Eight Banners

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This article is about the former administrative divisions of China. For other meanings of the term "banner", see banner (disambiguation).

The Eight Banners (In Manchu: jakūn gūsa jakūn gūsa, Chinese: 八旗 bāqí) were administrative divisions under the Qing dynasty into which all Manchu families were placed. They provided the basic framework for the Manchu military organization. The fundamental building block of the banners was the company (Manchu: Niru.png niru, Chinese: 佐領 zuǒlǐng), some of which reflected pre-existing lineage or tribal connections in their membership, while others deliberately overrode such connections in an effort to create a more centralized military force. Each company was, in principle, required to furnish 300 troops to the larger banner army.

Soldiers of the Blue banner during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor.


The banner system was established by Nurhaci in the early seventeenth century. By 1601 Nurhaci was reorganizing his military forces into the basic structure of the banners and some evidence suggests that he might have started as much as a decade earlier. There are clear references to military units called "banners" in Korean sources in 1607 and sources dating from 1615 describe the "banner" unit structure. Details are uncertain due to the scarcity of source material and a lack of cultural referents; compounding the matter is a linguistic difficulty: In Manchu the term gūsa denotes a large military formation called a "banner" and tu refers to a flag known as a "banner", but in Chinese (the language used in nearly all the pertinent records) the character qi (旗) is used for both meanings. Thus it is often somewhat difficult to tell whether the material refers to the use of cloth flags in battle or a unit of troops.[1]

Ethnic components[edit]

Qing-era banners (replicas?)[clarify] in a museum in Kinmen

The Eight Banners were made out of people of vastly different social and ethnic origins.[2]

The Eight Banners consisted of three principal ethnic components: the Manchu, the Han, and the Mongols, and various smaller ethnic groups, such as the Xibe, Daur,and Evenks. Beginning in the late 1620s, Nurhaci's successors incorporated allied and conquered Mongol tribes into the Eight Banner system. The first Chinese additions were merely sprinkled into existing banners as replacements. Eventually, the sheer numbers of Han Chinese soldiers caused Manchu leaders to form them into the "Old Han Army" (舊漢軍, jiù hànjūn), mainly for infantry support. In 1631, a separate Han Chinese artillery corps was formed. Four Han Chinese banners were created in 1639 and finally the full eight were established in 1642.

The Han Chinese banners were known as the "Nikan" Banners, made out of a massive amount of Chinese POWs and defectors. Jurchen women married most of these Chinese since they came with no family of their own.[3] There were so many Han Chinese entering the Banners that there were more of them than the Jurchen.[4] Attempts by Hung Taiji were made to separate Han Chinese and Jurchen banners. In Chinese and Jurchen of Liaodong were mixed in culture. Many bannermen forged genealogies of their origin since they did not have any, and then these decided whether or not they were in a Chinese or a Jurchen banner.[5] The Eight Banners were then created from the old black Han Chinese banners and Jurchen banners and made equal to each other. The Mongol Eight banners were also created at this time, and anyone who was not classified into a Chinese or a Mongol banner became a Manchu, an ethnic group which Hung Taiji created.[6]

Ethnic and cultural definitions used to categorize Manchu, Mongol, and Han Bannermen[edit]

Manchu bannermen and Han bannermen were not categorized according to blood or ancestry or genealogy, they were categorized by their language, culture, behavior, identification and way of life. Some Chinese Bannermen were descended from Sinicized Jurchen who spoke Chinese and served the Ming, while some ethnic Manchu Bannermen (Baqi Manzhou) were of ethnic Han origins who had defected to the Jurchens, assimilated into Jurchen language and culture and lived among them in Jilin before 1618.

There were three types of main Banners, the Manzhou Baqi 滿洲八旗 (Manchu Banners), Menggu Baqi 蒙古八旗 (Mongol Banners), and Hanjun Baqi 漢軍八旗 (Chinese-army Banners).

The Qing regarded Chinese Bannermen (simplified Chinese: 汉军; traditional Chinese: 漢軍; pinyin: hànjūn; literally: "Han Chinese army"[7]) and the non Bannerman Han civilian general population (Han min, Han ren, minren) as separate. People were grouped into Manchu Banners and Chinese Banners (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) not based on their ancestry, race or blood, but based on their culture and the language they spoke. Han who deserted the Ming and who had moved to Nurgan (Jilin) as transfrontiersmen before 1618 assimilated with the Jurchen, practiced Jurchen culture and spoke Jurchen became part of the ethnic Manchu Banners, while descendants of sinicized Jurchen who had moved to Liaodong, adopted Han culture and surname, and swore loyalty to the Ming and spoke Chinese, eventually became part of the Chinese Banners (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) after being conquered by Nurhaci after 1618.

Han who actively defected to the Jurchen in Nurgan before 1618 were called "transfrontiersman" since they crossed the frontier over into Jurchen territory and adopted Jurchen identity and later became part of the Manchu Banners, while Han in Ming ruled Liaodong who only defected after the Qing conquered Liaoding were called "frontiersman" since they only lived on the frontier of Ming territory and they were put into the Chinese Banners (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) .

