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Dzungar genocide
Part of the Conquest of Dzungaria
Battle of Oroi-Jalatu in 1756
Location Dzungar Khanate (Dzungaria, Western Mongolia, Kazakhstan, northern Kyrgyzstan, southern Siberia)
Date 1755–1758
Target Zunghars
Attack type
mass murder
Deaths 480,000[1]- 600,000[1] 80% of the 600,000 Dzungar population
Perpetrators Qing dynasty (Manchu Eight Banners), Khalkha Mongols, Inner Mongols

The Dzungar genocide (Chinese: 准噶尔灭族; pinyin: Zhǔngá'ěr mièzú[2]) was the mass extermination of the Dzungar people by the Manchu Qing dynasty of China. The Qing Manchu Qianlong Emperor ordered the extermination to punish the Dzungar leader Amursana's rebellion against Qing rule after the dynasty first conquered the Dzungar Khanate with Amursana's support before he rebelled in 1755. The genocide was carried out mainly by Manchu Bannermen and Khalkhas, who were part of the Qing force sent to crush the Dzungars. Uyghurs from Turfan like Emin Khoja who were vassals and allies of the Qing, helped supply its forces during their war against the Dzungars. After wiping out the native population of Dzungaria, the Qing then resettled Han Chinese, Hui, Uyghur, and Xibe people on state farms in Dzungaria along with Manchu Bannermen to repopulate the area.

The Oirats converted to Tibetan Buddhism around 1615. The Dzungars were a confederation of several Oirat tribes that emerged suddenly in the early 17th century. The Dzungar Khanate was the last great nomadic empire in Asia. Some scholars estimate that about 80% of the Dzungar population, or around 500,000 to 800,000 people, were killed by a combination of warfare and disease during or after the Manchu conquest in 1755–1757.[3] [4]

Qing conquest of the Zunghars[]


The Dzungars who lived in an area that stretched from the west end of the Great Wall of China to present-day eastern Kazakhstan and from present-day northern Kyrgyzstan to southern Siberia (most of which is located in present-day Xinjiang), were the last nomadic empire to threaten China, which they did from the early 17th century through the middle of the 18th century.[5] After a series of inconclusive military conflicts that started in the 1680s, the Dzungars were subjugated by the Manchu-led Qing dynasty (1644–1911) in the late 1750s. Clarke argued that the Qing campaign in 1757–58 "amounted to the complete destruction of not only the Zunghar state but of the Zunghars as a people".[3] After the Qianlong Emperor led Qing forces to victory over the Dzungars in 1755, he originally planned to split the Dzungar Khanate into four tribes headed by four Khans, the Khoit tribe was to have the Dzungar leader Amursana as its Khan. Amursana rejected the Qing arrangement and rebelled since he wanted to be leader of a united Dzungar nation. Qianlong then issued his orders for the genocide and eradication of the entire Dzungar nation and name, Qing Manchu Bannermen and Khalkha enslaved Zunghar women and children while slaying the other Zunghars.[6]

The Outer Mongol Khalkha Prince Chingünjav conspired with Amursana to revolt against the Qing in 1755. Chingünjav then started his own rebellion in Outer Mongolia against the Qing in 1756 but it was crushed by the Qing in 1757. Chingünjav and his entire family were executed by the Qing after the rebellion was put down. He is now revered as a hero by Khalkha Mongols today.

