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Many historians consider the Huns (meaning "person" in Mongolian language) the first Mongolian and Turkic people mentioned in European history. They originated from lands between modern-day Siberia and Korea, then migrated progressively westward. References in Chinese sources to peoples called the Xiong-Nu (Hsiung-nu) go back to 1200 BC. Their Xiong (匈) rulers, first mentioned as a family in 1766 BC in the story of Chunwei and the fall of the Xia dynasty, may be the ancestors of the later "Huns" better-known to western scholars, though not all scholars agree on this. A Korean legend asserts that an alliance of northern Altaic tribes under a "Huan" ruler from 7193 BC pre-dated the establishment of China.

Ever since Joseph de Guignes in the 18th century identified the Huns with the (H)siung-nu, the debate about the Asian ancestral origins has continued. Recent research has shown that none of the great confederations of steppe warriors was ethnically pure, and to make matters worse, many clans claimed the same name, based on prestige or fame of the name; or it was attributed to them by outsiders describing their common characteristics, believed place of origin, or reputation (to use a modern example, Germans in World War I were often called "Huns" by their opponents). Thus it is fruitless to speculate on the blood origins of the group; rather, the name "Huns" seems to have originally described a prestigious ruling group of steppe warriors.


European Huns

A group known as the "European Huns" arrived in Europe ca. 375, led by Attila the Hun, and is considered, with little certainty, to be the western extension of the royal Xiong family centered around Karaganda. The establishment of the first Hun state marks one of the first well-documented appearances of the culture of horseback migration in history. These tribespeople achieved superiority over their rivals (most of them highly cultured) by their splendid state of military readiness, amazing mobility, and weapons like the Hun bow.

Attila's European Huns, like the eastern Xiongnu, incorporated groups of unrelated tributary peoples. In the European case Alans, Gepids, Scrir, Rugians, Sarmatians, Slavs and especially Gothic tribes all united under the Hun family military elite. Attila's Huns eventually settled Hungary, a country that derives its name from them.

The memory of the Hunnish invasion was transmitted orally among the Germanic tribes, and are an important component in the Old Norse Vlsunga saga and the Old German Nibelungenlied, both portraying events in the Migrations Period, almost one millennia before their recordings. In both of these stories, king Attila (Atli in Norse and Etzel in German) defeat the Frankish king Sigebert I (Sigurr or Siegfried) and the Burgundian king Guntram I (Gunnar or Gunther), but is subsequently assassinated by Queen Fredegund (Gudrun or Kriemhild), the sister of the latter and wife of the former.

Recently, Hungarians who claim to be descendants of Attila have applied to be an officially recognized minority in Hungary. To do so, a group must be able to prove that they have lived in the country for more than 100 years, and get 1000 signatures on a petition. Modern day Huns in Hungary describe themselves as peaceful and gentle. They are far removed from the stereotype of the tribe that raped and pillaged its way across parts of Europe. According to Gyorgy Kisfaludy, who describes himself as the high priest of the Huns, there may be as many as 100,000 Huns in Hungary and beyond its borders. Some commentators have suggested that the move for minority status is just a ploy to receive financial grants.

Indian Hunas

The Huns also played an important part in early Indian history.

Main articles: Hephthalites, Indo-Hephthalites

Xiong-Nu Dynasty

Main article: Xiongnu

The earliest reference in Chinese sources to a people called the Xiong-Nu (Hsiung-nu) dates to the early 12th century BC, in writings about the campaign by King Wuding (武丁 wǔdīng) of the Shang Dynasty against the Gui Fang 鬼方 (guǐfāng) tribe, regarded as a name of one of the Huns' vassal Nu (奴) tribes. Some vague archaeological finds support this account, but await verification. Bronze inscriptions, and oracular turtle-back bones used in sacrificial worship, prove the historical existence of the campaign, but the Gui Fang did not necessarily equate with the core Hun clan per se.

Many scholars identify the Xiong Nu Xiong with the Huns, because of similar descriptions of their appearance and living habits. Other scholars, confusing the Xiong with their Nu serf and vassal tribes, find differences. Still others argue that any common appearance and habits also appear among various other tribes residing on the Mongolian steppes, and are not identifying characteristics specific to the Xiong and the Huns. Nevertheless, all agree that the two peoples shared aspects that are more than a coincidence.

