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Mongol Empire c.1207.png
Mongol Empire c 1207, Uriankhai and their neighbours
Regions with significant populations
 Mongolia 26,654 (2010 census)[1]
Oirat, Mongolian
Tibetan Buddhism, Shamanism , Atheism
Related ethnic groups
Oirats, Mongols
Map of the Jütgelt Gün's hoshuu (banner) of the Altai Uriankhai in western Mongolia.
Tuvans or Tagnu Uriankhai

Uriankhai (also written as "Uriyangkhai", "Urianhai", or "Uryangkhai") is a Mongolian term applied to several neighboring "forest" ethnic groups such as the Altai Uriankhai, Tuvans and Yakuts. The Uriankhai have been mentioned in medieval Chinese sources since the 10th century and the name appears several times in The Secret History of the Mongols. It is recorded in Chinese as Wulianghai (Chinese: 烏梁海; pinyin: Wūliánghǎi) or Wuliangha (Chinese: 兀良哈; pinyin: Wùliánghā).


The name "Uriankhai' means "uria" (motto, war motto) and khan (lord) in Mongolian. The Mongols applied the name to all the forest peoples and, later, to Tuvans. They were classified by the Mongols as Darligin Mongols.

At the beginning of the Mongol Empire (1206-1368), the Uriankhai were located in central Mongolia.

In 13th century Yuan China, Rashid-al-Din Hamadani described the Forest Uriyankhai as extremely isolated Siberian forest people living in birch bark tents and hunting on skis. Despite the similarity in name to the famous Uriyankhan clan of the Mongols, Rashid states that they had no connection.[2] During the Ming dynasty, the Jurchens were known among the Chinese as "forest people" (using the Jurchen word, Woji), and this connotation later transferred to the Chinese rendering of Uriankhai, Wulianghai.[3]

In the mid-14th century, they lived in Liaoyang in Northeast China. In 1375, Naghachu, Uriankhai leader of the Mongolia-based Northern Yuan dynasty in Liaoyang, invaded the Liaodong Peninsula to restore the Mongols to power. Although he continued to hold southern Manchuria, the Ming military campaign against Naghachu ended with his surrender in 1388.[4] After the rebellion of the northern Uriankhai people, they were conquered by Dayan Khan in 1538 and mostly annexed by the northern Khalkha. Batmunkh Dayan Khan dissolved Uriankhai tumen.

Second group of Uriankhai (Uriankhai of the Khentii Mountains) lived in central Mongolia and they started moving to the Altai Mountains in beginning 16th century.[5] Some groups migrated from the Khentii Mountains to Khövsgöl Province during the course of the Northern Yuan dynasty (1368-1635).[3]

By the early 17th century the term Uriankhai was a general Mongolian term for all the dispersed bands to the northwest, whether Samoyedic, Turkic, or Mongol in origin.[6] In 1757 the Qing dynasty organized its far northern frontier into a series of Uriankhai banners: the Khövsgöl Nuur Uriankhai, Tannu Uriankhai; Kemchik, Salchak, and Tozhu (all Tuvans); and Altai people. Tuvans in Mongolia are called Monchoogo Uriankhai (cf. Tuvan Monchak < Kazakh monshak "necklace") by Mongolians. Another group of Uriankhai in Mongolia (in Bayan-Ölgii and Khovd Provinces) are called Altai Uriankhai. These were apparently attached to the Oirats. A third group of Mongolian Uriankhai were one of the 6 tumens of Dayan Khan in Eastern Mongolia. These last two Uriankhai groups are said to be descendants of the Uriankhan tribe from which came Jelme and his more famous cousin Subutai. The clan names of the Altai Uriankhai, Khövsgöl Nuur Uriankhai and Tuvans are different. There are no Turkic or Samoyedic clans among the Altai or Khövsgöl Uriankhais.

A variation of the name, Uraŋxai, was an old name for the Yakuts.[7] but they are not Uriankhais and it was only alternative name of the Yakuts. Russian Pavel Nebolsin documented the Urankhu clan of Volga Kalmyks in the 1850s.[8] The existence of the Uriankhai was documented by the Koreans, who called them by the borrowed name Orangkae (오랑캐, "savages"), especially in context of their attacks against the Siniticized world in the 14th and 15th centuries.[3]

Some Uriankhais still live in the Khentii Mountains.


  1. ^ National Census 2010
  2. ^ C.P.Atwood-Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire, p.9
  3. ^ a b c Crossley, Pamela Kyle (December 1985). "An Introduction to the Qing Foundation Myth". Late Imperial China 6 (2): 13–24. doi:10.1353/late.1985.0016. 
  4. ^ Willard J. Peterson, John King Fairbank, Denis Twitchett- The Cambridge History of China, vol7, p.158
  5. ^ A.Ochir, Ts.Baasandorj "Custom of the Oirat wedding". 2005
  6. ^ C.P.Atwood-Encyclopedia of Mongolia, p.9
  7. ^ POPPE, Nicholas (1969). "Review of Menges "The Turkic Languages and Peoples"". Central Asiatic Journal 12 (4): 330. 
  8. ^ Mänchen-Helfen, Otto (1992) [1931]. Journey to Tuva. Los Angeles: Ethnographic Press University of Southern California. p. 180. ISBN 1-878986-04-X.