 17th century . The Taiwanese Aborigines are Austronesian peoples, with linguistic and genetic ties to other Austronesian ethnic groups, such as peoples of the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Madagascar and Oceania . The issue of an unconnected to the Asian mainland has become one thread in the discourse regarding the political status of Taiwan.

For centuries, Taiwan’s aboriginal peoples experienced economic competition and military conflict with a series of colonizing peoples. Centralized government policies designed to foster language shift and cultural assimilation, as well as continued contact with the colonizers through trade, intermarriage and other dispassionate intercultural processes, have resulted in varying degrees of language death and loss of original cultural identity. For example, of the approximately 26 known languages of the Taiwanese Aborigines , at least ten are , five are and several are to some degree . These languages are of unique historical significance, since most consider Taiwan to be the original homeland of the language family .

Taiwan’s Austronesian speakers were formerly distributed over much of the island’s rugged central mountain range and were concentrated in villages along the alluvial plains. As of January 2006, their total population is around 458,000 . The bulk of contemporary Taiwanese Aborigines reside in the mountains and the cities .

The indigenous peoples of Taiwan face economic and social barriers, including a high unemployment rate and substandard education. Many Aboriginal groups have been actively seeking a higher degree of political self-determination and economic development since the early 1980s . A revival of ethnic pride is expressed in many ways by Aborigines, including incorporating elements of their culture into commercially successful pop music. Efforts are underway in indigenous communities to revive traditional cultural practices and preserve their traditional languages. Several Aboriginal tribes are becoming extensively involved in the tourism and ecotourism industries to achieve increased economic self-reliance from the state .

Plains, Mountains and Tribal definitions

For most of their recorded history, Taiwanese Aborigines have been defined by the agents of different Confucian, Christian, and Nationalist “civilizing” projects, with a variety of aims. Each “civilizing” project defined the Aborigines based on the “civilizer’s” cultural understandings of difference and similarity, behavior, location, appearance and prior contact with other groups of people . Taxonomies imposed by colonizing forces divided the Aborigines into named subgroups, referred to as “tribes”. These divisions did not always correspond to distinctions drawn by the Aborigines themselves. However, the categories have become so firmly established in government and popular discourse over time that they have become de facto distinctions, serving to shape in part today’s political discourse within the Republic of China , and affecting Taiwan’s policies regarding indigenous peoples.

The Han sailor, Chen Di, in his ''Record of the Eastern Seas'' , identifies the indigenous people of Taiwan as simply 東番, or “Eastern Savage”, while the Dutch referred to Taiwan’s original inhabitants as ''“Indians”'' or ''“blacks”'', based on their prior colonial experience in what is currently Indonesia .

Beginning nearly a century later, as the rule of the expanded over wider groups of people, writers and gazetteers recast their descriptions away from reflecting degree of acculturation, and toward a system that defined the Aborigines relative to their submission or hostility to Qing rule. Qing literati used the term "raw/wild" to define those people who had not submitted to Qing rule, and "cooked/tame" for those who had pledged their allegiance through their payment of a head tax. According to the standards of the Qianlong Emperor and successive regimes, “cooked” was synonymous with having assimilated to Han cultural norms, and living as a subject of the Empire, but retained a pejorative designation to signify the perceived cultural lacking of the non-Han people , . This designation reflected the prevailing idea that anyone could be civilized/tamed by adopting Confucian social norms .

As the Qing consolidated their power over the plains and struggled to enter the mountains in the late 19th century, the terms “Plains tribes” Pepo or Pingpu zu 平埔族 and “High Mountain tribes” Gao shan zu 高山族 were used interchangeably with the terms “Raw” and “Cooked” . During the 50 years of Japanese colonial rule , anthropologists from Japan maintained the binary classification. In 1900 they incorporated it into their own colonial project by employing the term Peipo for the “cooked tribes”, and creating a category of “recognized tribes” for the Aborigines who had formerly been called “raw”. They referred to them as ''takasagozoku'' . The latter group included the , , , , , , and peoples. The and were added later, for a total of nine recognized tribes . During the early period of Chinese Nationalist Kuomintang rule the terms Shandi Tongbao 山地同胞 “mountain compatriots” and Pingdi Tongbao 平地同胞 “plains compatriots” were invented, to remove the presumed taint of Japanese influence and reflect the place of Taiwan’s indigenous people in the Chinese Nationalist state . The KMT later adopted the use of all the earlier Japanese groupings except “Peipo”.

Despite recent changes in the field of anthropology and a shift in Taiwanese government objectives, the Gaoshan and Pingpu labels in use today maintain the form given by the Qing to reflect Aborigines’ acculturation to Han culture. The current recognized Aborigines are all regarded as Gaoshan, though the divisions are not and have never been based strictly on geographical location. The Amis, Saisiat, Tao and Kavalan are all traditionally eastern plains cultures . The distinction between Plains and Gaoshan people continues to affect Taiwan’s policies regarding indigenous peoples, and their ability to participate effectively in government .

Although the ROC’s Government Information Office officially lists 13 major groupings as “tribes” the consensus among scholars maintains that these 13 groupings do not reflect any social entities, political collectives, or self-identified alliances dating from pre-modern Taiwan . The earliest detailed records, dating from the Dutch arrival in 1624, describe the Aborigines as living in independent villages of varying size. Between these villages there was frequent trade, intermarriage, warfare and alliances against common enemies. Using contemporary ethnographic and linguistic criteria, these villages have been classed by anthropologists into more than 20 broad ethnic groupings , which were never united under a common polity, kingdom or “tribe” .

Recognized peoples

The government on Taiwan officially recognizes distinct tribes among the indigenous community based upon the qualifications drawn up by the Council of Indigenous Peoples . To gain this recognition, tribes must gather a number of signatures and a body of supportive evidence in order to successfully petition the CIP. Formal recognition confers certain legal benefits and rights upon a group, as well as providing them with the satisfaction of recovering their separate identity as a tribe. As of May 2008, 14 tribes have been recognized.

The Council of Indigenous Peoples consider several limited factors in a successful formal petition. The determining factors include collecting member genealogies, group histories and evidence of a continued linguistic and cultural identity . The lack of documentation and the extinction of many indigenous languages as the result of colonial cultural and language policies have made the prospect of official recognition of many tribes a remote possibility. Current trends in ethno-tourism have led many former plains Aborigines to continue to seek cultural revival .

Among the plains Aboriginal groups that have petitioned for tribal status, only the and have been officially recognized. The remaining twelve recognized tribes are traditionally regarded as mountain Aboriginals.

Other tribal groups or subgroups that have pressed for recovery of legal Aboriginal status include the Chimo the Kakabu, Makatao, Pazeh, and Siraya . The act of petitioning for recognized status, however, does not always reflect any consensus view among scholars that the relevant group should in fact be categorized as a separate tribe.

There is discussion among both scholars and political groups regarding the best or most appropriate name to use for many of the tribes and their languages, as well as the proper romanization of that name. Commonly cited examples of this ambiguity include and .

Nine of the tribes were originally recognized prior to 1945 by the Japanese government . The Thao, Kavalan and Truku were recognized by Taiwan’s government in 2001, 2002 and 2004 respectively. The Sakizaya were recognized as a 13th tribe on January 172007 , and on April 23 2008 the Sediq were recognized as Taiwan's 14th official tribe . Previously the Sakizaya had been listed as Amis and the Sediq as Atayal. A full list of the recognized tribes of Taiwan, as well as some of the more commonly cited unrecognized tribal groups, is as follows:

:* Recognized: , , , , , , , , , , , , , and .

:* Unrecognized: , , , , Luilang, /, , Qauqaut, , , Trobiawan.

Taiwanese Aborigines in the People's Republic of China

The Taiwanese Aborigines in the People's Republic of China are collectively known as the “Gaoshan” and are one of the officially recognized by the PRC. They are descendants of the indigenous peoples of Taiwan who were in China at the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 . According to the 2000 Census, 4,461 people were identified as Gaoshan.
Some surveys indicate that of the 4,461 “Gaoshan” recorded in the 2000 Census, it is estimated that there are 1,500 Amis, 1,300 Bunun, 510 Paiwan, and the remainder belonging to other tribes .

Assimilation and acculturation

Archaeological, linguistic and anecdotal evidence suggests that Taiwan’s indigenous peoples have undergone a series of cultural shifts to meet the pressures of contact with other societies and new technologies . Beginning in the early 17th century, Taiwanese Aborigines faced broad cultural change as the island became incorporated into the wider global economy by a succession of competing colonial regimes from Europe and Asia . In some cases groups of Aborigines resisted colonial influence, but other groups and individuals readily aligned with the colonial powers. This alignment could be leveraged to achieve personal or collective economic gain, collective power over neighboring villages or freedom from unfavorable societal customs and taboos involving marriage, age-grade and child birth .

Particularly among the Pingpu, as the degree of the “civilizing projects” increased during each successive regime, the Aborigines found themselves in greater contact with outside cultures. The process of acculturation and sometimes followed gradually in the wake of broad social currents, particularly the removal of ethnic markers , which had formerly distinguished ethnic groups on Taiwan . The removal or replacement of these brought about an incremental transformation from “Fan” to the dominant Confucian “Han” culture . During the Japanese and KMT periods centralized modernist government policies, rooted in ideas of Social Darwinism and culturalism directed education, genealogical customs and other traditions toward ethnic assimilation , . Ethnic shift among the Gaoshan, who had less contact with outsiders due to the inaccessibility of their lands, was more the result of centralized assimilative pressures than gradual social change. Nonetheless, the cultures and languages of most of the recognized tribes remain resilient today. Multicultural policies have contributed to ethnic pride in those communities.

Many of these forms of assimilation are still at work today. For example, when a central authority s one language, that attaches economic and social advantages to the prestige language. As generations pass, use of the indigenous language often fades or disappears, and linguistic and cultural identity recede as well. However, some groups are seeking to revive their indigenous identities . One important political aspect of this pursuit is petitioning the government for official recognition as a separate and distinct tribe.

The complexity and scope of Aboriginal assimilation and acculturation on Taiwan has led to three general narratives of Taiwanese ethnic change. The oldest narrative holds that Han migration from Fujian and Guangdong in the 17th Century pushed the plains Aborigines into the mountains, where they became the highland tribes of today . A relatively newer view asserts that through widespread intermarriage between Han and Aborigines between the 17th and 19th centuries, the Aborigines were completely sinicized . Finally, modern and studies have shown a pattern of cultural shift mutually experienced by both Han and Plains Aborigines, resulting in a hybrid culture. Today people who comprise Taiwan’s ethnic Han demonstrate major cultural differences from Han elsewhere .

