Hsiung-nu

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Hsiung-nu

 

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.

REFERENCES

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.

L. N. GUMILEV

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