Timeline Description: The Xiongnu Empire (209 BCE - 48 CE) was a state formed by nomadic people called the Xiongnu in the area north of China. The state stretched beyond the borders of modern-day Mongolia. The Xiongnu had complex relations with early Chinese dynasties, including frequent bouts of military conflict.
|215 BC||The Qin defeat the Xiongnu.(215 BCE)
The Chinese Qin emperor, Qin Shi Huang, sends General Meng Tian to conquer the Xiongnu. He is successful in taking Ordos, which forces the current Xiongnu leader, Touman, to flee. Qin armies proceed to evict the Xiongnu from their territories.
|209 BC||Modu Chanyu unifies the Xiongnu tribes.(209 BCE)
Modu Chanyu, the son of Touman, unifies the Xiongnu tribes against the threat of the Qin. After solidifying the empire, he goes on to retake all the territories lost to Meng Tian, including Ordos, and the Xiongnu expand into southern Sibera, eastern Mongolia, and Manchuria.
|200 BC||The Han emperor is defeated.(200 BCE)
Emperor Gaozu, founder of the Han Dynasty and successor to the Qin, personally leads a military campaign against Modu. He is ambushed at the Battle of Baideng and disastrously defeated, narrowly avoiding capture.
|198 BC||The Marriage Treaty system is instituted.(198 BCE)
The Han dispatch the courtier Liu Jing to reach a peace accord with the Xiongnu. They settle on the marriage of a Han princess to the chanyu (the Xiongnu ruler), gifts to the Xiongnu, and the Great Wall as a border. This sets the standard for peace for decades to come.
|174 BC||Modu Chanyu dies.(174 BCE)
Modu Chanyu dies and is succeeded by his son, Jiyu, who is known as the Laoshang Chanyu.
|166 BC||Laoshung invades Anding.(166 BCE)
Laoshung invades Han territory and reaches as far as the imperial retreat at Yong. This serves to prove that Laoshung does not take the Marriage Treaty system seriously, and that the Xiongnu are a threat to the Han.
|138 BC||Zhang Qian is sent to explore Xiongnu territory.(138 BCE)
The Han send famed explorer Zhang Qian to explore the western territories and to make an alliance with the Yuezhi people against the Xiongnu. While he is not successful in cementing the alliance, his reports inspire the Han to strike against the Xiongnu, and they start building up military forces.
|133 BC||Emperor Wu reverses the Marriage Treaty system.(133 BCE)
After a failed attempt to trap the chanyu, Han emperor Wu officially reverses the Marriage Treaty system.
|129 BC||The Han Dynasty declares war on the Xiongnu.(129 BCE)
The Han Chinese make a surprise attack on the Xiongnu, launching their invasion with 40,000 cavalry.
|127 BC||The Han defeat the Xiongnu at Ordos.(127 BCE)
The Han general Wei Qing retakes Ordos from the Xiongnu.
|119 BC||The Xiongnu are forced to retreat.(119 BCE)
Han generals Wei Qing and Huo Qubing each lead armies of 150,000 soldiers against the Xiongnu and force them to retreat into the Gobi desert. This strategically separates the Xiongnu from their empire and gives Chinese access to western trade routes. The Xiongnu are no longer a threat to the Han.
|60 BC||Woyanqudi seizes power.(60 BCE)
The grandson of the twelfth chanyu's cousin, Woyanqudi, takes power over the Xiongnu. The twelfth chanyu's son flees, and Woyanqudi is left without support. He eventually commits suicide. Power passes to his son, Huhanye, but many other claimants quickly challenge his control, including Tuqi, Woyanqudi's brother.
|53 BC||Huhanye submits to Chinese power.(53 BCE)
To gain advantage over the usurpers, Huhanye submits to Han Chinese authority and uses their support to solidify control. Under Han terms, the chanyu will travel to the Han capital to pay homage, he will send a hostage prince, and he will pay tribute to the Han emperor.
|18||The reign of Huduershi begins.(18 CE)
Corresponding with political upheavals in China, Huduershi becomes the chanyu and begins to expand the Xiongnu borders.
|48||Bi claims power over the southern tribes and the Xiongnu empire ends.(48 CE
)-The rightful heir, Bi, tries to seize power after Huduershi passes rule to his son Punu. This splits the Xiongnu into two empires: the Xiongnu in the north and the southern Xiongnu. This marks the beginning of a fracturing of the Xiongnu that eventually brings their empire to an end.