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Booi Aha

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Title: Booi Aha  
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Subject: History of slavery in China, Qing dynasty, Slavery, Slavery in China, Imperial Household Department
Collection: Manchu Words and Phrases, Qing Dynasty, Slavery in China
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Booi Aha

Booi Aha (Manchu: ᠪᠣᠣᡳ ᠨᡳᠶᠠᠯᠮᠠ(booi niyalma) for male, ᠪᠣᠣᡳ ᡥᡝᡥᡝ(booi hehe) for female; Chinese transliteration: 包衣阿哈) is a Manchu word literally meaning "household person", referring to hereditarily servile people in the 17th century China. It is often directly translated as "bondservant", although sometimes also rendered as "slave" ("nucai").


  • Concept of the Booi Aha 1
  • Usage 2
  • Booi Aha and the Liaodong Han Chinese 3
  • Upper Three Banners of Neiwufu 4
    • Various classes of Booi 4.1
  • Status of the booi aha 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Concept of the Booi Aha

Pamela Kyle Crossley wrote in her book Orphan Warriors: "The Mongol is the slave of his sovereign. He is never free. His sovereign is his benefactor; [the Mongol] does not serve him for money." This Mongolian "traditional model of slave to owner" was taken up by the Manchu during the development of the Eight Banner military system.

Crossley gave as the definition of Manchu: "A Manchu was, moreover, a man who used his skills exclusively to serve the sovereign....banners as institutions were derived from Turkic and Mongolian forms of military servitude, all enrolled under the banners considered themselves slaves of the emperor and called themselves so (aha, Chinese:奴才, pinyin:nucai) when addressing him...".[1]


In his book China Marches West, Peter C. Perdue stated: "In 1624 (after Nurhachi's invasion of Liaodong), Chinese households who had 5 to 7 Manchu sin of grain (800 to 1,000 kg) were given land and houses, while those with less were made into slaves." The Manchu established a close personal and paternalistic relationship between masters and their slaves, as Nurhachi said: "The Master (Chinese:主子) should love the slaves and eat the same food as them". Perdue further pointed out that booi aha "did not correspond exactly to the Chinese category of "bondservant-slave" (Chinese:奴僕); instead, it was a relationship of personal dependency on a master which in theory guaranteed close personal relationships and equal treatment, even though many western scholars would directly translate "booi" as "bondservant".[2]

In the book A History of Chinese Civilization, Jacques Gernet pointed out that Chinese agricultural slaves were employed as early as the fifteenth century, and by the late sixteenth century it was observed that all the Manchu military commanders had both field and house servants. Between 1645 and 1647, Qing rulers enclosed (Chinese:圈地) large numbers of previously Chinese owned estates over vast areas of North China, eastern Mongolia and neighborhood of Peking, and for land cultivation they were using a labor force consisting of bondservants which were previous land owners and prisoners of war. According to Gernet, regardless of repeated calls from the leader Nurhachi that "The Master should love the slaves", Manchu slave masters treated their slaves very harshly, arranged numerous corvees (Chinese:徭役, 强迫的劳役), and sold and bought their slaves as if they were animals.[3]

Booi was sometimes regarded as synonymous with booi aha, but booi usually referred to household servants who performed domestic service, whereas aha usually referred to the servile people who worked in fields.[4]

Booi Aha and the Liaodong Han Chinese

The number of booi aha of the Imperial Household Department seems to have risen mainly during the Nurhachi's conquest of the eastern fringes of the Liao River basin in the 1610s and 1620s, resulting in the massive increase of the numbers of captives. In 1618, Nurhachi increased the Jurchen state's population by 300,000 by the taking of Fu-shun. This large increase of its population changed the policy on booi aha. During the first year of conquest(to 1624), the captured Chinese were generally enslaved, and bore obligations to private persons, while later (in 1624-1625) they were often enrolled in the ranks of the semi-dependent agriculture class, jusen, who bore obligations to the state.[5] Freeholder status was given to Li Yongfang's 1,000 troops after his surrender of Fushun, and the later Chinese Bannermen (Hanjun, or Han Bannermen) Bao Chengxian and Shi Tingzhu also experience good fortune in Qing service after their surrenders in 1622 at Guangning.[6]

