Were the Xiongnu under Maodun the largest empire in the world?

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,588
#41
The former, and I'm talking about a Xiongnu official near there, not a Han one.


I'll beg to differ how the Xiongnu is not as centralized as the Mongols, the Shiji mentioned the Xiongnu as being more centralized than the early Han (fief system), and the Chanyu had control over all 24 of its Tumens. The idea that the Xiongnu Empire is a decentralized alliance of tribes is an outdated Soviet era trope that few scholars in the past decade follows. As for not having fixed location, that depends on where. There are a number of Xiongnu agricultural sites found, and the Xiongnu "Governor of slaves" 僮仆都尉 is a sedentary office stationed in the Western Region itself (near Karasahr) which collected tax from the Western region and oversaw their politics; it was the equivalent of the Han Protectorate general of the Western Region.
Good point on the outerwalls but I was thinking of that map more westernmost and easternmost extensions because in my opinion it is even more difficult to quantify extent of Han control north and south because of the hazy borders of the tributaries that the Han definitely dominated in both those directions.

Saying the Xiongnu are not as centralized as the Mongols is not the same as saying Xiongnu were not centralized- in fact, they show many evidences of centralization and in my opinion Mongol merely continued this steppe tradition of centralization and carried it out more efficiently and on a larger scale but not entirely different.

Most nomadic confederations had some sedentary farming or industrial stations but more rarely were such places full fledged towns- in the towns that did exist it was usually a different population/culture which existed there and basically paid protection to the most powerful group in the area.

Thanks for saying the office you were talking about at Karasahr was a Xiongnu appointed there because I was a bit confused why you mentioned it in context of Han control further SW.
 
May 2012
321
Heaven
#42
You don't need a writing system to perform calculations.
Really?How can you calculate tax without numeral system(a part of writing system)?Ancient Egyptian had a writing system from 3200 BC but expert thought that "The first known taxation took place in Ancient Egypt around 3000–2800 BC", around 300 years after numeral and writing system.Tax was collected from individual taxpayers,so you can't remember all amount of them by your mind only.However,if you require tribute from a tribe,you need remember some numbers and talk to the chieftain.
You know what an oasis is? It's a natural part of a desert where a water source and vegetation is present. It's not an achievement to build a settlement there. Just like Xiongnu the Romans were unable to station forces in huge swathes of the desert where no water source could be reliably found
It is a half of truth.Oasis has water to feed the life but it often isn't enough for crop.Roman had some forts in extreme places like Tisavar(Ksar Ghilane).It's 2 km form it's oasis and surrounded by vast dunes:

 
Sep 2016
535
天下
#43
Really?How can you calculate tax without numeral system(a part of writing system)?Ancient Egyptian had a writing system from 3200 BC but expert thought that "The first known taxation took place in Ancient Egypt around 3000–2800 BC", around 300 years after numeral and writing system.Tax was collected from individual taxpayers,so you can't remember all amount of them by your mind only.However,if you require tribute from a tribe,you need remember some numbers and talk to the chieftain.
1. Xiongnu didn't need actual writing system, as the steppe administration was quite rudimentary. Taxes weren't collected from tribes, but from settled population.
2. The settled populations of Xiongnu had not one, but multiple writing systems employed. And that's even disregarding that you don't need anything beyond rudimentary symbols to keep track of items in your inventory.
3. The apex of Xiongnu is 3 millennia after the claim from your quote. And that's after centuries of living next to a civilisation with quite well developed administrative aparatus (including taxation). Surely, the idea of taxation wasn't unfamiliar to them.

It is a half of truth.Oasis has water to feed the life but it often isn't enough for crop.Roman had some forts in extreme places like Tisavar(Ksar Ghilane).It's 2 km form it's oasis and surrounded by vast dunes:
No one said anything about agriculture. Grains could easily be transported from the nearest settlement. Tisavar must have had enough of water supply back then, otherwise such position would be untenable for any army. The same can be said about Tarim, where NO force was able to build settlements in the middle of the desert, exactly because there was no viable territory to do so.
 