Han Chinese defectors who fled from the Ming joined the Jurchens in Nurgan before 1618 were placed into Manchu Banners and regarded as Manchu, but the Ming residents of Liaodong who were incorporated into the Eight Banners after the conquest of Liaodong from the Ming from 1618-1643 were placed into the separate Chinese Banners (Chinese:Hanjun, Manchu: Nikan cooha or Ujen cooha), and some of these Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) from Liaodong had Jurchen ancestry and were not classified as Manchu by the Qing.[8] Geography, culture, language, occupation and lifestyle were the factors used by Nurhaci's Jianzhou Jurchen Khanate to classify people as Jurchen or Nikan, those who were considered Jurchen lived in a Jurchen lifestyle, used the Jurchen language and inhabited the eastern part were considered Jurchen, while those who were considered by Nurhaci as Nikan (Han Chinese) even though some of these Nikan were of Korean or Jurchen ancestry, were the ones who used Chinese language, and inhabited villages and towns on the west.[9]

The Manzhou 滿洲 (Manchu), Menggu 蒙古 (Mongol), and Hanjun Baqi 漢軍 (Chinese-army) labels referred not to the ethnicity of the people who were in those banners, but instead to their original way of life, both actual Han Chinese and sinicized ethnic Manchus ended up in the Hanjun Banners.[10]

Hong Taiji had appropriated the term "Hanjun" from the Jin dynasty Jurchen Meng'an-Mouke (猛安謀克)(JurchenMinggan in Jurchen script.JPGMoumuke in Jurchen script.JPG /miŋgan moumukə/[11] military system, and used it as the name for the Chinese Banners, which contained numerous Chinese in Liaodong who were actually sinicized Jurchens.[12] The original meaning of Hanjun in the Meng'an Mouke system of the Jin and the new meaning in the Eight Banner system of the Qing differed in usage, the Qing used "Hanjun" collectively as an adjective for Chinese Banners or Chinese Bannermen while the Jin used Hanjun according to its literal meaning in Chinese, as the "Han Army".[13][14]

People from both sides often moved over the cultural and territorial division between the Ming Liaodong and Jurchen Nurgan, Han Chinese soldiers and peasants would moved into Nurgan while Jurchen mercenaries and merchants would moved to Liaodong, with some lineages ended up being dispersed on both sides, and the Jurchen viewed people as Nikan depending on whether they acted like Han Chinese. People from the same lineage like the Sinicized Jurchen Tong lineage of Fushun in Liaodong served both Ming and the Qing, with some like Tong Bunian staying as diehard Ming loyalists and others having faithfully serving the Qing conquest, after Liaodong was conquered and the Tong were enrolled in the Han Plain Blue Banner by the Qing. Eventually, the Kangxi Emperor even transferred some members of the Tong lineage like Tong Guogang and a few of his close relatives to the Manchu Bordered Yellow Banner after Tong requested the transfer.[15][16][17][18]

Tong Guogang justified his asking for transfer to a Manchu Banner was because the Tong were of Jurchen origin, but only Tong Guogang's immediate family and company were transferred to the Manchu but the other Tong companies were left as Chinese. Tong Guogang was the brother of Empress Xiaokangzhang who was the mother of the Kangxi Emperor. It was Qing policy to for every closely related in-law of the Emperor to get transferred into a Manchu Banner even if they were from another ethnicity and this was the most probable reason why Tong's request was granted by Kangxi, and more like than his appeal to his Jurchen origin.[19] The beginning of the Qing showed flexibility and political expedience was used when determining ethnicity, both regarding Tong's transfer from a Han to a Manchu Banner and Han Chinese who assimilated to the Jurchens.[20] Empress Xiaoyichun was from a bondservant company (Baoyi) in the Chinese Banners (Hanjun) but her son the Jiaqing Emperor transferred her family to a Manchu Banner and changed their surname from Wei to the Manchucized Weigiya.

The geographical, political, and cultural division was between the Ming Liaodong and the Jurchen dominated Nurgan, which traded and interacted with Liaodong through Fushun.[21]

Nurhaci and Hongtaiji both viewed ethnic identity as determined by culture, language, and attitude, not by ancestry (genealogy), and these identities could be changed and people transferred from different ethnic banners to another. Mongols were associated with the Mongolian language, nomadism and horse related activities, Manchus were associated with Manchu language and foremost being part of the Banners, and Han Chinese were associated with inhabiting Liaodong, the Chinese language, agriculture, commerce.[22] Biological determinants and ancestry were disregarded in determing Manchu and Han identities, culture was the primary factor in differentiating between Manchu and Han, and occasionally identities were blurred and could be altered.[23] The Qing creation of the separate Manchu, Mongol, and Han Banners was not rooted in distinguishable classifications of people, but of fluxing categories defined by the Qing, their membership in the different banners primarily depending on whether they spoke the Manchu, Mongolian, or the Chinese language.[24] It has been suggested that the Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) themselves were not very familiar with the exact meaning of "Hanjun", as the Qing changed the definition of what it meant to be a Manchu or a Han Bannerman.[25]

Manchu Banners had (non-bondservant) Han Chinese families inducted into them, like the family of the Manchu Bordered Yellow Banner member Chang Wen-hsing, the Governor of Kansu (Gansu) in 1647, who was of Han Chinese origin despite being in a Manchu Banner.[26] The Manchu official Duanfang had Han Chinese ancestors originating from Zhejiang- towards the end of the Ming, they had defected to the Qing and moved to southern Manchuria from their original home in Zhejiang province, they changed their surname to Tohoro from Tao to make it sound Manchu and registered it in the Manchu Plain White Banner.[27][28][29][30] Since the Manchus were willing to accept assimilated strangers, Han Chinese who defected to the Jurchens or were captured by them had integrated well into Manchu society.[31] These Han Chinese transfrontiersman from Liaodong embraced Manchu customs and changed their names into Manchu to the point where[32] they identified as Manchu rather than Chinese and resembles Manchus in their speech, behavior, and looks.[33] It is hard for historians to tell whether a Manchu was originally a Han transfrontiersman since they no longer used Chinese names or regarded themselves as Han Chinese, Frederic Wakeman suggested that is evidence that the Manchu Dahai's ancestors were Han Chinese transfrontiersman.[34] The Jurchen headman of Turun-hoton and arch-enemy of Nurhaci, Nikan Wailan, was also suggested to be a Han transfrontiersman by Wakeman, since his name literally meant "Chinese official".[35] The pre-1618 Han defectors and transfrontiersmen who had joined the Jurchen became part of the Later Jin elite and were extremely assimilated into Jurchen culture to the point where their Han ancestry was the only thing that differentiated them from Jurchens.[36] Nurhaci differentiated between different groups of Han Chinese based on the date they became part of his Later Jin state. After the Jurchens conquered part of Liaodong, Han Chinese residents revolted against Jurchen rule in 1623. A furious Nurhaci then ordered that these Han Chinese in Liaodong be discriminated against and receive the death penalty for certain crimes while Jurchen should be let off. However, Nurhaci also ordered that Han Chinese who joined the Jurchens between 1603-1619 (the Tai Nikan) be treated equal to the Jurchen in these cases and not be discriminated against.[37][38][39]

