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M. Loeuwe, E.L. Shaughnessy, eds
The Cambridge History of Ancient China:
From the Origins of Civilization to 221BC

© Cambridge University Press 1999, ISBN 9780521470308
The Northern Frontier in Pre-Imperial China (1,500 - 221 BC)
by Nicola Di Cosmo, Harvard University
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Posting Introduction

son of Heaven
Blood oath
Ba system

absence of demographics, anthropology, genetics

A brief review of the Kurgan people culture see on page 1 “Zhou Culture”. This page reviews the eastern fringes of the Kurgan Culture of the Eurasian steppe belt extending to Korea. The kurgan people, equipped with machinery of mounted and wheel transportation, had unsurpassed military advantage over sedentary populations, and were able to forge alliances with foot communities of taiga hunter-gatherers and farmers of agricultural belts across Eurasia, with their domination and protection. The model of the complex economical system was a system of kyshtyms, tributary sedentary communities taxed with production of goods for subsistence, trade, and war. One of the main consequences of the kyshtym system was mass production of metal with tribal specialization: some tribes were levied with production of ores, others with supplies of coal, third with supplies of firewood, fourth with smelting, and fifth with production of final product. The kyshtym system included mutually beneficial religious, etiological, matrimonial, and organizational elements that held it together for 3 millennia, extending into the Industrial Age; it allowed private ownership of the surplus product for internal consumption and trade, and forged new ethnicities, including that of the Chinese and Russian. Undoubtedly modified over millenniums, and at places deformed to caricature, it was a unifying system that spread innovations across the expanse of Eurasia. In every ethnical and environmental terrain the kyshtym concept took its own hypostasis within the same socio-economical symbiotic and syncretic system.

The Kurgan Culture reached the Central Plain in the future China at about 16th c. BC, bringing a first flood of innovations, detected in the Sumerian Dingir truncated to Di, introduction of new religious traditions, new societal concepts, new economical model, and new technologies. Ever since, the life in China was not the same. Annalistically conjoined with the 

* * *.

The posting's notes and explanations, added to the text of the author and not noted specially, are shown in (blue italics) in parentheses and in blue boxes. Footnotes, mostly on the sources, are not posted, with minor exceptions where footnote explanations area part of the narrative. Square brackets replace omitted Chinese transcriptions in the text.

Nicola Di Cosmo
Harvard University

The Northern Frontier in Pre-Imperial China (1,500 - 221 BC)
Abridged rendition




The northern frontier of China has long been recognized as something more than a simple line separating natural zones, political entities, or ethnic groups.* This frontier has been represented as the birthplace of independent cultures and the habitat of peoples whose lifestyle, economic activities, social customs, and religious beliefs became, from the Bronze Age onward, gradually but increasingly distant from the civilization of the Central Plain. This distinct cultural region, often called the “Northern Zone” of China, comprises the interlocking desert, steppe, and forest regions from Heilongjiang and Jilin in the east to Xinjiang (East Turkestan) in the west. 1 The frontier between China and the north has also been envisaged as a bundle of routes and avenues of communications through which peoples, ideas, goods, and faiths flowed incessantly between West and East. In economic terms, it provided the Chinese with a source of foreign goods as well as a market for domestic production.

The process by which the northern frontier acquired these qualifications was a long one. While its complexities cannot be captured in a single image, the Great Wall - this symbolic and material line that came into existence as a unified system of fortifications with the establishment of the Qin empire in 221 BC - can be seen as the culmination of a long process of cultural differentiation that embraces several aspects.

The first concerns the frontier's material culture. As Neolithic communities learned to use and transform their territory, different applications of economic potential and intellectual abilities created cultural, social, and economic differences that are visible through the relics of their civilizations. It was during the Bronze Age that a distinct northern culture emerged. During the latter part of the Shang dynasty (ca. 1,200-1,050 BC), northern China already featured a clearly discernible cultural complex undeniably distinct from that of the Central Plain (Zhongyuan []), This Northern Complex cannot be regarded as a single culture; rather different communities shared a similar inventory of bronze objects across a wide area. This inventory allows us to establish broad connections with bronze civilizations of North Asia, West Asia, and China.

Second, human adaptation to an environment more arid than that of the lower Yellow River and Wei 渭 River valleys, such as that of Inner Mongolia and Gansu, historically emphasized animal breeding over farming technology. Across the northern frontier a steady transition from an agriculture-based to a pastoral-based economy took place beginning in the late second millennium BC. While hunting, fishing, and farming remained actively pursued, animal remains indicate the gradual expansion of domesticated cattle, sheep, and horses. Domesticated animals were not new, but larger herds demanded new ways of management. Beginning in about the eighth century BC, throughout Inner Asia horse-riding pastoral communities appear, giving origin to warrior societies. Known by the Greeks as Scythians in the western end of Asia, their cultural expansion was by no means limited to the Pontic steppe to the north of the Black Sea, but extended across the Eurasian steppe belt. Equestrian pastoral peoples, who may be broadly defined as “early nomads”, were present in northern China and can be regarded as cultural forerunners of the Xiongnu 匈奴 (Xiongnu is a Chinese derisive rendering for the Huns adopted in the 2nd c. BC in unification of the Chinese language by the Han empire, it is neither politonym nor endonym. “Hun” is Turkic for “kin”, i.e. it is a super-ethnonym, like Latinos in Americas; it is proper to use a Chinese standardized term when no English-language term exists, but from 1948, when W. B. Henning demonstrated [BSOAS 13, p. 644] that alphabetic form of the Chinese “ferocious slave” Xiongnu was “Hun”, the use of Chinese form in lieu of English word is outdated and misleading), the Huns, and the later Turco-Mongol nomads. The use of the horse in war became widespread in northern China well before it was adopted by the Chinese. Finally, in literary records frontier peoples came to represent a sort of alter ego that contributed, by providing a contrasting image, to the formation of China's cultural identity.

The relationship between China and the nomads appears to have been of secondary importance to Chinese history until it exploded into one of its most critical issues, during the Qin-Han period. The emergence of the Xiongnu empire, in 209 BC, struck the newly born Chinese empire with unprecedented strength, forcing upon it the realization that the north had become a major antagonist, politically, militarily, and culturally. Because of this, scholars have had great difficulties explaining the origin of the Xiongnu and related nomadic cultures in northern China.

Countless efforts to identify some of the alien peoples (Xianyun 獫狁/猃 狁, Rong [Jung] 戎, Qiang 羌族 [Jiang 姜/羌], and Di [氐] in particular) that figure prominently in pre-Han written records with pastoral nomadic cultures have so far failed to yield firm results. Pastoral nomads become historically identifiable only during the late Warring States period. This has created the impression that their sudden appearance on the stage of Chinese history was a product of the creation of a unified Chinese state. However, archaeological evidence has now shown that the presence of nomadic pastoralists on the northern frontier of China was by no means a sudden phenomenon and that the genesis of distinct northern cultures can be traced back to the Shang period (I.e. 1,600 BC), if not earlier.

The interface between China and the Northern Zone was a dynamic factor that featured prominently in their respective histories. From the Central Plain the geographical configuration and natural topography of the north could be modified by building roads and fortifications, by subjugating native peoples, and by establishing settlements. On the other side, northern peoples formed independent political entities that entered Chinese history in their own right as military opponents, political allies, and trading partners, stimulating innovations and cultural exchanges. However, written sources for this historical phenomenon are hazy at best. As northern peoples emerge from prehistorical obscurity, their history can be tentatively reconstructed only through succinct mentions of battles and alliances that supply more questions than answers. Recently, archaeological work has provided a referential framework that allows us to trace the cultural progress of the Northern Zone from the Shang through the Warring States periods. Though the temptation to cloak archaeological finds in historical garb should be avoided, and though the asymmetry between textual and material records leaves room for wide differences of interpretations, the contours of this broad phenomenon have become less blurred.

This chapter, however, cannot be a history of contacts between China and Central Asia over two millennia; neither can it say anything definitive about the evolution of ancient nomadic cultures in today's northern China. Rather, it aims to provide a broad narrative of the northern frontier with a particular question in mind: what was the genesis of the Xiongnu (Hunnic) steppe empire as a historical phenomenon? This question, so fundamental for the history of China, is the leading issue that this chapter attempts to address.


The appearance of a distinct Xiongnu (Hunnic) culture in northern China is commonly dated to the end of the fourth century BC. Western scholars have often attributed it to patterns of continental migrations of Central Asian pastoral nomads, at times even identified linguistically as Altaic or Indo-European. By contrast, the traditional Chinese ethnogenealogy of the Xiongnu, traceable back to the Shi ji, refers to them as the descendants of ancient northern peoples. 2 Archaeological studies in China have by and large emphasized continuity and gradual evolution over sudden ruptures and influences from Central Asia, and Chinese scholars insist that the origin and evolution of the Xiongnu (Hunnic) people be placed within the context of the autochthonous formation of pastoral cultures in northern China. Nevertheless, though detailed evidence is still wanting, connections between the Northern Zone and South Siberia, in particular the Karasuk and Tagar cultures, are beyond doubt, and it is safe to say that the evolution of pastoral cultures in northern China, while displaying an original and distinctive history, was not an isolated phenomenon. The Northern Zone cultural complex was an active participant in the continent-wide evolution of a North Eurasian pastoral nomadic culture whose fundamental character and premises it shared with other complexes across the Eurasian steppe and forest regions. Its position within this process is, however, not clear. Given the uncertainty of the connections, caution requires us to limit the scope of this study to the Sino-Mongolian frontier zone (Shanxi, Shaanxi, Hebei, northern Henan, and Inner Mongolia), flanked by northeastern (Liaoning and Heilongjiang) and northwestern extensions (Gansu, Ningxia, parts of Qinghai and Xinjiang (East Turkestan)). Within this broad Northern Zone, archaeological remains reveal the existence of regional and local features according to period and territorial distribution.

Various efforts have been directed at showing the internal coherence of the evolution of the Northern Zone, or “Ordos”, culture. Excavations carried out in Inner Mongolia and adjacent areas have shown that the presence of pastoralists in the Northern Zone can be dated to the Shang period and can be divided into three stages of development: Bronze Age (Shang, Western Zhou, and Spring and Autumn periods); Early Iron Age (Warring States period); Iron Age (Former and Latter Han). Stages prior to the late Warring States period are referred to, by Chinese scholars, as early or proto-Xiongnu (Hunnic) cultures. 3

2 Shiji, 110 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1985 [1959]). pp. 2,879-81. This “genealogy” was rejected by both Bernhard Karlgren, “Some Weapons and Tools of the Yin Dynasty”, BMFEA, 17 (1945): 141; and Otto Maenchen-Helfen, “Archaisric Names of the Hiung-nu”, Central Asiatic Journal 6 (1961): 148-61.

An alternative four-phase periodization, based on bronze typology, includes
a first phase, the late Shang and early Western Zhou (thirteenth to ninth centuries BC), with bronzes characterized by dagger and knife terminals in the shape of animal and bird heads;
a second phase, from the late Western Zhou to the mid-Spring and Autumn period (ninth to sixth centuries BC), represented by the bronzes of the Upper Xiajiadian [] culture;
a third phase, from the late Spring and Autumn to the end of the Warring States (sixth to third century BC), characterized by rectangular bronze plaques with animal designs in relief or openwork, and by animal figures in the round; and
a fourth phase, during the Former and Later Han dynasties, also featuring rectangular belt ornaments with animal motifs in openwork. 4

This first periodization compresses approximately ten centuries (1,500-500 BC) within the same category of “Bronze Age”, thus obscuring the variety and complexity of socioeconomic, technological, and cultural changes that took place in the Northern Zone during that period. Moreover, both periodizations tend to convey the impression that such a development was wholly endogenous and to discard the extensive contacts between the Northern Zone and Central Asia as a powerful stimulus to change and development. Finally, these periodizations emphasize the material culture almost exclusively, with socioeconomic and historical considerations playing only ancillary roles. An approach that combines social and economic considerations and information drawn from historical records may provide a fuller appreciation of cultural progress in the Northern Zone. This progress can be divided into four periods.

The Second Millennium BC

A frontier, understood as a geographical area penetrated by cultures with different characteristics and cutting across various political and social units, can be discerned prior to and during the Shang dynasty, as some cultures of the Northern Zone are believed to have already been pastoral, though probably not yet engaged in pastoral nomadism, that is, a socioeconomic system based on a fixed migratory cycle and overwhelmingly dependent on animal products. More likely, the earliest representatives of the Northern Zone complex were mixed communities of shepherds and farmers that also practiced extensive hunting. At this early stage the frontier appears to have been a broad belt of cultural transition between the Shang civilization and the bronze cultures of Central Asia and South Siberia.

Though northern peoples displayed different cultural traits, such as distinct ceramic objects, burial customs, habitations, and economic structures, certain characteristic elements, such as bronze weapons, became widely adopted throughout the Northern Zone, and this common metallurgical culture was different and independent from that of the Central Plain. The date of 1,000 BC seems a suitable chronological marker to end this phase. The Zhou conquest caused a political realignment of the Central Plain, which affected foreign relations. The Zhou house had a very different relationship with some of the earlier enemies of the Shang; for instance, they intermarried with the Jiang 姜/羌 clan, probably related to the Qiang . 5 Moreover, the early Zhou kings achieved a period of peace on the borders.

Western Zhou to Early Spring and Autumn (ca. 1,000–650 BC)

During the Western Zhou, the appearance of a northeastern cultural complex characterized by advanced metallurgical techniques marked an expansion of the Northern Zone, in particular toward the east {Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning). The Western Zhou court carried out intense political and military activities in the north, east, and west against peoples whose archaeological identification is still debated. Among the multitude of alien peoples, at times friendly and more often hostile, the funerary inventories are consistent with the emergence of aristocratic warrior elites and a broad productive basis, whose main force was represented by increasingly more specialized pastoralists.

Mid-Spring and Autumn to Early Warring States (ca. 650-350 BC)

A third phase of the history of the northern frontier can be dated from the middle or late seventh century to the mid-fourth century. This period witnessed the appearance of fully developed steppe pastoral nomads who may be regarded as the cultural ancestors of the Xiongnu (Huns) and can be termed “early nomadic”. Early nomadic cultures spread in the Eurasian steppe beginning from the eighth century BC and lasted through the third century.

5 On the relationship between Jiang and Zhou see Wang Zhonghan, ed., Zhongguo minzu shi (Beijing: Zhongguo shehui kcxue, 1994}, p. 12-5-

It is interesting that approximately the same chronology applies to the Scythians, known from Herodotus's Histories as the powerful nomadic warriors of the North Pontic steppe, and to the eastern steppe cultures variously termed Altaic Scythian, 6 Scytho-Siberian, or Saka. Even though there were fundamental ways in which nomadic groups over such a vast territory differed, the terms “Scythian” and “Scythic” have been widely adopted to describe a special phase that followed the widespread diffusion of mounted nomadism, characterized by the presence of special weapons, horse gear, and animal art in the form of metal plaques. Archaeologists have used the term “Scythic continuum” in a broad cultural sense to indicate the early nomadic cultures of the Eurasian steppe. 7

The term “Scythic” draws attention to the fact that there are elements - shapes of weapons, vessels, and ornaments, as well as lifestyle - common to both the eastern and the western ends of the Eurasian steppe region. However, the extension and variety of sites across Asia makes Scythian and Scythic terms too broad to be viable, and the more neutral “early nomadic” is preferable, since the cultures of the Northern Zone cannot be directly associated with either the historical Scythians or any specific archaeological culture defined as Saka or Scytho-Siberian. 8 Mentions of “proto-Xiongnu” (proto-Hunnic) cultures should also be avoided to eschew inferences of a close genetic relationship with any single group of nomads that would appear centuries later, since no such relationship can be confirmed to date, and since the early nomads of the Northern Zone could just as well be claimed to be the predecessors of other nomadic groups, such as the Dong Hu 東 胡 ("eastern moustachio"), Lin Hu 林胡 ("forest moustachio"), and Wusun 烏孫 ("grandchildren of  crow").

These early nomadic communities achieved a dominant position throughout the Eurasian steppe region, and their metal culture displayed a singular uniformity of features. In the Northern Zone, the transition to pastoral nomadism occurred gradually. The Saka culture in Xinjiang (East Turkestan), the Shajing 沙井 culture in Gansu, the Ordos complex in Inner Mongolia, and the Upper Xiajiadian culture of Liaoning, all point to a transition from mixed agropastoral to predominantly or exclusively pastoral nomadic cultures. From the seventh century onwards, objects related to improved horse management and horse riding, such as the bit, cheekpieces, horse masks, and bell ornaments, became ever more widespread and sophisticated.

Iron metallurgy is likely to have spread in the Northern Zone before its general appearance in the Central Plain, with iron objects found in Xinjiang (East Turkestan) in the ninth century BC and in Inner Mongolia and the northeast by no later than the mid-seventh century BC.

The changes that were taking place in the north, however, were not immediately noticeable to historians and chroniclers in China. This was due in part to the mode of historical writing itself, not yet mature enough to be concerned with anthropological and ethnographic detail. But it is also possible that the nomads inhabited a “deep” frontier not yet discovered by the people of the Central Plain. The presence of mixed archaeological remains on the borders of China, and the lack of reference to mounted pastoralists in the Chinese sources, probably indicate that alien communities of mixed shepherds and agriculturalists acted as a buffer between the Central Plain and the nomadic lands (It should be recognized that the arrival of pastoralists in mass is impossible using only the chariots, the herds must be controlled by mounted riders, and the wars conducted by Zhou at great distances and with overwhelming success are impossible without a use of cavalry).

Late Warring States to Qin (ca. 350–209 BC)

The fourth period starts in the late Warring States and leads to the foundation of the Xiongnu (Hunnic) state in 209 BC. In 307 BC King Wuling of Zhao 赵武灵王, influenced by the nomads, introduced cavalry into his army. The famous debate that accompanied this event provides the first historical information on pastoral nomads – known as Hu 胡 - along the northern borders of China. The reduction of the number of the contending states in China to a few strong ones, and the northward expansion of Qin, Zhao, and Yan , resulted in the assimilation of several peoples, such as the Rong (Jung) and the Di, within the orbit of the Zhongyuan. This eliminated the protective screen that those people had supplied between China and the unambiguously nomadic, warlike groups further north, who suddenly appear in the Chinese sources beginning at this time.

It is in this phase that China started to develop a knowledge of Inner Asia and a deeper understanding of the surrounding cultures. Even though, during the last phase of the Warring States, Hu nomads and Xiongnu (Hunnic) played a relatively minor role in the history of the Central States, nevertheless their presence and activity on the Chinese northern border cannot be denied. The frontier reached its historical definition with the creation of the Great Walls, which separated the northern states of Qin, Zhao, and Yan from the nomads. Wall building was not limited to the northern regions, but the northern walls and fortresses remained and were strengthened after Qin's unification of the realm, whereas fortifications between states disappeared.

Qin continued to expand northward after 221 BC. The colonization of the Ordos region led by Ceneral Meng Tian 蒙恬 in 215 BC caused a widespread dislocation of Xiongnu (Hunnic) tribesmen from their ancestral land, the ensuing political and economic crisis creating among the Xiongnu (Huns) the conditions for the rise of a new leadership. This led to the formation of a powerful northern empire, founded by Maodun 冒頓 in 209, just as China was about to plunge into a civil war. When the newly born Han dynasty came to confront the Xiongnu (Huns), it found that the balance of power had been reversed. The Xiongnu (Huns) were able to impose their rule in the north, the Great Wall being declared the frontier between the people “with bows and arrows” and those “with hats and girdles”.


The Northern Zone Complex: Defining Characteristics

A cultural “complex” with characteristics unquestionably different from those of the Central Plain emerged during the Shang period in the Northern Zone. This term should not suggest a homogeneous culture, but rather a broad area in which different people shared certain common traits, in particular their bronze inventory. This metallurgical tradition typifies the north and marks the cultural boundary with the civilization of the Central Plain. Most characteristic of the Northern Zone complex are bronze weapons, probably indicating that the development of metallurgy was linked to the rise of military elites and to increased warfare – possibly resulting from competition for economic resources. Among the weapons, the most representative are daggers, knives, axes, mirrors, and a “bow-shaped” object.

DAGGERS. Daggers, or “short swords”, are characterized for the most part by the integral casting of hilt and double-edged blade and by a relatively narrow and straight hand-guard (Fig. 13.1A). The early types, dated to the middle and late period of the Shang dynasty, display a characteristic curved hilt, often decorated with geometric designs, featuring a terminal in the shape of an animal head, usually a horse, ram, eagle, or ibex. Others have perforated hilts, or straight hilts with grooves ending in a rattle.

KNIVES. Whereas Shang bronze knives normally have short stems inserted into a handle of a different material, all northern-type bronze knives of this period have an integrally cast hilt (Fig. 13.1B). The spine of the knife has an arched shape and is wider than the grip. Between the blade and the grip there is often a small tongue. Pommels come in many shapes; the most characteristic are the mushroom, animal head, and various shapes of rings, or loops. Handles are decorated with geometric motifs similar to those of the daggers.

Figure 13.1. Northern Zone bronzes of the second and early first millennium BC
A: Bronzes of the Karasuk culture, Southern Siberia.
B, C, D: Respectively, daggers, knives, and axes of the Northern Zone complex.

AXES WITH TUBULAR SOCKETS. The axe's blade is typically long and thick, with a relatively narrow cutting edge clearly different from the fan-shaped axe of the Shang. Their main characteristic, however, is a tubular socket set perpendicularly to the blade (Fig. 13.1C and D). In early axes, the socket can be longer than the width of the body. This hafting system is very different from the predominant Shang method of attaching the handle to a protruding flat tang. Tubular axes have been found in Hebei (Chaodaogou [], Qingiong [] county), in Shanxi, (Gaohong [], Liulin [] county, and Chujiayu[], Shilou [] county), and at Shang sites, such as Dasikong []. 9 In Gaohong two axes were found together with a dagger with a rattle pommel, a spearhead, a helmet, three knives each with a double-ring head, and other small objects. 10

MIRRORS. Round bronze disks, usually defined as mirrors in Chinese archaeology, are also part of a northern heritage (Fig. 13.1D). Typically they have a smooth surface on one side; on the other, which may carry surface decoration, they have a central knob handle. A Qinghai mirror decorated on the back with a star-shaped design suggests a solar cult, possibly of Central Asian origin. Mirrors found in Anyang tombs, such as those in Fu Hao's 婦好 tomb, have decorative motifs that are not consonant with the artistic vocabulary of the Shang. 11 Other mirrors found in Shang burials in central Shaanxi together with a ding [] vessel, curved knives, and gold earrings, suggest associations with non-Chinese cultures. 12 Finally, a mirror has been found in another burial together with two bronze jue [] vessels with the character Qiang 羌 inscribed on them. 13 This evidence connects the mirror to a distinctive northern culture, and possibly to the Qiang people. Only in the mid-seventh century did the bronze mirror become part of the Chinese native tradition (It happened that all mirrors excavated in the Siberian tombs were ascribed to the Chinese origin as a proof of either import, or cultural influence. That tendency to ascribe Kurgan Cultures' innovations to the Chinese origin still persists, in spite of clear indications to the opposite).

