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 River.
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 1945.
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 people.