The Manchu word for Han, "Nikan" was used to describe people who lived like Han Chinese and not their actual ethnic origin, the Han Bannermen (Hanjun) was not an ethnic category and the Han Banners included people of non-Han Chinese blood.[40] When Liaodong was invaded in 1619 by Nurhaci, it became imperative for the Jurchens to secure the loyalty of the Han (Nikan) in Liaodong to their cause, by treating them equally as Jurchens were treated and even seizing Jurchen properties, grains, wealth, possessions and homes to grant them to Han, and having the aristocracy expand to include Han families in order to get Han to defect to Nurhaci's side.[41]

Some Han Bannermen and their lineages became successful members of the Qing nobility and their descendants continued to be awarded noble titles, like that of Li Yongfang who was ennobled by Nurhaci as third class viscount and enrolled in the Plain Blue Chinese Banner (Hanjun, or Han Banner), and his descendants continued to be nobles to the final years of Qianlong's rule and were ennobled with even greater titles.[42] The Manchus gave extensive titles and honors and marriage to Aisin Gioro women to pre-1644 Han defectors, like the marriage of Nurhaci's granddaughter to Li Yongfang and his sons registered in the Chinese Plain Blue banner (Hanjun, or Han Banner), and the title granted to the son of a Ming defector, Sun Sike (Sun Ssu-k'o) in the Chinese Plain White Banner, (Hanjun, or Han Banner) and the marriage of one of Kangxi's daughters to his son.[43]

At the begninning of the Qing, originally the sharpest distinction was drawn by Qing policy to emphasize difference between Han civilians and all Bannermen, and not between Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) and Manchu Bannermen. The Manchus used Nikan to describe Ming subjects in Liaodong who lived a Chinese lifestyle like sinicized Jurchens, Mongols, and Koreans, and not as a racial term for ethnic Han Chinese. A person only had to be originally a Ming subject and not ethnic Chinese to get categorized as a Han bannerman so people of Jurchen origin ended up in Mongol and Chinese Banners.[44] Nurhaci used culture to categorize people and allowed Han transfrontiersmen to identify as Manchu after assimilating, and ethnicity was regarded as flexible when Han Chinese and Mongols families were moved by Kangxi to Manchu Banners from their original Mongol and Chinese Banners (Hanjun, or Han Banners) .[45]

Li Yongfang's rewards for surrendering Fushun to the Jurchens and defecting included promotion in rank, Nurhaci's granddaughter as a wife, battling along with Nurhaci and induction into the Jin aristocracy as a Chinese frontiersman, which was different from how Nurhaci handled both the Han transfrontiersmen who assimilated into Manchu identity and captured Han bondservants.[46] The Chinese frontiersman were inducted into the Han Banners.[47] Nurhaci offered to reward Li Yongfang with promotion and special treatment if he surrendered Fushun reminding him of the grim fate that would await him and Fushun's residents if they continued to resist.[48] Freeholder status was given to Li Yongfang's 1,000 troops after his surrender, and the later Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) Bao Chengxian and Shi Tingzhu also experience good fortune in Qing service after their surrenders in 1622 at Guangning.[49]

Nurhaci used semi-literate interlocutors of Han (Nikan) origin to translate between different languages and trusted them a lot, developing close and friendly personal relations with some of them like Kanggūri and Fanggina. The Han Chinese Gong Zhenglu (Gong Zhengliu) who was abducted in he 1580s by the Jurchens from Liaodong with tens of thousands of others, originally came from Shaoxing in Zhejiang became a close confidant of Nurhaci and tutoring his sons, adopting the Manchu name Onoi, and being showered with wives, slaves, and a house by Nurhaci.[50]

The Manchu leader Nurhaci embarked on the conquest of Liaodong from the Ming dynasty, luring Han Chinese to his side to defect by threatening them with destruction and at the same time also promising them rewards, with important positions.[51] A massive revolt against the Jurchens by the Liaodong Chinese broke out in 1623, due to the Jurchens squeezing the Chinese for labor and stationing Jurchen in Chinese households. Acts of sabotage and slaughter of the Jurchen were carried out by the Chinese rebels in retaliation.[52] Hong Taiji, who succeeded Nurhaci, began to include many Chinese in his government and copy the Chinese style of governing.[53] After defeats inflicted by the Chinese General Yuan Chonghuan upon the Manchus with artillery such as at the Battle of Ningyuan,[54] the Manchu then decided to absorb Han Chinese prisoners who knew how to use guns into their army to supplement their forces.[55]

