The Rouran Khaganate (Chinese: 柔然; pinyin: Róurán), Ruru (Chinese: 蠕蠕/茹茹; pinyin: Rúrú), or Tantan (Chinese: 檀檀; pinyin: Tántán) was the name of a state established by proto-Mongols, from the late 4th century until the middle 6th century.
Rouran is a Classical Chinese transcription of the endonym of the confederacy. Ruanruan and Ruru remained in usage despite being derogatory. They derived from orders given by the Emperor Taiwu of Northern Wei, who waged war against the Rouran and intended to intimidate the confederacy. According to René Grousset, Ju-juan – an alternate Chinese name for the Rouran – was a "disparaging pun" derived from Juan-Juan: "unpleasantly wriggling insects".
It has sometimes been hypothesized that the Rouran are synonymous with the Pannonian Avars – also known by names such as Varchonites and "Pseudo Avars" – who settled in Eastern Europe during the 6th century.
|Capital||Mumo city, Orkhon River, Mongolia|
|•||405||4,000,000 km2 (1,500,000 sq mi)|
|Today part of|| Mongolia
The Rouran were a confederation led by Xianbei people who remained in the Mongolian steppes after most Xianbei migrated south to Northern China and set up various kingdoms. They considered the Tuoba and Rourans to be descended from common ancestors. Also some contemporary historians studying the history of Northern Wei, like Kwok Kin Poon, proposed that the Rouran descended specifically from Xianbei of Donghu heritage. They were first noted as having defeated the Tiele and establishing an empire extending all the way to the Hulun, an alliance in eastern Inner Mongolia. During the reign of Yujiulü Shelun (402–410), Rouran became a powerful empire. To the west of the Rouran Khaganate was the Hephthalite Empire (408–670), which was a vassal of the Rouran until the beginning of the 5th century.
The Hephthalites and Rouran had close contact, although they had different languages and cultures, and the Hephthalites borrowed much of their political organization from the Rouran. In particular, the title “Khan“, which according to McGovern was original to the Rouran, was borrowed by the Hephthalite rulers. The reason for the migration of the Hephthalites southeast was to avoid pressure from the Rouran. Further, the Hephthalites defeated the Yuezhi in Bactria and their leader Kidara led the Yuezhi to the south.
The Rouran controlled the area of Mongolia from the Manchurian border to Turpan and, perhaps, the east coast of Lake Balkhash, and from the Orkhon River to China proper. Their ancestor Mugulu is said to have been originally a slave of the Tuoba tribes, situated at the north banks of Yellow River Bend. Mugulu's descendant Yujiulü Shelun is said to be the first chieftain who was able to unify the Rouran tribes and to found the power of the Rouran by defeating the Tiele and Xianbei. Shelun was also the first of the steppe peoples to adopt the title of khagan (可汗) in 402, originally a title of the Xianbei nobility.
The Rouran and the Hephthalites had a falling out and problems within their confederation were encouraged by Chinese agents. In 508, the Tiele defeated the Rouran in battle. In 516, the Rouran defeated the Tiele. Within the Rouran confederation was a Turkic tribe noted in Chinese annals as the Göktürks (Chinese: 突厥). After a marriage proposal to the Rouran was rebuffed, the Göktürks joined the Western Wei, successor state of the Northern Wei, and revolted against the Rouran. In 555, they beheaded 3,000 Rouran. A better date for their defeat may be 552. Some scholars claim that the Rouran then fled west across the steppes and became the Avars, though many other scholars contest this claim. The remainder of the Rouran fled into China, were absorbed into the border guards, and disappeared forever as an entity. The last khagan fled to the court of the Western Wei, but at the demand of Tujue, Western Wei executed him and the nobles who accompanied him.
Little is known of the Rouran ruling elite, which the Book of Wei cited as an offshoot of the Xianbei. The territory of the Rouran Khaganate comprised Mongolia, Buryatia, Zabaykalsky Krai, southern Irkutsk Oblast, Tuva, Altay Republic, Altay Krai, northern Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, eastern Kazakhstan, southern Siberia and Northeast China from the late 4th century. Their frequent interventions and invasions profoundly affected neighboring countries. Though they admitted the Ashina of Göktürk into their federation, the power of the Rouran was broken by an alliance of Göktürk, the states of Northern Qi and Northern Zhou, and the Central Asian tribes in 555. The Northern Wei, for instance, established the Six Garrisons bordering the Rouran, which later became the foci of several major mutinies in the early 6th century.