Introduction / History The Oroqen are a group renown for violence, drunkenness, and murder. For centuries the Oroqen have inhabited the Xingana Mountains of Northeast China. The Japanese occupation of Manchuria in the 1930s and 1940s drove the Oroqen far into the mountains and dense forests near China's borders with Russia. Life is hard for the Oroqen. For many generations, they have been nomads, roaming their vast homeland at will.
Oroqen men are skilled hunters and fishermen, living off the rich bounty of wildlife found in the region. They live in tents called "Xianrenzhu", which they covered with birchbark in the summer and deerskin during the harsh winter months, when temperatures plummet to as low as minus 40 degrees.
Shamanism is the primary religion of the Oroqen, they believe in an intricate system of demons and spirits which require the consulting of a Shaman to act as a middle man between them and the spirit world. The Oroqen word for the "Shaman" means "agitated or frenzied person." This reflects that appearance of the Shamans when they go into a demonic trance to contact the spirit-world. The Oroqen also worship certain animals, especially the bear and tiger. They believe they are related to them by blood and if they treat the beasts with respect they will never be harmed by them. They even called the bear "amaha", meaning "uncle", and the tiger "wutaqi" which means old man. Oroqen traditionally wear hats made of deer fur.
Approximately 9,000 Oroqen are spread over a vast area of the Outer Xingan Mountain range in northeast Inner Mongolia and in neighboring Heilongjiang Province. The Oroqen population has been affected by rampant disease and violence during the twentieth century. By 1953 their numbers had fallen to just 2,200. Despite their small population, the Oroqen live in a vast area measuring 58,000 square kilometers (22,970 sq. mi.), "slightly smaller than West Virginia (which has similar terrain) or Belgium and Holland combined." When the Hulunbuir Prefecture was established in 1951, 774 of the 778 residents were Oroqen. By 1980 the population of 410,000 contained just 1,315 Oroqens. A small number of Oroqen live across the border in eastern Siberia. (Source: Operation China, 2000)