"BOW-SHAPED” OBJECT. This curious object is comprised of a slightly bent decorated central bar and curved lateral sections. Various hypotheses have been adduced as to its use (Fig. 13.1D). 14 Found in the Yinxu 殷墟 culture with end rattles and horse heads, and in the Minusinsk region with a much simpler decoration of knobs, it was probably invented in the Northern Zone and thereafter transmitted to both China and South Siberia.

Other objects also regarded as characteristic of this particular culture are a distinctive type of spoon (Fig. 13.1D) and helmet. The spoons have rings on the handle with attached pendants. The helmets are undecorated, the sides coming down to cover the ears; they have a ring on top and holes on the bottom to the right and left. 15

Northern Zone Sites of the Second Millennium BC

ANIMAL STYLE. The term “Animal Style” indicates a decorative style and an artistic tradition shared across the Northern Zone (and Eurasia) from the thirteenth century onwards. Common both to the Karasuk culture of South Siberia (1,200–800 BC) and the early nomadic cultures of Central Asia, the style consists of various representations of animals on bronze vessels, weapons, and tools. At this early stage the Animal Style is expressed in the Northern Zone mainly in the form of ornamental animal heads in the round attached to the end of knife handles and dagger hilts (The Animal Style is viewed as a hallmark of the Scythian Triad, a complex of weapon, horse harness, and animal art which serves as a distinct archeological marker of the Eurasian Kurgan Culture people). 16

Geographic Distribution

During the Shang, and in particular the late Shang period, the Northern Zone included the territory of northern Shaanxi, Shanxi, and northern Henan; in the east it reached as far as the Liaodong coast; in the north it reached western Liaoning and Inner Mongolia; and in the west it extended to Gansu, Ningxia, and Xinjiang (East Turkestan) (Map 13.1).

Map 13.1. Northern Zone: Archaeological sites of the second millennium BC

That elements of the bronze culture of the Northern Zone are present as far as Transbaikalia (Looking from Moscow, and not Beijing, i.e. Eastern Baikal area), Mongolia, the Altai region, South Siberia (Minusinsk River basin), and Tuva is evidence of the extraordinary reach of this cultural complex. In recent years the excavation of archaeological sites in North China allows us to identify a number of cultures or cultural features located within the Northern Zone complex.

14. “Anyang, and Siberian Analogies”, American Journal of Archaeology 53 (1949); 138, relates it to bows and quivers. However, the “bow-shaped” object appears commonly on so-called deer stones - anthropomorphic steles with carvings representing stylized deer – attached to the belt. On this basis, Lin Yiin, “A Reexamination”, p. 163, suggests that it was used as a “reins-holder” by drivers of horse-drawn chariots and horse drivers. Yet the iconography or the deer stones does not show it in combination with chariots or horses. See also Qin Jianming, “Shang Zhou 'gongxingqi' wei 'qiling' shuo”, Kaogu 1995.5: 256-8 (Composite bow serves as one of the discriminators of the Scythian Triad, its roots ascend to the mounted riding and deer stones; ditto the belt as a hanger for tools and weapons, ditto the belt buckle).
16. On the animal style the following works may be consulted: Karl Jettmar, Art of the Steppes (New York: Crown, 1967); and Anatoly Martinov, The Ancient Art of Northern Asia, trans, and ed. Demitri B. Shimkin and Edith M. Shinikin (Urbana; University of Illinois Press, 1991). On the origin and earliest occurrences of the Animal Style, see Yakov A. Sher, “On the Sources of the Scythic Animal Style”, Arctic Anthropology 25-2 (1988): 47-60 (Citation: “A developmental chain from Okunevo to Karasuk and Tagar (Scythian) can be traced for over 1,000 years").

These are the Lower Xiajiadian culture, the northern-style bronzes, and Baijinbao [] (Heilongjiang) culture in the northeast; the Zhukaigou [] and Chaodaogou cultures, together with mixed Shang and Northern Zone sites, in the north-central sector; and the Qijia [], Xindian [], and Siwa [] cultures in the northwestern portion, including present-day Gansu and Ningxia provinces.

LOWER XIAJIADIAN. Approximately contemporary with the last phases of the Zhukaigou culture, but located further east, is the Lower Xiajiadian culture (ca. 2,000-1,300 BC), essentially a pre-Shang culture, though partially overlapping with the early Shang. Lower Xiajiadian sites extend across southeastern Inner Mongolia, Liaoning, and northern Hebei, and reveal a Bronze Age culture at the initial phase of transition toward metalworking. People lived in settlements, the economy of which was firmly agricultural, based on millet. This was supplemented with hunting of deer and stock raising, as shown by remains of sheep, cattle, and, in particular, pigs. Metalwork was limited to small objects, such as rings, knives, and handles. In contrast, stone and bone production attained a high level. The southern limit of the Lower Xiajiadian culture is located in Hebei (Yixian [] and Laishui [] counties). The whole Beijing region, however, forms a large belt where the Lower Xiajiadian and the Shang cultures met. 17

NORTHEASTERN BRONZES. Bronzes found in the northeast that are typologically similar to the Northern Zone bronzes attributed to the Shang and early Western Zhou periods have been found mostly in cache and storage pits; they consist primarily of weapons: battle-axes, socketed axes, knives, and daggers. These findings are concentrated in western Liaoning; the eastern part of Liaoning seems to have been marginal to the distribution of northern-type bronzes. In eastern Liaoning, together with knives, socketed axes, battle-axes, and a distinctive type of socketed dagger, only one type of northern-style dagger has been found, with hollow hilt and blade in a single casting. Socketed daggers are not found in the rest of the Northern Zone. The battle-axes with long and narrow sockets and straight blades are similar to those found in Chaodaogou. Unusual items, which nevertheless belong to the same Northern Complex, are a dagger hilt that terminates m the shape of a human head, as well as vessel lids and chariot ornaments. In the northeast, as in the rest of the Northern Zone, bronzes are not associated with pottery. 18

ZHUKAIGOU. The importance of the Zhukaigou culture lies in its role as the reputed progenitor of the “Ordos bronze culture” and, by extension, as the first Northern Zone culture. It extended to northern and central Inner Mongolia, northern Shaanxi, and northern Shanxi, with the Ordos region at its center. 19 Bronze objects dated to the last period of its existence (ca. 1,500 BC) have been excavated. These point to the indigenous production of typical Northern Zone items, such as bronze daggers, together with typical Shang dagger-axes (ge []) and integrally cast knives with terminal ring and upward-turned point that reveal both Shang and northern features. The people of Zhukaigou were agriculturalists, with a main staple of millet. They also raised sheep, pigs, and cattle. The transition to metalworking occurred around the end of the third millennium, which also coincides with a higher level attained in the ceramic industry. It is in this period that certain motifs appear, such as the snake pattern and the flower-shaped edge of the li [] vessel, the latter of which archaeologists regard as characteristic of later nomadic peoples of this area. 20

Interestingly in this area in the first half of the second millennium, people already used oracle-bone divination, a practice that came to be closely associated with Shang culture and statecraft. Shang ritual vessels, such as ding and jue, and weapons appear here during the Erligang and Erlitou periods. 21 This may suggest that around the mid-second millennium BC, there was a northward movement of Shang culture or that contacts between the local people and the Shang increased.

CHAODAOGOU CULTURE. The Chaodaogou culture 22, located between the bend of the Yellow River and the Liao 遼/辽 River drainage basin, extends across northern Hebei, Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Henan. It is characterized mostly by funerary sites that have yielded identical or closely related objects, among which the most characteristic are bronze weapons, in particular daggers, knives, and axes. The type site is Chaodaogou (Qinglong [] county, Hebei), excavated in May 1961. 23 The bronzes found here have contributed greatly to defining the Northern Zone as a distinct cultural complex. These are a dagger with decorated handle and ram-head pommel, an axe with tubular socket, and four knives each with arched back and a pommel in the form of a rattle, while a fifth knife has a ram-head knob. Another typical site of this culture is Linzheyu [] (Baode [] county, Shaanxi), a burial ground that yielded a dagger with grooved hilt and rattle pommel, bronze plaques with spiral designs, small rattles in bronze, small bells, horse harness, two axes with tubular sockets, as well as bronze ritual vessels. 24

BAIJINBAO CULTURE. Roughly contemporary with the Chaodaogou culture is the Baijinbao culture in Heilongjiang, which spans the late second and the early first millennium. 25 The type site of this culture is located in Zhaoyuan [] county, Heilongjiang, and was excavated in 1974. Centered in the plain of the Sungari-Nonni River system, its distribution extends west to the border between Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang, south to Baicheng [] county in Liaoning, north to Ang'angxi [], Fuyu [], and Nenjiang [] counties in Heilongjiang, and east to Harbin, Bin county 宾县, and Bayan 巴彦 county. 26

Bronze objects are typically small and include knives, buttons, rings, and earrings. Casting molds have also been found. Two semisubterranean houses excavated at Baijinbao indicate settled life. Some tools are made of stone (polished axes, adzes, and scrapers), but most are made of bone or shell. The abundance of fishing- and hunting-related tools, such as harpoons, spears, projectile points, knives, and scrapers, indicate that fishing and hunting were the main activities of this culture, as we would expect in a region rich in rivers and forests. The chronology of the culture is based on the pottery, such as li [] tripods, hu [] jars, and guan [] pots. The Baijinbao ceramics are characteristically embellished with a decor executed in dotted lines that includes geometric designs or animals, such as frogs, sheep, and deer. The finding of a typical Baijinbao guan pot in an Upper Xiajiadian (eleventh to fourth centuries BC) site in southeastern Inner Mongolia points to close relations between these two areas in the early Western Zhou period. 27 The latest date of the Baijinbao culture is believed to be the early Spring and Autumn period (eighth to seventh centuries BC).

NORTHERN CULTURES IN THE GANSU~NINGXIA REGION. The Gansu–Ningxia region has had a long and rich history of archaeological investigation. European surveys in the 1920s and 1930s by Sven Hedin, Teilhard de Chardin, and, especially, J. Gunnar Andersson recognized a number of early cultures and established an initial chronology for the cultures of Qijia (齊家/齐家), Yangshao 仰韶 (Machang []), Xindian, Siwa, and Shajing. Later Chinese excavations, in the 1930s and 1940s, however, led to the recognition of the Qijia as an Early Bronze Age culture. 28 Throughout the 1950s and 1960s extensive surveys and excavations were conducted in the Weihe 渭河, Jinghe [河], Taohe [河], and Huangshui [] River valleys. Further studies in the 1970s and 1980s synthesized the material collected thus far and tried not only to establish a better chronology, but also to assess the extent of contacts with neighboring regions. 29

The Qijia culture is regarded as one of the earliest bronze cultures and is dated as early as 2,000 BC. Though its main sites are located in present-day Gansu province, such as in Huangniangniangtai [], Qinweijia [], and Dahezhuang [], its distribution is very broad, reaching north and east up to Inner Mongolia, the upper Yellow River valley, and the upper Weihe and Huangshui River valleys. 30 It was a sedentary culture, based on agriculture. Pig raising seems to have been important, given the relevance of the pig in sacrifices. Oracle divination was also practiced. An important feature of the Qijia culture is the presence of numerous domesticated horses. According to recent scholarship some of the metal artifacts recovered from Qijia sites, in particular knives and axes, might point to a connection with Siberian and Central Asian cultures, in particular the Seima-Turbino complex. 30 Though these connections are still hypothetical at present, it is plausible that future research may further corroborate the existence of early contacts between the Qijia culture and Central Asia (Am J Phys Anthropol, 2007:  Lajia family mtDNA RFLP typing and HVI motifs show haplogroups B, C, D, M*, and M10. The mtDNA complement points to Tungus/Mongol ladies).

During the second part of the Shang dynasty, three almost contemporary and intersecting cultures appeared in Gansu, Ningxia, and northern Qinghai, known as Siwa, Xindian, and Kayue 卡約 (Lijianshan people of Kayue culture morphologically have a general character of primitive Mongoloids, close to modern Evenks, Mongolians, North Chinese, Japanese and Buryats, and they differ from the Neolithic populations of Qinghai). These cultures, succeeding the Early Bronze Age Qijia, show the presence of more advanced bronzes, in particular weapons.

The Xindian culture dates between the first half of the second millennium and the late Western Zhou period, and is regarded as later than Machang but earlier than Siwa. Its area of distribution is the Hehuang [] River valiey and the eastern part of Gansu. It originated in the late Qijia, with which the pottery bears evidence of cultural continuity. The early Siwa sites are distributed in the same area. They were contemporary neighboring cultures, located in close proximity, though each followed its own discrete development. The Xindian culture later expanded toward the west and came closer to the Kayue culture, by which it was possibly absorbed. 31

The Siwa culture is dated to the middle and late second millennium; its eastern expansion may have resulted in a close interaction with the Zhou culture. It takes its name from the site of Siwashan [] (in Lintao 临洮 county, Gansu) and was discovered in 1924. 32 An important site is Xujjanian [] (in Zhuangiang [] county, eastern Gansu), a large cemetery where 104 graves were excavated, 7 of which contained human sacrifices. Two chariot and horse pits have also been found. The weapons recovered include dagger-axes, spearheads, and knives, all of whose shapes are similar to Western Zhou types. 34

Relationship with the Shang Civilization

Much evidence of contacts between the Shang and the Northern Zone comes from the discovery of Northern Zone bronzes in Shang tombs excavated in the Anyang area. These include a bronze knife with animal-head pommel found at Houjiazhuang [], another knife with a ring head together with a Shang pickaxe found at Xiaotun [], and a pickaxe with shorter tubular socket unearthed together with a clay tripod and a piece of jade in 1953 at Dasikong. 35 Some of the most important evidence of contact between the Shang and northern cultures comes from the tomb of Fu Hao, the consort of King Wu Ding (ca. 1,200 BC), excavated in 1976. It contained several items, such as a northern-style knife with an ibex head, that certainly did not originate in the Shang culture. There are also four bronze mirrors and a bronze hairpin with no equivalent in the Central Plain. Through laboratory “fingerprinting”, a connection has been established between a large number of the jades found in the tomb of Fu Hao and nephrite sources in Xinjiang (East Turkestan). Since opinions differed as to the provenance of the 755 jade objects excavated, many exquisitely crafted, over 300 pieces were sent to various laboratories in Beijing and Anyang, including that of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Examination is reported to indicate that all but 3 pieces came from quarries in Xinjiang (East Turkestan). 36

Outside Anyang there are several other sites with mixed findings. For instance, in Yantou [] (Suide [] county, Shaanxi) a Northern Zone knife has been found together with Shang bronze vessels and a ge dagger-axe, and a Western Zhou burial in Baifu [] (Changping [] county, Beijing) yielded a northern-style arched-back knife with geometric patterns on the handle and a ring pommel with three small knobs. 37 During the Yinxu period (a mysterious period between 1300 and 1027 BC noted for revolutionary change in bronze production with no previous developmental history; a period of sudden appearance of archeological artifacts that would later become the "Chinese Bronze Art") there was increased warfare between the Shang and the Northern Zone. By this period, the Northern Zone complex had evolved into a number of discrete cultural centers, which had established a network of contacts both between them and with the Central Plain.

THE CHARIOT. Numerous studies have suggested that the chariot was imported into China from the west, possibly around the thirteenth century BC. 38 Wagons and carts were first made in the Near East in the third millennium BC, as bronze tools and the domestication of the horse made possible the conception and technical realization of horse-drawn wheeled vehicles. Chariots should be distinguished from four-wheeled wagons and two-wheeled carts. Like wagons, carts were used to transport men and goods: they had solid or spoked wheels and a central axle on which the passenger box rested. Chariots had spoked wheels and a rear axle on which a box normally holding no more than two people rested. 39 Recent discoveries related to the Andronovo sites have revealed fully formed chariots with spoked wheels of the Sintashta–Petrovka culture, which may date, according to recent studies, as early as 2,026 BC. 40 These are technically and conceptually very similar to chariots found both in West Asia (such as the Lchashen site, Armenia, [former] Russian Federation, in the Caucasus), and East Asia, such as the chariots unearthed at Anyang. Though based on preexisting models of wheeled vehicles, the war chariot seems to have been developed by the agropastoralists of the Andronovo culture. This successful culture was advanced in animal domestication and breeding and mastered the art of bronze metallurgy to the point that craftsmen were able to manipulate alloys so that the quality of the bronze would be harder or tougher according to the specific function of weapons and tools. Indeed, economic success and the development of the war chariot may have been the basic factors accounting for the rapid spread of this culture across the Eurasian steppe from the Urals to South Siberia.

The first Chinese chariots have been found in burials of the Shang dynasty at Anyang, together with horses and drivers, who served as sacrificial victims. This type of vehicle was used by the aristocracy for display, hunting, and war. It was made of a central pole with one horse harnessed on each side, and a box with two spoked wheels attached to the end of the pole. The box was typically rectangular or oval. The chariot appears in China already fully formed, unpreceded by stages of development. 41 There appear to have been no other wheeled vehicles, such as wagons or carts, pulled by cattle or equids. During the Zhou dynasty, chariots became a common feature of the funerary inventory of the richest tombs, and chariotry was the central core of both Zhou and foreign armies (Funny, while the agrarian folks used their backs for tilling and transporting, their rulers were well off enough to bury their dune buggies. It is inconceivable that the people who traversed huge distances from the Andronovo sites, without any roads whatsoever, crossing mountains and deserts and rivers, did that in those flimsy chariots, or drugged the chariots on their backs. Even a millennia later, Chinese could not do it without nomadic carts and horses. The only viable explanation is mounted riding using horses and camels, and the Chinese archeology must refocus to find these traces. For the horse husbandry nomadic people driving thousand-head herds, the chariots could only be a status decoration, impractical for hunt, work, or war).

Few chariot remains have been found in the Northern Zone (For instance, the remains of wooden wheels found in Nuomiihong [] (Duian [] county, Qinghai) and tentatively dated to the mid-second millennium BC). 42 However, the presence of chariots in this region is documented by petroglyphs from South Siberia, the Altai region, the Tianshan [] Mountains, and the Yinshan [] Mountains in Inner Mongolia. For instance, a rock carving from the Yinshan Mountains illustrates a hunting scene where a hunter was shooting game after having dismounted from a chariot with eight-spoked wheels, pulled by two horses. 43 This is identical with another drawing recovered from an incised bone fragment depicting the same scene, with the additional presence of two dogs, found at Nanshan'gen [], dating to the eighth century BC or earlier. Their depiction, where chariot and horses are represented flat, is remarkably similar. If we can assume that petroglyphs in a similar style found in regions culturally and geographically akin can be attributed to the same period, then it is possible to hypothesize that the petroglyph from Yinshan is earlier than the eighth century BC, thus providing a later chronological limit. The earlier limit should be the twenty-first century BC, as this is the date of the earliest chariots found in the necropolises of the Andronovo culture. 44 The presence of similar drawings on deer stones, together with drawings of daggers with bent hilt common in the Northern Zone during the Shang period, suggest a dating of the petroglyphs to the mid-second millennium BC. 45

The petroglyphs, as well as the actual chariots found in the Sintashta burials, indicate essentially the same design and technical characteristics as the Chinese chariot, which is also very similar to a model found in the Caucasus at Lchashen and dated to the late second millennium BC (Two chariots were found in kurgans 9 and 11, Piggott, “The Earliest Wheeled Transport”, p. 95). 46 It is therefore probable that the war chariot with lightweight box and spoked wheels, pulled by two horses, originated in Central Asia and was later adopted by the peripheral civilizations of China, Mesopotamia, and the Caucasus. 47

Relationship with Northern and Central Asia

The relationship between the Northern Zone and the bronze cultures of South Siberia remains problematic. 48 From the twelfth to the eighth centuries BC, a new culture known as Karasuk dominates the Altai Mountains and Minusinsk Basin. The Karasuk people, like their northern Chinese neighbors, had a mixed economy that, although mainly based on livestock, also relied on agriculture and other supporting activities. 49 Bones of antelope and deer point to extensive hunting, whereas cattle and horse remains show that the Karasuk were devoted to animal husbandry, their main productive activity. Their metal inventory presents many points in common with the Northern Zone bronzes of North China. Among the knives we find the type with hunched back. The daggers are also similar to the Ordos style, with a short guard. The pickaxes display tubular sockets for hafting such as those of the Northern Zone, though the blade presents a pointed cutting edge that may have been derived from a Shang prototype. Arrowheads are also similar to those found in Anyang.

The similarities triggered a long-standing dispute as to the influence, and primacy, of one culture over the other. Seminal work by Russian archaeologists in South Siberia 50 and subsequent analysis of the Karasuk and Shang affinities showed that the Anyang finds represented the earliest occurrences of certain Karasuk types. These studies also pointed to the presence of a new racial type in Karasuk, akin to the population of North China. As a result, the hypothesis that the appearance of a distinct bronze inventory pointed to a migration from China to Central Asia in the eleventh or tenth century BC was formulated. 51

47. This is the opinion of the majority of scholars. See in particular Shaughnessy, “Historical Perspectives on the Introduction of the Chariot into China”; Piggott, “Chinese Chariotry: An Outsider's View”, Most Chinese scholars, however, either disagree or remain noncommittal as to the hypothesis of the exogenous origin of the chariot; e.g., see Lu Liancheng, “Chariot and Horse Burials in Ancient China”, Antiquity 67, 257 (1993): 824-38.
48. From the viewpoint of the development of metallurgy, the eastern zone of the steppe, of which one of the most dynamic centers was located in the Sayano-Altai region, embraced also Mongolia and Transbaikalia (i.e. Eastern Baikal area). This is what Chernykh defines as the Central Asian Metallurgical Province. The development of metallurgy and its diffusion throughout the region should probably be seen in connection with the development of nomadism, since more technologically advanced communities may have advanced more quickly along the road of pastoral specialization, and in turn their increased mobility may have facilitated the diffusion of their technology. For the extension and metallurgical development of this region in the Bronze Age, see E. N. Chernykh, Ancient Metallurgy in the USSR, trans. Sarah Wright {Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 270–1.
50 S.V.Kiselev, Drevniaia Isoriia Iuzhnoi Sibiri (Moscow: Nauka, 1951) (Reference to 1951 Russian publication can't be seriously cited and called “seminal”, it belongs to the same pleiade of scientific fantasies as the V.Abaev's “Scythian Dictionary” and rewritten Russian historical textbooks; the conclusions S.V.Kiselev's conclusions were drawn without metallurgical studies, mineral studies, dendrochronological studies, instrumented dating, biology and genetics, and even without post-1940's artifact typology. Ditto 51. Karl Jettmar, “The Karasuk Culture and Its South-Eastern Affinities”, BMFEA 22 (1950): 116-23. That was the genocidal epoch when the former nomadic people in Russia were forcefully deported and derided, the China was a newly arrived eternal friend, and scientists were appointed).

