Respecting ancestors and emending family tree of Manchu Ethnic Group

Family tree, also called pedigree or chart, is a book for every family, which recorded the headstream, the descent and the stories of important persons of this family.

For a long history, Manchus have paid a lot of attention on the emendation and composition of family tree. They believed that the emendation of family tree could make clear the positions in the family hierarchy and also could declare the family instruction and commend merits and virtues, which could be followed by “those descendants who respect their ancestors”. In other words, the family tree is the history annals for family kinship in Man nationality and is also the ligament to maintenance the family kinship and the inner family control.

The family tree of Manchu is written or printed on paper or cloth and silk textiles, according to the surname, from generation to generation. It is made up of family tree book and family tree list. Generally speaking, the weak or poor families only write names of ancestors on a piece of paper or cloth and silk textiles, according to the generation position, from ancestors to descendants, from ancient time to nowadays, which forms the shape of a pagoda and makes the generation position clear at a glance. This chart of only one piece is called “family tree list”. However, the rich or powerful families will compile the family tree into a volume that is called “family tree book”. The family tree book cannot only be printed and also be coped. There are not only family tree chart but also family order, family instruction, graves and other items in the book.

For the book, the larger the scale is, the more detailed the content is. The content generally includes: family order, origin, pedigree, fete decorum, family instruction (the instruction on wedding and funeral), model (the biography of ancestors and officers), graves, bestow (imperial mandate and appointment), formulary of naming (according to generation, literary name and nickname) and so on. The family tree is often kept by the patriarch of the family and can be also emended by family division. It is said that the custom of family tree emendation can be traced to the period of Nurhachi. In that period, after Nurhachi had unified all the Nuchen tribes and had set up the Posterior Jin power, he ordered Erdeni to record the significant events in Manchu newly created. Erdeni was a diligent, prudent, clever and versatile person. From then on, he recorded cautiously and conscientiously “all the good policies” of Nurhachi such as political policies, military action, court life and so on. This is the earliest documents of Man nationality and the earliest family tree of AisinGioro family.

In the past, it was a great event for Manchus to emend the family tree. It was mostly carried out in the year of “dragon or tiger”. At that time, the clansmen came together. They sacrificed pigs and lambs for their ancestors and for the Heaven. Nowadays, the custom of emending family tree has been still carried on but the decorum and procedure have been simplified a lot.