The Manchus also lured Han Chinese Generals into defecting and joining the Banners by marrying them to women from the Imperial Aisin Gioro family.[56] One Han Chinese General, Li Yongfang (Li Yung-fang) was bribed by the Manchus into defecting by being married to an Aisin Gioro wife, and being given a position in the banners. Many more Han Chinese abandoned their posts and joined the Manchus.[57] A mass marriage of Han Chinese to Manchu women numbering 1,000 took place in 1632 after Prince Yoto came up with the idea. They were either generals or officials.[58] It was said by the Manchu leader that "since the Chinese generals and Manchu women lived together and ate together, it would help these surrendered generals to forget their motherland."[59] Women from the Imperial family were also married to other Han Chinese officials like the Three Feudatories' sons, who defected to the Qing after their conquest of China.[60] The Manchus also created an artillery unit out of Han Chinese, which they used against the Ming army.[61] Han Chinese were also lured by the Manchus into defecting and entering their employ in civil service by granting them privileges such as calling themselves "ministers", while Manchus in the same position were regarded as "slaves".[62]

The Han who classified in different ways had come under Manchu rule in three different eras, before 1618 the Han "transfrontiersmen" who threw in their lot with Nurhaci were effectively only Han Chinese by ancestry and blood since they practiced Jurchen culture and became part of Manchu companies (Niru) within Manchu Banners, while the from 1618-1622 the Han captured in Liaodong and Liaoxi became either bondservants to Manchu Banners or Han Bannermen, and then finally the Han who deserted the Ming during Hong Taiji's rule to join the Manchu, and these were first placed into separate all Han companies (Niru) attached to Manchu Banners, and then when in 1642 the Manchu Banners ejected all their Han companies they were placed into separate Chinese Banners (Hanjun, or Han Banners) since they were the mostly not assimilated to Jurchen culture.[63]

At Guangning, Shi Tingzhu, a Ming soldier of Jurchen descent but who practiced Chinese culture, had surrendered to Nurhaci's Later Jin in 1622 along with Bao Chengxian and they were eventually placed into Chinese Banners (Hanjun, or Han Banners), after Bao suggested creating separate Chinese Banners (Hanjun, or Han Banners) . Neither were all Han Chinese in the Eight Banners part of the Chinese Banners (Hanjun, or Han Banners), nor was the Chinese Banners (Hanjun, or Han Banners) made out of only Han Chinese, Han Banner membership did not automatically mean they were actual Han Chinese.[64] Manchu Banners inducted some Han Chinese and Mongols while Chinese Banners included ethnic Manchus like Shi.[65] Shi Tianzhu claimed to be the son of a man from the Gūwalgiya clan named Sigan and his adopted Chinese surname "Shi" derived from "Sigan".[66] One of Shi Tingzhu's son's, Huashan (Hūwašan) petitioned to be transferred to a Manchu Banner on the basis of his ancestry, and although he may have been distantly descended from the Gūwalgiya, the specific genealogy he submitted was bogus.[67] The specific lineage Tong Guogang submitted in his petition to be transferred to a Manchu banner was also bogus, but both Huashan and Tong's requests for transfer were granted, however, since they had so many relatives, only their close relatives were transferred with them to Manchu Banners while the rest of their relatives were left behind in Chinese Banners.[68]

The Jurchens under Nurhaci had classified people as Han Chinese (Nikan) according to whether they were former Ming subjects, behaved like Han Chinese, had a Chinese lifestyle, spoke Chinese language, dressed like Han Chnese, and had Han Chinese names, and all Jurchens who had moved to Ming China adopted Chinese surnames.[69] Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) rose to many powerful positions and prominence under Shunzhi, these Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) were descendants of Han defectors in Liaodong who joined Nurhaci and Hong Taiji, in the third or second generation.[70] They "were barely distinguishable from Manchu nobility." Geng Zhongming, a Han bannerman, was awarded the title of Prince Jingnan, and his son Geng Jingmao managed to have both his sons Geng Jingzhong and Geng Zhaozhong become court attendants under Shunzhi and get married to Aisin Gioro women, with Haoge's (a son of Hong Taiji) daughter marrying Geng Jingzhong and Prince Abatai's granddaughter marrying Geng Zhaozhong.[71]

The mistaken views applied to Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) about race and ethnicity missed the fact that they were actually a "cultural group" since a person could be a Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) without having to be an actual Han Chinese.[72] It was Qianlong who redefined the identity of Han Bannermen by saying that they were to be regarded as of having the same culture and being of the same ancestral extraction as Han civilians, this replaced the earlier opposing ideology and stance used by Nurhaci and Hong Taiji who classified identity according to culture and politics only and not ancestry, but it was Qianlong's view on Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) identity which influenced the later historians and expunged the earlier Qing stance.[73]

Qianlong also promulgated an entirely new view of the Han Bannermen different from his grandfather Kangxi, coming up with the abstract theory that loyalty in itself was what was regarded as the most important, so Qianlong viewed those Han Bannermen who had defected from the Ming to the Qing as traitors and compiled an unfavorable biography of the prominent Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) who had defected to the Qing, while at the same time Qianlong had compiled a biography to glorify Ming loyalists who were martyred in battle against the Qing called "Record of Those Martyred for Their Dynasty and Sacrificed for Purity".[74] Some of Qianlong's inclusions and omissions on the list were political in nature, like including Li Yongfang out of Qianlong's dislike for his descendant Li Shiyao and excluding Ma Mingpei out of concern for his son Ma Xiongzhen's image.[75]

From 1618-1629, the Han Chinese from eastern Liaodong who joined the Eight Banners were known as "tai nikan", the Han who defected to the Qing at Fushun were known as Fushan Nikan and were considered part of the tai nikan. The Tai Nikan were distinguished from the later Han Chinese who joined the banners between 1629-1643 and originated from western Liaodong, Shanxi, Shandong, and Zhili, and were known as "fu xi baitangga".[76] Both groups were part of the Chinese Banners before the Qing crossed over Shanhai pass in 1644, and as such were both distinguished from Han who were incorporated into the Chinese Banners after 1644 when the Qing ruled China. The pre-1644 Chinese Bannermen were known as "old men" 旧人 .[77] A mass transfer into the Manchu banners of every single Fushun Nikan, and specifically chosen tai nikan, Koreans, and Mongols was enacted by the Qianlong Emperor in 1740.[78]

