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The Xiongnu Federation

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1 The Xiongnu Federation
Barfield, Thomas, The Perilous Frontier,” Ch. 2, "The Xiongnu Empire", Ch. 3, “The collapse of Central Order,” Sinor, Denis, Cambridge History of Early Asia, Ch 5, pp ; William Montgomery McGovern, The Early Empires of Central Asia:, pp Optional: Paper from former students – check course website. Topic: The “Palace Living and Influence of Princess in Han Dynasty,” 2007.  司馬遷︰《史記》。北京︰中華書局,1959年。(主要參考〈本紀〉、〈劉敬列傳〉、〈匈奴列傳〉) 班固︰《漢書》。北京︰中華書局,1962年。(主要參考〈本紀〉、〈韓安國傳〉、〈匈奴列傳〉) 范曄︰《後漢書》。北京︰中華書局,1965年。(主要參考〈本紀〉、〈南匈奴列傳〉) All students should read one or more of the readings in order to be able to participate in discussion. The student(s) assigned to lead the discussion should cover all the assigned readings and do some outside reading if needed. 2017/4/14

2 The Xiongnu Confederation
Introduction The Rise of Xiongnu Power The Xiongnu and the Han Foreign Relations The Xiongnu Frontier Policy The Chinese Response The Xiongnu Civil Wars The Xiongnu and the end of the Han 2017/4/14

3 Introduction The Turkic peoples are Eurasians living in northern, central and western Eurasia who speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family. Proto-Turkic refer to the ancestors of these peoples who spoke a language before that predates the separation of the Turkic peoples when they migrated and expanded. The Xiongnu empire was strongest during the Han dynasty. The Xiongnu 匈奴 was a nomadic (and probably proto-Turkic) people of Central Asia, generally based in present day Mongolia. From the 3rd century BCE, they controlled a large steppe empire extending west as far as the Caucuses. They were active in the areas of southern Siberia, western Manchuria and the modern Chinese provinces of Inner Mongolia, Gansu and Xinjiang. 2017/4/14

4 Introduction (2) According to Sima Qian (ca BC) 司馬遷 , a historian during the Han dynasty, the Xiongnu were descendants of Chunwei (淳維), possibly a son of the final ruler of the Xia Dynasty. There is no proof that this is true; there is also no evidence saying this is not true. Ancient Chinese historians often credit, without sufficient evidence, theories of origins for foreign nations that relate their ancestry back to ancient Chinese figures. Archaeological findings confirmed that the Xiongnu economy was based on trade, gifts and subsidies from China as well as on their own production. The Xiongnu, like other Inner and Central Asians, made their living from their own production – such as animal husbandry – as well as on trade and the giving and receiving of gifts referred to by the Chinese as tributes. 2017/4/14

5 Introduction (3) Nomadic economy was very unstable as none of their products could be stored but must be moved with them. If they were to amass a large herd it could be wiped out by disease, bad weather, theft or raids by other tribes. They had to find a more stable source of income and so they gathered their military strength to extort goods and trade benefits from China. This did not mean that the nomads could not exist without Chinese goods but it did mean that the quality of life would be much poorer. In times of peace, the Shanyu (Supreme Chief) of the Xiongnu was the only intermediary between China and the nomadic tribes bringing trade and subsidies that could be redistributed throughout the different tribes under his command. The Shanyu acted both as a negotiator and a war leader. The nomads lives were not stable: Their products had to be moved with them. Their herds could be wiped out, not only by natural disasters, but by raids from other tribes and clans. Military strength was important to them. They had to have a strong leader to raid others as well as to defend themselves from other raiding groups. 2017/4/14

6 Introduction (4) When the Xiongnu was under a strong leader, it was well organized, autocratic and state-like in foreign affairs, but consultative and federally structured internally. The power of the Shanyu was limited internally by the indigenous tribal leaders. The tribes were loyal to their own leader rather than to the Shanyu and so the link between the tribes and the imperial government was more federal than autocratic. It was important for the Xiongnu, as well as other nomadic groups, to have a strong leader. Succession of leadership was through election – the one with the strongest and largest armies. The empire was actually a confederation of tribes, not necessarily of different Xiongnu tribes, but may consist of other ethnic groups. 2017/4/14