Recent studies, however, show that the Shang metallurgical tradition is separate from that of the Northern Zone complex. 52 That the Northern Complex was an independent cultural unit seems now to be generally accepted. 53 However, the Northern Zone acted as a filter as well as a link between China on the one hand and Central and North Asia on the other; many typical features, especially bronze decorations, originated here and were later transmitted elsewhere. 54

Others see a closer relationship between the Northern Zone and South Siberia, regarding the Northern Zone together with the Sayano-Altai region, Mongolia, Transbaikalia (i.e. Eastern Baikal area), and northwestern China (Xinjiang [East Turkestan]), as part of the Central Asian Metallurgical Province, In view of the scarcity of archaeological information from Mongolia and Xinjiang (East Turkestan), the full extent of the relationship among these areas, and between these areas and China, remains vague (After it was clear and “seminal” in 1950). Yet the similarity between some Central Asian forms and the Seima-Turbino knives with animal terminals and socketed celts may suggest an initial Western stimulus to the metallurgy that developed in the Sayano-Altai region and other zones of the Central Asian Metallurgical Province. There was also a possible symbiosis between Central Asian metallurgy and “true Chinese examples of high-quality casting”, especially with respect to weapons and ritual objects. In a later period, typical artifacts of this broad Central Asian zone gradually penetrated the west. 55

At the present stage of research it is only possible to say that the Northern Zone was home to a distinctive metallurgical culture with close ties not only with China, but also with areas to the West, in particular with the Sayano-Altai region. The economy of the Northern Zone peoples also resembles that of early pastoralists documented for the Karasuk people. It therefore seems that a process of gradual economic differentiation developed in which more mobile cultures specialized in raising livestock, whereas settled cultures retained mixed economic forms with emphasis on farming (In other words, the agrarians were stagnant and retarded, and nomads were mobile and developing).

Northern and Western Peoples in the Historical Records

According to the “Yu Gong” 禹貢 (Tribute of Yu) section of the Shang shu 尚書 (Venerated documents), 56 ever since the beginning of the Xia 夏 dynasty the Central Plain was surrounded by alien peoples, living in marshes or on mountains, who brought tribute to the Central Plain. Among the various tribute-bearing peoples are some whose description sounds familiarly nomadic, such as the felt-wearing people of Xiqing 西傾/西倾 (western upset/pour out men, i.e. western numerous invaders, phonetic kei/king), Kunlun 崑崙/昆仑山, and Qusou 渠搜 (canal/it seek). The Xiqing are said to have lived by the Huan [] River, not far from the Shang. Among the tribute items are furs and hides, bronze and other metals, including iron, steel, and, possibly, gold, special wood to make bows, stone and whistling (possibly bone) arrowheads. Yet there is no reason to believe that the “Yu Gong” preserves genuine information about real pastoral nomads living next to the Central Plain in a remote past. At most, we might say that the “Yu gong” furnishes a mythical past with features contemporary with the period of its composition (possibly the third century BC), when mounted nomads had become a common sight on China's northern borders.

Shang oracle bones and written documents of the Zhou dynasty contain a considerable amount of data concerning the names of peoples against whom the Shang fought or with whom they entered into relations. 57 These people are usually referred to as fang 方 (country), preceded by a character probably indicating their ethnic name. 58 Given the paucity of information and the subsequent uncertainty in the identification of these people, we cannot be sure that they formed political unions. Certainly some of them were quite powerful and militarily threatening, but the repeated appearance of a certain name for a relatively long period does not mean that all the people recognized by the Shang under that name were at any given time organized, like the Shang, in a single political and social structure. It is more likely that these definitions indicated certain broadly similar ethnic groups that may or may not have had internal political cohesion.

The Gongfang {工/口}方 (proud craftsmen's country) were probably located to the northwest of the Shang in northern Shaanxi, northern Shanxi, and possibly even the Ordos area. 59

They maintained frequent interaction with the Shang, especially during the reign of King Wu Ding, when several campaigns were undertaken against them. More resilient enemies may have been the Guifang 鬼方 (country of ugly tailed ghost/stranger ~ dog => Qiang?), who are said to have resisted Wu Ding's attacks for three years. 60 Another group mentioned often is that of the Tufang 土方 (land country/region => inner enemy), probably located in northern Shanxi and extinguished by Wu Ding's conquests. Another group becomes more important toward the end of the Shang, namely, the Renfang 人方, probably located in the middle and lower valley of the Huai 淮 River. 61 King Di Yi led several expeditions against them, and a chief of the Renfang is said to have been eventually captured and sacrificed to the gods.

The most constant enemy of the Shang was the Qiangfang 羌方, or simply Qiang. 61 Because of the presence of elements for “sheep” and “man” in the graph qiang, they are described in later sources as “shepherds”. 63 Their territory extended through southern Shanxi, northern Henan, and northern Shaanxi. The Shang often mounted expeditions against them, capturing slaves and sacrificial victims. Qiang prisoners were also skilled in the preparation of oracle bones. 64 The Qiang also seem to have been horse breeders, as some groups among them are called Ma Qiang 馬羌 or Duo Ma Qiang 多馬羌 (Qiang with many horses). 61 Finally, the Qiang had a close relationship with the Zhou, who were intermittently at war with the Shang.

The many wars fought by the Shang in the north and west make it clear that the frontier was anything but static and may explain why contacts with the Northern Zone seem to have been particularly active during the Yinxu period (a mysterious period between 1300 and 1027 BC noted for revolutionary change in bronze production with no previous developmental history; a period of sudden appearance of archeological artifacts that would later become the "Chinese Bronze Art"). It is in the twelfth century that we have records of increased military activity. The Shang state, surrounded by hostile people, fought and possibly subjugated some of the northern groups, incorporating alien cultural traditions. Whether these people were ethnically or linguistically different cannot be said, but they certainly represented cultures that were neither purely local nor self-enclosed. Indeed, their hinterland extended far to the north and west. By attaining access to this northern complex, the Shang established indirect links with Central Asia. Even at this early stage of Chinese history, the presence of a different metallurgical tradition, the many layers of interaction between the north and the Central Plain (possibly responsible for the transmission of the chariot and other cultural features), and the presence of mixed communities bespeak the importance of the north in Shang history.


Transition to Pastoral Nomadism

At the end of the nineteenth century, the hypothesis was advanced that “the domestication of animals was possible only under the conditions of a sedentary way of life”. 66 This presupposes both a long process of experimentation and accumulation of technical knowledge, and the existence of other source of production to generate the surplus in fodder and grains needed to feed the animals. Human communities raised animals - sheep, cattle, onagers pigs, and dogs - as a complement to farming. They then learned to use them either for direct productive activity or for other purposes, such a transportation.

Steppe oases provided a natural environment equally favorable to agriculture and animal husbandry. Surrounded by steppe pastureland, these areas imposed fewer restrictions on stock raising than valley agriculture, where an imbalance between the human and animal element could lead to disastrous consequences. The oasis dwellers specializing in stock breeding eventualy separated themselves from their original environment and became nomadic pastoralists. In areas contiguous to farming communities, nomads remained to a certain extent dependent on them for agricultural and handicraft products. To a varying degree nomads also continued to practice some forms of agriculture in their winter quarters. 67

The role of horses in the transition from sedentary herding to nomadic pastoralism is crucial. Possibly the first equids to be tamed was not the horse but the more docile onager. 68

Paleozoological evidence based on tooth bitwear suggests that the horse was first domesticated and possibly ridden in the fourth millennium BC in the Ukraine. 69 Like the onager, it was first used as a draught animal, being mounted and ridden only later. The first communities to breed horses were mainly agricultural, also raising pigs, cattle, and sheep. The horse was, then, just another member of the animal stock of early farmer-pastoralists.

Although there are differences of opinion, it seems that horseback riding in the strictest sense of the word, that is, riding astride, spread in West and Central Asia around the early part of the second millennium BC or possibly at the end of the third millennium BC. 70 The early pastoral communities were by no means nomadic in the sense that the later steppe nomads were, characterized by the military use of the horse. Although some were more or less mobile, following their herds on wheeled carts, or perhaps even mounted on horses, their pastoralism cannot be defined as nomadic - that is, a regular seasonal migratory cycle based on grass-producing environments at varying altitudes - but rather as “herder husbandry” or at most semi-nomadism. They still had settlements and depended on agricultural production (The inference that the true nomads do not have stationary settlements is inaccurate; applying a test of not having stationary settlements would make all nomads semi-nomadic, a meaningless proposition. Not only the continuously occupied southern or lower altitude terminal points were stationary, but the stations along the pasturing route, used as needed, were also permanent, and were seasonally used for crafts, mining, fishing, hunting, apiary, and farming). The vigorous expansion of the oasis civilizations of Central Asia in the third and second millennia BC, based on coexisting agricultural and pastoral production and increasingly closer contacts with neighboring people, led to the spread of enhanced metalwork and transportation technology to the steppe, where the environment was more favorable to the development of a pastoral economy. By the third millennium BC, farmer-herders had already begun to use various alloys and traveled in wheeled vehicles. 71 During this period “the struggle for forcible redistribution of pasture and accumulated wealth gives rise, at a certain stage, to a type of militarization of society that found expression and progress in the production of weapons” (This citation from a Soviet-era publication is totally out of real. Militarization of society was a product of sedentary-nomadic symbiosis, the mobile forces were so much superior to the static settlers that they had a defensive and offensive function integral to their station. For stationary population, the only way to protect themselves from predation is to enter into a symbiotic union as a dependent, take an obligation to provide the nomads with their products, and allow nomads to protect them for their own good. At all times, the main nomadic weapons were a bow and a lasso, and that has not changed from the 3rd millennium BC to the Industrial Age, with barely any progress. All other weapons had an ancillary utility. The conflicts for pastures were always resolved not by continued confrontation, but by a peaceful settlement or evacuation, because the advantage was always tactical, in a surprise attack, and not in the superiority of weaponry). 72

Archaeological and linguistic evidence shows that preconditions for the emergence of pastoral nomadism were present in the middle of the second millennium BC in both the European and Kazakh steppe. Nevertheless, the transition to pastoral nomadism practiced by horseback riders was not completed until the beginning of the first millennium BC (Since the archeological traces of the pastoral nomadism are practically undetectable, especially with the methods used in the Russian and Chinese steppes, and any conclusions made from the absence of the archeological finds must be taken with a hearty dosage of salt). 73

The eventual emergence of pastoral nomadism has been attributed to several factors: the increasing number of livestock and the accumulated experience of a more progressive, mobile pastoral husbandry; changes in the climate leading to progressive desiccation as a result of which formerly sedentary cultivators and cattle breeders became full nomads; and finally transition to a nomadic life as a result of overpopulation. 74 It is also possible that nomadism emerged among forest hunters, who borrowed animals from their sedentary neighbors and then, after they began to use the horse, moved into the steppe (The fact is that all nomadic horses were wild horses that have survived nicely for a long time before men figured out how to exploit them; the only difference after that was that men knew how to manage and direct them; the horses were nomadic to begin with; the trick was to catch and break a limited number of horses, and then to keep them confined to a pasturing route. Whether the catching is called farming or hunting is irrelevant, some number of horses had to be cornered, captured, broken, and used to corner and control more of them. Exactly the same process was repeated over and over again by Native Americans and by former farmers and few bookkeepers from Europe with wild horses in N.America; the only difference was that they did not have to catch and break a first wild horse). 75.

In South Siberia the transitional period that preceded the emergence of more homogeneous nomadic culture is represented by the Karasuk culture complex of the twelfth to the eighth centuries BC. This period witnessed rapid development of metallurgic technology based on a wide range of alloy and the use of stock breeding as the main economic activity. While no definite explanation can be provided for the appearance of the mounted steppe culture around the end of the second and beginning of the first millennium BC, this is generally seen as the result of an internal process, rather than one caused by external factors, such as invasions or mass migrations (Again, an analogy with N.America is completely applicable: there was no mass migration of Cortez coterie into Mexico, but like in the the fermentation process, a few stolen horses, and a few abandoned horses brought about a whole N.American animal husbandry industry. Neither invasion nor mass migration is needed, all that is needed is to seed the fermentation process; a few thousands of archeologically undetectable Afanasians could politically take over the sedentary foot hunters and farmers, and bring them to a new Karasuk level, like the Zhou brought to a new level the Shang assembly of Austro-Asian  and Chinese communities, and a few Spaniards brought to a new level the  Native American communities. The self-professed or perceived divinity plays a mighty ideological role, the concept of destiny and divine selection worked miracles millennia before the Zhous brought it as a news to the Chinese Central Plain). It was the combination of many factors over a long period of time that eventually produced an economic and cultural complex singularly well adapted to the arid conditions of the steppe. However, the speed with which people turned to fully developed pastoral nomadism is still subject to debate. For some, once the first pastoral communities emerged, the spread of nomadism ensued rapidly. By the eighth century BC, many people in different parts of the steppe had taken to nomadism (It should be remembered that by definition the steppe is an area where agriculture is not sustainable, thus it could not have agricultural population, except for river valleys and oases, which remained stationary and farming, while the steppe was brought into gainful production). At this time a military aristocracy was formed that concentrated in its hands a higher percentage of the common wealth (mostly weapons, ornaments, and, especially, animals) removed from the rest of the community. The rise of a warrior class is related to a general increase in aggressive warfare among pastoralists, aimed at securing pastures (This is an image of “Military Aristocracy” and “Warrior Class” in the eyes of the 19th c. analysts emanating from the Industrial Age. In reality, nomadic confederations are ruled by elected confederation and tribal leaders, with the tribal leaders constituting something like a Cabinet of Ministers and Parliament. The “Warrior Class” consists of all able-bodied men, trained as warriors from the childhood, and the military campaigns are held together by a promise of fair division of booty. Unfair division of tributes and booty is fatal. Both state and army are organized on hierarchical scheme, confederation consists of sub-confederations, and army consists of sub-armies, down to the smallest unit. A “Military Aristocracy” and a “Warrior Class” in such confederated meritocracy is a figment of faith into social dogmas transposed on the  reality, there is no room for them. On the populist social organization and the source of the military strength wrote both Herodotus and Shi ji). Agricultural production was considerably reduced and was preserved only at the tribes' winter pastures. Others have proposed a far more gradual transition that required several centuries. 76

Evidence of Pastoralism in the Northern Zone

From the Western Zhou to the late Warring States period, an increasing number of horse fittings and ornaments is found throughout the Northern Zone. The amount and variety of horse gear, together with the presence of horse sacrifice within the funerary assemblage, betoken the growing importance of the horse in both the economic and symbolic spheres (Sacrifice is a donation aimed to propitiate a divinity, it is unrelated to the nomadic funerary assemblage, which is a complex of transportation and sustenance supplies needed for transition to the other world. In the concept of eternal life, a death is only a transition point from one form of existence to another; the soul, called "kut" in Türkic, returns to the Creator, called "Tengri" in Türkic, "Dengir" in Sumerian, and "Di" in the post-Yin Chinese, to be recycled back to the Earth or this world, called "Yer" in Türkic and "Earth" in Germanic languages. The funerary ritual does include a religious sacrifice, and mementos of the ritual are found in the refuse material of the grave fill as bones of cooked meals and associated pottery, but they must be conceptually separated from the grave inventory given to the deceased for travel. In the grave inventory, the pots and vessels are a must, their contents feed the deceased on the way, and if they are not found, they were made of perishable materials).

There are several indications that the early use of metal horse fittings and riding in the northeast may be related to the development of the Upper Xiajiadian culture. Since saddles are not found in burials and stirrups had not yet been invented, it is difficult to say whether horse-related findings are to be associated with horseback riding or with other uses of the horse, such as pulling a cart or a chariot. There is however an indication in the Upper Xiajiadian site at Nanshangen that horses were in fact ridden, as figures of horseback hunters are represented on a bronze ring in the act of pursuing a hare. This find shows the existence of horse-riding people in the northeast as early as the eighth to seventh century BC. Other horse-related findings consist of bronze bits, cheekpieces, rein rings, ornaments, and chamfrons. With the exceptions of the cheekpieces, which were sometimes made of bone or wood, they were all made of bronze. The ornaments include disc-shaped ornaments, bells, luan [] bells, and some head ornaments and masks. Iron ornaments appear regularly only in the Warring States and Former Han periods.
Throughout the geographic distribution of the Upper Xiajiadian culture - eastern Inner Mongolia, western Liaoning, Hebei, and the Beijing area - horse fittings appear prominently in Western Zhou and Spring and Autumn funerary assemblages. However, specific evidence of horse riding is not documented in the southern part of this area until the sixth century, which is the date assigned to special riding bits found in Yanqing Hill, Beijing. 77 In the Central Plain we find no real evidence that horses were ridden before the fourth century BC. This may point either to a progressive southward movement of horse-riding communities or to a slow diffusion of horse riding toward the south.

EARLY IRON TECHNOLOGY. In the area of present-day Xinjiang (East Turkestan) we find the earliest appearance of iron of the Northern Zone. The cemetery site of Chawuhu [] Pass reveals some of the earliest iron remains. 79 On the basis of multiple calibrated radiocarbon datings, this site has been attributed to a period from the tenth to the seventh century BC. It consists of stone kurgans with multiple burials encircled within a ring of stones. The funerary assemblage includes gold, bronze, and iron objects. Among the bronze objects are knives with ringheads, a spearhead, and horse bits. A bone cheek-piece in the form of a ramhead is representative of early Animal Style. Iron objects are few and small, such as an awl and a ring. The extensive evidence of animal sacrifices buried in sacrificial pits, either separate from or together with human remains, points to a culture that is no longer agricultural and has a surplus of animals to spare. Among the funerary objects no agricultural tools have been found (The supplied tools are the tools used by the deceased during his lifetime, they are needed on the road, and they point to the deceased's occupation. There is no sedentary farming on the road, and farming inventory should not be expected or taken as an indicator for or against anything).

The existence of iron in this region at a time that precedes its first appearance in the Central Plain (possibly in the sixth century BC), is confirmed by analogous findings in Qunbake [] (Luntai [] county), the Pamirs, and the area near Urumqi. 80 Comparable iron and bronze knives found in the Chust culture in Fergana, and skeletal remains of Europoid stock, point to a connection with the Pamirs and Fergana regions.

The far northwest was not the only area close to the Northern Zone that had iron at an early period. Iron dated to the end of the second millennium BC has been found along the Amur River, in the Maritime Territory of Russia, while by the ninth century BC there was rather elaborate iron metallurgy, producing knives, daggers, and armor. 81 Direct connections between this area's ferrous metallurgy and that of the Northern Zone have not yet been established for the earlier period, but there are indications that relations existed between Transbaikalia (i.e. Eastern Baikal area) and the Chinese northeast possibly following ancient routes of communication through the forests of Manchuria and the large waterways that run north to south: the Sungari, Nonni, and Liac Rivers. 82

82. At a later period, usually defined as Hunno-Sarmatian in Russian scholarship (second century BC to second century AD), there is evidence of close contacts between Heilongjiang and Transbaikalia (i.e. Eastern Baikal area); see D.L.Brodianskii, "Krovnovsko-Khunnskie parallelli”, in Drevnee Zabaikal'e i ego kul'turnye sviazi, ed. P.B.Konovalov (Novosibirsk: Academiia Nauk USSR, 1985), pp. 46-50.

The question of the spread of iron technology in South Siberia is quite complex, and there is no unified opinion. The date usually assigned to the Early Iron Age in Central Asia (Transoxiana) (Looking north from Bactria, i.e. Amudarya/Syrdarya interfluvial and Kazakhstan) is the beginning of the first millennium BC. The same date usually applies to the Early Iron Age in the steppe regions of Kazakhstan, Tuva, South Siberia, and Mongolia, even though sites of this period in the Kazakh steppe do not contain iron artifacts and iron metallurgy developed in Mongolia only from the middle of the first millennium BC. Nevertheless, iron undoubtedly existed in Tuva at least from the eighth century BC, as documented by the finds of the Arjan royal burial and other kurgans of the early nomadic period. 83

In the part of the Northern Zone that is closer to China, and in particular in the north-central sector, iron was present at a time roughly comparable with the general period of diffusion throughout the steppe region. An iron knife was found at the Taohongbala [] burial site (Ordos, Inner Mongolia), chronologically close to the “Scythian” period of the western and central Asian steppe regions”. 84

Distribution of Northern Cultures

NORTHEAST: UPPER XIAJIADIAN CULTURE. The Upper Xiajiadian culture's geographical extension reaches in the north to the Sira Moren River basin, up to the eastern side of the Great Khingan Mountains. The southern boundary is formed by the Luan [] River, Yan [] Mountains, and the Qilaotu [] Mountains. The eastern boundary is the basin of the Liao River; the western boundary is the area of Zhaowudameng [] in Inner Mongolia. It therefore extends over the three provinces of Inner Mongolia, Liaoning, and Hebei (see Map 13.2). Its chronological limits have been the object of considerable discussion among Chinese archaeologists. 85 The general consensus today is that it lasted approximately eight centuries, from the eleventh to the fourth century BC.

Map 13.2 Northern Zone: Archaeological sites of the Western and early Eastern Zhou periods (1,000–650 BC)
 Northern Zone Sites or the Western & Early Eastern Zhou Periods (1,000-650 BC)

The first excavation that identified the Upper Xiajiadian as a separate culture took place at Chifeng [], in Inner Mongolia, where distinctive features were documented that differentiated it from the contemporary bronze culture of the Ordos region.

Three chronological phases can be outlined based on characteristic objects such as the “wobbly”, or curved-blade daggers. 86 Sites of the older period lasting throughout the Western Zhou period are located mostly in Linxi [] county in northern Liaoning. The type site for this period is the ancient mine of Dajing [], which we find in connection with a small settlement consisting of a few semisubterranean houses. The mine includes at least forty mining shafts, near one of which the remains of twelve smelting furnaces have been found. Most of the mining tools are made of stone, with very few small bronze objects (a drill and an arrowhead). 87 The extensive remains of wild animals suggest an economy still heavily dependent on hunting.

The cemetery at Dapaozi [] in the Onggut Banner (Wengniuteqi [], Inner Mongolia) also belongs to this earlier phase. The pottery found here has a close relation to that of Baijinbao, in Heilongjiang. The northern location of these early sites, and the connection between the Dapaozi and the Baijinbao pottery, may suggest a southward movement of northern peoples associated with a hoe-agriculture and hunting-based economy.