Manchu Bannermen in Beijing were driven into poverty just decades after the conquest, living in slums and falling into debt, with signs of their plight appearing as soon as 1655. They were driven to the point where they had to sell their property to Han Chinese, in violation of the law.[79]

Originally in the early Qing the Qing Emperors both took some Han Chinese as concubines and a 1648 decree from Shunzhi allowed Han Chinese men to marry Manchu women from the Banners with the permission of the Board of Revenue if they were registered daughters of officials or commoners or the permission of their banner company captain if they were unregistered commoners, it was only later in the dynasty that these policies were done away with and the Qing enacted new policies in their xiunu system of drafting Banner girls for the Imperial Harem by excluding daughters of Han commoners.[80][81]

Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) frequently married Han civilian women and this was permitted by the Qing Emperors; however, the Qing Emperors were distressed to find girls in the Banners as a result of these intermarriages following Han civilian customs in clothing and jewelry when they ended up being drafted for palace service.[82] The Qing formulated policies to remove and shut out daughters of common Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) from serving in the Imperial palace as maids and consorts, exempting them from the draft, asserting that it was doing it out of concern due to the economic plight of Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen), however, it may have been doing this after the Qing court was alarmed to find girls from Chinese Banners (Hanjun, or Han Banners) following Han Chinese civilian customs like wearing robes with wide sleeves, feet binding, and wearing a single earring, all of which were contrary to Manchu custom, daughters of Manchu and Mongol bannerman still had to submit to the draft where they would be selected to serve in the Imperial palace as maids or potential consorts.[83] Daughters of Han Bannermen were exempt from having to submit themselves to palace service.[84] It was not permitted for daughters of Chinese Banner (Hanjun, or Han Banner) to enter the selection as concubines to the Emperor.[85]

The Manchu bannermen typically used their first/personal name to address themselves and not their last name, while Han bannermen used their last name and first in normal Chinese style.[86][87]

A lot of Han Chinese bannermen adopted Manchu names, which may have been motivated by associating with the elite. One Han Chinese bannerman named Cui Zhilu who knew Manchu had changed his name to the Manchu Arsai, and the emperor asked him how he came about his name.[88] Chinese bannermen also adopted Manchu personal naming practices like giving numbers as personal names.[89]

Chinese bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) manchufied their last names by adding "giya" at the end.[90] However, some Han Chinese bannermen like Zhao Erfeng, Zhao Erxun and Cao Xueqin did not use Manchu names.[91] A lot of other Han Chinese bannermen used Manchufied names, one Han bannermen with a Manchu name of Deming also had a separate Chinese name, Zhang Deyi.[92]

Within the Manchu banner companies, there were various Han Chinese and Mongol persons dispersed among them, and there were Mongol, Korean, Russian, and Tibetan companies in the Manchu Banners. The Manchu Banners had two main divisions between the higher ranking "Old Manchus" (Fo Manzhou, Fe Manju) made out of the main Jurchen tribes like the Jianzhou whom Nurhaci and Hong Taiji created the Manchu Banners from, and the lower ranking "New Manchus" (Chinese transliteration: 伊車滿洲. 衣車滿洲 Yiche Manzhou; Chinese translation:新滿洲 ;Manchu:Ice Manju) made out of other Tungusic and Mongolic tribes like the Daur, (Dawoer), Oroqen (Elunchun), Solun (Suolun), Hezhe, Kiakar (Kuyula), and Xibe (Xibo) from the northeast who were incorporated into the Manchu Banners by Shunzhi and Kangxi after the 1644 Qing invasion of Ming China, in order for them to fight for the Qing against the Russian Empire in the Amur River Basin.[93] Jurchen (Tungus), Mongols, Chinese, and Koreans were all part of the Manchu Eight Banners.[94]

Prominent Bannermen[edit]

The Ming loyalist and grandson of Koxinga, Zheng Keshuang was inducted into the Chinese (Hanjun) Plain Red Banner after surrendering to the Qing.

A descendant of the Ming dynasty Imperial Family, Zhu Zhiliang, was given the title of Marquis of Extended Grace by the Qing dynasty and inducted into the Chinese (Hanjun) Plain White Banner.


The Aha were made out of enslaved Jurchens, Koreans, Han Chinese, and Mongols before 1616, they then became part of the booi (bondservants) attached to Manchu Banners, there is no evidence that after 1621 most of the booi were Han Chinese despite the mistaken view held by many of this topic, many different ethnic groups were booi including Koreans and ethnic Manchu bondservants as well.[95] Both Koreans, Han Chinese, and Jurchens who were prisoners of war or abducted became part of the Aha, the forerunner of the booi (bondservants) in the Banners, although the Jurchens integrated into their own some of the earlier captured Han Chinese and Koreans.[96] The Jianzhou Jurchens accepted some Han Chinese and Koreans who became Jušen (freeholders) on Jianzhou land.[97]

Convergence of Manchu identity with the Eight Banner system[edit]