May 2012
321
Heaven
#44
You seemed don't know anything i wrote.May be your English have a problem?
Firstly,scientists showed very clear that writing system was compulsory before installing any kind of tax.So,If a tribe don't have any writing system,they can't tax anyone.The first tax was assumed that it appeared from 3000 - 2800 BC in ancient Egyptian,not an exact time.It doesn't mean every tribes would have tax after this time.You tried to separate taxation from tax although it is unreliable.You probably never read about tax.Tax includes three parts: the name/kind of tax,taxpayer(individual) and rate.Xiongnu lacked taxpayer and rate,they hadn't named any kind of collection.
Secondly,how it is easy?
Grains could easily be transported from the nearest settlement.
1.230 mm per year is minimum rainfall for dryland(the worst planting land) and nearest settlement couldn't so far from forts.Moreover,"...Dryland farming has evolved as a set of techniques and management practices used by farmers to continually adapt to the presence or lack of moisture in a given crop cycle...This work couldn't be done without a good aqueduct system.Farming was very limited in Xiongnu tribes,it never provided enough grain for any region.So Xiongnu couldn't transport enough grain for any fort inside Taklamakan as your imagine.
 
Sep 2012
1,079
Taiwan
#45
Not strictly my area, but flicking through Kradin's chapter in Xiongnu Archaeology, he mentions the Xiongnu only attempted to institute taxation once (presumably unsuccessfully) under Jiyu; that aside, any 'tax' would have been in the form of tribute or extortion etc. Source seems to be ZZTJ, but I'm too sleepy to check which juan. Edit: nope, it's Shiji 110, getting my Sima's confused; I'm that tired ha
 
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May 2012
321
Heaven
#46
but flicking through Kradin's chapter in Xiongnu Archaeology, he mentions the Xiongnu only attempted to institute taxation once (presumably unsuccessfully) under Jiyu; that aside, any 'tax' would have been in the form of tribute or extortion etc.
Yes.It isn't easy to install taxes.We need collector,tablets,granaries,strorages and transporters.
 

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,588
#47
1.230 mm per year is minimum rainfall for dryland(the worst planting land) and nearest settlement couldn't so far from forts.Moreover,"...Dryland farming has evolved as a set of techniques and management practices used by farmers to continually adapt to the presence or lack of moisture in a given crop cycle...This work couldn't be done without a good aqueduct system.Farming was very limited in Xiongnu tribes,it never provided enough grain for any region.So Xiongnu couldn't transport enough grain for any fort inside Taklamakan as your imagine.
Why are you fixated on which civilizations maintained garrisons in empty, unproductive land? The only reason to do so is to protect trade routes or because the drylands are not enough of a barrier to other peoples who would raid across the border. High desert is one of the harshest environments on this earth that people can still survive for a few days in most seasons but living permanently requires sustained effort in water engineering or an outside community supporting the settlement for some other reason.

Xiongnu were definitely a large empire and at some points among the top 3 at the time it existed. If we start crossing off large parts of the map because few people lived there it gets crazy because what are the parameters? Russia controlled Alaska with only a few hundred traders but that was enough of a claim to get the U.S. to pay a huge amount of money while many colonial powers claimed huge areas of Africa with even fewer people but it shows on maps coloured in with whichever colour represents that Empire.
 
Likes: No Bias FTW
Mar 2012
4,371
#48
1.It is clear that heaven don't know the meaning "tax".Xiongnu empire is an allied tribes,not a nation so they never have any kind of tax.
Cambridge dictionary:
tax: (an amount of) money paid to the government that is based on your incomeor the cost of goods or services you have bought
tribute: respect or admiration for someone, or a formal event at which respect andadmiration are expressed
税 translate in "tax" in English but ancient Chinese author didn't distinguish "tribute" and "tax".You misunderstood "tax".
It's like playing lute to an ox. The Xiongnu is absolutely not an alliance of tribes, its a centralized empire where the ruler can put to death any local governors, and the Shiji mentioned plenty cases of that (from the Xiu Tuwang in Gansu to the Rizhuwang in Xinjiang both submitting to the Han because they feared the Chanyu might punish them for their losses). Xiongnu agricultural sites and walled areas have been found throughout Siberia and Mongolia with a consistent style, showing the spread of a centralized command structure. Han sources even mentioned the Xiongnu Empire as more centralized than the feudatory nature of the early Han, implying a high degree of central control over the regions, certainly more so than places like Parthia, whose feudal nature is even less centralized than that of the early Han.
Also, nomads pay tax too, its simply wrong to assume that they had no control structure. Nomads have strict boundary lines on where they could graze as well and passing that grazing area is an imfringement of other tribe's grazing rights and punishable by nomadic regulations; whether written or not. This is what Christopher Atwood calls an "appanage community". The only difference between nomads and sedentary people is that their mode of production differed, and hence what they paid in tax differed (cattles vs crops). Tang Shu even mentioned Turkic tribes in the north paying taxes in cattle to the Tang, and they did the same to the Ashina dynasty before.
As for ancient Chinese not understanding the difference between tax and tribute, you are just wrong again. Tax is 税 tribute is 贡, they are very clearly distinguished.


