Wu Hu

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Wu Hu (Chinese: 五胡; pinyin: Wǔ Hú; literally "Five Barbaric Tribes") was a Chinese term for the northern non-Chinese nomadic tribes which caused the Wu Hu uprising, and established the Sixteen Kingdoms from 304 to 439 AD.



The Chinese word "Hu" (胡) in "Wu Hu" means "unintelligible" or "difficult to understand," which probably refers to the native languages spoken by these ethnic groups. It is similar to the origin of the word "barbarian" in many European languages. A diplomatic message in Han Shu defined Hu as the proud son of heaven (天之驕子) [1].

The Xiongnu were the most powerful non-Chinese ethnic group bordering the Chinese Han Dynasty, therefore the Han simply referred to them as the Hu (the non-Chinese or barbarians). Both "Hu" and "Xiongnu" were used concurrently. Nevertheless, Hu later became a collective term for non-Chinese ethnic groups, often preceded by Chinese numerals and characters such as Wu (five) or Zhu (numerous). The term Wu Hu meaning the "Five Hu" was first used in the Shiliuguo Chunqiu (501-522), which recorded the history of the five tribes ravaging Northern China from the early fourth century to the mid fifth century. They are mostly defined as: Xiongnu (匈奴), Xianbei (鮮卑), Di (氐), Qiang (羌), and Jie (羯); although different groups of historians and historiographers have their own definitions.

After later historians determined that more than five nomadic tribes took part, Wu Hu has become a collective term for all non-Chinese nomads residing in North China at the time.

The time of the ravages is called the Wu Hu Period (五胡時代) or Wu Hu Chaos (五胡亂華, literally "Five Hu Wreak-havoc-on China").

The Southern Xiongnu

The Xiongnu people migrated in and out of China proper during turmoil times since Huhanye Shanyu (呼韓邪, 58-31 BCE) (also called Hu Hanxie Chanyu) signed a heqin agreement or Peace and Kinship Treaty[2] with Han China in 53 BC.

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