Qiang (historical people)
|Regions with significant populations|
The Qiang (Chinese: 羌; pinyin: Qiāng; Wade–Giles: Ch'iang) was a name given to various groups of people at different periods in ancient China. The Qiang people are generally thought to have been of Tibetan-Burmese origin, though there are other theories.
The term "Qiang" appears in the Classic of Poetry in reference to Tang of Shang (trad. 1675–1646 BC). They seem to have lived in a diagonal band from northern Shaanxi to northern Henan, somewhat to the south of the later Beidi. They were enemy of the Shang dynasty, who mounted expeditions against them, capturing slaves and victims for human sacrifice. The Qiang prisoners were skilled in making oracle bones.
This ancient tribe is said to be the progenitor of both the modern Qiang and the Tibetan people. There are still many ethnological and linguistic links between the Qiang and the Tibetans. The Qiang tribe expanded eastward and joined the Han people in the course of historical development, while the other branch that traveled southwards, crosses over the Hengduan Mountains, and entered the Yungui Plateau; some went even farther, to Burma, forming numerous ethnic groups of the Tibetan-Burmese language family. Even today, from linguistic similarities, their relative relationship can be seen. They formed the Tibetan ethnicity after the unification of the Tubo kingdom. The historical origins of the Qiang and Tibetan races is perhaps as Professor Fei Xiaotong has said: "Even if the Qiang people might not be regarded as the main source of the Tibetan people, it is undoubtedly that the Qiang people played a certain role in the formation of Tibetan race" (Fei Xiaotong: The Pluralistic and Unified Structure of Chinese Ethnic Groups, P28, The Central Ethnic University Publishing, 1999).
According to the Shuowen Jiezi, the Qiang were shepherds, part of the Xirong. They had a close relation to the Zhou dynasty, who may themselves have come from the Rong, and were mentioned in the Book of Documents and Records of the Grand Historian as one of the allies of King Wu of Zhou who defeated the Shang. Christopher I. Beckwith proposes that the word "Qiang" possibly has an Indo-European etymology and that the Qiang were of Indo-European origin; From the modern Chinese Qiang (Chinese: 羌; pinyin: Qiāng; Wade–Giles: Ch'iang), Sinologist Edwin G. Pulleyblank reconstructs the Old Chinese *klaŋ, which Beckwith compares to the Tocharian word klānk, meaning "to ride, go by wagon", as in "to ride off to hunt from a chariot", so that Qiang could actually mean "charioteer". It has been suggested that the clan of Jiang Yuan, mother of Houji, a figure of Chinese legends and mythology and an ancestor of the Zhou dynasty, was possibly related or identical to the Qiang. Some of these groups were called the "Horse-Qiang" or "Many-Horse-Qiang" (Ma Qiang or Duo Ma Qiang), suggesting they may have been horse breeders. Not until the rise of the state of Qin under Duke Mu was the Qiang expansion effectively halted.
During the Han dynasty, a group of nomads to the southwest of Dunhuang were known as the Chuo Qiang (Chinese: 婼羌). They were described in the Book of Han as a people who moved with their livestock in search of water and pasture, made military weapons themselves using iron from the mountains, and possessed bows, lances, short knives, swords and armour. In the Weilüe, other Qiang tribes named were the "Brown Onion", "White Horse", and "Yellow Ox" Qiang. The various tribes of the Qiangs formed a confederation against the Han but were defeated.
Later in the Han Dynasty, groups of people in the western part of Sichuan were mentioned in the Book of the Later Han as separate branches of the Qiang. A song from one of these groups, the "White Wolf" people, was transcribed in Chinese characters together with Chinese translation, and the language has since been identified as a Tibeto-Burman language.
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