Yu.Zuev Ethnic History of Usuns
Yu.Zuev Early Türks: Essays of history
Yu.Zuev The Strongest Tribe - Ezgil
Yu.Zuev Tamgas of vassal Princedoms
Yu.Zuev Ancient Türkic social terms
Ogur and Oguz
N.Bichurin Hunnu, Oihors, etc
V.Taskin Eastern Huns 3 c. BC - 2 c. AD
V.Taskin Eastern Huns 3 c. AD - 5 c. AD
V.Taskin Kiyan Huns 3 c. AD - 5 c. AD
|Huns and Türks|
Where Huns Blood Drew
The Xiongnu (匈奴)
Journal of Eurasian studies, Volume 1, Issue 3, July-September 2009
The Hague, Holland, ISSN 1877-4199
© Copyright Mikes International 2001-2009
The history of the term Hun in Chinese annals is scattered in many works from very many centuries, the offered article provides a review of the sources and basic bibliography on the subject, with a partial skeleton of the Hun's history before our era, and a number of observations on the Hun's terminology that reached out times.
Posting clarifications and comments are (in blue italics) or in blue boxes. Page numbers are shown at the beginning of the page in blue. The adjective Türkic and the noun Türk are used to denote the global world of the Türkic community that includes Turkish and Turks as one of the constituents; Türk is a noun of which Türkic and Türkic are adjectival derivatives, it is needed for accurate transmission with four distinct designations for four distinct phenomena. The posting added or duplicated Chinese transcriptions to facilitate concise references.
Where Huns Blood Drew
The Xiongnu (匈奴)
In the knowledge of the Han time sources we can conclude that the history of the Huns goes back in time as well as in territory much further than it has long been decided by mainstream scholars — their ancestors lived in Inner and Eastern Asia centuries before the Christian era, or regarding Sima Qian’s records on the Xia dynasty we might tentatively say millennia. Asian Huns are termed as Xiongnu in the Han chronicles. Undoubtedly the same sources do prove that parts of the Asian Huns, who had lived near the northern borders of the Han Empire in the centuries around the beginning of the Christian era, left their homeland in two directions — the Xiongnus of Zhizhi danhu moved west towards Europe, and other peoples who must have had Xiongnu blood in their veins went southwest towards the Indian subcontinent. The latter event occurred in three waves: first by the Yuezhi in 204 BC, after which the Kushan Empire was founded; then in 176 BC by the Saka, whose relation to the Xiongnu is still debated; and finally by the Yuezhi and Wusun in 174 BC.
It is in fact a long time that our knowledge of the Huns has not been satisfactory due to the mainstream scholars using exclusively the Byzantine and European — occasionally the Arabic — sources for their researches. Accidentally one may at most find some references to Anonymous or Kezay. There have been some exceptions though, like De Groot or Bela Szasz, who traced the history of the early Huns further back in time and in area, but they both have rather unduly been suppressed. They knew that substantial knowledge of the ancient Chinese chronicles was essential since the said chronicles gave thorough, detailed and genuine report on the Hun peoples. It is heartening news, however, that these conditions have begun to change. Borbala Obrusanszky or Eva Aradi, serious-minded and conscientious scholars of the field, are credibly and accurately going to the furthest possible reaches of the sources essential for the study.
We give the Early Middle Chinese (EMC) and Middle Chinese (MC) phonetics
of certain Hun names in the footnotes. It is the Chinese chronicles where one can find how Hun
names could have been pronounced in ancient times under research.
At this point some difficulties are to be faced. Firstly, while being transcribed into pre-Qin, Qin or Han Chinese language, Hun words suffered great distortion owing to the monosyllabic way of Chinese language, and it should be added that considerably long time, counted in millennia, is dealt with. Secondly, it is not only the difference in the present-day pronunciation but also the richness of the dialects and the writing system having undergone significant transformations in the course of ages as well as in the different princedoms that make investigations of the phonetics rather difficult. Bernhard Karlgren, the Swedish Sinologist dedicated a whole life’s work to the research of the ancient and classical — or in other terms EMC and MC — phonetics. His grand work of Grammata Serica has still remained the most minute and accurate opus with the widest range of Chinese characters. We refer to his work as GS in the footnotes.
It must be noted that the name Xiongnu 匈奴 1 recorded in the Chinese sources refers to Asian Hun peoples. The Han Empire is often termed as Middle Kingdom.
