Xiongnu (匈奴) is the name given, in the Antiquité, by the Chinese with a confederation of people Nomade S alive in Mongolia, Transbaïkalie and China of North.
Identity of Xiongnu
This problem, with current, is not solved yet with certainty. The sinologist Paul Pelliot regarded Xiongnu as Proto-Turks. Sometimes Kurakichi Shiratori regarded them as Turks, sometimes like Mongolian . For the linguist Hungarian Louis Ligetti, they could be Paléoasiatiques or Iénisséiens. In the last case, they could be related with the Khantys (Ostiaks), which live in Western Siberia and speak a Finno-ugric language. Lastly, the sinologist Edwin G. Pulleyblank defended a thesis according to which they were the ancestors of the Ket S, Siberian people speaking an isolated language.
Some words of vocabulary of Xiongnu were preserved. Their name was to represent the syllable * kun . The turcologist Louis Bazin brought it closer to the Turkish Suffixe - gun , which relates to the human groupings. One can also bring it closer to the Mongolian word hün “man”, although the vowels do not correspond exactly. Many people were called “the Men”. It would be the same for Xiongnu and this provides an argument to regard them as Turco-Mongols. It is also known that their designation of the sky was related with Turkish tängri and with Mongolian tängär .
One could think that the Huns of Attila, appeared at the 4th century in Europe, went down from Xiongnu. It is it to what invites the resemblance of the names. Many historians admitted this assumption. It is however not certain, since it is possible that Huns took their name in Xiongnu without having family ties with them. O. Maenchen-Helfen in particular severely criticized the thesis of the Huns-Xiongnu identity. The last results of research however make think that this bond was not only nominal, and thus Politique, but also Culture L.
HistoryXiongnu entered the history in -245, at the time of a confrontation against the kingdom of Zhao. China was then divided into kingdoms in permanent conflict. The unification was the work of the king of Qin, which took in -221 the name of Qin Shi Huang. At that time, Xiongnu seem to be controlled by a man whom the Chinese called Touman (头曼, Tóumàn ). This proper name was related with turco-Mongolian tümen “ten thousand”: it would be in the beginning a military title (general of an army of ten thousand men) interpreted like a proper name by the Chinese of the time. The attacks that Touman launched against China justified the construction of the Great wall. But the Chinese also adopted against them an offensive strategy: Xiongnu were overcome by the general Meng Tian in -214.
The successor of Touman was his oldest son, called Modu (冒顿, Mòdú ) by the Chinese. He reigned of -209 with -174, while carrying a title which the Chinese transcribe by 撑犁孤涂单于, chengli gutu shanyu . The turco-Mongolian designation of the sky is recognizable in chengli , marked * thrangrri as old Chinese. As according to the Chinese gutu meant “wire”, this title can be translated by “ shanyu , wire of the sky”. The power of Xiongnu increased considerably under the reign of this sovereign. It reorganized the army by introducing a strict discipline. It created also a Cavalerie light army powerful composite arcs (the clamps did not exist yet at that time). Its camping was located at the south-east of the Monts Khangai, in the center of the Mongolia.
In -200, Xiongnu managed to encircle Liu Bang, the founder of the Dynastie Han. Two years later, a peace treaty was signed with China. Xiongnu recognized the sovereignty of Han on all the territories in the south of the Great wall, but Han exchanges some were to give a princess in marriage to the shanyu and to provide a great quantity of Soie, artisanal products, of Riz and Or. It is a kind of tribute to pay to have peace.
Modu gained a victory against the Yuezhi (月氏) in -176. It was about Tokhariens, originating in the west of the province of Gansu, which had founded the first known empire of the Central Asia. According to a history perhaps partly legendary, Modu had been sent in Otage on their premises under the reign of Touman. The victory of Modu pushed Yuezhi to emigrate towards the Tian Shan (Célestes mounts), in current the Kyrgyzstan and made it possible Xiongnu to control thirty-nine States of the Central Asia. The majority of them were located on the Silk route.
Laoshang (老上, Lǎoshàng ), the successor of Modu, reigned until worms -161. Continuing the policy of his father, it gained a final victory against Yuezhi, pushing them to emigrate towards the Bactriane. The emperor of Yuezhi was killed and its cranium was transformed into a cut with drinking.