The second phase of the Upper Xiajiadian culture (850-750 BC) is identified with the Nanshan'gen type site (in Ningcheng [] county, Inner Mongolia), excavated in 1958 and 1961 (Fig. 13.2). Chronologically it is placed between the late Western Zhou and the early Spring and Autumn periods, with a lower limit of approximately 750 BC. The graves are rectangular earthen pits with stone slabs lining the walls. The funerary assemblage reveals a considerable quantity of bronze objects and some golden ornaments. The characteristic Upper Xiajiadian assemblage of this phase includes bronze weapons, horse fittings, and mirrors. Animal bones of pigs, dogs, cattle, sheep, and deer have been found in considerable quantity. The contemporary settlement and the finding of a hoe indicates the presence of agriculture. But what is most remarkable about Nanshan'gen is the presence of horseback riding, suggested by the already mentioned bronze ring with two figures of horseback riders chasing a hare, and by a varied and sophisticated inventory related to horse and chariot technology: harness with cheekpieces, two different types of bit, and tinkling bells. Moreover, an incised bone plaque also recovered at Nanshan'gen shows a hunting scene with the use of chariots pulled by horses. The bronze weapons unearthed at sites of the second phase of Upper Xiajiadian include bronze daggers, knives, axes, spearheads, arrowheads, shields, and helmets. Human figures represented on the hilt of a dagger can be associated with the plates bearing designs of human faces that were unearthed at Shiertaiyingzi [].

Fig. 13.2. Bronze objects of the Upper Xiajiadian culture.

This period also boasts two additional important sites: Dongnangou [] (in Pingchuan [] county, Hebei), and the Zhoujiadi [] cemetery (in Aohan [] Banner, Inner Mongolia). 88 The first was excavated in 1964-65. Of the eleven tombs excavated, only four had burial goods, which suggests the presence of different social groups. Their funerary assemblage, made primarily of bronze weapons, small ornaments, and bone beads, is far less rich than that at Nanshan'gen, but very similar in bronze typology. The second was excavated in 1981 and has been assigned to the Upper Xiajiadian culture of the Spring and Autumn period. Here are fewer weapons and more ornaments, such as bronze plaques and pendants. A special feature of the burial custom is that the face of the dead was covered with sackcloth decorated with turquoise beads and bronze buttons. This characteristic trait may have significance with respect to the ethnic distribution of northern peoples and is sometimes attributed to the Shan Rong (Jung) 山戎.

In the Xiajiadian culture a special place was reserved for dogs, whose remains have been found in both dwelling sites and sacrificial pits. They also appear as a decorative motif on bronze weapons (a ge dagger-axe and a knife) and are depicted on the aforementioned bone plaque representing a hunting scene.

NORTH-CENTRAL REGION. The most representative Western Zhou sites of the so-called Ordos bronze culture of the north-central zone are Lingtai [] in northern Gansu, and Changping [] and Yanqing [], both near Beijing, though Ordos-type finds are also present in Upper Xiajiadian sites, such as Dongnangou and Nanshan'gen tomb 101. During the Western Zhou and early Spring and Autumn periods the Ordos bronze culture went through considerable changes. A general increase in the volume of animal bones, and the presence of a larger number of domesticated animals in the funerary burials, suggest a general tendency toward the expansion of pastoral economies in the Northern Zone. 89 Bronze weapons remained prominent in funerary assemblages, but underwent stylistic modifications. For instance, the earlier animal-head and rattle pommels became rare and were gradually replaced by mushroom pommels.

GANSU-QINGHAI REGION. The Kayue culture of Gansu and Qinghai has been regarded in the past as the successor to the Xindian culture, but recent research has showed that the two were separate and to a certain degree contemporary cultural complexes. The Kayue culture, the first appearance of which is roughly the beginning of the Shang period, and which continues to the Han dynasty, shows a gradual evolution from a mixed farming and pastoral culture with settled life to a predominantly nomadic economy. This transition is reflected not only in an increased number of animal bones and sacrifices, but also in the composition of the animal stock. In the early period (Shangsun [] type), the pig was the usual sacrificial offering, but it disappeared in the middle period (Ahatela [] type), giving way to cattle and horse sacrifices. 90 In the third phase (Dahuazhongzhuang [] type), bronze spears, knives, and ge dagger-axes replaced the earlier axes, showing a higher degree of ornamentation. Remains from a late Qijia or early Kayue site in Huangjiazhai [] (Datong [] county, Qinghai), such as a decor of deer figures on a hollow bone tube, a bronze bird figure, and hooves of sacrificed horses, suggest early contacts with Siberian or Central Asian cultures. 91

Historical Survey

For the period that stretches from the early Western Zhou (ca 1046 BC) to the middle of the Spring and Autumn period (ca 620 BC, fr. 770–476 BC), historical documents reveal a complex situation on the northern borders. The Zhou fought various battles against foes who appear to have been their military equals. Some of these eventually forced the rulers of China to evacuate their capital.

The period opens with a series of hostilities between the Zhou and the Guifang 鬼方, one of the northern peoples whom the later historical tradition identifies as ancestors of the Xiongnu (Hunnic). 92 It ends, in 650 BC, with the last mention of the Northern Rong (Jung) 戎族, and with the rise of the Di 狄族, who thereafter became the most important northern power. The middle of the seventh century BC is a turning point in the political balance of the northern frontier, possibly more significant in the history of the northern frontier than the end of the Western Zhou {771 BC).

GUIFANG. Records in the Zhushu jinian 竹書紀年 (Bamboo annals) state that a people by the name of Gui Rong (Jung) 鬼戎/鬼族, certainly the same as the Guifang (鬼方), were already at war with the Zhou in Shang times, being attacked in the thirty-fifth year of King Wu Yi 武乙 (Qu 瞿) (1,119 BC, according to the chronology given in that text) by the Zhou leader Jili 季历. 93 The Guifang “proper” who appear during the reign of King Kang 周康 (1005/03–978 BC) were probably located to the northeast of the Zhou territory. According to the inscription of the Xiao Yu ding 小盂鼎, cast in the twenty-fifth year of King Kang (979 BC), after two successful battles against the Guifang, captives were brought to the Zhou temple and offered to the king. The prisoners numbered over 13,000 and included four chiefs, the chiefs being executed. A large amount of booty was also collected. In general the Guifang do not seem to have posed any serious threat to the Zhou frontier and must have been either conquered by the Zhou at an early stage or dissolved politically, since their name soon disappears from the patchy sources at our disposal.

 Later authors Sima Qian (ca. 145 or 135 BC–86 BCE), Ying Shao (應劭, 140-206 CE), Wei Zhao (韦昭, 204-273 CE), and Jin Zhuo (晉灼, ca. late 3rd–4th c. CE) stipulated without citing any arguments that Xunyu (荀彧) or Guifang (鬼方) were the terms that designated nomadic people who during the Han dynasty were transcribed in Chinese as Xiongnu. That view was also held by the Tang dynasty commentator Sima Zhen (司马贞, ca. 8th c. CE). Wang Guowei (王国维, 1877–1927), as a result of phonetical studies and comparisons based on the inscriptions on bronze and the structure of the characters, came to a conclusion that the tribal names Guifang (鬼方), Xunyu (荀彧), Xianyu (鮮虞), Xianyun (玁狁/獫狁), Jung (戎/族), Di (狄), and Hu (胡) in the annalistic sources designated one and the same people, who later entered history under the name Xiongnu (匈奴). [Taskin V.S., "Materials on history of nomadic tribes in China 3rd-5th cc", Issue 3 "Mujuns", p. 276 ]


XIANYUN 玁狁/獫狁. The Shi jing 詩經/诗经 (Classic of poetry) contains four songs that mention military engagements between the Zhou and the Xianyun. As examples of epic poetry, they relate feats of ancient heroes against alien foes. The song “Cai qi” [] (Gathering sow thistle) extols the deeds of Fang Shu [], who apparently led as many as 3,000 chariots in battle against the Xianyun. 94 The impression created in the songs is one of trepidation, urgency, and great relief and jubilation at the final victory of the Zhou troops. The song “Liu yue” [] (Sixth month) provides geographical information that allows us to place the battlefield very close to the center of the Zhou state, 95 between the lower reaches of the Jing 泾河 and Luo 洛河 Rivers and the Wei River valley. Although scholars dispute the exact date of the attacks, most place it during the reign of King Xuan 周宣 (827/25–782 BC).

Written records place the first Xianyun incursions against the Zhou in 840 BC, the fourteenth year of reign of King Li 周厲/周剌, 96 when they reached the capital itself. Three years earlier the Western Rong (Jung) (Xi Rong (Jung) 西戎) had also launched an attack; it is possible that Xianyun and Western Rong (Jung) may have been the same people, indicated in the first case by a generic term meaning “warlike tribes of the west” and in the second case by their actual ethnonym. They attacked again in 823 BC, the fifth year of reign of King Xuan. 97 On the basis of their military tactics which were characterized by sudden attacks and could only have been carried out by highly mobile troops, most likely on horseback, some scholars have related the sudden appearance of the Xianyun to the general rise of mounted nomadism in the steppe region and to the specific appearance of Scythians and Cimmerians migrating from the west. 98 No definite evidence, however, supports the hypothesis that they were nomadic warriors.

In fact, new evidence indicates that the Xianyun fought, like the Zhou, on horse-drawn chariots. This is based on the inscription on the Duo You ding [], unearthed in 1980 near Xi'an 西安, which tells of a Zhou military campaign, probably in 816 BC, against Xianyun forces that had attacked a Jing garrison in the lower Ordos region. 99 The Xianyun's pressure against the northern frontier was undoubtedly serious; however, there is no evidence that the large size of their armies or their increased mobility can be related to the emergence of a new type of warrior, namely, the mounted nomad armed with bow and arrow.

RONG  (JUNG) (戎/族). The term rong 戎 is often applied in Chinese sources to warlike foreigners. Its general meaning relates to “martial” and “military”, “war” and “weapons” (It means "archer"). 100 A widely accepted view is that the term “Rong (Jung)” was used in Chinese sources as a blanket word that included many alien peoples around and within the territory occupied by the Zhou, without a specific ethnic connotation, thus including people not only of the north and west but also of the south - such as the Rong (Jung) Man 戎蛮/族蠻. 101 Because of the ambiguity of the term, it is not clear whether it was also used to indicate peoples known by other names, such as the Xianyun. It certainly appears to indicate more than a single people during the reign of King Mu 穆, who defeated the Quan Rong (Jung) ;犬戎 (Canid Jungs) in the twelfth year of his reign and the following year attacked the Western Rong (Jung) and the Xu Rong (Jung) 徐戎 (Possibly, "Bearded Militants, Bearded Archers"). 101 These events bespeak a phase of expansion under King Mu, whose journey to the west was romanticized in the fourth century BC work Mu Tianzi zhuan 穆天子传/穆天子傳 (Biography of the Son of Heaven Mu). 103

Based on the available records, relations between the Zhou and the Rong (Jung) do not seem to have been hostile until the seventh year of King Yi 夷 (859 BC), when the Rong (Jung) of Taiyuan 太原 attacked the area of the Zhou capital. At this time the Zhou royal family gradually came to depend on other noble families to defend the realm. In 854 Guo Gong 虢公 attacked the Rong (Jung), capturing a thousand horses. Under the reign of King Li 厲/剌 (ca 877–841 BC), the power of the dynasty was in decline, and both Western Rong (Jung) and Xianyun launched attacks deep into Zhou territory.

A more energetic policy was followed by King Xuan (827/25-782), during whose period of reign the Zhou gradually incorporated some of the Rong (Jung) within their own borders. In the fourth year of his reign, King Xuan ordered Qin to attack the Western Rong (Jung), who retreated. More expeditions against them finally led to their submission and to territorial gains. 104 Throughout the end of King Xuan's reign there were repeated engagements against the Rong (Jung).

100 Everard D.H. Fraser and James H.S. Lockhart, Index to the Tso Chuan (London: Oxford University Press, 1930), p. 165. In the Zuo zhuan, rong is also used in the sense of “wat chariot” in the phrase yu rong [] (to drive a war chariot) and in the compound rong che [] (war chariot).
101 This opinion has been challenged by Edwin G. Pulleyblank, who regards the Rong (Jung) as a Tiheto-Burman group related to the Qiang people, on the one hand, and to the founders of the Zhou dynasty, on the other. See Pulleyblank, “The Chinese and Their Neighbors in Prehistoric and Early Historic Times”, in The Origins of Chinese Civilization, ed. David N. Keightley (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983). pp. 416-23.

Particularly significant seem to have been the expedition in either 790 or 788 (the thirty-eighth year of King Xuan's reign) by Jin 晉 against the Northern Rong (Jung) and the king's expedition the following year against the Rong (Jung) of the Jiang  姜/羌 clan, who were utterly destroyed. 105

The final period of the Western Zhou, under the reign of King You 幽 (781-771 BC), was marked by increasing instability on the northern frontier and by a series of attacks by the Quan Rong (Jung). The Zhou defenses were overrun, the capital invaded, the king killed, and the court forced to move to the city of Luo 雒/洛), marking the beginning of the Spring and Autumn period, in 770 BC.

River/city of Luo 雒/洛 has fascinating connections:
The original Zhou form was 雒 = luò/luo4 = black horse with white mane; considering a necessity to keep horses of different owners apart, and recognition of the sides in a war, the hue of the Türkic horses differentiated by tribe, and was a permanent distinctive attribute. In the 8th c. AD black horse with white mane belonged to the tribe Yanto (延陀, Pinyin Yantuo), their horses were similar to the horses of the tribe Tongra, and were marked with the O tamga. Identical or similar tamgas had tribes Bugu and Tardu. Yanto are also associated by the annals with the tribe Ala-at, Chinese Hela and Boma 駁馬. In the 6th c. AD at least a part of the Yanto tribe lived in the Tarim Basin. In the 8th c. AD the tribe Yanto was scattered into four sections, most of them lived north of Yuzhou in the Shaanxi province, northeast from the Yulin 榆林 district located at 38°N 110°E, i.e. in the Huanhe-upper Luo interfluvial, and thus within their ancestral lands. In the Late Antique times, the Yanto are known to be in union with the Saka tribe, called in Chinese Se, forming a tribe called Seyanto, in Pinyin Xueyantuo (薛延陀, Sieyantuo); the tribe Saka/Se was a parental tribe of the Ashina tribe, which produced Ashina Türks. In 631 - 646 AD Seyanto displaced Ashina Türks from the leadership of the Türkic Kaganate, and for a short time headed it as the rulers of the Seyanto Kaganate. On the totemic role of the dogs among Hyons, Esgels, Chi-di 赤狄/Quan 犬, see Zuev Yu.A. "The strongest tribe Esgil" .

During the Western Zhou the various Rong (Jung) were scattered over a broad area that encompassed the northern and western areas of the Wei River valley, the Fen  River valley, and the Taiyuan  太原 region. They were therefore distributed in present-day northern Shaanxi, northern Shanxi, and Hebei, up to the Taihang 太行山 Mountains. With few exceptions, their attacks against the Zhou do not seem to have been particularly effective. Like the Xianyun, they most probably used chariots, but a record for 714 BC shows that they also fought on foot. 106 There is no evidence to identify them with the later nomads (This is patently inaccurate, see the link Quan 犬 => Chi-di 赤狄. The Chinese sources must have referred to foot soldiers from the dependent farming and hunting tribes, who may have constituted a majority of the Hunnic army. As an example we can recall the 6,000 mounted Mongols that led 100,000+ Türkic cavalry that drove ahead of them an uncounted number of captured farming and hunting people to attack the Rus cities in the 13th c. AD. The besieged, and their annalistic sources, recorded "uncounted number" of Mongols assailing them. A similar situation was in Europe, where the Huns were recorded to have a 400,000-strong army, in reality very few of them were Huns. The same tactics was recorded for many other instances of Hunnic and Türkic conquests). Rather, their military pressure on the Zhou borders might be attributed to unrecorded events taking place in the north that set a large number of people in motion and that may be related with the appearance of pastoral nomads. The later arrival of the Di populations along the northern borders of the Central Plain may have also been connected with large-scale migratory movements (This is patently inaccurate, Di populations appear in the first accounts of Zhou, according to the "Zhou benji" [Basic annals of Zhou] of the Shi ji, Dis are contemporary with the legendary emperor Yao, Hou Ji, Hou Ji's son Buku, declining years of the Xia dynasty, at which time the Zhou people were living "among the Rong  and Di" barbarians. Two generations later, Buku's grandson Gong Liu was still living among the Rong and Di). Archaeological data concerning the development of horse riding in the northeast, north, and northwest may suggest that the pressure of the Rong (Jung), and later Di, on the Zhou northern frontier may have been the indirect effect of nomadic expansion in areas such as western Liaoning, Inner Mongolia, and Ningxia.

During the late Western Zhou, groups of Rong (Jung) had settled in territory nominally controlled by the Zhou king and were interspersed among the political centers of the Central Plain. During the Eastern Zhou, some Rong (Jung) tribes were located in the neighborhood of the state of Lu 鲁国/魯國. The Northern (Bei ), or Mountain (Shan 山) Rong (Jung) attacked the states of Zheng 郑国/鄭國 in 714 BC and Qi 齐/齊 in 706 BC. 107 These names indicate relatively broad groups or confederations whose ethnic or political cohesiveness is difficult to determine.

For instance, the Shan Rong (Jung) included a people, known as the Wuzhong 無終, whose location has been traditionally placed by some near present-day Beijing, but who were probably located in the Taiyuan region, bordering on the state of Jin 晋国/晉國. However, other Wuzhong groups appear to have inhabited the region north of the state of Yan. 109 The record of a Wuzhong leader presenting the lord of Jin with tiger and leopard skins indicates that they may have been hunters who lived in or close to a forest environment, perhaps northern Hebei and Liaoning. 110

The Zuo zhuan mentions repeated military clashes between Zhou and Rong (Jung) forces during the reign of Lu Zhuang Gong 魯莊公 (693-662 BC). In 674, Zhuang Gong chased Rong (Jung) raiders. Two years later Qi attacked them, and in 670 BC the Rong (Jung) attacked the smaller state of Cao 曹国/曹國. In 668 BC, Zhuang Gong again attacked the Rong (Jung). In 666 BC, Jin Xian Gong 晋献公/晉獻公 took Rong (Jung) women as wives. 111 Qi continued to battle Rong (Jung) peoples, and in 664 BC Qi again obtained a victory against the Shan Rong (Jung). 112

These events show that Rong (Jung) communities were dispersed over a broad territory across the northern frontier of the Eastern Zhou and that a large number of them had even settled within or to the south of the state of Jin. It is possible that these Rong (Jung) tribes retained a degree of autonomy or independence, but this was eroded and eventually eliminated by the relentless expansion of the Central States. By the mid-seventh century, the Rong (Jung), repeatedly defeated by Jin and hard pressed in the north by the rapidly growing power of the Di, were for the most part incorporated by Jin and Qi. By 662 the Di conquered the Taiyuan plains and replaced the Rong (Jung) in this important economic zone to the north of Jin. 113

The Quan Rong (Jung), located north of the Wei River valley were defeated by Guo 虢国/虢國 in 660 and 658 BC. At the same time, the Di intensified their attacks, first against Xing 邢國/邢国 and then against Wey 卫/衞. The people of Wey escaped from their city but were pursued by the Di and massacred near the Yellow River, only a few hundred people managing to survive. 114 The Di threat was so great that it prompted a renewed unity of the states of the Central Plain, which formed a league in 659 BC to save Xing.

113. The attacks of Qin against the Rong (Jung) are related in a later entry in the Zhu zhuan, where it is said that Qin, greedy for land, had persecuted the Rong (Jung) and forced them to migrate and seek the protection of Jin during the period of reign of Duke Hui 晋惠公/晉惠公 (650-636 BC). See Zuo zhuan, 32 (Xiang 14), 8b (Legge, The Ch'un Ts'ew with the Tso Chuen, pp. 463-4; Yang Bojun, ed., Chunqiu Zuo zhuan zhu, pp. 1005-7).

The last mention we have of the Bei Rong (Jung) is in the year 650 BC, when they were attacked by Qi and Xu 徐国/徐國; the “Bei Rong (Jung)” mentioned here possibly refers to the same people as the Shan Rong (Jung) who attacked Yan z:匽/s:燕国/t:燕國 in 664. After this event, the term “Rong (Jung)” appears vestigially, often in compound with Di to indicate generic non-Chinese peoples to the north and west (Is there a way to tell vestigial from actual? It would be sound to assume that the appearance of their name has to do more with the recordkeeping then with the nomadic people. Half a millennia later, the Han sages admonished that nomads can't be cornered, they melt away from the assaults, and thus survive intact).

Culturally, the Rong (Jung) seem to have had a keen sense of their difference from the Hua-Xia people. This is plainly expressed by a Rong (Jung) leader, who is reported to have said that “in what we drink and eat, and in the way we dress, all of us Rong (Jung) are different from the Chinese [Hua]. We do not exchange gifts with them, and do not understand each other's language” (The reference to language the must be either exaggeration or misinterpretation by annalist. Interspersed with multi-ethnic neighbors, actively trading and interfacing, with mutual cultural and matrimonial exchanges, a nomadic multilingualism must be a common way of life). 115 However, it is not possible to identity them according to distinct ethnic or linguistic affiliations. Possibly they were hunting-farming communities that retained customs and forms of political organization markedly different from the Chinese (This supposition follows the Sinocentric myth about Chinese integrity during the times of choppy populations with multi-ethnic origins. The nomads were different, but not from the Chinese, but from the settled multi-ethnic agrarian, foot hunter, and fortress-bounded populations. The unification of the multi-ethnic population, inclusive of nomadic population, would just start during Spring and Autumn to the middle Warring States period). They were also associated with pastoral activities, but it is highly unlikely that they had a mature nomadic steppe economy (Why?). They also lacked unity, thus eventually becoming part of the Zhou political “galaxy”, playing a gradually less important role in the political and military history of the Eastern Zhou (Just the opposite, on review of the facts. The unity of the mobile people is also different from the unity of the confined people. They can vote with their feet).


Development of Early Nomadic Cultures in Northern China

The first historical steppe nomads, the Scythians, inhabited the steppe north of the Black Sea from about the eighth century BC. Pastoral nomadism was their main economic activity, and their society was ruled by a class of mounted warriors, who in Herodotus' Histories are called Royal Scythians. Below this aristocracy were other groups, such as the “agricultural”, “nomadic”, and “free” Scythians. Archaeologically, early nomadic cultures close to the Scythian, characterized by “specific equestrian armaments, horse trappings and the Animal Style”, 116 became dominant throughout the steppe region of Central Asia in the first half of the first millennium BC (The timing of the kurgans, and movements of nomadic culture and economy represented by kurgans, is shown on the following diagram; it is quite different from the first half of the first millennium BC).