I. Primary sources of the Asian Hun peoples in Qin and Han ages
The following works provide us the biggest amount of reports on the early history of the Asian Huns, or the Xiongnu as they are referred to, in the ancient Chinese chronicles:
Xiongnu Liezhuan (Systematic Biography of the Xiongnu), which is chapter 110 of Shiji (Records of the Historian) gives a complete and detailed review on the history and culture of the Asian Huns, or the Xiongnu as they are called, from as early as the period of the Xia dynasty’s last ruler (18th century BC) up to his own time (95 BC). The Biography was completed by Sima Qian, the Grand Historian though the first steps were taken by his father, Sima Tan.
1 Xiongnu 匈奴: χįung/χįwong-no/nuo GS: 1183d. and 94.l.
Xiongnu Zhuan (Biography of the Xiongnu), which is chapter 94 of Hanshu (Chronicle of the [Former] Han Dynasty), up to the time of 95 BC is almost equivalent to the above-mentioned work of Sima Qian apart from some small and mainly stylistic differences since it is based upon the latter. Then it goes on dealing with the history of the Huns until AD 24.
Nan Xiongnu Zhuan (Biography of the Southern Xiongnu), which is chapter 89 of Hou Hanshu (Chronicle of the Later Han Dynasty) covers the period between the founding of the Later Han dynasty (AD 25) and the fall of the same dynasty (AD 220) with the history of the Xiongnu or rather the Southern Xiongnu as from AD 51 the reports are focused on the Southern State of the Hun Empire split into two countries — the Southern State now belonged to the Later Han Empire, and the Northern State, maintaining their independence, left their homeland and escaped the authority and interest of the Middle Kingdom.
Jin Midi Zhuan (Biography of Jin Midi), which is chapter 68 of Hanshu, gives a detailed description of the life of Jin Midi, who had been a Hun prince but became an honoured subject of the Han Court — it was because of his honest and noble conduct that Han Wudi had him in his confidence always keeping him by his side and in turn he proved to be a reliable, loyal support till the end of his emperor’s life, which deserved him a whole chapter in Hanshu.
II. The origin of the Xiongnu
Among the peoples ever lived on the territory of present-day China there used to be a dynasty called Xia 夏 (pronounced Sha, summer/great). It was founded by the legendary Great Yu 大禹 (pronounced Yuy, no semantical meaning) in 2,205 BC and maintained its rule until 1,765 BC according to Chinese historians. On the basis of a legend still existing in his time, Sima Qian recorded that the Xiongnu were the descendants of the Xia. The legend is as follows.
Jie 桀 (pronounced Chie, roost), the last ruler of the Xia lived a terribly nasty way of life, because of which he became dethroned and his House overthrown by Tang 湯 of the Shang 商 tribe. The Shang founded a new dynasty and banished Jie northward to Mingtiao. After three years in exile Jie died and, as was in custom then, his son Chunwei 淳維 2 married his father’s wives, freeing them and the whole clan from banishment and leading them further north, where they started to pasture. Thus did he, son of the last Xia ruler, become the forefather of the Xiongnu. As organized Xiongnus they only came back from north in the 3rd century, by which time they had strengthened and increased, and started to make attacks on the Middle Kingdom (We can note in this excerpt the levirate custom special for the Türkic traditions; ascent to the throne via marriage to the Queen, particular for the Türkic dual marital dynastic traditions; the name of the nomadic Türkic Saka tribe under the name of the Xia pronounced Sya; and the name of the nomadic Türkic Kiyan tribe under the name of the Jie, which is defined as a splinter of Kiyans. The pastoral nomadism of the Jie/Xia/Xiongnu/Huns is specifically stated in the excerpt).
2 Chunwei 淳維: dįwən/źįuěn or tįwən/tśįuěn-dįwər/įwi. GS: 464e. and 575o.
Zhang Yen writes in Suoyin (Guide to the Hidden Meanings), an 8th century commentary:
“In the Qin era (221 BC–206 BC) Chunwei fled to the northern boundaries.”
According to Le Yan, the Xiongnu mentioned in Guadipu (Territory Based Lineage, a long-lost book quoted in the above-mentioned Suoyin) in fact refers the Xia since the Guadipu passage reads as follows:
“Jie, (ruler of) the House of Xia lived an immoral life. Tang exiled him to Mingtiao, he died there three years later. His son Xunyu 獯粥 3 married his wives and they wandered far away to the northern wilderness in search of pasture lands, and then in the Middle Kingdom they were mentioned as Xiongnu 匈奴.”
Considering the consistent historical data in the above sources, and on the grounds that in the Yin age (1,401-1,122 BC) there was a northern dialect of the word chunwei 淳維 corresponding to xunyu 獯粥, it is concluded that the two varieties must cover the same name. 4 For this reason does Ying Shao (Hou Han Shu commentator, 195 AD) write in Fengsutung (The Meaning of Popular Customs by Ying Shao, AD 140-206):
“The name Xunyu 獯粥 of the Yin age has been transformed to Xiongnu 匈奴.”