With the exception of the 43-118 AD "North-South" feud, the Hun dynasty survived as a fairly tight-knit political power until the 4th C., when the Nu (奴) tribes decisively threw off the yoke of the Xiong dynasty. Whether increased squabbling within the Xiong dynasty caused their subjects to lose faith in them, or some other cause occurred, Hun unity came to an end. The rock was shattered, and clans claiming the Hun name (Hunnoi, Chionites, Choni, Xiong, etc.) dispersed as nothing more than piratical raiding bands. They appear to the south in Persia (the Xiyon camel tribes – Chionites – in AD 320, also known as Red Huns), while another portion remained east in China (the Xiong deer people); and finally, in one last brilliant flare, to the west in Russia (the Hun horse tribes in AD 360).

The Hua managed to succeed to the Hun legacy in a campaign that spread from Bactria to Europe. After the failure of Xiong's Zhou county, the influence of the Hua dragon tribe started to expand. The influence of the northern deer-people retreated north up the Yenisei, as the Hua chased a western portion of the Hunnoi (Alchon/Alchoni, often called "White Huns" and confused with Hephthalites) into what is now Uzbekistan in the late 4th century; meanwhile the easternmost branch somewhat later founded the Xiong's last eastern dynasty, Xia (407-431). The colour names of the European, Persian, Bactrian and Chinese Hun tribes may have had something to do with their flank designations. Though apparently fleeing China from the Hua in the mid-4th century, the Huns' Alchon component is later recorded as uniting with them (Varkun) against the westernmost branch.

By 460 the Hua had begun to take over Central Eurasia. The Yuezhi's Hephthal family had become their ruling clan in Xinjiang by 507, and sometime during Sarosios' rule (507-531) the Hua, now a unit with the Choni, left under his father to conquer the Hunnic remnants in the West, leaving their Hephthalite brethren to fend off Juan Juan advances alone, and relocate their seat of power with the Indian branch.

After this, the Huns as a power unit disappear from history, though certain nations and noble families of Turanian origin continued to carry variations of the name into the present.

For more information on the formation of the eastern Huns' 'Nu' (奴) empire see also: Wu Hu.

List of Important Hun Rulers (Tengrikut/Tangriqut/Shanyu/TarKhaan)

This list is incomplete and needs correction

1st Dynasty

c. 1800-1766 BC Chungvi / Chunwei / Sunni mythology places
 ? - 270? BC Ta
270 - 240? Tangriqut?
240 - 209 頭曼 (Tumen / Tu-Man Tengriqut)
209 - 174 Mo-Tun / Mao-Tun / Batur Tengriqut / 冒顿
174 - 161 Ki-Ok / Kokkhan / 老上
161 - 126 Chun-Chin / Kunkhan / 軍臣
126 - 114 I-Tsin-Xien / El'chishye / 伊稚邪
114 - 105 Wu-Wey / Uvey / 烏維
105 - 102/1 Wu-Shi-Lu-Ir / Uyshilar / 烏師盧
102/1 - 101/0 Zhou-Li-Hu / Kulighu / (口句)黎湖

2nd dynasty (Name unknown)

101/0 - 96 Chu-Di-Hu / Qutighu / 且提侯
96 Possible unknown ruler
96 - 85 Hu-Lu-Ku / Hulugu / 狐鹿姑

3rd dynasty

85 - 68 Huandi / Chuangdi / 壺衍提
68 - 60 Hsu-Lu and Chuan-Chou / Shuluy Qanghuy / 虛閭權渠
60 - 58 Uyanquti / 握衍(月句)提
58 - 31 Ho-Han-Yeh / Khukhenye I / 呼韓邪, opposed by:
Bosiuytang-Zhuki (West)
Huge (Northwest)
Cheli (Southwest)
Uji (Northwest)
58 - 56
58 - 57
58 - 56
58 - 57
Zhunzhen (West)
Zhizhi-Guduhu (East)
56 - 54
55 - 47
31 - 20 Fu-Chu-Ley-Ju-Di / Pozhulonuti / 復株累若提
20 - 12 Su-Xie-Ju-Di / Shuzhunoti / 搜諧若提
12 - 8 Che-Ya-Ju-Di/Qiyanoti/車牙若提 opposed by...
Ulunoti / 烏累若提 11 - 10
8 BC - AD 13 Wu-Zhou-Liu-Ju-Di / Uchilonoti / 烏珠留若提

4th (The Split) dynasty

13 - 18 Wu-Ley-Ju-Di / Ulunoti / 烏累若提 (restored)
18 - 46 HuTuIrShiTaoGaoJuDi / GhuduarshiDavganoti / 呼都而尸道皋若提 opposed by...
Xiuybudan 18 - 19
Udatqu 21 - 46
46 Wu-Ta-Ti-Ho 烏達提侯
46 - 48 Pu-Nu / Panu / 蒲奴

North South Feud

From 48, the Hsiung-Nu began a North-South feud lasting until 98.