C14 Timing of Asian and European Kurgans

In the northern area of the eastern steppe, which includes South Siberia, the Altai region, Mongolia, and Transbaikalia (i.e. Eastern Baikal area), evidence suggests that the early nomadic phase may have started as early as the eighth century BC. 117

Two separate centers existed in this region. To the east, in Transbaikalia (i.e. Eastern Baikal area) and Mongolia's southern Gobi region, is a complex characterized by cist-stone tombs, bronze knives with characteristic human and animal decorations on the handle, and a Northern Asiatic anthropological type (I.e., Northern Mongoloid, anthropologically mostly defined by flat nose and high cheekbones), similar to that of the Xiongnu (Hunnic) burials of Noin Ula (The Hunnic burials in Noin Ula did not produce any osteological material, the Hunnic royal burials were vandalized within the first 200 years after inhumation; however, a multi-generation genetic exchange with the Northern Asiatic Mongoloids undoubtedly increased the partial Mongoloid features of the Eastern Huns and of the nomads of the Hunnic circle). 118 In Western Mongolia, the Altai region, and Tuva, there are timber-chamber burials similar to those of Pazyryk, as well as petroglyphs, bronze objects, and decorations in the Animal Style typical of the steppe region of Kazakhstan, Tuva, and South Siberia; the totemic sculptures known as “deer stones”; and a racial type with Europoid characteristics (Accordingly, mostly defined by high nose and medium cheekbones. The temporal change in the Europoid/Mongoloid partial traits are shown on the following diagram. The data shows a dynamic picture of considerable increase of  the Mongoloid traits from the 17th to the 3rd cc. BC. In addition to temporal cline, a geographic cline also existed from the Neolithic times). 119

Relationshop of selected sraniological traits among ancient and modern populations of Kazakhstan

This cultural separation can also be traced along the Chinese frontier. Anthropological studies have ascertained the Europoid character of nomadic cultures of Xinjiang (East Turkestan), such as the Wusun 烏孫 and Saka (塞) (The Kazakh tribe Uisyn that belongs to the oldest Senior Juz is still around, undoubtedly it underwent a type of changes that inflicted other people in the Middle Asia, and anyone interested can get a first-hand experience about their anthropology and culture. With Saka, the status is different, there is no study for the origin of their kurgans, no anthropological study, and in spite of the abundance of osteological material for both people no genetical studies, whether of ancient or modern. It should be noted that like the proto-Türkic minority had their Zhou empire, so the Saka people had their Hotan kingdom, and Mongols had their Persian empire. It would be equally futile to study the "proto-Türkic" language from Zhou, Saka language from Hotan, and Mongolian language from Persian. The Hotan was quite insignificant oasis kingdom, in the 3rd c. AD it was numbering at the most a few tens of thousand total settled population, some unknown fraction of which were originally the Saka nomads, and no written materials is known from that time. The assumption that the language of the Hotan farmers and nomads was the same is a very long stretch. Ditto for proto-Türkic and Mongolian). 120 Discoveries at burial sites in Ningxia show that around 500 BC the North Asian Mongoloid component of the population increased considerably and was associated with nomadic cultural forms (The current concept is that -Mongolian symbiosis originated in 209 BC with Maodun's conquest of the Mongolian Dunhu, which extensively conflicts with the facts presented in this book. The transpired symbiosis started a millennia earlier). 121 This suggests the existence of two different anthropological and cultural complexes that came to share a similar way of life and cultural features. Unambiguous elements of horse-riding nomadic culture appear in the eastern steppe before the eighth century BC, and specific early nomadic cultural features found in northern China - characteristic shapes and “animal” decorations of knives, daggers, and belt buckles - belong to the same cultural universe as the contemporary cultures of the South Siberian region. In the eighth and seventh centuries BC, the needle of the Northern Zone's cultural orientation pointed to the north and west.

Questions concerning the historical context in which archaeological data from the Northern Zone should be read have suggested the movement of various Central Asian nomads to the Inner Asian borders of China, sometimes thought to have provided the impulse for the transition to nomadism in northern China. 122

However, it is more plausible that though the initial impulse may have come from large-scale migratory movements, the evolution toward fully developed pastoral nomadism soon acquired, in the various areas comprising the Northern Zone, a distinct local flavor, as it blended with pre-existing cultures (The premise for "large-scale migration" is not needed, a small-scale migration will do just as fine. Most likely, the pattern was the same as N.Pontic migrations: Sarmats skipped over and displaced Scythians, Alans did the same to Sarmats, Huns did the same to Alans, Bulgars did the same to Huns, Badjanaks did the same to Bulgars, Kipchaks did the same to Badjanaks, and finally Mongols did the same to Kipchaks, in process leveling off the languages, changing religions, cultures, ethnonyms, and  genetic composition, all without large-scale migrations, but with a mass of ancillary movements). The chronological discrepancy between the archaeological existence of a more or less homogeneous “early nomadic” bronze culture in the steppe in the eighth century and the later historical appearance of mounted nomads in Chinese sources, in the fourth century BC, may be due to the slow expansion of contacts between these cultures and China, hampered by the presence of intermediate sedentary peoples. Between the seventh and the fourth century BC, contacts between the Central Plain and the far northwest were established. 123 The presence of Chinese silk and lacquer in the burials of the Altai culture of Pazyryk of the fifth century BC demonstrates the existence of at least indirect contacts. Moreover, the continued preference for, and even growth in the use of, bronze to produce funerary and ritual objects, even where iron metallurgy was available, separates the northern region, and the eastern steppe in general, from developments in western Central Asia, where ferrous metallurgy gradually replaced bronze. 124 The discovery of early Chinese knife-coins in Inner Mongolia dated to the sixth century has been interpreted as evidence of a certain degree of trade between China and the north (Before the appearance of the early Chinese knife-coins, first the Türkic knife-coins were brought from the steppe to China, pointing to the trade exchanges). 125

The archaeological cultures of northern China display a variety of centers that suggest two levels of development. At one level, represented by the metal production and use of ritual and functional tools and weapons similar to the early nomadic complex, they can be related to the continental phenomenon of the spread of nomadic pastoral societies. At a different level, represented by pottery and burial customs, we find a variety of local traditions. Possibly nomadic groups expanded and became dominant over communities that eventually adopted their technology. Alternatively, we may suppose a parallel development of the same technology within contiguous but different local traditions, as they progressed on the road of pastoral specialization.

122. According to Jettmar's more cautious opinion, the transition to nomadism was influenced by a general “contact” with a zone of unrest to the south and west of the steppes; movement in the area of the Volga River seems to have led this process, which was only realized over a fairly extended period of time. See Jettmar, Art of the Steppes, p. 215 (Aridization and cooling of the climate, started in the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC, and progressing until stabilized at the end of the 2nd millennium BC, described by David N, Keightley in "The Environment of Ancient China" of the Introduction section of this book, brought about nomadic animal farming, migrations, and desertification and evacuation of the Middle Asian steppes)

Major Archaeological Cultures (in China)

NORTHEASTERN ZONE. The heart of the late Bronze Age and Iron Age cultures, in Heilongjiang, is to be found at the confluence of the Sungari (Songhua ?松花) and Nonni (Nenjiang) Rivers, known as Song-Nen Plain (see Map 13.3). 126 In this area rich in forests, arable land, and waterways, we find iron metallurgy that can be dated to the eighth century BC or even earlier, appearing together with the full blossoming of bronze production.

The two most important cultures for this period are Pingyang 平洋 and Hanshu 漢書 II, both of which present rich metal assemblages of bronze and iron. The Pingyang culture has been identified in burials in southwestern Heilongjiang and eastern Inner Mongolia, 127 but no settlements associated with this culture have been found. The type site is Pingyang (Tailai 泰?來 county, Heilongjiang) (Heilongjiang = Sahaliyan ula), which consists of two cemeteries, Zhuanchang 磚廠 and Zhandou 戰斗 excavated respectively in 1984 and 1985 and dating from the late Spring and Autumn to the middle Warring States period (650–350 BC). The burials present very similar characteristics. Most of them are simple rectangular earthen pit graves, often used for multiple burials. A few tombs are T-shaped pit graves. Animal sacrifice was common, in particular dog and horse, with possible preference for the dog. The funerary inventory includes objects in bronze, iron, and gold, a large variety of pottery, and other tools made of bone or stone. Among the bronzes decorative elements prevail and include Animal Style plaques, buttons, and circular discs. The iron items are mostly objects of daily use, such as arrowheads, scrapers, and spearheads, though “tube ornaments” have also been found. The gold objects include three earrings and two plates. Most of the finds come from the first cemetery. Other burial goods include stone, agate, turquoise, bone, antler, ivory, and shell. The importance of archery is demonstrated by the discovery of more than 50 bow ends and 240 arrowheads.

Heilongjiang Province - Sahaliyan ula

On the basis of stratigraphic analysis and typological comparison with Baijinbao and Sanjiazi [] (Qiqihaer [] city, Heilongjiang), archaeologists have proposed four phases of development, spanning from the late Spring and Autumn to the late Warring States. Some of the mortuary practices are similar to those found at Sanjiazi, such as the coexistence of primary and secondary burials, animal sacrifice, and the custom of covering the deceased's face with bronze buttons.

The latter custom is characteristic of sites that as we have seen above, are attributed to the Shan Rong (Jung) (In present-day northern Shaanxi, northern Shanxi, and Hebei, up to the Taihang 太行山 Mountains). The type of assemblage suggests a mixed hunting-pastoral economy, with considerable use of metal. It is possible that this area was a center of metal production, but it is doubtful whether its people had achieved a full transition to pastoral nomadism. The artistic vocabulary, nonetheless, includes the classic motifs of the Animal Style plaques and small ornamental objects. This area, rich in rivers and forests, may have also been important as a route of communication between northeastern China and Transbaikalia (i.e. Eastern Baikal area) and Mongolia.

The cemetery of Sanjiazi is dated to the Warring States period. 128 It is similar to Pingyang, and includes multiple burials in rectangular earthen pit graves, with evidence of sacrifices of horses and dogs. The metal remains include objects in bronze, iron, gold, and silver. Here, too, bronze is used almost exclusively for ornamental objects, whereas iron is also used for weapons and tools. As for precious metals, only one golden pendant and one silver earring have been found. A number of bow ends and bone arrowheads points to a developed hunting economy. Silk from China has also been found, suggesting that by the Warring States period, Heilongjiang had some relations with the Central Plain, possibly the state of Yan.

The presence of several semisubterranean dwellings and carbonized grains indicates that the Hanshu II culture was a settled one (Or that nomads had winter village, like any other pastoral nomads). Located in the same area as the Hanshu culture, it forms an independent complex, extending into the Song-Nen Plain. 129 It displays a bronze production that is varied and large, but is typically limited to small tools and ornaments, such as knives, arrowheads, awls, earrings, and buttons. Large bronze objects, such as daggers, are absent. Over fifty clay molds for bronze objects have been recovered, revealing local manufacture of spears, buckles, arrowheads, and horse-shaped ornamental plaques. Sandstone molds have also been found for axes and fishing hooks. But even more interesting is the recovery of iron-socketed axes and knives, which are similar to those found in the Central Plain during the Warring States period. The main economic activity was agriculture, but the presence of fishing hooks, boat-shaped pottery bowls, pots decorated with painted net patterns, and the large number of fish bones also suggests that fishing was widely practiced.

The burial site at Erkeqian 二克浅 (Nehe 訥河 county), excavated in 1985, 130 has also been associated with this culture. The metal funerary assemblage features mainly small bronze objects, such as knives, bells, plates, buttons, and earrings, as well as some rusted iron objects, among which daggers and knives can be identified.

The burials are rectangular earthen pits, in several cases with remains of a male and a female in the same burial and sacrifices of dogs and horses. At this site we find again two types of relics, one belonging to an earlier stratum, probably later than the Baojinbao culture, the other being roughly contemporary with the Hanshu II culture. The difference is marked not only in the pottery assemblage, which in the later burials includes more vessels and decorative patterns, but also in the metal assemblage. In the second, or upper, layer, an iron dagger has been found that is very similar in shape to the bronze daggers of the Northern Zone. 131 The earlier phase has been dated from the Spring and Autumn period, whereas the second phase seems to belong to the Warring States.

What the finds suggest is a pattern of cultural evolution, from the Spring and Autumn to the late Warring States, not dissimilar from the one observed in the Ordos region. This seems to emphasize two elements. The first is the creation of a wider and more stable network of contacts through which both artistic motifs and technical innovations could travel rapidly. This network included, in its southern fringes, adjacent parts of China, such as the state of Yan. The second is a more liberal use of iron; bronze was still widespread but increasingly limited to decorative objects. The molds indicate an advanced level of production and possibly show that these sites were centers of cultural diffusion within the Northern Zone.

In Liaoning and eastern Inner Mongolia the period ca. 650-350 BC corresponds to the last stage of the Upper Xiajiadian culture. It is best represented by the Shiertaiyingzi 十二台營子 site (Chaoyang 朝阳, Liaoning), a cemetery in use since the Western Zhou, whose upper layer is dated to the early and middle part of the Warring States period, that is, ca. 450–350 BC. The metal inventory is entirely of bronze, and includes curved-blade daggers, mirrors with multiple knobs, knives, arrowheads, ornaments in various shapes, belt hooks, and buckles. 132 Because of the site's location, archaeologists often associate this culture with the people known in historical documents as Dong Hu  東 胡, but without direct evidence such identification is purely speculative (In the cemetery, the best indicator is burial tradition, there must be a reason not to define it).

The cemetery found at Tiejianggou 鐵匠溝 (Aohan Banner, Inner Mongolia), which is located in the eastern part of Inner Mongolia and within the area of distribution of the Upper Xiajiadian culture, is representative. 133 Five tombs of this cemetery have been excavated; they can be divided into two groups. The first group (three tombs) yielded funerary objects such as bronze artifacts, pottery, and stone ornaments, whereas no burial goods were recovered from the second. The bronze objects include three knives and various Animal Style ornaments, belt hooks, buttons, earrings, and arrowheads. These burials are comparatively poor. Since a number of decorative and stylistic elements link this site with Xiaobaiyang 小白揚 (Xuanhua 宣化 county, Hebei), its occupants may been have southern immigrants, pushed north - and eventually subjugated - as a consequence of Yan's expansion. The area was conquered by Yan in 299 BC (War with Donghu), the terminal date of the site.

NORTH-CENTRAL ZONE. The north-central frontier in this period presents a fluid picture. Some sites display traits that already foreshadow the appearance of a Xiongnu (Hunnic) culture. Others show a lesser degree of change with respect to the previous period. Though ethnic or historical attributions are highly speculative, these sites are frequently associated with the Shan Rong (Jung) and the Di.

Archaeological sites attributed to the Shan Rong (Jung) are scarcely consistent with any specific culture. Generally speaking, these are burial grounds whose system of interment differs from that of the Central Plain, and whose funerary inventory shows mixed derivation and cultural affiliation. Many of these sires are located to the northeast of the Central Plain. The cemetery sites at Hushiha Paotaishan []炮台山 (Luanping 滦平 county, Hebei) and at Jundushan 军都山 (Yanqing county Beijing), 134 have been dated to the late Spring and Autumn and early Warring States periods and attributed to the Shan Rong (Jung). The chief common characteristic of these sites is that while they show a clear association with the culture of the Central Plain, several discoveries link them with Northern Zone cultures. The Hebei site, for instance, participates in the last phase of the Upper Xiajiadian culture, whereas in the Yanqing burials a great number of weapons and horse fittings are found that show a clear association with the Ordos-Xiongnu (Hunnic) bronze culture. Similar objects are also found in northern Hebei. Moreover, there are several types of burials, such as earthen pits, stone chambers, and wooden coffins. In some cases there are combinations of both stone chambers and wooden coffins. One particular aspect of the burial custom consists of covering the face of the deceased with sackcloth decorated with bronze buttons, similar to the custom found in Heilongjiang.

Other cemeteries, to the north of the Beijing area, are also characterized by a combination of more than one burial practice. At a site in Baotou 包頭 county, Inner Mongolia, excavated in 1988 and attributed to the Lin Hu, both rectangular earthen pits and catacomb-style burials were found. 135

 Animals were sacrificed and buried with the deceased on secondary platforms. The funerary assemblage is dominated by bronze ornaments, such as buckles, plaques, rings, buttons, earrings, and other small ornaments. In addition to these, there are tools and weapons, such as a spoon, an arrowhead, belt hooks, buckles, and knives. The bronze buckles are in typical northern Animal Style, similar to finds from Maoqinggou 毛慶溝 (Inner Mongolia). The three-winged arrowhead found here has a very large distribution, including Inner Mongolia (Liangcheng 涼城 county), Hebei (Beixinbao 北辛堡, in Huailai 怀 来 county), and Liaoning (Zhengjiawazi 郑家娃子, Shenyang 瀋陽). 136 Similar specimens have also been found in Iron Age burials (sixth century BC) in Transbaikalia (i.e. Eastern Baikal area). Several elements, such as a bronze semiannular pendant, similar to a silver one found in Guyuan 固原 county, Ningxia, and the shape of the catacomb burials, common to the Xindian and Kayue cultures, also suggest contacts with the northwest. While the assemblage in Baotou exhibits similarities with later Xiongnu (Hunnic) sites, it is remarkable for the absence of some of the most typical elements of later nomadic cultures: iron, gold, and horse fittings, as well as the daggers, pickaxes, and plaques typical of the Ordos bronzes (These assemblages illustrate the difference between trade/cultural exchange and innate culture: nomads need belt "plaques" and horses and food to move to the other world, and can't be buried without them).

Another Inner Mongolian site attributed to a northern people, the Northern Di, is that of Guoxianyaozi 崞縣窯子 (Liangcheng county, Inner Mongolia), excavated in May-July 1983. 137 Archaeologists believe three phases of development can be identified, from the late Spring and Autumn to the early Warring States. The burial practices are similar to those at Jundushan. They include rectangular vertical earthen pits - sometimes provided with head niches and secondary platforms, wooden coffins, stone chambers, or a combination of both. Interments are single in extended supine position with the head to the east. Animal sacrifices were practiced, and males were typically buried with horses, deer, or sheep, whereas females were buried with sacrifices of cattle and sheep. However, we do not find in Guoxianyaozi the custom of covering the face of the deceased with sackcloth decorated with bronze buttons.

The assemblage consists mostly of bronze ornaments, such as buckles, plaques, buttons, bells, rings, and earrings. Among the tools, we find two knives and a pickaxe. The plaques are particularly abundant - forty-four - and are in both Geometric Style and Animal Style. The buckles and the button ornaments establish a context for this site that is typical of the Ordos region. Similar buckles were found at contemporary or later Ordos sites, such as Taohongbala 陶虹巴拉, Fanjiayaozi 范家窑子 (Helin'geer和林格爾), and Xigoupan 西溝畔.

Similar bronze bells have been found at Beixinbao. 138 Among the other materials, stone beads are particularly numerous, with some of turquoise and one of agate. The bone arrowheads are similar to the bronze examples found in Taohongbala and are probably a poorer prototype.

Despite all the similarities with the early Xiongnu (Hunnic) sites, specimens of the most advanced technology available in the area at this time, such as the iron daggers and horse fittings found at Taohongbala and Maoqinggou, do not appear here. Although horses were bred and used in sacrifices, the people of Guoxianyaozi do not seem to have had a highly developed horse-riding culture. Their metal inventory indicates a people rather different from the typical early nomads and points to a pastoral-hunting community that had established contacts with other more powerful mounted nomads who were gradually penetrating the area and establishing themselves throughout the steppe belt of Inner Mongolia and especially in the Ordos region. In Yanqing the metal inventory is dominated by bronze weapons and horse fittings. Whereas ornaments such as plaques, belt hooks, buckles, and bells are reminiscent of the Guoxianyaozi site, the discovery of about a hundred daggers with straight blade, ge dagger-axes, and axes indicates a southern extension of a martial horse-riding community of the Ordos type. They are also likely to have had trade relations with the Central Plain, as knife-coins have been found from the late Spring and Autumn and early Warring States.

The earliest Xiongnu (Hunnic)-type bronze and early iron sites in the Ordos region are the cemeteries of Taohongbala and Maoqinggou (Inner Mongolia). The excavation of Taohongbala (Carbon dated to approximately the sixth to fifth century BC, presence of iron objects) has brought to light a large number of small ornamental objects, which include plaques, buckles, rings, button-like and pea-shaped bronze decorative elements, and ornaments with a double-bird motif. 139 Stylistic affinities connect Taohongbala not only with Warring States sites, but also with earlier Upper Xiajiadian sites. Similar bronze plaques have been found, for instance, at Nanshan'gen. Bronze daggers in the so-called Antennae Style (chujiao shi []) are widespread and found, among others, at Beixinbao (Hebei) and Fanjiayaozi (Inner Mongolia). The ring ornaments are similar to those seen in Fanjiayaozi. The metal inventory also includes a pair of gold earrings like those seen in Nanshan'gen and Beixinbao.

Taohongbala was originally regarded as a site of the Bai Di 白狄, and has only later come to be recognized as a Xiongnu (Hunnic) site. This is undoubtedly due to the difficulty of attributing a site to a people - the Xiongnu (Hunnic) - who appear in the historical records only two centuries later.

 However, the pottery found here, and in particular the brown single-ear guan [] pots, handmade and fired at low temperature, shows continuity with the Xiongnu (Hunnic) sites of the Warring States period, such as Xigoupan and Aluchaideng 阿鲁柴登, which present a type of gray pottery that is a more refined development of the earlier brown variety. This suggests that radical changes in the population of the area, if they occurred at all, must be dated to the late Spring and Autumn (I.e. ca 600-500BC) rather than to the mid-Warring States period (I.e. ca 350 BC), when the Xiongnu (Huns) make their appearance in the written sources.

The other important Xiongnu (Hunnic) site is that of Maoqinggou, 140 which presents a four-phase chronological evolution. The first phase, dated to the late Spring and Autumn period (I.e. ca 600-500BC), contains pottery and bronze items. The treatment of the body, shape of the burial, and animal sacrifice have clear parallels at the previously discussed Guoxianyaozi site. Other similarities are seen in the absence of iron and the presence of a large number of bronze ornamental plates. But there are several discordant elements, such as the presence, in Maoqinggou, of a bronze dagger with double-bird-head pommel, of a bronze bit, and of belthooks, all of which are missing in Guoxianyaozi. It is possible that the early people of Maoqinggou belonged to the same cultural milieu as those of Guoxianyaozi but were starting to develop in the direction of a more specialized pastoral nomadism.

