Unveiling the Difference: Manchu vs. Han

China has a long history of over 5000 years. Sometimes, it can be really confusing because of all the events that took place throughout history.

Modern-day China is completely different from what it was at the time of ancient civilizations. So many wars and invasions have led to its history becoming complex, along with people’s ethnicities and origins.

China is land to dozens of different ethnic groups. For instance, the Jurchen was a tribe in China.

This tribe was divided into two groups, each of which was treated very differently. These two groups were the Han and the Manchu.

Nowadays, many people regard both of them to have the same origins. However, this isn’t true. The tribes differ in language, religion, as well as culture, and tradition.

If you’re curious to know about how the Han is different from the Manchu, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I’ll be discussing in detail all the differences between the people of Han and Manchu.

So, let’s get right to it!

Are Manchus Considered Chinese?

Originally, Manchus were from Tunguska, which is in Northeastern China. They actually form the largest branch of the Tungusic people. Manchus were derived from the tribe of Jurchens.

Jurchens were an ethnic minority group who resided in the region of Manchuria. The Jurchens invaded China and formed the Jin Dynasty. However, they weren’t known as the people of Manchu until later in the 17th century.

Manchus are the fifth largest ethnic group in all over China. Unlike other Chinese ethnicities, the woman in the Manchu tribe had more power within the culture. They were known for being assertive.

The name of this tribe is debatable. It’s believed that Hong Taiji actually forbids the use of the name Jurchen.

However, this information isn’t validated by anyone. Scholars believe that it’s also unclear why he chose the name Manchu.

There are two schools of thought behind the actual meaning of the name Manchu. One is that Taiji chose this name to honor his father Nurhachi.

The Evolution of Manchu Identity: Name Origins to Modern Status

Nurhachi believed that he was incarnated as a bodhisattva of wisdom, Manjushri. The other debate is that the name is derived from the word “Mangun”, which means river.

Now you know that Manchus weren’t always known as Manchus. Here are a few of the Manchu names used throughout history:

Time PeriodName of Manchu People
3rd CenturySushen or Yilou
4th to 7th CenturyWuji or Momo
10th CenturyJurchen
16th Century onwardManchu, Manchurian
Names used to call the people Manchu.

Manchus came from adjacent areas of China and ruled over it for 250 years. Today, there are over 10 million Manchu people in China. Now that they’ve settled, one can say that Manchus are considered Chinese.

However, this ethnic group and its culture have faded immensely. There are only a few elderly people in parts of Manchuria, now northeast China, who still speak the language of Manchu.

The only thing which persists in modern Chinese culture from their history is female empowerment and Buddhist origins.

What is the Difference Between the Manchu and Han People?

Although the people of Han and Manchu are both from China, they have different histories and technically aren’t the same people. The Manchu people had lived in China for centuries.

They were part of Manchuria or northeast China. They ruled over China during the Qing dynasty.

However, today, China classifies the Manchu people as an ethnic minority group. This is because over 92% of the people in China regard themselves as Han Chinese.

Most of the Manchu people have assimilated into the Han culture. Han people are now the majority group in China.

Earlier, the Han and Manchu people were more distinct groups because they saw themselves as such. There was a fine line between their cultures and languages.

However, over time, the language of Manchu has also faded, with more people adapting to Mandarin Chinese. Now, that line has been blurred.

In terms of genetics, both Han and Manchu share the same amount of hg, C, and N. Today they’re indistinguishable because of the fact that most modern-day Manchu people descend from the Han Chinese.

Facial Features and Languages: Han vs. Manchu Distinctions

However, it is noted that the Northern Han Chinese have a stronger chin. Their faces are also more angular. Whereas, generally the Manchu have smoother and narrower faces.

Moreover, they also have a difference in their languages. Manchus speak the Tungusic language.

On the other hand, Hans speaks a Sino-Tibetan language. Today, the language of Manchu has faded, and everyone now speaks Han Chinese.

The Han and Manchu people can’t be easily distinguished just through their facial features in today’s world. They’ve grown to fit each other in China and live together peacefully.

Han Chinese clothing for women
Han Chinese clothing for women.

Are the Manchus Nomads?

It’s believed that originally the Manchus were nomads and hunters. People regard them to actually be the last nomadic group that was able to conquer a major sedentary civilization.

