(also called Hsien-pi), nomadic tribes that left the Tung-hu tribal union after its defeat by the Hsiung-nu in the third century B.C. By this time, the nomadic Hsien-pei lived mainly within the area that is now Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region of the Chinese People’s Republic.
The Hsien-pei’s ethnic origins have not yet been determined; they are thought to belong either to the Mongolian or Manchu-Tungus group. The Hsien-pei lived by hunting and raising live stock. They reached the height of their power during the reign of T’an Shih-hai (137–181), when their territory extended east to west from what is now Liaotung to Tunhuang (now Kansu Province). In the second half of the third century, the Hsien-pei tribal union virtually dissolved. Political importance was later attained by the Mu-yung, Tuan, Yü-wen, and T’o-pa tribes, which had left the union.