42 Facts About Xiongnu


Xiongnu were a tribal confederation of nomadic peoples who, according to ancient Chinese sources, inhabited the eastern Eurasian Steppe from the 3rd century BC to the late 1st century AD.

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The Xiongnu were active in areas now part of Siberia, Inner Mongolia, Gansu and Xinjiang.

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Ultimately, the Xiongnu were defeated by the Han dynasty in a centuries-long conflict, which led to the confederation splitting in two, and forcible resettlement of large numbers of Xiongnu within Han borders.

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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.

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Sometimes the Xiongnu were distinguished from other nomadic peoples; namely, the Hu people; yet on other occasions, Chinese sources often just classified the Xiongnu as a Hu people, which was a blanket term for nomadic people.

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Pronunciation of ?? as Xiongnu is the modern Mandarin Chinese pronunciation, from the Mandarin dialect spoken now in Beijing, which came into existence less than 1000 years ago.

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The Zhao–Xiongnu War is a notable example of these campaigns.

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Pulleyblank argued that the Xiongnu were part of a Xirong group called Yiqu, who had lived in Shaanbei and had been influenced by China for centuries, before they were driven out by the Qin dynasty.

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Meng Tian defeated the Xiongnu and expelled them from the Ordos loop, forcing Touman and the Xiongnu to flee north into the Mongolian Plateau.

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Under Modu's leadership, the Xiongnu became so strong that they began to threaten the Han dynasty.

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Gaozu after agreed to all Modu's terms, such as ceding the northern provinces to the Xiongnu and paying annual taxes, he was allowed to leave the siege.

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The Han Chinese diplomat Su Wu married a Xiongnu woman given by Li Ling when he was arrested and taken captive.

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In 121 BC, the Xiongnu suffered another setback when Huo Qubing led a force of light cavalry westward out of Longxi and within six days fought his way through five Xiongnu kingdoms.

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Secondly, the weather in the northern Xiongnu lands was difficult for Han soldiers, who could never carry enough fuel.

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The Xiongnu took the opportunity to regain control of the western regions, as well as neighboring peoples such as the Wuhuan.

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The Northern Xiongnu suffered two major defeats: one at the hands of the Xianbei in 85 AD, and by the Han during the Battle of Ikh Bayan, in 89 AD.

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Coincidentally, the Southern Xiongnu were plagued by natural disasters and misfortunes—in addition to the threat posed by Punu.

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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—many of the Xiongnu feared that it would set a precedent for unending military service to the Han court.

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Xiongnu travelled to Luoyang to seek aid from the Han court, but at this time the Han court was in disorder from the clash between Grand General Xiongnu Jin and the eunuchs, and the intervention of the warlord Dong Zhuo.

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Southern Xiongnu that settled in northern China during the Eastern Han dynasty retained their tribal affiliation and political organization and played an active role in Chinese politics.

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However, the "Liu" Xiongnu remained active in the north for at least another century.

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Northern Tiefu branch of the Xiongnu gained control of what is modern-day Inner Mongolia in the 10 years between the conquest of the Xianbei-ruled state of Dai by the Former Qin dynasty in 376, and its restoration in 386 as the Northern Wei dynasty.

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The power of the Xiongnu ruler was based on his control of Han tribute which he used to reward his supporters.

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The Han and Xiongnu empires rose at the same time because the Xiongnu state depended on Han tribute.

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Chinese name for the Xiongnu was a pejorative term in itself, as the characters have the meaning of "fierce slave".

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Andre Wink states that the Xiongnu probably spoke an early form of Turkic; even if Xiongnu were not "Turks" nor Turkic-speaking, they were in close contact with Turkic-speakers very early on.

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Mongolian and other scholars have suggested that the Xiongnu spoke a language related to the Mongolic languages.

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Sun and moon symbol of Xiongnu that discovered by archaeologists is similar to Mongolian Soyombo symbol.

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Kim has stated that the dominant Xiongnu language was likely Turkic or Yeniseian, but has cautioned that the Xiongnu were definitely a multi-ethnic sociey.

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Keightley asserted that the Xiongnu titles "were originally Siberian words but were later borrowed by the Turkic and Mongolic peoples".

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Pulleyblank argued that because Xiongnu words appear to have clusters with r and l, in the beginning of the word it is unlikely to be of Turkic origin, and instead believed that most vocabulary we have mostly resemble Yeniseian languages.

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Alexander Vovin wrote, that some names of horses in the Xiongnu language appear to be Turkic words with Yeniseian prefixes.

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The Xiongnu were characterized by a genetic affinity to Iranian speakers, which is lacking in modern-day Yeniseian speakers such as Kets, who are more genetically similar to Samoyedic speakers than to Xiongnu individuals and other Iron Age Siberians.

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Harold Walter Bailey proposed an Iranian origin of the Xiongnu, recognizing all of the earliest Xiongnu names of the 2nd century BC as being of the Iranian type.

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Many scholars believe the Xiongnu confederation was a mixture of different ethno-linguistic groups, and that their main language and its relationships have not yet been satisfactorily determined.

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Since the 1960s, the geographic origin of the Xiongnu has attempted to be traced through an analysis of Early Iron Age burial constructions.

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Analysis of skeletal remains from some sites attributed to the Xiongnu provides an identification of dolichocephalic Mongoloid, ethnically distinct from neighboring populations in present-day Mongolia.

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Russian and Chinese anthropological and craniofacial studies show that the Xiongnu were physically very heterogenous, with six different population clusters showing different degrees of Mongoloid and Caucasoid physical traits.

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The study concluded that Xiongnu confederation was genetically heterogeneous, and Xiongnu individuals belonging to two distinct groups, one being of East Asian origin and the other presenting considerable admixture levels with West Eurasian sources.

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Xiongnu art is harder to distinguish from Saka or Scythian art.

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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.

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From this, some specialists conclude that the Xiongnu used a script similar to the ancient Eurasian runiform, and that this alphabet was a basis for later Turkic writing.

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