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Xiongnu

An entry in a Chinese dictionary says Xiongnu (xiong1 nu2), (匈奴) n., The Huns, Mongolian tribes in northeastern China and Mongolia, historically under various names (玁狁 xian3 yun3, 匈奴 xiong1 nu2, and 胡 hu2) 1000 B.C. to 6th cen. A.D. In the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries, five northern tribes, including Tartars, Mongols, Turkics invaded and occupied North China. These tribes are catagorically labelled hu2 di2 (胡狄), such period is referred to as "Five barbarian tribes' invasion to China" (五胡亂華) by Chinese historians. By the 6th century, the term hu2 simply means the barbarian invaders including more than the Huns). Sentences in parentheses are highly disputable.

The Chinese historians' definition of "Five barbarian tribes' invasion to China" (五胡亂華) never included Tartars, Mongols and Turkics. hu2 was a collective noun for non-Chinese tribes in China. di2 specified to those lively in Northern China, as in the famous term: rong2 yi2 man2 di2 which depicted all non-Chinese tribes living around China. Note that all four characters rong2 yi2 man2 di2 were all collective nouns for non-Chinese tribes. They are not names of individual tribes.

"In the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries, five northern tribes, including Tartars, Mongols, Turkics invaded and occupied North China. These tribes are catagorically labelled hu2 di2...."

hu2 di2 means non-Chinese tribes living in Northern China. The composition of Tartars and Mongols and Turkics etc., in hu2 di2 is pretty arbitrary, and cannot be supported by historical evidence. If one wants to refer to those five non-Chinese tribes who "invaded" China, it is better to use the term Wu Hu.

The term "Mongols (and hence its adjective Mongolian)" was abused mostly by western historians since the ravage of Europe in 13th century by Mongols led by grandson of Genghis Khan was so destructive. Any group of herdsmen that had resided on modern Mongolian steppes were referrred as Mongolian, regardless to when they appeared in history. This terminolgy is certainly wrong.

Similar scenerio occurred when some of the past Chinese historiographers and historians depicted "Hu" as the equivalence of "Xiongnu" or Huns. This terminology is outdated and no longer used by current history researchers. As noted above, "Hu" is a collective noun. This should be kept in mind when one comes across any old or traditional Chinese historical text.



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