|330 AD–555 AD|
Rouran Khaganate in Central Asia
|Capital||Mumo city, Orkhon River, Mongolia|
• 330 AD
• 555 AD
|405||2,800,000 km2 (1,100,000 sq mi)|
|Today part of||China|
|Ruru or Ruanruan|
|Rouru or Rouruan|
The Rouran Khaganate (Chinese: 柔然; pinyin: Róurán), was a tribal confederation and later state founded by a people of Donghu-Xianbei origin. The Rouran supreme rulers are noted for being the first to use the title of "khagan", having borrowing this popular title from the Xianbei. The Rouran Khaganate lasted from the late 4th century until the middle 6th century, when they were defeated by a Göktürk rebellion which subsequently led to the rise of the Turks in world history.
Some of the Rouran may have migrated west subsequently and became the Pannonian Avars (who are also known by names such as Varchonites and "Pseudo Avars"), who settled in Pannonia (centred on modern Hungary) during the 6th century. However, this remains a controversial theory. The Avars were pursued into the Byzantine Empire by the Göktürks, who referred to the Avars as a slave or vassal people, and requested that the Byzantines expel them. Other theories instead link the origins of the Pannonian Avars to peoples such as the Uar.
Róurán 柔然 is a Classical Chinese transcription of the endonym of the confederacy. 蠕蠕 Ruǎnruǎn ~ Rúrú (Weishu), however, was used in Tuoba-Xianbei sources such as orders given by Emperor Taiwu of Northern Wei. It meant something akin to "wriggling worm" and was used in a derogatory sense. Other transcriptions are 蝚蠕 Róurú ~ Róuruǎn (Jinshu); 茹茹 Rúrú (Beiqishu, Zhoushu, Suishu); 芮芮 Ruìruì (Nanqishu, Liangshu, Songshu), 大檀 Dàtán and 檀檀Tántán (Songshu).
Mongolian Sinologist Sühe Baatar suggests Nirun Нирун as the modern Mongolian term for the Rouran, as Нирун superficially resembles reconstructed Chinese forms beginning with *ń- or *ŋ-. Rashid-al-Din Hamadani recorded Niru'un and Dürlükin as two divisions of the Mongols.
Klyastorny reconstructed the ethnonym behind the Chinese transcription 柔然 Róurán (LHC: *ńu-ńan; EMC: *ɲuw-ɲian > LMC: *riw-rian) as *nönör and compares it to Mongolic нөкүр nökür "friend, comrade, companion" (Khalkha нөхөр nöhör). According to Klyashtorny, *nönör denotes "stepnaja vol'nica" "a free, roving band in the steppe, the 'companions' of the early Rouran leaders." In early Mongol society, a nökür was someone who had left his clan or tribe to pledge loyalty to and serve a charissmatic warlord; if this derivation were correct, Róurán 柔然 was originally not an ethnonym, but a social term referring the dynastic founder's origins or the core circle of companions who helped him build his state.
However, Golden identifies philological problems: the ethnonym should have been *nöŋör to be cognate to nökür, & possible assimilation of -/k/- to -/n/- in Chinese transcription needs further linguistic proofs. Even if 柔然 somehow transmitted nökür, it more likely denoted the Rouran's status as the subjects of the Tuoba. Before being used as an ethnonym, Rouran had originally been the byname of chief Cheluhui (车鹿会), possibly denoting his status "as a Wei servitor".
The Rouran were a nomadic people commonly believed to be a splinter group of the Xianbei who remained in the eastern Eurasian Steppe after most Xianbei had migrated south and settled in Northern China. Kwok Kin Poon proposes that the Rouran were descended specifically from Donghu-Xianbei heritage.
Songshu and Liangshu connected Rourans to the earlier Xiongnu (of unknown ethnolinguistic affiliation) while Weishu traced the Rouran's origins back to the Donghu, generally agreed to be Proto-Mongols.
The founder of the Rouran Khaganate, Yujiulu Shelun, was descended from slaves of the Xianbei whose women were commonly taken as wives or concubines. In fact the name Rouran itself as used by the Xianbei means something akin to "wriggling worms". After the Xianbei migrated south and settled in Chinese lands during the late 3rd century AD, the Rouran made a name for themselves as fierce warriors. However they remained politically fragmented until 402 AD when Shelun gained support of all the Rouran chieftains and united the Rouran under one banner. Immediately after uniting, the Rouran entered a perpetual conflict with Northern Wei, beginning with a Wei offensive that drove the Rouran from the Ordos region. The Rouran expanded westward and defeated the neighboring Tiele people and expanded their territory over the Silk Roads, even vassalizing the Hephthalites which remained so until the beginning of the 5th century. The Hepthalites migrated southeast due to pressure from the Rouran and displaced the Yuezhi in Bactria, forcing the them to migrate further south. Despite the conflict between the Hephthalites and Rouran, the Hephthalites borrowed much from their eastern overlords, in particular the title of "Khan" which was first used by the Rouran as a title for their rulers.
In 424, the Rouran invaded Northern Wei but were repulsed.
In 429, Northern Wei launched a major offensive against the Rouran and killed a large number of people.
The Chinese are foot soldiers and we are horsemen. What can a herd of colts and heifers do against tigers or a pack of wolves? As for the Rouran, they graze in the north during the summer; in autumn, they come south and in winter raid our frontiers. We have only to attack them in summer in their pasture lands. At that time their horses are useless: the stallions are busy with the fillies, and the mares with their foals. If we but come upon them there and cut them off from their grazing and their water, within a few days they will be either taken or destroyed.
In 443, Northern Wei attacked the Rouran.
