Hezhen in China

Photo Source:  Copyrighted © 2022
Anonymous  All rights reserved.  Used with permission
Map Source:  Joshua Project / Global Mapping International
People Name: Hezhen
Country: China
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 4,900
World Population: 16,900
Primary Language: Nanai
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 4.00 %
Evangelicals: 2.00 %
Scripture: Portions
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Altaic
Affinity Bloc: Turkic Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

"Nanai" means person of the Earth. Nanai are a part of the Tunguso-Manchjury group in the southern branch. In a total population of 12,000 people, a majority of the Nanai live on the territory of Khabarovsky Krai, in Nanaisky, Ulichisky, Solnechny, and Komsomolsky. They also live in Primorsky Krai and Sakhalinsk region. The Nanais that live in Northeast China call themselves Akani. Russians call the Nanais Golds, which is also used by the Ulchis, the Orochis, and the Negidals for a name with local orgins. Naikhinsky dialect is taken from the base of Nanaisky language. It takes the middle position between Upper Amur' and Lower Amur' dialects.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Nanais lead a reasonably isolated life. There was very undeveloped communication between the different groups; some groups were even considered to be a separate people. The Nanais would do different things, fishing and hunting, depending on the movement of varieties of fish in the river. For example, in the spring and summer the Nanais would hunt for food, while in the winter the animals were hunted for fur. During their daily lives, the Nanais run businesses such as, fishing and hunting. They also grow many different things like wild herbs, home produce; however, ever since the 19th century they have started to create their own gardens and stock breed. The Nanais main meal is fish. They know several types of ways to prepare fish for long keeping, such as: stocking, freezing, salting, smoking, and pickling. Besides fish, they enjoy eating raw bone marrow, liver, nostrils and other parts of animals that have been caught by the hunters. They separate the meat on the carcass, selecting the meat for saving, and then the rest of the meat is boiled or fried over a fire.

The Nanais make their own national clothes using fish, deer, elk leather and skin, and other forms of animals. Depending on what the occasion is (occasions like: everyday, festive, work, wedding, etc.), the Nanais will have different outfits. Generally their outfit would consist of: a skirt and jacket; a leather belt with conical metal pendants; mittens with figures of lizards, serpents, or frogs; and hats with branching horns or wolf, bear, or fox fur attached to it. Occasionally they would incorporate bits of Chinese mirrors into the outfits.

Today we see a restoration of their culture. There are public organizations and associations founded in the Nanaisky and Komsomolsky regions, along with one museum. They have even started to publish their own books and textbooks in their language. Also, just like any other people group they celebrate festivals and holidays.

Most of these people in China today speak Chinese.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Their traditional belief is shamanism; however, there are some who are Tibetan Buddhist. The Nanai believe that the shamans have the power to expel bad spirits by praying to the gods. They worship the spirits of the sun, the moon, the mountains, the water, and the trees. Among all of their beliefs, they believe that the land was once flat until great serpents gouged out the river valleys. They also believe that all of the things in the world, each thing possess its own spirit who wanders independently throughout the universe. Inanimate objects were regularly personified. A common example is Fire; it was personified as an elderly woman which they called Fadzya Mama. The children were not allowed to run up to the fire, because they might startle Faszya Mama. Men were always courteous in the presence of fire. They would generally bury the deceased in the ground, unless it was a young baby under one year whom they would put in a tree.

Prayer Points

Ask God how you can do your part in breaking down the spiritual strongholds that have kept Siberian people from Him.
Pray for the Nanai people to know the one true God and that they may receive knowledge of Him.
Please help the Nanai to recognize the God of all Creation and to worship Him rather than the creatures He has made.
Pray that God reveals Himself to Siberian people such as the Nanai even as He did to the nomadic nation of Israel and pray that He makes Himself at home in the hearts of the Nanai.
Pray that their language would be preserved so that these indigenous people may someday praise His name in each language.
Pray that God is continued to be glorified in Russia in the church and ask for blessings over the churches in Russia and help for them to reach out to the Nanai in ways that they can understand and respond.

Text Source:   Jubilee Adleta