Qianlong's orders[]

The Qianlong Emperor issued his commanders with direct orders to "massacre" the Zunghars and "show no mercy". Rewards were given to those who carried out the extermination and orders were given for young men to be slaughtered while women were taken as the spoils of war. The Qing extirpated Zunghar identity from the remaining enslaved Zunghar women and children.[7] Orders were given to "completely exterminate the Zunghar tribes, and this successful genocide by the Qing left Zungharia mostly unpopulated and vacant.[8]

Qianlong ordered his men to- "Show no mercy at all to these rebels. Only the old and weak should be saved. Our previous campaigns were too lenient."[9] The Qianlong Emperor did not see any conflict between performing genocide on the Zunghars while upholding the peaceful principles of Confucianism, supporting his position by portraying the Zunghars as barbarian and subhuman. Qianlong proclaimed that "To sweep away barbarians is the way to bring stability to the interior.", that the Zunghars "turned their back on civilization.", and that "Heaven supported the emperor." in the destruction of the Zunghars.[10][11] According to the Encyclopedia of genocide and crimes against humanity, Volume 3, under Article II of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Qianlong's actions against the Zunghars constitute genocide, as he massacred the vast majority of the Zunghar population and enslaved or banished the remainder, and had "Zunghar culture" extirpated and destroyed.[12] Qianlong's campaign constituted the "eighteenth-century genocide par excellence."[13]


Qianlong emperor moved the remaining Zunghar people to China and ordered the generals to kill all the men in Barkol or Suzhou, and divided their wives and children to Qing soldiers.[14][15] In an account of the war, Qing scholar Wei Yuan, wrote that about 40% of the Zunghar households were killed by smallpox, 20% fled to Russia or the Kazakh Khanate, and 30% were killed by the army, leaving no yurts in an area of several thousands of li except those of the surrendered.[1][16][17][18][19] Clarke wrote 80%, or between 480,000 and 600,000 people, were killed between 1755 and 1758 in what "amounted to the complete destruction of not only the Zunghar state but of the Zunghars as a people."[1][20] 80% of the Zunghars died in the genocide.[21] The Zunghar genocide was completed by a combination of a smallpox epidemic and the direct slaughter of Zunghars by Qing forces made out of Manchu Bannermen and (Khalkha) Mongols.[22]

It was not until generations later that Dzungaria rebounded from the destruction and near liquidation of the Zunghars after the mass slayings of nearly a million Zunghars.[23] Historian Peter Perdue has shown that the decimation of the Zunghars was the result of an explicit policy of extermination launched by Qianlong,[1] Perdue attributed the decimation of the Zunghars to a "deliberate use of massacre" and has described it as an "ethnic genocide".[24] Although this "deliberate use of massacre" has been largely ignored by modern scholars,[1] Dr. Mark Levene, a historian whose recent research interests focus on genocide,[25] has stated that the extermination of the Dzungars was "arguably the eighteenth century genocide par excellence."[26]

Uyghur assistance to Qing forces against the Zunghars[]

Anti-Zunghar Uyghur rebels from the Turfan and Hami oases had submitted to Qing rule as vassals and requested Qing help for overthrowing Zunghar rule. Uyghur leaders like Emin Khoja were granted titles within the Qing nobility, and these Uyghurs helped supply the Qing military forces during the anti-Zunghar campaign.[27][28][29] The Qing employed Khoja Emin in its campaign against the Zunghars and used him as an intermediary with Muslims from the Tarim Basin to inform them that the Qing were only aiming to kill Oirats (Zunghars) and that they would leave the Muslims alone, and also to convince them to kill the Oirats (Zunghars) themselves and side with the Qing since the Qing noted the Muslims' resentment of their former experience under Zunghar rule at the hands of Tsewang Araptan.[30]

Kalmyks return to Zungharia[]