Surnames and identity

Several factors encouraged the assimilation of the plains tribes. Taking a Han name was a necessary step in instilling Confucian values in the Aborigines . Confucian values were necessary to be recognized as a full person and to operate within the Confucian Qing state . A surname in Han society was viewed as the most prominent legitimizing marker of a patrilineal ancestral link to the Yellow Emperor and the of Han mythology . Possession of a Han surname, then, could confer a broad range of significant economic and social benefits upon Aborigines, despite a prior non-Han identity or mixed parentage. In some cases, members of plains tribes adopted the Han surname Pan as a modification of their designated status as Fan . One family of Pazih became members of the local gentry complete with a lineage to . In other cases, plains Aborigine families adopted common Han surnames, but traced their earliest ancestor to their locality in Taiwan.

In many cases, large groups of immigrant Han would unite under a common surname to form a brotherhood. Brotherhoods were used as a form of defense, as each sworn brother was bound by an oath of blood to assist a brother in need. The brotherhood groups would link their names to a family tree, in essence manufacturing a genealogy based on names rather than blood, and taking the place of the kinship organizations commonly found in China. The practice was so widespread that today’s family books are largely unreliable . Many plains aborigines joined the brotherhoods to gain protection of the collective as a type of insurance policy against regional strife, and through these groups they took on a Han identity with a Han lineage.

The degree to which any one of these forces held sway over others is unclear. Preference for one explanation over another is sometimes predicated upon a given political viewpoint. The cumulative effect of these dynamics is that by the beginning of the twentieth century the plains tribes were almost completely acculturated into the larger ethnic Han group, and had experienced nearly total language shift from their respective Formosan languages to . In addition, legal barriers to the use of traditional surnames persisted until recently, and cultural barriers remain. Aborigines were not permitted to use their traditional names on official identification cards until 1995 when a ban on using Aboriginal names dating from 1946 was finally lifted. One obstacle is that household registration forms allow a maximum of 15 characters for personal names. However, aboriginal names are still phonetically translated into Chinese characters, and many names require more than the allotted space .

History of the Aboriginal Peoples

Chipped-pebble tools dating from perhaps as early as 15,000 years ago suggest that the initial human inhabitants of Taiwan were Paleolithic cultures of the Pleistocene era. These people survived by eating marine life. Archaeological evidence points to an abrupt change to the Neolithic era around 6000 years ago, with the advent of agriculture, domestic animals, polished stone adzes and pottery. The stone adzes were mass-produced on Penghu and nearby islands, from the volcanic rock found there. This suggests heavy sea traffic took place between these islands and Taiwan at this time .

Recorded history of the Aborigines on Taiwan began around the seventeenth century, and has often been dominated by the views and policies of foreign powers and non-Aborigines. Beginning with the arrival of Dutch merchants in 1624, the traditional lands of the aborigines have been successively colonized by , , , , and rulers. Each of these successive “civilizing” cultural centers participated in violent conflict and peaceful economic interaction with both the Plains and Mountain tribal groups. To varying degrees, they influenced or transformed the culture and language of the indigenous peoples.

Four centuries of non-indigenous rule can be viewed through several changing periods of governing power and shifting official policy toward aborigines. From the seventeenth century until the early twentieth, the impact of the foreign settlers — the Dutch, Spanish and Han — was more extensive on the Plains tribes. The latter were far more geographically accessible, and thus had more dealings with the foreign powers. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the Plains tribes had largely been assimilated into contemporary Taiwanese culture as a result of European and Han colonial rule. Until the latter half of the Japanese colonial era the Mountain tribes were not entirely governed by any non-tribal polity. However, the mid-1930’s marked a shift in the intercultural dynamic, as the Japanese began to play a far more dominant role in the culture of the highland groups. This increased degree of control over the Mountain tribes continued during Kuomintang rule.

Within these two broad eras, there were many differences in the individual and regional impact of the colonizers and their “civilizing projects”. At times the foreign powers were accepted readily, as some tribes adopted foreign clothing styles and cultural practices , and engaged in cooperative trade in goods such as camphor, deer hides, sugar, tea and rice . At numerous other times changes from the outside world were forcibly imposed.

Much of the historical information regarding Taiwan’s Aborigines was collected by these regimes in the form of administrative reports and gazettes as part of greater “civilizing” projects. The collection of information aided in the consolidation of administrative control.

Plains Aboriginals

The Plains Aborigines mainly lived in stationary village sites surrounded by defensive walls of bamboo. The village sites in southern Taiwan were more populated than other locations. Some villages supported a population of more than 1500 people, surrounded by smaller satellite villages . villages were constructed of dwellings made of thatch and bamboo, raised 2 from the ground on stilts, with each household having a barn for livestock. A watchtower was located in the village to look out for headhunting parties from the highland tribes. The concept of property was often communal, with a series of conceptualized concentric rings around each village. The innermost ring was used for gardens and orchards that followed a fallowing cycle around the ring. The second ring was used to cultivate plants and natural fibers for the exclusive use of the tribe. The third ring was for exclusive hunting and deer fields for tribal use. The plains people hunted herds of spotted deer and muntjak as well as conducting light millet farming. Sugar and rice were grown as well, but mostly for use in preparing wine .

Many of the plains peoples were matrilineal/matrifocal societies. Men married into a woman’s family after a courtship period where the woman was free to reject as many men as she wished before marriage. In the age-grade communities, couples entered into marriage in their mid-30s when a man would no longer be required to perform military service or hunt heads on the battle-field. In the matriarchal system of the Siraya, it was also necessary for couples to abstain from marriage until their mid-thirties, when the bride’s father would be in his declining years and would not pose a challenge to the new male member of the household. It was not until the arrival of the Dutch Reformed Church in the 17th Century, that the marriage and child-birth taboos were abolished. There is some indication that many of the younger members of Sirayan society embraced the Dutch marriage customs as a means to circumvent the age-grade system in a push for greater village power . Almost all indigenous peoples in Taiwan have traditionally had a custom of sexual division of labor. Women did the sewing, cooking and farming, while the men hunted and prepared for military activity and securing enemy heads in headhunting raids, which was a common practice in early Taiwan. Women were also often found in the office of priestess or medium to the gods.

The European period

During the European period soldiers and traders representing the Dutch East India Company maintained a colony in southwestern Taiwan near present-day Tainan City. This established an Asian base for triangular trade between the company, the Qing Dynasty and Japan, with the hope of interrupting Portuguese and Spanish trading alliances. The Spanish also maintained a colony in northern Taiwan in present-day Keelung. However, Spanish influence wavered almost from the beginning, so that by the late 1630s they had already withdrawn most of their troops . After they were driven out of Taiwan by a combined Dutch and Aboriginal force in 1642, the Spanish “had little effect on Taiwan’s history” . Dutch influence was far more significant: expanding to the southwest and north of the island, they set up a tax system and established schools and churches in many villages.

When the arrived in 1624 at Tayouan Harbor, Siraya-speaking representatives from nearby Saccam village soon appeared at the Dutch stockade to barter and trade; an overture which was readily welcomed by the Dutch. The Sirayan villages were, however, divided into warring factions: the village of Sinckan was at war with Mattau and its ally Baccluan, while the village of maintained uneasy neutrality. In 1629 a Dutch expeditionary force searching for Han pirates, was massacred by warriors from Mattau, and the victory inspired other villages to rebel . In 1635, with reinforcements having arrived from , the Dutch subjugated and burned Mattau. Since Mattau was the most powerful village in the area, the victory brought a spate of peace offerings from other nearby villages, many of which were outside the Siraya area. This was the beginning of Dutch consolidation over large parts of Taiwan, which brought an end to centuries of inter-village warfare . The new period of peace allowed the Dutch to construct schools and churches aimed to acculturate and convert the indigenous population . Dutch schools taught a romanized script , which the Siraya language. This script maintained occasional use through the 18th century . Today only fragments survive, in documents and stone stele markers. The schools also served to maintain alliances and open aboriginal areas for Dutch enterprise and commerce.

The Dutch soon found trade in deerskins and venison in the East Asian market to be a lucrative endeavor , and recruited plains Aborigines to procure the hides. The deer trade attracted the first Han traders to Aboriginal villages, but as early as 1642 the demand for deer greatly diminished the deer stocks. This drop significantly reduced the prosperity of Aboriginal tribes , forcing many Aborigines to take up farming to counter the economic impact of losing their most vital food source.

As the Dutch began subjugating Aboriginal villages in the south and west of Taiwan, increasing numbers of Han immigrants looked to exploit areas that were fertile and rich in game. The Dutch initially encouraged this, since the Han were skilled in agriculture and large-scale hunting. Several Han took up residence in Siraya villages. The Dutch used Han agents to collect taxes, hunting license fees and other income. This set up a society in which “... many of the colonists were Han Chinese but the military and the administrative structures were Dutch” . Despite this, local alliances transcended ethnicity during the Dutch period. For example, the Kuo Huai-i Rebellion in 1652, a Han farmers’ uprising, was defeated by an alliance of 120 Dutch musketeers with the aid of Han loyalists and 600 Aboriginal braves .

The Dutch period ended in 1662 when loyalist forces of Zheng Chenggong drove out the Dutch and established the short-lived on Taiwan. The Zhengs brought 70,000 soldiers to Taiwan and immediately began clearing large tracts of land to support its forces. Despite the preoccupation with fighting the Qing, the Zheng family was concerned with Aboriginal welfare on Taiwan. The Zhengs built alliances, collected taxes and erected Aboriginal schools, where Taiwan’s Aborigines were first introduced to the Confucian Classics and Chinese writing . However, the impact of the Dutch was deeply ingrained in Aboriginal society. In the 19th and 20th century, European explorers wrote of being welcomed as kin by the aborigines who thought they were the Dutch, who had promised to return .

Qing rule

After the Qing government defeated the Ming loyalist forces maintained by the Zheng family in 1683, parts of Taiwan became increasingly integrated into the Qing Empire . Qing forces ruled areas of Taiwan’s highly populated western plain for nearly two centuries, until 1895. This era was characterized by a marked increase in the number of Han Chinese on Taiwan, continued social unrest, the piecemeal transfer of large amounts of land from the aborigines to the Han, and the nearly complete acculturation of the western plains Aborigines to Taiwanese Han customs.

During the Qing Dynasty’s two-century rule over Taiwan, the population of Han on the island increased dramatically. However, it is not clear to what extent this was due to an influx of Han settlers, who were predominantly displaced young men from Zhangzhou and Quanzhou in or from a variety of other factors, including: frequent intermarriage between Han and Aborigines, the replacement of aboriginal marriage and abortion taboos, and the widespread adoption of the Han agricultural lifestyle due to the depletion of traditional game stocks, which may have led to increased birth rates and population growth. Moreover, the acculturation of Aborigines in increased numbers may have intensified the perception of a swell in the number of Han.