Rulers of the Northern (or "Western") Xiong-Nu:

48 - 83 Pu-Nu / Panu / 蒲奴
83 - 84 Sanmolo Otzi / San-Mu-Lu-Tzi
84 - 89 Ulugh / Yu-Liu
89 - 91/3 Yu-Chou-Chien
91: The Xionu / Xiuno / Hunnoi first appeared in the west near the Caspian Sea as a result of 班超 PanChao's campaign.
91-93 El'tekin
93-98 Panghu (?Finghay?)
98-118 Finghay (united North & South) opposed WanSiJuTi

Rulers of the Southern (or Eastern) Xiong-Nu:

48-56/55 Hu-Han-Sie-Di / Khukhenye II / 呼韓邪 (第二)
55/56-56/57 Chiu-Fu-Yu-Di / Chupunoti / 丘浮尤提
56/57-59 I-Fa-Yu-Di / Ilgha Uluti / 伊伐於慮提
59-63 XienTungShiChouTi / ShtongsiSuyghuti / 醢僮尸逐侯提
63 Kuchi Qilindi / 丘除車林提
63-85 HuYehShihChouHuTi / GhushiShisu Quti / 湖邪尸逐侯提
85-88 I-Tu-Yi-Lu / Iltu Uluti / 伊屠於閭提
88-93 Xiu-Lan-Shi-Hu-Di / Shulan Shisu Quti / 休蘭尸逐侯提
93-94 An-Gao / Arqu / 安國
94-98 TindushsuQuti / TingTuShiJuHuTi / 亭獨尸逐侯提 deposed by...
98-118 Finghey (Panghu?) opposed by...
Wanchi Shisu Quti / Wan-Si-Ju-Ti / 萬氏尸逐侯提 from 98CE

Hereafter, the Western/Northern tangriquts are no more, and the Eastern Tangriquts take over the whole empire. Wanchi Shisu Quti inherited Finghey's united empire in 118, but it was never what it used to be.

Reunited Xiongnu

118-124 Wanchi Shisu Quti / Wan-Si-Ju-Ti / 萬氏尸逐侯提
124-127/128 Wu-Chi-Hu-Shi-Jo / Uzhqushsu Quti / 烏稽侯尸逐提
127/128-140/142 Chu-Chi-Ju-Shi-Ju-Ju-Chin / Kutino Shisu Quti / 去特若尸逐就
140 - 143 Chu-Xiu

Some sources indicate that in 140 AD, after Kutino Shisu Quti committed suicide, a Tengriqut was not elected and the Hun throne remained vacant until 143 AD.

5th dynasty (Name missing)

143-147 Hu-Lan-Ju-Shi-Ju-Ju-Chin / Ghoranno Shisu Quti / 呼蘭若尸逐就

6th dynasty (Name missing)

147-172/177 I-Ling-Shi-Chou-Chin / Illin Shisu Quti / 伊陵若尸逐就
172-177/178 Utno Shisu Quti / 屠特若尸逐就

7th dynasty (name missing)

177/178-179 Hu-Ching / Ghuzhin / 呼徵

8th dynasty (name missing)

179-188 Chiang-Chu / Qanquy / 羌渠
188-195 Di-Chi-Shi-Chou-Hu / Qizi Shisu Quti / 特至尸逐侯
195-215/6 Hu-Chou-Chuan / Ghochuqan / 呼廚泉
215-290 Xiongnu partitioned into 5 local tribes
290 Xiongnu reunified

9th dynasty (Bei Han 北漢)

290 Liu Yuan-Hai (刘元海) or Liu Yuan (劉淵)
304-309 Beihan
309-310 Liu He (刘和)
310-318 Liu Tsung (劉聰)
318 Liu Ts'an (劉粲)

10th Dynasty

Bei Han is known from 319 as "Former Zhao". During this dynasty, Xiyonites/Chionites or "Red Huns" start to harry Persia. The sovereignty of Han and Former Zhao was collectively known as the Han Zhao.