The Kalmyk Khanate was founded in the 17th century with Tibetan Buddhism as its main religion, following the earlier migration of the Oirats from Zungharia through Central Asia to the steppe around the mouth of the Volga River. During the course of the 18th century, they were absorbed by the Russian Empire, which was then expanding to the south and east. The Russian Orthodox church pressured many Kalmyks to adopt Orthodoxy. In the winter of 1770–1771, about 300,000 Kalmyks set out to return to China. Their goal was to retake control of Zungharia from the Qing dynasty of China.[31] Along the way many were attacked and killed by Kazakhs and Kyrgyz, their historical enemies based on inter-tribal competition for land, and many more died of starvation and disease. After several grueling months of travel, only one-third of the original group reached Zungharia and had no choice but to surrender to the Qing upon arrival.[32] These Kalmyks became known as Torghuts. After being settled in Qing territory, the Torghuts were coerced by the Qing into giving up their nomadic lifestyle and to take up sedentary agriculture instead as part of a deliberate policy by the Qing to enfeeble them. They proved to be incompetent farmers and they became destitute, selling their children into slavery, engaging in prostitution, and stealing, according to the Manchu Qi-yi-shi.[33][34] Child slaves were in demand on the Central Asian slave market, and Torghut children were sold into this slave trade.[35]

Consequences of the Genocide[]

The Qing "final solution" of genocide to solve the problem of the Zunghars, made the Qing sponsored settlement of millions of Han Chinese, Hui, Turkestani Oasis people (Uyghurs) and Manchu Bannermen in Zungharia possible, since the land was now devoid of Zunghars.[1][36] Professor Stanley W. Toops noted that today's demographic situation is similar to that of the early Qing period in Xinjiang. In northern Xinjiang, the Qing brought in Han, Hui, Uyghur, Xibe, and Kazakh colonists after they exterminated the Zunghar Oirat Mongols in the region, with one third of Xinjiang's total population consisting of Hui and Han in the northern are, while around two thirds were Uyghurs in southern Xinjiang's Tarim Basin.[37][38] In Dzungaria, the Qing established new cities like Ürümqi and Yining.[39] After the Chinese defeated Jahangir Khoja in the 1820s, 12,000 Turki (Uyghur) Taranchi families were deported by China from the Tarim Basin to Zungharia to colonize and repopulate the area since the mass extermination of the Zunghars left it empty.[40] The Zungharian basin, which used to be inhabited by Zunghars, is currently inhabited by Kazakhs.[41]

The Qing were the ones who unified Xinjiang and changed its demographic situation.[42] The depopulation of northern Xinjiang after the Buddhist Öölöd Mongols (Zunghars) were slaughtered, led to the Qing settling Manchu, Sibo (Xibe), Daurs, Solons, Han Chinese, Hui Muslims, and Turkic Muslim Taranchis in the north, with Han Chinese and Hui migrants making up the greatest number of settlers. Since it was the crushing of the Buddhist Öölöd (Dzungars) by the Qing which led to promotion of Islam and the empowerment of the Muslim Begs in southern Xinjiang, and migration of Muslim Taranchis to northern Xinjiang, it was proposed by Henry Schwarz that "the Qing victory was, in a certain sense, a victory for Islam".[43] Xinjiang as a unified, defined geographic identity was created and developed by the Qing. It was the Qing who led to Turkic Muslim power in the region increasing since the Mongol power was crushed by the Qing while Turkic Muslim culture and identity was tolerated or even promoted by the Qing.[44] The Qing gave the name Xinjiang to Dzungaria after conquering it and wiping out the Dzungars, reshaping it from a steppe grassland into farmland cultivated by Han Chinese farmers, 1 million mu (17,000 acres) were turned from grassland to farmland from 1760-1820 by the new colonies.[45]

While a few people try to give a misportrayal of the historical Qing situation in light of the contemporary situation in Xinjiang with Han migration, and claim that the Qing settlements and state farms were an anti-Uyghur plot to replace them in their land, Professor James A. Millward pointed out that the Qing agricultural colonies in reality had nothing to do with Uyghur and their land, since the Qing banned settlement of Han in the Uyghur Tarim Basin and in fact directed the Han settlers instead to settle in the non-Uyghur Dzungaria and the new city of Ürümqi, so that the state farms which were settled with 155,000 Han Chinese from 1760-1830 were all in Dzungaria and Ürümqi, where there was only an insignificant amount of Uyghurs, instead of the Tarim Basin oases.[46]