Fu Qian (2nd century AD commentator) maintained the following view:
“In times of Yao (2,356-2,255 BC) their name was Hunyu 葷粥 5, in the Zhou era (1,122- 255 BC) it was Xianyun 獫狁 6, under the reign of the Qin (255-207 BC) it was Xiongnu.” As Wei Zhao (chief editor of the official Book of Wu, 204–273) commented: “During the Han (206 BC-AD 220) they were called Xiongnu 匈奴, and Hunyu 葷粥 is just another name for the same people, and similarly, Xunyu 獯粥 is just another transcription of Chunwei’s 淳維, their ancestor’s name.” 7
3 Xunyu 獯粥: χịwən/χịuən-tịok/tśịuk or dịok/ịuk. GS: 461g. and 1024a
And according to the records of Sima Qian, the Xiongnu 匈奴 were mentioned as Shanrong 山戎 8 (Wade-Giles Shanjung), Xianyun 獫狁 , and Hunyu 葷粥 between the age of Tang and the age of Yu (2205-1766 BC).
To put the above sources and commentaries in brief, they state that certain tribes or ruling clans occupied the territory of the southern part of the present-day Shanxi and the western part of today’s Henan as early as some hundreds or even thousands of years before Christ, and the names of these tribes or clans cover the same people, i.e. the Xiongnu, or the Asian Huns as they are called today. There are several reasons for the difference between the names. Firstly, conforming to the common custom of the ruling clans or dynasties, the names underwent significant changes in the course of the successive ages; secondly, there were too many dialects in an extremely vast territory; thirdly, it was not until the reign of the first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi (221-206 BC) that the unification of the writing system was completed, so before that time every princedom used to have its own way of writing; and finally, in the monosyllabic way of Chinese language, one and the same name can be transcribed in different characters.
With all the sources expounded above, however, we are to treat these records with reservations all the more because the ages under research embrace thousands of years. During millennia a tribe or a nation must undergo a great deal of changes and it would be unwise to equate the ones about whom the records say that even as early as in the 2nd millennium BC they were Xiongnu people under different names explicitly with the Asian Huns of the Han age. We should rather say that they were probably relatives by origin. A good example is the above-mentioned, early recorded legend according to which the last ruler of the Xia, whose original homeland was in some area of the present-day Shanxi and Henan, was banished to the north, and when he died, his son, Xunyu, together with the whole clan, wandered farther north. That was an event when a tribe obviously branched off and developed along different lines.
III. On the earliest known state system of the Xiongnu
1. The state system of the Xiongnu
As we have learned from Sima Qian’s historical work, Xunyu and his people moved into the northern wilderness in the middle of the 18th century BC and it was not until they had conquered and united all the northern nomadic tribes by the end of the 3rd century BC that the Middle Kingdom again met them and had to face a new threat: the enlarged, well-organized and powerful Xiongnu.
7 LIN: 1. See also WU: 2849.
This means that the state system of the Xiongnu had been organized some time between the two dates and it must have happened closer to the former than to the latter date as by the end of the 3rd century, when they first appeared at the northern border of the Middle Kingdom, their system had already been fully developed, so the Grand Historian managed to make detailed records of it but was only able to date it back to the time of the appearance of this “new” enemy.
The first Xiongnu ruler ever made record of was Touman danhu 9 頭曼單于, who started to reign about 215 BC Below the danhu there were twenty-four great ranks, or da chen 大臣, these kings were divided into two parts, left and right, so there were two of each kings. The titles are not always referred to under the same names or ranks in the Chinese chronicles. The dignitaries were responsible for ten, one hundred, one thousand or ten thousand horsemen according to their ranks but all the twenty-four kings were called by the reverent name “one-thousand-horsy”. This institution served as political system in times of peace and as military system in war times.
Below we give a list of the title names recorded in Shiji and Hou Hanshu. The title names in Hanshu are identical with the ones in Shiji, so we do not list them here. 10
9 單于 danhu: tan/tan-gįwo/jįu GS: 147a. 97a. These two characters are usually pronounced shanyu but there has not been any detailed reasoning for that.
