Xirong (Chinese: 西戎; pinyin: Xīróng; Wade–Giles: Hsi-jung; lit. 'Western warlike people') or Rong were various people who lived primarily in and around the western extremities of ancient China (in modern Gansu and Qinghai). They were known as early as the Shang dynasty (1765–1122 BCE),[1] as one of the Four Barbarians that frequently (and often violently) interacted with the sinitic Huaxia civilization. They typically resided to the west of Guanzhong Plains from the Zhou Dynasty (1046–221 BCE) onwards.[2][3] They were mentioned in some ancient Chinese texts as perhaps genetically and linguistically related to the people of the Chinese civilization.[4]

Zhou Dynasty cosmography of Huaxia and the Siyi: Dongyi in the east, Nanman in the south, Xirong in the west, and Beidi in the north.


The historian Li Feng says that during the Western Zhou period, since the term Rong "warlike foreigners" was "often used in bronze inscriptions to mean 'warfare', it is likely that when a people was called 'Rong', the Zhou considered them as political and military adversaries rather than as cultural and ethnic 'others'."[5] Paul R. Goldin also proposes that Rong was a "pseudo-ethnonym" meaning "bellicose".[6]

After the Zhou dynasty, the term usually referred to various peoples in the west during early and late medieval times. Xirong was also the name of a state during the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods of Chinese history.[citation needed]

The Xirong together with the eastern Dongyi, northern Beidi, and southern Nanman were collectively called the Sìyí (四夷; 'Four Barbarians'). The Liji "Record of Rites" details ancient stereotypes about them.

The people of those five regions – the Middle states, and the [Rong], [Yi], (and other wild tribes round them) – had all their several natures, which they could not be made to alter. The tribes on the east were called [Yi]. They had their hair unbound, and tattooed their bodies. Some of them ate their food without its being cooked. Those on the south were called Man. They tattooed their foreheads, and had their feet turned in towards each other. Some of them (also) ate their food without its being cooked. Those on the west were called [Rong]. They had their hair unbound, and wore skins. Some of them did not eat grain-food. Those on the north were called [Di]. They wore skins of animals and birds, and dwelt in caves. Some of them also did not eat grain-food. The people of the Middle states, and of those [Yi], Man, [Rong], and [Di], all had their dwellings, where they lived at ease; their flavours which they preferred; the clothes suitable for them; their proper implements for use; and their vessels which they prepared in abundance. In those five regions, the languages of the people were not mutually intelligible, and their likings and desires were different. To make what was in their minds apprehended, and to communicate their likings and desires, (there were officers) – in the east, called transmitters; in the south, representationists; in the west, [Di-dis]; and in the north, interpreters.[7] [The term 狄鞮 didi (ti-ti) is identified as: “(anc.) Interpreter of the Di, barbarians of the west.”[8] Translated and adapted from the French.]

Note: "middle states" (Chinese: 中國; pinyin: Zhōngguó) in this quote refers to the "Middle Kingdom", i.e. China.

Spade-foot three-legged pottery vessels as well as one and two handled pots were primary cultural characteristics of the Xirong.[citation needed]

William H. Baxter and Laurent Sagart (2014)[9] reconstruct the Old Chinese name of Róng as , OC:*nuŋ, mod. róng. Today, similar-sounding self-designated ethnonyms among modern-day Tibeto-Burman peoples in western China include Rgyalrong of Sichuan, and Nung and Trung of northwestern Yunnan (see also Rung languages). Prusek suggests relations between the Rong during the Zhou dynasty and the Rén ( < OC *ni[ŋ]) tribes during Shang dynasty,[10] however, the Rén () dwelt in southern Shandong and northern Jiangsu, thus east, not west, of the Shang.[11]


According to Nicola Di Cosmo,[12] 'Rong' was a vague term for warlike foreigner. He places them from the upper Wei River valley and along the Fen River to the Taiyuan basin as far as the Taihang Mountains. This would be the northwestern edge of what was then China and also the transition zone between agricultural and steppe ways of life.

  • c. 964 BCE: King Mu of Zhou defeated the Quanrong and the following year attacked the Western Rong and Xurong.
  • 859 BCE: King Yi of Zhou (Ji Xie): Zhou capital attacked by the Rong of Taiyuan.
  • 877-841 BCE: King Li of Zhou: Western Rong and Xianyun raid deep into Zhou territory
  • 827-782 BCE: King Xuan of Zhou sends the State of Qin to attack Western Rong who submit and cede territory, sends the State of Jin against the Northern Rong (probably 788); following year destroys the RongJiang clan.
  • 781-771 BCE: King You of Zhou is killed by the Quanrong, ending the Western Zhou.
  • During the Western Zhou various Rong groups are interspersed among the cities of the North China Plain. It seems that the Beidi were pressing the Rong from the north.
  • 714 BCE: Northern (Bei) or Mountain (Shan) Rong attack the State of Zheng.
  • 706 BCE: The same group attacks Qi.
  • 693-662 BCE: Duke Zhuang of Lu [zh]), ruler of the State of Lu has many wars with the Rong.
  • 664 BCE: Shan Rong attack the State of Yan.
  • 662 BCE: Beidi drive the Rong out of Taiyuan.
  • 650 BCE: Beirong attacked by the States of Qi and Xu.
  • after 650 BCE the Rong are rarely mentioned. They seem to have been mostly absorbed by the States of Qi and Jin.[13]
  • 314 BCE: Qin defeated the last hostile Rong tribe.[14] Threats from unified nomadic incursions would eventually reappear under the Xiongnu identity during the subsequent Qin and Han Dynasties.[15]


