Xiongnu

Xiongnu

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The Xiongnu were ancient nomadic-based people that formed a state or confederation north of the agriculture-based empire of the Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

. Most of the information on the Xiongnu comes from Chinese sources. What little is known of their titles and names comes from Chinese transliterations of their language.

The identity of the ethnic core of Xiongnu has been a subject of varied hypotheses, because only a few words, mainly titles and personal names, were preserved in the Chinese sources. Proposals by scholars include Mongolic
Mongolic languages
The Mongolic languages are a group of languages spoken in East-Central Asia, mostly in Mongolia and surrounding areas plus in Kalmykia. The best-known member of this language family, Mongolian, is the primary language of most of the residents of Mongolia and the Mongolian residents of Inner...

, Turkic
Turkic languages
The Turkic languages constitute a language family of at least thirty five languages, spoken by Turkic peoples across a vast area from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean to Siberia and Western China, and are considered to be part of the proposed Altaic language family.Turkic languages are spoken...

, Iranian
Iranian languages
The Iranian languages form a subfamily of the Indo-Iranian languages which in turn is a subgroup of Indo-European language family. They have been and are spoken by Iranian peoples....

, Yeniseian
Yeniseian languages
The Yeniseian language family is spoken in central Siberia.-Family division:0. Proto-Yeniseian...

, Tocharian
Tocharian languages
Tocharian or Tokharian is an extinct branch of the Indo-European language family. The name is taken from the people known to the Greeks as the Tocharians . These are sometimes identified with the Yuezhi and the Kushans. The term Tokharistan usually refers to 1st millennium Bactria, which the...

, and Uralic. The name Xiongnu may be cognate
Cognate
In linguistics, cognates are words that have a common etymological origin. This learned term derives from the Latin cognatus . Cognates within the same language are called doublets. Strictly speaking, loanwords from another language are usually not meant by the term, e.g...

 to the name Huns
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

, but the evidence for this is controversial.

Chinese sources from the 3rd century BC report them as having created an empire under Modu Chanyu, the supreme leader after 209 BC. This empire stretched beyond the borders of modern-day Mongolia
Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

. After defeating the previously dominant Yuezhi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 in the 2nd century BC, Xiongnu became a dominant power on the steppe
Steppe
In physical geography, steppe is an ecoregion, in the montane grasslands and shrublands and temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biomes, characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes...

s of eastern Asia. They were active in southern Siberia
Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

, Mongolia
Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

, western Manchuria
Manchuria
Manchuria is a historical name given to a large geographic region in northeast Asia. Depending on the definition of its extent, Manchuria usually falls entirely within the People's Republic of China, or is sometimes divided between China and Russia. The region is commonly referred to as Northeast...

, and the Chinese
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 provinces of Inner Mongolia
Inner Mongolia
Inner Mongolia is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China, located in the northern region of the country. Inner Mongolia shares an international border with the countries of Mongolia and the Russian Federation...

, Gansu
Gansu
' is a province located in the northwest of the People's Republic of China.It lies between the Tibetan and Huangtu plateaus, and borders Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Ningxia to the north, Xinjiang and Qinghai to the west, Sichuan to the south, and Shaanxi to the east...

 and Xinjiang
Xinjiang
Xinjiang is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. It is the largest Chinese administrative division and spans over 1.6 million km2...

. Relations between early Chinese dynasties and the Xiongnu were complex, with repeated periods of military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 conflict and intrigue alternating with exchanges of tribute
Tribute
A tribute is wealth, often in kind, that one party gives to another as a sign of respect or, as was often the case in historical contexts, of submission or allegiance. Various ancient states, which could be called suzerains, exacted tribute from areas they had conquered or threatened to conquer...

, trade, and marriage treaties.

Chronology


c. 700–209 BC: A pastoral nomad society developed north of China. There were petty raids on China but no organized nomadic state.

244BC: First mention of Xiongnu. 221 BC: Qin dynasty
Qin Dynasty
The Qin Dynasty was the first imperial dynasty of China, lasting from 221 to 207 BC. The Qin state derived its name from its heartland of Qin, in modern-day Shaanxi. The strength of the Qin state was greatly increased by the legalist reforms of Shang Yang in the 4th century BC, during the Warring...

 founded. 215 BC: Qinshihuang
Qin Shi Huang
Qin Shi Huang , personal name Ying Zheng , was king of the Chinese State of Qin from 246 BC to 221 BC during the Warring States Period. He became the first emperor of a unified China in 221 BC...

 builds the Great Wall
Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is a series of stone and earthen fortifications in northern China, built originally to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire against intrusions by various nomadic groups...

 (which included linking existing walls of the Warring States) and Meng Tian
Meng Tian
Meng Tian was a general of the Qin Dynasty who distinguished himself in campaigns against the Xiongnu and in the construction of the Great Wall of China. He was the elder brother of Meng Yi. He descended from a great line of military generals and architects...

 drives the Xiongnu out of the Ordos Loop
Ordos Loop
The Ordos Loop is a region of China west of Beijing. The Yellow River flows north-northeast, then east, and then south forming three sides of an imperfect rectangle. The south side is formed by the Wei River which rises not far from the southwest corner and flows east to the southeast corner...

 but when he returned, the Qin Dynasty was usurped by the Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

.

Rise: 209 BC: Modu Chanyu becomes Xiongnu Chanyu
Chanyu
Chanyu , was the title used by the nomadic supreme rulers of Middle and Central Asia for 8 centuries, starting...

 (ruler). 208?: Modu conquers the Donghu to the east creating an empire from the Ordos to Manchuria. 202 BC: Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

 founded. 200: Xiongnu defeat and almost capture the first Han emperor. c. 200–140 BC Heqin
Heqin
Heqin was a term used in ancient China for an alliance by marriage. It usually referred to the Chinese Emperor marrying off a "princess" to an aggressive "barbarian" chieftain or ruler. The theory was that in exchange for the marriage, the chieftain would cease all aggressive actions toward China...

 policy adopted. Chinese pay tribute to Xiongnu which is cheaper than war. Chinese hope to civilize or corrupt Xiongnu with Chinese luxuries. Raids continue because the Chanyu
Chanyu
Chanyu , was the title used by the nomadic supreme rulers of Middle and Central Asia for 8 centuries, starting...

 does not fully control his tribesmen.

176 BC: Wusun
Wusun
The Wūsūn were a nomadic steppe people who, according to the Chinese histories, originally lived in western Gansu in northwest China west of the Yuezhi people...

 in far western Gansu annexed. They later flee westward. ?: Xiongnu expand into the Tarim Basin and gain a non-Chinese source of urban and peasant produce. 162 BC: Modu's son drives the Yuezhi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 out of the Gansu corridor. 158 BC: Xiongnu raid near Han capital.

Decline: Before 140 BC: Chinese begin extensive horse-breeding to support a proper cavalry. 140–87 BC: Emperor Wu of Han
Emperor Wu of Han
Emperor Wu of Han , , personal name Liu Che , was the seventh emperor of the Han Dynasty of China, ruling from 141 BC to 87 BC. Emperor Wu is best remembered for the vast territorial expansion that occurred under his reign, as well as the strong and centralized Confucian state he organized...

 adopts aggressive policy. 138–126 BC: Zhang Qian
Zhang Qian
Zhang Qian was an imperial envoy to the world outside of China in the 2nd century BCE, during the time of the Han Dynasty...

 travels west to Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

 and returns with first information on the Western Regions
Western Regions
The Western Regions or Xiyu was a historical name specified in the Chinese chronicles between the 3rd century BC to 8th century AD that referred to the regions west of Jade Gate, most often Central Asia or sometimes more specifically the easternmost portion of it The Western Regions or Xiyu was a...

. 133 BC: Han attempt to ambush
Battle of Mayi
The Battle of Mayi was an abortive ambush operation by the Han Dynasty against the invading Xiongnu forces; casualties were minimal. It marked the end of de jure peace between the Han Dynasty and Xiongnu, and stimulated the use of effective cavalry forces and offensive military policies by the Han...

 the Chanyu. 133–119 BC: Han occupy Ordos Loop. Peasant colonization and food-growing military colonies
Tuntian
The Tuntian or Duntian system was a system of government-encouraged agriculture originated in the Western Han Dynasty period of Chinese history...

. 119 BC: Battle of Mobei
Battle of Mobei
The Battle of Mobei was a military campaign fought in the northern part of the Gobi Desert. It was part of a major strategic offensive launched by the Han Dynasty in January, 119 BC, into the heartland of the nomadic Xiongnu...

, a major Xiongnu defeat, Chanyu withdraws north of Gobi. 119–104 BC: Chinese raids north to Ulan Bator area. Han expand west to the Gansu corridor between Mongolia and Tibet. Xiongnu confined to Outer Mongolia
Outer Mongolia
Outer Mongolia was a territory of the Qing Dynasty = the Manchu Empire. Its area was roughly equivalent to that of the modern state of Mongolia, which is sometimes informally called "Outer Mongolia" today...

 and cut off from the Quiang on the Tibetan plateau
Tibetan Plateau
The Tibetan Plateau , also known as the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau is a vast, elevated plateau in Central Asia covering most of the Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai, in addition to smaller portions of western Sichuan, southwestern Gansu, and northern Yunnan in Western China and Ladakh in...

. 104–87 BC: expansion into the eastern Tarim Basin
Tarim Basin
The Tarim Basin is a large endorheic basin occupying an area of about . It is located in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China's far west. Its northern boundary is the Tian Shan mountain range and its southern is the Kunlun Mountains on the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. The...

, thereby 'cutting off the Xiongnu right hand'. Thereafter major fighting dies down. In the Tarim over the next two centuries there are complex shifts of power between Han, Xiongnu and local rulers.

104–100 BC: Li Guangli conquers Dayuan
Dayuan
The Dayuan or Ta-Yuan were a people of Ferghana in Central Asia, described in the Chinese historical works of Records of the Grand Historian and the Book of Han. It is mentioned in the accounts of the famous Chinese explorer Zhang Qian in 130 BCE and the numerous embassies that followed him into...

 in the Ferghana Valley.

Breakup: First civil war: 60 BC: two rivals for throne. 51: weaker party moves south and submits to Chinese. 43: Southern Chanyu defeats northern one and reunites the empire. Second civil war: 47 AD: One faction moves south as Chinese ally or subject. Unable to retake the north, Xiongnu permanently split between northern and southern Chanyus. In the east Wuhuan
Wuhuan
The Wuhuan were a proto-Mongolic nomadic people who inhabited northern China, in what is now the provinces of Hebei, Liaoning, Shanxi, the municipality of Beijing and the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia....

 and Xianbei
Xianbei
The Xianbei were a significant Mongolic nomadic people residing in Manchuria, Inner Mongolia and eastern Mongolia. The title “Khan” was first used among the Xianbei.-Origins:...

 (former Donghu) become independent and are paid by Chinese to attack northern Chanyu. 83 AD: disorders in the north. 87 AD: Xianbei behead northern Chanyu, tribes defect to the south. 89 AD: Han, Xianbei and Southern Xiongnu defeat
Battle of Ikh Bayan
The Battle of Ikh Bayan , was a major expedition launched against the Xiongnu by the Han Dynasty in June, 89. The battle was a success for the Han under Dou Xian The Battle of Ikh Bayan , was a major expedition launched against the Xiongnu by the Han Dynasty in June, 89. The battle was a success...