(This is inaccurate
statement, unless qualified “explanations by the contemporaries”. Later commentators left
their comments, the Guangyun dictionary by Lu Fayan composed in 601 AD and compiled
at time of the Song dynasty from 1007 to 1011 gives three readings for the first Chinese
character of the title 单 as dan, chan, and shan, dan means “single” or “alone”, chan is
used in the Hun (Xiongnu 匈奴) monarch's title. Even better indicator was given in
the story with Wang Mang's change in the 15 CE of the Hun's state seal legend from “non-semantically meaningful hieroglyph “shan” 单 with identically sounding hieroglyph “shan” 單
meaning “kind, good”, the seal legend “Great Seal of the Chanyu of Xiongnu” (匈奴單于璽, Xiongnu Chanyu Xi) was changed to a new legend “Seal of the Chanyu of Xiongnu of
Xin” (新匈奴單于章, Xin Xiongnu Chanyu Zhang), after the change of the hieroglyph, the monarch
title assumed a meaning “Kind Yui” or “Good Yui” [Taskin V.S., 1984, Materials on history
of Dunhu group nomadic tribes (Ìàòåðèàëû ïî èñòîðèè
äðåâíèõ êî÷åâûõ íàðîäîâ ãðóïïû Äóíõó), p. 15, Moscow]. The comments explain the Chinese rendition of the title, and they
are unlikely to add anything to explicate the Hun's pronunciation of the title). Hanshu Yinyi writes: “Danhu
means ‘infinitely vast’, which refers that the
person whose manifestations through his conducts resemble the sky is danhu.” As
for the transcription of the title of the Asian Huns’ supreme ruler, its origin is traced back to the word tarqan,
tarχan by PULLEYBLANK. He mentions that according to PELLIOT
it must have been borrowed by the Tujue (Ashina Türks) from their Ruanruan
(Jujan) predecessors. PULLEYBLANK
himself states that the ultimate source is no doubt the Xiongnu. The use of Chinese -n
for foreign -r is
regular in the Han period. The Chinese initial *d- would
not yet have been palatalized in the 2nd century BC when the transcription first appears.
He adds that the title tarqan is found without its final -n on the coins of the Hephthalite ruler Nezak Tarxan in the 7th century.
The Asian Huns had known and been using this title before they mixed with the Turks. So
danhu used to refer the supreme ruler of the Huns. As years
went by, Turks and Mongols started to apply it for lower ranks, the decline of titles in the
course of centuries is indeed quite common, we may compare the fate of khan
in the modern Middle East where it has become
no more than “mister”. See PULLEYBLANK: 256-257. We must add that in the form of tárkány as title name and in the form of Tarján as tribal name it was widely used among the Hungarians of the Conquest period and it has been preserved in a great number of Hungarian place names today. See also NEMETH: 202 (The title tarkhan appear in the modern name of the city Astrakhan < As-Tarkhan in Russia [Middle Age
capital of As-Tarkhan Khanate] and in Middle Age city-state Tamiya-Tarkhan > Tmutarakhan in
Russian [Middle Age Bulgar principality Tamiya-Tarkhan]. The Hungarian cognates mentioned
in this article need to be treated with clear regard to their etymologies, since it is
known that a significant portion of the Hungarian tribes were ethnically Türkic, and
correspondingly a portion of the Hungarian vocabulary is Türkic borrowing; it is also
known that a part of the Türkic borrowings in Hungarian ascends to the Oguric languages
of the Huns, Bulgars, and Avars, and that layer is used by linguists in tracing Chinese,
Tarim, Middle Asian vocabularies to theTürkic Oguric languages, see for example
A.Dybo "Lingivist Contacts Of Early Turks"
A.Dybo "Pra-Altaian World").
As we can see, there are two of each title, a left and a right one. It corresponds to the territorial system of the Hun Empire — the left kings governed the eastern parts, the right kings governed the western parts of the country while the danhu had his court in the centre. The rank of the left was always higher than the right one of each pair. The dignitaries of the four and the six horns were members of the danhu’s relative clans. The titles of guduhou 骨都候 11 were born by members of some different clan.
2. Grand officers — the four horns
The dignitaries of the four horns were sons and brothers of the actual danhu, and it was only they who had the possibility to become a danhu one day. According to common law, when the danhu died, the bearer of the highest rank, i.e. the left wise king, succeeded to the throne, so the title of the left wise king was always filled by the danhu’s eldest or wisest son. The Chinese recorded the Hun word “wise king” both phonetically and by its meaning. The former is tuqi wang 屠耆王 and the latter is xian wang 賢王.
Tuqi is the distorted form of the contemporary Hun or Xiongnu word “wise”, which certainly used to be pronounced in a different way from today’s phonetics. 12 The left tuqi or xian wang ruled over the greater part of the eastern lands of the country, and so did the right tuqi over the greater part of the western lands of the country.
