The Daurs live mainly in the Inner Mongolia
Autonomous Region and Heilongjiang Province. About several thousand
of them are found in the Tacheng area in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous
Region in northwest China. They are descendents of Daurs who moved
to China's western region in the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
The Daurs speak a language related to Mongolian and used Manchu
during the Qing Dynasty as their written language. Since the 1911
Revolution, mandarin Chinese has replaced Manchu.
The biggest Daur community is in the Morin Dawa Daur Autonomous
Banner, which was set up on August 15, 1958 on the left bank of
the Nenjiang River in Heilongjiang Province. This 11,943 sq. km.-area
has lush pasture and farmland. The main crops are maize, sorghum,
wheat, soybeans and rice. In the mountains which border the Daur
community on the north are stands of valuable timber -- such as
oak, birch and elm -- and medicinal herbs. Wildlife, including bears,
deer, lynx and otters are found in the forests. Mineral deposits
in the area include gold, mica, iron and coal.
The Daur people are thought to be descended, along with the Ewenkis
and Oroqens, from the Khitan nomads, who founded the Liao Dynasty
(916-1125). They originally inhabited the lower reaches of the Heilong
In the early Qing Dynasty, the Daurs had a diversified economy
which comprised fishing, hunting, farming and stock raising. They
traded hides for metal implements, cloth and other articles from
the more economically advanced Hans.
During the reign of Emperor Shun Zhi (1644-1662), the Daurs moved
south and settled on the banks of the Nenjiang River, from where
they were constantly conscripted to serve in the armies of the Qing
emperors and in garrisons all over the Chinese empire. The Daurs
helped to repel Cossack invaders from Tsarist Russia in 1643 and
1651. When the Japanese invaded China¨s Northeast in 1931, the Daurs
opposed them and helped the resistance forces until liberation in
Traditional Economy and Customs
Before the founding of the People¨s Republic of China in 1949,
the Daurs had a well developed agriculture, with per-hectare yield
of grain reaching 350 kg. They raised horses and oxen. Those living
in the mountainous north of the area were also engaged in hunting,
charcoal burning, edible plants gathering, tanning, and the manufacture
of carts and wooden pipes. Distribution of land and animals was
very uneven, with the big landlords exploiting the majority of the
Monogamy was the general rule, and marriages were arranged by
the parents. A man from a different clan would go to live with his
wife's family, but had no claim of their property. Closest ties
are those between brothers-in-law. All important celebrations require
the presence of the brothers-in-law and their families, who send
gifts to new-born children.
The religion of the Daurs was shamanism, while a few were followers
of Lamaism. The biggest festival of the year was held in May, when
pigs and oxen would be sacrificed to the gods to ensure prosperity
for the coming year. At the Spring Festival, sacrifices were made
to the ancestors and firecrackers set off in the evening. Everyone
joined in a round of visits to their neighbors to partake of steamed
New Year cakes and give presents of various delicacies.
Pipes are passed to visitors, men and women alike, as a sign of
respect. Girls make elaborate tobacco pouches and slip them into
the pockets of young men who take their fancy.
Wrestling, horse racing and archery are popular sports among the
Daurs. They also play a kind of football with a ball made of ox
Daur villages are neat, usually built on mountain slopes and facing
streams, and the houses have courtyards surrounded by wickerwork
The women have always been renowned for their needlework, decorating
their clothing with fine patterns. Men wear straw hats in summer
or simply tie a piece of white cloth around their foreheads. In
winter they wear leather caps with ear flaps. Women wear white cloth
socks and patterned shoes in summer, donning leather boots and long
gowns in winter.
Typical of the daily diet of the Daurs is millet or buckwheat
noodles mixed with milk, buckwheat cakes and oat porridge cooked
with soybeans. Game figures high on the list of Daur delicacies,
especially deer meat, pheasant and duck. They cultivate a variety
Inseparable from the Daur scene is the "leleche" -- a small cart
with large wheels drawn by an ox.
The Daurs have a rich repertory of folk dances which they love
to perform during festivals. Women participate in group singing
and most women own a musical instrument called a "mukulian." Men
play a similar instrument, but the women are the most accomplished
Daur folk literature is mostly based on observations of nature,
but it also contains a wealth of legends and fables. One of their
most popular stories is called "The Young Stalwart and Dai Fu."
It tells of the struggles of the Daurs against national oppression
and their feudal rulers in the latter part of the 19th century.
Also famous among the Daurs are stories by Ahlabudan, a Qing Dynasty
author, such as "Fringed Iris Pouch," "Song of the Four Seasons"
and "Song of Refraining from Drinking." Also well known are tales
adapted from classical Chinese novels. The best-read contemporary
works are those by a Daur writer named Qin Tongpu, such as "A Farmer's
Song," "Song of the Fishermen" and "Song of the Lumbermen." The
Daurs have a love for poetry, which they compose in several unique
verse forms. Their long winter evenings are also enlivened by oral
literature, riddles and proverbs, as well as handicrafts such as
toy making, embroidery and paper cuts.
The dead are buried in graveyards arranged according to family
lineage. Buried along with the deceased are ornaments, tobacco pipes,
cooking utensils, and sometimes slaughtered horses.
Nirji Town is the seat of the government of the Morin Dawa Daur
Autonomous Banner (County). The town has a People's Cultural Palace,
and thriving machine-building, repair, food-processing and chemical
There are more than 100 settlements in the region and seven autonomous
townships -- all nowadays linked by roads and a railway. Local cadres
have been trained to administer the banner.
Industry has come to the Daur community for the first time, with
factories producing electric motors, transformers and chemical fertilizer.
Farm machinery and power supply sources have also contributed greatly
to the development of agriculture.
With the development of education, nearly all Daur children of
school age now attend primary schools. An increasing number of young
Daurs go to middle schools and colleges.
Epidemics, particularly "keshan" disease which affects the heart,
are a thing of the past now that the banner has some 30 medical