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Posted on 21 November 2014
We’ve previously talked about how the Donghu survived being conquered by their enemies by reforming under different names and identities. Sometimes it was, like with the Xiongnu, as a hidden minority inside the larger culture. But remember that the Donghu were horse-backed nomads, and geniuses as coordinated mobility.
When a Donghu tribe was defeated by an adversary, survivors could scatter like weeds to reform in new locations. And so even though the Donghu were overrun by the Xiongnu, elements of their society reformed nearby as the Xianbei in the north and the Wuhuan in the west. But they did not stop warring with the Xiongnu, and eventually the Xianbei defeated their ancient enemies.
With the Xiongnu on their knees, and after a period of conflict with the Wuhuan, the descendents of the Donghu reformed as the Xianbei Confederation. As befitted egalitarian Donghu principles, they elected their new leader, the great Khan known as Tanshihuai
Under Tanshihuai, the Xianbei made the Truth of their Donghu forebears the centerpiece of their society. And it made them powerful – and feared. Their southern neighbors, the Han Chinese, were especially uneasy, and in 177 AD they launched a massive attack against the Xianbei. 30,000 Han soldiers assaulted the Xianbei. Only 6,000 returned. It was a slaughter, and it cemented Tanshuhuai Khan as one of the most powerful men in the world. Xianbei was on the cusp of dominating the majority of Asia.
The rulers of the Han Dynasty, notoriously corrupt and willing to do anything to keep their grip on power, began looking for other ways to defeat their northern enemy. And while there’s no definitely proof of their involvement, three short years later Tanshihuai Khan was mysteriously dead, supposedly due to sickness. And after his death, the Xianbei split into warring factions and did not threaten the Han again.
This pattern continued for centuries, with Donghu-affiliated tribes organizing into new dynasties that flourished until corrupting influences drove them apart. The cycle reached its apex when a young military commander from the Khamag Mongol Confederation named Temüjin used his study of Tanshihuai – and through him, Donghu principles and practices – to unite all the tribes of Mongolia into an empire that changed the entire course of world history. Of course, today we know Temüjin by the name he took when he ascended to power: Genghis Khan.
Students of the Donghu, once again we see the ebb and flow of victory and defeat, from reformation to disintegration. From this, learn one of the signal truths of the Donghu – the battle is never over. Even when you are alone and lost, each step you take into darkness only brings you closer to emerging back into the light.