Who were the Xiongnu

The Hsiung-nu established two dynasties (centers of power) in their steppe empire. These were only short-term, but important for the later history of China. The first was called the Early Zhou Dynasty (Dschou) and existed from 304 BC. BC to 34 AD. The second was called the Late Zhou Dynasty and existed from 52 to 329 AD. Both dynasties were still organized nomadically and were closely related to China at the time. Among the united tribes there is said to have been a tribe called Aschina ("Aschina" - name of a leading clan of steppe nomads at the time) or Turk (Turküt). They were known to the Chinese as armourers. Later, a tribal federation, called Xianbei, emerged from the Turk (Türküt) tribe in the same area of ​​rulership, who ruled together with the Donghu (East Hu) who had immigrated from the Mongolian-Manchurian border area. They are first described in Chinese chronicles in the 5th century AD. The Xianbei are from the Turkish To'pa dynasty of the Tabgatsch (Tuoba - Tang Dynasty), which had also conquered parts of the tribes of the southern Hu. These southern Hu are now seen as a Turkish tribe. The To'pa dynasty ruled what later became known as the Sinkiang (Xingjiang) region.

Hsiung-nu is also a Chinese name for the tribal association with equestrian nomads, which existed between the 3rd century BC. BC and the 4th century AD controlled large parts of Central Asia with their bow riders. They founded the first steppe empire in history, a kind of countermeasure to China's policy of conquest with their chariot and foot troops. They ruled in the area of ​​today's Outer Mongolia, in the western Gool Mod region (river in the Mongolian Altai) and the Noyon Uul (Noin Ula - due to Kurgan finds also on the Selenga River) to the north. Their main rivals alongside the Chinese were nomadic tribes such as the Yüe-chi (can be classified as Scythian). They were an Indo-European or Indo-European group who settled in the area of ​​today's Chinese province of Gansu up to the Tarim basin and were considered mercenaries of the Chinese and are possibly identical with the Tocharians. (These also belong to the Indo-European language family). After defeats against the Chinese and neighboring tribes, the Hsiung-nu were split up and partly pushed westward. They are first mentioned in Chinese sources in 230 BC. Mentioned, even if it can be assumed that they were already known to the Chinese earlier. In particular, they may have had an impact on the Chinese warfare that developed during the Warring States Period. The mobility of these cavalry troops led to the construction of the first great wall (connected defenses) under Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi (Prince Zhao Zheng), the founder of the Qin dynasty (221-207 BC).

The Turkish and Mongolian peoples see these tribes as their immediate ancestors. In Europe, the term Huns was considered to be their ancestor. In recent research, however, the Huns and Hsiung-nu are no longer equated - which is also justified by the fact that the early nomadic peoples were tribal federations made up of different ethnic and cultural groups and, depending on the situation, organized into rudimentary states , separated and reorganized. According to current knowledge, there is much to suggest that the Hsiung-nu and Huns come from what is now Mongolia and the neighboring Altai and Sajan Mountains. But to this day it is unclear whether the peoples called the Huns by the Europeans were an “extended arm” of these tribes.
  • The Chinese name Hsiung-nu (Xiongnu) is usually only used for the state of Mao-tuns and denotes the groups in the east, which are probably more strongly influenced by Old Turkish-Mongolian (eye shape, etc.).
  • The term Huns rather denotes the groups of the Hsiung-nu who were pushed to the west and were more strongly mixed with Indo-European groups. The term appears mainly in connection with Attila in Europe.

Like the Huns, the Hsiung-nu emerged from a merger of different Altai and Sajan peoples. Over several centuries they mingled with several Indo-European groups (Saks "Scythians", Sarmatians, Alans) on the one hand and Mongolian groups from the taiga and displaced cattle breeders from the Chinese fringes on the other. The Chieh, one of the 19 tribes of the Hsing-nu Confederation, for example, became known for their long noses and full beards (349 BC).

In the 8th century BC In the Altai BC, horse harnesses and the lack of settlements are already recorded. These "barbarians" were known to the Chinese under the collective names used one after the other - Jung, Ti and Hui or Hiu-yun. For example, the Ti are described as fighting on foot in two campaigns (714 and 541 BC). The Hsiung-nu - according to current tradition a "branch" of the tribes listed above - were predominantly to be regarded as equestrian nomads. But some of them, like those in Transbaikalia (Lake Baikal region), are described as sedentary. The legendary tribal father of the Hsiung-nu, the Turk and the Huns is considered to be Chungvi Khan, who was first born in 1800 BC. Is mentioned. In 1766 BC They are mentioned in the writings of the Chinese Xia dynasty, including that Kia - the 17th member of this dynasty - was ousted. According to the record, Kia's son Sunni founded an independent tribe, called Hui, with 500 tribesmen. Sunni thus perhaps founded the important Tuyku clan, to which all rulers of the Hsing-nu and Huns later refer. This was also closely related to the Aschina-Chuni clan, and all the rulers of the Gök Turks can be traced back to them.

