The Ongud, (Mongol: Онгуд, untouchables; Ongut,Ongot, White Tatars) were a Mongolic tribe, active in Mongolia around the time of Genghis Khan (1162–1227). Many members were Nestorian Christians. They lived in an area lining the Chinese Great Wall, in the northern part of the Ordos and territories to the northeast of it. They appear to have had two capitals, a northern one at the ruin known as Olon Süme and another a bit to the south at a place called Koshang or Dongsheng. They acted as wardens of the marches for the Chinese Empire to the north of the province Shansi.
The ancestors of the Ongud were Xiongnu's branch Üeban Mongols. The Üebans later intermixing with Turkic peoples, formed the Shato Turks of the Western Göktürk Khaganate. In the 7th century they moved to eastern Xinjiang under the protection of the Tang Dynasty. By the 9th century the Shato were scattered over North China and modern Inner Mongolia. A Shato warlord, Li, mobilized 10,000 Shato cavalrymen and served the Tang as ally. In 923 his son defeated the rebellious dynasty and became emperor of the Later Tang. After the overthrow of the Li family, the Shato commanders established the Later Jin Dynasty, and the Later Han and the Northern Han.
When the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) conquered North China in the 12th century, the Shato tribe was called "White Tatars". The Jin recruited them as auxiliaries and made them guards of the Jin frontier. The Mongols called them Onggud (Wall or Western). The Onguds migh be converted by the Uyghurs into Christianity.
The Ongud chief Alakush tegin (Alagush tigin) revealed the Naiman plan to attack Genghis in 1205 and allied with the Mongols. When Genghis Khan invaded the Jin Dynasty in 1211, Alagush tegin (Alakush tegin) supported him. Genghis bestowed his daughter Alaga bekhi (Alaqai beki) on his son. However, the political opponents killed Alagush. Genghis put down the rebellion and took the family under his protection. Genghis Khan's daughter Alaga ruled the Ongud people as regent for several underage princes until the reign of Güyük Khan (1246–48).
Many famous post-Genghis Mongols are of Ongud descent, including the well-known monk, traveler, and diplomat, Rabban Sauma (1220–1294). The Ongud proved good allies to Kublai. For example, the Ongud ruler Korgiz (George) married Kublai's two granddaughters and fought against Kaidu, whose protege Duwa captured and killed him later in 1298. A number of Öngüd were said to have been converted to Catholicism by John of Montecorvino (1246–1328).
After 1221 many Onguds were resettled in Khorazm where they served as governors for the Ulus of Jochi. They formed part of the Kazakhs and the Moghols. Onguds in Mongolia became an otog of the Tümed Mongols in the 15th century.
The University of Hong Kong possesses a collection of around a thousand 13th- and 14th-century bronze Nestorian crosses from the Ongut region, collected during the 1920s by F. A. Nixon, a British postal official working in northern China. Although their designs vary, Maltese crosses with a square central panel displaying a swastika, the Buddhist good luck symbol, predominate.
The Ongud Monument Ensemble was constructed by the Turkic tribes during the 6th-8th centuries for their noblemen. This consists of over 30 man-like figures, a lion and a sheep, and about 550 standing stones in alignments reminiscent of Carnac or Avebury. There is also a large tomb made of 4 sculptured slabs. Each slab has the front face decorated with a trellis-pattern like the walls of a ger, and a simple frieze on top.
- Roux, p.40
- Phillips, p. 123
- Tjalling H. F. Halbertsma, Early Christian Remains of Inner Mongolia (Leiden: Brill, 2008), pp.150-157.
- Saunders, J. J., The History of the Mongol Conquests, 1970, p.52, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.
- C. P. Atwood, Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire, p.424
- John Man Kublai khan, p.319
- F. S. Drake, 'Nestorian Crosses and Nestorian Christians in China under the Mongols', Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1962
- Phillips, J. R. S. (1998). The Medieval Expansion of Europe (second edition ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-820740-9.
- Roux, Jean-Paul, Histoire de l'Empire Mongol, Fayard, ISBN 2-213-03164-9