What are the Eight Banners? (a brief history)
The Eight Banners represented military organisation and served as the primary organisational structure of Manchu society. As a short history, the banners were established in the early seventeenth century and grew to become the elite force of the Qing empire.
Though military in nature, the Eight Banners managed other administrative duties, including allotment of wages, distribution of land, management of property, overseeing of welfare, and meting out justice. (Read more about the (history of the) Eight Banners at the bottom of this page).
The Eight Banners Cocktail
Specific gravity is the (scientific) key to a successful layered drink. It means that each layer becomes lighter than the one below, just like our atmosphere and the space above it. The higher the alcohol content the lighter the liquid.
If you decide to make an Eight Banners cocktail and find your hands are shaky, or you just cannot quite get the hang of slowly pouring over the back of a spoon, there is a gizmo on Ebay called the ‘rainbow cocktail layering tool’. I have not tried it yet, but it looks to be a cool piece of kit.
This recipe is for a 4oz drink, but by adding a ¼ oz of each ingredient at the start of your mix you will have a 6oz drink. Example = ¾ oz pomegranate juice mixed with ¾ oz rose syrup etc.
You will have noticed the Eight Banners cocktail is only four layers in depth. It contains eight ingredients which are made up of two reds, two yellows, two blues, a clear and a white – which are representative of two whites – thus giving us the Eight Banners. The cocktail, not the military organisation!
The Eight Banners Cocktail
Step 1) First layer (bottom layer) – Mix ½ an ounce of pomegranate juice with ½ an ounce of rose syrup.
Step 2) Second layer – Mix ½ an ounce of mango juice with ½ an ounce of advocaat (17.2% alcohol).
Step 3) Third layer – Mix ½ an ounce of Bombay Sapphire (40% alcohol) with ½ an ounce of blue curacao (21% alcohol).
Step 4) Fourth layer (top layer) – Mix ¾ of an ounce of V.I.P 8 Baijiu (58% alcohol) with ¼ ounce of Supreme Cream (29% alcohol).
To make Supreme Cream put equal amounts of V.I.P. Jiu 8 and double cream into a screw top jar then shake well.
If you are having more than one cocktail – and to save a lot of measuring and messing about – you can mix your ingredients into four bottles, keeping them in the fridge until needed. Say you are having friends around and you are going to do twenty, 4 oz cocktails. Simply mix together 10 oz pomegranate juice and 10 oz rose syrup in one bottle, 10 oz mango juice and 10 oz advocaat in another bottle and 10 oz Bombay Sapphire with 10 oz blue curacao in another bottle. Then you mix 15 oz V.I.P 8 and 5 oz Supreme Cream in another bottle, keeping them in the fridge until needed. Then you simply measure 1 oz from each bottle and layer into a glass – red, yellow, blue and white. This method can be used with four small bottles for one or two cocktails or four litre bottles, for multiple cocktails; just do your sums from the recipe.
A fuller history of the Eight Banners
The Eight Banners consisted of:
a plain white banner
a bordered white banner
a plain red banner
a bordered red banner
a plain yellow banner
a bordered yellow banner
a plain blue banner
a bordered blue banner
At the highest level, the Eight Banners were classified into two groupings. The three upper banners, both yellow banners and the plain white banner, were under the command of the emperor, while the five lower banners were commanded by others. The banners were further split into left wing and right wing according to how they were arrayed in battle.
The smallest unit in a banner army was the niru, which was composed of 300 soldiers and their families. The term ‘niru’ (in Manchu) means arrow and was originally the name of a hunting party, which would be armed with a bow and arrow.
China consisted of multiple ethnic groups, mainly Han, Mongol, and Manchu, but identity was defined more by culture, language and being part of the military. The Eight Banners represented military and served as the main organisational structure of Manchu (Jurchen) society.
At first, the banner armies were made up of peoples from the various Manchu tribes, but as new tribes were amalgamated into the empire, the armies were expanded to accommodate not only the Manchu, but the Han, the Mongols and other minor ethnic groups such as the Xibe, Daur and the Evenks.
There were three main types of banners:
Manchus of Eight Banners
Mongols of Eight Banners
Han of Eight Banners
Starting in the later part of the 1620s, the Jurchen (Manchu) started to incorporate the Mongols, which they had conquered or were allied with, into the Eight Banner system.
The Han Chinese who first joined the banners, were replacements for Jurchen troops who were killed in battle, but over time as more Han soldiers joined the banners, the Jurchen decided to form a separate group for them. This was known as the old Han army; its main use was as infantry support. In 1631 a Han artillery corps was formed.
Four more Han banners were created in 1639. By 1642 the full eight Han banners were established. They consisted of a large number of Han prisoners of war and defectors. Many of these men were single and they married Jurchen women.
Over time, there were more Han Chinese in the banners than Jurchen and, gradually, their cultures started to mix. Many banner-men forged genealogies for themselves or joined a Jurchen (or Han banner). The Eight Banners were then recreated from the old Han and Jurchen banners, and given equal status.
The Mongol banners were also created around this time. Anyone who was not in either a Han or Mongol banner became Manchu.