These descendants of the Jurchens conquered China in the 12th century. They also took over Beijing after fighting for 45 years. Despite popular belief, the truth is that Manchus aren’t a nomadic group!

The Jurchen group was classified into three separate tribes by the Chinese authorities. It was the Yeren Jurchens who were actually nomadic and not the other two.

The nomadic Jurchens were known as the Wild Jurchens.

Whereas, the sedentary Jurchens resided in villages in North East of Ming China. They were more occupied with the trade of fur, pearls, and ginseng. However, it should be noted that all of the Jurchen tribes were later “sedentarized”.

So why do people believe that Manchus were nomads? There are two reasons why this is a common misconception. Firstly, it’s assumed that all people who lived north and west of China were nomadic.

Some actually were nomadic, for instance, Jin or the Liao, but not all. Those who were nomadic formed states during the Song period.

Secondly, they were thought to be nomadic because the Manchu emperors incorporated a lot of nomadic traditions into their lifestyles. These included horseback riding as well as archery.

However, in reality, the Manchu group isn’t nomadic but they were hunters and shepherds.

Take a look at this video on the history of the Manchu people:

It’s pretty informative!

Was Han a Qing Dynasty?

No, the Qing Dynasty wasn’t founded by the Han Chinese. Even though there was the majority of the Chinese population, the Qing Dynasty was actually founded by the Manchu people. These were the descendants of the sedentary farming group known as the Jurchen.

This Dynasty is also known as the Manchu Dynasty or Pinyin Manzu. It was the last imperial dynasty of China, which ruled for over 250 years. Under this Dynasty, the population grew to 450 million from 150 million.

The Qing Dynasty took over the prior Ming Dynasty as they asked the Manchus for aid. The Manchu took advantage and seized the capital, which allowed them to establish their own dynasty in China.

They continued to employ the Ming officials. However, in order to ensure complete control over the administration, they made sure that half of the higher-ranking officials were Manchus.

This Dynasty was established in 1636 and became the Imperial Dynasty of the entire country in 1644. The Ming Dynasty was reigned in by the Manchus for military assistance, and that’s when the Manchus overthrew their government.

Under this dynasty, the Chinese Empire greatly expanded, and the population grew as well. The non-Chinese minority groups were Sinicized as well.

Qing also established an integrated national economy. Their cultural achievements include Jade carving, painting, and porcelain.

Are Mongols and Manchus Related?

The Manchu people are distantly related to the Turks as well as the Mongols. They were closer relatives to the people of eastern Siberia.

However, genetically and linguistically speaking, the Manchu people seem to be the closest to Mongolians. Although, Mongolians often dispute the statement due to historical reasons.

The Manchu people contain a core Y-DNA of the C3 haplotype. The same DNA can be found in Mongolians as well. Moreover, their languages and traditional scripts are also very similar but not the same. They share the same cognate words as well as grammar.

The Mongols and the Manchus also wore traditional costumes 300 years ago, which were very similar. However, most Manchu and Mongolian people today wear modern clothing, which is why they can’t be distinguished.

A difference between them is that they had different lifestyles. Manchus were traditionally hunters.

Whereas Mongolians were nomads. The Mongols lived in yurts, and some still do today. In contrast, the Manchus lived in cabins.

Fundamentally, the Manchu and Mongols are the same people. This is because they’re both members of the Tungusic family and have similar writing systems

Mongolian Child
A Mongolian Child.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the main takeaways from this article are:

  • The Manchu and Han people are both parts of the People’s Republic of China.
  • Although they belong to the same country, they have many differences between them along with their histories.
  • The Manchus conquered China and formed the Qing dynasty. However, this dynasty fell out, and today, there are only 10 million Manchus scattered all over China.
  • The majority ethnic group in China today is the Han people. The Manchus assimilated into the Han Chinese culture.
  • Manchus weren’t nomads. The Yeren Jurchen group was. All three Jurchen tribes were sedentarized.
  • The Qing dynasty was founded by the Manchus and not the Han people. This dynasty overthrew the preceding Ming dynasty and conquered China in 1644.
  • Mongols and Manchus are related through their genetics and traditions. However, they lived different lifestyles.

I hope this article helps you differentiate the people of Manchu and Han.

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