7 Introduction (5) If a tribe was not happy the leader would take his people and move west (Yuezhi and Wusun) or they would move south for help from China. Going to China would mean loss of autonomy so it was not the preferred method. Tribal leaders would only rebel if the Shanyu tried to centralize his power as all of them would then feel threatened. The individual tribes were loyal to their own leader and if they did not like the supreme leader, the Shanyu, they would just break away. If the Shanyu became too powerful and tried to control the different tribes, the tribes may rebel or go to China for help. China would then resettle them along the Chinese borders to protect China against other hostile ethnic groups. 2017/4/14

8 Introduction (6) The Xiongnu and all the other nomadic tribes cultivated a violent reputation in order to have the best bargaining position with China and other countries. Example: the Mongols would kill everyone in the city if it refused to surrender and so many did surrender in fear of being slaughtered to the last man, woman and child. Western historical sources refer to all the different nomads from Central Asia who appeared in Europe in the 4th century as Huns so many scholars have speculated that Attila the Hun was descended of the Xiongnu who had migrated westward. This theory remains at the level of speculation as DNA testing of Hun remains has not proven conclusive in determining the origin of the Huns. 2017/4/14

9 The Rise of Xiongnu Power
The Xiongnu had been raiding China since the Warring States Period. The state of Zhao 赵国, on the western border of China, had to adopt nomadic clothing — trousers — in order to battle the Xiongnu on horses. Towards the end of the 4th Century BCE, foreign clothing and cavalry was introduced for use in China. Qin Shihuangdi united the different city walls built against them into the Great Wall. At that time, a Xiongnu leader, Touman 头曼, had withdrawn to the north when attacked by the Qin Empire 秦. After the death of the first emperor of the Qin, Qin Shihuangdi, the Xiongnu returned. Touman 头曼 was killed by his son, Mao Dun (冒頓) (c BCE). 2017/4/14

10 The Rise of Xiongnu Power (2)
Under Mao Dun’s leadership, he brought the Xiongnu and other nomadic tribes together in a powerful confederacy. This new unity of different ethnic groups of Central Asians made it possible for Mao Dun to expand the empire on all sides. Mao Dun lived at the same time as the founding emperor of the Han dynasty who was almost captured. After negotiations, it was agreed to open a spot for the Han troops to escape. 2017/4/14

11 The Rise of Xiongnu Power (3)
Three years before the founding of the Han Dynasty (206BCE-220CE), Mao Dun had conquered: The Dingling 丁零 of southern Siberia; The Dong-Hu 东胡 of eastern Mongolia and Manchuria, The Yuezhi 月氏 in the Gansu 甘肃 corridor The Han court decided that the Xiongnu were too powerful and could not be conquered so a treaty was signed, and a Han princess was married to Mao Dun. Mao Dun died peacefully and left his huge empire to his son who was also given a Han princess as a bride. Before Mao Dun’s death, he had recovered all the lands taken from the Xiongnu by the Qin 秦 dynasty. For more than 300 years after Mao Dun the Xiongnu dominated the steppe-lands north of China. The marriage treaty system (Heqin) was used throughout imperial Chinese history. Heqin was begun as a way to improve the foreign relation during the Han dynasty. Emperor Gaozhu (漢高祖) first adopted the Heqin policy –marrying the Han princesses with the leaders of different nomadic leaders for alliance purposes. 2017/4/14

12 The Xiongnu and the Han In BCE, the Xiongnu, under Mao Dun, raided the Chinese frontier and the ruler of the province surrendered. Fearing the impact this would have, the founder of the Han dynasty, Gaozu 高祖 (r BCE), personally led his troops to punish them. He pursued the Xiongnu and fell into an ambush at Pingcheng 平城 where he was separated from the main army and was surrounded by the Xiongnu cavalry for 7 days. He sent an envoy to Mao Dun’s wife and struck a secret bargain with her to gain his release. She convinced Mao Dun that the capture of Gaozu would not be in his best interests because the nomads could not occupy and rule China. The Xiongnu then opened up a small hole to let Gaozu and his troops escaped. 2017/4/14