The Qing government officially sanctioned controlled Han settlement, but sought to manage tensions between the various regional and ethnic groups. Therefore it often recognized the plains tribes’ claims to deer fields and traditional territory . The Qing authorities hoped to turn the plains tribes into loyal subjects, and adopted the head and corveé taxes on the Aborigines, which made the plains aborigines directly responsible for payment to the government yamen. The attention paid by the Qing authorities to aboriginal land rights was part of a larger administrative goal to maintain a level of peace on the turbulent Taiwan frontier, which was often marred by ethnic and regional conflict. The frequency of rebellions, riots, and civil strife in Qing Dynasty Taiwan is often encapsulated in the saying “every three years an uprising; every five years a rebellion” . Aboriginal participation in a number of major revolts during the Qing era, including the Taokas-led Ta-Chia-hsi revolt of 1731–1732, ensured the plains tribes would remain an important factor in crafting Qing frontier policy until the end of Qing rule in 1895 .

The struggle over land resources was one source of conflict. Large areas of the western plain were subject to large land rents called ''Huan Da Zu'' , a category which remained until the period of Japanese colonization. The large tracts of deer field, guaranteed by the Qing, were owned by the tribes and their individual members. The tribes would commonly offer Han farmers a permanent patent for use, while maintaining ownership of the subsoil , which was called “two lords to a field” . The plains tribes were often cheated out of land or pressured to sell at unfavorable rates. Some disaffected subgroups moved to central or eastern Taiwan, but most remained in their ancestral locations and acculturated or assimilated into Han society .

Migration to Highlands

One popular narrative holds that all of the Gaoshan tribes were originally plains tribes, which fled to the mountains under pressure from Han encroachment. This strong version of the “migration” theory has been largely discounted by contemporary research as the Gaoshan people demonstrate a physiology, material cultures and customs that have been adapted for life at higher elevations. Linguistic, archaeological, and recorded anecdotal evidence also suggests there has been island-wide migration of indigenous peoples for over 3000 years.

Small sub-groups of plains Aborigines may have occasionally fled to the mountains, foothills or eastern plain to escape hostile groups of Han or other Aborigines .
The “displacement scenario” is more likely rooted in the older customs of many plains groups to withdraw into the foothills during headhunting season or when threatened by a neighboring village as observed by the Dutch during their punitive campaign of Mattou in 1636 when the bulk of the village retreated to Tevoraan .
The “displacement scenario” may also stem from the inland migrations of plains aborigine subgroups, who were displaced by either Han or other plains aborigines and chose to move to the Iilan plain in 1804, the Puli basin in 1823 and another Puli migration in 1875. Each migration consisted of a number of families and totaled hundreds of people, not entire tribes . There are also recorded oral histories that recall some Plains aborigines were sometimes captured and killed by highlands tribes while relocating through the mountains . However, as explained in detail, documented evidence shows that the majority of plains people remained on the plains, intermarried immigrants from Fujian, and adopted a Han identity, where they remain today.

Highland tribes

Imperial Chinese and European societies had little contact with the Highland Aborigines until expeditions to the region by European and American explorers and missionaries commenced in the 19th and early 20th centuries . The lack of data before this was primarily the result of a Qing quarantine on the region to the east of the “earth oxen” border, which ran along the eastern edge of the western plain. Han contact with the mountain tribes was usually associated with the enterprise of gathering and extracting camphor from Camphor Laurel trees , native to the island and in particular the mountainous areas. The production and shipment of camphor was then a significant industry on the island, lasting up to and including the period of Japanese rule . These early encounters often involved headhunting parties from the highland tribes, who sought out and raided unprotected Han forest workers. Together with traditional Han concepts of Taiwanese behavior, these raiding incidents helped to promote the Qing-era popular image of the “violent” aborigine .

Plains aborigines were often employed and dispatched as interpreters to assist in the trade of goods between Han merchants and highlands Aborigines. The Aborigines traded cloth, pelts and meat for iron and matchlock rifles. Iron was a necessary material for the fabrication of hunting knives —long, curved sabers that were generally used as a forest tool. These blades became notorious among Han settlers, given their alternative use to decapitate highland tribal enemies in customary headhunting expeditions.


The highland tribes were renowned for their skill in headhunting, which was a symbol of bravery and valor . Almost every tribe except the Yami practiced headhunting. Once the victims had been dispatched the heads were taken then boiled and left to dry, often hanging from trees or shelves constructed for the purpose. A party returning with a head was cause for celebration, as it would bring good luck. The Bunun people would often take prisoners and inscribe prayers or messages to their dead on arrows, then shoot their prisoner with the hope their prayers would be carried to the dead. Han settlers were often the victims of headhunting raids as they were considered by the Aborigines to be liars and enemies. A headhunting raid would often strike at workers in the fields, or employ the ruse of setting a dwelling alight and then decapitating the inhabitants as they fled the burning structure. It was also customary to later raise the victim’s surviving children as full members of the tribe. Often the heads themselves were ceremonially ‘invited’ to join the tribe as members, where they were supposed to watch over the tribe and keep them safe. The indigenous inhabitants of Taiwan accepted the convention and practice of headhunting as one of the calculated risks of tribal life. The last groups to practice headhunting were the Paiwan, Bunun, and Atayal groups . Japanese rule ended the practice by 1930, but some elder Taiwanese can recall the practice .

Japanese rule

When the Treaty of Shimonoseki was finalized on April 17, 1895, Taiwan was ceded by the Qing Empire to Japan, which sought to transform Taiwan into the supply-end of an extremely unequal flow of assets . Taiwan’s incorporation into the Japanese political orbit brought Taiwanese Aborigines into contact with a new colonial structure, determined to define and locate indigenous people within the framework of a new, multi-ethnic empire . The means of accomplishing this goal took three main forms: anthropological study of the natives of Taiwan, attempts to reshape the Aborigines in the mould of the Japanese, and military suppression.

Japan’s sentiment regarding indigenous peoples was crafted around the memory of the Mudan Incident, when, in 1871, a group of shipwrecked Okinawan fishermen was massacred by a Paiwan group from the village of Mudan in southern Taiwan. The resulting Japanese policy, published twenty years before the onset of their rule on Taiwan, cast Taiwanese Aborigines as “vicious, violent and cruel” and concluded “this is a pitfall of the world; we must get rid of them all” . Japanese campaigns to gain aboriginal submission were often brutal, as evidenced in the desire of Japan’s first Governor General, Kabayama Sukenori, to “...conquer the barbarians” . In the Wushe Incident, for example, a Seediq group was decimated by artillery and supplanted by the Taroko tribe, which had sustained periods of bombardment from naval ships and airplanes dropping mustard gas. A quarantine was placed around the mountain areas enforced by armed guard stations and electrified fence until the most remote high mountain villages could be relocated closer to administrative control .

Beginning in the first year of Japanese rule, the colonial government embarked on a mission to study the Aborigines so they could be classified, located and “civilized”. The Japanese “civilizing project”, partially fueled by public demand in Japan to know more about the empire, would be used to benefit the Imperial government by consolidating administrative control over the entire island, opening up vast tracts of land for exploitation . To satisfy these needs, “the Japanese portrayed and catalogued Taiwan’s indigenous peoples in a welter of statistical tables, magazine and newspaper articles, photograph albums for popular consumption” . The Japanese based much of their information and terminology on prior Qing era narratives concerning degrees of “civilization” .

Japanese ethnographer Ino Kanari was charged with the task of surveying the entire population of Taiwanese Aborigines, applying the first systematic study of Aborigines on Taiwan. Ino’s research is best known for his formalization of eight tribes of Taiwanese Aborigines: Atayal, Bunun, Saisiat, Tsou, Paiwan, Puyuma, Ami and Pepo . This is the direct antecedent of the taxonomy used today to distinguish tribes that are officially recognized by the government.

Tribal life under the Japanese changed rapidly as many of the traditional structures were replaced by a military power. Aborigines who wished to improve their status looked to education rather than headhunting as the new form of power. Those who learned to work with the Japanese and follow their customs would be better suited to lead villages. The Japanese encouraged Aborigines to maintain traditional costumes and selected customs that were not considered detrimental to society, but invested much time and money in efforts to eliminate traditions deemed unsavory by Japanese culture, including tattooing . By the mid-1930s as Japan’s empire was reaching its zenith, the colonial government began a political socialization program designed to enforce Japanese customs, rituals and a loyal Japanese identity upon the aborigines. By the end of World War II, Aborigines whose fathers had been killed in pacification campaigns were volunteering to die for the Emperor of Japan . The Japanese colonial experience left an indelible mark on many older aborigines who maintained an admiration for the Japanese long after their departure in 1945 .

Aborigines under the Kuomintang

Japanese rule of Taiwan ended in 1945, following the on September 2 and the subsequent appropriation of the island by Chinese Nationalist Party on October 25. In 1949, on losing the Chinese Civil War to the Communist Party of China, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek led the Kuomintang in a retreat from Mainland China, withdrawing its government and 1.3 million refugees to Taiwan. The KMT installed an authoritarian form of government, and shortly thereafter inaugurated a number of political socialization programs aimed at nationalizing Taiwanese people as citizens of a Chinese nation and eradicating Japanese influence . The KMT pursued highly centralized political and cultural policies rooted in the party’s decades-long history of fighting warlordism in China and opposing competing concepts of a loose federation following the demise of the imperial Qing . The project was designed to create a strong national Chinese cultural identity at the expense of local cultures .

Taiwanese Aborigines first encountered the Nationalist government in 1946, when the Japanese village schools were replaced by schools of the KMT. Documents from the Education Office show an emphasis on Chinese language, and citizenship — with a curriculum steeped in pro-KMT ideology. Some elements of the curriculum, such as the Wu Feng Legend, are currently considered offensive to Aborigines . Much of the burden of educating the Aborigines was undertaken by unqualified teachers, who could, at best, speak Mandarin and teach basic ideology . In 1951 a major political socialization campaign was launched to change the lifestyle of many aborigines, to adopt Han Chinese customs. A 1953 government report on mountain areas stated that its aims were chiefly to promote Mandarin in order to strengthen a national outlook and create good customs. This was included in the Shandi Pingdi Hua policy to “make the mountains like the plains” . Critics of the KMT’s program for a centralized national culture regard it as institutionalized ethnic discrimination, and point to the loss of several indigenous languages and a perpetuation of shame for being an Aborigine as the direct result of what has been referred to as Han chauvinism.

