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Mongol Empire c.1207, Khongirad and their neighbours

The Hongirad (Mongolian: Хонгирад/Khonghirad), also known as Qongirat[1][2] ( Kazakh: Қоңырат) is a Mongol tribe, one of the major divisions of the Mongols and the Kazakhs. Variations on the name include Onggirat, Ongirat,[1] Qongrat, Khungirat,[1] Kungrad,[2] Qunghrãt,[2] Wangjila (王紀剌),[1] Yongjilie (雍吉烈), and Guangjila (廣吉剌) in Chinese sources and Ongrat or Kungrat in Turkish. Their homeland was located in the vicinity of Lake Hulun in Inner Mongolia and Khalkha River in Mongolia,[3][4] where they maintained close ties with the ruling dynasties of northern China. Because the various Hongirad clans never united under a single leader, the tribe never rose to great military glory. Their greatest fame comes from being the primary consort clan of the ruling house of Genghis Khan's Mongol empire. Genghis Khan's mother, great grandmother, and first wife were all Hongirads, as were many subsequent Mongol queens and princesses. During the Yuan dynasty they were given the title Lu Wang ("Prince of Lu"), and the Hongirads who migrated west into the territory of modern Uzbekistan and South Kazakhstan Province, became known under the name Kongrat/ Kongyrat, and where many of their descendants still live.

Tribal origin[edit]

The Hongirads are often identified as the descendants of the ancient Wuku/Wugu tribe of Tang Dynasty records. The tribe's own origin myth claims that they were descended from three brothers born of a golden vessel—Jurluq Mergen, Quba Shira, and Tusbu Da'u. The descendants of these brothers formed the Hongirad tribe, but feuds quickly splintered the tribe and gave rise to the off-shoot tribes of the Ikires, Olkhunut, Karanut, Gorlos, and Qongliyuts. Only the descendants of Jurluq Mergen retained the tribal name of Hongirad. One of the most famous Hongirad ancestors was Miser Ulug, an Onggirat Hercules who was super-humanly strong and often slept for days at a time.

Many names of the 12th century's Hongirads and their subtribes have Mongol origin:[4][5]

  • Dei Setsen — tsetsen (wise)
  • Jurluq Mergen — zörlög (path) mergen (wise). (See Merkit)
  • Quba Shira — goo (beautiful) shar (yellow). In the 1680s Zasagt Khan of the Khalkha Mongol was Shar (Shira). (See Alan Gua).
  • Tribes:
  • Hongirad — khun (swan), khungiin (swan's), ard (person); swan person. Swan is one of Mongol totems. (See Oirats).
  • Qongliyuts — Khonkhluud; khonkh (bell), "iud" or "uud" is plural suffix.
  • Gorlos — Modern Southern Mongol subgroup
  • Ikires — Ikhires: ikh (great), ikhes (chief, noble)
  • Karanut — Kharnuud: khar (black), "iud" or "uud" is plural suffix
  • Olkhunut — Olkhunuud, "uud" is plural suffix. They have three subgroups:
    • Alag aduutan: alag (piebald), aduutan (horse herder); piebald horse herder.
    • Shar khonit: shar (yellow), khoni (sheep); yellow sheep breeder.
    • Ulaan zalaat: ulaan (red), zalaa (tassel); person who wears hat with red tassel.[citation needed] Today, Mongols call themselves "red-tasseled Mongols" because Mongols wear hat with red tassel and they adore fire.[citation needed] Fire is a general symbol of eternal growth, wealth, and success and a figure of fire is used in Mongolian flag, coat of arms and Soyombo symbol. The three tongues of the flame represent the past, present, and future.[citation needed]

Shamanic practices continue in present day Mongol culture.[6][7]

Relationship with the Mongols: The Legend of Ergune Khun[edit]

According to Mongol legend, two warriors named Kiyan (Khiyad) and Negus (Mongolian: Nokhos, dog or wolf) were defeated in battle and forced to seek shelter in an enclosed valley called Ergune khun ("steep cliffs"). After several generations the descendants of these heroes became too numerous for the valley to support, but no one remembered the way out. A blacksmith came up with a solution—they would create their own way out by melting an exposed iron vein that existed in one of the encircling mountains. Building a massive fire and stoking it with 70 large bellows, the trapped clan did just that and succeeded in creating a passage to the outside world. Once free, the people of Kiyan and Negus went on to create several tribes, including the Mongols and the Hongirads (whose susceptibility to gout was explained by the "fact" that their ancestors were the first to flee Ergene Qun, so they burned their feet on the hot iron).