In 449, the Rouran were defeated in battle by Northern Wei.
In 456, Northern Wei attacked the Rouran.
In 458, Northern Wei attacked the Rouran.
In 460, the Rouran subjugated the Ashina tribe residing around modern Turpan and resettled them in the Altai Mountains. The Rouran also ousted the previous dynasty of Gaochang and installed Kan Bozhou as its king.
The Rouran and the Hephthalites had a falling out and problems within their confederation were encouraged by Chinese agents.
In 508, the Tiele defeated the Rouran in battle.
In 516, the Rouran defeated the Tiele.
In 551, Bumin of the Ashina Göktürks quelled a Tiele revolt for the Rouran and asked for a Rouran princess for his service. The Rouran refused and in response Bumin declared independence. Bumin entered a marriage alliance with Western Wei, a successor state of Northern Wei, and attacked the Rouran in 552, killing Yujiulü Anagui. Bumin declared himself Illig Khagan of the Turkic Khaganate after conquering Otuken; Bumin died soon after and his son Issik Qaghan succeeded him. Issik continued attacking the Rouran but died a year later in 553. His brother Muqan Qaghan finished the job and annihilated the Rouran in 555.
Some scholars claim that the Rouran then fled west across the steppes and became the Avars, though many other scholars contest this claim. The remainder of the Rouran fled into China, were absorbed into the border guards, and disappeared forever as an entity. The last khagan fled to the court of the Western Wei, but at the demand of the Göktürks, Western Wei executed him and the nobles who accompanied him.
Alexander Vovin (2004, 2010) considers the Ruan-ruan language to be an extinct non-Altaic language that is not related to any modern-day language (i.e., a language isolate) and is hence unrelated to Mongolic. Vovin (2004) notes that Old Turkic had borrowed some words from an unknown non-Altaic language that may have been Ruan-ruan. In 2018 Vovin changed his opinion after new evidence was found through the analysis of the Brāhmī Bugut and Khüis Tolgoi inscriptions and suggests that the Ruanruan language was in fact a Mongolic language, close but not identical to Middle Mongolian. Pamela Kyle Crossley (2019) The Rouran language itself has remained a puzzle, and leading linguists consider it a possible isolate.
Rulers of the Rouran
- Yujiulü Mugulü, 4th century
- Yujiulü Cheluhui, 4th century
- Yujiulü Tunugui, 4th century
- Yujiulü Bati, 4th century
- Yujiulü Disuyuan, 4th century
- Yujiulü Pihouba, 4th century
- Yujiulü Mangeti, 4th century
- Yujiulü Heduohan, 4th century
|Personal name||Regnal name||Reign||Era names|
|Yujiulü Shelun||Qiudoufa Khagan (丘豆伐可汗)||402–410|
|Yujiulü Hulü||Aikugai Khagan (藹苦蓋可汗)||410–414|
|Yujiulü Datan||Mouhanheshenggai Khagan (牟汗紇升蓋可汗)||414–429|
|Yujiulü Wuti||Chilian Khagan (敕連可汗)||429–444|
|Yujiulü Tuhezhen||Chu Khagan (處可汗)||444–464|
|Yujiulü Yucheng||Shouluobuzhen Khagan (受羅部真可汗)||464–485||Yongkang (永康)|
|Yujiulü Doulun||Fumingdun Khagan (伏名敦可汗)||485–492||Taiping (太平)|
|Yujiulü Nagai||Houqifudaikezhe Khagan (侯其伏代庫者可汗)||492–506||Taian (太安)|
|Yujiulü Futu||Tuohan Khagan (佗汗可汗)||506–508||Shiping (始平)|
|Yujiulü Chounu||Douluofubadoufa Khagan (豆羅伏跋豆伐可汗)||508–520||Jianchang (建昌)|
|Yujiulü Anagui||Chiliantoubingdoufa Khagan (敕連頭兵豆伐可汗)||520–521|
|Yujiulü Poluomen||Mioukesheju Khagan (彌偶可社句可汗)||521–524|
|Yujiulü Anagui||Chiliantoubingdoufa Khagan (敕連頭兵豆伐可汗)||522–552|
Khagans of West
- Yujiulü Dengshuzi, 555
Khagans of East
Rulers family tree
|The family tree of the Khaghans of the Rouran|
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- Li, Jiawei; et al. (August 2018). "The genome of an ancient Rouran individual reveals an important paternal lineage in the Donghu population". American Journal of Physical Anthropology. American Association of Physical Anthropologists. 166 (4). doi:10.1002/ajpa.23491. PMID 29681138. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
- Neparáczki, Endre; et al. (12 November 2019). "Y-chromosome haplogroups from Hun, Avar and conquering Hungarian period nomadic people of the Carpathian Basin". Scientific Reports. Nature Research. 9 (16569). doi:10.1038/s41598-019-53105-5. PMC 6851379. PMID 31719606. Retrieved 9 April 2020.
- Map of their empire
- information about the Rouran
- Kradin, Nikolay. "From Tribal Confederation to Empire: the Evolution of the Rouran Society". Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, Vol. 58, No 2 (2005): 149–169.
- Xiong, Victor Cunrui (2000), Sui-Tang Chang'an: A Study in the Urban History of Late Medieval China (Michigan Monographs in Chinese Studies), U OF M CENTER FOR CHINESE STUDIES, ISBN 0892641371
- Xiong, Victor Cunrui (2009), Historical Dictionary of Medieval China, United States of America: Scarecrow Press, Inc., ISBN 0810860538
- Media related to Rouran Khaganate at Wikimedia Commons