Xibe people

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(Sibe, Sibo, Xibo)
"Sibo military colonists", picture drawn by Henry Lansdell during his visit to today's Qapqal Xibe County in 1882
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 China  (Xinjiang · Liaoning · Jilin)
Buddhism, Polytheism and Shamanism[1]
Related ethnic groups
Nanai, Manchu, Orok, Evenks, Solon

The Xibe or Sibo[2] (Sibe.png Sibe; simplified Chinese: 锡伯; traditional Chinese: 錫伯; pinyin: Xībó) are a Tungusic ethnic group living mostly in Northeast China and Xinjiang. They form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China.


A ca. 1809 map of the Ili Region (the map is drawn "upside down": the south is on top) showing the Xibo Eight Banners (锡伯八旗) stationed across the Ili River from the Manchu Fort Huiyuan (惠远城), exactly where Qapqal Xibe Autonomous County is nowadays

According to the Russian scholar Elena P. Lebedeva, the Xibe people originated as a southern, Tungusic-speaking offshoot of the ancient Shiwei people. They lived in small town-like settlements, a portion of them nomadic, in the Songyuan and Bukui areas of what is now Jilin province.[3] When the ancient Tungusic Fu Yui state was conquered by the Xianbei in 286 CE, the southern Shiwei started practicing agriculture.[3] Some historians have theorized that the Xianbei were the direct progenitors of the Xibo, and this idea is popular among the Xibo themselves.[1] The historian Pamela Kyle Crossley writes the Xianbei might have undergone a language shift from an earlier Turkic or Proto-Mongolian language to a Tungusic one. However, the name "Xibo" was not used in historical records during Xianbei times.[2] The Han, Cao Wei, and Western Jin at times controlled the Xibo until the advent of the Göktürks, who accorded the Xibo lower status than did the Chinese dynasties.[3] At the height of their territorial dispersion, the Xibe lived in an area bounded by Jilin to the east, Hulunbuir to the west, the Nen River to the north, and the Liao River to the south.[1] After the fall of the Liao Dynasty, the Xibe became vassals of the Khorchin Mongols who moved to the Nen and Songhua river valleys in 1438 after the Khorchin were defeated by the Oirats.[3]

Nurhaci, the founder of the Manchu people, routed the Xibe during Battle of Gure in 1593 on his way to founding the Qing Dynasty of China. From that point, the Qing contracted the Xibe for logistical support against the Russian Empire's expansionism on China's northern border.[3] Crossley claims that the Xibe were so "well known to Russians moving toward the Pacific" that the Russians named Siberia after them.[2] In 1692, the Khorchin dedicated the Xibe, the Gūwalca and the Daur to the Kangxi Emperor in exchange for silver. The Xibe was incorporated into the Eight Banners and were stationed in Qiqihar and other cities in northeast China.

In 1700, some 20,000 Qiqihar Xibes were resettled in Guisui, modern Inner Mongolia; 36,000 Songyuan Xibes were resettled in Shenyang, Liaoning. The relocation of the Xibe from Qiqihar is believed by Liliya M Gorelova to be linked to the Qing's complete annihiliation of the Manchu clan Hoifan (Hoifa) in 1697 and the Manchu tribe Ula in 1703 after they revolted against the Qing, both Hoifan and Ula were wiped out.[4] According to Jerry Norman, after a revolt by the Qiqihar Xibes in 1764, the Qianlong Emperor ordered an 800-man military escort to transfer 18,000 Xibe to the Ili valley of Dzungaria in northwest China's Xinjiang province. [3][5] In Ili, the Xinjiang Xibe built Buddhist monasteries and cultivated vegetables, tobacco, and poppies.[6] The Xibe population declined after the Qing used them to suppress the 19th century Dungan revolt by Chinese Muslims,[3] and to fight against Russia, which occupied Ili during the revolt.[1] During the Republican period, many northeastern Xibe joined Anti-Japanese volunteer armies, while northwestern Xibe fought against the Kuomintang during the Ili Rebellion. After the 1949 Chinese revolution established the People's Republic of China (PRC), large-scale educational and hygiene campaigns increased Xibe literacy and resulted in the eradication of the Qapqal disease.[1] In 1954, the PRC established the Qapqal Xibe Autonomous County to replace Ningxi County in Xinjiang, in the group's area of highest ethnic concentration.


