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As in the case of the Rouran with the Avars, oversimplifications have led to the Xiongnu often being identified with the Huns, who began to populate the frontiers of Europe by 370 C.E. The connection started with the writings of the eighteenth century French historian Chrétien-Louis-Joseph de Guignes, who noticed that a few of the barbarian tribes north of China associated with the Xiongnu had been named "Hun" with varying Chinese characters. This theory remains at the level of speculation, although it is accepted by some scholars, including Chinese ones. DNA testing of Hun remains has not proven conclusive in determining the origin of the Huns.

Linguistically, it is important to understand that "xiōngnú" is only the modern standard Mandarin pronunciation (based on the Beijing dialect) of "匈奴." The sound of the character "匈" during the fourth-sixth centuries C.E. has been reconstructed as /hoŋ/. The supposed sound of the first character has a clear similarity with the name "Hun" in European languages. Whether this is evidence of kinship or mere coincidence is hard to tell. It could lend credence to the theory that the Huns were in fact descendants of the Northern Xiongnu who migrated westward, or that the Huns were using a name borrowed from the Northern Xiongnu, or that these Xiongnu made up part of the Hun confederation.

The traditional etymology of "匈" is that it is a pictogram of the facial features of one of these people, wearing a helmet, with the "x" under the helmet representing the scars they inflicted on their faces to frighten their enemies. However, there is no actual evidence for this interpretation.

In modern Chinese, the character "匈" is used in four ways: to mean "chest" (written 胸 in Chinese characters); in the name Xiōngnú (匈奴; "Xiongnu"); in the word 匈人 (Xiōngrén "Hun person"); and in the name Xiōngyálì (匈牙利; "Hungary"). The last of these is a modern coinage, which may derive from the belief that the Huns were related to the Xiongnu.

The second character, "奴," appears to have no parallel in Western terminology. Its contemporary pronunciation was /nhō/, and it means "slave," although it is possible that it has only a phonetic role in the name 匈奴. There is almost certainly no connection between the "chest" meaning of 匈 and its ethnic meaning. There might conceivably be some sort of connection with the identically pronounced word "凶," which means "fierce," "ferocious," "inauspicious," "bad," or "violent act." Most probably, the word derives from the tribe's own name for itself as a semi-phonetic transliteration into Chinese, and the character was chosen somewhat arbitrarily, a practice that continues today in Chinese renderings of foreign names.

Although phonetic evidence linking the Xiongnu with the Huns is not conclusive, new evidence from Central Asia might support a political and cultural link between the Xiongnu and the Huns. Translations of the term “Xiongnu” into “Hun,” and “Hun” into “Xiongnu” have been found in Central Asian sources of the fourth century. In the Sogdian Ancient Letters, the Xiongnu of Northern China are named “xwn,” while in the Buddhist translations by Dharmaraksa (b. 230 C.E.), “Huna” in the Indian text is translated “Xiongnu.” There is also archaeological evidence; Hunnic cauldrons are similar to those of the Ordos Xiongnu, and the cauldrons were apparently used in similar rituals, because they have been found buried in river banks both in Hungary and in the Ordos.

Another possible link between the Xiongnu and the Huns has been detected in an old Byzantine codex dating back to the fourteenth century. Inside the codex was a list in a Slav language from the early Middle Ages, which was decoded and translated by Omeljan Pritsak professor of history and language (at Lvov, Hamburg and Harvard University) in 1955 and named: "The Old-Bulgarian King List" 16 (Nominalia of the Bulgarian Khans). This contains the names and descendants of the Hun kings' dynasty. At the beginning of it is the great Mao-Tun (Modu shanyu), who established the Xiongnu Empire. Among the other descendants' names is the name of Ernakh, the youngest son of Attila The Hun. It indicates that the rulers of the Xiongnu and the Huns were from the same dynasty, which supports the possibility that Xiongnu eventually became the Huns.

See also

  • Chinese people
  • Wu Hu
  • Huns
  • Turkic peoples
  • Battle of Mayi
  • Battle of Ikh Bayan
  • Noin-Ula

