Manchu is one of the Tungusic languages, of which it is the major and best documented representative. Though it has for practical purposes died out in its original homeland, Manchu continues to be used by the Sibe, a minority nationality living in the Ili Valley, in Xinjiang. Because it was the official language of the last dynasty to rule in China, the Qing (1644-1911), a great many historical, religious, and literary works, as well as documentary sources, were composed in Manchu, beginning in the early 1600's. It is now recognized that a significant proportion of the imperial Qing archives consists of documents written in Manchu, and knowledge of the language has become essential for original research in a variety of areas, ranging from the pre-dynastic history of the Manchus, to ethnic history, frontier history, and most areas of institutional history from the 17th to the early 20th centuries. Introductory Manchu is offered for a full academic year in alternate years, with an intermediate course and additional reading courses available in succeeding years.