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HG012 Xiongnu king helmet


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(Chinese: 頭曼, Mongolian: Tümen, tumen) – was the earliest known Xiongnu chanyu (匈奴單于), reigning from c. 220 to 209 BCE. The name Touman (*Tumen) is likely related to Middle Chinese *muan, West Tokharian t(u)māneOld Turkic/Mongolian tümen, Modern Persian tumân, all meaning '10,000', a myriad).[1]

By the time the Qin Dynasty conquered the other six states and began its reign over a unified China in 221 BCE, the nomadic Xiongnu had grown into a powerful invading force in the north and started expanding both east and west.

At the time the Donghu (東胡) or 'Eastern Barbarians' were very powerful and the Yuezhiflourishing. Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty, sent a 100,000-strong army headed by General Meng Tian to drive the Xiongnu northward for 1,000 li(about 416 km).[2]

"Touman, unable to hold out against the Qin forces, had withdrawn to the far north, where he held out for over ten years."[3]

Some time after the death of Meng Tian in 210 BCE, the Xiongnu "once again began to infiltrate south of the bend of the Yellow River until they had established themselves along the old border of China."

Touman, wishing to favour a son of another consort, sent his eldest son, Modu (冒頓), as a hostage to the Yuezhi, and then made a sudden attack on them. The Yuezhi were about to kill Modu when he managed to steal a fast horse and escape back to the Xiongnu.

Touman, impressed with his bravery, put him in command of a force of 10,000 horsemen. However, Modu trained his men well and, in 209 BCE, killed his father and, after killing his stepmother, younger brother, and the high officials who refused to take orders from him, established himself as Chanyu.[4]

With his new combined military force, Modu was able to establish the Xiongnu empire.


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HG012 Xiongnu king helmet

HG012 Xiongnu king helmet

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