13 Foreign Relations Foreign relations with the Xiongnu began after Han Gaozu’s escape in 200BC. Han and the Xiongnu signed the Heqin 和親 treaty* which had four major provisions: The Chinese made fixed annual payments of silk, wine, grain and other foodstuffs to the Xiongnu. The Han gave a princess in marriage to the Mao Dun – their distant descendant established a Han state ( ) during the Sixteen Kingdoms Period (300s CE), claiming his right as a descendant of the Han through the royal princess. The Xiongnu and the Han were ranked as equal states. The Great Wall was the official boundary between the two states. Although the Chinese were forced to give to the Xiongnu in order to maintain peace, they considered the Xiongnu as making a tribute to them as the Chinese thought themselves civilized and the others as non-civilized and beneath them in stature. 2017/4/14

14 Foreign Relations (2) Under the Heqin agreement, the Han subsidy, at its maximum, was less than 5,000 hu of grain, 10,000 shi of wine, and 10,000 pi of silk. The grain subsidy only allowed the chief to entertain his court in style but not enough to support a large part of the population. An annual wine subsidy of 10,000 shi (around 200,000 liters) enabled the chief to entertain his followers on a large scale. There were also gifts of gold, suits of clothing, and other items. A silk subsidy of 10,000 pi (92,400 meters) made it possible for the chief to distribute to tribal leaders to trade for other goods as silk was in great demand on the steppe and in the west. The gifts helped to maintain the status of the tribal chiefs and to help with trade along the Silk Road and therefore gain more. 2017/4/14

15 Foreign Relations (3) The subsidy helped to reward the elite but was not enough to meet the needs of the tribesmen. Therefore once the Xiongnu got these concessions they then demanded that the Han court permit them to trade at border markets. It was important for the Xiongnu to press for the border markets so that the ordinary nomads could also benefit by trading their products for Han goods. The Han court was opposed to border trade as they wanted a clean frontier with as few links to the nomads as possible. After repeated invasions by the Xiongnu, Han Wendi (r BCE) finally gave in and signed a treaty permitting border trade. What the Xiongnu received was not enough to be divided to all of its tribal members so they continued to press the Han court for trade. China did not want to trade with the Xiongnu as they were concerned about them crossing over the Chinese borders. The Xiongnu kept on invading the borders and pressing for more concessions. The Han court was forced to give in repeatedly as it was very busy with internal affairs. 2017/4/14

16 Foreign Relations (3) This first Heqin treaty set the pattern for relations between the Han and the Xiongnu for about 60 years. Up to 135 BCE, the treaty was renewed nine times, with an increase of "gifts" by the Han with each subsequent agreement. In 192 BCE, Mao Dun even asked for the hand of the widowed Empress Lü. Mao Dun’s son and successor, continued his father's expansionist policies and succeeded in negotiating terms for a large-scale market system and the hand of a princess in marriage. Han Dynasty 200BCE-140BCE: 10 instances 60BCE-33BCE: 2 instances 60 CE 1 instance (not including marriages between Chinese warlords and Shanyu during the Civil Wars). The Heqin system was practiced throughout Chinese history except by the Song and the Ming. It was extensively used during the Han. 2017/4/14

17 Foreign Relations (4) It was to the Chinese advantage to continue this foreign relations with the Xiongnu so that they can use this to control both the Xiongnu peoples and have the Xiongnu be a buffer with regions beyond China. It was to the Xiongnu advantage as well since it meant that they can be the leader of the nomadic tribes. But, the Xiongnu did not take the peace treaty seriously as they continued to raid the borders of China. Although numerous treaties were signed between the two groups neither really took it seriously and the continued to battle against each other. 2017/4/14

18 The Xiongnu Frontier Policy
The strategy for the Han frontier was made by the court and so the Xiongnu had to develop a frontier strategy that would force the Han court to negotiate. Their strategy had three major elements: Violent raiding deep into Han territory to terrify the Han court. Alternate between war and peace to increase the amount of subsidies and trade privileges granted by the Chinese. Refusal to occupy Chinese land even after great victories. After treaties were signed, the Xiongnu would attack again and extract more concessions out of the Chinese tributary system. What the Xiongnu wanted was for the Han court to give them more gifts and the right to trade. They did not want to occupy Chinese land as it would mean having to govern the Chinese and having to defend what they have conquered. It would mean a different style of life for the nomads. 2017/4/14

