Date:

Tongwancheng – Capital of the Xia kingdom

Tongwancheng was the capital of the Xia Kingdom, founded by the Xiongnu people at the southern edge of the Maowusu Sands of the Ordos Desert, in present-day Inner Mongolia.

The Xiongnu were a tribal confederation of nomadic peoples who emerged from the eastern Eurasian Steppe during the 3rd century BC. The Xiongnu developed a powerful state bordering the Chinese Han empire, demarcated by the Great Wall of China.

- Advertisement -

In AD 407, a branch of the Xiongnu established the kingdom of Xia during the Sixteen Kingdoms period. Xia was ruled over by Helian Bobo, a Tiefu Xiongnu who founded his capital in the heart of the Ordos region from AD 413, with the intention to be lord of 10,000 states (“Tong” means “unite,” while “wan” means 10,000).

Helian Bobo commissioned his general Chigan Ali as the chief architect, who conscripted up to 100,000 Xiongnu to build the city over a period of six years using sand, white clay earth, and powdered rice.

Image Credit : Caitriana Nicholson – CC BY-SA 2.0

The city consisted of three districts centred on a lake, encircled by a large outer wall that ran a length of 6 km. In the northern part of the city was the palace district, whilst an inner district housed the government offices and the homes of the city elite. The outer district housed the common dwellings, with up to 10,000 families (about 70,000 people) living inside and outside the city walls.

An account of Tongwancheng in the Jin shu recorded : “The hills are beautiful, in front of it we can discover a wide plain, surroundings there is a lake and fresh rivers. I have seen lots of places, but I haven’t found such a territory, which would be so beautiful.”

- Advertisement -
Image Credit : Caitriana Nicholson – CC BY-SA 2.0

In AD 426, the Emperor Taiwu of Northern Wei attacked the city and succeeded in burning the main temple and the surrounding hinterland. Environmental changes caused the nearby water sources to dry up, leading to a decline in the population and gradual abandonment.

The Xiongnu continued to live in the region until the 7th or 8th century. In AD 786 the city was besieged by Tibetan forces, and it was invaded by Jurchen soldiers in 1206. There is no record of the site in Chinese records after the early 15th century.

Header Image Credit : Cong – CC BY-SA 3.0

- Advertisement -
spot_img
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
spot_img

Mobile Application

spot_img

Related Articles

Study confirms palace of King Ghezo was site of voodoo blood rituals

A study, published in the journal Proteomics, presents new evidence to suggest that voodoo blood rituals were performed at the palace of King Ghezo.

Archaeologists search for home of infamous Tower of London prisoner

A team of archaeologists are searching for the home of Sir Arthur Haselrig, a leader of the Parliamentary opposition to Charles I, and whose attempted arrest sparked the English Civil War.

Tartessian plaque depicting warrior scenes found near Guareña

Archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology of Mérida (IAM) and the CSIC have uncovered a slate plaque depicting warrior scenes at the Casas del Turuñuelo archaeological site.

Archaeologists find a necropolis of stillborn babies

Excavations by the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap) have unearthed a necropolis for stillborn and young children in the historic centre of Auxerre, France.

Researchers find historic wreck of the USS “Hit ‘em HARDER”

The Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) has confirmed the discovery of the USS Harder (SS 257), an historic US submarine from WWII.

Archaeologists uncover Roman traces of Vibo Valentia

Archaeologists from the Superintendent of Archaeology Fine Arts and Landscape have made several major discoveries during excavations of Roman Vibo Valentia at the Urban Archaeological Park.

Archaeologists uncover crypts of the Primates of Poland

Archaeologists have uncovered two crypts in the collegiate church in Łowicz containing the Primates of Poland.

Giant prehistoric rock engravings could be territorial markers

Giant rock engravings along the Upper and Middle Orinoco River in South America could be territorial markers according to a new study.