The term "Manchu" could vary in meaning, various groups within the Eight Banners could be considered Manchu depending on how broad the definition was, one definition of Manchu was the "Old Manchu" including the Aisin Gioro clan, of the original founding population who spoke Manchu and who were the basis of the Banner system whom the Qing relied on the most. Another definition was both the Old Manchus and New Manchus who together made up the Eight Banner Manchus (Chinese translation: 八旗滿洲 Baqi Manzhou), after 1644 the Manchu Banners incorporated other Tungusic peoples (like the Xibe, Daur, Evenki, Oroqen, Hezhe) and these were the new Manchus (Chinese transcription : 伊車滿洲. 衣車滿洲 Yiche Manzhou ; Chinese translation: 新滿洲 ; Manchu : ice manju), and the third definition of Manchu, when the Qing were differentiating between Bannermen (Man or Qiren) and non-Banner Han civilians (Han or min), included all people in the Eight Banners, including the Manchu, Mongol, and Han Banners (Hanjun) who were all Banner people (Qiren), so Man-Han and qi-min both referred to the same difference, of the entire Eight Banners being Manchu vs the general Han civilian population, and this broad view of all Banner people being Manchus vs the general Han civilian population was used by the Qing Emperor and government.[98]

Even though the concept of the Manchu ethnic group 'Manzu" was around during the time of the late Qing and early Republic of China period, people, including the ethnic Manchu Bannermen, identified themselves foremost as members of the Eight Banners (qiren) in contrast to civilians (min) and not by emphasizing their ethnic group, "qiren" and not "Manchu' was the most often used word to identify Manchus.[99]

Most people during that time viewed everyone in the Eight Banners as a Manchu, including anti-Qing revolutionaries like Liang Qichao. The Manchus were referred to most often as qiren, Manren, or Manzhouren, which were not ethnic terms, while the word "Manzu", which indicated Manchu as an ethnicity, was mostly unused.[100]

The identification and interchangeability between "Manchu" and "Banner people" (Qiren) began in the 17th century, with Banner people being differentiated from civilians (Chinese: minren, Manchu: irgen, or Chinese: Hanren, Manchu :Nikan), the term bannermen was becoming identical with Manchu to the general perception. Qianlong referred to all Bannmen as Manchu, and Qing laws did not say "Manchu" but referred to and affected "Bannermen".[101] The identification of "Bannerman" (Qiren) with "Manchu" grew stronger due to Qing policy of reinforcing Manchu identity using the Banners from the 18th century, and became more so up to the Xinhai Revolution in 1911 and finally, all Bannermen and their descendants were recognized as ethnic Manchu (Manzu) by the People's Republic of China.[102]

Edward Rhoads asserts that the identity of the Manchu ethnic group is identical to that of the entire Eight Banners ever since after the Boxer Rebellion down to this day when the People's Republic of China recognized the Manchu ethnic group.[103]

When the Communist Party was creating new classifications for ethnic minorities in the 1950s, since the entire Eight Banner system fit most of the definitions used to determine an ethnic group and shared those definitions across all the Banners, all members of the Eight Banners, whether Manchu, Mongol Bannermen, or Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen), could opt to join the newly created Manzu (Manchu) ethnicity which replaced the term qiren ("Banner people"), but the Mongol and Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) were also given the option of getting classified as Mongol or Han Chinese instead of Manchu.[104] The "New Manchu" Daur, Xibe, Evenki, Oroqen, and Hezhe were allowed to form their own separate ethnic groups from the Manchus by the Communists.[105]

Segregation from civilian population and intermarriage[edit]

All bannermen, whether Manchu, Mongol, or Chinese were segregated from the Han civilian population in their own garrisons. Manchu and Chinese (Hanjun) Bannermen were allowed to take Han civilian women as concubines, but Manchu and Chinese bannerwomen were punished with expulsion from the Banners if they married Han civilian men. Bannerwomen were only allowed to marry other Bannermen. Since Chinese Bannermen were treated as semi-Manchus according to the law, Manchu bannerwomen were allowed to marry Chinese (Hanjun) bannermen.[106] Manchu Bannermen and Chinese Bannermen could marry each other with no prohibitions.[107] It was reported that among Banner people, both Manchu and Chinese (Hanjun) in Aihun, Heilongjiang in the 1920s, would seldom marry with Han civilians, but they (Manchu and Chinese Bannermen) would mostly intermarry with each other.[108] Owen Lattimore reported that during his January 1930 visit to Manchuria, he studied a community in Jilin (Kirin), where both Manchu and Chinese bannermen were settled at a town called Wulakai, and eventually the Chinese Bannermen there could not be differentiated from Manchus since they were effectively Manchufied. The Han civilian population was in the process of absorbing and mixing with them when Lattimore wrote his article.[109]

During the Xinhai Revolution in Xi'an, impoverished Han soldiers took young Manchu women as wives after seizing the banner garrison in the Manchu city.[110][111]

During the Republic of China (1912–49) era after the fall of the Qing, intermarriage began to occur between Han civilians and Manchus, mostly involving Han men marrying Manchu women, since poverty diminished the marital prospects of Manchu men.[112][113]


Bannermen accompanying an Imperial hunting party. Hunting served as a military exercise and to improve coordination between military units.

From the time China was brought under the rule of the Qing dynasty (1644 – 1683), the banner soldiers became more professional and bureaucratized. Once the Manchus took over governing, they could no longer satisfy the material needs of soldiers by garnishing and distributing booty; instead, a salary system was instituted, ranks standardized, and the Eight Banners became a sort of hereditary military caste, though with a strong ethnic inflection. Banner soldiers took up permanent positions, either as defenders of the capital, Beijing, where roughly half of them lived with their families, or in the provinces, where some eighteen garrisons were established. The largest banner garrisons throughout most of the Qing dynasty were at Beijing, followed by Xi'an and Hangzhou. Sizable banner populations were also placed in Manchuria and at strategic points along the Great Wall, the Yangtze River and Grand Canal.

One punishment for Bannermen for their misdeeds involved them being exiled to Xinjiang.[114]

Green Standard Army[edit]

Main article: Green Standard Army

Over time, many Han Chinese banner companies in the provincial garrisons were reclassified as civilian or placed in the Green Standard Army. At the end of the Qing dynasty, all members of the Eight Banners, regardless of their original ethnicity, were considered by the Republic of China to be Manchu.