Hongirad tribe among Kazakh people[edit]

Now, the Hongirad (or Kongyrat or Qongirat in Kazakh language) tribe is one of the big-major tribe of the modern Kazakh people, the population about 500,000 in Kazakhs, belongs to the middle-juz of Kazakh, mostly of them live in south and south-west part of Kazakhstan such as Taraz, Turkestan and Jambyl oblys, also exists with considerable populations among the Kazakh people in China and Afghanistan (see the Hongirad tribe of Kazakh people - from Wikipedia Hongirad introduction in Kazakh language - kk:Қоңырат).

Consort Tribe[edit]

Empress Radnashiri was from the Khunggirad

In addition to having a shared ancestry with the Mongols in general, the Hongirads also shared ancestors with the Mongol royal line, whose originator, Alan Qo'a, was a woman of the Qorlas clan, an offshoot of the Onggirats founded by the legendary Miser Ulug. Down to the 12th century, Mongol rulers such as Qabul Khan and his great-grandson Genghis Khan were still taking Onggirat wives. Yesugei Ba'adur, the father of Genghis Khan, was not a high ranking Mongol leader, but even he secured himself an Onggirat wife by stealing one from another man. The wives of most rulers of the Yuan Dynasty and Golden Horde were also from the Hongirad. That is why, they held enormous powers behind the courts in both states. They forced the rulers of the Golden Horde to make peace with Kublai in 1280's and convinced Tokhta Khan to accept supremacy of the Great Khan in 1304. The Hongirad under queen Dagi and Temüder, the Minister of the Secretariat, reached their political peak in the Yuan Dynasty, the principal state of 4 khanates, during the reign of Gegeen Khan Shidebala (r.1321-1323). They built Yingchang city in modern Inner Mongolia in 1271.

After the death of the last Yuan emperor, Toghan Temur, who lost his imperial status in China and other Mongol khanates, a body of the Hongirat and Olkhunut (Borte's clan) surrendered to the Ming Dynasty in 1371. Meanwhile, the Hongirat, belonged to the southern Khalkha tumen in modern Inner Mongolia and Olkhunuts lived in modern Khovd Province.

In the 18th century the basins of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya passed under the control of three Uzbek khanates claiming legitimacy in their descent from Genghis Khan. These were, from west to east, the Qongirats based on Khiva in Khwārezm (1717–1920), the Mangits[disambiguation needed] in Bukhara (1753–1920), and the Mings in Kokand (Qǔqon; c. 1710–1876). The Sufi Dynasty (1359–1388) which was founded by the Qongirat elites in Khwārezm ruled their own state under the Jochids and Timur. The Qongirat inaqs became de facto rulers of the Khiva Dynasty in 18th century and their descendants assumed the title of khan themselves in 1804. On 2 February 1920, Khiva's last khan, Sayyid Abdullah, abdicated before its territory was finally incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1924.

Qongirat descendants are part of the Kazakh people, in Middle Juz of the Kazakh nation and the average call themselves "qongirat or kongirat". Descendants found among the people in western parts of Mongolia and the Yugurs in Gansu, China, and little bit in the Karakalpaks and the Uzbegs.


  1. ^ a b c d The Chinese Social and Political Science Review, Volume 20, pub Chinese Social and Political Science Association, 1937, p494.
  2. ^ a b c Central Asia: Foundations of Change, by R. D. McChesney, pub Darwin Press, 1996, p202.
  3. ^ Хонгирад аймаг (Mongolian)
  4. ^ a b M.Sanjdorj, History of the Mongolian People's Republic, Volume I, 1966
  5. ^ The Secret History of the Mongols
  6. ^ Shamanism in China: bibliography, by Barend ter Haar, who teaches at the Institute for Chinese Studies. Mentions that a book called Popular Religion and Shamanism includes "as well as three studies of shamanism among non-Han cultures (Mongol, Tungusic and Daba)".
  7. ^ Local Belief Systems, by Professor Mark Bender. Ohio State University.

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