19 The Xiongnu Frontier Policy (2)
For their strategy to succeed, the Xiongnu needed: A prosperous and populous north China An effective administrative system within China A government policy dominated by civilian Chinese bureaucrats. These conditions were best met when China was united, internally at peace, and under native Chinese rule. If China had internal problems then it could not deal with the Xiongnu and could not negotiate with them and give them expensive gifts. This is why they needed China to be prosperous, centralized, and well governed. 2017/4/14

20 The Xiongnu Frontier Policy (4)
1. A prosperous and populous north China By raiding the northern border or by exploiting the tributary system, the nomads extracted wealth to support their empires. If the economic base of north China was destroyed and its population greatly reduced, the goods would not be produced by the farmers and artisans. There was little to extort from a region of abandoned villages or from a population suffering from famine. 2017/4/14

21 The Xiongnu Frontier Policy (5)
2. An effective administrative system in China The nomads depended on China to organize the production of needed goods. When the empire broke down and unable to support the frontier areas, the wealth dried up and raids could not accomplish anything. If the Government did not provide aid to the invaded territories there would not be enough to support annual attacks. They could not occupy Chinese land as it would expose the weakness of their numbers (1 million versus 54 million Chinese). 2017/4/14

22 The Xiongnu Frontier Policy (6)
3. A Government dominated by civilian Chinese bureaucrats The Chinese government had to prefer providing nomads with their needs than going to war against them. The Confucian officials were generally opposed to offensive military schemes as they disrupted the state and created opportunities for the advancement of merchants and soldiers. 2017/4/14

23 The Chinese Response Early Han rulers were were interested in:
Establishing the dynasty Relieving the society of harsh laws, wars, and conditions. Minimizing external threats from the nomads. This policy of the government reduced their role over civilian lives (與民休息) to start a period of stability. The Han court feared that violence would lead to disruption of their rule. The court also did not want war as it was very expensive so they developed a policy referred to as the “Five Baits”: Elaborate clothes and carriages to corrupt their eyes. Fine food to corrupt their mouths. Music to corrupt their ears. Lofty buildings, granaries and slaves to corrupt their stomachs. Gifts and favors for those who surrendered. The Xiongnu had an advantage as early Han rulers needed to establish the dynasty and have the country recover from the revolution against the Qin. They did not want external wars and so were willing to buy peace. 2017/4/14

24 The Chinese Response (2)
The Han court thought that the Shanyu would keep all the gifts and his people would become jealous and rebel. They did not realize that the Shanyu depended on the gifts from the Chinese for power as he redistributed them to his the tribal leaders. Under Wudi (r BCE) the Han court decided on an aggressive war policy against the Xiongnu (133-90BCE). 2017/4/14

25 The Chinese Response (3)
Han Wudi had four objectives: To push the Han frontier to the old Qin dynasty borders and to station conscripts (often convicts) at the frontiers – these conscripts were to be partially self-supporting by establishing farming colonies. To create alliances with Xiongnu’s nomadic neighbors some of whom were willing to accept a loose alliance sealed by the marriage to a Han princess and occasionally helping Han to attack the Xiongnu from the west. To move the Han troops into the Tarim Basin to cut off the right arm of the Xiongnu, to prevent them from linking up with the Qiang 羌 in the Tibetan borderland and to stop the revenue the Xiongnu received from Turkistan. To destroy the Xiongnu’s power on the steppe. By 119 BCE, the Han pushed the Xiongnu across the Gobi desert but 20 years later the Xiongnu were back again at China’s borders. By the time, Emperor Wu (140 – 87 BCE) came to the throne, the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE) had been in existence for 66 years. The dynasty was more stable and can now consider external expansion. The Han court was also tired of dealing with the Xiongnu and wanted to put an end to their raids. He was successful in pushing the Xiongnu back for awhile but 20 years later, the Xiongnu was back at China’s borders. 2017/4/14

