(4) Nu'erhachi's Roots:
The forerunners of the Manchu were the Nüzhen. It was the Nüzhen tribe of Wanyan that had once wandered south and established the Jin dynasty.
In the middle of the 1500's the main three Nüzhen tribes of Jianzhou, Haixi and Donghai occupied a territory stretching from today's Jilin to where the Heilongjiang River empties into the sea (map).
Of the three, the Jianzhou group was in economic terms the most advanced; it farmed draught resistant crops and engaged in heavy trade of horses, cattle and ginseng with the Han Ming dynasty, the Koreans and the Mongolians.
Born in 1559 to the Aisin Gioron clan of the Jianzhou tribe, Nu'erhachi was elected chief of the tribe in 1583, barely 25 years old, and soon began to annex the neighboring groups one after the other. This development might have passed as a minor blip in history had it not been for the Nüzhen Haixi tribe, which supported by some Mongolian clans felt threatened by the expanding Jianzhou and in 1593 decided to attack.
(5) Nu'erhachi's Quest Begins:
Being an able military strategist, Nu'erhachi thoroughly defeated all the attackers and now -realizing his great potential- set on a quest to suppress and conquer all the tribes of the region through aggression or marriage arrangements.
Meanwhile he smartly kept on good footing with the Ming rulers and was even in 1589 granted a title by the then Ming emperor Wanli. To further silence Chinese fears of his growing kingdom he personally headed a tribute mission to Beijing in 1590.
During the 1590's he intensified the profitable trade with the Chinese, formal overlords of Nu'erhachi's homebase, while at the same time expanding his territorial powers in his home base. He oftentimes led his troops in person and was a feared warrior.