- This article should be merged with Banner system.
The Eight Banners
were the core elite of the Qing
empire. It was a hereditary
class of bannermen
founded by Nurhaci
, the first leader of the Manchu
, and reorganized by his son, the emperor Hong Taiji
for the Qing dynasty. Though initially military in nature, the Eight Banners came to assume other administrative duties. It originally consisted of three upper banners directly responsible to the emperor himself and five lower banners responsible to imperial princes
; later, all the banners were placed under the direct control of the emperor.
The Eight Banners consisted of three ethnic components: the Manchu, the Han Chinese, and the Mongols. Initially, the Eight Banners had a very large Manchu majority; later, the majority became less dominant as the percentage of Han Chinese increased. At the end of the Qing dynasty, all members of the Eight Banners, regardless of their original ethnicity, were considered by the Republic of China to be Manchu.