The pattern of intermarriage continued, as many KMT soldiers married Aboriginal women who were from poorer areas and could be easily bought as wives . Modern studies show a high degree of genetic intermixing. Despite this, many contemporary Taiwanese are unwilling to entertain the idea of having an Aboriginal heritage. In a 1994 study, it was found that 71% of the families surveyed would object to their daughter marrying an Aboriginal man. For much of the KMT era, the official government definition of Aboriginal identity had been 100% Aboriginal parentage, leaving any intermarriage resulting in a non-Aboriginal child. Later the policy was adjusted to the ethnic status of the father determining the status of the child .

Transition to democracy

Authoritarian rule under the Kuomintang ended gradually through a transition to democracy, which was marked by the lifting of martial law in 1987. Soon after, the KMT transitioned to being merely one party within a democratic system, though maintaining a high degree of power in aboriginal districts through an established system of patronage networks . The KMT continued to hold the reins of power for another decade under President Lee Teng-hui. However, they did so as an elected government rather than a dictatorial power. The elected KMT government supported many of the bills that had been promoted by Aboriginal groups. The tenth amendment to the Constitution of the Republic of China also stipulates that the government would protect and preserve aborigine culture and languages and also encourage them to participate in politics.

During the period of political liberalization, which preceded the end of martial law, academic interest in the plains aborigines surged as amateur and professional historians sought to rediscover Taiwan’s past. The opposition tang wai activists seized upon the new image of the plains aborigines as a means to directly challenge the KMT’s official narrative of Taiwan as a historical part of China, and the government’s assertion that Taiwanese were “pure” Han Chinese . Many ''tang wai'' activists framed the plains aboriginal experience in the existing anti-colonialism/victimization Taiwanese nationalist narrative, which positioned the speaking Taiwanese in the role of indigenous people and the victims of successive foreign rulers . By the late 1980s many Hoklo and speaking people began identifying themselves as plains Aborigines, though any initial shift in ethnic consciousness from Hakka or Hoklo people was minor.
Despite the politicized dramatization of the plains aborigines, their “rediscovery” as a matter of public discourse has had a lasting effect on the increased socio-political reconceptualization of Taiwan — emerging from the a Han Chinese dominant perspective into a wider acceptance of Taiwan as a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic community.

In many districts Taiwanese Aborigines tend to vote for the Kuomintang, to the point that the legislative seats allocated to the aborigines are popularly described as ''iron votes'' for the pan-blue coalition. This may seem surprising in light of the focus of the pan-green coalition on promoting aboriginal culture as part of the Taiwanese nationalist discourse against the KMT. However, this voting pattern can be explained on economic grounds, and as part of an inter-ethnic power struggle waged in the electorate. Some Aborigines see the rhetoric of Taiwan nationalism as favoring the majority Hoklo speakers rather than themselves. Aboriginal areas also tend to be poor and their economic vitality tied to the entrenched patronage networks established by the Kuomintang over the course of its fifty-five year reign.

Contemporary Aborigines

The democratic era is a time of great change, both constructive and destructive, for the Aborigines of Taiwan. Since the 1980s, increased political and public attention has been paid to the rights and social issues of the indigenous tribes of Taiwan. Aborigines have realized gains in both the political and economic spheres. Though progress is ongoing, there remains a number of still unrealized goals within the framework of the : “although certainly more ‘equal’ than they were 20, or even 10, years ago, the indigenous inhabitants in Taiwan still remain on the lowest rungs of the legal and socioeconomic ladders” . On the other hand, bright spots are not hard to find. A resurgence in ethnic pride has accompanied the Aboriginal cultural renaissance, which is exemplified by the increased popularity of Aboriginal music and greater public interest in aboriginal culture .

Aboriginal political movement

The movement for indigenous cultural and political resurgence in Taiwan traces its roots to the ideals outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights . Although the Republic of China on Taiwan was a UN member and signatory to the original UN Charter, four decades of martial law controlled the discourse of culture and politics on Taiwan. The political liberalization Taiwan experienced leading up to the official end of martial law on July 15, 1987, opened a new public arena for dissenting voices and political movements against the centralized policy of the KMT.

In December 1984, the Taiwan Aboriginal People’s Movement was launched when a group of Aboriginal political activists, aided by the progressive Presbyterian Church in Taiwan , established the Alliance of Taiwan Aborigines to highlight the problems experienced by indigenous communities all over Taiwan, including: prostitution, economic disparity, land rights and official discrimination in the form of naming rights .

In 1988, amid the ATA’s Return Our Land Movement, in which Aborigines demanded the return of lands to the original inhabitants, the ATA sent its first representative to the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations . Following the success in addressing the UN, the “Return Our Land” movement evolved into the Aboriginal Constitution Movement, in which the Aboriginal representatives demanded appropriate wording in the ROC Constitution to ensure indigenous Taiwanese, “dignity and justice” in the form of enhanced legal protection, government assistance to improve living standards in indigenous communities, and the right to identify themselves as “''yuan chu min''” . The KMT government initially opposed the term, due to its implication that other people on Taiwan, including the KMT government, were newcomers and not entitled to the island. The KMT preferred ''hsien chu min'' 先住民 First people, or ''tsao chu min'' 早住民, Early People to evoke a sense of general historical immigration to Taiwan .

To some degree the movement has been successful. Beginning in 1998, the official curriculum in Taiwan schools has been changed to contain more frequent and favorable mention of Aborigines. In 1996 the Council of Indigenous Peoples was promoted to a ministry-level rank within the Executive Yuan. The central government has taken steps to allow romanized spellings of aboriginal names on official documents, offsetting the long held policy of forcing a Han Chinese name on an aborigine. A relaxed policy on identification now allows a child to choose their official designation if they are born to mixed aboriginal/Han parents.

The present political leaders in the Aboriginal community, led mostly by Aboriginal elites born after 1949, have been effective in leveraging their ethnic identity and socio-linguistic acculturation into contemporary Taiwanese society against the political backdrop of a changing Taiwan. This has allowed indigenous people a means to push for greater political space, including the still unrealized prospect of s within Taiwan . Though in recent years the drive by the "ethnic elites" to promote Aboriginal particularity has run in contrast to ordinary Aborigines who wish to assimilate into contemporary social norms.

Aboriginal political representation

Aborigines are currently represented by eight members out of 225 seats in the Legislative Yuan. In 2008, the number of legislative seats was cut in half to 113, of which Taiwanese Aborigines are represented by six members. The tendency of Taiwanese Aborigines to vote for members of the pan-blue coalition, has been cited as having the potential to change the balance of the legislature. Citing these six seats in addition with five seats from smaller counties that also tend to vote pan-blue, has been seen as giving the pan-blue coalition 11 seats before the first vote is counted

Economic issues

Many indigenous communities did not evenly share in the benefits of the economic boom Taiwan experienced during the last quarter of the 20th century. They often lacked satisfactory educational resources on their reservations, undermining their pursuit of marketable skills. The economic disparity between the village and urban schools resulted in imposing many social barriers on Aborigines, which prevent many from moving beyond vocational training. Students transplanted into urban schools face adversity, including isolation, culture shock, and discrimination from their peers . The cultural impact of poverty and economic marginalization has led to an increase in alcoholism and prostitution among Aborigines .

The economic boom resulted in drawing large numbers of Aborigines out of their villages and into the unskilled or low-skilled sector of the urban workforce . Manufacturing and construction jobs were generally available for low wages. The Aborigines quickly formed bonds with other tribes as they all had similar political motives to protect their collective needs as part of the labor force. The Aborigines became the most skilled iron-workers and construction teams on the island often selected to work on the most difficult projects. The result was a mass exodus of tribal members from their traditional lands and the cultural alienation of young people in the villages, who could not learn their languages or customs while employed. Often, young Aborigines in the cities fell into gangs aligned with the construction trade. Recent laws governing the employment of laborers from Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines has led to an increased atmosphere among urban Aborigines of xenophobia and encouraged the formulation of a pan-indigenous consciousness in the pursuit of political representation and protection .

Parks, tourism and commercialization

Aboriginal groups are seeking to preserve their folkways and languages as well as to return to, or remain on, their traditional lands. Eco-tourism, sewing and selling tribal carvings, jewelry and music has become a viable area of economic opportunity. However, tourism-based commercial development, such as the creation of Taiwan Aboriginal Culture Park, is not a panacea. Although these create new jobs, Aborigines are seldom given management positions. Moreover, some national parks have been built on Aboriginal lands against the wishes of the local tribes, prompting one Taroko activist to label the Taroko National Park as a form of “environmental colonialism” . At times in the past, the creation of national parks has resulted in forced resettlement of the Aborigines .

Due to the close proximity of Aboriginal land to the mountains, many tribes have hoped to cash in on hot spring ventures and hotels, where they offer singing and dancing to add to the ambiance. The Wulai Atayal in particular have been active in this area. Considerable government funding has been allocated to museums and culture centers focusing on Taiwan’s Aboriginal heritage. Critics often call the ventures exploitative and “superficial portrayals” of Aboriginal culture, which distract attention from the real problems of substandard education . Proponents of ethno-tourism suggest that such projects can positively impact the public image and economic prospects of the indigenous community.


Of the current population of Taiwanese Aborigines, roughly 70% identify themselves as Christian. Moreover, many of the Pingpu groups have mobilized their members around predominantly Christian organizations; most notably the Taiwan Presbyterian Church and various denominations of Catholicism .

Before contact with Christian missionaries during both the Dutch and Qing periods, Taiwanese Aborigines held a variety of beliefs in spirits, gods, sacred symbols and myths that helped their societies find meaning and order. Although there is no evidence of a unified belief system shared among the various indigenous groups, there is evidence that several groups held supernatural beliefs in certain birds and bird behavior. The Siraya were reported by Dutch sources, to incorporate bird imagery into their material culture. Other reports describe animal skulls and the use of human heads in societal beliefs. The Paiwan and other southern groups worship the snake and use the diamond patterns on its back in many tribal designs . In many plains societies, the power to communicate with the supernatural world was exclusively held by women called ''Inibs''. During the period of Dutch colonization, the ''Inibs'' were removed from the villages to eliminate their influence and pave the way for Dutch missionary work .

During the Zheng and Qing eras, Han immigrants brought Confucianized beliefs of Taoism and Buddhism to Taiwan’s indigenous people. Many plains Aborigines adopted Han religious practices, though there is evidence that many Aboriginal customs were transformed into local Taiwanese Han beliefs. In some parts of Taiwan the Siraya spirit of fertility, Ali-zu has become assimilated into the Han . The use of female spirit mediums can also be traced to the earlier matrilineal ''Inibs''.

