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3rd century BC–460s
Territory of the Xiongnu (green), circa 250 BC
Capital Longcheng (龙城/蘢城), near Khoshoo Tsaidam (present-day in Mongolia), was established as the annual meeting place and de facto capital.
Religion possibly Tengriism[1][2]
Political structure Confederation
 •  Established 3rd century BC
 •  Disestablished 460s

The Xiongnu (Chinese: 匈奴) were nomads who lived north of China from about 3rd century BC to 460s AD. Their lands were very infertile, so they tried to attack China many times. As this was very irritating, the first emperor of China (Qin Shi Huang) built the Great Wall of China around 214 to 206 BC to keep them out. Some Han dynasty emperors tried to stop the wars and make friends with them, but they still tried to attack the Chinese borders.

At first, it was believed that they were related to the Huns, and currently many people still believe this. In old times, nomadic tribes often travelled and lived together, even tribes speaking different languages. Around 60 BC, there was a struggle for power, and the Xiongnu broke up into five smaller tribes.

In 202 AD, the leader of the Southern Xiongnu surrendered to Prime Minister Cao Cao of the Han dynasty.

They are part of the Mongolian people now, or some of them have migrated to China for a better life.

References[change | change source]

  1. Yuri Pines, The Everlasting Empire: The Political Culture of Ancient China and Its Imperial Legacy, Princeton University Press, 2012, p.37. ISBN 1400842271, 9781400842278:
    • "The nomads had their own concept of Great Unity: they believed that the high god of the steppe, Heaven/Tengri, confers the right to rule on a single charismatic clan. This notion had already emerged vividly in the Xiongnu empire, and it surely influenced the nomadic rulers of China in their endorsement of the Chinese idea of unified rule."
  2. John Man, Attila: the barbarian king who challenged Rome, Bantam, 2005, p.62. University of Michigan. ISBN 0593052919, 9780593052914:
    • "The Xiongnu also worshipped Tengri. A history of the Han dynasty (206 BC - AD 8), written towards the end of the first century by the historian Pan Ku, in a section on the Xiongnu, says, 'They refer to their ruler by the title cheng li [a transliteration of tengri] ku t'u [son] shan-yii [king]' i.e. something like 'His Majesty, the Son of Heaven'. In early Turkish inscriptions, the ruler has his power from Tengri; and Tengri was the name given to Uighur kings of the eighth and ninth centuries."