The later period of Maoqinggou, inclusive of early, middle, and late Warring States - phases II, III, and IV, respectively - shows a great difference with respect to phase I, such that archaeologists have attributed the first period to the Di and the subsequent ones to the Loufan 樓煩, a people who were certainly horse-riding steppe nomads and culturally related to the Xiongnu (Huns). In these later burials a large number of iron objects, including daggers, pickaxes, one knife, ornamental plates, and belthooks, have been found (Fig. 13.3). The typical jar with a small mouth, round belly, and round bottom of the early period is replaced with a similar example with a flat bottom. In the upper layer a knife-coin has been found, which again indicates the existence of trade with China. The appearance of iron is incremental, used not only for weapons and tools but also for ornamental plates. This site is thought to have been abandoned at the beginning of the third century as a result of occupation by Zhao.

Figure 13.3. Bronze daggers and Animal Style plaque from Maoqinggou Figure 13.4. Bronze sword handle and Animal Style ornamental objects from Yanglang Uigur Catacomb Grave
by S.Minyaev

The site's economy shows both pastoral and agricultural elements. Remains of a settlement, kilns, and pottery are next to the cemetery, whose funerary goods show the same military and ornamental inventory that is characteristic of the Northern Zone.

The weapons are mostly bronze daggers and arrowheads in the earlier part of the site, with more iron objects in the later graves. Ornaments are in the animal style, with the bird as a favorite subject. Particularly common are the bronze plates with a double-bird design and a plate shaped in the form of a bird. Besides these, there are objects related to horse management, such as rein rings and bits. In sum, we find here an assemblage typical of an early nomadic culture and closely related to that of Taohongbala. The split between the earliest occupancy and the later tombs seems to support the hypothesis of a gradual affirmation of pastoral nomadism in this area. In the case of Maoqinggou, the shift must have taken place in the course of the sixth century. Given the similarities in mortuary practices and pottery types between the two phases, an internal evolution is likely to have occurred, though the new technology may also point to intrusive elements. However, the hypothesis that a new aristocracy of “Scythian-type” nomads might have extended its rule to this area is, at the present stage, insufficiently supported, requiring the existence of an original homeland that cannot presently be established.

Another site that can be attributed to the early nomads is Hulusitai 呼鲁斯太(Wulate Zhonghou Lianhe Qi 烏拉特忠厚聯合齊, Inner Mongolia). 141 This is dated to the early Warring States (fifth to fourth century BC) and belongs to a group of transitional sites between the late Spring and Autumn and the middle to late Warring States Xiongnu (Hun) sites, which also include Fanjiayaozi and Shuijiangoumen [] (Tumote Youqi 土默特右旗, Inner Mongolia). 142 The assemblage is very similar to those at Taohongbala and Maoqinggou, but presents also more advanced elements, which are found in later Warring States Ordos sites {Zhunge'er 準格爾 Banner) such as Yulongtai [], Xigoupan, and Sujigou []. The bronze tools and weapons such as bronze daggers, arrowheads, knives, axes, and pickaxes are very close to late Spring and Autumn types. Horse fittings are also similar to the earlier types. Innovations appear mostly in the area of ornamental objects, as in the case of decorative waist belts, which foreshadow the golden hu [] belt of the later period. Modifications in the production of traditional objects were also carried out, and certain features were standardized, as in the case of the wing-shaped dagger guard. 143 This site has been attributed to the Xiongnu (Huns).

This analysis of the Ordos and contiguous areas seems to indicate the existence of non-horse-riding communities living together, or in close proximity, with more advanced Scythic, early nomadic people already adept in the use of the horse for riding and war.

In Hebei, Liaoning, and Inner Mongolia, a radical transformation was taking place, which must surely be associated with the rise of new types of societies, both more mobile and militarily superior. It is not excluded that at least part of this transformation may have been caused by the arrival of northern people from Mongolia and Transbaikalia (i.e. Eastern Baikal area). They brought new types of burial systems 144 such as the wooden and stone-cist coffins, and a new burial inventory, in which symbols of a warlike, horse-riding culture predominated. It is this movement that may have been responsible for the sudden acceleration of pressure on the northern frontier from people such as the Chi Di 赤狄, Bai Di, and Shan Rong (Jung) in the mid-seventh century BC (S. Minyaev/Ìèíÿåâ Ñ.Ñ., “On the Origin of the Hiung-nu”. Information Bulletin, International Association for the Cultures of Central Asia 9 (1985): 69-78. S. Minyaev essentially seconds the Chinese model, advocating autochthonous origin of the Huns).

The so-called pre-Xiongnu (Hun) culture, therefore, should be seen as a synchronic evolution of different core areas where a true nomadic aristocracy established itself either by migration or internal evolution. Throughout the steppe and mountain areas of the northern region, increasingly homogeneous material culture, religious beliefs, and rituals were adopted, some of which coexisted and blended with the mortuary practices of preexisting and neighboring people. Due probably to increased contacts with China, the character of this aristocracy gradually began to shift from a notion of power and status symbolized by weapons and tools, to one in which wealth, accumulated in precious metals and stones, horses, and ornamental art, became its predominant pursuit.


GANSU. The Hexi 河西 Corridor 走廊, an arid region in northern Gansu between the Yellow River and the steppe region of the eastern Tianshan region, is home to the Shajing 沙井 culture, distributed over Minqin 民勤, Yongchang 永昌, Gulang 古浪, and Yongdeng 永登 counties. 145 Its chronology with respect to other regional cultures such as Siwa, Xindian, and Kayue, is not clear, but it is probably later than Xindian, partly overlapping with the Kayue culture, and probably dating from the Spring and Autumn to the Warring States. Its type site is Shajing cun 沙井籿 (Minqin county) excavated in 1923-4 by Andersson. 146 It consists of a fortified dwelling site and a cemetery of forty graves. The settlement is surrounded by an earthen wall, and among the metal finds both in the settlement and in the funerary assemblage we find small bronze items: spearheads, arrowheads, knives, and ornaments.

Among the other remains, cowrie shells, turquoise beads, and marble rings were used as ornaments. One of these, a three-lobed object with spiral design, is similar to one found in a Warring States tomb at Luanping 滦平县 county, Hebei. 147 A similar fortified settlement has also been found at Sanjiaocheng 三角城 (Yongchang county}, 148 where a late Warring States date is suggested by the presence of an iron hoe.

More iron objects have been unearthed at Yushugou 榆樹溝 (Yongdeng county), which marks the southern extension of the Shajing culture. At this site, one tomb has been excavated; it presents a number of features roughly comparable to those of the Ordos sites of the Spring and Autumn period. Animal sacrifices of horse, sheep, and cattle are evident. The bronze objects include mainly ornaments in the animal style (eagle, deer, and dog), but also a chariot axle end. The iron production is limited to tools, such as an object in the shape of a spade, a spearhead, and a drill. The ornaments can be compared to those of Northern Zone sites of the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods such as Taohongbala (round ornaments), the Zhongshan中山 state in Pingshan 平山, Hebei (openwork round ornaments with a whirlwind design), and Xigoupan (eagle head). The appearance of a reddish, coarse-grained jar with a double loop on the shoulders typical of Shajing shows the affiliation of this site with the Shajing culture.

The presence of settlements and agricultural tools reveals a farming culture. These people also bred animals, as indicated by the animal sacrifices. The presence of fortifications suggests conflicts with neighboring peoples, who were probably nomads. Moreover, ornaments closely related to those of the Ordos and Hebei Northern Zone sites, such as cowrie shells and turquoise beads, are evidence of trade with those areas.

NINGXIA. The ancient cemetery at Yanglang 楊郎 {Guyuan county, Ningxia), dated to the Eastern Zhou period, shows strong similarities with the early Ordos Xiongnu (Hunnic) sites of Taohongbala and Maoqinggou. 149 The predominant burial style is the catacomb grave, so called because of its L-shaped configuration, with the body placed in a lateral locule, or niche, typically lower than the main shaft of the grave, and sealed with stones. Over 800 objects of bronze, iron, gold, silver, and bone, in addition to 2,000 beads, were found. These were not specifically made for funerary purposes, but were typically objects of daily use that had belonged to the dead. They reveal strong local characteristics, particularly in the bone items and clothing ornaments. The graves are divided stratigraphically into two periods, the first from the late Spring and Autumn and early Warring States, and the second from the late Warring States. Similarities across both periods point to continuous presence by the same people: grave shape and construction, body orientation, and burial custom.

The tombs of the first period contain a greater number of bronze artifacts. Among the weapons and tools we find ge dagger-axes, spearheads, daggers, knives, arrowheads, pickaxes, drills, and chisels, and a large number of ornaments, such as buckles, belt ornaments, earrings, and belt hooks {Fig. 13.4). The daggers, in the classic Antennae Style, are found only in graves of this period.

At this time, iron was not widely used, though it was certainly known, as shown by the finding of fragments of an iron sword (tomb IM3). Horse and chariot fittings are present in the early period, but not in large quantity. Among the precious metals, only silver earrings are found in the earlier graves (tomb IIIM3).

Noteworthy in the funerary assemblage is the presence of bones of sacrificed animals, in particular skulls of horses, bovines, and sheep. Agriculture may also have been practiced, but evidence is limited. Pottery is also scarce. All data indicate that the people of Yanglang were predominantly pastoralists, whose considerable wealth is evident from the resources allocated to burial rituals in terms of labor, animals, and objects. Almost every grave contained funerary goods - usually more than ten objects and several with over fifty.

Similar sites have been found in Guyuan county, at Pengbao 彭某 and Shilacun 石喇村. 150 The majority of the burials in Pengbao are T-shaped catacomb graves. The Pengbao cemetery is particularly important since, of the thirty-one graves excavated, twenty-seven were undisturbed. Animal sacrifice was practiced and documented by the presence of heads and hooves of horses, sheep, and cattle at both sites. The type of burials, divided between T-shaped catacomb types and vertical-pit graves may again point, as in the case of some Ordos sites, to a cultural admixture that possibly reflected the cohabitation, and even fusion, of different groups. Objects recovered from both types are very similar, including weapons, ornaments, and horse fittings, all in bronze. The absence of iron objects may indicate that these artifacts were deemed unsuitable as funerary objects. The ge dagger-axe is often present in assemblages of this period, as is the short straight-edge dagger. Horse technology was fairly advanced in Pengbao and included bronze bits, masks, and a bridle frontal piece. Though bronze weapons and tools are predominant, the greater role played by the mounted horse in this culture, the large selection of Animal Style ornaments, and some gold finds foreshadow the type of changes in the funerary assemblage that were to take place in the middle and late Warring States period (Physical characteristics of its inhabitants, see Han Kangxin, “Ningxia Pengbao Yujiazhuang mudi rengu zhongxi tedian zhi yanjiu”, Kaogu xuebao 1995.1: 107-25). 151

Another transitional site is a burial ground found in Zhongning 中寧 county. 152 The two graves excavated here in 1983 are attributed to the early Warring States period.

The burials are single rectangular earthen pit graves, with a body orientation from east to west, a type of burial close to that of the contemporary sites of Yanqing county and Maoqinggou. There is evidence of horse sacrifice, and the metal artifacts include bronze and gold. The bronzes consist of weapons and tools (daggers, knives, pickaxes, axes, and arrowheads), horse fittings, and ornaments. The weapons display traditional or even archaic features that would place them typologically in the late Spring and Autumn period or even earlier. The presence of a round golden plate and of many ornaments and horse fittings - bits, chamfrons, ornamental bells - however, suggests a later date, closer to the early Warring States period.

In general, these early nomadic sites in Ningxia share important cultural traits with the Ordos and suggest the presence of a similar military aristocracy. From the seventh to the sixth century the herds probably increased, as shown by the ample animal remains. Chamfrons and bits, though still limited in number, indicate a progressively more important role of the horse, used not only for transportation and herding, but also war. In all these aspects the Northern Zone resembles the general evolutional pattern of the Eurasian early nomadic universe.

XINJIANG (East Turkestan). The silk and lacquer of obvious Chinese provenance unearthed at Pazyryk and at the Alagou II cemetery show that the region to the far northwest of the Central Plain had a degree of interaction with China in this period. Archaeological studies have allowed a partial mapping of the presence of nomadic people referred to as Saka in Xinjiang (East Turkestan) from the eighth to third century BC (Map 13.4) (Considering that Chinese records positively identify the tribe of the Türks as a Saka tribe, and on the other end of the Eurasia the Byzantines and Romans positively identified Türks as Scythians, and Herodotus equated Sakas and Scythians, the general interchangeability of the terms Scythians, Saka, and Türks should be deemed to be reliably established, and the term "Saka culture" equated with the term "Türk culture", where the Türk is a name of a specific tribe, and not a linguistic construct or ancient politonym. That not only resolves the terminological problems, but also explains why the cultures bearing differing conditional names are profoundly identical). 153

Map 13.4. Northern Zone: Archaeological sites in Xinjiang (East Turkestan)

The term Saka is the Iranian form of the Greek “Scythian”, which entered Chinese sources as Sai 塞, read sýk (also transcribed "sək", if it makes any difference, Romanization Sai/So/Se; apparently, the Persian neighbors [there were no Iranians at the time, the term is anachronic] just repeated the indigenous term, as did their Chinese neighbors) in ancient Chinese. 154 Historical information on the Saka is contained in the Han shu (History of the [Former] Han) biographies, “Zhang Qian Li Guangli zhuan” 張騫李廣利傳 and “Xiyu zhuan” 西域傳. According to these the Saka was the original inhabitants of the land (to the west of the Xiongnu [Huns]) that were later invaded and conquered by the Wusun (the Great Yuezhi 月氏) (Wusun = Usun = Uisyn, a Kazakh Türkic tribe belonging to the oldest Senior Juz; Yuezhi = Tochars = Tuhsi, a Türkic tribe that occupied Bactria in ca 140 BC, a part of Tuhsi joined Usun, another part moved to the Aral Sea area and became known as Düger, late a part of Turkmens and a part of Ossetians called Digors, and still another part joined Huns; Tuhsi did displace Sakas from Jeti-su at ca 160 BC, but Usuns did not displace them, they were already gone by the time Usuns purged Tuhsi) and finally overtaken by the Xiongnu (Huns), in the course of their war against the Yuezhi. 155 The archaeological “Saka

153. On the Saka culture in Xinjiang (East Turkestan), see Wang Binghua, “Gudai Xinjiang Sairen lishi gouchen”, Xinjiang shehui kexue yanjiu 1985.16: 8-19. This has been translated by Corinne Debaine-Francfort and published as “Recherches historiques preliminaires sur les Saka du Xinjiang (East Turkestan) ancien”, Arts Asiatiques 42 (1987): 31-44.
155. Han shu, 61, 2692; 96A, pp. 3897, 3884; 966, p. 3901. See also Hulsewe and Loewe, China in Central Asia. Although in recent Chinese publications the characters 月氏 are given the reading “Yuezhi” (e.g., Wang Liqi, ed., Shi ji zhuyi [Xi'an: San Qin, 1988], vol. 4, p. 2591), scholars in China often read the character (yue) as rou, a variant of 肉; hence, the people's name is read Rouzhi, not Yueihi. For instance, in the Zhongguo Sichou [], ed. Xue Li (Utumqi; Xinjiang Renmin, 1994), the entry “Yuezhi Dudu fu” 月氏都督府 is listed under the reading rou (Index, p. 57); on the other hand, the same entry is found under yue in Xinjiang lishi cidian, ed. Ji Dachun (Urumqi: Xinjiang Renmin, 1993) p. 750. I could not find specific research to help with this issue, but the variant for 肉 is attested to in the Kangxi zidian (康熙字典, Kangxi Dictionary, 1716), section “Wei” 未, part 3 (xia 下) (In English literature the form Yuezhi and 月氏 are accepted norms).

The archaeological “Saka culture” has been based primarily on the discovery of a cache of bronzes in Xinyuan 新源 county (Ili 伊犁, Xinjiang (East Turkestan), in 1983. However, no Saka sites have been excavated. One of the most interesting bronzes is a small statue (42 cm) of a genuflecting warrior, holding something (now lost) and wearing a high hat with a flat circular rim ending in a point turned downward in the front (Fig. 13.5a). The physical features of the man, who is naked with the exception of a kilt-type skirt, are unquestionably Europoid. Among the other finds are a square bronze basin with zoomorphic motifs, a large fu 釜 cauldron, and two heavy rings with facing animal heads (Fig. 13.5b). Most bronzes show clear connections with South Siberia, the Altai region, and Central Asia, but the cauldron, cast in sectional molds, points to a Chinese technique that must presumably have been imported through the Northern Complex in the Western Zhou or Spring and Autumn periods.

Figure 13.5. Statuette of warrior (a), and bronze cauldron (b), Saka culture, Xinjiang (East Turkestan)

North of the Tianshan Mountains of western Xinjiang (East Turkestan), a poorly known culture represented by large earthen kurgans, all visible on the surface, has been attributed to the Wu Sun (Usun), a people who, according to historical sources, moved to this area from Gansu only during the Former Han under pressure from Xiongnu (Hun) westward expansion. The anthropological type has been recognized as Europoid, and the dating has been thought to be around 550-250 BC. One of the few excavated Wu Sun (Usun) cemeteries (Xiata 夏塔, in Zhaosu 昭蘇 county, Xinjiang (East Turkestan) has revealed different types of burial customs, dated to three different phases. 156 The earliest phase, probably pre-Han, exhibits a funerary chamber with earthen walls and an entrance reinforced with wooden poles, whereas the later tombs make greater use of timber. The assemblage includes small bronze and iron objects. Iron and gold objects appear in greater quantity in burials of the later period. Findings of silk, undated, may be contemporary with the Pazyryk finds and point to possible contacts with the Central Plain.

Another example of Saka culture is the Xiangbaobao 香寶寶 cemetery in the Pamir region (Tashkurgan, Xinjiang (East Turkestan)), 157 where forty tombs have been investigated. Two different types of burial customs were evenly distributed: interment in stone kurgans, and cremation. The latter custom is attributed to the Qiang. The funerary assemblage includes only small bronzes, almost all ornamental, some of which, such as belt plaques, resemble ones from the Ordos region. In general, this site shows signs of partly settled, partly nomadic habitation and a relatively poor grave inventory. The people are Europoid of the Indo-Afghan type common to regions of Central Asia.

The later Saka phase, represented by the Alagou 阿拉溝 II culture of the Alagou necropolis (Toksun county, Xinjiang (East Turkestan)) to the south of the Tianshan range, is dated to the Warring States and Former Han periods. 158 The Alagou I phase, attributed to the Gushi 故?師 (Gushi for Kushan 貴霜, a clearly anachronic term, the Kushan political control did not have any demographic component) people, already displays elements characteristic of a pastoral culture. Alagou II, however, has a far richer funerary inventory, including large bronzes such as a square basin similar to the one found in Hi, decorative plaques in gold and silver, small iron knives, lacquer, and silk.

The decoration on the ornamental plaques, with facing tigers, recumbent felines, and wolf heads in gold and silver, belongs fully to the Ordos artistic idiom. This decorative art and the presence of luxury goods imported from China hint at the presence, in Xinjiang (East Turkestan), of a possible evolution in the funerary inventory from bronzes used for practical or ritual purposes, such as weapons and vessels, to ornamental objects and the use of precious metals. A similar pattern can also be discerned in the Ordos region.

Archaeologists date the use of copper mines found in Xinjiang (East Turkestan) in Nileke (Nilka) 尼勒克 county (Ili) to the period 700-490 BC. This dating places the mines in the context of the bronzes found in the Ili region and attributed to a Saka cultural sphere (Recall the famous derisive Jujan definition of the tribe of Türks: "They are my metallurgy slaves"). The prolonged use of the mines indicates that these sites were centers of metallurgical production, and their extensive exploitation may have been an important, perhaps decisive, factor in the expansion of Saka culture in the region.

Metal Artifacts Associated with Early Nomadic Sites

BRONZE PRODUCTION. Bronze objects from Scythian sites in northern China comprise fairly typical nomadic objects, which have a wide distribution throughout the Eurasian steppe belt. Among these the most characteristic are the straight blade double-edged dagger, horse gear, large ritual cauldrons, ornamental plaques, and belt buckles.

The daggers from Ordos sites such as Taohongbala and Maoqinggou are different from those of the Shang and early Zhou periods. A new and rapidly spread ornamental feature is the dagger pommel with facing bird heads, 161 Antennae Style. This motif is very common to the north and west, and is found widely in South Siberia.

Horse fittings increase in quantity, and new horse bits appear, showing signs of experimentation and technological progress. The considerable number of horse masks, or chamfrons - triangular and round bronze plate; worn on the head of the horse for protection – indicate that the horse was not only used for transportation or herding, but also was ridden in battle.

Bronze cauldrons, most probably used to cook the meat of sacrificed animals, have a very wide distribution along the northern frontier, extending even into Central Asia and eastern Europe (Apparently, in the minds of scholars masses of the 1st millennium BC horse shepherds carried portable Coleman gas stoves to cook individual meals, or used McDonalds in Turfan and mountain pastures, all the way to Europe, reserving precious cauldrons exclusively for funeral celebrations. Exactly like the modern long-distance shepherds must be feeding themselves with Colemans and McDonalds in the pastures of Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia. Ditto for the 19th c. Australian sheep drovers and American cattle ranchers. Did they pack up lunch sandwiches driving their herds across Australia and form Texas to Chicago, instead of dragging along metal pots? But if a deceased companion needed food supply on the way to his maker, they would surely spare the same cauldron for a needy traveler). 162 In northern China they are found in Heilongjiang, Hebei, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Gansu, and Xinjiang (East Turkestan). They have a circular section, straight sides, a round bottom over a conic foot, and round handles often decorated with mushroom-shaped knobs. Other cauldrons have three feet with zoomorphic motifs. Pottery prototypes of these cauldrons can be seen at the Kokel' cemetery in Tuva (South Siberia). 160

But the most characteristic elements of this culture are the Animal Style plaques and buckles. The animal combat motif, which shows West Asian influences, 163 appeared suddenly throughout the Ordos region. Most frequently this takes the form of wolves, tigers, and leopards attacking large herbivores, such as bucks and bulls, the whole scene being inscribed in rectangular or circular frames and represented in openwork over a flat surface. The boar is prominent in the animal “pantheon” of the steppe artistic vocabulary, as are birds of prey. Other popular features are small statuettes of animals in the round represented in various positions, such as the kneeling deer, coiled or crouched leopard, or recumbent horse, as well as bird-shaped plaques and double-bird designs. Plates decorated with abstract motifs were linked together to form a metal belt, a distinct component of Xiongnu (Hunnic) attire commonly found in “pre-Xiongnu (Hunnic)” and Xiongnu (Hunnic) sites (And also in the endless depiction and descriptions of Sakas, Scythians, and all kinds of Türks). Occasionally, ornamental objects were cast in gold and inlaid with turquoise, thus bearing a striking resemblance to Scytho-Siberian gold artifacts from South Siberia and Central Asia.