26 The Xiongnu Civil Wars The Xiongnu domination of the steppes ended due to internal problems due to succession fights and economic disasters that led to two civil wars. There are two forms of succession: lineal and fraternal/lateral. In lineal successions, the son succeeded the father and the father’s younger brother could not take the throne as long as a son still lived. At times, the uncles murdered nephews who stood between them and the throne. In fraternal/lateral successions the brothers succeeded each other after the death of the previous one with the ruler-ship returning to the son of the eldest brother. Problems occur when the youngest brother decides to make his own son the heir and not his nephew. The Han was not able to put an end to Xiongnu power. Instead they self-destructed when they had succession problems. 2017/4/14

27 The Xiongnu Civil Wars (2)
Lineal successions avoided multiple heirs from different lineages but created tension between a ruler and his brothers. Fraternal succession created many lines of succession as each son of a former chief could lay some claim to the office. Succession problems led to two civil wars; the second eventually ended the Xiongnu domination of the steppes. The Xiongnu had practiced lineal succession, from father to son unless the heir was too young – then the leadership would be fraternal – from elder brother to younger brother then back to the heir. 2017/4/14

28 The Xiongnu Civil Wars (2)
In 68 BCE the Xiongnu suffered from a famine and the death of a chief in the same year. In 60 BCE, another chief died and the tribal leaders were divided over which of the two powerful lineages should inherit (previous disputes dealt with whether a brother or a son should inherit). This led to the first civil war that divided the Xiongnu into two different camps: the Northern and the Southern Xiongnu. This division lasted for 15 years. From 60 BCE onwards, the Xiongnu fought two civil wars over succession. The first one divided the them into two different campus, the Northern and the Southern. 2017/4/14

29 The Xiongnu Civil Wars (3)
The Northern Xiongnu expanded westward. They successfully took over land held by the Kyrghiz and the Dingling (northeastern Turkistan and southwestern Siberia). They abandoned their headquarters in northern Mongolia and created a new capital in Northwestern Turkistan which was previously predominantly Iranian -- now it was Turkish. By CE, the center of the Xiongnu Empire had shifted over 1,000 miles toward Europe leading to the later invasions of Europe. The Southern Xiongnu fled to China for protection and were settled within the upper loop of the Yellow River and were used by China to defend its northern borders. 2017/4/14

30 The Xiongnu Civil Wars (4)
The Chinese gave them what they needed but could not grow so the Southern Xiongnu grew prosperous When the game in the area could no longer support the large population they looked for ways to expand their territory. When the ruler of the Northern Xiongnu died, the head of the Southern Xiongnu unified the tribes; he was given a Chinese bride. In 31 CE, when a Shanyu, Huhanye, was close to death he wanted to pass the ruler-ship to his favorite son, who was only the third eldest. The mother of the son advised him to have his eldest son succeed him but that afterwards, succession be passed from elder to younger brother. Succession then changed from lineal to fraternal. 2017/4/14

31 The Xiongnu Civil Wars (5)
Succession then passed through his six sons but the sixth son, Yu (r.19-47), wanted his own son to rule instead of his younger brother. He killed his younger brother but one of the nephews, Bi, claimed that as the eldest son of Huhanye’s eldest son it was his turn to succeed. Bi had control over the area close to the Chinese border and began secret negotiations with the Chinese for support. When the Shanyu learned of this he tried to arrest Bi but Bi was warned by his brother and was able to defeat the repeated efforts made by the Shanyu. Bi went to China and offered to guard the frontier and China accepted him. He moved south of the Great Wall into Han territory which had been abandoned by the Chinese and blocked Chinese trade from reaching his rival and maintained exclusive control of the tributary system. 2017/4/14

32 The Xiongnu Civil Wars (6)
Bi got Han to provide military aid to fight against the Northern Xiongnu. Since neither group could conquer the other, the Xiongnu again split into two forces, the Kingdom of the North and the Kingdom of the South. With the support of China, the Southern Xiongnu eventually forced the Northern Xiongnu to withdraw from the east and again expand west and southwest. While the Northern and Southern Xiongnu were attacking each other, other nomadic groups — the Xianbei from the east, the Dingling in the north and tribes from the Turkistan area from the west (46CE) attacked the Northern Xiongnu. The Southern Xiongnu turned to the Han court for assistance and the Northern Xiongnu was pushed to withdraw from the east and push west and southwest. During this time, other nomadic groups became very powerful as the Xiongnu were busy fighting against each other. 2017/4/14

