Clan Nara

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Nara (Manchu: ᠨᠠᡵᠠ ᡥᠠᠯᠠ, Wade-Giles: Nara hala, Chinese: 納喇氏, 納蘭氏 or 那拉氏, also Nala, Nalan) is a clan name shared by a number of royal Manchu clans. The four tribes of the Hūlun confederation (扈倫四部) -- Hada (Chinese: 哈達, pinyin: Hādá), Ula (Chinese: 烏拉, pinyin: Wūlā), Hoifa (Chinese: 輝發, pinyin: Huīfā) and Yehe (Chinese: 葉赫, pinyin: Yèhè) -- were all ruled by clans bearing this name.

The head of each clan held the princely title of "beile" (貝勒, Manchu: "chief, lord").

Nara is the Mongolian word for 'sun'. In Mongolia, the sun is associated to Genghis Khan as the nara tamga is the main tamga attributed to him.


The Naras lived in the Haixi area, which encompasses parts of modern-day Jilin, Heilongjiang, Liaoning and Inner Mongolia. The Hada Naras and Ula Naras are native to Manchuria and shared an ancestor. The Yehe Naras were founded by a Tümed Mongol who conquered the local Nara tribe and assumed their name, establishing his rule over the banks of the Yehe river. The Hoifa Naras, on the other hand, came from the Ikderi clan.

During Nurhaci's efforts to unite the Jurchen people, the Naras resisted because they had always been rather well-treated by the Ming government. Instead they tried to appease Nurhachi by offering him a daughter from each of the tribal rulers, the most famous of which were Lady Abahai (阿巴亥) of the Ula tribe and Monggo (孟古) of the Yehe tribe. Nonetheless, Nurhaci eventually began his assault against the Naras, and the Hada, Ula and Hoifa tribes soon fell. The Yehe Naras were able to resist the longest as they were the largest and strongest of the tribes, but even they soon had to enlist the help of the Ming empire.

Using how well-treated the Yehe Naras were by the Ming government as an excuse, Nurhaci began to wage war against the Ming forces as well. Both the Ming soldiers and the Yehe Naras were defeated in subsequent battles, including the Battle of Sarhu, and the Yehe Nara prince Jintaiji (金台吉) was either forced to kill himself or hanged, but not before he allegedly cursed Nurhaci that as long as one of Jintaiji's descendants lived, even a female one, he or she would remember the clan's vendetta and bring down the Aisin Gioros. The last prince of the Ula tribe Bujantai (布占泰), who was fighting alongside the Yehe Naras, was captured as well and later killed by Nurhaci's son, Cuyen.

The Hada and Hoifa clans fell from prominence after Nurhaci's Manchurian conquest, whereas Ula and Yehe survived the defeat and successfully integrated into Qing's Banner aristocracy. They continued to be powerful clans in the Qing court, often named among the eight great Manchu houses. Modern day Nara descendants mostly hail from these two clans.

Present-day descendants of the Nara clan generally adopted "Na" (那) and "Zhao" (趙) as a family name, so that it would be similar to the usually monosyllabic Han family names. Others, less commonly, took "Na" (納), "Nan" (南), "Liu" (劉), "Su" (蘇). Those descended from Hada Nara took "Wang" (王). Descendants of Yehe Nara primarily chose "Ye" (葉) or "He" (赫 or 何), others took after their Borjigin forebears and used "Bao" (鮑 or 包) or "Bo" (博).

Wanyan Nara[edit]

Nacibulu (ca. 14th century) was the first to adapt the clan name Nara. A Jurchen clan native to Manchuria, they descended from the imperial Wanyan clan of the Jin dynasty.

The Nara gradually grew to become the dominant clan in the Haixi region, culminating in the establishment of the Hūlun confederation in the 16th century, with Nara princes at its core. At the same time, this Nara clan split into two branches: the senior Hada line founded by Kesina, leader of the Hūlun confederation, and the junior Ula line founded by Kesina's younger brother 古對硃顏.

Heads of Nara[edit]

  • Nacibulu 納齊布祿 14th century, adapted clan name Nara
  • 尚延多爾和齊
  • 嘉瑪喀碩珠古
  • 綏屯
  • 都勒喜, father of Kesina and Gudui Juyan 古對硃顏

Hada Nara[edit]

The Hada Nara (哈達那拉氏) ruled the Hada state, based around the Hada river in southwestern Manchuria. It is native to Manchuria and kin to the Ula Nara.

Under the prince (beile) Wang Tai (王台), the Hada Nara gained ascendency over the Haixi Jurchens. He assumed the title Wan Khan (萬汗), and held hegemony in the Hūlun confederation.

In 1574, Wang Tai captured the rebellious Jianzhou Jurchen leader Wanggao (王杲), and was rewarded by the Ming court with the titles Right Pillar of State (右柱國, highest honorary civil title) and Dragon-Tiger General (龍虎將軍, highest honorary martial generaliship), further acknowledging the Hada supremecy in Haixi.