159. For a comprehensive study on bronze cauldrons across Eurasia, see Miklos Erdy, “Hun and Xiong-nu Type Caldrons. Finds Throughout Eurasia”, Eurasian Studies Yearbook 67 (1995): 5–94 (See Eastern Hun Anabasis).
161. The Near Eastern origin of the animal style is rejected by several modern scholars, but western Asian motifs, in particular from Assyrian and Ahaemenid art, are assumed to have played a role in the evolution of the animal style throughout Eurasia, including the Northern Zone. See Sher “On the Sources of the Scythic Animal Style”, p. 55; and William Watson, Cultural Frontiers in Ancient East Asia, p. 112.

IRON METALLURGY. Iron appears fairly early in the Northern Zone, pointing to the introduction of iron metallurgy to China from the north. The earliest sites with iron are associated with the Scytho-Siberian sites in the Altai Mountains (Xinjiang (East Turkestan)) and can be dated around the ninth century BC Typically these are small objects, suggesting that the use of iron was still rare.

In the central and eastern parts of the Northern Zone, iron objects came into wider usage in the seventh century. One of the earliest weapon-related uses of iron can be seen in the bronze-hilt iron swords found in Ningxia. 161 Iron items have also been found in late Spring and Autumn burials in Inner Mongolia. One iron sword has been found in burials 1 and 2 at Taohongbala, together with bronze weapons and horse ornaments. The earliest complete iron objects are daggers and pickaxes, confirming an early use of iron tor weapons and tools, whereas bronze was preferred for ornaments until a much later date.

Both in the Ordos and in the Gansu–Ningxia regions, iron is far more common in the Warring States period, with iron ornamental plates, belthooks, and tools. Tomb 2 at Xigoupan yielded a sword, a ladle, a drill, and several horse-related items, such as a horse bit and two cheekpieces. A similar inventory has been recovered from a burial of the same period in the Ordos region, at Yulongtai. Larger iron implements, such as a ding at tomb 2 at Budonggou [], started to be made only in the Former Han period.

In the Ningxia area, the Yanglang site is particularly rich in iron tools and weapons, dating partly to the late Spring and Autumn, but mostly to the late Warring States period. The earliest finds, in grave I3, include an iron sword, two rings, and two belt ornaments. From later burials other items have been unearthed, such as a bronze-hilt iron sword, a complete iron sword, knives, rings, horse bits, belt ornaments, cheekpieces, a spear, and an ornamental plate. The bronze-hilted iron sword can be associated with the earlier site of Langwozikeng [], and only appears in the Ningxia-Gansu region.

Most iron objects in Gansu are also associated with Warring States or possibly earlier sites. An interesting site is that of Yuanjia [] (Pingzi 平子, Ningxian宁乡 county), where an iron spearhead has been recovered together with bronze objects that include both weapons - a ge dagger-axe, a dagger, arrowheads - and ornaments. 163 This site includes a horse sacrificial pit that contained bronze bells, chariot finials, horse-head pole tops, and horse-head ornamental plates. The presence of weapons, and Animal Style decorative motifs, as well as the importance attributed to the horse, qualify this as a typical early nomadic site.

In Houzhuang 候莊 (Zhengning 正寧 county, Gansu), a bronze-hilt iron sword has been found in a similar type of burial together with tools and horse-related ornaments, along with several bronze weapons. A clear relationship between the two sites can be established by the presence of almost identical ge dagger-axes and distinctive small ornamental statues representing a kneeling deer.

It is difficult to estimate the extent to which the use of iron was widespread in the Northern Zone. It does not seem, however, to have been limited to mounted pastoralists or associated exclusively with cultures in which the horse had attained a central role. Iron knives have been found in different burials belonging to the Shajing culture in Yongchang county, Gansu, where cattle and sheep sacrifices seem to predominate over the horses. 164 In a later Shajing burial site at Yushugou (Yongdeng county, Gansu), there are two iron spade-shaped objects, a spear, and a drill. 165 The rest of the bronze assemblage does not include weapons, but mostly ornaments and one chariot axle end. The ornaments show a connection between this site and the Ordos region (Xigoupan), the Ningxia area (Yanglang), and even the northern Chinese state of Zhongshan (Pingshan).

Bronze and, in the steppe, gold were considered to be more suitable for ornamental or ritual purposes. The use of bronze in the manufacture of hilts of iron swords suggests that it was appreciated for its hardness but not for its beauty; 166 this is possibly one reason why few iron artifacts are found in graves.

Historical Survey

DI 狄. The Di appear regularly in traditional sources from the mid-seventh century BC. They were divided into two large groups: the Bai Di (White Di), located in the west, and the Chi Di (Red Di), located in the east. Arguments as to a possible identification of Di people with “Scythian"-type early nomads have been based on very little textual evidence, such as the often quoted statement that “the Rong (Jung) and the Di are continually changing their residence, they treasure material objects as valuable but give little importance to land; their land can be purchased”. 167 But this is hardly a conclusive proof, and no horse riding is reported among the Di. On the contrary, they are described as foot soldiers (This prime distinction between nomadic cattlemen vs. sedentary farmers and foot hunters rightfully serves as a main ethnic criteria, and should not be dismissed lightly. To convert farmers into effective warriors is needed a powerful centralized structure and unmerciful coercion apparatus; amassing troops of foot hunters living in vanishingly small population densities is no smaller task; in either case it is impossible without a strong central power. But to drive, like a herd of chattel, a mass of sedentary people to a war is no large task, the Huns, then the Türks, the Avars, Mongols and Tatars did it repeatedly during historical times, and a small group of Dis driving much greater numbers of foot conscripts is a likely scenario, considering the permanent and powerful force that the Di presented for centuries to the Chinese principalities. The reverse is also true, as attest the Chinese annals, it is next to impossible even for a strong infantry army to corner cavalry troops, they have to content with cornering the settled folks subordinated to the nomadic overlords. In such circumstances, the sedentary manpower is called by the name of the dominating group, in this case the Di. It was speculated that Di is an ancient Chinese abbreviation for the Tele tribes, aka Tiele, Chile, Gaoche etc., who appear in the later annals as powerful force already present in the Northern lands, without allusions to their migration. Another scenario, that Di were local Mongolic or Tungusic tribes dominated by horse nomads of the Scythian type, is less likely). 168

The appearance of the Di on the northern borders of China suggests a large southbound migration of people displacing the sparse Rong (Jung) communities, which were pushed further south and either fell under the control of the Chinese states, or survived semi-independently in the interstices between them. The relationship between the Di and the Chinese states was not just that of mere border conflicts. Throughout the Spring and Autumn period the Di played a complex, multifaceted role in interstate politics. They provided a safe haven for Chinese runaways, often victims of factional struggles or defeated pretenders to local lordships. From the frequent mentions of passionate appeals to all central states to unite against the Di, we can see that, militarily, they posed a threat that was perceived by the Zhou political community as being potentially more dangerous than the internal conflicts among the Chinese states. However, considerations of realpolitik often prevailed over feelings of cultural and ethnic brotherhood, and Chinese states attacked by the Di were often left to fend for themselves.

The most vicious wars against the Di were those waged by the state of Jin, bent since 660 BC on a campaign of annihilation that eventually paid off in 594 and 593 BC, with the destruction of several Chi Di groups. 169 This attack probably took place in conjunction with an internal crisis of the Di, as there is evidence of famine and political dissent among them. In the following years, Jin engaged in all sorts of ploys and stratagems in its fight against them and completed its “subjugation” of the Di in 541 BC, 170 thus establishing Chinese political supremacy in the north. However, fighting continued against statelets set up by the Xianyu 鮮虞, – a tribe or state within the larger entity of the Di people - who were repeatedly attacked by Jin in the latter part of the sixth century. In this war, victories were by no means one-sided; in 507 BC Xianyu troops convincingly defeated the Jin army.

Foreign relations between Chinese states and the Di involved the establishment of marriage ties, and the Chinese custom of exchanging kin members from princely households as virtual hostages was also observed by the Di (Considering that China and Chinese customs did not exist yet, these were Zhou and Di customs, generically Türkic customs evinced in all prior Zhou and later Hunnic etc. kinship alliances. These customs of sanctified matrimonial alliances were never adopted by Chinese people, but were preserved by the Türkic people into the Modern Age. One aspect of matrimonial alliance was invariably misinterpreted by the Indo-European, Finnic, and Chinese counterparts: in Türkic tradition, giving away a daughter in marriage makes her father a father-in-law of her husband, and thus brings an instantaneous relationship of seniority-subsidiarity, a distinction highly potent in the Türkic tradition,  into the alliance. In the Indo-European and Chinese system of values, the take was the opposite, taking a daughter of an opponent as wife was rated as submission of the opponent; in Finnic tradition giving away a daughter in marriage is a sign of submission; apparently, the Chinese also saw it as a sign of submission). 171. Regular treaties were concluded between Di and Chinese states, such as the one in 640 BC between Qi and the Di, both agreeing to join forces against Wey. Peace agreements were also ratified through treaties, as in 628, when the Di requested peace from Wey, or in 601, when peace was arranged between the Bai Di and Jin, who then proceeded to attack Qin. 172

In the political arena the Di did not behave differently from Chinese states, and generally do not seem to have been any more vicious or untrustworthy than any other political protagonist at this time. Indeed, the tactics adopted by Jin in its anti-Di campaigns, though highly effective, can hardly be commended as paragons of fair play.

Although it is not clear exactly in what way the Di differed from the Chinese, a difference was repeatedly noted by Chinese chroniclers. When in 661 BC the Di invaded the state of Xing 邢, Guan Jingzhong 管敬忠 said to Qi Hou 齊侯, “The Di and the Rong (Jung) are like wolves and can never be satisfied; all the Xia states are closely related [to Qi], and none should be abandoned; to rest in idleness is a poison that should not be cherished.” 173 According to an even more scathing judgment, the Di all conformed to the following “four evils”:

Those whose ears cannot hear the harmony of the five sounds are deaf; chose whose eyes cannot distinguish among the five colors are blind; those whose minds do not conform to the standards of virtue and righteousness are perverse; those whose mouths do not speak words of loyalty and faith are foolish chatterers. 174

This clearly placed them beyond the pale of Chinese civilization.

In later sources we also find analogous remarks on the “diversity” of the Di. For instance, the state of Shu is described in the Zhanguo ce 戰國縱橫家書 (Stratagems of the Warring States) as “a remote country of the west that still observes the old usages of the Rong (Jung) and Di”. 175 The state of Qin (778–207 BC) was accused by its enemies of sharing the same customs and moral qualities as the Rong (Jung) and Di: it had the heart of a tiger or a wolf, was greedy and cruel, untrustworthy when it came to making a profit, and did not behave according to protocol and virtuous conduct (Sharing the custom = nomadic state?). 176

By the time of the Warring States, the various Di peoples who had settled along the northern Chinese territories during the Zhou dynasty had developed into relatively small, independent frontier centers. The most important was the state of Zhongshan 中山 ("Central-mountain State"), which in the written sources is referred to as a state of the Bai Di (白狄). Created by the Xianyu, it was attacked by Wei Wen Hou 魏文侯 in 408 BC, conquered in 406 BC, and ruled by Wei for about forty years. In 377 it regained its independence and continued to exist until 295 BC.

This state had fortified cities and an army with a thousand war chariots and very capable troops. 177 Archaeological research has shown that at least from the end of the fifth century BC, Zhongshan was fully within the sphere of Chinese civilization. Its bronze production, especially at Pingshan Till, reveals its complete absorption within the culture of the Central Plain. 178 Still, no matter how “Chinese” the rulers of Zhongshan were, references to their diversity indicate that for a long time they were not accepted as one of the states of the Hua-Xia cultural sphere. 179

The fall of Zhongshan in 295 BC did not put an end to the history of the Di. Some of these groups were attacked by General Tian Dan 田单 of Qi during the reign of King Xiang 齊襄 of Qi (r. 283-265 BC). 180 Since by this time Zhao had already conquered Zhongshan and Qi was cut off from the northern territories, we must assume that either some Di people lived between the states of Yan, Zhao, and Qi, or that either Zhao or Yan allowed Qi to go through their territory to attack the Di people living in the north.

Either hypothesis would suggest that Di kingdoms continued to exist until a later date and were gradually absorbed by the Chinese northern states. The narrative of the war between Qi and the Di shows clearly that it was a long siege war, which indicates that the Di were politically organized into city-states. Though horses were imported from Dai, and this was often referred to as Di territory, its inhabitants were probably not nomads. Taking advantage of the abundance of grassland, they may have bred horses for export and military purposes. Horses had to be used for chariots by all armies, and by the end of the fourth century BC Chinese states were already adopting cavalry warfare, which meant a rising demand for horses. Because of their closer relationship with the steppe areas, the people of Dai may have adopted cavalry and bred horses even earlier. Though production of good horses should not imply that the people of Dai were nomads, it points to closer contacts between the northern Chinese frontier and peoples of the steppe (The only way the agrarian Chinese could maintain horse farms and have effective cavalry was to employ nomads in their service. During all of its history, after absorbing many waves of nomads, China had to import horses in order to sustain its army, and needed marketplaces for trade. The trade involved middlemen, and Dai apparently was traditionally a main commercial center operated by traders of the incipient Sogd).

In general, we can see that during the eighth, seventh, and sixth centuries BC, the Di settled in the great plains running from the loop of the Yellow River and the Ordos territory to the Taiyuan plain (38°N 113°E), with some also living in northern Hebei as tar east as the state of Yan. They therefore may have created an effective buffer, for several centuries, between the Zhou states and the nomads of the northern territories.

Di settlement area 8th-6th BC

The gradual encroachment of central states on the northern region, and their subjugation and incorporation of Di and other frontier peoples, eventually brought China into direct contact with the nomads, primarily in the Ordos region. Relations between the Hu nomads and the state of Zhao prompted the adoption of cavalry (by the Zhao). During the period between the end of the fourth century and the mid-third century, non-Chinese city-states continued to struggle for independence vis-a-vis China. Within the Chinese states a consciousness of the deep cultural divide between them and the Di did not soften even by the end of the Warring States. On the other hand, the differences between the Hua-Xia and Rong (Jung)-Di peoples should not be confused with the conflict between China and the nomads. The written sources present the Rong (Jung) and Di as communities politically organized on a tribal and territorial basis, centered around fortified settlements, often in the guise of city-states.


The final stage in the pre-imperial history of the northern frontier is a period of direct contacts between nomadic peoples and China. The acceleration of the northern expansion of the states of Zhao, Yan, and Qin caused the rapid absorption of the pastoral and semipastoral peoples who in the past had acted as buffers between the Central Plain and the northern steppe. As we have seen with the case of Zhongshan, from around the fifth century BC the differences between peoples such as the Di and the central states became less and less relevant, both in terms of political structures and cultural foundations. The people who inhabited these border regions were mostly settled; they lived in fortified cities, and continued to export pastoral products, animal husbandry having long become their main economic pursuit (There is an inherent contradiction in the concept that people living in fortified cities can export animal husbandry pastoral products. Even limiting the pastureland range to a local area excludes living in fortified cities and necessitates dispersion. As late as 800 years later, the number of fortified cities was extremely limited, and pastoral Huns, Jie, Qians etc. lived on the pasturing ranges outside of the fortresses. The fortified cities can serve as sources of export, being hub points of middlemen traders, but can't be producing centers of the animal husbandry. This is a substantial difference between pastoral and trading economies within a single polity. Up to the Industrial Age, the economic activity and ethnicity stereotypes were frequently the same: Türks were soldiery, Gypsies were musicians, Vikings were pirates, Slavs were slaves, Sogdians were traders, and so on. We can fully expect that Zhongshan was such a symbiotic polity, consisting of Tungus/Chinese/Austroasian farmers and Türkic nomadic horse pastoralists. Correspondingly, the archeological finds in the fortresses reflect only the farming and ruling portion, even though the archeological artifacts reflect a mix of both constituents). It was probably due to pressure from the northern nomads that in the mid-fourth century BC, the state of Zhongshan started the construction of frontier fortifications that was the prelude to the building of the Great Wall. Thus, we can take this approximate date as the beginning of our fourth phase in the history of the northern frontier.

The evidence available today, from both the written sources and archaeological investigation, suggests that it was the shrinkage of the intermediate area inhabited by semipastoral people, gradually converted to or absorbed within the Chinese sphere, that eventually brought the northern states into direct contact with the nomads. Contacts may have occurred long before, but firm evidence of a strong impact of northern nomads upon historical developments in the south must be dated to the end of the fourth century BC This is epitomized by the appearance of a new type of foreigner, the Hu (胡). This term, whatever its origin, soon came to indicate an “anthropological type” rather than a specific group or tribe, which the records allow us to identify as early steppe nomads. The Hu were the source of the introduction of cavalry in China.

Aside from military developments, trade relations and diplomatic contacts that are scarcely hinted at in the written sources can now be documented archaeologically. The large amount of gold found in third century BC Xiongnu (Hunnic) tombs in the Ordos region reveals a possible shift from a purely military aristocracy to a leadership that engaged in trade as well as war and profited greatly from commerce with China. Politically, the nomads appear on the historical scene in 318 BC, and the Chinese recording of the native term used by the Xiongnu (Hunnic) for their leader, shanyu 單于/单于, betrays the existence of diplomatic exchanges. 181

The combined direct and circumstantial evidence of military fortifications, trade, and diplomatic exchanges points to the middle to late fourth century BC as the period when closer relations were established. These remained essentially stable during this period and clearly bore advantages for both sides, though increased friction occurred between Zhao and the Xiongnu (Hunnic) toward the middle of the third century. During the third century the expansionist power of stronger and larger Chinese states in the south kept pressing the nomads, pushing the frontier progressively northward. Finally, as soon as the First Emperor of Qin had concluded his unification of the central states, he dispatched a powerful army to the Ordos with orders to occupy and colonize it. The fierce and proud Xiongnu (Hun's) reaction to Qin's encroachment led to the foundation of a new leadership and the creation of an immense nomadic power that would soon become a formidable opponent of the young Chinese empire.

Archaeological Cultures of the Northern Zone During the Late Warring States

The “closing in” between the northern cultures and the Chinese zone accelerated rapidly during the last part of the Warring States. From the fourth to the third centuries BC, contacts with China became more significant. In art, the distinctive elements of early nomadic cultures, though still predominant and retaining their northern flavor, blended with different symbols - trees, mountains - which affected substantially earlier stylistic model. 182

182. The presence of distinctive Chinese motifs in northern art has led some to believe that there was a Chinese production of artistic metalwork specifically designed for the northern markets or that there were Chinese artisans among the nomads. For a full illustration of this viewpoint, see So and Bunker, Traders and Raiders on Chinas Northern Frontier.

The sites thus far attributed to the Xiongnu (Huns) are mostly concentrated in the Ordos region. They are also the richest sites in the Northern Zone. Other sites, similar in style, funerary inventory, and material culture, have also been excavated in the northeast and northwest, particularly in Ningxia. A common characteristic is the variety of burial styles on the same site, which may indicate increasing social differentiation or, alternatively, the cohabitation of different groups merging into a more composite society, as a result of forced displacement, migrations, or simply an enlargement of the range of action of human communities because of widespread adoption of a horse-based nomadic economy (Since Huns were a multi-tribal confederation, variations should be expected. The Türkic twin organization of the dynastic line, consisting of a male Luyanti and female Kiyan and later Sui/Hui/Ui-gur lines, repeated over and over again for each constituent tribe, should bring new blood and new traditions with every addition or change of the marital partner, and the rules of exogamy are conducive to different-ethnicity partners. Once the effort is undertaken, this twin breakdown is not difficult to detect archeologically, since the males and females come from different and distinct genetic lines). Precious metals predominate in the aristocratic burials of this period, thus revealing the presence of a social elite no longer purely military in nature (Same as the Scythian burials preceding by more then half a millennia, the interpretation of purely military in nature elite is misleading, and caused by the specifics of the accessed burials). Fewer weapons were buried, and the use of iron became more common. But these changes, as profound as they are, do not appear to be intrusive. The consensus today is that the nomadic cultures of the Northern Zone in the late Warring States were directly linked to earlier inhabitants such as those of the lower strata of Taohongbala and Maoqinggou. There is no doubt, however, that the culture represented by these earlier sites expanded tremendously and, in certain areas such as the northeast, replaced earlier cultures such as Upper Xiajiadian (That's what Sima Qian and others said to begin with: that the tribal names in the annalistic sources Guifang [鬼方], Xunyu ]荀彧], Xianyu [鮮虞], Xianyun [獫狁], Jung [戎/族], Di [狄], and Hu [胡] designated one and the same people, who later entered history under the name Xiongnu [匈奴]).

The Ordos region was the central area of the flourishing of nomadic culture in the fourth and third centuries BC The sites are of two types: those used before the Warring States, which show a degree of continuity with the earlier periods, and those that can be dated only to this later period. The sites of Taohongbala and Maoqinggou are representative of the first group, whereas Yulongtai, Xigoupan, Aluchaideng, and others belong to the second (Map 13.5).

Map 13.5. Northern Zone: Archaeological sites of the fourth phase (350-309 BC)

Iron technology became far more widespread, with a much broader inventory of iron objects. However, iron did not completely replace bronze artifacts. In particular, iron was used for certain types of weapons and horse fittings. Antennae Style iron daggers, similar to earlier bronze daggers, and iron swords similar to those of the Central Plain are found both over a broader area and in larger numbers with respect to the preceding period. Horse bits and chamfrons came more frequently to be made out of iron. Furthermore, the bronze pickaxe was generally replaced with one of iron.

Another characteristic of the period is a tendency toward standardization. Traditional weapons and implements started to acquire standard features, such as the hole in the handle of bronze knives and a wavy line decoration on the shoulders of pots.
Northern Zone Sites
of the 4th Phase
(350-209 BC)
Maoqinggou (Utc pfiise) .-
• \igouji.in
Iflohongbala , <
(la(e phase) Sujigou jYulongiai

Among the decorative features of this period, we sec a decisive increase in Animal Style belt buckles and plates. Often these plates, round or rectangular, depict human activities. 183 Scenes of animal combat both realistic and stylized became more common, as well as artistically sophisticated (Since the production sites for the buckles and plates were spread along the width of the continent, from Balkans to Korea, the input of local art was inescapable, and the mobility of the nomads, together with the active trading links, kept disseminating innovations and artistic influences, raising the overall artistic level).

By far the most stunning feature of this period is the presence of extraordinarily rich burial sites, with hundreds of precious objects, mostly gold and silver ornaments. In Aluchaideng (Hangjin 杭锦 Banner, Inner Mongolia), 183 located to the north of Taohongbala, two ancient tombs of the late Warring States period were unearthed. They are remarkable for the extraordinary number of precious objects and the artistic value of the ornaments (Fig. 13.6). Altogether 218 gold and 5 silver objects were found (Certainly, these "extraordinarily rich" burial sites are such only in a local context, since among all "Scythian Royal Kurgans", the richest burials in the Chinese vicinities were on a par with the others).

