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The Evenki of China

[IMAGE] The Evenki, one of China's fifty-five registered minorities, is one of the smallest people groups in all of China. The Evenki (also known as the Sulun, Tungus, or Yakut) live in the northeastern corner of China, bordered by Mongolia and Siberia. Their name in the Tungus language means "forest people."

Chinese history traces the Evenki origin back to the "Shiweis," a group of people who made their living by fishing, hunting, and breeding reindeer. Many of the Evenki still earn a living as hunters or as reindeer herdsmen. Others prefer farming or raising horses and cattle. In the past, the Evenki were not permitted to own their own cattle, but were made to work for the herd owners. Most of the Evenki were extremely poor.

Feuding was a common problem in this area of China for many years. However, in 1948 the Communist government abolished feudal privileges and opened the pastures up to all herdsmen, including the Evenki. Recently, cooperatives have been formed to help improve the livelihood of the Evenki people.

What are their lives like?
The Evenki people live in clan units called nimor, which are groups of three to ten families who are blood relatives. These nimor are quite similar to the Mongolian ail and the Kazak awel in both size and composition. Some of the nimor are isolated in the forests and others on the grasslands.

The climate in this part of China is very severe. The icy Siberian winds have a strong effect on the weather, creating long snowy winters and essentially no summers. Since the Evenki are a nomadic people, their homes are usually tent-like structures built with poles, animal skins, and/or reed thatching.

It has been reported that 99% of the school-age children do attend school. The communists have also organized cooperatives which aid in medical care and livestock breeding.

Trade with outsiders is common. Game, furs, and forest produce are often exchanged for grains, clothing, and tools. Handiwork and crafts among the Evenki people include embroidery, painting, and wood carving. Bird and animal toys that have been carved from birch bark are very popular.

Though the Evenki people have their own language, it is not yet a written language. For that reason, most of the Evenki nomads speak and write the Mongolian language. Similarly, the Evenki farmers, as well as those living near the mountains, speak and write Han Chinese as a second language.

What are their beliefs?
Although some Evenki practice Lamaistic Buddhism, the people are primarily "animists," (believe that non-human objects have spirits). They also practice ancestor worship. This means that the Evenki worship not only the natural elements, but also their deceased ancestors. They pray to many gods, asking for good health and for success while hunting or herding.

Despite the fact that the Evenki have accepted some ceremonies of the Russian Orthodox church, they continue their practices of animism and ancestor worship. Most of them still rely on the shaman, (medicine man or priest), to cure the sick. These shamans are highly respected and expect nothing for their work.

Each clan has its own gods, and periodically they hold rituals to appease them. Such ceremonies include offerings of animal blood, meat, and fat.

What are their needs?
The Evenki language has three separate dialects. It is only a spoken language, however, with no written alphabet. The Bible cannot be translated into the Evenki dialects until trained workers have developed a script for their spoken language. Since the Bible cannot yet be translated into the Evenki language, there is a tremendous need for the Gospel to be preached over radio or television. Presently there are no such broadcasts.

The Evenki people are deeply rooted in their traditional shamanistic beliefs. They must be shown the miracle-working power of the Lord Jesus Christ so that their spiritual eyes will be opened to the truth of the Gospel.

Prayer Points

  • Ask the Lord of the harvest to call people who are willing to go and share Christ with the Evenki people.
  • Pray that God will give missionaries creative ways in which to communicate Christ's love to them.
  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Evenki bound.
  • Ask God to raise up trained workers who can develop a written language for the Evenki; and also for qualified men and women who can translate the Bible into the three Evenki dialects.
  • Pray that the Word of God will be made available to those Evenki nomads and farmers who read Mongolian and Han Chinese.
  • Pray that the spiritual eyes of the Evenki will be opened and that their hearts will receive the Gospel as it is presented to them.
  • Pray that a strong church will be raised up among the Evenki.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: The Evenki
  • Country: China
  • Their language: evenki
  • Population: (1990) 26,300
    (1995) 27,800
    (2000) 29,300
  • Largest religion: Ethnic religionists (Shamanists) 70%
    Buddhists (Tantrayana) 29%
  • Christians: 1%
  • Church members: 278
  • Scriptures in their own language: None
  • Jesus Film in their own language: None
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language:None
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 1
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 5,600 (20%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 1,900 (6.8%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 3,700 (13.2%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 22,200 (79%)


  • Country: China
  • Population: (1990) 1,135,043,400
    (1995) 1,199,901,200
    (2000) 1,262,195,800
  • Major peoples in size order: Han Chinese (Mandarin) 67.7%
    Han Chinese (Wu) 7.5%
    Han Chinese (Cantonese) 4.5%
  • Major religions: Nonreligious (55%)
    Chinese folk-religionists 17%
    Atheists (12.7%)
  • Number of denominations: 42

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

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