It is believed that the Quanrong during the Western Zhou-Warring States period (1122–476 BC) spoke a Tibeto-Burman branch of the Sino-Tibetan languages, and united with the Jiang clan to rebel against the Zhou.[16][17] Mencius mentioned that even King Wen of Zhou had ancestries from the "western barbarians" (西夷).[18]

7th-century scholar Yan Shigu made these remarks about the Wusuns: "Among the barbarians (戎; Róng) in the Western Regions, the look of the Wusun is the most unusual. The present barbarians (胡人; húrén) who have green eyes and red hair, and look like macaque monkeys, are the offspring of this people";[19][20][21] the exonym 胡人 Húrén "foreigners, barbarians",[19] was used since the 6th century to denote Iranian peoples, especially Sogdians, in Central Asia, besides other non-Chinese peoples.[22]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Waugh, Daniel C: Professor. "Silk Road Texts". University of Washington. Retrieved 20 April 2014.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 28, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Hun & Huns -- Political, Social, Cultural, Historical Analysis Of China -- Research Into Origins Of Huns, Uygurs, Mongols And Tibetans". www.imperialchina.org.
  4. ^ Nicola Di Cosmo, Ancient China and Its Enemies: The Rise of Nomadic Power in East Asian History ,Cambridge University Press, 2004 pp. 108-112.
  5. ^ Li, Feng (2006), Landscape And Power In Early China, Cambridge University Press, p. 286.
  6. ^ Goldin, Paul R. "Steppe Nomads as a Philosophical Problem in Classical China" in Mapping Mongolia: Situating Mongolia in the World from Geologic Time to the Present. Penn Museum International Research Conferences, vol. 2. Ed. Paula L.W. Sabloff. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania. 2011. p. 235
  7. ^ Wangzhi chap., tr. James Legge (1879), The Li Ki, Clarendon Press, vol.1, pp. 229-230.
  8. ^ Grand dictionnaire Ricci de la langue chinoise, Vol. V, (2001) p. 938
  9. ^ Baxter, William H. and Laurent Sagart. 2014. Old Chinese: A New Reconstruction. Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-994537-5.
  10. ^ Jaroslav Průšek. Chinese Statelets and the Northern Barbarians in the period 1400-300 BC. New York, 1971. p.38
  11. ^ Di Cosmo, Nicola (1999). "The northern frontier in pre-imperial China". In Loewe, Michael; Shaughnessy, Edward L. (eds.). The Cambridge History of Ancient China. Cambridge University Press. p. 908 of pp. 885–966.
  12. ^ Cambridge History of Ancient China (1999) Chapter 13
  13. ^ Nicola Di Cosmo in Cambridge History of Ancient China, page 924
  14. ^ Mark Edward Lewis in Cambridge History of Ancient China, page 635
  15. ^ The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. "Xiongnu". britannica.com. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved August 2, 2016.
  16. ^ Chapter 14 of Keightley,'The Origins of Chinese Civilization',1983
  17. ^ "Fortress Village - The Ethnic Minorities of Southwest China". ethno.ihp.sinica.edu.tw.
  18. ^ Mencius Li lou II. text: "孟子曰:「舜生於諸馮,遷於負夏,卒於鳴條,東夷之人也。文王生於岐周,卒於畢郢,西夷之人也。" D.C.Lau (1970:128)'s translation: "Mencius said, 'Shun was an Eastern barbarian; he was born in Chu Feng, moved to Fu Hsia, and died in Ming T'iao. King Wen was a Western barbarian; he was born in Ch'i Chou and died in Pi Ying."
  19. ^ a b Book of Han, with commentary by Yan Shigu Original text: 烏孫於西域諸戎其形最異。今之胡人青眼、赤須,狀類彌猴者,本其種也。
  20. ^ Yu, Taishan. A Study of Saka History, (1998) pp. 141-142. Sino-Platonic Papers, Number 80. University of Pennsylvania.
  21. ^ Book of Han, vol. 96b Archived March 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Atwood, Christopher P. (2015). "The Qai, the Khongai, and the Names of the Xiōngnú". International Journal of Eurasian Studies. 2: p. 62 of 35–63.


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