11 Guduhou: kwət/kuət-to/tuo-g’u/γə GS: 486a. 45e’ 113a.
The yuli kings also had significant authority, the left yuli dominated over the lesser part of the eastern lands of the country controlling the affairs of the area under his domain and so did the right yuli over the lesser part of the western lands. The word yuli is a transcription of a Xiongnu word too. 13 So the danhu entrusted his sons and brothers to govern the conquered countries.
3. Grand officers — the six horns
The followings are recorded in Hou Hanshu Nan Xiongnu Zhuan:
“The danhu’s clan name is Xuliandi 虛連鞮. 14 The four great clans: the Huyan 呼衍 15, the Xubu 須卜, the Qiulin 丘林, and the Lan 蘭 16 are the danhu’s kinsfolk, who give their daughters to the danhu in marriage. Members of the Huyans decide in criminal cases and in litigated matters, make decisions in major or minor affairs over the right wing of the empire and then inform the danhu by word of mouth.”
13 谷蠡 yuli: GS: kuk or gįuk/įwok-lua or liei. 1202a. 1241o.
On the basis of the EMC phonetics (gįuk-lua) and its role in the administration we can say that this title name is in relation with the
Hungarian title name gyula.
In the hierarchy of the Hungarians of the Conquest period gyula filled the second rank just like
in the case of the Asian Huns. See GYORFFY: 29 (The Türkic “ulu/ulug/uluγ“ = great seems to be
undoubtfully recognizable, Luli-Prince = Ulu(g) Bek; in the administrative structure are
two Ulu(g) Beks, one from the paternal dynastic line, next in line to the throne after
the Eastern (left) Jükü Bek, and one from the maternal dynastic line, not eligible to
the throne, Western (right) Ulu(g) Bek. The transition from
the Hun's Ogur Türkic “gulu“
to the Oguz Türkic “ulu“
is natural and most predictable) .
Shiji Xiongnu Liezhuan and Hou Hanshu Xiongnu Zhuan, however, only mention three clans (The fourth must be a branch of one of the previous three, located in the Qiulin 丘林 mountains):
“Their nobility consists of three clans: The Huyan (呼衍, 呼延), the Lan (蘭), and then the Xubu (須卜).”
So while the danhu and the four horns belonged to the Xuliandi or Luandi clan, the six horns were made up by the Huyan, the Xubu, the Lan and — according to Hou Hanshu — the Qiulin clans. As we can see, these four clans were also relatives of the danhu. The nobles of the four horns governed the vast area of the conquered countries while the nobles of the six horns were in charge of assisting the danhu in jurisdiction and foreign affairs and that was the reason why they only got smaller lands not too far from the court — their task did not allow them to stay far away from the court for a long time.
4. Small officers — the guduhou
The sources say very little about the guduhou. We do not know for sure but it seems probable that the guduhou was not only title but a clan too (The composite guduhou consists of two parts, a la yuli wang, where the Gudu part is Hunnic, and hou part is Chinese, meaning “ruler”). We are informed that they belonged to a different clan and supposedly this might have been the reason why they were counted as small officers. The chronicles say that the danhu’s clan intermarried with the guduhous. Hou Hanshu Xiongnu Zhuan reads as follows:
“In the 21st year of his reign, in the 5th year of Jianguo period (58-31 BC) Wuzhuliu danhu died. The affairs of the Xiongnu Empire were managed by Xubudang, the right guduhou. He was the son-in-law of Wang Zhaojun’s daughter whose name was Yun.”
Wang Zhaojun was Huhanye 呼韓邪 17 danhu’s wife, so the son-in-law of Wang Zhaojun’s daughter was obviously the son-in-law of Huhanye’s daughter. What should be interesting in the above-quoted lines is the following. As it is stated, the said guduhou was the son-in-law of the danhu’s daughter. So whenever intermarriage took place between the ’s clan and the guduhou’s clan, the bride must have come from the danhu’s clan and the groom from the guduhou’s. As it is clear from the quotation under point 2 above, in the case of the six horns it happened the other way round, i.e. the groom came from the danhu’s clan and the bride from the Huyan’s, Xubu’s, Lan’s, or Qiulin’s (This is a very heart of the dynastic union organization of the society, the males of the male dynastic half, lead by “danhu” wed the females of the female dynastic half: mama and daughter and granddaughter belong to the Huyan, Xubu, Lan, or Qiulin clans, and papa and son and grandson belong to Luandi clan. More then that, the owner of the state and its people is the female dynastic tribe, and the Hatun's husband “danhu” or Kagan are hired to serve as a head of the state and the army, and are responsible for the wellbeing of the state people. When the luck runs out, they have to part with the state, Hatun, and life, leaving them to the next in line).