The Aha were made out of enslaved Jurchens, Koreans, Han Chinese, and Mongols before 1616, they then became part of the booi (bondservants) attached to Manchu Banners, there is no evidence that after 1621 most of the booi were Han Chinese despite the mistaken view held by many of this topic, many different ethnic groups were booi including Koreans and ethnic Manchu bondservants as well.[7] Both Koreans, Han Chinese, and Jurchens who were prisoners of war or abducted became part of the Aha, the forerunner of the booi (bondservants) in the Banners, although the Jurchens integrated into their own some of the earlier captured Han Chinese and Koreans.[8] The Jianzhou Jurchens accepted some Han Chinese and Koreans who became Jušen (freeholders) on Jianzhou land.[9]

Upper Three Banners of Neiwufu

The Manchu Booi Aha (Home slaves) system was the origin of the Neiwufu (Chinese:內務府) or

  • 清代关于包衣与旗制的问题 清代的包衣(booi)的问题,一向是研究八旗制度(Eight Banner system)与清代内务府(Imperial Household Depart)问题首先必须解决的。 (Chinese)
  • 内务府三旗(booi ilan gusa,ilan是三的意思,gusa是旗的意思)是包衣三旗,由原来上三旗的包衣组成 (Chinese)

External links

  • Elliott, Mark C. (2001). The Manchu Way: The Eight Banners and Ethnic Identity in Late Imperial China (illustrated, reprint ed.). Stanford University Press.  
  1. ^ Crossley, Pamela (Pub. Date: October 1991). Orphan Warriors 作者:Pamela Kyle Crossley. # Publisher: Princeton University Press.  
  2. ^ Perdue, Peter (Pub. Date: April 2005). China Marches West. # Publisher: Triliteral. p. 118.  
  3. ^ Gernet, Jacques (Pub. Date: May 1996). A History of Chinese Civilization. # Publisher: Cambridge University Press. p. 468.  
  4. ^ Rawski (1998). The Last Emperors. p. 167. 
  5. ^ Torbert, Preston (January 1977). The Chʻing Imperial Household Department 作者:Preston M. Torbert. Harvard University Press. pp. Page 16.  
  6. ^ Elliott 2001, p. 76.
  7. ^ Elliott 2001, p. 83.
  8. ^ Elliott 2001, p. 51.
  9. ^ Elliott 2001, p. 52.
  10. ^ Torbert, Preston (1977). The Chʻing Imperial Household Department 作者:Preston M. Torbert. Harvard Univ Asia Center. p. 27.  


See also

Chinese scholar Mo Dongyin (Chinese:莫东寅) in his Essays on Manchu History (Chinese:《满族史论丛》) wrote that booi has a dual meaning: (1) Household servants, and (2) slaves. But in Manchu society, booi (Chinese:包衣) occupied a special class, in which they serve their masters by doing all kinds of manual work and at the same time, with the permission from the master (Chinese:主子), can enslave other booi, thus becoming masters themselves. With the establishment of the Booi Gusa (Manchu: Slave Banner) and incorporated into both the Eight Banners Army and the Imperial Household Department. Booi had since become part of the Qing dynasty political hierarchy, with the emperor being the Master, and emperor's booi working for the Master and the imperial court simultaneously. When addressing the emperor, booi would refer to themselves as Nupu or Nucai (Chinese:奴僕, or Chinese:奴才). But when booi were addressing others, even though they were Nucai of the emperor (Chinese:皇帝的奴才), they would refer to themselves as Superior officials of the Han Chinese (Chinese:汉人的长官).

Status of the booi aha

  1. Booi niru a Manchu word (Chinese:包衣佐領) meaning Neiwufu Upper Three Banner platoon leader (about 300 men).
  2. Booi guanlin a Manchu word (Chinese:包衣管領) meaning the manager of the booi, doing all the domestic duties of the Neiwufu.
  3. Booi amban is also a Manchu word, meaning high official (Chinese:包衣大臣).
  4. Estate bannerman (Chinese:庄头旗人) are those renegade Chinese who joined the Jurchen, or original civilian-soldiers working in the fields. These people were all turned into booi aha, or field slaves.

Various classes of Booi

In the Qing court, the number of eunuchs was reduced to less than 10% of that of Ming court because eunuchs were replaced by booi, the Qing imperial court's home servants.

The Upper Three Banners of the Neiwufu (Chinese:内務府上三旗) (Manchu:booi ilan gusa) was a unique military system of Manchu. Apart from providing the clothing, food, housing and transportation for the operating of daily functioning of the imperial family, it also had a military function, which is to provide military protection for the inner imperial court.

The highest official's title was Dorgi Baita Icihiyara Amban, a Manchu term (Chinese:总管内务府大臣), a position mostly occupied by Manchu princes. [10]

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