The Barbarians of Ancient China

With the introduction of the Quanrong (Kenjuu) in Ch527, we are introduced to the non-Chinese that lived just outside the ancient China’s border in actual history, who are referred to as barbarians by the ancient Chinese. Most of the characters with no Kanji names in Kingdom are in fact from outside China and are not of “Han”* origin. Examples of these are Ordo’s men from Yan and all of Yontawa’s men.

The ancient Chinese from the central plains generally refer to them as barbarians and name them based on the compass direction they originate from. The ancient Chinese also associate these non-“Han” people with animals due to their more primitive way of life and lack of a rich culture as compared to the “Han” people, who had developed philosophy and had hundreds of schools of thoughts. These non-“Han” people sometimes pillage or even invade the central plains for resources, and to different degrees of success. The most successful invasions of China by non-“Han” people in history are argubly by the Mongols and the Manchus, who started the Yuan and Qing dynasties respectively.

As the tribes outside China rise and fall over the entire span of history, for the purpose of Kingdom, we can take a look at these non-“Han” people from the 4 compass directions outside the border of China during the era of the Warring States.

More detailed information can also be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Barbarians

*Han(汉) generally refers to the people who originate from the central plains of China and was used by Chinese people to differentiate themselves from the various tribes, living outside the borders of China such as the Xiongnu. The name originates from Han dynasty, which was built after the fall of Qin when the land of China was united as one. While it doesn’t really make sense to refer to Kingdom characters as “Han” people since the concept of “Han” does not exist yet during the pre-Qin era, for the ease of referring to “the people who originate from the China central plains” I will still use “Han” in this article.



Western Rong 西戎

犬戎

Barbarians from the Western/North-Western mountains or steppes. These people were responsible for the end of the Western Zhou dynasty, forcing the capital of Zhou to shift eastward.

In fact, Qin’s origin was closely-tied to the Western Rong. After Zhou’s old capital, Haojing, was ransacked by the Rong, King Ping of Zhou decided to shift the capital to Luoyang in the east. He then officially gave the status of nobility to the leader of Qin, Yin Kai, who became Duke Xiang of Qin. He told Yin Kai to drive the Rong away from the west of his land around the old capital. By doing so, he promised to reward all the land recovered from the Rong to him. The more land Qin took from the Rong, the more land it owns. This was considered as a “blank cheque” offered by King Ping of Zhou, which gave Qin an advantage of freely expanding its territory towards non-“Han” people to the west who were not under the rule of Zhou. More info here: Founding of Qin

Due to the close vicinity of Qin’s land, and some of Zhao’s land with the Rong tribes, they sometimes do employ them for their own wars in the central plains, as seen in Ch527. In fact, strictly speaking, Yontawa and her men are considered “Rongs” as well if they are put into a real world setting as they originate from the mountains in the west of Qin.

As pointed out by Shura, Gekishin’s “poison dog” cavalry unit were Quan Rong as well. They could probably be brought over by Gekishin went to Yan from Zhao.

More information of Xirong(Eastern Rong) can be found here.


Northern Di 北狄

匈奴

From the structure of the Chinese word of Di(狄), the left side represents a beast/dog and the right side represents fire. Combining these parts, the words represent a beast wielding fire/weapon, in lining with the way the “Han” people regarding the non-“Han” as beasts.

The Northern Di are mostly nomads and mainly represented by the Xiongnu that plagued northern China by their constant pillaging of Northern China during the pre-Qin and Han dynasty. Li Mu(Riboku) manage to drive them off for a while(as seen in the one shot here and Ch155 here) after his major victory against them at Yan Men Pass(雁门关). Later, Emperor Wu of Han dedicated his whole life to fighting them as well. To prevent the pillaging of the Xiongnu, most of the Zhao section of the Great Wall was built to protect against them.

More information on Xiongnu and Northern Di can be found here:

Xiongnu

Beidi(Northern Di)


Eastern Yi 东夷

东夷

Mainly refer to the tribes from Nothern-eastern China, around the modern 3 North-eastern province of Jilin, Heilongjiang and Liaoning, or in some cases, Taiwan and Japan islands. They were mostly situated around the Yan territory during the era of the warring states and the Yan portion of the Great Wall was built to protect agaisnt them. They will later become the main players in Chinese history during the Song and Qing dynasties of China.

Ordo’s men from the different non-“Han” tribes from the Kingdom universe can be referred to as Eastern Yi if they are put into the real world.

More information of Dongyi(Eastern Yi) can be found here.


Southern Man 南蛮

南蛮

The Southern Man(pronounced similar to “ma-an”) or Nan Man, literally translates to “Brutes of the South”.

They are tribes situated to the south of Chu and beyond during the era of the warring states, mainly south of the Yangtze river, in modern Guangxi, Yunan and probably the Indochina region as well. These tribes are also referred to as Baiyue(The Hundred ‘Yue’ tribes). Rinbukun in Kingdom had boasted that he easily took down one of the tribe chieftains of the Baiyue easily.

In real history, Ousen(Wang Jian) and Moubu(Meng Wu) would proceed to conquer the Southern Man after they took down Chu during the unification war. Chronologically, this is also their final recorded war in the history books.

More information on Nanman(Southern Man) here.

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5 thoughts on “The Barbarians of Ancient China

  1. Very nice King, I wonder if those special units that Gekishin used to employ (they were also referred to as Quanrong) were at one point a part of the army living in Ryouyou, it would make sense since Zhao is where he originally hailed from. Also, does that mean Muta- the assassin we met in the beginning of the manga could also be referred to as one of the Southern Man, (the wiki states former Yue kingdom) or is he from even way beyond what people from the plains knew as the barbarians from the south at that time?

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    • I just realize that I have yet to do a post on Gekishin. Guess I will do it together with Hu Zhe next week.
      Anyway, from what I can recall without checking, Gekishin’s special unit was referred to as “Black Dog”. As a Yan general, he should not have access to interaction with the Rong people since Yan is located in the northeast while Rong are in the west. His special unit is most probably recruited from the eastern Yi or nothern Di.

      Muta was from the kingdom of Yue, which is technically under the Zhou rule until it was annexed by Chu. More info here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yue_(state)

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      • Something to look forward to next week then. A little clarification though, yes those units were “Poison Dog” and “Poison Cat”- one of them dubbed as the fastest horseman tribe and referred to as being the decendants of Quan Rong. What I also meant is that before he came to serve as Yan general, Gekishin was originally living in Zhao so him crossing paths with and recruiting the Rong people wouldn’t be out of question entirely. But maybe that’s just an entirely different tribe and their name is spelled differently then the ones we’re dealing with now. We’ll just have to wait till the next chapter comes out and it will hopefully touch on more on the Quanrong that reside in Ryouyou.

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      • Interesting. I didn’t know that Gekishin’s cavalry were Quan Rong as well. Will add that to the post as well as Gekishin’s post when I go around writing it. He could have indeed recruited the Rong when he was in Zhao and brought them over to Yan.

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