The Zunghar genocide has been compared to the Qing extermination of the Jinchuan Tibetan people in 1776.[47]

Qianlong explicitly commemorated the Qing conquest of the Zunghars as having added new territory in Xinjiang to "China", defining China as a multi ethnic state, rejecting the idea that China only meant Han areas in "China proper", meaning that according to the Qing, both Han and non-Han peoples were part of "China", which included Xinjiang which the Qing conquered from the Zunghars.[48] After the Qing were done conquering Dzungaria in 1759, they proclaimed that the new land which formerly belonged to the Zunghars, was now absorbed into "China" (Dulimbai Gurun) in a Manchu language memorial.[49][50][51] The Qing expounded on their ideology that they were bringing together the "outer" non-Han Chinese like the Inner Mongols, Eastern Mongols, Oirat Mongols, and Tibetans together with the "inner" Han Chinese, into "one family" united in the Qing state, showing that the diverse subjects of the Qing were all part of one family, the Qing used the phrase "Zhong Wai Yi Jia" 中外一家 or "Nei Wai Yi Jia" 內外一家 ("interior and exterior as one family"), to convey this idea of "unification" of the different peoples.[52] Xinjiang people were not allowed to be called foreigners (yi) under the Qing.[53] In the Manchu official Tulisen's Manchu language account of his meeting with the Torghut leader Ayuka Khan, it was mentioned that while the Torghuts were unlike the Russians, the "people of the Central Kingdom" (dulimba-i gurun 中國, Zhongguo) were like the Torghut Mongols, and the "people of the Central Kingdom" referred to the Manchus.[54]

The Qianlong Emperor rejected earlier ideas that only Han could be subjects of China and only Han land could be considered as part of China, instead he redefined China as multiethnic, saying in 1755 that "There exists a view of China (zhongxia), according to which non-Han people cannot become China's subjects and their land cannot be integrated into the territory of China. This does not represent our dynasty's understanding of China, but is instead that of the earlier Han, Tang, Song, and Ming dynasties."[55] The Manchu Qianlong Emperor rejected the views of Han officials who said Xinjiang was not part of China and that he should not conquer it, putting forth the view that China was multiethnic and did not just refer to Han.[56] Han migration to Xinjiang was permitted by the Manchu Qianlong Emperor, who also gave Chinese names to cities to replace their Mongol names, instituting civil service exams in the area, and implementing the county and prefecture Chinese style administrative system, and promoting Han migration to Xinjiang to solidify Qing control was supported by numerous Manchu officials under Qianlong.[57] A proposal was written in The Imperial Gazetteer of the Western Regions (Xiyu tuzhi) to use state-funded schools to promote Confucianism among Muslims in Xinjiang by Fuheng and his team of Manchu officials and the Qianlong Emperor.[58] Confucian names were given to towns and cities in Xinjiang by the Qianlong Emperor, like "Dihua" for Ürümqi in 1760 and Changji, Fengqing, Fukang, Huifu, and Suilai for other cities in Xinjiang, Qianlong also implemented Chinese style prefectures, departments, and counties in a portion of the region.[59]