Upon Wangtai's death (1582), a struggle for succession ensued, sapping Hada of its strength and allowing the Yehe Nara and later Nurhaci to eclipse its power. In 1599, Narimbulu (納林布祿) of Yehe invaded Hada. Weakened, Menggebulu (孟格布祿, younger son of Wangtai and beile of Hada) requests aid from Nurhaci. Nurhaci sent two thousand troops led by Fiongdon (費英東) and Gagai (噶蓋). Fearing the rise of the Jianzhou Jurchens, Narimbulu in turn offered to ally with Menggebulu to defeat Nurhaci. Menggebulu accepted the offer, but the plot was leaked and Nurhaci attacked Hada instead.

Nurhaci's general Yangguli (揚古利) captured the Hada Castle and the ruling Hada Nara clan. Nurhaci spared Menggebulu and offered him an alliance, but Menggebulu again plotted to assassinate Nurhaci. This plot was also discovered, leading to his execution.

In 1601, Nurhaci married his daughter to Urgudai (吳爾古代, son of Menggebulu), who succeeded Menggebulu. The Ming court accused Nurhaci of attempting to annex Hada. In response, Nurhaci released Urgudai from Jianzhou and allowed him to return to rule Hada. Learning this, Narimbulu of Yehe again started raiding Hada. Severely weakened and defenseless, Urgudai eventually capitulated and submitted to Nurhaci's rule, becoming the last Beile of Hada.

Heads of Hada Nara[edit]

  • Kesina 克什納, leader of the Hūlun confederation, founder of the Hada Nara line
  • Wangji Wailan 旺濟外蘭 (王忠), first Beile of Hada state, uncle of Buyan of Ula Nara
  • Wang Tai 王台 (Wan Khan 萬汗) 1548–1582, Khan of Hūlun confederation
  • Hurhan 扈爾罕 1582
  • Menggebulu 孟格布祿 1582–1599
  • Ulhūda 吳爾古代 1599–1601, Efu of Nurhaci's daughter

Ula Nara[edit]

The Ula Nara (烏拉那拉氏) ruled the Ula state, based around Hulan river in northeastern Manchuria. They shared Wanyan descent with the Hada Nara.

Of the four tribes, Ula was the economic and cultural powerhouse of Manchuria. The Ula tribe were mostly traders, buying horses, livestock, and fur from the steppe Mongols and selling them at the Jianzhou (建州) plateau on the Liao river basin, the economic center and farmland of the Manchu region. They in turn buy grains such as millet and corn at Jianzhou and sell them to the Mongols. The Ula Naras, for a large part, controlled trade between Manchuria and Mongolia by controlling the mountain pass at modern day Baicheng, Jilin, where the only passage between the two areas was located.

The Nara chief Buyan (布顔) built the Ula Castle by the Hulan river and founded the Ula state. (Ula means "riverside" in Manchu.)

Ula and Jianzhou had numerous conflicts, culminating in the Battle of Mount Gele. Defeated at Mount Gele, Mantai fled back to Ula but was killed by his subordinates 3 years later in 1596.

On the other hand, Mantai's younger brother, the Second Beile Bujantai (布占泰) was captured at Mount Gele. Bujantai submitted to Nurhaci and married both Nurhaci's and Surgaci's daughters. Upon Mantai's death, Nurhaci aided Bujantai in defeating other Ula Nara pretenders to regain the Ula throne. The following year, he married his younger sister to Surgaci to formalise the alliance. Two years later, he again married Mantai's daughter Lady Abahai to Nurhaci, who later became his primary consort.

The alliance between Ula and Jianzhou did not last, however. A Donghai Jurchen tribe Warka, after repeated harassment by Bujantai, sought to submit to Nurhaci. Nurhaci sent troops to annex Warka, which Ula responded by intercepting Nurhaci's troops. The alliance broken, the two states resumed their conflicts. Eventually, Nurhaci captured Ula Castle and annexed the Ula state. Bujantai alone fled to Yehe, and spent the rest of his life under the protection of the Yehe Nara.

The descendents of the last Nara prince of Ula were mostly incorporated into the Plain White Banner. They supplied numerous high officials and imperial consorts to the Qing court and are among the most prominent Manchu noble houses.

Heads of Ula Nara[edit]

  • Gudai Juyan 古對硃顏, founder of the Ula Nara line
  • Tailan 太蘭, son of the above
  • Buyan 布顔, son of the above, first Beile and founder of Ula state
  • Buyangan 布顔干
  • Mantai 满泰 ?–1596, the father of Lady Abahai (阿巴亥)
  • Bujantai 布占泰 1596–1618, the younger brother of Mantai
  • Hongko 洪匡, disputed

Hoifa Nara[edit]

The Hoifa Nara (輝發那拉氏) ruled the Hoifa state, based around the Hoifa river in southeastern Manchuria. The Hoifa Nara descended from the Ikderi clan (益克得里氏). The Ikderi was a powerful native Jurchen clan. For two generations prior to assuming the Hoifa beile princeship, they had been appointed tributary military commanders (都督) loyal to the Ming court.

Wangginu (王機褚) was the first of the clan to assume the beile title. He built his castle on the Hurki Mountain, which provided him a secure power base. He established Hoifa as a major force in the Haixi region, and even withstood assaults by the Chahar Mongols.

