Customarily the name Tungus covers a whole set of very small populations, today considered to be peoples in their own right, having a probably shared origin and a complex history, and living widely dispersed over an immense territory that overlaps the boundaries of Siberia, northern China and Mongolia. In Russia, use of the name ýTungusţ is first attested in the 16th century, but it did not become frequent until the 18th century; from there, it spread throughout Europe. In China, the name appears in the 20th century, under the influence of Western literature.Author(s): A. Lavrillier
What struck the first travelers to encounter the Tungus were their shamans; the very term comes from their language. Much appreciated by explorers for their tracking skills and their hospitality, the Tungus acquired a reputation as hunters of exceptional courage and endurance. These encounters produced numerous engravings and accounts, particularly in Europe, the homeland of several of the early travelers, which gives Tungus studies an European dimension.
The Tungus are seen by their neighbors in much the same way: they are reputed for having the most powerful shamans and being the best hunters.
The first Tungus objects began appearing in the 17th century, in Russian collections of curiosities; European, Tungus collections date from the eighteenth century for the Tungus of Russia, and much later for the Tungus of China.
The languages spoken by the Tungus belong to the Manchu-Tungus branch of the Altaic language family.
The origin of the term ýTungusţ is still the subject of debate. The meaning of the name has changed over the centuries. The Soviets replaced the names previously used for the native peoples with other names, considered to be self-appellations The term Tungus was kept for the language. The largest Tungus group is now known as the Evenk, formerly Tungus. The situation is more complicated for the Tungus of China and Mongolia. Aside from these administrative terms, we find other ethnonyms in these three countries, taken from clan names and frozen to designate today either ethnic groups or museographic categories.
Part of the explanation for the TungusÝ dispersion into small groups with different names lies in their history. These peoples were continually on the move, migrating ever deeper into the mountainous taiga seeking refuge from various ýinvasionsţ, from the invading Turkic-speaking groups in southern Siberia in the 6th century to the influx of Russian peasants from the west beginning in the 17th century.
Today Evenk are the most numerous of the Tungus peoples. They are dispersed over an immense area of Siberia running from north to south and from east to west, in the north of China and in Mongolia
Date created: 2003-02-15 - Date modified: 2004-04-14
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