Hierarchical structure[edit]

The banners had a hierarchical structure. The smallest unit was niru (or 佐領 zuǒlǐng in Chinese; 300 men). The next was jalan (or 參領 cānlǐng); 5 niru and 5 jalan constituted a gūsa (banner). Of course, these were ideal numbers and their actual sizes varied substantially.

niru jalan gūsa
niru jalan gūsa

(In order set during the Shunzhi era.)

English Manchu Mongolian Chinese L/R U/L Image
Bordered Yellow Banner
kubuhe suwayan gūsa
Хөвөөт Шар Хошуу 鑲黃旗 xiāng huáng qí Left Upper
Bordered Yellow Banner.png
Plain Yellow Banner ᡤᡠᠯᡠ
gulu suwayan gūsa
Шулуун Шар Хошуу 正黃旗 zhèng huáng qí Right Upper
ManZhow 8Flag Yellow.jpg
Plain White Banner ᡤᡠᠯᡠ
gulu šanggiyan gūsa
Шулуун Цагаан Хошуу 正白旗 zhèng bái qí Left Upper
ManZhow 8Flag White.jpg
Plain Red Banner ᡤᡠᠯᡠ
gulu fulgiyan gūsa
Шулуун Улаан Хошуу 正紅旗 zhèng hóng qí Right Lower
ManZhow 8Flag Red.jpg
Bordered White Banner ᡴᡠᠪᡠᡥᡝ
kubuhe šanggiyan gūsa
Хөвөөт Цагаан Хошуу 鑲白旗 xiāng bái qí Left Lower
Bordered White Banner.png
Bordered Red Banner ᡴᡠᠪᡠᡥᡝ
kubuhe fulgiyan gūsa
Хөвөөт Улаан Хошуу 鑲紅旗 xiāng hóng qí Right Lower
Bordered Red Banner.png
Plain Blue Banner ᡤᡠᠯᡠ
gulu lamun gūsa
Шулуун Хөх Хошуу 正藍旗 zhèng lán qí Left Lower
ManZhow 8Flag Blue.jpg
Bordered Blue Banner ᡴᡠᠪᡠᡥᡝ
kubuhe lamun gūsa
Хөвөөт Хөх Хошуу 鑲藍旗 xiāng lán qí Right Lower
Bordered Blue Banner.png


Although the banners were instrumental in the Qing Empire takeover of China proper in the 17th century from the Ming Empire, they began to fall behind rising Western powers in the 18th century. By the 1730s, the traditional martial spirit had been discarded, as the well-paid Bannerman spent their time gambling and theatergoing. Subsidizing the 1.5 million men women and children in the system was an expensive proposition, compounded by embezzlement and corruption. They were unable to deal with internal rebellions such as the Taiping Rebellion, and were helpless before European armies.[115]

John Ross, a Scots missionary who served in Manchuria, wrote, "Their claim to be military men is based on their descent rather than on their skill in arms; and their pay is given them because of their fathers' prowess, and not at all from any hopes of their efficiency as soldiers. Their soldierly qualities are included in the accomplishments of idleness, riding, and the use of the bow and arrow, at which they practice on a few rare occasions each year."[116]

During the Boxer Rebellion, 1899-1901, 10,000 Bannermen were recruited from the Metropolitan Banners and given modernized training and weapons. One of these was the Hushenying. Many Manchu Bannermen in Beijing supported the Boxers and shared their anti-foreign sentiment.[117] The Manchu Bannermen were devastated by the fighting during the Boxer Rebellion, with massive casualties sustained during the war and subsequently being driven into desperate poverty.[118]