In the 3rd century BC The Hsiung-nu founded a first great empire under Tu-men and his son Mao-tun (209th to 174th BC) and threatened the Han Chinese. Elements of an early state are introduced. Uniform laws and penalties applied in certain areas. Mao-tun also introduced a military following (Ordu) that could be deployed quickly, and a strong, multi-tiered central administration was established, which was developed under Mao-tun's son Ki-ok (Laosheng, ruled 174-161 BC) were. The latter also introduced some form of state levy (taxes). The rulers came from the Suylyanti clan, a sub-clan of the Tuyku, and founded the old Turkish traditions that all subsequent steppe peoples took over for their "nomadic empires".

In the period from 350 to 290 BC Fortifications emerged on the northern borders with the Chinese partial empires, forerunners of the Great Wall (15th / 16th century AD under the Ming dynasty). The Zhou king Wu-ling (325–298 BC), for example, let his troops practice horse riding and archery and also took on the clothing of his enemies. In the 26th year of his reign, he destroyed the forest hsiung-nu (sedentary nomads). For 318.v. A historical document is handed down for the first time in BC: A signed border treaty between the Chinese and Hsiung-nu. There are detailed descriptions of the Hsiung-nu in the writings of the first great Chinese historian Sima Qian († 85 BC).

Under Ki-ok's government, the Hsiung-nu threatened in 166 BC. Chr. China's capital Chan. Around 160 BC They attacked their arch enemies, the Yüe-chi, and finally defeated them. Ki-ok was killed in this campaign. With the expulsion of the Yüe-chi from what is now the Chinese province of Gansu, they triggered a great migration of peoples. The Yüe-chi, for their part, settled in Bactria, where the Saks who were carried away (part of the Scythians) also stayed. Their emigration had the consequence that the last Greek kingdom in Bactria (that of Heliocles) was destroyed and the Sakas subsequently conquered parts of northern India. From now on the Hsiung-nu exercised the undisputed power in Mongolia and probably also in all of East Turkestan. The whole area became more conscious of the Chinese than before.

  • Turkestan - Land of the Turks - is a dry mountain region in Central Asia and stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to the Gobi Desert in the east: It was originally settled by Iranian peoples and called Turan ("Turanian Depression" or "Turanian Lowlands") known. In the period between the 13th and 16th centuries, the region was ruled by Mongols and was known in Europe as the “Great Tatarstan”.

    Today, the term “Turkestan” is often equated with the term “home of the Turks” (ie with the ancestral land of the “Turkic peoples”). Historically, this equation is wrong, as the real "original home" of the Turkic peoples was further to the east, namely in what is now Mongolia. Today, different ethnic groups live in the area of ​​Turkestan, of which the Turkic speakers now form the majority: Turkmen, Uyghurs, Uzbeks, Karakalpaks, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Tatars, Azerbaijanis, Karaim, Crimean Turks, Turk-Meshet and Turks in addition to the long-established Iranian peoples of the Tajiks, Persians and Afghans.

After repeated clashes, Han China defeated the Hsiung-nu under Emperor Wu-ti and pushed them back to their original home country: 119 BC. They suffered under Mao-tun's grandson Yizhixie (126–114 BC) a heavy defeat at the later Urga (Örgöö, today Ulaanbaatar) in Mongolia, since the Chanyu (leader, prince) gave the Chinese a safe crossing under the general Huo Qubing that Gobi hadn't thought of. However, Chinese horse breeding perished in this war, so that the Hsiung-nu remained in control of the steppe (they achieved another success in 105 BC). In these disputes, control of the Silk Road also became an important economic factor for the Hsiung-nu, so that the Chinese also wanted to establish themselves there, the latter under General Pan Chao of the Eastern Han Dynasty.

Around 60 BC The rule of the Hsiung-nu disintegrated into 5 hordes through a series of fratricidal struggles promoted by China. A temporary agreement was reached again under Hu-han-ye (58–31 BC). He went to the court of the Han emperor, submitted and thus triumphed over his rivals. With Chinese help he consolidated his power in Mongolia (51 BC). However, a horde under the leader Chih-chih (Chih-Chih-Huns) remained independent and moved westward. They settled in the neighborhood of the Alans on the Tschüi (Tschu River in northern Kyrgyzstan and southern Kazakhstan), where Chih-chih 35 BC. Was surprised and killed by the Chinese.

The (eastern) Hsiung-nu empire was renewed under Hu-han-yeh's son Hudur-shi-dagao, who supported the late Han against Wang Mang. After this brief recovery, the empire broke into two parts. Hudur's son, Pu-nu, was not recognized as a Chanyu (leader) by all the Hsiung-nu tribes. Eight tribes under their leader Khukhenye (also known as Pi) rebelled against Pu-nu (who ruled) and submitted to the Emperor of China. They were resettled in the Ordos region (Inner Mongolia). In the war between the two cousins, the remaining (i.e. not moving west) Hsiung-gnu split into a northern and a southern part. The southern conquered Luoyang (city in Henan Province) and established a dynasty there, the Early Zhou Dynasty. In their course, other small dynasties (principalities) emerged. At that time, the greatest enemies were no longer the Chinese but the Xianbei (a horde from the Mongolian-Manchurian border region) and another power from the north, whose ethnic composition remains unknown. The Han incited the neighboring tribes (South Hsiung-nu, Sien-pi, Xianbei, Wuhuan, Wusun and Dingling) on ​​the northern Hsiung-nu and won. The Han Chinese general Ban Chao (Han Dynasty) conquered Central Asia during the reign of Emperor Ming of Han (Liu Yang). The Chinese worked more and more together with the Xianbei.

