Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Mountain and forest hunting and gathering were more important subsistance activities in the past, but for many centuries the Manchu have been a sedentary agricultural people. Sorghum, maize, millet, soybeans, and tobacco are basic crops, along with fruit growing. Animal husbandry is part of the rural economy, particularly the raising of pigs. More than 80 percent of the Manchu now living in Liaoning, Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Hebei are engaged in agriculture. The remainder of the population is in industry and a variety of urban jobs. Forestry and lumbering are also part of the present economy.
Trade. There was a merchant class in past centuries, although during the Qing dynasty the Manchu were forbidden to engage in trade. Even then the Manchu held an official monopoly on ginseng, a medicinal root native to the area. Business activities have begun to reemerge since the economic reforms of the early 1980s.
Division of Labor. During the Qing dynasty, most of the Manchu, aside from members of the imperial clan or those in the thirty-one grades of the aristocracy, were "bannermen," who received land and stipends from the government. The "banners" were military forces who together with their families were assigned to various locations within the empire. Most were assigned to areas in and around major cities, particularly Beijing. Within the homeland area, the Manchu continued as farmers, theoretically banned from engaging in trade or artisan labor. The main division of labor in the countryside was along sex lines, with household chores undertaken by the women and most of the agricultural work or side occupations engaged in by men. In the twentieth century, some of the urban Manchu became peddlers or workers, and some entered the arts and professions.