The Qing Qianlong Emperor compared his achievements with that of the Han and Tang ventures into Central Asia.[60] Qianlong's conquest of Xinjiang was driven by his mindfulness of the examples set by the Han and Tang[61] Qing scholars who wrote the official Imperial Qing gazetteer for Xinjiang made frequent references to the Han and Tang era names of the region.[62] The Qing conqueror of Xinjiang, Zhao Hui, is ranked for his achievements with the Tang dynasty General Gao Xianzhi and the Han dynasty Generals Ban Chao and Li Guangli.[63] Both aspects pf the Han and Tang models for ruling Xinjiang were adopted by the Qing and the Qing system also superficially resembled that of nomadic powers like the Qara Khitay, but in reality the Qing system was different from that of the nomads, both in terms of territory conquered geographically and their centralized administrative system, resembling a western stye (European and Russian) system of rule.[64] The Qing portrayed their conquest of Xinjiang in officials works as a continuation and restoration of the Han and Tang accomplishments in the region, mentioning the previous achievements of those dynasties.[65] The Qing justified their conquest by claiming that the Han and Tang era borders were being restored,[66] and identifying the Han and Tang's grandeur and authority with the Qing.[67] Many Manchu and Mongol Qing writers who wrote about Xinjiang did so in the Chinese language, from a culturally Chinese point of view.[68] Han and Tang era stories about Xinjiang were recounted and ancient Chinese places names were reused and circulated.[69] Han and Tang era records and accounts of Xinjiang were the only writings on the region available to Qing era Chinese in the 18th century and needed to be replaced with updated accounts by the literati.[68][70]


I am a mendicant monk from the Russian Tsar's kingdom, but I am born of the great Mongols. My herds are on the Volga river, my water source is the Irtysh. There are many hero warriors with me. I have many riches. Now I have come to meet with you beggars, you remnants of the Oirats, in the time when the war for power begins. Will you support the enemy? My homeland is Altai, Irtysh, Khobuk-sari, Emil, Bortala, Ili, and Alatai. This is the Oirat mother country. By descent, I am the great-grandson of Amursana, the reincarnation of Mahakala, owning the horse Maralbashi. I am he whom they call the hero Dambijantsan. I came to move my pastures back to my own land, to collect my subject households and bondservants, to give favour, and to move freely.

An epic poem by Ja Lama in 1912[71][72]

Legends grew among the remaining Oirats that Amursana had not died after he fled to Russia, but was alive and would return to his people to liberate them from Manchu Qing rule and restore the Oirat nation. Prophecies had been circulating about the return of Amursana and the revival of the Oirats in the Altai region.[73][74] The Oirat Kalmyk Ja Lama claimed to be a grandson of Amursana and then claimed to be a reincarnation of Amursana himself, preaching anti-Manchu propaganda in western Mongolia in the 1890s and calling for the overthrow of the Qing dynasty.[75] Ja Lama was arrested and deported several times. However, he returned to the Oirat Torghuts in Altay (in Dzungaria) in 1910 and in 1912 he helped the Outer Mongolians mount an attack on the last Qing garrison at Kovd, where the Manchu Amban was refusing to leave and fighting the newly declared independent Mongolian state.[76][77][78][79][80][81] The Manchu Qing force was defeated and slaughtered by the Mongols after Khovd fell.[82][83]

Ja Lama built an Oirat fiefdom centered around Kovd,[84] he and fellow Oirats from Altai wanted to emulate the original Oirat empire and build another grand united Oirat nation from the nomads of western China and Mongolia,[85] but was arrested by Russian Cossacks and deported in 1914 on the request of the Monglian government after the local Mongols complained of his excesses, and out of fear that he would create an Oirat separatist state and divide them from the Khalkha Mongols.[86] Ja Lama returned in 1918 to Mongolia and resumed his activities and supported himself by extorting passing caravans,[87][88][89] but was assassinated in 1922 on the orders of the new Communist Mongolian authorities under Damdin Sükhbaatar.[90][91][92]

The part Buryat Transbaikalian Cossack Ataman Grigory Semyonov declared a "Great Mongol State" in 1918 and had designs to unify the Oirat Mongol lands, portions of Xinjiang, Transbaikal, Inner Mongolia, Outer Mongolia, Tannu Uriankhai, Khovd, Hu-lun-pei-erh and Tibet into one Mongolian state.[93]

Agvan Dorzhiev tried advocating for Oirat Mongol areas like Tarbagatai, Ili, and Altai to get added to the Outer Mongolian state by the Soviets.[94] Out of concern that China would be provoked, this proposed addition of the Oirat Dzungaria to the new Outer Mongolian state was rejected by the Soviets.[95]



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