Upon Wangginu's death, his grandson Baindari (拜音達里) seized the throne, killing seven of his uncles in the process. Hoifa was a major member of the coalition was defeated by Nurhaci at the Battle of Mount Gele (古勒山之戰). Severely weakened and stuck between the ascendant Jianzhou and Yehe states, Baindari tried to play both sides against each other, and relying on the defensible Hoifa Castle for security. This policy further isolated Hoifa, and Hoifa Castle eventually fell to Nurhaci in 1607. Baindari and his sons were killed in the battle, ending the princely Hoifa Nara main line.

Heads of Hoifa Nara[edit]

  • 昂古里星古力
  • 備臣
  • 納領噶
  • Laha 拉哈
  • Gahacan 噶哈禪
  • Cinagen Darhan 齊訥根達爾漢
  • Wangginu 王機褚, first Beile and founder of Hoifa state
  • Baindari 拜音達里 ?-1607

Yehe Nara[edit]

The Yehe Nara (葉赫那拉氏) ruled the Yehe state, based around the Yehe river. This area was originally called Zhang (張), occupied by the Hulun (扈倫) tribe. Singgen Darhan (星根達爾漢), a Genghisid prince of the Tümed Mongol, conquered the area and assumed the Nara name.

Initially, Yehe was relatively weak and was frequently raided by Hada. Conflict between Yehe and Hada continued until the Cinggiyanu (清佳砮) and Yangginu (楊吉砮), who were sons of a younger brother of the beile Taicu (台杵). They expanded Yehe's territory through conquest of smaller neighbouring states, consolidated Yehe's powerbase with the construction of two castles, and made peace with Hada; Cinggiyanu married a daughter of Wangtai and Wangtai married Cinggiyanu's younger sister. With the support of Hada, Cinggiyanu and Yangginu successfully defeated the sons of Taicu and gained the throne of Yehe themselves.

From the rule of Cinggiyanu and Yangginu, the Yehe Nara had a unique system of co-princeship. Cinggiyanu and Yangginu built two castles on strategic locations only several li apart. These were the West Yehe Castle and the East Yehe Castle, held by Cinggiyanu's and Yangginu's families respectively. The two co-princes were both equal beiles, ruled Yehe jointly, and acted in unity until the fall of Yehe.

Upon Wangtai's death, Yehe, along with Hoifa and Ula, broke away from Hada's hegemony. They allied to attack Hada, only to be defeated by the reinforcement from Ming. Cinggiyanu and Yangginu both died in this battle, and were succeeded by their sons Bujai (布寨) and Narimbulu (納林布祿) respectively.

Narimbulu allied with their Mongol Tümed and Khorchin kins to attack Hada again. This time Narimbulu managed to defeat the Ming reinforcement and destroyed Hada as a major power, becoming the most powerful of the Haixi tribes and the new leader of the Hulun confederation.

Seeing Nurhaci's rise, Yehe initially sought to make peace by marrying Narimbulu's sister Monggo Jeje (孟古哲哲) to Nurhaci (later Empress Xiaocigao). She would later give birth to Hong Taiji, who would succeed Nurhaci and found the Qing dynasty. This peace was short-lived, however, and Yehe soon entered a long struggle against Nurhaci's domination. Princes Bujai and Narimbulu lead the nine-tribe coalition against Jianzhou at the Battle of Mount Gele, which ended in decisive defeat. The Yehe state continued to resist the newly formed Jin dynasty until the fall of the East Yehe Castle, the last bastion to stand against Jin's Manchurian conquest.

The Yehe Nara is the most legendary of the Nara clans today, due in part to its status as the last Jurchen clan to challenge Nurhaci's hegemony, in part to the imperial favourites they issued, but most importantly to the Empress Dowager Cixi, who descended from a cadet branch of the East Yehe Nara belonging to the Bordered Blue Banner. The descendents of the princes of East Yehe were mostly incorporated into the Plain Yellow Banner, cadet branch descending from Asi Darhan (阿什達爾漢, brother of Gin Taisi) were incorporated into the Plain White Banner, while those of West Yehe were mostly incorporated into the Plain Red Banner. They supplied numerous high officials and imperial consorts to the Qing court and are a fixture among the eight great Manchu houses. In common usage, the Nara clan most often refers to the Yehe Nara.

A popular legend says that Gin Taisi, the last prince of East Yehe, upon defeat by Nurhaci, cursed that the Yehe Nara will be the downfall of the Aisin Gioro clan, even if there's Yehe Nara daughters left. This curse was supposedly fulfilled with Empress Dowager Cixi's disastrous reign that lead to the end of the Manchu dynasty.

Heads of Yehe Nara[edit]

Heads of West Yehe Castle[edit]

  • Cinggiyanu 清佳砮 ?-1584, nephew of Taicu, older brother of Yangginu
  • Bujai 布寨, son of Cinggiyanu
  • Buyanggu 布揚古, younger brother of Bujai

Heads of East Yehe Castle[edit]

Notable figures[edit]

See also[edit]