Last of the reindeer hunters

Updated: 2013-10-15 07:35

(China Daily)

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FACT BOX: The Ewenki ethnic group

According to China's sixth national census, conducted in 2010, there are 30,875 ethnic Ewenki living in the country, compared with their 37,000-odd counterparts in Russia.

About 88 percent of the Ewenki people in China live in Hulunbuir in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region. Hulunbuir's Ewenki autonomous banner has approximately 10,000 Ewenki residents and is the country's largest hub for the ethnic group.

The Ewenki language belongs to the Manchu-Tungusic language group, which is widely distributed across Northern Asia. Although "Ewenki" means "The people who live deep in the mountains" in their language, most Ewenki people in China have settled down in agrarian and pastural areas. The situation is similar among the Oroqen and the Daur, two other indigenous ethnic groups that live in the Greater Hinggan Mountain range.

Some Ewenki began to nurture horse-breeding skills as early as the 18th century. The Aoluguya, who originated close to the Lena River in Russia, is one of the few tribes that still inhabit the forest. They are also the only reindeer herders left in China.

Communications between the forest-dwelling Ewenki and the rest of the country was not common until forestry exploitation began along the Greater Hinggan Mountains in the 1950s. The Ewenki made a great contribution to the development of that industry.

The Ewenki traditionally believe in Shamanism, but some who dwell on the grasslands of Inner Mongolia have practiced Tibetan Buddhism.

Furs and birch bark were once the main materials used to make Ewenki clothing, but today's Ewenki only wear traditional garb for festivals or large ceremonies.

- Wang Kaihao

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