|Regions with significant populations|
|China: Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Evenks, other Tungusic peoples, Mongols|
The Oroqen people (simplified Chinese: ?; traditional Chinese: ?; pinyin: ; Mongolian: Or?un; also spelt Orochen or Orochon) are an ethnic group in northern China. They form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. As of the 2000 Census , 44.54% of the Oroqen lived in Inner Mongolia and 51.52% along the Heilongjiang River (Amur) in the province of Heilongjiang. The Oroqen Autonomous Banner is also located in Inner Mongolia.
The Oroqens are mainly hunters, and customarily use animal fur and skins for clothing. Many of them have given up hunting and adhered to laws that aimed to protect wildlife in the People's Republic of China. The government is said to have provided modern dwellings for those who have left behind the traditional way of life. The Oroqen are represented in the People's Congress by their own delegate and are a recognized ethnic minority.
The Oroqen language is a Northern Tungusic language. Their language is very similar to the Evenki language and it is believed that speakers of these two languages can understand 70% of the other language. Their language is still unwritten; however, the majority of the Oroqen are capable of reading and writing Chinese, and some can also speak the Daur language.
The Oroqen (Mongolian Guruchin) are one of the oldest ethnic groups in northeast China. The endonym oroqen means "people who keep reindeer, reindeer herder(s)." The ancestor of the Oroqen originally lived in the vast area south of the Outer Khingan Mountains and north of Heilongjiang.
They once formed part of the ancient people known as the Shiwei. In the 17th century, following invasions by the Russian Empire, some Oroqens moved to the area near the Greater and Lesser Khingan Mountains.
During the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, the Japanese performed "bacterial experiments" on the Oroqen and forced opium on them which led to death and their population declining until only 1,000 remained. The Japanese banned Oroqen from communicating with other ethnicities, and forced them to hunt animals for them in exchange for starvation rations and unsuitable clothing which let them die from the weather. The Japanese also forced Oroqen adults older than 18 to take opium. After two Japanese troops were killed in Alihe by an Oroqen hunter, the Japanese poisoned 40 Oroqen to death. The Japanese forced Oroqen to fight for them in the war which led to a massive population decrease of Oroqen people.
The Oroqen are exogamous, only marriages among members of different clans being permitted.
The traditional dwelling is called a sierranju (Chinese: xierenzhu) and is covered in the summer with birch bark and in the winter with deer furs. These dwellings have conical forms and are made out of 20 to 30 pine sticks. The dwellings are usually about six meters in diameter and five meters in height. In the centre a fire is placed that serves as a kitchen, as well as a source of lighting. Birch bark is an important raw material in the traditional culture alongside the furs. It serves for the preparation of containers of all types, from the manufacture of cradles to boats. With respect to the reindeer herding of the Evenki, Oroqen and Nanai, which all shared the use of birch bark, it can be said that these cultures are part of a "birch bark" culture.
The Oroqen is now among China's most highly educated ethnic groups. 23.3% of the ethnic group received college education, only less than Russians, Chinese Tatars and Nanais. 19.2% received only primary school education or less, after Koreans, Russians and Nanais.
Until the early 1950s the main religion of the nomadic Oroqen was shamanism. In the summer of 1952 cadres of the Chinese Communist Party coerced the leaders of the Oroqen to give up their "superstitions" and abandon any religious practices. These tribal leaders, Chuonnasuan (Meng Jin Fu) and Zhao Li Ben, were also powerful shamans. The special community ritual to "send away the spirits" and beg them not to return was held over three nights in Baiyinna and in Shibazhan.
The last living shaman of the Oroqen, Chuonnasuan (Meng Jin Fu), died at the age of 73 on 9 October 2000. His life, initiatory illness, and training as a shaman are detailed in a published article, also available online.
Chuonnasuan was the last living shaman who practiced his craft prior to the communist banishment of such "superstitions" in this region in 1952. Over three nights in July 1952, in several separate communities, the Oroqen peoples held rituals in which they begged the spirits to leave them forever. Evidence for and enhancement of auditory (spirit songs) and visual mental imagery during altered states of consciousness can be found in Chuonnasuan's account of his practice of shamanism. Noteworthy is that he reported performing only one ritual journey to the lower world, which he called Buni. This term for the lowerworld or land of the dead is identical to that used by the Nanai people of Siberia in accounts of shamans collected almost a century ago. Sacrifices to ancestral spirits are still routinely made, and there is a folk psychological belief in animism.
Traditionally the Oroqen have a special veneration for animals, especially the bear and the tiger, which they consider their blood brothers. The tiger is known to them as wutaqi, which means "elderly man", while the bear is amaha, which means "uncle".