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Nanman (simplified Chinese: 南蛮; traditional Chinese: 南蠻; pinyin: Nánmán; Wade–Giles: Nan-man; literally "southern 'barbarians'") were aboriginal tribes who lived in southwestern China. They may have been related to the Sanmiao, dated to around the 3rd century BC. The Nanman were multiple ethnic groups including the Miao, the Kinh, the Thai, and some Tibeto-Burman groups such as the Bai. There was never a single polity that united these people. During the Three Kingdoms period, the state of Shu Han ruled over southwestern China. After the death of Shu Han's founder, Liu Bei, the tribesmen of the region rebelled against Shu Han's rule. The Shu Han chancellor, Zhuge Liang, led a successful expedition to quell the rebellion.
In the novel Romance of Three Kingdoms, the rebellious Nanman tribes are depicted as an alliance under the leadership of Meng Huo. Meng Huo is said to have submitted to the rule of Shu Han after being captured and released no fewer than seven times by Zhuge Liang. This story has been adapted into many other works of fiction over the centuries, as well as video games based on the era. During the Tang Dynasty, the Miao (Hmong) ceased as a major non-Chinese group except in the province of Yunnan where they were ruled by the six "Zhao" (詔). The southernmost, known as Mengshezhao (蒙舍詔) or Nanzhao (南詔), united all six Zhaos and founded the first independent Nanman state during the early 8th century. The royalties were thought to be the Bai people. Nanzhao regularly paid tributes through the head of military district Jiannan Jiedushi (劍南節度使). When the Tang Dynasty gradually declined, Nanman gained more independence, but was assimilated by later dynasties. However, some of Nanzhao's cultural influence was carried south due to its location.