33 The Xiongnu Civil Wars (7)
In 48, the Shanyu of the Northern Xiongnu died and there was another struggle over succession to the throne. As the Xiongnu was having internal problems, the Xianbei attacked from the east, and many Northern Xiongnu tribes defected to the south while 58 Northern Xiongnu tribes defected to the Xianbei. In 87, the Xianbei beheaded the last Northern Shanyu and cut off 1,000 heads and brought them to the Chinese court and was given rich presents. The Xianbei then went into the head hunting business and were paid by the Chinese per head. In 48, due to succession problems of the Northern Xiongnu, the Xianbei attacked them from the east. The Xianbei beheaded the last of the Northern Shanyu and cut off 1,000 heads and brought them to the Chinese court for rewards. 2017/4/14

34 The Xiongnu Civil Wars (8)
In 88, the Southern Xiongnu sent a memorial to the Han emperor pointing out the weakness of the Northern Xiongnu and urged that it be destroyed and “its territories and its inhabitants given over to the Southern Xiongnu who have consistently shown themselves devoted subject”. In so doing, China would never have to worry about defending her northern frontier. In 89, the brother of the Han dynasty regent, Empress Dowager Dou, together with 8,000 Chinese and 30,000 southern Xiongnu successfully invaded northern Mongolia and the Northern Shanyu fled. In 88, the Southern Xiongnu, sensing weakness in the north, asked the Han court for help to destroy the Northern Xiongnu. The Han court supported them and successfully defeated the Northern Xiongnu. To keep the Xiongnu weak, the Han court divided the territory they had won and gave it to the Xiongnu and the Xianbei who had been their ally in this war. 2017/4/14

35 The End of Xiongnu Power
The Han court wanted to keep the Xiongnu weak and so did not support the Southern Xiongnu’s control of Northern Mongolia. Instead, it was agreed that Southern Mongolia would be in the hands of the Southern Xiongnu and Northern Mongolia was would be in the hands of the Xianbei. The Xianbei which had originally been confined to Northeastern Mongolia and Western Manchuria now became a great power. This ended the Xiongnu domination on the steppe. The Xiongnu were no longer a power although they continued to be mentioned in Chinese records until 155. This is the beginnings of Xianbei power. Eventually, the Xianbei would be so strong they would fist establish kingdoms in North China and eventually rule half of China. The Xianbei descendants, intermarried with Han and other non-Han groups, would also rule China under the Sui and Tang dynasties. 2017/4/14

36 The End of Xiongnu Power (2)
Towards the end of the Eastern Han (188) the Han court asked the Shanyu of the Southern Xiongnu for support to suppress the rebellions. The Shanyu agreed but was murdered by some of his own subjects as many of the Xiongnu feared that it would set a precedent for unending military service to the Han court. The murdered Shanyu’s son succeeded him, but was soon overthrown by the same faction in 189. The son went to the Han capital to ask for help from the Han court, but the Han court was unable to help as it was caught in a clash between the military and the eunuchs. The Shanyu’s son and his followers had no choice but to settle down with his followers in Shanxi; he died in 195 and was succeeded by his brother. 2017/4/14

37 The Xiongnu at the End of the Han
During the battle of the warlords for power, many of the Xiongnu supported one faction (Yuan Shao 袁绍 ). In 216, Cao Cao 曹操 ( ) was victorious over most of the other warlords and detained the new Xiongnu Shanyu in the city of Ye, and divided his followers in Shanxi into five divisions to prevent them from rebelling and Cao Cao used the Xiongnu in his cavalry. Eventually, the Xiongnu aristocracy in Shanxi changed their surname to Liu claiming that they were related to the Han imperial clan through the old intermarriage policy (Heqin treaty). Their descendents would establish kingdoms in northern China during the Sixteen Kingdoms Period ( ). 2017/4/14

38 Next Reading Barfield, Thomas, “The Xiongnu Confederacy: Organization and Foreign Policy”, Journal of Asian Studies, Vol 41, No. 1, Nov, 1981, pp 45-61; OR Eberhard, Wolfram, Conquerors and Rulers, Ch. 5: Problems of Nomadic rule. OR. William Montgomery McGovern, The Early Empires of Central Asia:, pp Chinese texts. 2017/4/14

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