 Northern Chanyu who flees north. Many tribesmen join the Xianbei. 155 AD: last mention of northern Chanyu. Northern regions now controlled by the Xianbei state
Xianbei state
The Xianbei state or Xianbei confederation was a nomadic confederation existed in northern Manchuria and eastern Mongolia from 93 to 234 AD. They descended from the Donghu and spoke a Mongolic language....

.

After 47 AD the Southern Xiongnu lived along the frontier as allies, subjects or border guards and become mixed with Chinese. After the fall of the Han in 220 AD Xiongnu remnants created many short-lived states all over north China. The Xiongnu seem to disappear as a distinct people by the 5th century AD.

Early history



Sima Qian
Sima Qian
Sima Qian was a Prefect of the Grand Scribes of the Han Dynasty. He is regarded as the father of Chinese historiography for his highly praised work, Records of the Grand Historian , a "Jizhuanti"-style general history of China, covering more than two thousand years from the Yellow Emperor to...

 stated, based on preceding Chinese records (Bamboo Annals
Bamboo Annals
The Bamboo Annals is a chronicle of ancient China. It begins at the earliest legendary times and extends to the Warring States Period , particularly the history of the Wei state...

), that the Xiongnu's ruling clan were descendants of Chunwei
Chunwei
Chunwei is an ethnonym for the most ancient nomadic tribes that invaded China during legendary times. A Chinese Classical scholar and the first President of the Imperial Nanking University Wei Zhao commented, identificating the name Chunwei with the name of the Huns: “During the Han they were...

 (淳維 "Chun tribes"), possibly a son of Jie, the final ruler of the legendary Xia Dynasty
Xia Dynasty
The Xia Dynasty is the first dynasty in China to be described in ancient historical chronicles such as Bamboo Annals, Classic of History and Records of the Grand Historian. The Xia Dynasty was established by the legendary Yu the Great after Shun, the last of the Five Emperors gave his throne to him...

 (c. 2070–1600 BC).

The Xiongnu were initially a collection of small tribes residing in the barren Mongolian highlands. They were recognized as the most prominent of the nomads bordering the Han Empire. During the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (1045–256 BCE), the campaigns by Zhou's vassal state
Vassal state
A vassal state is any state that is subordinate to another. The vassal in these cases is the ruler, rather than the state itself. Being a vassal most commonly implies providing military assistance to the dominant state when requested to do so; it sometimes implies paying tribute, but a state which...

s to purge other hostile "barbarians" allowed the Xiongnu the opportunity to fill a power vacuum. These newly arisen nomad
Nomad
Nomadic people , commonly known as itinerants in modern-day contexts, are communities of people who move from one place to another, rather than settling permanently in one location. There are an estimated 30-40 million nomads in the world. Many cultures have traditionally been nomadic, but...

s became a great problem for the Chinese, as their horseback lifestyle made them ready for rapid invasion and raiding villages and townships. During the Warring States period
Warring States Period
The Warring States Period , also known as the Era of Warring States, or the Warring Kingdoms period, covers the Iron Age period from about 475 BC to the reunification of China under the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC...

 (476–221 BCE), three out of the seven warring states shared borders with Xiongnu territory, and a series of interconnected defensive fortresses were constructed, which joined later into the Great Wall.

During the Qin Dynasty
Qin Dynasty
The Qin Dynasty was the first imperial dynasty of China, lasting from 221 to 207 BC. The Qin state derived its name from its heartland of Qin, in modern-day Shaanxi. The strength of the Qin state was greatly increased by the legalist reforms of Shang Yang in the 4th century BC, during the Warring...

 (221 to 206 BC), the Chinese army, under the command of General Meng Tian
Meng Tian
Meng Tian was a general of the Qin Dynasty who distinguished himself in campaigns against the Xiongnu and in the construction of the Great Wall of China. He was the elder brother of Meng Yi. He descended from a great line of military generals and architects...

, drove the Xiongnu tribes away and recaptured the Ordos
Ordos
-Places:*Ordos Loop of the Yellow River, a region of China*Ordos Desert, in Inner Mongolia*Ordos City, city and district in Inner Mongolia*Ordos International Circuit, a race track in Ordos City.-People:...

 region. The presence of the powerful Donghu in the east and Yuezhi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 in the west also served to check the Xiongnu, forcing them to migrate further north for the next decade. With the collapse of the Qin Dynasty and the subsequent civil war
Chu-Han contention
The Chu–Han Contention was a post-Qin Dynasty interregnum period in Chinese history. Following the collapse of the Qin Dynasty, Xiang Yu split the former Qin Empire into the Eighteen Kingdoms. Two prominent contending powers, Western Chu and Han, emerged from these principalities and engaged in a...

 (206–202 BC), the Xiongnu, under Chanyu
Chanyu
Chanyu , was the title used by the nomadic supreme rulers of Middle and Central Asia for 8 centuries, starting...

 Toumen
Toumen
Touman – was the earliest known Xiongnu chanyu , reigning from c. 220 to 209 BCE. The name Touman is likely related to Middle Chinese *muan, West Tokharian tmāne, Old Turkic/Mongolian tümen, Modern Persian tumân, all meaning '10,000', a myriad).By the time the Qin Dynasty conquered the other six...

, were able to migrate back to the border with China.

Confederation under Modu




In 209 BC, three years before the founding of the Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

, the Xiongnu were brought together in a powerful confederacy
Confederation
A confederation in modern political terms is a permanent union of political units for common action in relation to other units. Usually created by treaty but often later adopting a common constitution, confederations tend to be established for dealing with critical issues such as defense, foreign...

 under a new chanyu
Chanyu
Chanyu , was the title used by the nomadic supreme rulers of Middle and Central Asia for 8 centuries, starting...

named Modu Chanyu. This new political unity transformed them into a more formidable state by enabling formation of larger armies and the ability to exercise better strategic coordination. The reason for creating the confederation remains unclear. Suggestions include the need for a stronger state to deal with the Qin unification of China that resulted in a loss of Ordos
Ordos
-Places:*Ordos Loop of the Yellow River, a region of China*Ordos Desert, in Inner Mongolia*Ordos City, city and district in Inner Mongolia*Ordos International Circuit, a race track in Ordos City.-People:...

 at the hands of Meng Tian
Meng Tian
Meng Tian was a general of the Qin Dynasty who distinguished himself in campaigns against the Xiongnu and in the construction of the Great Wall of China. He was the elder brother of Meng Yi. He descended from a great line of military generals and architects...

, or the political crisis that overtook the Xiongnu in 215 BC, when Qin
Qin Dynasty
The Qin Dynasty was the first imperial dynasty of China, lasting from 221 to 207 BC. The Qin state derived its name from its heartland of Qin, in modern-day Shaanxi. The strength of the Qin state was greatly increased by the legalist reforms of Shang Yang in the 4th century BC, during the Warring...

 armies evicted them from their pastures on the Yellow River
Yellow River
The Yellow River or Huang He, formerly known as the Hwang Ho, is the second-longest river in China and the sixth-longest in the world at the estimated length of . Originating in the Bayan Har Mountains in Qinghai Province in western China, it flows through nine provinces of China and empties into...

;

After forging internal unity, Modu expanded the empire on all sides. To the north he conquered a number of nomadic peoples, including the Dingling
Dingling
The Dingling were an ancient Siberian people. They originally lived on the bank of the Lena River in the area west of Lake Baikal, gradually moving southward to Mongolia and northern China...

 of southern Siberia. He crushed the power of the Donghu of eastern Mongolia and Manchuria, as well as the Yuezhi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 in the Hexi Corridor
Hexi Corridor
Hexi Corridor or Gansu Corridor refers to the historical route in Gansu province of China. As part of the Northern Silk Road running northwest from the bank of the Yellow River, it was the most important route from North China to the Tarim Basin and Central Asia for traders and the military. The...

 of Gansu
Gansu
' is a province located in the northwest of the People's Republic of China.It lies between the Tibetan and Huangtu plateaus, and borders Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Ningxia to the north, Xinjiang and Qinghai to the west, Sichuan to the south, and Shaanxi to the east...

 where his son Jizhu made a cup out of the skull of the Yuezhi king
Skull cup
A skull cup is a drinking vessel or eating bowl made from an inverted human calvaria that has been cut away from the rest of the skull. The use of a human skull as a drinking cup in ritual use or as a trophy is reported in numerous sources throughout history and among various peoples, and among...

. Modu also reoccupied all the lands previously taken by the Qin general Meng Tian
Meng Tian
Meng Tian was a general of the Qin Dynasty who distinguished himself in campaigns against the Xiongnu and in the construction of the Great Wall of China. He was the elder brother of Meng Yi. He descended from a great line of military generals and architects...

. Under Modu's leadership, the Xiongnu threatened the Han Dynasty, almost causing Liu Bang to lose his throne in 200 BCE. By the time of Modu's death in 174 BC, the Xiongnu had driven the Yuezhi from the Hexi corridor
Hexi Corridor
Hexi Corridor or Gansu Corridor refers to the historical route in Gansu province of China. As part of the Northern Silk Road running northwest from the bank of the Yellow River, it was the most important route from North China to the Tarim Basin and Central Asia for traders and the military. The...

, killing the Yuezhi king in the process and asserting their presence in the Western Regions
Western Regions
The Western Regions or Xiyu was a historical name specified in the Chinese chronicles between the 3rd century BC to 8th century AD that referred to the regions west of Jade Gate, most often Central Asia or sometimes more specifically the easternmost portion of it The Western Regions or Xiyu was a...

 of Xinjiang.

Nature of the Xiongnu state


After Modu, later leaders formed a dualistic system of political organisation with the left and right branches of the Xiongnu divided on a regional basis. The chanyu or shan-yü – supreme ruler equivalent to the Chinese "Son of Heaven
Emperor of China
The Emperor of China refers to any sovereign of Imperial China reigning between the founding of Qin Dynasty of China, united by the King of Qin in 221 BCE, and the fall of Yuan Shikai's Empire of China in 1916. When referred to as the Son of Heaven , a title that predates the Qin unification, the...

" – exercised direct authority over the central territory. Longcheng (蘢城), near Khöshöö Tsaidam in Mongolia, became the annual meeting place and de facto Xiongnu capital.

Xiongnu Hierarchy


The chief of the Xiongnu was called the Chanyu
Chanyu
Chanyu , was the title used by the nomadic supreme rulers of Middle and Central Asia for 8 centuries, starting...

. Under the him were the "Wise Kings of the Left and Right." The Wise King of the Left was normally the heir presumptive. Next lower in the hierarchy came more officials in pairs of left and right: the guli (kuli, 'kings'), the army commanders, the great governors, the dunghu (tung-hu), the gudu (ku-tu). Beneath them came the commanders of detachments of one thousand, of one hundred, and of ten men. This nation of nomads, a people on the march, was organized like an army. ("Chanyu", in Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

 Chengli Gutu Shanyü, "Majesty Son of Heaven" might be a loanword
Loanword
A loanword is a word borrowed from a donor language and incorporated into a recipient language. By contrast, a calque or loan translation is a related concept where the meaning or idiom is borrowed rather than the lexical item itself. The word loanword is itself a calque of the German Lehnwort,...

 from Turko-Mongol Tengri
Tengri
Tengri or Tengger Tengri or Tengger Tengri or Tengger (Old Turkic: ; Mongolian: Тэнгэр, Tenger; Chinese: 腾格里, Mandarin: Ténggélǐ, Hungarian: Tengri, Turkish: Tanrı, Bulgarian: Tangra (Тангра) is a sky god, formerly the chief deity of the early Turkic peoples, including the Xiongnu, Huns, Bulgars,...

