Ancient China Enemies

In ancient history, Chinese states – or warlords within the same state – often fought each other.

When the armies weren’t busy fighting internal enemies, they faced external ones.
Qiang People

China’s greatest foreign enemies were several peoples and coalitions that lived near the borders of Chinese states.


Some of them were nomadic tribes, while others made their settlements around Chinese cities.

  • Xirong or simply Rong was the name that meant “Western warlike people” in Chinese. It stood for various peoples who lived mostly in and around the farthest points of ancient China, especially to the west of the Zhou state (although they live there even before the Zhou state was formed).
  • The Xiongnu were a tribal alliance of nomadic peoples that lived throughout the eastern Eurasian Steppe around the 3rd century BCE to the end of the 1st century CE.In the 2nd century BC, these peoples controlled much of the north-east Central Asia steppes. The Chinese had complex relations with the Xiongnu – sometimes they exchanged trade and tribute, and acted as allies, and at other times they fought each other.
  • The Xianbei were another nomadic tribal alliance. They lived in present-day eastern and Inner Mongolia, and Northeast China. The Han dynasty of China categorized the Xianbei as one of the Fiva Barbarians.
  • Qiang was a name that the Chinese used to denote various groups of people at different times, including one of the oldest nations in western China.
  • The Jié were a Yeniseian tribe that occupied Northern China in the 4th century. Later they became known as one of the Five Barbarians.
  • The Di was another ancient ethnic group that belonged to the alliance that the Chinese called the Five Barbarians. They lived in western China, and they took part in the attack on northern China during the Jin Dynasty.

Xiongnu States


What was the name that the Chinese used for a group of five tribes that often threatened their borderlines?

Those were the Five Barbarians.

What was the name of a tribal association that sometimes was an ally – and at other times an enemy – of Chinese armies?

These tribes were named the Xiongnu.

What the word Xirong meant in ancient Chinese?

It meant “Western warlike people.” The name was used to denote a number of particularly aggressive tribes to the West of China.