Daur is the title that the people of the Daur ethnic minority named themselves, meaning cultivator. With historical records dating back to the early 17th century, there are several stories about the origin of this minority. The most accepted is that they were descendants of the brave Khitan tribe (Qidan) in the Liao Dynasty (916 - 1125). This minority helped guard the frontier during the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911) near Xinjiang Province.
Population and Distribution:
According to the census taken in 2000, the population of the Daur ethnic minority was 132,394, which is considerably smaller than other minorities. They mainly inhabit the Inner Mongolia municipality and Heilongjiang Province, while some live in the Xinjiang Uygur municipality. Surrounded by the Daxing'anling, and Nenjiang River Reaches, this place is abundant in natural resources.
Economy and Food:
Living in an area where vegetation and animals can be farmed easily, the Daur people can eat well on various fresh fruits, grains, fish, and meat. During the Qing Dynasty, the Daur people ate mostly meat. Now their tastes have changed to grain. Millet rice, buckwheat pies, and buckwheat noodles are all to their taste. Milk foods are also their favorite. There are so many ways of cooking with milk – tea with milk, rice mixed with yogurt, milk porridge, milk bean curd, etc.
The Daur people have their own language, which is a Mongolian dialect of the Altai phylum. As their land bordered upon the places where Mongol, Man, Ewenki, Han, and Kazak minorities inhabited, they developed their vocabulary, benefiting from others. However, the language has no written form. So that of Han, Mongol and Kazak is used.
For entertainment, the Daur people like to dance in their traditional way while playing traditional instruments, especially during festivals. Usually the dancing is performed by women, as men seldom dance. Taking themes from life, actors imitate acts of birds such as the eagle, chick, and cuckoo, as well as situations of picking herbs, sewing, or carrying barrels of water. Meanwhile, the men hold meetings for hockey, horse-racing, shooting, wrestling and so on.
Daur women do well in embroidering, paper-cutting, and engraving. Girls are required to learn to embroider because when they get married, they will wear various their handiworks. The girl whose works is refined will be praised, otherwise, be sneered. For the other two skills, they exert their prolific imagination and design the patterns clear and tasteful. They like carving on bones and wood. Crafts can be used to decorate doors, window, tables, cabinets, and shrines.
The Daur people enjoy many festivals in a year, such as Spring Festival, Black Ash Festival, Lantern Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-Autumn Day, Butong Festival, and so on.
Spring Festival, called 'A Nie Jie' is the most important. Women get up early to prepare the food, including dumplings. After eating breakfast, the men go to pay a New Year call to the town seniors. Then everyone greets each other. On entering a house, guests will take off the lid of the pan to eat the steamed cakes and praise the most delicious one. These activities last for five days. Meanwhile, women send gifts to the old men and friends, and girls quietly give items they have made themselves to the boy of their heart. There is much amusement during this time.
Butong Festival is actually New Year's Eve. On that day, all the families clean their yards, paste New Year pictures, hang lanterns, and worship gods and goddesses. They pile dry ox dung into a fire and light it at dark. While it's burning, they throw meat, steamed bread and dumplings into the fire, to ask the God of fire for health and wealth. On this night, no-one will sleep until the New Year has come. This predicates that they will be energetic in the future.
The Daur ethnic minority stress etiquette and custom. They respect their seniors and able men, like to help others, and are faithful and forthright. There are also some taboos in their life. Girls usually marry when their age is at an odd number. If they marry at an even numbered age, it will be regarded as inauspicious. Thus most girls' wedding ceremonies are held when they are 17, 19, or 21. Boys often propose many times, for this makes the girls appear more dignified. Some of the other Daur taboos are:
- When a woman gives birth to a baby, guests are not welcomed in the first three days;
- Children are not allowed to stand on the threshold as people believe if they do the child will not grow tall;
- Children are not allowed to look into a mirror, or the child will dream of ghosts
- On New Year's Eve, the door must be shut;
- On the first day of the New Year, people should get themselves up and avoid being woken by another or they will be lazy for a year;
- During the first day to the fifth day rooms are not cleaned in order that good fortune will not be swept away.