The guduhou-s took part in the administration and, as it is recorded in the chronicles, they were often entrusted with diplomatic matters. Interestingly enough, the root gudu shows considerable similarity with the Mongolian word kuda, which means “kinsfolk”, i.e. relationship through marriage. The same word was in use in Horezm around the 4th-7th centuries, when the patriarchal community of the clan within a motte (Khudai is “lord” in Türkic; is this an application of a Türkic terminology for the Sogdian dikhans?). 18
17 Huhanye 呼韓邪 : χo/χuo-g’an/γan-zịa/ịa or dzịa/ịa GS: 55h. 140i. 47a.
IV. The main events of the Xiongnu history
1. Foundation and consolidation of the first Xiongnu nomadic state
The first Asian Hun ruler recorded in the chronicles was Touman 頭曼 19 danhu, who reigned until 209 BC We cannot speak about an empire just yet. He ruled over the Ordos, i.e. the area within the bend of the Yellow River and further northeast as far as the Gobi Desert. There lived some tribes in the neighbourhood like the Wusun 烏孫 and the Yuezhi 月氏 in the west, the Xianbei 鮮卑 and the Wuhuan 烏桓 in the north and the northeast, the Donghu 東胡 in the south, the Loufan 樓煩 and the Linhu 林胡 in the southeast (The Donghu 東胡 split after sumission to Maodun [Bator]; as a whole, the Donghu joined the Hun confederation and ceased to play independent role in the Chinese annals; the free Donghu found refuge in the Xianbei [Syanbi] and Wuhuan mountains, and accordingly played independent roles in the Chinese annals, and were accordingly called Xianbei [Syanbi] and Wuhuan people; from the linguistic traces of Xianbei [Syanbi] and Wuhuan the modern scholars deduced that the Eastern Hu Donghu were Mongols, and not Tunguses, as was accepted originally. It is quite possible that the Xianbei [Syanbi] and Wuhuan mountains were named after the tribal names, and not the other way around, as was reported in the Chinese annals. It is quite possible that the Hunnic-Mongolian [and likewise -Tungusic] symbiosis extends much deeper then Maodun [Bator]).
His son named Maodun (Bator) 冒頓 20 should have become his successor but he designated another son, whose mother was his favorite wife, as crown prince and sent Maodun (Bator) to the Yuezhi as a hostage. Some time later he attacked the Yuezhi and Maodun (Bator) had to escape and run for his life so he stole a Yuezhi horse and galloped homeward. There he killed his father, his stepmother and everybody of whom he thought might oppose him and in 209 BC he proclaimed himself danhu.
Then Maodun (Bator) started his campaign, conquering the tribes around his country one by one — first he subjugated the Donghu, upon which the Linhu and the Loufan joined him by themselves and marched together with him westward, where he gained a victory over the Yuezhi (around 204 BC), then he led his troops to the east and defeated the states Yan 燕 and Dai 代. It was at this time that the empire founded by Qin Shi Huangdi was collapsing, the rule of the Qin dynasty had just been overthrown and struggles for power were continuously going on, Liu Bang, the future Han emperor, had to fight with Xiang Yu, warfare among rivals did not stop for a minute, which made the whole country exhausted and impoverished. This certainly was to the advantage of Maodun (Bator), who became strong and powerful — his army counted over 300,000 archers. He expanded his country to become a powerful empire — its eastern ends were washed by the waves of the Pacific Ocean, to the west it reached over the valley of the Ili River, it got beyond the Great Wall through the valley of the Yellow River in the south, and to the north faded into the vast and distant Siberian wilderness.