Notes

  1. ↑ Zhonghan Wang. 2004. Outlines of Ethnic Groups in China. (Taiyuan: Shanxi Education Press. ISBN 7544026604), 133.
  2. ↑ GENG Shi-min,On Altaic Common Language and Xiongnu Language, Wanfang Data. Retrieved October 19, 2007.
  3. ↑ Alexander Vovin, "Did the Xiongnu speak a Yeniseian language?." Central Asiatic Journal 44(1) (2000): 87-104.
  4. ↑ Christine Keyser-Tracqui, Eric Crubezy, and Bertrand Ludes, Nuclear and mitochondrial DNA analysis of a 2,000-year-old necropolis in the Egyin Gol Valley of Mongolia, American Journal of Human Genetics. Retrieved October 19, 2007.
  5. ↑ Ihsan, September 2005, Origins of the Türük People, All Empires.com. Retrieved October 19, 2007.
  6. ↑ Nancy Touchette, Ancient DNA Tells Tales from the Grave, Craig Venter Institute. "Skeletons from the most recent graves also contained DNA sequences similar to those in people from present-day Turkey. This supports other studies indicating that Turkic tribes originated at least in part in Mongolia at the end of the Xiongnu period." Retrieved October 19, 2007.
  7. ↑ Paola Demattè, Writing the Landscape: the Petroglyphs of Inner Mongolia and Ningxia Province (China). (Paper presented at the First International Conference of Eurasian Archaeology, University of Chicago, May 3-4, 2002). Retrieved October 19, 2007.
  8. ↑ ARCHAEOLOGY AND CULTURAL RELICS, Wanfang Data. Retrieved October 19, 2007.
  9. ↑ Thomas Barfield. The Perilous Frontier: Nomadic Empires and China 221 B.C.E. to AD 1757. (Studies in Social Discontinuity) (Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell, (1989) 1992. ISBN 1557863245.).
  10. ↑ Nicola Di Cosmo, "The Northern Frontier in Pre-Imperial China," 885-966. in The Cambridge History of Ancient China, edited by Michael Loewe and Edward Shaughnessy. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).
  11. ↑ These campaigns are described in detail by Michael Loewe, "The campaigns of Han Wu-ti," in Chinese ways in warfare, ed. Frank A. Kierman, Jr., and John K. Fairbank (Cambridge, Mass., 1974).
  12. ↑ This view was put forward to Wang Mang in 14 C.E.: Han Shu (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju edition) 94B, p. 3824. Retrieved October 19, 2007.
  13. ↑ Dorothy Perkins. 1999. Encyclopedia of China: the essential reference to China, its history and culture. (New York: Facts on File. ISBN 0816026939), 588
  14. ↑ Bibo Zhang and Guoyao Dong. 2001. Cultural History of Ancient Northern Ethnic Groups in China. (Harbin: Heilongjiang People's Press. ISBN 7207033257), 176-225.
  15. ↑ Liqing Ma. (2005). Original Xiongnu, An Archaeological Explore on the Xiongnu's History and Culture. (Hohhot: Inner Mongolia University Press. ISBN 7810747967), 196-197
  16. ↑ Omeljan Pritsak. Die bulgarische Fürstenliste und die Sprache der Protobulgaren. (Wiesbaden: 1955).

References

Primary sources

  • Ban Gu (班固), Han shu (漢書). 1962. Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju.
  • Fan Ye (范曄) et al., comp. 1965. Hou Han shu (後漢書). Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju.
  • Sima Qian (司馬遷) et al. 1959. Shi ji (史記). Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju.

Secondary sources

  • Barfield, Thomas. The Perilous Frontier: Nomadic Empires and China 221 B.C.E. to AD 1757. (Studies in Social Discontinuity) Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell, (1989) 1992. ISBN 1557863245.
  • de Crespigny, Rafe. Northern frontier: The policies and strategies of the Later Han empire. Asian Studies Monographs, New Series No. 4, Faculty of Asian Studies. Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1984. ISBN 0867844108. See chapter 1 The Government and Geography of the Northern Frontier of Later Han. (Internet publication April 2004. This version includes a general map and some summary annotations but no characters or detailed notes). Retrieved October 19, 2007.
  • de Crespigny, Rafe. The Division and Destruction of the Xiongnu Confederacy in the first and second centuries AD. Turkish: "Hun Konfederasyonu'nun Blnmesi ve Yikilmasi", being a paper published in The Turks Yeni TrkiyeMedya Hismetleri-Murat Ocak, Ankara: 2002, 256-243 & 749-757. The Division and Destruction of the Xiongnu Confederacy. Retrieved October 19, 2007.
  • Di Cosmo, Nicola, "The Northern Frontier in Pre-Imperial China," 885-966. in The Cambridge History of Ancient China: From the Origins of Civilization to 221 B.C.E. edited by Michael Loewe and Edward Shaughnessy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. ISBN 0521470307.
  • Hulsewé, A. F. P., and M. A. N. Loewe, 1979. China in Central Asia: The Early Stage 125 B.C.E. - AD 23: an annotated translation of chapters 61 and 96 of the History of the Former Han Dynasty. Leiden: E. J. Brill. ISBN 9004058842.
  • Loewe, Michael, "The campaigns of Han Wu-ti," in Chinese ways in warfare, ed. Frank A. Kierman, Jr., and John K. Fairbank. (Harvard East Asian Series) Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1974. ISBN 0674125754.
  • Ma, Liqing. 2005. Original Xiongnu, An Archaeological Explore on the Xiongnu's History and Culture. Hohhot: Inner Mongolia University Press. ISBN 7810747967.
  • Perkins, Dorothy. 1999. Encyclopedia of China: the essential reference to China, its history and culture. New York: Facts on File. ISBN 0816026939.
  • Pritsak, Omeljan. Die bulgarische Fürstenliste und die Sprache der Protobulgaren. Wiesbaden: 1955. (Nominalia of the Bulgarian Khans).
  • de la Vaissière, E. 2005. "Huns et Xiongnu." in Central Asiatic Journal 49(1): 3-26.
  • Vovin, Alexander. 2000. "Did the Xiongnu speak a Yeniseian language?." in Central Asiatic Journal 44(1): 87-104.
  • Wang, Zhonghan. 2004. Outlines of Ethnic Groups in China. Taiyuan: Shanxi Education Press. ISBN 7544026604.
  • Yü Ying-shih. 1986. "Han foreign relations." 377-462. in Cambridge History of China: volume 1, The Ch'in and Han empires 221 B.C.E. - A.D. 220. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521243270.
  • Zhang, Bibo, and Guoyao Dong. 2001. Cultural History of Ancient Northern Ethnic Groups in China. Harbin: Heilongjiang People's Press. ISBN 7207033257.

External links

All links retrieved August 1, 2013.

  • Hill, John E. (translator) 2004. The Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu. Draft annotated English translation.
  • Hill, John E. (translator) 2004. The Peoples of the West from the Weilue 魏略 by Yu Huan 魚豢: A Third Century Chinese Account Composed between 239 and 265 C.E.. Draft annotated English translation.

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