, The Heaven. "Wise", in Chinese 'tuqi' or 'tu-ch'i, is perhaps from Turkic
Turkic languages
The Turkic languages constitute a language family of at least thirty five languages, spoken by Turkic peoples across a vast area from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean to Siberia and Western China, and are considered to be part of the proposed Altaic language family.Turkic languages are spoken...

 'doghri', straight, faithful.)

Yap, apparently describing the early period, places the Chanyu's main camp north of Shanxi
Shanxi
' is a province in Northern China. Its one-character abbreviation is "晋" , after the state of Jin that existed here during the Spring and Autumn Period....

 with the Wise King of the Left holding the area north of Beijing and the Wise King of the Right holding the Ordos Loop
Ordos Loop
The Ordos Loop is a region of China west of Beijing. The Yellow River flows north-northeast, then east, and then south forming three sides of an imperfect rectangle. The south side is formed by the Wei River which rises not far from the southwest corner and flows east to the southeast corner...

 area as far as Gansu
Gansu
' is a province located in the northwest of the People's Republic of China.It lies between the Tibetan and Huangtu plateaus, and borders Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Ningxia to the north, Xinjiang and Qinghai to the west, Sichuan to the south, and Shaanxi to the east...

. Grousset, probably describing the situation after the Xiongnu had been driven north, places the Chanyu on the upper Orkhon near where Ghengis Khan would later establish his capital of Karakorum
Karakorum
Karakorum was the capital of the Mongol Empire in the 13th century, and of the Northern Yuan in the 14-15th century. Its ruins lie in the northwestern corner of the Övörkhangai Province of Mongolia, near today's town of Kharkhorin, and adjacent to the Erdene Zuu monastery...

. The Wise King of the Left lived in the east, probably on the high Kherlen. The Wise King of the Right lived in the west, perhaps near present day Uliastai
Uliastai
Uliastai is a city in Mongolia. It is located in the western part of the country, 1,115 kilometers from the capital Ulaanbaatar. Uliastai is the capital of Zavkhan Province and was the 10th most populous city in the country with a population of 24,276 , now this city has 16,240 population and is...

 in the Khangai Mountains.

The marriage treaty system


In the winter of 200 BC, following a siege of Taiyuan
Taiyuan
Taiyuan is the capital and largest city of Shanxi province in North China. At the 2010 census, it had a total population of 4,201,591 inhabitants on 6959 km² whom 3,212,500 are urban on 1,460 km². The name of the city literally means "Great Plains", referring to the location where the Fen River...

, Emperor Gao
Gaozu of Han
Emperor Gao , commonly known within China by his temple name Gaozu , personal name Liu Bang, was the first emperor of the Han Dynasty, ruling over China from 202 BC to 195 BC...

 personally led a military campaign against Modun. At the battle of Baideng, he was ambushed reputedly by 300,000 elite Xiongnu cavalry. The emperor was cut off from supplies and reinforcements for seven days, only narrowly escaping capture.

After the defeat at Pingcheng, the Han emperor abandoned a military solution to the Xiongnu threat. Instead, in 198 BC, the courtier Liu Jing (劉敬) was dispatched for negotiations. The peace settlement eventually reached between the parties included a Han princess given in marriage to the chanyu (called heqin
Heqin
Heqin was a term used in ancient China for an alliance by marriage. It usually referred to the Chinese Emperor marrying off a "princess" to an aggressive "barbarian" chieftain or ruler. The theory was that in exchange for the marriage, the chieftain would cease all aggressive actions toward China...

和親 or "harmonious kinship"); periodic gifts to the Xiongnu of silk
Silk
Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The best-known type of silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity...

, liquor, and rice
Rice
Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima . As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and the West Indies...

; equal status between the states; and the Great Wall as mutual border.

This first treaty set the pattern for relations between the Han and the Xiongnu for sixty years. Up to 135 BC, the treaty was renewed no less than nine times, each time with an increase in the "gifts". In 192 BC, Modun even asked for the hand of Emperor Gao's widow Empress Lü Zhi
Empress Lü Zhi
Empress Lü Zhi , commonly known as Empress Dowager Lü or formally as Empress Gao , courtesy name Exu , was the wife and empress of Emperor Gaozu of Han, founder of the Han Dynasty. They had two known children—the eventual Emperor Hui and Princess Luyuan...

. His son and successor, the energetic Jiyu, known as the Laoshang Chanyu, continued his father's expansionist policies. Laoshang succeeded in negotiating with Emperor Wen terms for the maintenance of a large scale government sponsored market system.

While the Xiongnu benefited handsomely, from the Chinese perspective marriage treaties were costly, humiliating, and ineffective. Laoshang showed that he did not take the peace treaty seriously. On one occasion his scouts penetrated to a point near Chang'an
Chang'an
Chang'an is an ancient capital of more than ten dynasties in Chinese history, today known as Xi'an. Chang'an literally means "Perpetual Peace" in Classical Chinese. During the short-lived Xin Dynasty, the city was renamed "Constant Peace" ; yet after its fall in AD 23, the old name was restored...

. In 166 BC he personally led 140,000 cavalry to invade Anding, reaching as far as the imperial retreat at Yong. In 158 BC, his successor sent 30,000 cavalry to attack the Shang commandery and another 30,000 to Yunzhong
Datong
Datong is a prefecture-level city in northern Shanxi Province of North China, located a few hundred kilometres west by rail from Beijing with an elevation of...

.

War with Han Dynasty




The Han Dynasty made preparations for war when the Han Emperor Wu dispatched the explorer Zhang Qian
Zhang Qian
Zhang Qian was an imperial envoy to the world outside of China in the 2nd century BCE, during the time of the Han Dynasty...

 to explore the mysterious kingdoms to the west and to form an alliance with the Yuezhi people in order to combat the Xiongnu. While Zhang Qian did not succeed in this mission, his reports of the west provided even greater incentive to counter the Xiongnu hold on westward routes out of China, and the Chinese prepared to mount a large scale attack using the Northern Silk Road
Northern Silk Road
The Northern Silk Road is a prehistoric trackway in northern China originating in the early capital of Xi'an and extending north of the Taklamakan Desert to reach the ancient kingdoms of Parthia, Bactria and eventually Persia and Rome. It is the northern-most branch of several Silk Roads providing...

 to move men and material.

While Han China
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

 was making preparations for a military confrontation from the reign of Emperor Wen
Emperor Wen of Han
Emperor Wen of Han was the fifth emperor of the Han Dynasty in China. His given name is Heng.Liu Heng was a son of Emperor Gao of Han and Consort Bo, later empress dowager...

, the break did not come until 133 BC, following an abortive trap to ambush the chanyu at Mayi
Battle of Mayi
The Battle of Mayi was an abortive ambush operation by the Han Dynasty against the invading Xiongnu forces; casualties were minimal. It marked the end of de jure peace between the Han Dynasty and Xiongnu, and stimulated the use of effective cavalry forces and offensive military policies by the Han...

. By that point the empire was consolidated politically, militarily and economically, and was led by an adventurous pro-war faction at court. In that year, Emperor Wu reversed the decision he had made the year before to renew the peace treaty.

Full scale war broke out in autumn 129 BC, when 40,000 Chinese cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 made a surprise attack on the Xiongnu at the border markets. In 127 BC, the Han general Wei Qing
Wei Qing
Wei Qing , born Zheng Qing in Linfen, Shanxi, was a famous general during Han Dynasty of China, whose campaigns against the Xiongnu earned him great acclaim. He was the younger half-brother of Empress Wei Zifu, making him the the Emperor Wu's brother-in-law...

 retook the Ordos
Ordos
-Places:*Ordos Loop of the Yellow River, a region of China*Ordos Desert, in Inner Mongolia*Ordos City, city and district in Inner Mongolia*Ordos International Circuit, a race track in Ordos City.-People:...

. In 121 BC, the Xiongnu suffered another setback when Huo Qubing
Huo Qubing
Huo Qubing , born in Linfen, Shanxi, was a general of the western Han dynasty under Emperor Wu. Being the illegitimate son of Wei Shaoer, he was the nephew of Wei Qing and Empress Wei Zifu....

 led a force of light cavalry westward out of Longxi and within six days fought his way through five Xiongnu kingdoms. The Xiongnu Hunye king was forced to surrender with 40,000 men. In 119 BC both Huo and Wei, each leading 50,000 cavalrymen and 100,000 footsoldiers (in order to keep up with the mobility of the Xiongnu, many of the non-cavalry Han soldiers were mobile infantrymen who traveled on horseback but fought on foot), and advancing along different routes, forced the chanyu and his court to flee north of the Gobi Desert
Gobi Desert
The Gobi is a large desert region in Asia. It covers parts of northern and northwestern China, and of southern Mongolia. The desert basins of the Gobi are bounded by the Altai Mountains and the grasslands and steppes of Mongolia on the north, by the Hexi Corridor and Tibetan Plateau to the...

. Major logistical difficulties limited the duration and long-term continuation of these campaigns. According to the analysis of Yan You (嚴尤), the difficulties were twofold. Firstly there was the problem of supplying food across long distances. Secondly, the weather in the northern Xiongnu lands was difficult for Han soldiers, who could never carry enough fuel. According to official reports, the Xiongnu lost 80,000 to 90,000 men. And out of the 140,000 horses the Han forces had brought into the desert, fewer than 30,000 returned to China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

.

As a result of these battles, the Chinese controlled the strategic region from the Ordos
Ordos Desert
The Ordos Desert is a desert and steppe region lying on a plateau in the south of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China . The soil of the Ordos is a mixture of clay and sand and, as a result, is poorly suited for agriculture. It extends over an area of...

 and Gansu corridor to Lop Nor. They succeeded in separating the Xiongnu from the Qiang peoples to the south, and also gained direct access to the Western Regions
Western Regions
The Western Regions or Xiyu was a historical name specified in the Chinese chronicles between the 3rd century BC to 8th century AD that referred to the regions west of Jade Gate, most often Central Asia or sometimes more specifically the easternmost portion of it The Western Regions or Xiyu was a...

.

Ban Chao
Ban Chao
Ban Chao , courtesy name Zhongsheng , was born in Xianyang, Shaanxi, and the younger brother of the famous historian, Ban Gu who, with his father Ban Biao, and sister, Ban Zhao, wrote the famous Hanshu, or 'History of the Former Han Dynasty'....

, Protector General (都護; Duhu) of the Han Dynasty embarked with an army of 70,000 men in a campaign against the Xiongnu insurgents who were harassing the trade route we now know as the Silk Road
Silk Road
The Silk Road or Silk Route refers to a historical network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa...

. His successful military campaign saw the subjugation of one Xiongnu tribe after another. Ban Chao also sent an envoy named Gan Ying
Gan Ying
Gan Ying , was a Chinese military ambassador who was sent on a mission to Rome in 97 CE by the Chinese general Ban Chao.Although Gan Ying never reached Rome, only travelling to as far as the Parthian coast of the Persian Gulf, he is, at least in the historical records, the Chinese who went the...

 to Daqin
Daqin
Daqin is the ancient Chinese name for the Roman Empire and, depending on context, the Near East, especially Syria. It literally means "Great Qin", Qin being the name of the founding dynasty of the Chinese Empire...

