Oroqen - History and Cultural Relations

Originally Oroqen lived between the Outer Hinggan Mountains to the north and the Heilong (Amur) River to the south. Together with Ewenkis and Daurs they were historically termed the "Sulun Tribes." To escape czarist Russian invasion and plunder, they crossed the Heilong River and came to their present habitat in the middle of the seventeenth century. During the Qing dynasty under Manchu rulers, they were divided into Horse-Riding Oroqens and Foot Oroqens, with the former incorporated into the Eight-Banner System serving as soldiers, and the latter still hunting to provide precious marten fur to the Qing court. After 1911 warlords recruited Oroqen youth and organized the so-called forest guerrillas. The rest were forced to settle as agriculturalists. The invading Japanese disbanded them in 1931 and drove them into the forest again, with their youth conscripted to form what the Japanese called the "forest detachment." The Japanese introduced opium and sometimes used the Oroqen as guinea pigs for bacterial experiments. The Oroqen population declined drastically, and at the time of Japanese surrender in 1945, barely 1,000 were left. In 1951 the Oroqen Autonomous Banner and several ethnic Oroqen xiangs (local government units comprising several villages each) were established, and the Oroqen people began to be incorporated into the national life of the People's Republic. Besides their principal economic life as hunters and agriculturists, they also serve as forest-fire fighters, being well known for their bravery and dedication.

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