19 Touman 頭曼: d’u/d’ə-mįă or mwan/muan GS: 118e. 266a.
2. Warfare for power
All the important movements of the grand-scale and dramatic warfare between the two empires would take a lot more pages than our article is meant to. Here we only refer that the wars were fought for the authority over the vast area of Eastern and Inner Asia. In the beginning the Xiongnu had significant victories, on one occasion it was even Chang’an, the Han capital, which seemed to be falling in the hands of the Xiongnu. It was partly due to the smart tricks of the Han diplomacy creating hostilities among the leaders of the Huns and some other reasons like extremely bad weather conditions making the cattle fall and thus causing poverty and epidemic on the land of the Xiongnu that with the leadership of Huhanye danhu one part of the Xiongnu finally surrendered to the Han in 51 BC The Han settled them at the northern frontier and let Huhanye rule his own country as he liked but in turn he had to defend the border for the Han. So the Hun Empire split into two parts. Feeling the pressure of being exposed to severe attacks from both the Han Empire and the subjugated part of the Huns now, and seeing that the tribes Maodun (Bator) and his successors had once conquered were now rupturing and becoming the means for the Han against them, the Xiongnus that would not surrender moved westwards under the leadership of Zhizhi 郅支 21 danhu, who, as a matter of fact, was Huhanye’s brother. He settled down in the Ili Valley and subjugated the neighboring peoples (In reality, Zhizhi moved his Court away from China within his own territory, which extended westward to the Caspian Sea, and before settling in Jeti-su kept his Court among loyal Kirgizes). He managed to establish another powerful empire after defeating the Wusun, the Dingling 丁零 and other peoples that researchers have not yet been able to identify, such as the Jianhun 堅昆 22 (Strong Huns, a non-ethnic epithet, a la Yueban, weak Huns) and Hujie 呼偈 23 (Another non-ethnic epithet, a la Gale Blow). The country of Hesu 24 regularly paid him taxes. He got Kagju 康居 (Kangar, usually transliterated from Chinese as Kangju), a country by the middle reaches of the Yaxartes, as his ally. So Zhizhi now had an empire which extended from the Turfan Basin as far as the Aral Sea and covered the area over the upper reaches of the Ob and Irtis (Irtysh) while the small states of the Turfan Basin were his tax payers. Now we can see, relying on sources of the time, how near they got to the eastern edge of Europe in the first half of the 1st century BC.
21 Zhizhi 郅支: tįet/tįed-tịěg/tśię GS: 413. and 864a.
It was, however, still not reassuring enough for the Han Empire, who wanted to have the trade route towards the West under his control, and needed the authority over the small states along the silk road, and none-the-less, the prestige of the Han dynasty, who did not regard Zhizhi as legitimate danhu, required to destroy Zhizhi’s powerful and expanding empire, which was just about to mean a prevalence to the Han Empire in the west. Two skilful generals, who were in charge of governing the outer states of the Han and thus lived rather near to Zhizhi’s land, recognized the urgent need of defeating him in the shortest possible time, so they did not wait for the slow administration of the imperial chancellery to decide on a campaign but attacked Zhizhi on their own authority, enlisting the soldiers of the vassal states governed by them. They also made an alliance with the people of Wusun and Kangju, who had had enough of Zhizhi’s fierce conduct. Being superior in number, they gained the victory, so the whole Western Hun Empire was destroyed and Zhizhi killed. According to Hanshu 70, there were one thousand five hundred and eighteen Xiongnus killed, one hundred and forty-five captured and over one thousand surrendered. That is altogether less than three thousand Xiongnus and the Han chronicles do not say anything about the rest of the Huns, who avoided being killed or captured and nor did surrender. This silence must be due to the fact that Zhizhi’s Huns vanished from sight so they could not be a threat any longer. In any case, this must be the point where the link between the European Huns and the Asian Huns should be sought.
3. Wandering peoples carrying Xiongnu blood
There are some other important events that we have not spoken about. Some time after Maodun (Bator) danhu had defeated the Yuezhi in 204 BC, the greater part of the Yuezhi moved beyond the Hindukush, where they founded the Kushan Kingdom. Below is a short report from Hou Hanshu Xiyu Zhuan (The History of the Western Regions).
“The Xiongnu defeated the Yuezhi so the Yuezhi moved to Daxia 大夏 25. They divided Daxia into five parts: Xiumi 休密 26, Shuangmi 雙靡 27, Guishuang 貴霜 28, Xidun 肹頓 29, Dumi 都密 30, and there were five jabgus 31 to rule them. About one hundred years later Qiujiuque 丘就卻 32, the jabgu of Guishuang attacked and conquered the other four jabgus, then proclaimed himself king and named the country Guishuang Kingdom. (…) But in the Han Empire they are simply called Great Yuezhi, referring to their origin.”
25 Daxia: d’ad-γa GS: 317a. 36a. A name for Bactria. The EMC seems to suggest the name “daha”. It is noteworthy to mention that the characters in Daxia 大夏 involve the name of the ancient Xia dynasty 夏 (with whom the Xiongnu had common origins according to the records of the Shiji).
26 Xiumi: χịog/χịəu-mịĕt. GS: 1070a. 405p. MARQUART locates it in the
Wakhan, see HULSEWE: 123.