 (Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

). Ban Chao was created the Marquess of Dingyuan (定遠侯, i.e., "the Marquess who stabilized faraway places") for his services to the Han Empire and returned to the capital Loyang at the age of 70 years old and died there in the year 102. Following his death, the power of the Xiongnu in the Western Regions increased again, and the emperors of subsequent dynasties were never again able to reach so far to the west.

The First Xiongnu Civil War (60-53BC)


When a Chanyu died, power could pass to his younger brother if his son was not of age. This system, which can be compared to Gaelic tanistry
Tanistry
Tanistry was a Gaelic system for passing on titles and lands. In this system the Tanist was the office of heir-apparent, or second-in-command, among the Gaelic patrilineal dynasties of Ireland, Scotland and Man, to succeed to the chieftainship or to the kingship.-Origins:The Tanist was chosen from...

, normally kept an adult male on the throne, but could cause trouble in later generations when there were several lineages that might claim the throne. When the 12th Chanyu died in 60BC, power was taken by Woyanqudi, a grandson of the 12th Chanyu's cousin. Being something of a usurper, he tried to put his own men in power, which only increased the number of his enemies. The 12th Chanyu's son fled east and, in 58BC, revolted. Few would support Woyanqudi and he was driven to suicide, leaving the rebel son, Huhanye, as the 14th Chanyu. The Woyanqudi faction then set up his brother, Tuqi, as Chanyu (58BC). In 57BC three more men declared themselves Chanyu. Two dropped their claims in favor of the third who was defeated by Tuqi in that year and surrendered to Huhanye the following year. In 56BC Tuqi was defeated by Huhanye and committed suicide, but two more claimants appeared: Runzhen and Huhanye's elder brother Zhizhi Chanyu
Zhizhi Chanyu
Zhizhi Chanyu was a Chanyu of the Xiongnu at the time of the first Xiongnu civil war, who held the north and west in contention with his younger brother Huhanye who held the south. His original name in Chinese transcription was Luanti Hutuwusi, i.e...

. Runzhen was killed by Zhizhi in 54BC, leaving only Zhizhi and Huhanye. Zhizhi grew in power, and, in 53BC, Huhanye moved south and submitted to the Chinese. Huhanye used Chinese support to weaken Zhizhi, who gradually moved west. In 49BC a brother to Tuqi set himself up as Chanyu and was killed by Zhizhi. In 36BC Zhizhi was killed by a Chinese army while trying to establish a new kingdom in the far west near Lake Balkhash
Lake Balkhash
Lake Balkhash is one of the largest lakes in Asia and 12th largest continental lake in the world. It is located in southeastern Kazakhstan, in Central Asia, and belongs to an endorheic basin shared by Kazakhstan and China, with a small part in Kyrgyzstan. The basin drains into the lake via seven...

.

Tributary relations with the Han



In 53 BC Huhanye (呼韓邪) decided to enter into tributary relations with Han China. The original terms insisted on by the Han court were that, first, the chanyu or his representatives should come to the capital to pay homage; secondly, the chanyu should send a hostage prince; and thirdly, the chanyu should present tribute to the Han emperor. The political status of the Xiongnu in the Chinese world order was reduced from that of a "brotherly state" to that of an "outer vassal" (外臣). During this period, however, the Xiongnu maintained political sovereignty and full territorial integrity. The Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is a series of stone and earthen fortifications in northern China, built originally to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire against intrusions by various nomadic groups...

 continued to serve as the line of demarcation between Han and Xiongnu.

Huhanye sent his son, the "wise king of the right" Shuloujutang, to the Han court as hostage. In 51 BC he personally visited Chang'an to pay homage to the emperor on the Lunar New Year
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year – often called Chinese Lunar New Year although it actually is lunisolar – is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It is an all East and South-East-Asia celebration...

. On the financial side, Huhanye was amply rewarded in large quantities of gold, cash, clothes, silk, horses and grain for his participation. Huhanye made two more homage trips, in 49 BC and 33 BC; with each one the imperial gifts were increased. On the last trip, Huhanye took the opportunity to ask to be allowed to become an imperial son-in-law. As a sign of the decline in the political status of the Xiongnu, Emperor Yuan
Emperor Yuan of Han
Emperor Yuan of Han was an emperor of the Chinese Han Dynasty. He reigned from 48 BC to 33 BC. Emperor Yuan was remembered for the promotion of Confucianism as the official creed of Chinese government. He appointed Confucius adherents to important government posts...

 refused, giving him instead five ladies-in-waiting. One of them was Wang Zhaojun
Wang Zhaojun
Wang Qiang , more commonly known by her style name Wang Zhaojun was the consort of the Xiongnu chanyu Huhanye...

, famed in Chinese folklore as one of the Four Beauties
Four Beauties
The Four Beauties or Four Great Beauties are four ancient Chinese women, renowned for their beauty. The scarcity of historical records concerning them meant that much of what is known of them today has been greatly embellished by legend...

.

When Zhizhi learned of his brother's submission, he also sent a son to the Han court as hostage in 53 BC. Then twice, in 51 BC and 50 BC, he sent envoys to the Han court with tribute. But having failed to pay homage personally, he was never admitted to the tributary system. In 36 BC, a junior officer named Chen Tang
Chen Tang
Chen Tang , born in Jining, Shandong, was famous for his battle against Zhizhi in 36 BC , and a quote 夫胡兵五而当汉兵一 "a single soldier of Han is equivalent to five Central Asian soldiers"....

, with the help of Gan Yanshou, protector-general of the Western Regions, assembled an expeditionary force that defeated him at the Battle of Zhizhi
Battle of Zhizhi
The Battle of Zhizhi was fought in 36 BC between the Han Dynasty and the Xiongnu chieftain Zhizhi Chanyu. Zhizhi was defeated and killed. The battle was probably fought near Taraz on the Talas River in eastern Kazakhstan, which makes it one of the westernmost points reached by a Chinese army...

 and sent his head as a trophy to Chang'an.

Tributary relations were discontinued during the reign of Huduershi (18 AD–48), corresponding to the political upheavals of the Xin Dynasty
Xin Dynasty
The Xin Dynasty was a Chinese dynasty which lasted from AD 9 to 23. It followed the Western Han Dynasty and preceded the Eastern Han Dynasty....

 in China. The Xiongnu took the opportunity to regain control of the western regions, as well as neighbouring peoples such as the Wuhuan
Wuhuan
The Wuhuan were a proto-Mongolic nomadic people who inhabited northern China, in what is now the provinces of Hebei, Liaoning, Shanxi, the municipality of Beijing and the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia....

. In 24 AD, Hudershi even talked about reversing the tributary system.

Northern Xiongnu


The Xiongnu's new power was met with a policy of appeasement by Emperor Guangwu
Emperor Guangwu of Han
Emperor Guangwu , born Liu Xiu, was an emperor of the Chinese Han Dynasty, restorer of the dynasty in AD 25 and thus founder of the Later Han or Eastern Han...

. At the height of his power, Huduershi even compared himself to his illustrious ancestor, Modu. Due to growing regionalism among the Xiongnu, however, Huduershi was never able to establish unquestioned authority. When he designated his son as heir apparent (in contravention of the principle of fraternal succession established by Huhanye), Bi, the Rizhu king of the right, refused to attend the annual meeting at the chanyus court.

As the eldest son of the preceding
chanyu, Bi had a legitimate claim to the succession. In 48, two years after Huduershi's son Punu ascended the throne, eight Xiongnu tribes in Bi's powerbase in the south, with a military force totalling 40,000 to 50,000 men, acclaimed Bi as their own chanyu. Throughout the Eastern Han period, these two groups were called the southern Xiongnu and the northern Xiongnu, respectively.

Hard pressed by the northern Xiongnu and plagued by natural calamities, Bi brought the southern Xiongnu into tributary relations with Han China in 50. The tributary system was considerably tightened to keep the southern Xiongnu under Han supervision. The
chanyu was ordered to establish his court in the Meiji district of Xihe commandery. The southern Xiongnu were resettled in eight frontier commanderies. At the same time, large numbers of Chinese were forced to migrate to these commanderies, where mixed settlements began to appear. The northern Xiongnu were dispersed by the Xianbei in 85 and again in 89 by the Chinese during the Battle of Ikh Bayan
Battle of Ikh Bayan
The Battle of Ikh Bayan , was a major expedition launched against the Xiongnu by the Han Dynasty in June, 89. The battle was a success for the Han under Dou Xian The Battle of Ikh Bayan , was a major expedition launched against the Xiongnu by the Han Dynasty in June, 89. The battle was a success...

, in which the last Northern Chanyu was defeated and fled over to the north west with his subjects.

Southern Xiongnu



Economically, the southern Xiongnu relied almost totally on Han assistance. Tensions were evident between the settled Chinese and practitioners of the nomadic way of life. Thus, in 94 Anguo Chanyu joined forces with newly subjugated Xiongnu from the north and started a large scale rebellion against the Han.

Towards the end of the Eastern Han, the southern Xiongnu were drawn into the rebellions then plaguing the Han court. In 188, the chanyu was murdered by some of his own subjects for agreeing to send troops to help the Han suppress a rebellion in Hebei
Hebei
' is a province of the People's Republic of China in the North China region. Its one-character abbreviation is "" , named after Ji Province, a Han Dynasty province that included what is now southern Hebei...

 – many of the Xiongnu feared that it would set a precedent for unending military service to the Han court. The murdered
chanyu's son Yufuluo
Yufuluo
Yufuluo was a puppet Chanyu of the southern Xiongnu during the late Han Dynasty period of Chinese history. In 188, he was appointed to the Chanyu position by the Chinese imperial court following a slaying of his father Qiangqu, also a Han puppet from ineligible succession line, and would later...

, entitled Chizhisizhu (持至尸逐侯), succeeded him, but was then overthrown by the same rebellious faction in 189. He travelled to Luoyang
Luoyang
Luoyang is a prefecture-level city in western Henan province of Central China. It borders the provincial capital of Zhengzhou to the east, Pingdingshan to the southeast, Nanyang to the south, Sanmenxia to the west, Jiyuan to the north, and Jiaozuo to the northeast.Situated on the central plain of...

 (the Han capital) to seek aid from the Han court, but at this time the Han court was in disorder from the clash between Grand General He Jin
He Jin
He Jin was the elder half-brother of Empress He, consort to Emperor Ling of the late Eastern Han Dynasty in China. He shared power with his sister as regents in 189, following the death of Emperor Ling. In the ensuing struggle with the influential eunuch faction for power, He Jin was assassinated...

 and the eunuchs, and the intervention of the warlord Dong Zhuo
Dong Zhuo
Dong Zhuo was a politician and warlord during the late Han Dynasty period of Chinese history. He seized control of the capital city Luoyang in 189 when it was in a state of turmoil following the death of Emperor Ling and a clash between the eunuch faction and some court officials led by...

. The
chanyu had no choice but to settle down with his followers in Pingyang
Linfen
-Administrative divisions:The prefecture-level city of Linfen is divided in one district, two cities and fourteen counties. The information here presented uses the metric system and data from 2010 Census.-Pollution:...