318-329 Liu Yao (劉曜) opposed by...

11th Dynasty Later Zhao

319-333 Gao Zu (高祖)
333-334 Hai Yang Wang (海陽王)
334-349 Tai Zu (太祖)
349 Shi Shi (石世)
349 Shi Zun (石遵)
349-350 Shih Jian (石鑒)
350 Shih Zhi (石祗)
350-352 Ran Min (冉閔) or Shi Min (石閔)

12th Dynasty (Name ?Kama?)

The Hua & Xiong divided the Huns, and drove most of the remaining Huns westward out of China during their expansion. Kama was a legendary ancestor-King, mentioned in Eastern Hunnic sources, particularly among those who formed the Altyn Oba Horde. There is no one among the Hsiung rulers whose name sounds much like "Kama Tarkhan", but if he existed, he might have been the otherwise unnamed chief who took the Huns westward into the Ukrainian steppes. He may have been the ruler of Alchoni who pushed the Kidarite Huns into India. His realm may therefore have spread from the Ukraine to Bactria. The last remnants of the Huns east of the Hua in China managed to raise their heads again from 407–431 as the Hun Xia dynasty, before coming under the Juan Juan. They (the Deer) later absorbed a Turkic (Blue Wolf) influence and later emerged as the Mongols. Interestingly, some Hunnic vocabulary documented by the Chinese still occurs in Japanese, while Hungarian allegedly has some words in common with Xia.

352-? Kama Tarkhan
fl. ?-370 Balamber
fl. 370's-380s Alypbi
c. 390 ?-c. 411 Uldin (Khan of the Western Huns)
 ? -412 Donatus (Khan of the Eastern Black Sea Huns)
c. 411 Charaton
 ? - ? Octar
fl. 432 Ruga
c. 437-c. 444 Bleda with...
c. 437-453 Attila (Idil)
453-c. 455 Ellac
fl. c. 457 Tuldila
 ?-469 Dengizich with...
 ?- < 469 Hernach
fl. late 5thC. Tingiz with...
fl. late 5thC. Belkermak
fl. late 490s Djurash
fl. early 500s Tatra
 ? Boyan Chelbir
fl. early500s - mid500s Sandilkh (Khan of the Utrigurs).
Division into Utrigur, east Don, and Kutrigur, west Don, hordes
fl. 560s Zabergan (Khan of the Kutrigurs)
c. 565-c. 600 Bayan 1 (of the Avars)

Onogur Dynasty

Chaotic conditions followed the rise of Avar power in Europe, and the time of the Huns came to a close. Whether the Onoghur were truly a Hun, Bolgar, or proto-Magyar, rather than an Avar reign, remains a matter of debate. However, it is from the name "Hun" that the English name for Magyarorszg, Hungary, derives, allowing some space for their inclusion in the list of Hun Dynasties.


On July 27, 1901, during the Boxer Rebellion in China, Kaiser Wilhelm II gave the order to "make the name 'German' remembered in China for a thousand years, so that no Chinaman will ever again dare to even squint at a German". This speech, wherein Wilhelm invoked the memory of the 5th-century Huns, coupled with the Pickelhaube or spiked helmet worn by German forces until 1916, that was reminiscent of ancient Hun (and Hungarian) helmets, gave rise to the later derogatory English usage of the latter term for their German enemy during World War I. This usage was reinforced by Allied propaganda throughout the war, prompting hatred of the Germans by invoking the idea that they were brutal savages.

See also

Further reading

  • J. Otto Mänchen-Helfen (ed. Max Knight): The World of the Huns: Studies in Their History and Culture (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1973)
  • J. Otto Mänchen-Helfen: Huns and Hsiung-Nu (published in Byzantion, vol. XVII, 1944-45, pp. 222-243)
  • J. Otto Mänchen-Helfen: The Legend of the Origin of the Huns (published in Byzantion, vol. XVII, 1944-45, pp. 244-251)
  • E. A. Thompson: A History of Attila and the Huns (London, Oxford University Press, 1948)ca:Huns

de:Hunnen es:Hunos eo:Hunoj fr:Huns ko:훈족 it:Unni he:הונים nl:Hunnen ja:フン族 pl:Hunowie pt:Hunos ro:Huni ru:Гунны sl:Huni sv:Hunner tt:Hunnar tr:Hunlar


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