Although many Aborigines assumed Han religious practices, several sub-groups sought protection from the European missionaries, who had started arriving in the 1860’s. Many of the early Christian converts were displaced Pingpu groups that sought protection from the oppressive Han. The missionaries, under the articles of extraterritoriality, offered a form of power against the Qing establishment and could thus make demands on the government to provide redress for Pingpu complaints . Many of these early congregations have served to maintain Aboriginal identity, language and cultures.

The influence of 19th and 20th Century missionaries has both transformed and maintained Aboriginal integration. Many of the churches have replaced earlier tribal functions, but continue to retain a sense of continuity and community that unites members of Aboriginal societies against the pressures of modernity. Several church leaders have emerged from within the tribes to take on leadership positions in petitioning the government in the interest of indigenous peoples and seeking a balance between the interests of the communities and economic vitality.


A full-time Aboriginal radio station, “Ho-hi-yan”, was launched in 2005 with the help of the Executive Yuan, to focus on issues of interest to the indigenous community. [Listen to ''''; requires Windows Media Player 9]. This came on the heels of a “New wave of Indigenous Pop”, , as Aboriginal artists, such as A-mei , , Pur-dur and Samingad , and Landy Wen became international pop-stars. The rock musician Chang Chen-yue is a member of the tribe. Music has given Aborigines both a sense of pride and a sense of cultural ownership. The issue of ownership was exemplified when the musical project used an Ami chant in their song “Return to Innocence”, which was selected as the official theme of the . The main chorus was sung by Difang and his wife, Igay. The Amis couple successfully sued Enigma’s record label, which had paid royalties to the French museum that held the master recordings of the traditional songs, but the original artists, who had been unaware of the Enigma project, remained uncompensated. The Enigma suit raised serious issues regarding indigenous people’s participation and compensation in the commoditizing of their cultures and traditions .

Ecological issues

The indigenous tribes of Taiwan are closely linked with ecological awareness and issues on the island, as many of the environmental issues are spearheaded by aborigines. Political activism and sizable public protests regarding the logging of the Chilan Formosan Cypress, as well as efforts by an member of the Legislative Yuan, “...focused debate on natural resource management and specifically on the involvement of Aboriginal people therein” . Another high-profile case is the nuclear waste storage facility on Orchid Island, a small tropical island 60 km off the southeast coast of Taiwan. The inhabitants are the 4000 members of the Tao tribe. In the 1970s the island was designated as a possible site to store low and medium grade nuclear waste. The island was selected on the grounds that it would be cheaper to build the necessary infrastructure for storage and it was thought that the population would not cause trouble . Large-scale construction began in 1978 on a site 100 m from the Immorod fishing fields. The Tao tribe alleges that government sources at the time described the site as a ‘factory’ or a ‘fish cannery’, intended to bring “jobs home of the Tao/Yami, one of the least economically integrated areas in Taiwan” . When the facility was completed in 1982, however, it was in fact a storage facility for “97,000 barrels of low-radiation nuclear waste from Taiwan’s three nuclear power plants”. . The Tao have since stood at the forefront of the anti-nuclear movement and launched several exorcisms and protests to remove the waste they claim has resulted in deaths and sickness . The lease on the land has expired, and an alternative site has yet to be selected.

See also

* List of ethnic groups in Taiwan
* Taiwanese
* History of Taiwan
* Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines
* Batan Islands
* A New Partnership Between the Indigenous Peoples and the Government of Taiwan

Chinese Mulao People

The Mulao people are an ethnic group. They form one of the officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. In their name, ''Mulam'', ''mu''6 is a classifier for human beings and ''lam''1 is another form of the name used by the , to whom the Mulam people are ethnically related. A large portion of the Mulam in Guangxi live in Luocheng Mulao Autonomous County of Hechi, Guangxi.


It is believed that the Mulam are the descendants of the ancient ''Ling'' and ''Liao'' tribes that inhabited the region during the time of the . During the Yuan dynasty, the Mulam lived in a feudal society and they paid a series of tributes twice a year to the emperor.

During the Qing dynasty, their territories suffered an administrative division; their lands wre divided into ''dongs'', which were composed of units for 10 dwellings. Each ''dong'' had its own local leader, responsible for maintaining the order and of collecting the taxes. Each ''dong'' was generally formed by families that shared the same surname.


The Mulam speak the Mulam language, a language. The Mulam language, like that of the Dong, does not have voiced stops; however, it does contain unvoiced and voiced nasals and laterals. Its vowel system contains eleven vowels. It is a tonal language with ten tones and 65% of their vocabulary is shared with the Zhuang and Dong languages.

Since the Ming dynasty, Chinese characters have been utilized to read and write the Mulam language. The majority of the Mulam also speak Chinese as well as the Zhuang and Dong languages.


Traditionally, the marriages among the Mulao were arranged by the parents and traditionally, new wives did not live together with their new husbands until the birth of their first son.

Their homes are made out of clay with brick roofs and are composed of three rooms. The animals are maintained far away of the family dwellings.

The traditional clothing of the men consists of a jacket of large buttons, wide pants and sandal. The single women arranged their hair into two tresses that becomes a tuft when they are married.


Although the religion no longer plays a main role in the daily life, traditionally the Mulao have been mostly animists. Each month they celebrated diverse festivals. The most important one of them was the festival ''Yifan'', where diverse sacrifices of animals were carried out.

Another one of their festivals was the dragon boat festival that was celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. During this celebration, the shamans carried out ceremonies to assure good crop harvests and to expel harmful insects.


* Ramsey, S. Robert. 1987. The Languages of China. Princeton University Press, Princeton New Jersey ISBN 0-691-06694-9

Chinese Lhoba People

The Lhoba is currently the smallest officially recognized in China. They are divided between the Yidu , which is classified as one of the three sub-tribes of the Mishmi, and the Boga'er , a sub-tribe of the . Both groups, also found in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, collectively form a population of around 10,500. The term "Lhoba", however, is only limited to these groups living on the Chinese side of the Indo-Chinese border.

The Lhoba live in southeastern Tibet, notably in Mainling, Medog, Lhunze and Nangxian counties of Nyingchi Prefecture in southeastern Tibet. Additionally, a small number live in Luoyu, southern Tibet. Many more live in south of the Tibetan border in Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh, where they engage in traditional agriculture and hunting. Until the , the Lhoba had no written language. Even though a romanized alphabet was developed for them, there are many elderly Lhoba who can neither read or even count. The occupation of Tibet also brought many changes to traditional Lhoba culture. Most significantly, it helped to integrate the Lhoba with the dominant Tibetan culture and began to put an end to the rigid class system, by which the Lhoba were divided into two distinct castes – aristocrat and peasant – which were not allowed to intermix.

Customs and dress

Many customs, habits and dress of different clan members may vary. The Lhoba men in Luoyu wear knee-length black jackets without sleeves and buttons made out of sheep's wool. They wear helmet-like hats either made from bearskin or woven from bamboo stripes or rattan laced with bearskin. They also wear ornaments that include earrings, necklaces made of beads, and bamboo plugs inserted into the ear lobe. The Lhoba women wear narrow-sleeved blouses and skirts of sheep's wool. The weight of the ornaments the womenfolk wear is a symbol of their wealth, which includes shells, silver coins, iron chains bells, silver and brass earrings. Both sexes usually go barefooted. Their dress are quite similar to the Tibetan costume. The Idu men wear a sword and waterproof cane helmet, and a chignon on their hair and shields made of buffalo hide. Yidu weaponry includes straight Tibetan sword, dagger, bow and poisoned arrows.

Among the Yidu Lhoba , one of the sub-tribe is the Bebejia Mishmi. Female members of Bebejia Mishmi are expert weavers and make excellent coats and blouses.

The Idu houses are divided into a number of rooms for use of every married person. Unmarried girls and boys sleep in separate rooms. A fireplace occupies the centre of the room, round which the inmates sleep. The Idus are polygamous and each wife has their own rooms in the house. The family is organised in patriarchal principles. Inheritance of widows are exceptional as compared to a mother.

The wooden pillow of the master of the house is considered taboo to the inmates of the house as it is considered improper to sit upon it. Guests are not allowed to enter the room of the master of the house. The animal skulls preserved in the house are considered to be sacred.

The slash and burn method of cultivation, known as Jhum, is the main stay of the Idus, and clearing of land is carried for every three to five years. The important crops they raised are paddy, arum, tapioca, millet and maize. Rice is the staple food supplemented by millet maize and tapioca. They also take leafy vegetables, beans, gourd, sweet potato etc. Animal flesh is considered taboo to Idu woman. The Yidu also consume "Yu", a locally brewed rice beer, and rice beer prepared by a woman during her period is taboo to a priest.

The Idu calendar was based upon the menstrual period of the women and dating is done by untying one each from a number of knots put on a piece of string. Traditional village panchayat settles all internal disputes among the tribe.

Culture and religion

Few Lhoba know the Tibetan language. In the past, when there was no writing, the Lhobas kept track of history through telling their descendants and tying knot codes about their past. Their literature also poses a significant influence on their Tibetan counterparts.

They engage in barter trade in the Tibetan, trading goods like animal hides, musk, bear paws, dye and captured game for farm tools, salt, wool, clothing, grain and tea from Tibetan traders. As a result of constant trading with the , they have been increasingly influenced by the Tibetans in their dress. Many Lhobas have converted to Tibetan Buddhism in the recent years as they traded in the monasteries, thus frequently mixing with their indigenous Animist beliefs, which had traditionally deep roots in the tiger. Others remain Animistic, more commonly among those in Arunachal Pradesh, and their pilgrim centre of the community lies at Atho-Popu in Dibang valley. The stories about immigration mentioned is along the banks of twelve rivers in Dibang Valley, the clustered area known as Cheithu-Huluni. Among the Yidu, they traditionally believed that "Inni" is their supreme god.

Festivals such as Reh are celebrated to control the peace and prosperity of the people. This is meant to appease the deities, who were traditionally believed to control the peace and prosperity of the people, which is the thought behind the celebration of the Reh festival. The celebration with great fan-fare and the performance of priest dance marks the ending of the festival.

There are four variants of funerals among the Yidu Lhoba , and people of different social status would choose to conduct either of the four different variants. In all variants, the ''Igu'' priest would recite mourning songs for the dead. Mithuns are being sacrificed in the ''Yah'' variant of the funeral, which lasts for three to four days.

The young boys are trained to hunt at an early age. However, women had low status in society and had no inheritance rights from their husbands or fathers. The Lhoba also enjoy a subtropical/warm temperate climate.