The Kushans are generally identified with the White Huns or Hephtalithes, though as we learn from the above source they came from the Yuezhi and not from the Xiongnu — who in other terms are called Asian Huns. We can not exclude, however, that the peoples who settled in Bactria were relatives of the Xiongnu. Firstly, we should not escape the consideration that the Yuezhi, living in the near of the Xiongnu for a long time, and defeated by Maodun (Bator) danhu in 204 BC first, could intermingle with the commons of the Xiongnu. (Intermarriages with the nobles can be excluded, as we have seen above.) (Quite the opposite, both the female dynastic tribe Huyan/Kiyan, and the female dynastic tribe Tokhars/Tukhsi/Yuezhi were marital partners of the Eastern Huns and Ashina Türks, and probably of Jujans in between, according to Yu.Zuev) Secondly, in Hanshu Zhang Qian Zhuan (The Biography of Zhang Qian) the followings are recorded:
“In Wusun, the king is called hunmo 昆莫 33. The small state of the hunmo’s father, Nandoumi 難兜靡 34 and the (state of the) Yuezhi originally located between the Qilian and Dunhuang. The Great Yuezhi attacked and killed Nandoumi, occupied his land, and (Nandoumi’s) people fled to the Xiongnu. When Nandoumi’s son, the hunmo was born, his foster father, the yabgu (xihou) Bujiu 布就翖侯 35 carried him along. He put him down in the grass as he had to go and get some food. On returning he saw a wolf milking him and some black raptor flying around him with meat in their beaks, so he regarded the child as a divine being and took him back to the Xiongnu, where the danhu brought him up with loving care. When the hunmo grew into a man, (the danhu) gave him his (Wusun) people to be their commander. He performed brilliant feats. It was at that time that the Xiongnu defeated the Yuezhi, and the Yuezhi moved westwards, where they beat the Saiwang 塞王 36 (the Saka). The Saiwang moved far to the south as the Yuezhi had occupied their land. When the hunmo strengthened, he asked the danhu to let him take revenge for his father. So he attacked the Great Yuezhi on the west and the Great Yuezhi moved on further southwest to the land of Daxia. The hunmo subjugated their people and stayed there, keeping them occupied.”
31 翖候 xihou: χiə-g’/χə GS: 675q. 113a. It is generally known to be the transcription of
GEZA KEPES derivates the Hungarian word jobbágy,
originally meaning “lord”, from the Old Turkic yabgu. See
So this young man was the Wusun king’s son. He certainly was of clear Wusun origin, but by the time the danhu gave his people back to him, these people, who had once been taken in by the Xiongnu, had been mixing up with their landlords, the Xiongnu. Then the Xiongnu beat the Yuezhi in 177 BC, and the Yuezhi moved westward into the Ili Valley, where the Saka had been living, so the Yuezhi drove the Saka away — the characters saiwang 塞王 in the chronicles stand for saka. These Sakas then wandered southwest to Daxia (Bactria). And later when the Wusun hunmo attacked the Yuezhi in the Ili Valley (around 174 BC), the Yuezhi fled southwest, making the same way as the Sakas had done before. The question is what kind of a people the name Saka refers to. The fact that the name Xiongnu is to designate the Asian Huns has already been convincingly proved and accepted. See for example the articles of Uciraltu, linguist of Mongolian and Chinese languages. 37 Some regard the Saka as of Iranian origin, others regard them as of Scythian origin, and some others accept that they were Scythians but regard the Scythians as of Iranian origin. There are still some others who think that the Sakas were identical with the Huns. We will not take sides in this debate now. What is essential here is the evidence of the historical records that a people by the name of Saka moved from the Ili Valley to the southwest as far as Bactria where they settled. Some time later the Wusun hunmo, who had been staying under the shelter of the Xiongnu and thus his Wusun people had been mixing with the Xiongnus, went to Bactria too, chasing the Yuezhi. So peoples of Xiongnu blood must have arrived in Bactria either by the Yuezhi or by the Saka or by the Wusun hunmo’s people or perhaps by all.
37. UCHIRALTU. A hun nyelv szavai. Budapest: Napkut Kiado, 2008.
班固 Hanshu 漢書.
Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1962.
Yu.Zuev Ethnic History of Usuns
Yu.Zuev Early Türks: Essays of history
Yu.Zuev The Strongest Tribe - Ezgil
Yu.Zuev Tamgas of vassal Princedoms
Yu.Zuev Ancient Türkic social terms
Ogur and Oguz
N.Bichurin Hunnu, Oihors, etc
V.Taskin Eastern Huns 3 c. BC - 2 c. AD
V.Taskin Eastern Huns 3 c. AD - 5 c. AD
V.Taskin Kiyan Huns 3 c. AD - 5 c. AD