Yes.It isn't easy to install taxes.We need collector,tablets,granaries,strorages and transporters.

No we don't. The Xiongnu having agicultural offices and settlements aside, if the tax was in cattle, all you need is a herder to take them away. Stop applying an agricultural centric perspective on taxation, Christopher Atwood and other Mongolists have demonstrated very clearly that nomads pay tax, just in a different way, but its easy for nomads to collect tax from other nomads or punish them because of their similar lifestyle.
 
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Sep 2016
535
天下
#49
You seemed don't know anything i wrote.May be your English have a problem?
My English is a problem? That's funny.

Firstly,scientists showed very clear that writing system was compulsory before installing any kind of tax.
Nothing you posted proved so. And it's immaterial as the areas in Xiongnu introduced taxation there were writing systems present, like Kharosthi, Brahmi or Chinese. There's no reason to assume that they wouldn't employ it, if you so insist on it being a prerequisite.

1.230 mm per year is minimum rainfall for dryland(the worst planting land) and nearest settlement couldn't so far from forts.Moreover,"...Dryland farming has evolved as a set of techniques and management practices used by farmers to continually adapt to the presence or lack of moisture in a given crop cycle...This work couldn't be done without a good aqueduct system.Farming was very limited in Xiongnu tribes,it never provided enough grain for any region.So Xiongnu couldn't transport enough grain for any fort inside Taklamakan as your imagine.
Immaterial. Farming was not done by Xiongnu as they weren't living anywhere close to Takla Makan. It was done by local Tocharians, Saka, or whoever else was living in the oases around the desert at that time and where robust irrigation systems were present. They could produce enough supplies to garrison the potential fort in the desert nearby.
 
May 2012
321
Heaven
#50
Immaterial. Farming was not done by Xiongnu as they weren't living anywhere close to Takla Makan. It was done by local Tocharians, Saka, or whoever else was living in the oases around the desert at that time and where robust irrigation systems were present
It 's your idea only.Can you post farming sites of Tocharians,Saka and other tribes around Taklamakan.How many tons of grain did they produce in past?They produced enough grain for their life or they had extra food for other sites like ouposts?Don't forget that many commandery in Han Dynasty faced great famines in past.Even Shiji recorded in some region :"people eat each others".
Secondly, food and water transport is a problem.
It needed 2 requirements: safe roads and suitable transport.Roman used dromedarii - camel riders to protect roads and many other camels to transport food.Nothing like it happened in Xiongnu empire and Han Dynasty.They use camels mainly for food and didn't know other significant benefits of this animal.
if the tax was in cattle, all you need is a herder to take them away
So ignorant.You don't know anything about tax so I won't argue with you until you read some books about it.You are saying about tribute and even you don't know that.Mesopotami,Roman taxed in cattles.It actually is more complex than farming tax,they had to write the quantity of herd which needed to collect from each taxpayers,sign them by signals and even calculate their value because value of each animals is so different.For instance,Dioclentian's edict fixed : 1 racing horse = 100,000 denari but 1 first quality war horse = 36,000 denari and 1 dark horse = 10.000 denari only.Besides,how can drive 100 horses,200 cattles100 goats cross over 900 km from Shule (疏勒) to Yanqi and claim that the number of herd didn't change in this road with one herder only?Can you solve this problem?heave.n