The first unified Chinese state, the Qin, survived for only fifteen years, but Qin Shi powerful state of nomads appeared in central Asia under the name of Hunnu(Xiongnu). Likewise, the northern Hu was also disunited tribes, who took turns raiding and looting the self-ruling kingdoms of their sedentary neighbors. the stretches of walls that formed the backbone of the Great Wall were erected Hunagi managed to link together these many walls into an integral defense line against the northern barbarians.
The creation of this formidable defense system by a sedentary people challenged nomadic raiders to develop an integral assault state of their own. The first by the independent Chinese kingdoms as their best solution for protection against the Hu. The first unified Chinese state, the Qin, survived for only fifteen years, but Qin Shi powerful state of nomads appeared in central Asia under the name of Hunnu(Xiongnu). Since constant warfare was their way of life, the Hunnu’s leader was chosen by a military democracy, which proved to be generally successful. The ruler of the Hunnu(Xiongnu) was called the shanyu.
In 209 B.C. twelve years after the Chinese created their defensive Qin state, Prince Modun killed his father Shanyu Tumen and usurped the throne. Once established as the shanyu, Modun immediately carried out his reforms by dividing the country into three parts and taking the central area under his own rule. The eastern territory-the most important for nomads, who traditionally regarded the east in high esteem-was governed by a leader called the uqiang, while the western territory was governed by the Luli wang.
Han Decree from the Time of Hunnu(Xiongnu)
The land of the archers north of the Great Wall shall follow the world of the Shanyu, but the land south of it and inhabited by those wearing the belts and hats of government officials shall be ruled by me… The Han dynasty and the Hunnu Empire are two powerful neighbor-states… A princess of the royal family is being sent with Gaozui’s envoy, Liu Jing, as yan’ji for the Shanyu, and every year tribute is to be paid in measures of silk and silken goods, wine, rice, and foods.
Each of these two wangs(in Mongolian: van) presided over the leaders of tumen( a unit of 10,000 troops), and as there were altogether twenty-four such units in the Hunnu(Xiongnu) state, Modun had 240,000 troops under his command.
Just three years after starting his military reforms, Modun attacked and subjugated his major rival the Donghu tribe. Bringing the western tribes under the Hunnu, he headed south towards the Great Wall, recovering in the process the lands which the Qin general Meng Tian seized, from nomads.
The Rise of the Hunnu(Xiongnu) Warriors
Modun’s campaign contributed to the downfall of the Qin dynasty founded by Shi Huangi, and under him, the state of the Hunnu reached the peak of its power. The shanyu’s decrees were omnipotent across territory stretching from the Liao River in the east to Turkestan in the west, and from Lake Baikal in the north to the Great Wall of China in the south. Eventually, utterly exhausted by the endless raids, China’s Han dynasty came to pay him tributes on behalf of its fourteen million subjects.
The Fall of the Hunnu
The Hunnu ruled Central Asia for many years. But the vengeful Donghu and years of retaliation from China finally undermined its power both from within and without, causing a split into southern and northern regions. By employing defensive tactics and carrying iron weapons, the Chinese were able to inflict crushing defeats on the nomads, who carried only their old bronze arrowhead. The Southern Hunnu became Han’s vassals and together they had dealt many heavy blows to their northern kin during the period from 89 to 93 A.D. They had some political influence on Mongolian territory until 215 A.D. but, as the Donghu rose of power, the southern Hunnu dissolved.
Who Were the Hunnu?
The Hunnu may have been of Mongolian or Turkic origin, or maybe they were a blend of both, but most importantly they built the first powerful empire of the Northern Huns. As strange as it is, the initial unified defense system of the sedentary Chinese society, coincided with the first unified assault system of the northern nomads.
- 214 B.C: Emperor Qin Shi Huangi of the Qin Dynasty invaded the southern part of the Hunnu Empire with 100,000 of his soldiers, and built the Great Wall of China.
- 209-174 B.C: Shanyu Tume’s eldest son. Modun becomes Shanyu to the Hunnus, so creating the first nomadic empire.
- 201 B.C: Modun Shnayu with his 400,000 troops invaded China and seized Datong and Tai Yuan.
- 198 B.C: The emperor of the Han dynasty makes a peace treaty with the Hunnu Shanyu. According to the treaty, the Hunnu Empire and the Han Dynasty accepted each other as equals.
- 57-55 B.C: the Hunnu Empire divides into northern and southern parts.
- 85 A.D: 73 Southern Hunnu tribes become vassals the Han.
- 89 A.D: Shanyu tunituhe of the Southern Hunnu, conspiring with the Chinese administrators infiltrates northern Hunnu lands and surrounds the palace.
- 93 A.D: Xianbi, with the help of China, Uhuani and southern Hunnu destroys northern Hunnu and invades most of the remaining lands and people.