Further information: Shamanism in the Qing dynasty

Historical religions of the Xibe included shamanism and Buddhism. Customary Xibe attire included short buttoned jackets and trousers for men, and close-fitting, long, and lace-trimmed gowns for women. Arranged marriage was common and women had low social status, including no right to inherit property.[1] Nowadays almost all the Xibe wear Western clothing and the traditional clothing is worn by elders during festivals. Traditionally, the Xibe were divided into hala, male-led clans consisting of people who shared the same surname. Until modern times, the dwellings of the Xibe housed up to three different generations from a same family, since it was believed that while the father was alive no son could break the family clan by leaving the house.[1]

The Xibe in northeast China speak Chinese as their first language. In Xinjiang, descendants of the Qing dynasty military garrison speak the Xibe language, a southern Tungusic language that underwent morphophonological changes and the adoption of loanwords from Xinjiang languages including Chinese, Russian, Uyghur, and Kazakh.

Notable individuals[edit]

Politicians and military commander[edit]

  • Gao Jingxu (高景旭) – former vice minister of the Lanzhou Military Region.
  • He Zhiwu (何志武) – former commander of the North Sea Fleet base in Lüshun.
  • Na Qiming (那启明) – former Air Force deputy director of the Political Department.


  • Liu Dadi (刘大地) – pilot driver
  • Guo Meizhen (郭梅珍) – archer
  • Ru Guang (汝光) – archer


  • Song Xue (宋雪) – mezzo-soprano and senior management of Chinese cultural and performing arts Co. Ltd
  • Chun Ying (春英) – dancer
  • Guan Bochun (关柏春) – artist
  • Tong Liya (佟丽娅) – actress

Writers and poets[edit]

  • Chen Tiejun (陈铁军) – writer
  • He Jiucheng (何久成) – vice chairman of Qiqihar City Writers Association
  • Wu Yuanfeng (吴元丰) – famous for cataloging, translating and researches on the Manchu Qing Dynasty archives.

Media and entertainment industry[edit]

  • Guan Yunke (关蕴科) – director of operations of A1 Team China.
  • Li Li (李力) – former director of Shenyang Chemical Plant, Beijing Yanshan Petrochemical
  • Yao Miao (瑶淼) formerly known as Guan Yaomiao (关垚淼) – a present is CCTV movie channel director


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Huang Beibei, ed. (2011-11-12). "The Xibe ethnic minority". People's Daily. Retrieved 2012-11-29. 
  2. ^ a b c Crossley 1997, p. 213
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Gorelova, Liliya. "Past and Present of a Manchu Tribe: The Sibe". In Atabaki, Touraj; O'Kane, John. Post-Soviet Central Asia. Tauris Academic Studies. pp. 325–327. 
  4. ^ Gorelova 2002, p. 36.
  5. ^ Gorelova 2002, p. 37.
  6. ^ Gorelova 2002, p. 37.
  • Wu Yuanfen, Zhao Zhiqiang. 1981. "Xibozu xiqian gaishu" [A general account of the westward migration of the Xibo]. Minzu yanjiu 2:22–29.
  • Ramsey, S. Robert. 1987. The Languages of China. Princeton University Press, Princeton New Jersey ISBN 0-691-06694-9
  • C. G. Mannerheimin Valokuvia Aasian-Matkalta 1906–1908 (Photographs By C. G. Mannerheim From His Journey Across Asia 1906–1908), (Otava, Keuruu: 1990) ISBN 951-1-11357-7. Contains photographs of Xibe/Xibo and other ethnic groups.
  • Crossley, Pamela Kyle (2002), The Manchus, Volume 14 of Peoples of Asia (3 ed.), Wiley-Blackwell, ISBN 0-631-23591-4 
  • Gorelova, Liliya M., ed. (2002). Handbook of Oriental Studies. Section 8 Uralic & Central Asian Studies, Manchu Grammar. Volume Seven Manchu Grammar. Brill Academic Pub. ISBN 9004123075. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 

External links[edit]