Thursday, September 4, 2008

Chinese Rouran

Rouran , Ruanruan/Ruru also known as Tan Tan was the name of a confederation of nomadic tribes on the northern borders of China Proper from the late 4th century until the late 6th century. It has sometimes been hypothesized that the Rouran are identical to the Eurasian Avars who later appeared in Europe. The term Rouran is a transcription of the pronunciation of the name the confederacy used to refer to itself. Ruanruan and Ruru remained in modern usage despite once being derogatory. They derived from orders given by the of Northern Wei, who waged war against the Rouran and intended to intimidate the confederacy.
the power of the Rouran was broken by an alliance of G&, the Chinese Northern Qi and Northern Zhou dynasties and tribes in Central Asia in 552.

Origin and expansion

The Rouran were confederation of Xianbei people who remained in Mongolian steppes after most Xianbei migrated south to Northern China and set up various kingdoms. They were first noted as having defeated the and establishing an empire extending all the way to the Hulun, at the eastern Inner Mongolia. To the west of the Rouran was a horde known in the west as the Hephthalites who originally, until the 5th century, were a vassal horde of the Rouran. The Rouran controlled the area of Mongolia from the border to Turpan and, perhaps, the east coast of Lake Balkhash, and from the Orkhon River to the China Proper. Their ancestor Mugulu is said to have been originally a slave of the tribes, situated at the north banks of . Mugulu's descendant is said to be the first chieftain who was able to unify the Rouran tribes and to found the power of the Rouran by defeating the Gaoche and Xianbei. Shelun was also the first of the steppe peoples to adopt the title of khagan in 402, originally a title of Xianbei nobility.

The Rouran and the Hephthalites had a falling out and problems within their confederation were encouraged by Chinese agents. In 508, the Gaoche, then operating under the name Tiele, defeated the Rouran in battle. In 516, the Rouran defeated the . Within the Rouran confederation was a Turkic tribe noted in Chinese annals as the . After a marriage proposal to the Rouran was rebuffed, the Tujue joined with the , successor state to the Northern Wei, and revolted against the Rouran. In 555, they beheaded 3,000 Rouran. European history books commonly claim that the Rouran then fled west across the steppes and became the Avars, though this is probably a mistake. The remainder of the Rouran fled into China, were absorbed into the border guards, and disappeared forever as an entity. The last Rouran khagan fled to the court of Western Wei, but at the demand of Tujue, Western Wei executed him and the nobles that accompanied him.

Little is known of the Rouran ruling elite, which the ''Book of Wei'' cited as an offshoot of the Xianbei. The Rouran subdued modern regions of Xinjiang, Mongolia, Central Asia and parts of Siberia and Manchuria from the late 4th century. Their frequent interventions and invasions profoundly affected neighboring countries. Though they admitted the Ashina of G& into their federation, the power of the Rouran was broken by an alliance of Göktürks, the Chinese and dynasties and tribes in Central Asia in 552. The Northern Wei, for instance, established the Six Garrisons bordering the Rouran, which later became the foci of several major mutinies in the early 6th century.

of the Rouran


* . "From Tribal Confederation to Empire: the Evolution of the Rouran Society". Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, Vol. 58, No 2 : 149-169.

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