Figure 13.6. Gold ornaments, Xiongnu (Hunnic) culture, Aluchaideng

Among these the most important are a gold headdress set, or crown, composed of 4 pieces (a skullcap and three headbands); 4 rectangular ornamental gold plates illustrating a tiger assaulting a bull or cow; 12 ornamental plaques with designs of tigers and birds inlaid with precious stones; 55 Animal Style ornamental plates with representations of tigers, birds, sheep, hedgehogs, and 2 tiger heads; and 45 rectangular gold buckles. In addition, ornaments in the shape of buttons, small tubular objects, and necklaces were also found. Because of its richness, this site is regarded as a royal burial of a chieftain of the Lin Hu (Forest Hu, or Forest  Moustachio, or Forest Langobards, in Chinese style rendering) people, who presumably inhabited this region in the late Warring States.

A closely related site excavated in 1979 and in 1980 is located at Xigoupan (Zhunge'er Banner, Inner Mongolia). 185 The first investigation revealed three tombs of the late Warring States period, while the second brought to light eight tombs and a nearby settlement dated to the Former Han period. That the first three tombs present a widely varied funerary assemblage, even though they belong to the same period, is a possible indication of growing social differentiation. Tomb 2 is the richest, with funerary goods dominated by gold and silver ornaments. Although fewer in number compared with Aluchaideng, they are equally impressive and include several Animal Style ornamental plates and decorative objects, at times depicting either realistic or fantastic animals. Decorations in silver, lead, and bronze are also present. Weapons and tools, such as a sword, a ladle, horse bits, and cheekpieces, are made of iron. Tomb 1 contains a few bronze objects and iron remains. Tomb 3 contains bronze ornaments typical of an earlier stage, including weapons, buckles, and other ornamental objects, comparable with the Taohongbala assemblage.

The sharp differentiation in the funerary assemblage seems to reflect distinction in social status rather than ethnic differences and may refer to the establishment of a rich aristocracy. The iron objects appear to be mostly weapons and tools of daily use, with no evident ritual or economic significance. From an early period, agricultural tools such as hoes, adzes, and pickaxes were made of iron, becoming progressively more common. 186 The existence of a settlement in the vicinity of the cemetery shows the presence of an agricultural or seminomadic people. It is possible that commoners or poor members of the tribe were buried with just a few iron tools. On the other hand, richer people were buried with finer and more prestigious bronze weapons and ornaments, which had a long tradition as mortuary objects. Only the highest elite accumulated enough wealth to be accompanied in death by an ostentatious array of glittering gold and silver jewelry, some of which was imported from China, as is clear from the presence of a Chinese inscription on the back of a golden plaque, and of Chinese characters on silver rein rings. The latter may refer to a workshop located in the state of Zhao. The inscription on the plaque, which indicates its weight, has been attributed to the state of Qin. It is possible that such objects were used as currency in commercial exchanges with the nomads, from whom China imported horses, cattle, and other typical pastoral products.

Stylistically, on both Aluchaideng and Xigoupan ornaments we find a vast gamut of animals depicted in relief or in the round, including horses, cattle, sheep, tigers, eagles, deer, and fantastic beasts. Reclining horses and kneeling deer are particularly representative of this period, as are scenes of animal combat.

Other Xiongnu (Hunnic) graves of the late Warring States period were less richly adorned, such as those at Yulongtai (Zhunge'er Banner, Inner Mongolia), excavated in 1975. 187 The burial custom was identical with that seen at Taohongbala and included sacrifices of horse and sheep. The funerary assemblage consisted of bronze, iron, and silver artifacts, but no pottery. Horse fittings included a bit and bridle stopper, both in iron, in addition to cheek-pieces made of bone. The silver necklace is typical of later objects, and the iron artifacts, such as the pickaxe and horse bit, are more developed than those found in Taohongbala. The number of chariot fittings, which include seven animal-shaped finials in bronze representing lambs, antelope, deer, and horses, and two axle ends, indicate that the chariot was still in use. Other weapons and tools - two knives, one adze, two axes, and one arrowhead - are all in bronze.

A similar but richer tomb was investigated in 1984 in the Ordos region at Shihuigou 石灰溝 (Yijinhuoluo 伊金霍洛 Banner, Inner Mongolia), 188 in which there was an abundance of silver objects: ornamental plaques, buttons, and various other animal-shaped decorations. A new type of Animal Style motif is represented by the combat between two tigers. The inlay technique was advanced, as we find an iron-set gilded bronze ornament in the shape of a turtle, and gold- and silver-inlaid iron artifacts. Generally the style and motifs belong to the repertory of the mature Warring State Ordos art. However, iron-set gilded bronze and gold- and silver-inlaid iron objects are rare and betray a different origin. It is possible that the technique came from China, while the artifacts were made locally, but the very rarity of these finds strongly suggests that they were imported, which would confirm the development of steady commercial relations between the Central Plain and the adjacent northern steppe areas.

Finally, a site of some interest is Sujigou (Zhunge'ei Banner). 189 This site had been disturbed in the past, and only objects found by local residents were recovered, in the early 1960's. The singular fact is that the objects are mostly bronze pole tops in the shape of animals, including a crane head, a sheep head, a feline cub, two kneeling horses, and a wolf head (Fig. 13.7). Their style shows yet another instance of the variety of applications of Animal Style ornaments in the Ordos culture.

Figure 13.7. Animal Style bronze ornaments, Xiongnu (Hunnic) culture, from Sujigou

The progressive increase in the use of iron can be seen by looking at Former Han sites such as Budonggou (Yikezhaomeng 伊克昭盟, Inner Mongolia), where there is a vast inventory of iron tools and weapons. Iron was mostly reserved for vessels such as tripods and cauldrons, for weapons such as swords, knives, and arrowheads, for horse fittings such as horse bits, rings, and chamfrons, and, finally, for ornamental objects such as belt plates. Bronze was still the principal material to be used for decorative and ornamental purposes.

Related sites, from the viewpoint of their material culture, have been found in northern Shaanxi, as at Nalin'gaotu 纳林高兔 {Shenmu 神木 county, Shaanxi). Dated to the late Warring States, a Xiongnu (Hunnic) grave excavated here in 1956 yielded a large number of gold, silver, and bronze ornamental objects. 190 Here too animal sacrifices were practiced, and skulls of horses, cattle, and sheep accompanied the deceased. The subjects of the ornamental plaques are mostly tigers and deer. One gold object represents a fantastic animal in the shape of a deer. A gilded silver dagger handle that is particularly rare, and possibly imported, is the only military object recovered from the tomb. Other sites in Shenmu county, such as Lijiapan 李家畔 and Laolongchi 老[]馳, lack silver and gold ornaments; their metal inventory is limited to a few buckles, ornaments, and one dagger.

In Yanglang we observe a situation similar to that of Maoqinggou and Taohongbala. Namely, the later tombs, dated to the late Warring States period, show a predominance in the use of iron, then widely available for weapons, tools, and ornaments. Though not on the scale of the Ordos, some gold objects appear in the funerary assemblage. Finally, examples of both horse gear (bits, chamfrons, bronze and bone cheekpieces, and harness ornaments) and chariot fittings (shaft ornaments, axle cuffs, and hubs) increase dramatically in number. Ornamental pole tops and plaques representing animal combat are also typical of this later assemblage.

In the Northern Zone, and particularly in the area closer to the Great Wall (from Ningxia and Gansu to Inner Mongolia and the northeast), then, the composition of metal assemblages seems to indicate a common pattern of development: a phase in which bronze weapons predominated – a sign of the formation of a warrior aristocracy - gave way to a stage marked by the extensive presence of horse fittings and ornaments, which point to technological advances in transportation and warfare, as well as to changes in the taste and possibly social and political functions of the elite. During this time not only do we find the widespread use of iron and more elaborate functional goods, but social status is more often expressed through the presence of precious objects.

Artifacts related to chariots, usually regarded as typical status symbols of ancient China, and to horses, which of course held primary importance in nomadic societies, came together to represent power and wealth enjoyed in life. This change in funerary assemblage may very well point to the emergence of a new class of aristocrats, whose position in society was proportional to their success in managing relations with China and other neighbors.

Such relations were not only political and diplomatic; they also carried strong commercial connotations. A tendency toward a commercialization of relations with China can also be found in earlier sites in Yanqing county (Beijing) dated to the Spring and Autumn period and attributed to the Shan Rong (Jung). 191 Here the presence of gold is consistent and regular. Even more significantly, coins have been found that indicate a degree of monetary exchange. This area was subsequently incorporated into the state of Yan, though it continued to have a dual cultural composition for a long time. These sites can be seen as the first instance of a trend toward commercialization of the frontier and the possible transformation of the upper echelons of nomadic society from a purely warrior aristocracy into diplomatic and commercial agents that monopolized or to some degree controlled border exchanges with China to their own profit. This trend reached its highest point during the late Warring States period, thanks to the establishment of more direct contacts between nomads and the northern Chinese states.

Relations Between Northern Nomads and Central States

The earliest textual evidence of direct contact between the Xiongnu (Huns) and China is found in the year 318 BC, 192 when the Xiongnu (Huns) are said to have been part of a joint force with Hann 韓, Zhao, Wei 魏, Yan , and Qi 齊 that attacked Qin. Further and more detailed evidence of a direct connection between the Hu nomads and Chinese states can be found in the famous debate held in 307 BC at the court of King Wuling of Zhao趙武靈/赵武灵 {r. 325-299 BC). In the course of this debate the monarch supported the adoption of mounted cavalry and archery against the myopic conservatism of his advisors. 193 This change in military thinking was not due exclusively to the need to repel nomadic assailants - though this may have been a consideration - but mostly to the king's eagerness to gain an advantage against other Chinese states by employing new military tactics and technology.

192. Shiji, 5, p. 207
193. Zhanguo ce, vol. 2, p. 653-67

The king's main goal was to turn part of his Chinese troops into mounted warriors, to be deployed on the borders with both Chinese (Hann, Qin, and Yan) and northern nomadic states (Hu and Loufan). 194 Since the greatest threat to the existence of Zhao came from other Chinese states, primarily Qin, it is questionable whether many of his new military units were used to contain the various nomads.

During the late Warring States period, Yan, Zhao, and Qin expanded their territory mostly at the expense of the northern peoples, who were in a position of military inferiority. Under (the Qin) King Zhao 秦昭 (r. 306–251 BC), Qin expanded into the territory of the Yiqu Rong (Jung) 義渠戎, possibly the remnant of semipastoral tribes, acquiring the later commanderies of Longxi 陇西/隴西, Beidi 北地, and Shang 上, and building “long walls” as a protection against the Hu. During the reign of (the Zhao) King Wuling (趙武靈, r. 325 BCE – 299 BC), Zhao defeated the Lin Hu and Loufan 樓煩 to the north and also built a wall from Dai 代, at the foot of the Yinshan Mountains, to Gaoque 高闕, thereby establishing the commanderies of Yunzhong 雲中, Yanmen 雁門, and Dai 代. To the east, the state of Yan entertained diplomatic relations with the Hu through General Qin Kai 秦开, then attacked them by surprise, defeating the Dong Hu and pushing them back “a thousand li”. Yan also built a wall that went from Zaoyang 枣阳/棗陽 to Xiangping 襄平 to protect itself against the Hu and created the commanderies of Shanggu 上谷, Yuyang 魚陽, Youbeiping 右北平, Liaoxi 遼西, and Liaodong 遼東. At this point Qin, Zhao, and Yan, three of the seven states of “the people who wore caps and girdles”, bordered on the Xiongnu (Huns). 195

The militarization of the frontier was due to the robust territorial expansion of the three northern Chinese states, all determined to protect their newly acquired lands. The state of Yan expanded mainly in the northeast and occupied both the maritime region north of the Liaodong Gulf and the Liaodong Peninsula, including, to the west, a large portion of what is today Hebei province. After conquering Zhongshan in 295 BC, Zhao continued its drive to the north and built a series of fortifications along the northern bank of the great bend of the Yellow River, where it encircles the Ordos steppe in a great loop, thus creating a Chinese enclave deep into nomad territory. The state of Qin also expanded into the Ordos, in the Hetao 河套 ("bend") region. Its line of fortifications ran from the Shang commandery in eastern Hetao to Longxi commandery in southern Gansu, along a northeast to southwest line. Longxi was the westernmost point of China's northern frontier.

In the course of the third century, Zhao continued to engage in a war of attrition with the Xiongnu (Huns). Entrusted by the state of Zhao with the defense of the northern border in the commanderies of Dai and Yanmen, General Mu 李牧 assumed a defensive posture; he was criticized for his passivity, even though the frontier was not penetrated by Xiongnu (Huns') attacks. Under pressure of criticism and intimations of cowardice, Li Mu led an army of 1,300 war chariots, 13,000 cavalry, 50,000 select infantry, and 100,000 expert archers against the Xiongnu (Huns). He succeeded in drawing them into a trap, crushing them. This feat vindicated his honor and was followed by victories over the Dong Hu and the Lin Hu (Although we do not have demographic data, from later records we can presume that the whole Hunnic tribe attacked by Li Mu was an order of magnitude smaller then the army that assailed them, likely about 50,000 souls on the outside, and accordingly about 10,000 cavalry, assembled from 5 to 10 Hunnic tribes. The Chinese account does not list the cargo train with provisions, and an army of slaves to enable chariots and cargo train to cross the terrain. The cavalry must have been of the Huns captured in previous assaults). 196

Several factors possibly contributed to this shift toward aggressive military policies. Soldiers stationed on the frontier pressed their commanders into active engagements in order to profit from the spoils of war. Court politics should also have an effect on frontier defense. The pattern of military relations between nomads and Chinese in this period should therefore not be seen as a unilateral series of nomadic raids against Chinese soldiers and settlers, but rather as a war of attrition carried out between displaced nomads and a body of occupation troops who would often take the initiative and launch raids into nomadic territory.

Chinese Knowledge of the Northern Peoples

In the sources that can be dated to the Warring States period, there is little indication that the Central Plain statesmen and intellectuals were interested in the life and history of their northern neighbors. In most of the best-known pseudogeographical treatises of this period, such as the Shan Hai Jing 山海經/山海经 (Classic of the mountains and seas), 197 the space surrounding the Central Plain was the abode of surreal beings, inhabitants of a fantasy world. The rationalist attitude of the Han historians tended to reject formation and accounts of this sort as being purely fictitious and untrustworthy. Other works were less inclined to supernatural description; nevertheless, the information they provide is far from reliable. This is true of the Mu Tianzi zhuan 穆天子傳/穆天子传, a biographical work of the fourth century BC that describes the travels of King Mu of Zhou (r. 956-918 BC) to visit the Queen Mother of the West, Xi Wang Mu 西王母. 198 In philosophical and historical works, such as the Lü shi chunqiu 呂氏春秋 (Mr. Lü's Spring and Autumn [annals]), the northern peoples lack distinctive ethnographic features. Only the collection of fictionalized historical accounts known as the Zhanguo ce provides us with a description of their riding gear and their ability as archers.

However, from information that enters the texts anecdotally and almost unconsciously, we can grasp a few glimpses of Chinese acquaintance with the nomads, and of a knowledge of them that must have been widespread. A pre-Qin notion of the political organization of the nomads can be seen in a sentence of the Zhanguo ce, where it is said that Hu and Yue 越 or 鉞/越 or 钺 (aka Yueh, Yüeh, Yuht, Vot, Bouxvot, Viet) (a people of the south) were divided into many groups that did not understand each other's languages; yet when threatened by a common enemy, they would all unite and fight together. 199 This statement seems to imply that by the end of the fourth century, the terms Hu (for the north) and Yue (for the south) were used as broad “anthropological” categories applied to various political entities – clans, tribes, or even states – that claimed different origins and spoke different languages; in case of need, however, these barriers could be overcome, and a political unity found. Applied to the nomads, this seems to refer to the formation of tribal confederations, whose first historical example was the creation of the Xiongnu (Hun) empire (All Türkic nomadic tribes had a martial partner tribe and dependent tribes, mostly the  martial partner and dependent was one and the same tribe, examples are numerous, Ases/Tokhars-Tuhsi, Luanti/Sui, and so on. The partner tribe was from a different ethnicity, or at least removed by a millennia to be able to cross the exogamy restriction, so initially it was linguistically distinct as a minimum. Apparently, with time, depending of the relative and absolute size of the partners, the partners fuse, like Suiluanti, i.e. they become so interlaced that the rules of exogamy restrict further intermarriages between them, and arises a need for a new marriage partner. In the meantime, all tribes in the union are linked by kinship ties, even though they may speak different languages or dialects, and they all run their economies independently, down to a clan and family level. A tribe may draw their livelihood from nomadic husbandry, or from production of charcoal, or from production of ore, or from smelting, etc.).

Commercial and diplomatic interaction between the Central Plain and the Hu is documented both in the Zhanguo ce and in the Mu Tianzi zhuan. The former mentions the importation from the north of horses and furs. 200 The second, while a fictional account, mentions information that must have originated in actual practices and customs. In his encounters with several foreign chiefs and dignitaries, King Mu conducted gift exchanges that must have been characteristic of fourth century BC relations between China and northern pastoralists. While the information in this work points unquestionably to dealings with peoples who were predominantly pastoral, it also shows the existence of mixed products from both herding and farming activities. The largest “gift” received by King Mu was a herd of cattle and a flock of sheep numbered by the thousand. Even more valuable, and always mentioned at the head of any list of gifts, are horses, numbering in the several hundreds. Both cultures valued horses, which had long been used in China for military and ceremonial purposes, but it was the north that provided a surplus for sale to China. A third item, which appears often but not always, is that of cereals, such as millet. Other items include wine and other animals, such as dogs and goats. The gifts presented by King Mu in exchange include mostly precious artifacts.

The mention of a silver deer, a silver bird, and golden deer presumably refers to the small sculptures or plaques with animals shown in relief that appear so commonly in Ordos art. Other items include necklaces of gold or precious stone beads, peals, gold bullion, belts adorned with precious shells, and sometimes fine horses in a team (four of the same color), probably meant to be hitched to a royal carriage and used for display. Finally, women were exchanged as wives, a detail that points to the role of bride giving as an instrument of diplomacy. 201

The information contained in the Mu Tianzi zhuan substantiates the pattern of exchanges mentioned earlier - in particular the importation of horses. On the other hand, references to precious gifts of Animal Style objects are supported by archaeological finds in Xiongnu (Hunnic) tombs of golden plaques and other objects manufactured in China. It is possible to discern a model of diplomatic and economic exchange beneath the fiction.

The Rise of the Xiongnu (Huns)

In 215 BC, the First Emperor of Qin ordered a campaign against the Hu (Xiongnu (Huns)) in the Ordos region. This was not prompted by any real threat or any preexisting situation of belligerence. The alleged reason for the expedition was a preemptive strike to prevent the fulfillment of a prophecy according to which “Hu” was going to bring about the downfall of the dynasty. 202 In fact, the First Emperor was pursuing a policy of territorial expansion, as land was needed both to demobilize and resettle the great lumber of men who had been serving in the Qin army, as well as defeated enemy troops, and to resettle the dispossessed families of war refugees. The operation was undertaken on a massive scale. General Meng Tian was sent forth with an army numbering as many as 300,000 troops, according to some records, or 100,000 according to others. His task was to invade and seize the whole Hetao region, thus making the northern bend of the Yellow river into the new northern frontier of the Qin empire. Forty-four fortified counties were built along the river and settled with convicts sentenced to guard the borders. Moreover, a road was built between Jiuyuan 九原 (near present-day Baotou, Inner Mongolia) and Yunyang 雲陽 in order to link the border with the metropolitan area.

202. In fact, the son of the First Emperor, the short-lived last ruler of Qin, was called Huhai 胡亥.

Border defenses were erected throughout the north from Lintao, in the western part of Gansu, to Liaodong. 203 Beyond the Yellow River, Meng Tian extended Qin control over the Yang Mountains in Inner Mongolia. 204 The leader of the Xiongnu (Huns), Touman 頭曼, fled north. In 211 BC, Qin transferred 30,000 families of colonists to Beihe 北河 and Yuzhong 渝中, north of the Yellow River in what is today Inner Mongolia (Exactly 2000 years later, the same feat was repeating Russia: deporting Türkic populations, and replacing them with settlers from previously seized lands, or even from abroad, as the Türkic Gagauzes from Bulgaria replaced Türkic Nogais in Moldova and Ukraine). 205

It is within this context of political and military emergency, compounded with the economic crisis derived from the loss of pasturelands, that the unification of the Xiongnu (Huns) took place. The formation of a tribal confederation under a single charismatic leader was accomplished in various phases. The first phase saw the emergence of a new leader. This was Maodun, son of Touman, who claimed the title of shanyu in 209 BC. His rise took place initially as the result of an (legendary and incredible) act of patricide and seizure of power, accomplished after having created an efficient, blindly loyal, militarily disciplined corps of personal bodyguards. The account of the killing of Touman by his son suggests a struggle between an old aristocracy, evidently unable to meet the challenge presented by the Chinese invasion, and the junior leaders, who joined together irrespective of established hierarchies. Values consisting primarily of military prowess, obedience to the leader, and personal ambition were embraced by the new leadership. The first task the young leader faced was the challenge posed by other nomadic confederations, the Dong Hu and the Yuezhi.

As a loose confederation of tribes, the Xiongnu (Huns) had existed at least a century before the unification of China. The rise of Maodun, therefore, does not bring about the creation of a new historical subject, but rather points to its political reorganization in order to meet a military challenge. Meng Tian's seizure of the Ordos and displacement of the Xiongnu (Huns) must have caused widespread relocation and migration, upsetting the established territorial makeup and balance of power among the peoples of the Northern Zone. This crisis produced a violent change of leadership, which allowed the Xiongnu (Huns) not only to overcome the crisis, but also to defeat their enemies and consolidate their position over the steppe region in Inner Mongolia and eastern Manchuria. In 210 BC, the death of the First Emperor and the forced suicide of General Meng Tian paralyzed the Qin politically and militarily and threw China into renewed civil war, preventing Chinese armies from caking effective action against the Xiongnu (Huns). Soon the defense line established by Qin was overtaken by the nomads, determined to reconquer their lost territories. The subsequent growth of the Xiongnu (Hun) state into an empire marked the beginning of a new stage in the history of the northern frontier, which had now been defined for many centuries to come.

 In the scientific literature the name of Maodun is usually associated with Oguz-Kagan, an epic ancestor of the Türkic people. The reason for that is a striking similarity of the Oguz Kagan biography in the Türko-Persian manuscripts (Rashid al-Din, Hondemir, Abulgazi) with the Maodun biography in the Chinese sources (feud between father and son and murder of the latter, the direction and sequence of conquests, etc.), which was first noticed by N.Ya. Bichurin (Collection of information, pp. 56-57) [Taskin V.S., Materials on the history of the Sünnu, transl., 1968, Vol. 1, p. 129].


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