Nurhaci (simplified Chinese: 努尔哈赤; alternatively Nurhachi; February 21, 1559 - September 30, 1626) was an important Manchu chieftain who rose to prominence in the late 16th Century in what is today Northeastern China. Nurhaci was part of the Aisin Gioro clan, and reigned from 1616 to his death in September 1626.
Nurhaci's reorganized and united various Manchu tribes, consolidated the Eight Banners military system, and eventually launched an assault on China proper's Ming Dynasty and Korea's Joseon Dynasty. His conquest of China's northeastern Liaoning Province laid the groundwork for the conquest of the rest of China by his descendants, who would go on to found the Qing Dynasty in 1644. He is also generally credited with the creation of a written script for the Manchu language.
Name and titles
Nurhaci is written as in the Manchu language. Regarded as the founding father of the Qing Dynasty, he is given the customary temple name of Taizu, which is traditionally assigned to founders of dynasties. His name is also alternatively spelled Nurgaci, Nurhachi, or Nu-er-ha-chi (the last of these simply the transcription of the Chinese characters used to write his name).
Nurhaci was the last chieftain of the Jianzhou Jurchens and First Khan of Later Jin Dynasty. His title as Khan was Geren gurun-be ujire genggiyen Han (“Brilliant Khan Who Benefits All Nations”). His Chinese reign name was Tianming (Chinese: 天命). He was given a posthumous name in 1736, the shortened form of which was "Gao Emperor" (Chinese: 高皇帝).
Nurhaci was born in 1558. Being a member of the Gioro clan of the Suksuhu River tribe, Nurhaci also claimed descent from Möngke Temür, a Mongol-Jurchen headman who lived some two centuries earlier. According to Chinese sources, the young man grew up as a soldier in the household of Ming Dynasty General Li Chengliang in Fushun, where he learned Chinese. He named his clan Aisin Gioro around 1612, when he formally ascended the throne as Khan of Later Jin.
In 1582 his father Taksi and grandfather Giocangga were killed in an attack on Gure by a rival Jurchen chieftain Nikan Wailan while being led by Li Chengliang. The following year, Nurhaci began to unify the Jurchen bands; when he was 25, he beheaded Nikan Wailan at Tulin to avenge the deaths of his father and grandfather, who are said to have left him nothing but thirteen suits of armor.
In 1593, the nine allied tribes of Yehe, Hada, Ula, Hoifa, Khorchin, Sibe, Guwalca, Jušeri, and Neyen attacked Nurhaci but all were completely defeated at the Battle of Gure.
From 1599 to 1618, Nurhaci engaged on a campaign on conquering the four Hulun tribes. In 1599, he attacked the Hada, finally conquering the Hada in 1603. Then in 1607, Hoifa was conquered, followed by Ula in 1613 and finally defeating Yehe at the Battle of Sarhu in 1619.
In 1599, he had two of his translators, Erdeni Bagshi and Dahai Jarguchi, create the written Manchu language by adapting the Mongolian alphabet.
In 1606, he was granted the title of Kundulun Khan by the Mongols.
In 1616, Nurhaci declared himself Khan (King) and founded the Jin Dynasty (aisin gurun), often called the Latter Jin. He constructed a palace at Mukden (present-day Shenyang) in Liaoning province. (The earlier Jin Dynasty of the twelfth century had also been formed by the Jurchen.) Jīn was renamed Qīng by his son Hong Taiji after his death in 1626, but Nurhaci is usually referred to as the founder of the Qing dynasty.
Only after he became khan did he finally unify the Ula (clan of his consort Abahai, mentioned below) and the Yehe (clan of his consort Monggo, along with the last Empress Dowager Cíxǐ, and many more consorts of Qing Emperors in between).
In 1618, Nurhaci commissioned a document entitled the Seven Grievances in which he enumerated seven grievances against the Ming and began to rebel against the domination of the Ming Dynasty. A majority of the grievances dealt with conflicts against Yehe, and Ming favouritism of Yehe.
Nurhaci led many successful engagements against the Ming Dynasty, the Koreans, the Mongols, and other Jurchen clans, greatly enlarging the territory under his control. Finally in 1626 Nurhaci suffered the first serious military defeat of his life at the hands of the Ming general Yuán Chónghuàn. Nurhaci was wounded by Yuan's Portuguese cannon (紅衣大炮) in the Battle of Ningyuan. Unable to recover either physically or mentally, he died 2 days later at a little town called De-A Man (靉福陵隆恩門) on 30 September, at the age of 68. His tomb (Chinese: 福陵) is located east of Shenyang.
Among the most lasting contributions Nurhaci left his descendants was the establishment of the so-called Eight Banners, which would eventually form the backbone of the military that dominated the Qing empire. The status of Banners did not change much over the course of Nurhaci's lifetime, nor in subsequent reigns, remaining mostly under the control of the royal family. The two elite Yellow Banners were consistently under Nurhaci's control. The two Blue Banners were controlled by Nurhaci's brother Surhaci until he died, at which point the Blue Banners were given to Surhaci's two sons-Chiurhala and Amin. Nurhaci's eldest son-Cuyen- controlled the White Banner for most of his father's reign - until he rebelled. Then the Bordered White Banner was given to Nurhaci's grandson and the Plain White was given to his eighth son and heir, Hung Taiji. However, by the end of Nurhaci's reign, Hung Taiji controlled both White Banners. Finally, the Red Banner was run by Nurhaci's second son Daishan. Later in Nurhaci's reign, the Bordered Red Banner was handed down to his son. Daishan and his son would continue holding the two Red Banners well into the end of Huang Taiji's reign.
As noted, Nurhaci was succeeded by his eighth son, Hong Taiji. It is said Hung Taiji took the throne by coercing his father's third consort Abahai to commit suicide, in order to block the succession of his younger brother Dorgon. The reason such intrigue was necessary is that Nurhaci had left the two elite Yellow Banners to Dorgun and Dodo, who were the sons of Abahai. Hong Taiji exchanged control of his two White Banners for that of the two Yellow Banners, shifting their influence and power from his young brothers onto himself. At the same time, by forcing Abahai to follow her husband into death, he assured that there would be no one to support the 15-year-old Dorgon or 14-year-old Dodo.