, a city in Shanxi
Shanxi
' is a province in Northern China. Its one-character abbreviation is "晋" , after the state of Jin that existed here during the Spring and Autumn Period....

. In 195, he died and was succeeded by his brother Hucuquan.

In 216, the warlord-statesman Cao Cao
Cao Cao
Cao Cao was a warlord and the penultimate chancellor of the Eastern Han Dynasty who rose to great power during the dynasty's final years. As one of the central figures of the Three Kingdoms period, he laid the foundations for what was to become the state of Cao Wei and was posthumously titled...

 detained Hucuquan in the city of Ye
Ye, China
Ye or Yecheng was an ancient Chinese city located in what is now Linzhang County, Hebei and the neighbouring Anyang County, Henan....

, and divided his followers in Shanxi into five divisions: left, right, south, north, and centre. This was aimed at preventing the exiled Xiongnu in Shanxi from engaging in rebellion, and also allowed Cao Cao to use the Xiongnu as auxiliaries in his cavalry. Eventually, the Xiongnu aristocracy in Shanxi changed their surname from Luanti
Luanti
The Luanti was a clan and the ruling dynasty of the ancient Xiongnu that flourished between 3rd century BCE to 4th century CE. The form Luanti is from the Hanshu chapter 94a, l. 7a, and the form Xulianti...

 to Liu for prestige reasons, claiming that they were related to the Han imperial clan through the old intermarriage policy.

After the Han Dynasty


After Hucuquan, the Xiongnu were partitioned into five local tribes. The complicated ethnic situation of the mixed frontier settlements instituted during the Eastern Han had grave consequences, not fully apprehended by the Chinese government until the end of the 3rd century. By 260, Liu Qubei
Liu Qubei
Liu Qubei , was a Tiefu Hun chieftain from 260 to 272. Right Prince of the Southern Xiongnu. . 南匈奴之右賢王(魏書作左賢王)...

 had organized the Tiefu confederacy in the north east, and by 290, Liu Yuan
Liu Yuan (Han Zhao)
Liu Yuan , courtesy name Yuanhai , formally Emperor Guangwen of Han was the founding emperor of the Chinese/Xiongnu state Han Zhao.-Family background:...

 was leading a splinter group in the south west. At that time, non-Chinese unrest reached alarming proportions along the whole of the Western Jin frontier.
Liu Yuan's Northern Han (304–318)

In 304 the sinicised Liu Yuan, a grandson of Yufuluo Chizhisizhu stirred up descendants of the southern Xiongnu in rebellion in Shanxi
Shanxi
' is a province in Northern China. Its one-character abbreviation is "晋" , after the state of Jin that existed here during the Spring and Autumn Period....

, taking advantage of the War of the Eight Princes
War of the Eight Princes
The War of the Eight Princes or Rebellion of the Eight Kings or Rebellion of the Eight Princes was a civil war for power among princes and dukes of the Chinese Jin Dynasty from AD 291 to AD 306. It was fought mostly in northern China and devastated the country, later triggering the Wu Hu ravaging...

 then raging around the Western Jin capital Luoyang
Luoyang
Luoyang is a prefecture-level city in western Henan province of Central China. It borders the provincial capital of Zhengzhou to the east, Pingdingshan to the southeast, Nanyang to the south, Sanmenxia to the west, Jiyuan to the north, and Jiaozuo to the northeast.Situated on the central plain of...

. Under Liu Yuan's leadership, they were joined by a large number of frontier Chinese and became known as Bei Han. Liu Yuan used 'Han' as the name of his state, hoping to tap into the lingering nostalgia for the glory of the Han dynasty, and established his capital in Pingyang
Linfen
-Administrative divisions:The prefecture-level city of Linfen is divided in one district, two cities and fourteen counties. The information here presented uses the metric system and data from 2010 Census.-Pollution:...

. The Xiongnu use of large numbers of heavy cavalry
Heavy cavalry
Heavy cavalry is a class of cavalry whose primary role was to engage in direct combat with enemy forces . Although their equipment differed greatly depending on the region and historical period, they were generally mounted on large powerful horses, and were often equipped with some form of scale,...

 with iron armour for both rider and horse gave them a decisive advantage over Jin armies already weakened and demoralised by three years of civil war. In 311, they captured Luoyang, and with it the Jin emperor Sima Chi (Emperor Huai). In 316, the next Jin emperor was captured in Chang'an
Chang'an
Chang'an is an ancient capital of more than ten dynasties in Chinese history, today known as Xi'an. Chang'an literally means "Perpetual Peace" in Classical Chinese. During the short-lived Xin Dynasty, the city was renamed "Constant Peace" ; yet after its fall in AD 23, the old name was restored...

, and the whole of north China came under Xiongnu rule while remnants of the Jin dynasty survived in the south (known to historians as the Eastern Jin).
Liu Yao's Former Zhao (318–329)

In 318, after suppressing a coup by a powerful minister in the Xiongnu-Han court (in which the Xiongnu-Han emperor and a large proportion of the aristocracy were massacred), the Xiongnu prince Liu Yao
Liu Yao
Liu Yao , courtesy name Yongming , was the final emperor of the Chinese/Xiongnu state Han Zhao. He became emperor in 318 after most other members of the imperial Liu clan were massacred by Jin Zhun in a coup. However, the empire was soon divided in half, as the general Shi Le declared...

 moved the Xiongnu-Han capital from Pingyang to Chang'an and renamed the dynasty as Zhao (Liu Yuan had declared the empire's name Han to create a linkage with Han Dynasty—to which he claimed he was a descendant, through a princess, but Liu Yao felt that it was time to end the linkage with Han and explicitly restore the linkage to the great Xiongnu chanyu Maodun, and therefore decided to change the name of the state. However, this was not a break from Liu Yuan, as he continued to honor Liu Yuan and Liu Cong posthumously.) (it is hence known to historians collectively as Han Zhao
Han Zhao
The Han Zhao , or Former Zhao, or Northern Han , was a Southern Xiongnu state during Sixteen Kingdoms period coeval with the Chinese Jin Dynasty...

). However, the eastern part of north China came under the control of a rebel Xiongnu-Han general of Jie
Jie (ethnic group)
The Jié were members of a small tribe in Northern China in the 4th century CE. They established the Later Zhao state.According to the Book of Wei, their name derives from the Jiéshì area where they reside....

 (probably Yeniseian) ancestry named Shi Le
Shi Le
Shi Le , courtesy name Shilong , formally Emperor Ming of Zhao , was the founding emperor of the Chinese/Jie state Later Zhao...

. Liu Yao and Shi Le fought a long war until 329, when Liu Yao was captured in battle and executed. Chang'an fell to Shi Le soon after, and the Xiongnu dynasty was wiped out. North China was ruled by Shi Le's Later Zhao
Later Zhao
The Later Zhao was a state of the Sixteen Kingdoms during the Jin Dynasty in China. It was founded by the Shi family of the Jie ethnicity...

 dynasty for the next 20 years.

However, the "Liu" Xiongnu remained active in the north for at least another century.
Tiefu & Xia (260–431)

The northern Tiefu branch of the Xiongnu gained control of the Inner Mongolian region in the 10 years between the conquest of the Tuoba
Tuoba
Tuoba, or Tabgach, were a clan of Xianbei people of ancient China.-Xianbei Tuoba:Tuoba was a clan of the Xianbei people in the early centuries of the 1st millennium AD. They established the State of Dai from 310 to 376 AD, and the Northern Wei Dynasty from 386 to 536 AD...

 Xianbei
Xianbei
The Xianbei were a significant Mongolic nomadic people residing in Manchuria, Inner Mongolia and eastern Mongolia. The title “Khan” was first used among the Xianbei.-Origins:...

 state of Dai
State of Dai
Dai was a state of the Xianbei clan of Tuoba, during the era of Sixteen Kingdoms in China. It existed from 310 to 376 AD, with its capital at Shengle ....

 by the Former Qin
Former Qin
The Former Qin was a state of the Sixteen Kingdoms in China. Founded by the Fu family of the Di ethnicity, it completed the unification of North China in 376. Its capital had been Xi'an up to the death of the ruler Fu Jiān. Despite its name, the Former Qin was much later and less powerful than...

 empire in 376, and its restoration in 386 as the Northern Wei
Northern Wei
The Northern Wei Dynasty , also known as the Tuoba Wei , Later Wei , or Yuan Wei , was a dynasty which ruled northern China from 386 to 534 . It has been described as "part of an era of political turbulence and intense social and cultural change"...

. After 386, the Tiefu were gradually destroyed by or surrendered to the Tuoba, with the submitting Tiefu becoming known as the Dugu. Liu Bobo, a surviving prince of the Tiefu fled to the Ordos
Ordos
-Places:*Ordos Loop of the Yellow River, a region of China*Ordos Desert, in Inner Mongolia*Ordos City, city and district in Inner Mongolia*Ordos International Circuit, a race track in Ordos City.-People:...

 Loop, where he founded a state called the Xia (thus named because of the Xiongnu's supposed ancestry from the Xia dynasty) and changed his surname to Helian (赫連). The Helian-Xia state was conquered by the Northern Wei in 428–431, and the Xiongnu thenceforth effectively ceased to play a major role in Chinese history, assimilating into the Xianbei and Han ethnicities.

Tongwancheng
Tongwancheng
Tongwancheng was the capital city of the Southern Huns, the only city of the Huns that has ever been found. The city is well preserved and is located in contemporary China's Shaanxi Province, Inner Mongolia. The city is at the southern edge of the Maowusu Sands of the Ordos Desert, on what was...

 (meaning "Unite All Nations") was the capital of the Xia (Sixteen Kingdoms)
Xia (Sixteen Kingdoms)
Tiefu was a pre-state Xiongnu tribe during the era of Sixteen Kingdoms in China. Its chieftain Liu Bobo established the state of Xia in 407 and changed his family name into Helian....

, whose rulers claimed descent from Modu Chanyu.

The ruined city was discovered in 1996 and the State Council designated it as a cultural relic under top state protection. The repair of the Yong'an Platform, where Helian Bobo
Helian Bobo
Helian Bobo , né Liu Bobo , courtesy name Qujie , formally Emperor Wulie of Xia , was the founding emperor of the Chinese/Xiongnu state Xia...

, emperor of the Da Xia regime, reviewed parading troops, has been finished and restoration on the 31-meter-tall turret will begin soon. There are hopes that Tongwancheng may achieve UNESCO World Heritage status.
Juqu & Northern Liang (401–460)

The Juqu were a branch of the Xiongnu. Their leader Juqu Mengxun
Juqu Mengxun
Juqu Mengxun was a prince of the Chinese/Xiongnu state Northern Liang, and the first from the Juqu clan. His cousin Juqu Nancheng and he initially supported Duan Ye as prince of Northern Liang in 397 after rebelling against Later Liang, but in 401, Juqu Mengxun tricked Duan Ye into wrongly...

 took over the Northern Liang
Northern Liang
The Northern Liang was a state of the Sixteen Kingdoms in China. It was founded by the Xiongnu Juqu family, although they initially supported the Han official Duan Ye as prince, they overthrew him in 401 and took over themselves....

 by overthrowing the former puppet ruler Duan Ye
Duan Ye
Duan Ye was the first prince of the Chinese state Northern Liang. He was of Han ethnicity, and was originally a commandery governor of Later Liang, but after Xiongnu generals Juqu Mengxun and Juqu Nancheng rebelled against Later Liang, Juqu Nancheng persuaded Duan Ye to accept the leadership...

