The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a nomadic people that first appeared in Central Asia early in the first millennium B.C., comprising Mongoloid aborigines and Europeoids who had migrated from northern China (the Ti people).

In the late third century B.C., the Hsiung-nu, who were then inhabiting central Mongolia and the Transbaikalia steppe region, defeated the Tung-hu; having subsequently invaded China, they forced the emperor Liu Pang to pay tribute. Strife broke out among the Hsiung-nu in the first century B.C., and the head of the Hsiung-nu tribal alliance, the shan-yu Hu-han-yeh, acknowledged himself a vassal of China (51 B.C).

Early in the first century A.D., China’s growing weakness allowed the Hsiung-nu to regain their independence; by A.D. 48, however, eight of the Hsiung-nu tribes, having broken away, were once more subjected to Chinese rule. These tribes constituted the nucleus of the southern Hsiung-nu. Between A.D. 87 and 93 the northern Hsiung-nu were defeated by a coalition of Chinese, Hsien-pei, and Ting-ling peoples. Some of the northern Hsiung-nu retreated westward, where they mixed with the Ug-rian aborigines and gave rise to a new people known in Europe as the Huns (a name sometimes used to designate the Hsiung-nu themselves). Other northern Hsiung-nu tribes settled in the Sem-irech’e and Tarbagatai regions and called themselves Yüen-pan; their state was destroyed by Teles tribes in the late fifth century.

The southern Hsiung-nu rebelled in A.D. 304, threw off Chinese rulé, and established the empire of Liu Yüan (304–318), which broke up into the Earlier and the Later Chao. In 329 the Later Chao subdued the Earlier Chao as well as the entire northern part of China; but in 350, General Jan Min, a Chinese adopted by the Hsiung-nu king, seized power and ordered the slaughter of the Hsiung-nu in the Later Chao kingdom.

Hsiung-nu states were reestablished by the steppe Hsiung-nu of the Ordos region and the Hsiung-nu branch in Kansu —namely, the states of Hsia in Ordos (407–432) and Ho-hsi in Kansu (397–439); both were conquered by the Tabgach empire known as T’o-pa Wei. The remaining Hsiung-nu in the Turfan region were destroyed by the Juan-juan in 460.

The Hsiung-nu culture was similar to the Scythián-Sarmatian culture.


Materialy po istorii Siunnu, vols. 1–2. Foreword, translation, and notes by V. S. Taskin. Moscow, 1968–73.
Gumilev, L. N. Khunnu. Moscow, 1960.
Gumilev, L. N. Khunny v Kitae. Moscow, 1974.
Rudenko, S. I. Kul’tura khunnov i noinulinskie kurgany. Moscow-Leningrad, 1962.
See also references under HUNS.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
These were possibly related to the Hsiung-Nu, a confederation of eastern nomads who, as late as the first century A.D., controlled a vast swath of territory to the north of China and the Himalayas, extending perhaps as far west as the Transoxiana region of central Asia.
Sent into Central Asia with 100 men by the Emperor Wu Ti to negotiate an alliance with the Yueh-chih nation against the Hsiung-nu (or Huns) (139); captured by the Hsiung-nu and held for thirteen years, he went on to continue his mission; returned to China without the desired alliance (126), but his long sojourn in Central Asia made him an expert on the area, and his extensive writings increased Chinese knowledge; served in western China (122-115); commanded a cavalry column of 10,000 against the Hsiung-nu (summer 121), but failed to rendezvous with Li Kuang's force, and so was disgraced and reduced to common rank when Li's force was destroyed; continued to serve as diplomat in embassies to several nomadic tribes until 115; died in 114.
Born into an undistinguished family, Chao entered the army as a young man; won slow, steady promotion in the campaigns against the Hsiung-nu (Huns); as a junior officer, he led a small reliefforce to aid the army of Li Kuangli, whose 30,000 men were surrounded; fought his way through the cordon to Li's army, receiving many wounds (99); his feat so impressed the Emperor Wu Ti that he was promoted to high rank; led several expeditions against the nomad Tangut people in northwest China; later, after being ennobled for his successes, established Chinese military colonies in the area; died in 52.
Origins and early career unknown; became an official and administrator for the Hsiung-nu in Mongolia and northern China; captured by Han forces, he defected to their cause; commanded one of six divisions in Wei Ch'ing's 100,000-man army, which advanced deep into Hsiung-nu territory and took 3,000 captives (spring 123); commanded a column in similar operation, but was surrounded by Hsiung-nu forces and forced to surrender (autumn?
Born into an aristocratic family, he began his career in the regular Han armies; as a general, served under the Emperor Wu Ti in his campaign against the Hsiung-nu (111); together with Wang Hui, led a column which captured Chu-shih (108); commanded defensive works around Shuo-fang (in the Mu Us Shamo, Inner Mongolia), where he made many improvements (107); captured when his 20,000-man cavalry force was surrounded and destroyed by the Hsiung-nu during a sweep into their territory (autumn 103); escaped from the Hsiung-nu (100), but was not reemployed in any significant capacity.
Born into an aristocratic family, he entered the army and rose to become a general in the service of the great Han emperor, Wu Ti; led a force of 10,000 cavalry from Yun-Chang (possibly in western Shanxi) against the Hsiung-nu as one of four columns under the overall direction of Wei Ch'ing, but encountered few of the enemy; one of six division commanders in Wei Ch'ing's army of 100,000 men, which advanced in two columns some 200 miles into nomad territory and captured 15,000 nomads (spring-summer 124); repeating his offensive the next year, again with Ho as a division commander, he captured only 3,000 nomads (spring 123); retired from military service, but served in a number of civil posts, rising to become Imperial chancellor (103).
140), he was related to the wife of Emperor Wu Ti; perhaps because of family position, he was appointed general and led 10,000 cavalry from Lung-hsi (Longxi) on a 300-mile incursion into Hsiung-nu territory north of the Yellow River, capturing or killing about 8,000 nomads (spring?
Born into an aristocratic family in Shensi (Shanxi) (14); first demonstrated military ability when he took up arms against the usurper Wang Mang (23); assisted Kuang Wu-ti, Emperor of the revived, or New, Han, in planning the consolidation of the empire; his strategy was sound and won him several civil and military posts; gained further honors in campaigns against resistance in Hunan and along the south coast; led an army south to crush a revolt in Tonkin, and went on to conquer Annam; late in his career he was made governor of Kansu (Gansu) and conducted several campaigns against the Hsiung-nu nomads; died in 49.
One of China's most successful generals; his campaigns were giant raids designed to throw the Hsiung-nu off balance and preempt their raids on China.