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The Jianzhou Jurchens (Chinese: 建州女真) were a grouping of the Jurchens as identified by the Chinese of the Ming Dynasty. They were the southernmost group of the Jurchen people (the others being the Wild Jurchens (Chinese: 野人女真) and Haixi Jurchens (Chinese: 海西女真) in the fourteenth century, inhabiting modern-day Jilin (Chinese: 吉林) province in China.
After the fall of the Yuan dynasty in 1368, pockets of resistance of power were still loyal to the Yuan in the northeast. In 1375, a former Yuan official Naghachu in Liaoyang province invaded Liaodong with aims of restoring the Yuan to power. Although he was finally defeated by the Ming in 1387, in order to protect the northern border areas the Ming decided to "pacify" the Jurchens in order to deal with its problems with Yuan remnants along its northern border.
In 1388, the Hongwu Emperor established contact with three tribes of the Ilan Tumen area (the confluence of the Mudanjiang River and the Sungari River), the Odori, Huligai (Hūrha or Hurka) and Tuowen and attempted to enlist them as allies against the Mongols. There was a general migration south of the various Jurchen groups around the turn of the century and the three tribes established themselves around the Tumen River (near the modern border of China, Russia and North Korea). Not long afterwards, the various Jurchens began accepting Ming titles from the Yongle Emperor but not Chinese authority. Ahacu, chief of the Huligai, became commander of the Jianzhou Guard in 1403, named after a Yuan Dynasty political unit in the area. Möngke Temür (猛哥帖木儿) of the Odoli became leader of the Jianzhou Left Guard and accepted the Chinese surname of Tong not long afterward. The two Jianzhou groups engaged in trade with the Ming at the designated market of Kaiyuan and Fushun. They undertook several short-term moves west, battling the Wild Jurchens of the north and the Koreans to their south. Jurchen raids into Korean territory brought about joint Korean-Ming counterattacks in 1467 and 1478 which severely weakened the Jianzhou Jurchens. This was the pretext of the turmoil at the court of King Danjong 10-15 years before that, in 1455. Self-made King Sejo was instrumental in the joint Korean-Ming against the coming Jianzhou Jurchens. If King Danjong sent Grand Prince Suyang(later King Sejo) and many other royal dissidents to counterattack Jianzhou Jurchens, he would attain 2 birds with one stone.
By the mid-sixteenth century, the Ming guard structure had mostly disappeared and the Jurchens were split between two confederations: the Haixi Jurchens and the Jianzhou Jurchens. The Jianzhou confederates, continued to live north of the Yalu River in five tribes: the Suksuhu River tribe, Hunehe, Wanggiya, Donggo and Jecen. Under the leadership of Wang Gao, the confederation raided the Ming frontier and even killed the Ming commander at Fushun in 1573. A major counterattack by the Chinese ended in the death of Wang Gao and the dissolution of the confederation.
A number of leaders within the Suksuhu tribe stood ready to take his place. In 1582 the chieftain Nikan Wailan allied with the Ming general Li Chengliang against Wang Gao's son Atai. Giocangga, chief of the Beiles of the Sixes, was originally under Li's command since his grandson, the young Nurhaci was under his hostage but later chose to oppose Nikan Wailan and took his fourth son Taksi to support Atai at his stronghold Fort Gure. In the ensuing battle at Gure, Atai was defeated, Giocangga and his son were massacred by Nikan Wailan when Li thought they had mutinied and left them behind. Soon afterwards, the Ming troops became engaged in another struggle amongst the Haixi Jurchens.
Nurhaci and the Manchu state
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It was at this junction that Nurhaci, son of Taksi, appeared on the scene. Taking control of his grandfather's Suksuhu River tribe, he drove Nikan Wailan from the lands of the Jianzhou Jurchens. In 1588 he subjected the Wanggiya tribe and received the submission of the Donggo tribe. The unification of the Jianzhou Jurchens provided the basis for Nurhaci to expand his power throughout southern and central Manchuria, and to create a true Manchu state. The very name Manchu (Jurchen: manju) was perhaps an old term for the Jianzhou Jurchens.