. By 439, the Juqu power was destroyed by the Northern Wei
Northern Wei
The Northern Wei Dynasty , also known as the Tuoba Wei , Later Wei , or Yuan Wei , was a dynasty which ruled northern China from 386 to 534 . It has been described as "part of an era of political turbulence and intense social and cultural change"...

. Their remnants were then settled in the city of Gaochang
Gaochang
Gaochang is the site of an ancient oasis city built on the northern rim of the inhospitable Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang, China. A busy trading center, it was a stopping point for merchant traders traveling on the Silk Road...

 before being destroyed by the Rouran
Rouran
Rouran , Mongolia name Jujan or Nirun Ruanruan/Ruru , Tan Tan , Juan-Juan or Zhu-Zhuwas the name of a confederation of nomadic tribes on the northern borders of Inner China from the late 4th century until the middle 6th century...

.

Interpretation


Barfield attempted to interpret Xiongnu history as well as narrate it. He made the following points. The Xiongnu confederation was unusually long-lived for a steppe empire. The purpose of raiding China was not simply booty, but to force the Chinese to pay regular tribute. The power of the Xiongnu ruler was based on his control of Chinese tribute which he used to reward his supporters. The Han and Xiongnu empires rose at the same time because the Xiongnu state depended on Chinese tribute. A major Xiongnu weakness was the custom of lateral succession. If a dead ruler's son was not old enough to take command, power passed to the late ruler's brother. This worked in the first generation but could lead to civil war in the second generation. The first time this happened, in 60 BC, the weaker party adopted what Barfield calls the 'inner frontier strategy.' They moved south and submitted to China and then used Chinese resources to defeat the Northern Xiongnu and re-establish the empire. The second time this happened, about 47 AD, the strategy failed. The southern ruler was unable to defeat the northern ruler and the Xiongnu remained divided.

Religion


Chinese sources inform us that the Xiongnu worshipped the sun, moon, heaven, earth, and their ancestors. They had shamans or medicine men who had great influence over the tribesmen. The horse played a leading role in the herder's migration, hunting and war. In special ceremonies they sacrificed white horses and drank the blood.

Turkic theories and possible relationship to Huns


Since the early 19th century, Western scholars have proposed various language families or subfamilies as the affines of the language of the Xiongnu. Proponents of the Turkic languages included E.H. Parker, Jean-Pierre Abel-Rémusat, Julius Klaproth
Julius Klaproth
Julius Heinrich Klaproth , German linguist, historian, ethnographer, author, Orientalist and explorer. As a scholar, he is credited along with Jean-Pierre Abel-Rémusat, with being instrumental in turning East Asian Studies into scientific disciplines with critical methods.-Chronology:Klaproth was...

, Kurakichi Shiratori, Gustaf John Ramstedt
Gustaf John Ramstedt
Gustaf John Ramstedt was a Swedish-speaking Finnish linguist and diplomat.-Biography:Ramstedt was born in Ekenäs in Southern Finland....

, Annemarie von Gabain, and Omeljan Pritsak
Omeljan Pritsak
Omeljan Pritsak was the first Mykhailo Hrushevsky Professor of Ukrainian History at Harvard University and the founder and first director of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute.-Career:Pritsak began his academic career at the University of Lvov in interwar Poland where he...

. Some sources say the ruling class was proto-Turkic, while others suggest it was proto-Hunnic.

Just as in the 7th century Chinese History of Northern Dynasties
History of Northern Dynasties
The History of Northern Dynasties is one of the official Chinese historical works in the Twenty-Four Histories canon. It contain 100 volumes and covers the period from 386 to 618, the histories of Northern Wei, Western Wei, Eastern Wei, Northern Zhou, Northern Qi, and Sui Dynasty...

 and the Book of Zhou
Book of Zhou
The Book of Zhou was the official history of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou, and it ranks among the official Twenty-Four Histories of imperial China. It was compiled by the Tang Dynasty historian Linghu Defen and was completed in 636...

, an inscription in the Iranian language, Sogdian
Sogdiana
Sogdiana or Sogdia was the ancient civilization of an Iranian people and a province of the Achaemenid Empire, eighteenth in the list on the Behistun Inscription of Darius the Great . Sogdiana is "listed" as the second of the "good lands and countries" that Ahura Mazda created...

, reports the Turks to be a subgroup of the Huns. Henning (1948) also exorcised the perpetual debate about equivalency of the numerous Chinese phonetic renditions of the word Hun and the Huns known from non-Chinese sources, by demonstrating an alphabetical form of the word coded in the Chinese as Xiongnu.

Names "Xiongnu" and "Hun"

Pronunciation of 匈
Source: http://starling.rinet.ru
Preclassic Old Chinese
Old Chinese
The earliest known written records of the Chinese language were found at a site near modern Anyang identified as Yin, the last capital of the Shang dynasty, and date from about 1200 BC....

:
sŋoŋ
Classic Old Chinese: ŋ̊oŋ
Postclassic Old Chinese: hoŋ
Middle Chinese
Middle Chinese
Middle Chinese , also called Ancient Chinese by the linguist Bernhard Karlgren, refers to the Chinese language spoken during Southern and Northern Dynasties and the Sui, Tang, and Song dynasties...

:
xöuŋ
Modern Cantonese
Standard Cantonese
Cantonese, or Standard Cantonese, is a language that originated in the vicinity of Canton in southern China, and is often regarded as the prestige dialect of Yue Chinese....

:
hʊ́ŋ
Modern Mandarin
Standard Mandarin
Standard Chinese or Modern Standard Chinese, also known as Mandarin or Putonghua, is the official language of the People's Republic of China and Republic of China , and is one of the four official languages of Singapore....

:
ɕɥʊ́ŋ
Modern Sino-Korean: hɯŋ
Modern Sino-Japanese: kjoː


The supposed sound of the first character has a clear similarity with the name "Hun" in European languages. Whether this is evidence of kinship or mere coincidence is hard to tell. It could lend credence to the theory that the Huns were in fact descendants of the Northern Xiongnu who migrated westward, or that the Huns were using a name borrowed from the Northern Xiongnu, or that these Xiongnu made up part of the Hun confederation. As in the case of the Rouran
Rouran
Rouran , Mongolia name Jujan or Nirun Ruanruan/Ruru , Tan Tan , Juan-Juan or Zhu-Zhuwas the name of a confederation of nomadic tribes on the northern borders of Inner China from the late 4th century until the middle 6th century...

 with the Avars
Uar
The Uar were the largest of three ethnic components constituting the confederation known to the west as the Hephthalites and to the Chinese as Yanda and the dominant ethnicity of Khwarezm...

, oversimplifications have led to the Xiongnu often being identified with the Huns
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

, who populated the frontiers of Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

. The connection started with the writings of the 18th century French historian de Guignes, who noticed that a few of the barbarian tribes north of China associated with the Xiongnu had been named "Hun" with varying Chinese characters. This theory remains at the level of speculation, although it is accepted by some scholars, including Chinese ones. DNA testing of Hun remains has not proven conclusive in determining the origin of the Huns.

"Xiōngnú" ɕɥʊ́ŋnǔ is the modern Mandarin Chinese pronunciation. At the time of Hunnish contact with the western world (the 4th–6th centuries AD), the sound of the character "匈" 'chest' has been reconstructed as /hoŋ/. The second character, "奴", appears to have no parallel in Western terminology, although it is possible "Hun" may have been a corruption of "Hunnu", which is more similar to the Chinese. Its contemporary pronunciation was /nhō/, and it means "slave" – usually a pejorative
Pejorative
Pejoratives , including name slurs, are words or grammatical forms that connote negativity and express contempt or distaste. A term can be regarded as pejorative in some social groups but not in others, e.g., hacker is a term used for computer criminals as well as quick and clever computer experts...

 term, although it is possible that it has only a phonetic role in the name 匈奴. There is almost certainly no connection between the "chest" meaning of 匈 and its ethnic meaning. There might conceivably be some sort of connection with the identically pronounced word "凶", which means "fierce", "ferocious", "inauspicious", "bad", or "violent act".

Although the phonetic evidence is inconclusive, new results from Central Asia might shift the balance in favor of a political and cultural link between the Xiongnu and the Huns. The Central Asian sources of the 4th century translated in both direction Xiongnu by Huns (in the Sogdian Ancient Letters, the Xiongnu in Northern China are named xwn, while in the Buddhist translations by Dharmarakhsa Huna of the Indian text is translated Xiongnu). The Hunnic cauldrons are similar to the Ordos Xiongnu ones. Moreover, both in Hungary and in the Ordos they were found buried in river banks.

Iranic theory



Among scholars who proposed an Iranic origin
Iranian peoples
The Iranian peoples are an Indo-European ethnic-linguistic group, consisting of the speakers of Iranian languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family, as such forming a branch of Indo-European-speaking peoples...

 for the Xiongnu are H.W. Bailey (1985) and János Harmatta
János Harmatta
János Harmatta was a Hungarian linguist.He taught as a professor at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.- Literary works :* Harmatta János : Forrástanulmányok Herodotos Skythika-jához = Quellenstudien zu den Skythika des Herodot / irta Harmatta János - References :* Harmatta János :...

 (1999), who believe that the Xiongnu confederation consisted of 24 tribes, controlling a nomadic empire with a strong military organization, and that "their loyal tribes and kings (shan-yü
Chanyu
Chanyu , was the title used by the nomadic supreme rulers of Middle and Central Asia for 8 centuries, starting...

) bore Iranian names and all the Hsiung-nu words noted by the Chinese can be explained from an Iranian language of the Saka
Saka
The Saka were a Scythian tribe or group of tribes....

 type. . . . It is therefore clear that the majority of Hsiung-nu tribes spoke an Eastern Iranian language". Jankowski concurs.

Yeniseian theory



Lajos Ligeti was the first to suggest that the Xiongnu spoke a Yeniseian language. In the early 1960s Edwin Pulleyblank
Edwin G. Pulleyblank
Edwin George Pulleyblank FRSC is a sinologist and professor emeritus of the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia...

 was the first to expand upon this idea with credible evidence. In 2000, Alexander Vovin
Alexander Vovin
Alexander V. Vovin is an American linguist and philologist in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, where he is a Professor of East Asian Languages and the acting chair of the department from August 1, 2009.Alexander Vovin earned his M.A...

 reanalyzed Pulleyblank's argument and found further support for it by utilizing the most recent reconstruction of Old Chinese phonology by Starostin and Baxter and a single Chinese transcription of a sentence in the language of the Jie
Jie (ethnic group)
The Jié were members of a small tribe in Northern China in the 4th century CE. They established the Later Zhao state.According to the Book of Wei, their name derives from the Jiéshì area where they reside....

 (a member tribe of the Xiongnu confederacy). Previous Turkic interpretations of the aforementioned sentence do not match the Chinese translation as precisely as using Yeniseian grammar.

Mongolic theories



Some scholars, including Paul Pelliot
Paul Pelliot
Paul Pelliot was a French sinologist and explorer of Central Asia. Initially intending to enter the foreign service, Pelliot took up the study of Chinese and became a pupil of Sylvain Lévi and Édouard Chavannes....

 and Byambyn Rinchen
Byambyn Rinchen
Yünsiyebü Byambyn Rinchen was one of the founders of modern Mongolian literature, a translator of literature and a scientist in various areas of Mongolian studies, especially linguistics.- Descent :Like Dashdorjiin Natsagdorj, he was a direct descendant of Genghis Khan on both his...