Lhoba cuisine varies across regions. Staple foods are dumplings made of maize or millet flour, rice or buckwheat. In places near Tibetan communities people have tsampa, potatoes, buttered tea and spicy food. Being heavy drinkers and smokers, at celebrations the Lhobas enjoy wine and singing to observe good harvests and good luck. The buttered tea is their favourite drink. However, due to the lack of salt, they had suffered endemic , caused by poor living conditions. Many were either born deaf or mute. Their population went down in decline until recent years due to this disease. Due to their low population, many of them either intermarried with the Tibetans or with the tribal groups of Arunachal Pradesh, notably the Monpa.


The area which the modern Lhoba lived today was known as Luoyu in medieval texts. Luoyu came under the control of Tibet from the 7th century onwards and came under frequent subjugation from the Tibetans.

Since the coming of liberation , followed by the Tibetan rebellion in 1959, the Chinese government has significantly improved their living condition. Since then, they were treated as equals by society. Now they are well represented in government at regional, county, district and township levels. Production was boosted and people's living standards and general health improved with loans and relief extended by the government. Previously were serfs, the Lhoba received land, farm implements and draught animals.



* ,
* ,

Ethnic profile references


Chinese Nanai People

The Nanai people are a Tungusic people of the Far East, who have traditionally lived along Heilongjiang , and Ussuri rivers on the Middle Amur Basin. The ancestors of the Nanais were the Jurchens of northernmost Manchuria.

The belongs to the .


The traditional clothing was made out of fish skins. These skins were left to dry. Once dry, they were struck repeatedly with a mallet to leave them completely smooth. Finally they were sewn together. The fish chosen to be used were those weighing more than 50 kilograms.

Nanais in Russia

In Russia the Nanais live on the Sea of Okhotsk, on the Amur River, downstream from Khabarovsk, on both sides of Komsomolsk-on-Amur, as well as on the banks of the and the rivers . The Russians formerly called them Goldi, after a Nanai clan name. According to the 2002 census, there were 12,160 Nanais in Russia.

In the Soviet Union, a written standard of the Nanai language was created by Valentin Avrorin and others. It is still taught today in 13 schools in Khabarovsk.

Nanais in China

The Nanais are one of the officially recognized by the People's Republic of China where they are known as "Hezhe" . During the Manchukuo period, the Nanais were practically wiped out in China by the Japanese. They had been confined to prisoner camps and in 1949 they numbered about 300 in China. According to the last census of 2004, they numbered 4,640 in China . Chinese Nanais speak the Hezhen dialect of . They also have a rich oral literature known as the Yimakan. The dialect does not have a written system in China and Nanais usually write in Chinese. However as of 2005 teachers have recently finished compiling probably the first Hezhe language textbook.


The Nanais are mainly Shamanist, with a great reverence for the bear. They consider that the shamans have the power to expel bad spirits by means of prayers to the gods. During the centuries they have been worshipers of the spirits of the sun, the moon, the mountains, the water and the trees. According to their beliefs, the land was once flat until great serpents gouged out the river valleys. They consider that all the things of the universe possess their own spirit and that these spirits wander independently throughout the world. In the Nanai religion, inanimate objects were often personified. Fire, for example, was personified as an elderly woman whom the Nanai referred to as Fadzya Mama. Young children were not allowed to run up to the fire, since they might startle Fadzya Mama, and men always were courteous in the presence of a fire.

Nanai shamans, like other Tungusic peoples of the region, had characteristic clothing, consisting of a skirt and jacket; a leather belt with conical metal pendants; mittens with figures of serpents, lizards or frogs; and hats with branching horns or bear, wolf, or fox fur attached to it. Bits of Chinese mirrors were also sometimes incorporated into the costume.

The deceased were normally buried in the ground with the exception of children who died prior to the first birthday; in this case the child's body was wrapped in a cloth or birchbark covering and buried in the tree branches as a "wind burial". Many Nanai are also Tibetan Buddhist.

Famous Nanais

*Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's 1975 film Dersu Uzala, based on a book by Russian explorer Vladimir Arsenyev, describes the friendship of a pre-revolution Russian military officer and a Nanai man named Dersu Uzala.
*Nanai female shaman Tchotghtguerele Chalchin performed an incantation recorded in Siberia for the song "The Lighthouse" on French producer Hector Zazou's 1994 album ''Chansons des mers froides'' . Lead vocals were performed by Siouxsie Sioux and background music included performances by the Sakharine Percussion Group and the Sissimut Dance Drummers.
*Kola Beldy was a popular singer in Soviet Union and Russia, particularly known for his rendition of "Увезу тебя я в тундру" .
*Han Geng is a member of Korean boy band Super Junior.


Own names in the , , and .

Encyclopedia Britannica on ''Golds''

:In physique they are typically Mongolic. Like the they wear a pigtail, and from them, too, have learnt the art of silk embroidery. The Golds live almost entirely on fish, and are excellent boatmen. They keep large herds of swine and dogs, which live, like themselves, on fish. Geese, wild duck, eagles, bears, wolves and foxes are also kept in menageries. There is much reverence paid to the eagles, and hence the Manchus call the Golds "Eaglets". Their religion is Shamanism.

Autonomous Areas designated for Nanai

External links

* by Tatyana Sem

Chinese Tatars People

Tatars , sometimes spelled Tartar, are a -speaking ethnic group or multiple ethnic groups. For more about the etymology and usage of the name, see .

Most current day Tatars live all over Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Moldova, Lithuania, Belarus, Bulgaria, China, Kazakhstan, Romania, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. They collectively numbered more than 10 million in the late 20th century.

The original Ta-ta inhabited the north-eastern Gobi in the 5th century and, after subjugation in the 9th century by the , migrated southward. In the 12th century, they were subjugated by the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan. Under the leadership of his grandson Batu Khan, they moved westwards, driving with them many stems of the ans towards the plains of Russia.

In Europe, they were assimilated by the local Turkic populations or their name spread to the conquered peoples: Kipchaks, Volga Bulgars, Alans, Kimaks and others; and elsewhere with speaking peoples, as well as with remnants of the ancient Greek colonies in the Crimea and Caucasians in the Caucasus.

Tatars of Siberia are survivors of the population of the - region, mixed to some extent with the speakers of Uralic languages, as well as with Mongols. Later, each group adopted Turkic languages and many adopted Islam. At the beginning of 20th century, most of those groups, except the Volga Tatars and Crimean Tatars adopted their own ethnic names and now are not referred to as Tatars, being ''Tatars'' or ''Tartars'' only in historical context. Now the name ''Tatars'' is generally applied to two ethnic groups: Volga Tatars and Crimean Tatars. However, some indigenous peoples of Siberia are also traditionally named ''Tatars'', such as Chulym Tatars.

The present Tatar inhabitants of Eurasia form three large groups:
* those of Crimea, Bulgaria, European Russia and Western Siberia, Lithuania, Moldova, Belarus, Poland, Romania and Turkey.
* those of the Caucasus ,
* and those of Eastern Siberia .

Due to the vast movements and intermingling of peoples along with the very loose utilization of the name Tatar, current day Tatars comprise a spectrum of physical appearance. As to the original Tatars from Mongolia, they most likely shared characteristics with the Turkic invaders from Central Asia.


The name "Tatar" initially appeared amongst the nomadic Turkic peoples of northeastern Mongolia in the region around Lake Baikal in the beginning of the 5th century. the Greek name for the underworld; this belief led to the frequent spelling and pronunciation of the name with an extra "r", to conform with the classical Greek word. However, this provenance is unlikely since the Tatars use this name for themselves, spelling it without ''r'' .

Historically, the term Tatar has been ambiguously used by Europeans to refer to many different peoples of and . For example, the Russians referred to various peoples they came into contact with on the Eurasian steppes as Tatars yet the and generally referred to the Manchu and related peoples as Tatars when they first arrived in China. The old language designation is now regarded as , although the meaning is preserved in the name of the Strait of Tartary that separates the island of Sakhalin from mainland Asia. Today, the word is generally confined to meaning one of the following:

Historical meaning of ''Tatars''

* Ta-ta Mongols
* multi-ethnical population of Mongol Empire
* of late Golden Horde
* Turkic Muslim population and some pagan Turkic and Mongolian peoples in the Russian Empire
* Russian term for some peoples, incorporated into the Muslim nation of Russia in the late 19th century
* Some ethnic groups in the Soviet Union after the policy of Furkinland, such as the Volga Tatars , Crimean Tatars, Chulym Tatars, and groups such as the Lipka Tatars .


The discrimination of the separate stems included under the name is still far from complete. The following subdivisions, however, may be regarded as established:

Tatars - ''Tatarlar'' or ''Татарлар''. In modern English only ''Tatar'' is used to refer to Eurasian Tatars; ''Tartar'' has offensive connotations as a confusion with the Tartarus of Greek mythology, due in part to the popular association of the ferocity of the Mongol tribes with the Greek sub-underworld. In Europe the term ''Tartar'' is generally only used in the historical context for ''Mongolian'' people who appeared in the 13th century and assimilated into the local population later.

Volga Tatars

Volga Tatars live in the central and eastern parts of european Russia and in western Siberia. In today's Russia the term Tatars is used to describe Volga Tatars only. During the census of 2002, Tatars, or Volga Tatars, were officially divided into common Tatars, Astrakhan Tatars, Keräşen Tatars, and Siberian Tatars. Other ethnic groups, such as Crimean Tatars and Chulyms, were not officially recognized as a part of the multi-ethnic Tatar group and were counted separately.Anthropologically 38,2% of Volga Tatars belongs to Southern Caucasoid, 22,9% to Lapponoid, 19,5% to Mongoloid and 19,4% to Northern Caucasoid.

Kazan Tatars

During the 11-16th centuries, most tribes lived in what is now Russia and Kazakhstan. The present territory of Tatarstan was inhabited by the who settled on the Volga in the 8th century and converted to Islam in 922 during the missionary work of Ahmad ibn Fadlan. On the Volga, the Bulgars mingled with Scythian and Finno-Ugric speaking peoples. After the , Bulgaria was defeated, ruined and incorporated in the Golden Horde. Much of the population survived, and there was a certain degree of mixing between it and the Kipchak Tatars of the Horde during the ensuing period. The group as a whole accepted the ethnonym "Tatars" and the language of the Kipchaks; on the other hand, the invaders eventually converted to Islam. As the Horde disintegrated in the 15th century, the area became the territory of the Kazan khanate, which was in the 16th century.