By the late 19th century, the Qing Dynasty began training and creating New Army units based on Western training, equipment and organization. Nevertheless, the banner system remained in existence until the fall of the Qing in 1911, and even beyond, with a rump organization continuing to function until the expulsion of Puyi (the former Xuantong emperor) from the Forbidden City in 1924.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Elliott 2001, p. 58.
  2. ^ Elliott 2001, p. 39.
  3. ^ Crossley, 2010, p. 95.
  4. ^ Crossley, 2010, p. 95.
  5. ^ Crossley, 2010, p. 95.
  6. ^ Crossley, 2010, p. 96.
  7. ^ Crossley translates hànjūn as "Chinese-martial", but Naquin argues that "Chinese Bannermen" is more apposite.
  8. ^ Crossley 1999, p. 98.
  9. ^ Crossley 1999, pp. 89-90.
  10. ^ ed. McCoy & Light 1986, p. 92
  11. ^ 金光平,金启孮 & 乌拉熙春(1996),第230页
  12. ^ Crossley 1990, p. 232.
  13. ^ Crossley 1999, p. 97.
  14. ^ Ch'ing-shih Wen-t'i, Volume 4, Issue 9 1983, p. 39.
  15. ^ Crossley 1999, pp. 55-56.
  16. ^ Rawski 1998, p. 72.
  17. ^ Rowe 2010, p. 11.
  18. ^ Watson, Ebrey 1991, p. 180.
  19. ^ Elliott 2001, p. 87.
  20. ^ Elliott 2001, p. 88.
  21. ^ Crossley 1999, p. 58.
  22. ^ Kagan 2010, p. 102.
  23. ^ Hammond, Stapleton 2008, p. 75.
  24. ^ Naquin 2000, p. 371.
  25. ^ Naquin 2000, p. 371.
  26. ^ Spence 1988, p. 5.
  27. ^ Rhoads 2011, p. 55.
  28. ^ Taveirne 2004, p. 339.
  29. ^ Crossley 1999, p. 48.
  30. ^ Chʻing Shih Wen Tʻi, Volume 10, Issues 1-2 1989, p. 71.
  31. ^ Wakeman 1986, p. 42.
  32. ^ Wakeman 1986, p. 43.
  33. ^ Wakeman 1986, p. 44.
  34. ^ Wakeman 1986, p. 45.
  35. ^ Crossley 1999, p. 172.
  36. ^ Elliot 2001, p. 75.
  37. ^ Wakeman 1986, p. 45.
  38. ^ Crossley 1999, p. 94.
  39. ^ eds. Spence & Wills, Jr. 1979, p. 19.
  40. ^ Rawski 1998, p. 71.
  41. ^ Crossley 1999, p. 180.
  42. ^ Rawski 1998, p. 72.
  43. ^ Watson, Ebrey 1991, p. 179.
  44. ^ Watson, Ebrey 1991, pp. 181-180.
  45. ^ Watson, Ebrey 1991, p. 181.
  46. ^ Wakeman 1986, p. 61.
  47. ^ Taveirne 2004, p. 72.
  48. ^ Lovell 2007, p. 242.
  49. ^ Elliott 2001, p. 76.
  50. ^ Crossley 1999, p. 101.
  51. ^ Spence 1990, p.28.
  52. ^ Spence 1990, p.29.
  53. ^ Spence 1990, p.30.
  54. ^ Wakeman 1977, p. 78.
  55. ^ Wakeman 1977, p. 78.
  56. ^ Walthall 2008, p. 148.
  57. ^ Wakeman 1977, p. 79.
  58. ^ Walthall 2008, p. 148.
  59. ^ Walthall 2008, p. 148.
  60. ^ Walthall 2008, p. 148.
  61. ^ Wakeman 1977, p. 79.
  62. ^ Wakeman 1977, p. 78.
  63. ^ Crossley, Siu, Sutton 2006, pp. 43-44.
  64. ^ Crossley, Siu, Sutton 2006, p. 44.
  65. ^ Elliott 2001, p. 85.
  66. ^ Crossley 1990, p. 240.
  67. ^ Crossley 1999, pp. 112-3.
  68. ^ Crossley 1999, p. 1123.
  69. ^ Crossley, Siu, Sutton 2006, pp. 44-45.
  70. ^ Wakeman 1986, p. 1016.
  71. ^ Wakeman 1986, p. 1017.
  72. ^ Hayter-Menzies 2008, p. 6.
  73. ^ Crossley 1999, pp. 55-56.
  74. ^ Crossley 1999, pp. 291-292.
  75. ^ Crossley 1999, p. 293.
  76. ^ Crossley 1999, p. 103.
  77. ^ Crossley 1999, p. 105.
  78. ^ Crossley 1999, p. 128.
  79. ^ Muramatsu 1972, p. 2.
  80. ^ Wang 2004, pp. 215-216 & 219-221.
  81. ^ Walthall 2008, p. 140-141.
  82. ^ Walthall 2008, p. 143.
  83. ^ Walthall 2008, p. 144.
  84. ^ Hayter-Menzies 2008, p. 343.
  85. ^ Hayter-Menzies 2008, p. 25.
  86. ^ Rhoads 2001, p. 56.
  87. ^ Rhoads 2001, p. 57.
  88. ^ Elliott 2001, p. 245.
  89. ^ Elliott 2001, p. 243.
  90. ^ Rhoads 2001, p. 55.
  91. ^ Rhoads 2001, p. 55.
  92. ^ Rhoads 2001, p. 55.
  93. ^ Rhoads 2011, p. 20.
  94. ^ Studia Orientalia, Volume 87 1999, p. 247.
  95. ^ Elliott 2001, p. 83.
  96. ^ Elliott 2001, p. 51.
  97. ^ Elliott 2001, p. 52.
  98. ^ Rhoads 2011, p. 290.
  99. ^ Rhoads 2011, p. 269.
  100. ^ Rhoads 2011, p. 292.
  101. ^ Elliott 2001, p. 133.
  102. ^ Elliott 2001, p. 15.
  103. ^ Rhoads 2011, p. 8.
  104. ^ Rhoads 2011, p. 278.
  105. ^ Rhoads 2011, p. 279.
  106. ^ Elliott 1999, p. 70.
  107. ^ Lattimore 1932, p. 47.
  108. ^ Rhoads 2011, p. 263.
  109. ^ Lattimore 1933, p. 272.
  110. ^ Rhoads 2000, p. 193.
  111. ^ Rhoads 2011, p. 193.
  112. ^ Rhoads 2000, p. 270.
  113. ^ Rhoads 2011, p. 270.
  114. ^ Gorelova 2002, p. 37.
  115. ^ Immanuel C. Y. Hsu, The Rise of Modern China (5th ed 1997) p 126
  116. ^ John Ross (1891). The Manchus, Or The Reigning Dynasty of China: Their Rise and Progress. p. 683. 
  117. ^ Crossley 1990, p. 174.
  118. ^ Rhoads 2011, p. 80.


 This article incorporates text from The Manchus: or The reigning dynasty of China; their rise and progress, by John Ross, a publication from 1880 now in the public domain in the United States.

Further reading[edit]

  • Elliott, Mark C. The Manchu Way: The Eight Banners and Ethnic Identity in Late Imperial China (Stanford University Press, 2001), 580pp
  • Enatsu, Yoshiki. Banner Legacy: The Rise of the Fengtian Local Elite at the End of the Qing (2004), 166pp
  • Graff, David A. (2012). A Military History of China. University Press of Kentucky. p. 122ff. 
  • Im, Kaye Soon. "The Development of the Eight Banner System and its Social Structure," Journal of Social Sciences & Humanities (1991), Issue 69, pp 59–93