, insisted on a Mongolic origin. B.Rinchen and G.Sukhbaatar first used the term: "Hunnu" instead of the Chinese corruption Xiongnu. Now, Hunnu or Hun (means "person" in Mongolian) empire are more commonly used in Mongolia
Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

. The Mongolian government
President of Mongolia
The President of Mongolia is the head of state of Mongolia. The Constitution of Mongolia implements a parliamentary system, so while much of the President's role is ceremonial, he or she does wield significant political power.-Election:...

 will celebrate the 2220th anniversary of the Foundation of Mongolia's Statehood—the Hun Empire in 2011.

Theories on multi-ethnicity


Albert Terrien de Lacouperie considered them to be multi-component groups. Many scholars believe the Xiongnu confederation was a mixture of different ethno-linguistic groups, and that their main language (as represented in the Chinese sources) and its relationships, have not yet been satisfactorily determined.

Language Isolate theory


The Turkologist Gerhard Doerfer has denied any possibility of a relationship between the Xiongnu language and any other known language and rejected in the strongest terms any connection with Turkish or Mongolian.

Archaeology and genetics


In the 1920s, Pyotr Kozlov
Pyotr Kozlov
Pyotr Kuzmich Kozlov was a Russian and Soviet traveler and explorer who continued the studies of Nikolai Przhevalsky in Mongolia and Tibet.Although prepared by his parents for military career, Kozlov chose to join Przhevalsky's expedition. After his mentor's death, Kozlov continued travelling in...

's excavations of the royal tombs at Noin-Ula in northern Mongolia
Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

 that date to around the 1st century CE, provided a glimpse into the lost world of the Xiongnu. Other archaeological sites have been unearthed in Inner Mongolia
Inner Mongolia
Inner Mongolia is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China, located in the northern region of the country. Inner Mongolia shares an international border with the countries of Mongolia and the Russian Federation...

 and elsewhere; they represent the Neolithic and historical periods of the Xiongnu's history. Those included the Ordos culture
Ordos culture
The Ordos culture comprises the period from Upper Paleolithic to the late Bronze age at the Ordos Desert, in the south of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China...

, many of them had been identified as the Xiongnu cultures. The region was occupied predominantly by peoples showing Mongoloid features, known from their skeletal remains and artifacts. Portraits found in the Noin-Ula excavations demonstrate other cultural evidences and influences, showing that Chinese and Xiongnu art have influenced each other mutually. Some of these embroidered portraits in the Noin-Ula kurgans also depict the Xiongnu with long braided hair with wide ribbons, which are seen to be identical with the Turkic
Turkic peoples
The Turkic peoples are peoples residing in northern, central and western Asia, southern Siberia and northwestern China and parts of eastern Europe. They speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits and historical backgrounds...

 Ashina
Ashina
Ashina was a tribe and the ruling dynasty of the ancient Turks who rose to prominence in the mid-6th century when their leader, Bumin Khan, revolted against the Rouran...

 clan hair-style.

Geographic location & Xiongnu genetics



The original geographic location of Xiongnu is generally placed at the Ordos
Ordos Desert
The Ordos Desert is a desert and steppe region lying on a plateau in the south of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China . The soil of the Ordos is a mixture of clay and sand and, as a result, is poorly suited for agriculture. It extends over an area of...

. A study based on mitochondrial DNA analysis of human remains interred in the Egyin Gol
Egiin Gol
The Eg River is a river in the Khövsgöl and Bulgan aimags in northern Mongolia. It is the only outflow of Lake Khövsgöl and a tributary of the Selenge river. Wooden bridges exist near Khatgal and in Tünel sum, and a concrete bridge has been built in Erdenebulgan...

 Valley of Mongolia concluded that the Turkic peoples
Turkic peoples
The Turkic peoples are peoples residing in northern, central and western Asia, southern Siberia and northwestern China and parts of eastern Europe. They speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits and historical backgrounds...

 originated from the same area and therefore are possibly related.

A majority (89%) of the Xiongnu mtDNA sequences can be classified as belonging to Asian
Asian people
Asian people or Asiatic people is a term with multiple meanings that refers to people who descend from a portion of Asia's population.- Central Asia :...

 haplogroup
Haplogroup
In the study of molecular evolution, a haplogroup is a group of similar haplotypes that share a common ancestor having the same single nucleotide polymorphism mutation in both haplotypes. Because a haplogroup consists of similar haplotypes, this is what makes it possible to predict a haplogroup...

s, and nearly 11% belong to Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an haplogroup
Haplogroup
In the study of molecular evolution, a haplogroup is a group of similar haplotypes that share a common ancestor having the same single nucleotide polymorphism mutation in both haplotypes. Because a haplogroup consists of similar haplotypes, this is what makes it possible to predict a haplogroup...

s. This finding indicates that the contacts between European and Asian populations were anterior to the Xiongnu culture, and it confirms results reported for two samples from an early 3rd century BC. Scytho-Siberian population (Clisson et al. 2002).

Another study from 2004 screened ancient samples from the Egyin Gol necropolis for the Y-DNA Tat marker. The Egyin Gol necropolis, located in northern Mongolia in the region of Lake Baikal, is ~2300 years old and belongs to the Xiongnu culture. This Tat-polymorphism is a biallelic marker – that defines the N1c (N3-Tat) Y-DNA haplogroup – what has so far been observed only in populations from Asia and northern Europe. It reaches its highest frequency in Yakuts
Yakuts
Yakuts , are a Turkic people associated with the Sakha Republic.The Yakut or Sakha language belongs to the Northern branch of the Turkic family of languages....

 and northern Uralic peoples, with significant parts also in Buryats
Buryats
The Buryats or Buriyads , numbering approximately 436,000, are the largest ethnic minority group in Siberia and are mainly concentrated in their homeland, the Buryat Republic, a federal subject of Russia...

 and northeastern Siberian populations. Opinions differ about whether the geographic origin of the T-C mutation lies in Asia or northern Eurasia. Zerjal et al. suggested that this mutation first arose in the populations of Central Asia; they proposed Mongolia as a candidate location for the origin of the T-C polymorphism. In contrast, for Lahermo et al. the wide distribution of the mutation in north Eurasian populations suggests that it arose in northern Eurasia. According to them, the estimated time of the C mutation is ~2400–4440 years ago. (According to some more recent researches of the Y-DNA Hg N the presence of N1c and N1b in modern Siberian and other Eurasian populations is considered to reflect an ancient substratum, probably speaking Uralic languages
Uralic languages
The Uralic languages constitute a language family of some three dozen languages spoken by approximately 25 million people. The healthiest Uralic languages in terms of the number of native speakers are Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian, Mari and Udmurt...

. Haplogroup N
Haplogroup N (Y-DNA)
In human genetics, Haplogroup N is a Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup, defined by the presence of the marker M231. The b2/b3 deletion in the AZFc region of the human Y-chromosome is a characteristic of Haplogroup N haplotypes. This deletion, however, appears to have occurred independently on four...

). Concerning the Xiongnu people, two of them from the oldest section harboured the mutation, confirming that the Tat polymorphism already existed in Mongolia 2300 years ago. The next archaeogenetical occurrence of this N-Tat ancient DNA was found in Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 among the so-called Homeconqueror Hungarians. Also three Yakuts' aDNA from the 15th century, and of two from the late 18th century were this haplogroup. Additionally two mtDNA sequence matches revealed in this work suggest that the Xiongnu tribe under study may have been composed of some of the ancestors of the present-day Yakut population.

Another study of 2006 aimed at the contacts between Siberian and steppe peoples with the analysis of a Siberian grave of Pokrovsk recently discovered near the Lena River and dated from 2,400 to 2,200 years B.P., and proved the existence of previous contacts between autochthonous hunters of Siberia and the nomadic horse breeders from the Altai-Baikal area (Mongolia and Buryatia). Indeed, the stone arrowhead and the harpoons relate this Pokrovsk man to the traditional hunters of the Taiga. Some artifacts made of horse bone and the pieces of armor, however, are related to the tribes of Mongolia and Buryatia of the Xiongnu period (3rd century BC). This affinity has been confirmed by the match of the mitochondrial haplotype of this subject with a woman of the Egyin Gol necropolis (2nd/3rd century AD). This haplotype was attributed to the mtDNA D haplogroup.
The paternal lineage of the Pokrovsk subject seems to differ from the lineages found in the modern local population.
The mtDNA sequence was compared with databases and the haplotype matched two Buryats
Buryats
The Buryats or Buriyads , numbering approximately 436,000, are the largest ethnic minority group in Siberia and are mainly concentrated in their homeland, the Buryat Republic, a federal subject of Russia...

 from the Baikal area, two West Siberian Khanty
Khanty people
Khanty / Hanti are an indigenous people calling themselves Khanti, Khande, Kantek , living in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug, a region historically known as "Yugra" in Russia, together with the Mansi. In the autonomous okrug, the Khanty and Mansi languages are given co-official status with Russian...

s, two Mansis, one Evenk
Evenks
The Evenks are a Tungusic people of Northern Asia. In Russia, the Evenks are recognized as one of the Indigenous peoples of the Russian North, with a population of 35,527...

, one older and two modern Yakuts
Yakuts
Yakuts , are a Turkic people associated with the Sakha Republic.The Yakut or Sakha language belongs to the Northern branch of the Turkic family of languages....

, and one female from the Egyin Gol necropolis. This mitochondrial haplotype is not found in Koryaks
Koryaks
Koryaks are an indigenous people of Kamchatka Krai in the Russian Far East, who inhabit the coastlands of the Bering Sea to the south of the Anadyr basin and the country to the immediate north of the Kamchatka Peninsula, the southernmost limit of their range being Tigilsk. They are akin to the...

, Chukchi
Chukchi people
The Chukchi, or Chukchee , ) are an indigenous people inhabiting the Chukchi Peninsula and the shores of the Chukchi Sea and the Bering Sea region of the Arctic Ocean within the Russian Federation. They speak the Chukchi language...

, Itelmen, or Yukaghirs, sometimes considered "Paleo-Asiatic" ethnic groups, or in Central Asian populations.
The similarity of the mitochondrial haplotype of the Pokrovsk subject with Buryats and a skeleton from the Egyin Gol necropolis, located 2,000 km to the south, confirms the occurrence of ancient contacts between the Altai-Baikal region and Oriental Siberia before the end of the Xiong Nu period (3rd century BC to 2nd century AD). Some female ancestors of this Pokrovsk hunter may originate from the First Empire of the Steppes, well known for its military expansion to the south (China) and to the west. However, the man of the Pokrovsk grave shows that these nomadic people may have also tried to explore the north by diffusion along the rivers.
The match of the sequence with two Mansis from the Ural Mountains
Ural Mountains
The Ural Mountains , or simply the Urals, are a mountain range that runs approximately from north to south through western Russia, from the coast of the Arctic Ocean to the Ural River and northwestern Kazakhstan. Their eastern side is usually considered the natural boundary between Europe and Asia...

 and two western Siberia
Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

n Khantys could be related to an extensive gene flow along the Ienissei River
Yenisei River
Yenisei , also written as Yenisey, is the largest river system flowing to the Arctic Ocean. It is the central of the three great Siberian rivers that flow into the Arctic Ocean...

