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Oroqen Ethnic Minority

The Oroqen ethnic minority, with a population of about 6,965 (as of 1990) is the third smallest of the 55 ethnic minorities in China. They mainly live in the Oroqen Autonomous Banner of Hulunbuir League in the Greater and Lesser Xing'an Mountains of Inner Mongolia. A small number are scattered in Heilongjiang Province.    

The Oroqens have their own language which belongs to the Tungus branch of the Manchu-Tungusic Austronesian of the Altaic Phylum. They have no written script of their own. They now use the Chinese spoken and written language together with their own language.

Oroqen, meaning "people living on the mountain" or "people using reindeer", is a name they call themselves. The ancestor of the Oroqens originally lived in the vast areas south of the Outer Xing'an Mountains and north of present Heilongjiang Province. In the 17th century, due to the invasions by Russia, some Oroqens moved to the area near the Greater and Lesser Xing'an Mountains. After the founding of the PRC in 1949, they were formally named the Oroqen ethnic minority.

In the past, the Oroqen people mainly lived on hunting, collecting and sometimes fishing. After the founding of PRC, they gradually left the forests, stopped their nomadic life and settled down. With the support of the government, they began to take up agriculture and animal husbandry. Industry and manufacturing are now progressing well.

The long history of hunting life influenced the creation of their unique dressing culture. Clothing of the Oroqen, including hats, shoes and socks, are made of animal skins. Oroqen women, who also hunt, show marvelous skill in embroidering patterns of deer, bears and horses on pelts and cloth that go into the making of head gears, gloves, boots and garments. Oroqen women also make basins, bowls, boxes and other objects from birch barks. Engraved with various designs and dyed in color, these objects are artistic works that convey the idea of simplicity and beauty.

The Oroqen people practice Shamanism and totemism. They are very much in awe of the bear. They worship nature and their ancestors, and believe that everything in the world has a soul.

The Spring Festival is the most important festival of the Oroqen people. They celebrate it on the same date with the Hans. On New Year's morning, they burn incense and kowtow to their God of Fire and to the old people, and wish everyone good fortune in the coming year. Various entertainment activities, such as wrestling matches, horse racing and archery, are held from the first to the sixth day of the New Year.

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