  • Sien-pi: The Imperial House of the Earlier Yan was originally a chieftain's family of the Sien-pi people during the Western Jin Dynasty.
  • Wuhuan: You were a nomadic people who lived in northern China (present-day Hebei, Liaoning, Shanxi, Beijing District and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region).
  • Wusun: These were a people of nomadic shepherds without cities and without agriculture. Their habitat is located southeast of Lake Balkhash along the river basin of the Ili River. According to legend, Liejiaomi founded a kingdom of the Wusun.
  • Dingling: You originally lived on the upper reaches of the Lena River, west of Lake Baikal. In the third century BC, they began to expand westward. They were part of the realm of the Xiongnu (Hsiung-Nu).

In AD 87, the Xianbei killed the Chanyu Yu-liu. In the years 89 and 91 AD, two Chinese generals won great victories on the Chi-la Mountains (Kashgar - Tashkurgan - Sinkiang) and the Altai. They drove the defeated Chanyu to the Ili and installed his brother Youzhujian, who was defeated and killed by the Xianbei as early as 03 AD. This began the supremacy of the Xianbei in the steppe. The rule of the Hsiung-nu in Mongolia came to an end around AD 155. The rule of the Xianbei ushered in a power vacuum in Mongolia for about 250 years.
When Tan-shi-huai (approx. 156–181 AD) led the Xianbei to their peak of power, according to Chinese chronicles, the North Hsiung-nu gave up East Turkestan around 158 AD and settled north of Kangiu (ie northeast of the Aral Sea). From 166 AD Tan-shi-huai moved up and reached the Ili.

  • An assumption expressed by historians that the European and Asian Huns, Attilas Huns, Chionites, and Hepthalites emerged from the westward moving groups of the Hsiung-nu, is still not verifiable according to the state of the art - the Attilean Huns were probably a conglomerate of different peoples.

The South Hsiung-nu, until then held in a kind of captivity at the Great Wall (specifically in Shanxi), always invaded under Hu-chu-ch'üan (195–216 AD) as allies of the declining Han dynasty further south forward. Another tribal confederation, the largely Turkish Tabgatsch (Tuoba), came to power in the north of Shanxi around AD 260. Under Liu Cong, the Attila of China (died 318 AD), the southern Hsiung-nu conquered the capital cities of Jin China again, but were destroyed by the advancing Mujung-Xianbei under their Khagan Tsun as early as 352 AD. The Hsiung-nu had changed significantly over time. On their long trains they had mixed with other - mostly Indo-European - peoples and were now beginning to adopt their culture. They began to build strong cities and conduct brisk trade. Among other things, the Hsiung-nu founded the places Ordu Balyk and the more northerly Kara Balagasum, the old Kuz Ordu; but also cities on the Silk Road such as Kara Hotscho, Kaschgar and Jarkand were founded by them.

In the course of excavations in Gool Mod, the former army and main camp of the Hunni Hsing-nu, it was found, among other things, that they had an advanced culture and were not the "cultured people" as it was portrayed by the Chinese. Fine goldsmiths' work and Chinese snake ornaments were found, which replaced the dragon and animal symbolism of the steppe peoples and showed the relationship with China. Archaeological finds point to a from around 200 BC. BC in a wide area from Transbaikalia (Lake Baikal region) to Inner Mongolia, which replaced the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age plate grave culture. As bone finds show, the population had both europid and mongolid elements. Important sites are the settlement of Ivolginskoje Gorodishche on the Selenga and Noin Ula in Mongolia. The finds show relationships with China as well as with the upper reaches of the Yenisei, with the Tes plains and with the Tashyk culture. The pottery was already made on the potter's wheel and is quite uniform in the wide area of ​​distribution. There are tall, slender vessels with a narrow neck, conical bowls and deep bowls with a vertical top and an extended, wide rim. The ceramic has smooth stripes, incised ribbons and various stripe patterns as ornamentation. They had advanced armament, especially composite bows and iron scale armor. In addition to weapons, various utensils, tools, horse harness and costume jewelry were made of iron. The latter include belt buckles, belt plates with figurative representations and strap tongues. They were by no means predominantly nomads. In Baikal in particular, numerous proto-urban settlements, very often fortified by ramparts, are known. Pit houses (Polusemljanki) and ground-level post structures have been found in them.The economy consisted of both cattle breeding, especially the keeping of dogs, sheep, goats, cattle and pigs, as well as arable farming.
The last finds that can be assigned to the Hsiung-nu date from around 100 AD. Until the 5th century AD, the northern area remains largely empty, in Inner and Outer Mongolia finds can then be found Xianbei, which has clear connections to the Hsiung-nu culture.