The emperor Wudi (漢武帝) of the Dynastie Han sent the ambassador Zhang Qian (张骞) at Yuezhi to obtain their alliance against Xiongnu. As Zhang Qian was to cross the territory of Xiongnu to go in Bactriane, there were captured by them and remained ten years prisoner. He escaped and arrived to Yuezhi towards -128, but he failed in his diplomatic mission. On the way of the return, it was again captured. There remained prisoner only one year, then he returned to China.
Wudi in addition inflicted severe defeats in Xiongnu. In -121, those was dislodged of the Gansu and this territory fell definitively into the bosom from China. They were rectified at the end of the reign of Wudi, towards -90.
Their empire started to lose his power starting from -80, with the scission of the Wusun, powerful people wandering of Tian Shan which had been subjected at the time of the victory of Modu over Yuezhi. Two other vassal people, the Dingling and the Wuhuan, rebelled in -62. Later, two brothers proclaimed shanyu and entered in fight. One of them, Huhanye, submitted to the Chinese in -53 and formed a kind of State-plug in the south of the Mongolia. It could occupy the north of this country in -48 and it died in the area of Oulan Bator after having married in -33 the Chinese princess Wang Zhaojun. After the death of Huhanye, Xiongnu were divided into two factions and that of the South, consisted of eight tribes, made allegiance with the Chinese definitively. It settled in current the Mongolia-Interior. Consequently, Xiongnu started to become less frightening for the Chinese. In 89 and 90, they still carried out some incursions in China, but the imperial troops pushed back them. They were crushed in 91; the shanyu flees and all its family was captured and taken along to China.
In 155, a chief of the people Xianbei (鲜卑), called Tanshihuai by the Chinese, founded in Mongolia a powerful State and a hundred and thousand xiongnu families joined with him. Xianbei founded thereafter the Dynastie Wei of the North (北魏) which dominated during more than one century the unit of China of North.
The company xiongnu
Xiongnu were seminomad pastors, stockbreeders of horses and of Bœuf S. They used probably already the Yourte, dwelling always of use at the nomads of the Central Asia. It is also known that they built dwellings semi-troglodytiques. They practiced collective Chasse S and used falcons. In fact prisoners of war cultivated the ground: of the Chinese or men originating in the Oasis of the Central Asia. These prisoners also carried out artisanal work.
According to the Chinese sources, Xiongnu were divided into twenty-four tribes, themselves subdivided in Clan S and patrilineal families. The principal clans are: Huyan, Xubu and Luandi. The company was divided into classes, including/understanding aristocrats, divided into a Noblesse of blood connected with the shanyu and a nobility of talent, and men of the people. Around the shanyu , with the hereditary capacity but not absolute, revolved of the princes divided into various ranks. The sovereign could take his wife only in one number limited clans. Xiongnu practiced the Polygamie and the Lévirat.
Several foreign people had been integrated in the empire of Xiongnu. It is perhaps the case of the Huns, if they were not identical to Xiongnu, and that could explain why they bore the name of their former Masters. It was probably the same Hephthalites, considered as of the “Huns white” whereas it were certainly not related in Xiongnu or Huns.
Xiongnu had true legal institutions. The criminals were judged at the time of Procès who never lasted more than ten days. The punishments applied were the execution, the confiscation of the goods or the Mutilation. The violation of the military discipline was punished of death. The soldiers were divided into units of ten men. Ten of these units formed a hundred, ten hundreds formed a thousand and ten thousands constituted what the Mongolian call a tümän . It was a very current military organization in Central Asia. The women rode a horse and took part in actions of defense like to the training of the children.
- Rene Grousset, Empire of the steppes , Paris.
- Louis Hambis, “Languages and literatures turco-Mongolian”, in Encyclopedia Universalis .
- NR. Ishjamts, “Nomads in eastern Central Asia”, History off Civilizations off Central Asia , Volume II, The development off sedentary and nomadic civilizations: 700 B.C to A.D. 250 , UNESCO Publishing, 1996.
- Otto Maenchen-Helfen, The world off the Huns , Berkeley, 1973.
- Etienne of Vaissière, “Huns and Xiongnu”, in Central Asiatic Newspaper , 2005-1, p. 3-26.
- Collective, Mongolia, first empire of the steppes , Actes Sud, Arles, 2003,214 p.
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