There is some debate among scholars about the extent of that mixing and the "share" of each group as progenitors of the modern Kazan Tatars. It is relatively accepted that demographically, most of the population was directly descended from the Bulgars. Nevertheless, some emphasize the contribution of the Kipchaks on the basis of the ethnonym and the language, and consider that the modern Tatar ethnogenesis was only completed upon their arrival. Others prefer to stress the Bulgar heritage, sometimes to degree of equating modern Kazan Tatars with Bulgars. They argue that although the Volga Bulgars had not kept their language and their name, their old culture and religion - Islam - have been preserved. According to scholars who espouse this view, there was very little mixing with Mongol and Turkic aliens after the conquest of Volga Bulgaria, especially in the northern regions that ultimately became Tatarstan. Some voices even advocate the change of the ethnonym from "Tatars" to "Bulgars" - a movement known as Bulgarism.

In the 1910s they numbered about half a million in the Kazan Governorate , about 400,000 in each of the governments of Ufa, 100,000 in and Simbirsk, and about 30,000 in Vyatka, Saratov, Tambov, Penza, Nizhny Novgorod, Perm and Orenburg. Some 15,000 belonging to the same stem had migrated to Ryazan, or had been settled as prisoners in the 16th and 17th centuries in Lithuania . Some 2000 resided in , where they were mostly employed as coachmen and waiters in restaurants. In Poland they constituted 1% of the population of the district of P&. Later they wer never counted as separate group of the Tatars.

The Kazan Tatars speak a language . They have been described as generally middle-sized, broad-shouldered, and the majority have brown and green eyes, a straight nose and salient cheek bones. Because their ancestors number not only Turkic peoples, but Finno-Ugric and as well, many Kazan Tatars tend to have Caucasoid faces. Around 33.5% belong to Southern Caucasoid, 27.5% to Northern Caucasoid, 24.5% to Lapponoid and 14.5% to Mongoloid . Most Kazan Tatars practice Sunni Islam.

Before 1917 in Russia, polygamy was practised only by the wealthier classes and was a waning institution. The Bashkirs who live between the and speak the Bashkir language, which is similar to Tatar, and have converted to Sunni Islam.

Because it is understandable to all groups of Russian Tatars, as well as to the Chuvash and Bashkirs, the language of the Volga Tatars became a literary one in the 15th century . . The old literary language included a lot of Arabic and Persian words. Nowadays the literary language includes European and Russian words instead of Arabic.

Volga Tatars number nearly 8 millions, mostly in Russia and the republics of the former Soviet Union. While the bulk of the population is to be found in Tatarstan and neighbouring regions, significant numbers of Kazan Tatars live in Central Asia, Siberia and the Caucasus. Outside of Tatarstan, urban Tatars usually speak as their first language and other languages in a worldwide diaspora.

A significant number of Tatars emigrated during the Russian Civil War, mostly to Turkey and Harbin, China, but resettled to European countries later. Some of them speak Turkish at home. , there are still 51,000 Tatars living in Xinjiang province .

See also: Tatar language

Noqrat Tatars

Tatars live in Russia's Kirov Oblast.

Perm Tatars

Tatars live in Russia's Perm Krai. Some of them also have an admixture of blood.

Keräşen Tatars

Some Tatars were forcibly Christianized by during the 16th century and later in the 18th century.

Some scientists suppose that Suars were ancestors of the Keräşen Tatars, and they had been converted to Christianity by Armenians in the 6th century, while they lived in the Caucasus. Suars, like other tribes became Volga Bulgars and later the modern Chuvash and Tatars .

Keräşen Tatars live all over Tatarstan. Now they tend to be assimilated among Russians, Chuvash and Tatars with Sunni Muslim self-identification. Eighty years of ic Soviet rule made Tatars of both confessions not as religious as they were. As such, differences between Tatars and Keräşen Tatars now is only that Keräşens have Russian names.

Some Turkic tribes in Golden Horde were converted to Christianity in the 13th and 14th centuries . Some prayers, written in that time in the ''Codex Cumanicus'', sound like modern Keräşen prayers, but there is no information about the connection between Christian Kumans and modern Keräşens.


Tatars who became Cossacks and converted to Russian Orthodoxy. They live in the Urals, the Russian border with Kazakhstan during the 17th-18th century.

The biggest Nağaybäk village is Parizh, Russia, named after French capital Paris, due Nağaybäk's participation in Napoleonic wars.

Tiptär Tatars

Like Noğaybaqs, although they are Sunni Muslims. Some Tiptär Tatars speak Russian or . According to some scientists, Tiptärs are part of the Mişärs.

Tatar language dialects

There are 3 dialects: Eastern, Central, Western.

The Western dialect is spoken mostly by Mishärs, the Middle dialect is spoken by Kazan and Astrakhan Tatars, and the Eastern dialect is spoken by some groups of Tatars in western Siberia.

Middle Tatar is the base of literary Tatar Language. The Middle dialect also has subdivisions.

Mişär Tatars

Mişär Tatars are a group of Tatars speaking a dialect of the Tatar language. They are descendants of Kipchaks in the Middle Oka River area and Meschiora where they mixed with the local Finno-Ugric tribes. Nowadays they live in , , , Nizhegorodskaya oblasts of Russia and in Bashkortostan and Mordovia. They lived near and along the Volga River, in Tatarstan.

Qasím Tatars

The Western Tatars have their capital in the town of Qasím in Ryazan Oblast, with a Tatar population of 500. See "Qasim Khanate" for their history.

Astrakhan Tatars

The Astrakhan Tatars are a group of Tatars, descendants of the Astrakhan Khanate's agricultural population, who live mostly in Astrakhan Oblast. For the 2000 Russian census 2000, most Astrakhan Tatars declared themselves simply as Tatars and few declared themselves as Astrakhan Tatars. A large number of Volga Tatars live in Astrakhan Oblast and differences between them have been disappearing.

The Astrakhan Tatars are further divided into the Kundrov Tatars and the Karagash Tatars. The latter are also at times called the Karashi Tatars.

Text from Britannica 1911:
:The Astrakhan Tatars number about 10,000 and are, with the Kalmyks, all that now remains of the once so powerful Astrakhan empire. They also are agriculturists and gardeners; while some 12,000 Kundrovsk Tatars still continue the nomadic life of their ancestors.

While Astrakhan Tatar is a mixed dialect, around 43,000 have assimilated to the Middle dialect. Their ancestors are Khazars, Kipchaks and some Volga Bulgars.

The Astrakhan Tatars also assimilated the Agrzhan.

Volga Tatars in the world

Places where Volga Tatars live include:
* and Upper Kama 15th century - colonization, 16th - 17th century - re-settled by Russians, 17th - 19th century - exploring of Ural, working in the plants
* West Siberia : 16th - from Russian repressions after conquering of Khanate of Kazan by Russians, 17th - 19th century - exploring of West Siberia, end of 19th - first half of 20th - industrialization, railways constructing, 1930s - Stalin's repressions, 1970s - 1990s oil workers
* Moscow : Tatar feudals in the service of Russia, tradesmen, since 18th - Saint-Petersburg
* Kazakhstan : 18th – 19th centuries - Russian army officers and soldiers, 1930s – industrialization, since 1950s - settlers on virgin lands - re-emigration in 1990s
* Finland : - 19th - from a group of some 20 villages in the Sergach region on the Volga River. See Finnish Tatars.
* Central Asia - 19th Russian officers and soldiers, tradesmen, religious emigrants, 1920-1930s - industrialization, Soviet education program for Central Asia peoples, 1948, 1960 - help for Ashgabat and Tashkent ruined by earthquakes - re-emigration in 1980s
* Caucasus, especially Azerbaijan - oil workers , bread tradesmen
* Northern China - railway builders - re-emigrated in 1950s
* East Siberia - resettled farmers , railroad builders , exiled by the Soviet government in 1930s
* Germany and Austria - 1914, 1941 - prisoners of war, 1990s - emigration
* Turkey, Japan, Iran, China, Egypt - emigration
* UK, USA, Australia, Canada, Argentina, Mexico - re-emigration from Germany, Turkey, Japan, China and others. 1950s - prisoners of war from Germany, which did not go back to the USSR, 1990s - emigration after the break up of USSR
* Sakhalin, Kaliningrad, Belarus, Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Karelia - after 1944-45 builders, Soviet military personnel
* Murmansk Oblast, Khabarovsk Krai, Northern Poland and Northern Germany - Soviet military personnel
* Israel - wives or husbands of Jews

Tatars of East Europe

Crimean Tatars

The Crimean Tatars constituted the Crimean Khanate which was annexed by Russia in 1783. The war of 1853 and the laws of 1860-63 and 1874 caused an exodus of the Crimean Tatars.

Those of the south coast, mixed with Scyth, Greeks and Italians, were well known for their skill in gardening, their honesty, and their work habits, as well as for their fine features. The mountain Tatars closely resemble those of Caucasus, while those of the steppes - the Nogais - are decidedly of a mixed origin with Turks and Mongols.

During World War II, the entire Tatar population in Crimea fell victims to Stalin's oppressive policies. In 1944 they were accused of being Nazi collaborators and deported en masse to Central Asia and other lands of the Soviet Union. Many died of disease and malnutrition. Since the 1980s late, about 250,000 Crimean Tatars have returned to their homeland in the Crimea .

Lithuanian Tatars

After Tokhtamysh was defeated by Tamerlane, some of his clan sought refuge in Grand Duchy of Lithuania. They were given land and nobility in return for military service and were known as Lipka Tatars. They are known to have taken part in the Battle of Grunwald.

Another group appeared in Jagoldai Duchy near modern Kursk in 1437 and disappeared later.

Belarusian Tatars

Islam spread in Belarus from the 14th to the 16th century. The process was encouraged by the Lithuanian princes, who invited Tatar Muslims from the Crimea and the Golden Horde as guards of state borders. Already in the 14th century the Tatars had been offered a settled way of life, state posts and service positions. By the end of the 16th century over 100,000 Tatars settled in Belarus and Lithuania, including those hired to government service, those who moved there voluntarily, prisoners of war, etc.

Tatars in Belarus generally follow Sunni Hanafi Islam. Some groups have accepted Christianity and been assimilated, but most adhere to Muslim religious traditions, which ensures their definite endogamy and preservation of ethnic features. Interethnic marriages with representatives of Belarusian, Polish, Lithuanian, Russian nationalities are not rare, but do not result in total assimilation.

Originating from different ethnic associations, Belarusian Tatars back in ancient days lost their native language and adopted Belarusian, Polish and Russian. However, the liturgy is conducted in the Arabic language, which is known by the clergymen. There are an estimated 20,000 Tatars in Belarus.

