The Xiongnu or (Hsiung-nu) first appear in Chinese historical
records about the 5th century BC. when their repeated invasions
prompted the small kingdoms of North China to begin
erecting what later became the Great Wall.
PEOPLE AND ART
Xiongnu are Turko-Mogolian nomadic people, who speak Altaic language and
move migrate following water and grass. From the Chinese source,
they are identified as short people with stock body and a very large
round head, broad face, prominent cheek-bones, wide nostrils,
a fairly bushy mustache and no beard except for a tuft of stiff
hair on the chin; their long ears are pierced and adorned with
a ring. The head is usually shaved, except for a tuft on the top.
They wear a loose robe to the calf, split at the sides and gathered
in by a girdle whose ends hang down in front.
XIONGNU RISES IN POWER
At the third century BC, Xiongnu tribes formed a confederation
under a ruler known as the shan-yu or Xiongnu cheif. They ruled over a territory
that extended from western Manchuria (Northeast Provinces) to
the Pamirs and covered much of present Siberia and Mongolia.
CULTURE AND LIFE STYLE
The Xiongnu moved with their livestock in search of water and
pasture. They ate only meant, dressed in skins, slept on furs,
and camped in felt tents. Their religion was a vague shamanism
based on the cult of Tangri or Heavon and on the worship of
Both Xiongnu and Scythians were head-hunters and drank blood from the
skull of the enemies. To mourn the dead, both Scythian and
Xiongnu gash their faces with knives, "so that blood flows with
ECONOMY AND TRADE
CONTROL OF THE SILK ROAD
CONFLICTS WITH THE CHINESE EMPIRES
With the eastern Xiongnu, we have lots of records about them from
Chinese source; however the western Xiongnu leaves no record of
history, for lack of contact with any great civilized nation
which might have preserved some information about them.