Hun Capital Rises from the Sands of Time

Posted by ugfanfan on November 25th, 2014

Tongwan City, extending to nearly 20,000 square kilometers, has lain buried beneath the desert sands for more than 1,000 years. The city was laid out on an east-west axis and consisted of an outer city, an inner city, and a palace city.

The outer city was where ordinary folks lived. Government offices and the residences of the nobility were located in the inner city. Inside the palace city was the inner sanctuary of the imperial city where Helianbobo himself lived.

Historical records suggest that by the year 431 (A.D.), Tongwan City and its hinterland supported a population of more than 40,000 Hun nomads and Han farmers. By 984 A.D. however, the city had been abandoned, and would later become buried under the shifting sands.

"Tongwan City was built on the natural contours of the ground and so is higher in the northwest and lower in the southeast," said Dai Yingxin, a famous archaeologist who has been engaged in field investigation and trial digs at the site for years. "This served to provide a measure of protection against the cold winter winds. Meanwhile, the river in the north of the city could easily be channeled to supply water to the residents or used for the city moat."

The city wall was constructed in layers by ramming a mix of cohesive white clay and sand bound together with glutinous rice gruel and slaked lime. The western section is 16 to 30 meters thick. This type of rammed earth construction has proven to be almost as strong and resistant to erosion as stone masonry."

The Huns waged war and migrated continuously across Northeast and Northwest China from the 3rd century B.C. to the 5th century A.D. Their activities came to seriously threaten not only the traffic along the Silk Road but even the very security of the feudal dynasties with their power bases located deep within the Central Plains.

After unifying the country, Qin Shihuang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty, deployed imperial troops in pursuit of the Huns and finally built the formidable protective screen of the Great Wall. The years that followed were to bring increasing exchanges with dynasties in the Central Plains and some Huns began to assimilate among the Han people. Others migrated to Central Asia and on to Europe. By the 6th century the Huns had gradually disappeared as a separate people as they merged with other peoples.

Although the Huns may have disappeared as a people, Tongwan City, which the Huns built in 6 years, was seen as an important political, economic, and military center in the next five centuries. At present its sites still standing in the desert showing Hun people's proud history.

Historical documents show the city was established at a place where there was adequate freshwater at the edge of a desert. The rise and fall of Tongwan City, lying where agriculture and animal husbandry overlapped, vividly record how human activities adversely affected the fragile ecological environment.

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