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Ancient Hun Capital Bids for World Cultural Site

Shaanxi Province is preparing to apply for world cultural and natural heritage listing for its Tongwancheng Town, the world's only ruins of ancient Huns, ancient Chinese nomadic tribe which fought across northern China, central Asia and Europe.


"The ruined town will give important clues to the study of the Huns who disappeared nearly 1,000 years ago," said Zhang Tinghao, director of the Shaanxi Cultural Relics Bureau.


The 1,600-year-old ruined town is in Jingbian County of northwest China's Shaanxi Province. The place is only 500 kilometers away from Xi'an, which was named Chang'an in ancient times and served as the capital of six feudal dynasties.


The Huns, thriving in the third century B.C., became one of the largest nomadic ethnic group in North China and established the first slave regime of the nomadic ethnic tribe in China at the end of the Second Century B.C.


During the Qin (221-206 B.C.) and the Han (206-220 B.C.) dynasties, the Huns subdued regimes ruled by other northern ethnic groups in the Western Regions which included present-day Xinjiang and parts of Central Asia, and became a big threat to the domain of feudal empires in the Central Plains.


During the first century B.C., the Huns were defeated by imperial troops led by Emperor Hanwu, the most famous in the Western Han Dynasty, and then split into two parts, the Northern Huns and the Southern Huns.


From the year 89 to 91 A.D., the main force of the Northern Huns, defeated by the Southern Huns and the imperial troops of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) successively, moved to the Ili River valley, Central Asia, regions east to the Don River and the Volga River valley.


"The Huns played an important role in the world history, especially in the shaping of the European nationalities and the development of European history," said Lin Gan, a professor specializing in the study of Huns at the Inner Mongolian University.


In 374, Huns migrating westwards exterminated the country established by the Alanis, raising the curtain of the Nordic nomadic nationalities' aggression of the European farming nationalities. It is just under the pressure of the Huns that the Goths invaded the Roman Empire and even reached the city gate of Rome. And in the fifth century, the Huns, after crossing over the Danube River and the Rhine River, entered into the western Europe and established the Attila Empire in the fifth century.


Tongwancheng Town, as the capital of Daxia, a regime established by the descendants of the Huns in the fifth century, was one of the most complete, grand and solid capitals ever built by minority ethnic groups in Chinese history and the only capital city of the Huns still exist in the world.


"Construction of the Tongwancheng Town is another great feat made by human beings, reflecting people's strong desire for survival and development on desert," said Hou Yongjian, professor with the Shaanxi Normal University.


"The unique architectural feature and integrity of the Tongwancheng Town shown by aviation remote sensing and archaeological excavation have been generally recognized by experts both at home and abroad, that's why the Shaanxi provincial government selects the Tongwancheng capital site as a candidate for the world cultural and natural heritage list," said Liu Fulai, a research member with Shaanxi Archaeological Research Institute specializing in history of the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-581).


The Tongwancheng Town comprises three parts: the palace section and the inner and the outer sections. The palace section is where the imperial palace located in, the inner section consists of government offices and the dwelling region of officials and royal relatives, while the outer section is the residential area of the common people.


"The town layout is quite ingenious. Built according to the terrain, the northwestern part of the town is higher and the southeastern part is lower, which effectively impeded cold winter wind blown from the north and fully took advantage of the river resources in the north of the town," said Dai Yingxin, an archaeologists who has been engaged in the survey and excavation at the Tongwancheng Town site for years.


As the town site is under the threat of desertification, the State Council designated Tongwancheng town as a cultural relics under top state protection in 1996.


Systematic restoration on Tongwancheng town has been launched. Repair of the Yong'an Platform, where Helianbobo, emperor of the Daxia regime, reviewed parading troops, has been finished and restoration on the 31-meter-tall turret will begin soon, said Gao Zhan who is in charge of routine management of this cultural relics.


"As a nationality, the Huns have disappeared, but many Huns have survived. A number of scholars consider the Hungarians are descendants of the Huns," said Wang Shiping, a research fellow with the Shaanxi Historical Museum.


The opinion was echoed by some Hungarian researchers. They say their homeland is closely related with the descendants of the Huns.


In addition, the cultural customs of the Huns still exist in many parts of the world.


For example, Hujia, a musical instrument once peculiar to the Huns, now is popular in Mongolia, Russia and North China's Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region and Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. 


(Xinhua News Agency April 7, 2004)

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