Polish Tatars

:''Main articles: Lipka Tatars and Islam in Poland''

From the 13th to 17th centuries various groups of Tatars settled and/or found refuge within the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth.
This was promoted especially by the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, because of their deserved reputation as skilled warriors. The Tatar settlers were all granted with szlachta status, a tradition that was preserved until the end of the Commonwealth in the 18th century. They included the Lipka Tatars as well as Crimean and Tatars , all of which were noticeable in Polish military history, as well as Volga Tatars . They all mostly settled in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, lands that are now in Lithuania and Belarus.

Various estimates of the number of Tatars in the Commonwealth in the 17th century range from 15,000 persons to 60 villages with mosques. Numerous royal privileges, as well as internal autonomy granted by the monarchs allowed the Tatars to preserve their religion, traditions and culture over the centuries. The Tatars were allowed to intermarry with Christians, a thing uncommon in Europe at the time. The May Constitution of 1791 gave the Tatars representation in the Polish Sejm.

Although by the 18th century the Tatars adopted the local language, the Islamic religion and many Tatar traditions were preserved. This led to formation of a distinctive Muslim culture, in which the elements of Muslim orthodoxy mixed with religious tolerance and a relatively liberal society. For instance, the women in Lipka Tatar society traditionally had the same rights and status as men, and could attend non-segregated schools.

About 5,500 Tatars lived within the inter-war boundaries of Poland , and a Tatar cavalry unit had fought for the country's independence. The Tatars had preserved their cultural identity and sustained a number of Tatar organisations, including a Tatar archives, and a museum in Wilno .

The Tatars suffered serious losses during World War II and furthermore, after the border change in 1945 a large part of them found themselves in the Soviet Union. It is estimated that about 3000 Tatars live in present-day Poland, of which about 500 declared Tatar nationality in the 2002 census. There are two Tatar villages in the north-east of present-day Poland, as well as urban Tatar communities in Warsaw, Gdańsk, Bia&, and Gorzów Wielkopolski. Tatars in Poland sometimes have a Muslim surname with a Polish ending: ''Ryzwanowicz, Jakubowicz''.

The Tatars were relatively very noticeable in the Commonwealth military as well as in Polish and Lithuanian political and intellectual life for such a small community. In modern-day Poland, their presence is also widely known, due in part to their noticeable role in the historical novels of Henryk Sienkiewicz, which are universally recognized in Poland. A number of Polish intellectual figures have also been Tatars, e.g. the prominent historian Jerzy Łojek.

A small community of Polish speaking Tatars settled in Brooklyn, New York City in the early 1900s. They established a mosque that is still in use today.

Dobruja Tatars

In Dobruja, Romania, there is today a community of about 25,000 Crimean Tatars, which were colonized there by the Ottoman Empire beginning with the 17'th Century

Caucasian Tatars

These are Tatars who inhabit the upper , the steppes of the lower and the Kura, and the Araks. In the 19th century they numbered about 1,350,000. This number includes a number of Tatar oil workers who came to the Caucasus from the Middle Volga in the end of the 19th century.

Now this term is used to describe Tatars, settled in Caucasus. Other explanations, like followers, can be found only in historical context.

Nogais on the Kuma

The on the show traces of a mixture with Kalmyks. They are nomads, supporting themselves by cattle-breeding and fishing; a few are agriculturists.

Today Nogais is an independent ethnos, living in the North of Dagestan, where they lived after Nogai Horde's defeating in was against Russia and settling Kalmyks in their lands in 17th century. Nogais was replaced to ''Black Lands'' in the North of Daghestan. Another part merged with Kazakhs.

In 16th century Nogais supported Crimean Khanate and Ottoman Empire, but sometimes robbed Crimean, Tatar and Bashkir lands, although their rulers supported them. In 16th-17th century some defensive walls was constructed in modern Tatarstan and Samara Oblast.

One of the Tatar national heroes, S&, was Nogai.

Qundra Tatars

Some groups of Nogais emigrated to Middle Volga, where were assimilated by Volga Tatars .


The Karachays who number 18,500 in the upper valleys about Elburz live by agriculture.

Today Karachays are the independent ethnos, one of the main nation in Karachay-Cherkessia.

Siberian Tatars

The Siberian Tatars were estimated at 80,000 of Turkic stock, and about 40,000 had Uralic or Ugric ancestry. They occupy three distinct regions—a strip running west to east from Tobolsk to Tomsk—the and its spurs—and South Yeniseisk. They originated in the agglomerations of Turkic stems that, in the region north of the Altay, reached some degree of culture between the 4th and the 5th centuries, but were subdued and enslaved by the Mongols.

Baraba Tatars

Sometimes Siberian Tatars refers only to Baraba Tatar, as a part of Tatar nation, a Muslim people that speak dialects of Tatar language, but not another.

The Baraba Tatars take their name from one of their stems and number about 50,000 in the government of Tobolsk and about 5000 in Tomsk. After a strenuous resistance to Russian conquest, and much suffering at a later period from Kyrgyz and Kalmyk raids, they now live by agriculture—either in separate villages or along with Russians.

After colonisation of Siberia by Russian and Volga Tatars, Baraba Tatars used to call themselves ''people of Tomsk'', later ''Moslems'', and came to call themselves ''Tatars'' only in 20th century.

Chulym Tatars

The Chulym, or Cholym Tatars live on the , and both of the rivers . They speak a Turkic language with many Mongol and Yakut words and are more like Mongols than . In the 19th century they paid a tribute for 2550 arbaletes, but they now are rapidly becoming fused with Russians.

See: Chulym language

Abakan Tatars

The occupied the steppes on the and in the 17th century, after the withdrawal of the Kyrgyz, and represent a mixture with Kaibals and Beltirs—also of origin. Their language is also mixed. They are known under the name of Sagais, who numbered 11,720 in 1864, and are the purer Turkic stem of the Minusinsk Tatars, Kaibals, and . Formerly shamanists, they now are, nominally at least, adherents of the Russian Orthodox Church and support themselves mostly by cattle-breeding. Agriculture is spreading, but slowly, among them. They still prefer to plunder the stores of bulbs of ''Lilium martagon, Paeonia'', and ''Erythronium dens-canis'' laid up by the steppe mouse . The , of the Sayan mountains , who are mixed with ; the Uryankhes of north-west Mongolia, who are of Turkic origin but follow Buddhism; and the Karagasses, also of Turkic origin and much like the Kyrgyz, but reduced now to a few hundreds, are akin to the above.

Today ''Abakan Tatars'' of ''Kirghiz'' terms are extinct, used own names only.

See more: Khakass, Tuvans,

Northern Altay Tatars

The Tatars of the northern slopes of the are of Finnish origin. They comprise some hundreds of Kumandintses, the Lebed Tatars, the Chernevyie or Black-Forest Tatars and the Shors , descendants of the Kuznetsk or Iron-Smith Tatars. They are chiefly hunters, passionately loving their taiga, or wild forests, and have maintained their shaman religion and tribal organization into suoks. They also live partly on pine nuts and honey collected in the forests. Their traditional dress is that of their former rulers, the Kalmucks, and their language contains many Mongol words.


The Altay Tatars, or ''Altayans'', comprise
* the ''Mountain Kalmyks'' , to whom this name has been given by mistake, and who have nothing in common with the Kalmyks except their dress and mode of life. They speak a Turkic dialect.
* the ''Teleutes'', or ''Telenghites'' , a remainder of a formerly numerous and warlike nation, who have migrated from the mountains to the lowlands where they now live along with Russian peasants.

Term ''Tatars'' is extinct for this peoples.

Although Turkestan and Central Asia were formerly known as Independent Tartary, it is not now usual to call the Sarts, Kyrgyz and other inhabitants of those countries Tatars, nor is the name usually given to the Yakuts of Eastern Siberia.

Generic meaning

The name Tatars was originally applied to both the Turkic and Mongol tribes which invaded Europe six centuries ago, and gradually extended to the Turkic tribes mixed with Mongolian or Uralic-speaking peoples in Siberia. It is used at present in two senses:
* Quite loosely, to designate any of the Muslim tribes whose ancestors may have spoken Uralic or Altaic languages. Thus some writers talk of the Manchu Tatars.
* In a more restricted sense, to designate Muslim Turkic-speaking tribes, especially in Russia, who never formed part of the Seljuk or Ottoman Empire, but made independent settlements and remained more or less cut off from the politics and civilization of the rest of the Islamic world.

* Linguistically, Tatars are closely related to the Bashkirs and other Turkic peoples. Tatars are the direct descendants of the Volga Bulgars. Volga Bulgars were a mixed people, whose ancestors may have included speakers of Scythian, Turkic and Finno-Ugric languages. . After coming to the Middle Volga, Bulgars mixed with Finno-Ugric speaking tribes.
* Bashkirs speak a language very similar to Tatar language. Nowadays, Bashkortostan's officials pursue a policy of forced "Bashkirization" of Tatars. However, the number of Tatars in Bashkortostan is almost as high as the number of Bashkirs in their own republic.


Bibliographical indexes may be found in the Geographical Dictionary of P. Semenov, appended to the articles devoted respectively to the names given above, as also in the yearly Indexes by M. Mezhov and the Oriental Bibliography of Lucian Scherman. Besides the well-known works of Castren, which are a very rich source of information on the subject, Schiefner , Donner, Ahlqvist and other explorers of the Uralic and Altaic languages and peoples, as also those of the Russian historians , , Bestuzhev-Ryumin, Schapov, and , the following containing valuable information may be mentioned:
* the publications of the Russian Geographical Society and its branches;
* the Russian Etnographicheskiy Sbornik;
* the Izvestia of the Moscow society of the amateurs of natural science;
* the works of the Russian ethnographical congresses;
* Kostrov's researches on the Siberian Tatars in the memoirs of the Siberian branch of the geographical society; 's Reise durch den Altay, Aus Sibirien', "Picturesque Russia" ;
* Semenov's and Potanin's " Supplements " to Ritter's Asien; Harkavi's report to the congress at Kazan;
* Hartakhai's "Hist, of Crimean Tatars", in Vyestnik Evropy, 1866 and 1867;
* "Katchinsk Tatars", in Izvestia Russ. Geogr. Soc., xx., 1884.

Various scattered articles on Tatars will be found in the Revue orientale pour les Etudes Oural-Altaïques, and in the publications of the . See also E. H. Parker, A Thousand Years of the Tartars, 1895 , and Skrine and Ross, Heart of Asia .

See also

*Tatar language
*Tatar alphabet
*Volga Bulgaria
*Finnish Tatars
*Lipka Tatars
*Islam in Poland
*List of Tatars
*Steak tartare

References and notes