 (Starikovskaya et al. 2005). Considering the important frequency of Asian haplogroups present in the Mansi (Derbeneva et al. 2002), this similarity may stem from the wide expansion of the nomadic tribes from the southern steppe to the Ural Mountains. Thus the gene flow seems to have affected autochthonous populations from Oriental and Occidental Siberia during the Xiong Nu period since the 3rd century BC. The analysis of the Pokrovsk grave corroborates the great influence of the Xiongnu Empire over the Siberian populations and early admixture between populations from the southern steppe and Central Siberia aboriginals.

Another 2006 study observed genetic similarity among Mongolian
Mongols
Mongols ) are a Central-East Asian ethnic group that lives mainly in the countries of Mongolia, China, and Russia. In China, ethnic Mongols can be found mainly in the central north region of China such as Inner Mongolia...

 samples from different periods and geographic areas including 2,300-year-old Xiongnu population of the Egyin Gol Valley. This results supports the hypothesis that the succession over time of different Turkic
Turkic peoples
The Turkic peoples are peoples residing in northern, central and western Asia, southern Siberia and northwestern China and parts of eastern Europe. They speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits and historical backgrounds...

 and Mongolian
Mongols
Mongols ) are a Central-East Asian ethnic group that lives mainly in the countries of Mongolia, China, and Russia. In China, ethnic Mongols can be found mainly in the central north region of China such as Inner Mongolia...

 tribes in the current territory of Mongolia resulted in cultural rather than genetic
Genetics
Genetics , a discipline of biology, is the science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms....

 exchanges. Furthermore, it appears that the Yakuts
Yakuts
Yakuts , are a Turkic people associated with the Sakha Republic.The Yakut or Sakha language belongs to the Northern branch of the Turkic family of languages....

 probably did not find their origin among the Xiongnu tribes as previously hypothesised.

A research study of 2006 focused on Y-DNAs of the Egyin Gol site, and besides the confirmation of the above mentioned two N3-Tats, it also identified a Q haplogroup
Haplogroup Q (Y-DNA)
In human genetics, Haplogroup Q is a Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup.-Origins:Haplogroup Q is one of the two branches of haplogroup P . Haplogroup Q is believed to have arisen in Central Asia approximately 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. It has had multiple origins proposed...

 from the middle period and a C haplogroup
Haplogroup C (Y-DNA)
In human genetics, Haplogroup C is a Y-chromosome haplogroup, defined by UEPs M130/RPS4Y711, M216, P184, P255, and P260, which are all SNP mutations. It is a sibling clade of Haplogroup F, within the more ancient grouping of Haplogroup CF...

 from the later (2nd century AD). The Q is one of the haplogroups of the indigenous peoples of the Americas (though this is not this subclade), and a minor in Siberia and Central Asia. Only two groups in the Old World are high majority Q groups. These are the Samoyedic
Samoyedic peoples
The term Samoyedic peoples is used to describe peoples speaking Samoyedic languages, which are part of the Uralic family. They are a linguistic grouping, not an ethnic or cultural one. The name derives from the obsolete term Samoyed used in Russia for some indigenous peoples of Siberia...

 Selkups and the Yeniseian Kets. They live in western and middle Siberia, together with the Ugric Khanty
Khanty people
Khanty / Hanti are an indigenous people calling themselves Khanti, Khande, Kantek , living in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug, a region historically known as "Yugra" in Russia, together with the Mansi. In the autonomous okrug, the Khanty and Mansi languages are given co-official status with Russian...

s. The Kets originally lived in southern Siberia. The Uralic-Samoyedics were an old people of the Sayan-Baikal region, migrated northwest around the 1st/2nd century AD. According to the Uralistic literature the swift migration and disjunction of the Samoyedic peoples might be connected to a heavy warring in the region, probably due to the dissolution of the Xiongnu Empire in the period of the Battle of Ikh Bayan
Battle of Ikh Bayan
The Battle of Ikh Bayan , was a major expedition launched against the Xiongnu by the Han Dynasty in June, 89. The battle was a success for the Han under Dou Xian The Battle of Ikh Bayan , was a major expedition launched against the Xiongnu by the Han Dynasty in June, 89. The battle was a success...

.
The mutation defining this haplogroup C, is restrained in North and Eastern-Asia and in America (Bergen et al. 1998. 1999.) (Lell et al. 2002.). The highest frequencies of Haplogroup C3 are found among the populations of Mongolia and the Russian Far East, where it is generally the modal haplogroup. Haplogroup C3 is the only variety of Haplogroup C to be found among Native Americans, among whom it reaches its highest frequency in Na-Dené populations.

A research project of 2007 (Yi Chuan, 2007) was aimed at the genetic affinities between Tuoba
Tuoba
Tuoba, or Tabgach, were a clan of Xianbei people of ancient China.-Xianbei Tuoba:Tuoba was a clan of the Xianbei people in the early centuries of the 1st millennium AD. They established the State of Dai from 310 to 376 AD, and the Northern Wei Dynasty from 386 to 536 AD...

 Xianbei
Xianbei
The Xianbei were a significant Mongolic nomadic people residing in Manchuria, Inner Mongolia and eastern Mongolia. The title “Khan” was first used among the Xianbei.-Origins:...

 and Xiongnu populations. Some mtDNA sequences from Tuoba Xianbei remains in Dong Han period were analyzed. Comparing with the published data of Xiongnu, the results indicated that the Tuoba Xianbei presented some close affinities to the Xiongnu, which implied that there was a gene flow between Tuoba Xianbei and Xiongnu during the 2 southward migrations.

A recent examination in a Xiongnu cemetery in Duurlig Nars revealed a Western Eurasian male with maternal U2e1 and paternal R1a1 haplogroup
Haplogroup R1a (Y-DNA)
Haplogroup R1a is the phylogenetic name of a major clade of Human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroups. In other words, it is a way of grouping a significant part of all modern men according to a shared male-line ancestor. It is common in many parts of Eurasia and is frequently discussed in human...

s and two other DNAs: a female with mtDNA haplogroup D4 and a male with Y-haplogroup C3 and mtDNA haplogroup D4.

A study of 2010 analysed six human remains of a nomadic group, excavated from Pengyang, Northern China. From the mtDNA, six haplotypes were identified as three haplogroups: C, D4 and M10. The analyses revealed that these individuals were closely associated with the ancient Xiongnu and modern northern Asians. The analysis of Y chromosomes from four male samples that were typed as haplogroup Q indicated that these people had originated in Siberia.

Rock Art and Writing


The rock art of the Yinshan and Helanshan is dated from the 9th millennium BC
9th millennium BC
The 9th millennium BC marks the beginning of the Neolithic period.Agriculture spread throughout the Fertile Crescent and use of pottery became more widespread. Larger settlements like Jericho arose along salt and flint trade routes. Northern Eurasia was resettled as the glaciers of the last glacial...

 to 19th century. It consists mainly of engraved signs (petroglyphs) and only minimally of painted images.

Excavations conducted between 1924–1925, in Noin-Ula kurgans located in Selenga
Selenga
The Selenge is a major river in Mongolia and Buryatia, Russia. Its source rivers are the Ider River and the Delgermörön river. It flows into Lake Baikal and has a length of 616 miles...

 River in the northern Mongolia
Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

n hills north of Ulan Bator, produced objects with over twenty carved characters, which were either identical or very similar to that of to the runic letters of the Turkic
Turkic languages
The Turkic languages constitute a language family of at least thirty five languages, spoken by Turkic peoples across a vast area from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean to Siberia and Western China, and are considered to be part of the proposed Altaic language family.Turkic languages are spoken...

 Orkhon script
Orkhon script
The Old Turkic script is the alphabet used by the Göktürk and other early Turkic Khanates from at least the 7th century to record the Old Turkic language. It was later used by the Uyghur Empire...

 discovered in the Orkhon Valley
Orkhon Valley
Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape sprawls along the banks of the Orkhon River in Central Mongolia, some 360 km west from the capital Ulaanbaatar. It was inscribed by UNESCO in the World Heritage List as representing evolution of nomadic pastoral traditions spanning more than two millennia...

. From this a some scholars hold that the Xiongnu had a script similar to Eurasian runiform and this alphabet itself served as the basis for the ancient Turkic writing.

See also

  • Historic states represented in Turkish presidential seal
    Historic states represented in Turkish presidential seal
    16 Great Turkish Empires is a historical discourse that was created in 1969 to explain the meaning of 16 stars of the presidential seal of Turkey. And it was inaugurated in 1985 with the presidential seal today...

  • Ethnic groups in Chinese history
    Ethnic groups in Chinese history
    Ethnic groups in Chinese history refer to various or presumed ethnicities of significance to the history of China, gathered through the study of Classical Chinese literature, Chinese and non-Chinese literary sources and inscriptions, historical linguistics, and archaeological research.Among the...

  • Nomadic empire
    Nomadic empire
    Nomadic empires, sometimes also called Steppe Empires, Central or Inner Asian Empires, are the empires erected by the bow-wielding, horse-riding, nomadic peoples in the Eurasian steppe, from Classical Antiquity to the Early Modern era .The nomadic or semi-nomadic Cimmerians, Avars, Magyars,...

  • Huns
    Huns
    The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...


Primary sources

  • Ban Gu
    Ban Gu
    Ban Gu , courtesy name Mengjian , was a 1st century Chinese historian and poet best known for his part in compiling the Book of Han. He also wrote in the main poetic genre of the Han era, a kind of poetry interspersed with prose called fu. Some are anthologized by Xiao Tong in his Selections of...

     et al., Book of Han
    Book of Han
    The Book of Han, Hanshu or History of the Former Han Dynasty |Fan Ye]] . Various scholars have estimated that the earliest material covered in the book dates back to between 206 and 202 BCE...

    , esp. vol. 94, part 1, part 2.
  • Fan Ye
    Fan Ye (historian)
    Fan Ye , courtesy name Weizong , was a Chinese historian and the compiler of Book of Later Han of Liu Song. Fan came from an official family background, he was born in present-day Shaoxing, Zhejiang, his ancestry was from Nanyang, Henan. His father was Fan Tai .-References:*Tan, Jiajian, ....

     et al.,
    Book of Later Han
    Book of Later Han
    The Book of the Later Han or the History of the Later Han is one of the official Chinese historical works which was compiled by Fan Ye in the 5th century, using a number of earlier histories and documents as sources...

    , esp. vol. 89.
  • Sima Qian
    Sima Qian
    Sima Qian was a Prefect of the Grand Scribes of the Han Dynasty. He is regarded as the father of Chinese historiography for his highly praised work, Records of the Grand Historian , a "Jizhuanti"-style general history of China, covering more than two thousand years from the Yellow Emperor to...

     et al.,
    Records of the Grand Historian
    Records of the Grand Historian
    The Records of the Grand Historian, also known in English by the Chinese name Shiji , written from 109 BC to 91 BC, was the Magnum opus of Sima Qian, in which he recounted Chinese history from the time of the Yellow Emperor until his own time...

    , esp. vol. 110.

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Further reading

Потапов, Л. П. 1966. Этнионим Теле и Алтайцы. Тюркологический сборник, 1966: 233-240. Мoscow: Nauka. (Potapov L.P., The ethnonym "Tele" and the Altaians. Turcologica 1966: 233-240).

External links