With a population of 132,394 (in 2000), the Daur people live mainly in Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang and Xinjiang with the Han or other ethnic group. They are thought to be descendants of the Khitan, an ancient nomad tribe who lived in the lower reaches of the Heilong River and founded the Liao Dynasty (916-1125). In the early Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911), groups of Khitans migrated into China's western region and formed a new ethnic group - the Daur people.
The Daur language consists of three dialects - Buteha, Qiqihar and Xinjiang, and belongs to the Mongolian Austronesian of Altai Phylum. They have no written language of their own. During the Qing Dynasty, they used Manchu as their written language. They speak Chinese, Mongolian, Uigur, Kazak, and Ewenki.
The Daur people mainly engage in agriculture, along with stock breeding and hunting. Their major crops include maize, sorghum, wheat, soybeans and rice. Their diet consists of millet and buckwheat. Favorite dishes of the Daur people are millet or buckwheat noodles mixed with milk, buckwheat cakes and oat porridge cooked with soybeans. They also enjoy pork, beef, mutton, fish and chicken.
The major religion of the Daurs is Shamanism, while a few are followers of Lamaism. The most important festival of the Daurs is the Spring Festival. During the festival people prepare delicious foods (like hand-grasped meat), visit their relatives and friends and participate in various entertainment activities.
During festivals, they dance a lot. The women play a musical instrument called a 'mukulian' and participate in group songs. All of these activities will last until January 15th (of the lunar year).
In summer, men wear fabric jackets with gowns, bind their heads with a white cloth and wear straw hats. In winter, they wear caps made of deer roe fur or fox fur and leather shoes. Women wear long gowns, mainly in blue. The gowns do not have a waistband. They do not wear a short jacket. In winter, women wear leather boots and in summer they wear trousers and embroidered shoes.
The Daur people are well known for their bravery. Riding, shooting, wrestling, and field hockey are their conventional sports. The Daur region is even called 'the homeland of field hockey'.
On 16th day of the first month of the lunar year, the Daurs carry out a special custom called 'Black Ash Day'. On that that day, young people apply ash from the bottom of a pan to the faces of others and the faces of young wives and girls become black with ash.
Today, industry has come to the Daur community. Factories produce electric motors, transformers and chemical fertilizer. Farm machinery and power supply sources have contributed greatly to the development of agriculture. Education has also begun to play an important role among the Daurs. Nearly all Daur children of school age attend primary schools and an increasing number of young people go to middle schools and colleges.