Modu Shanyu

Modu Shanyu

Infobox Monarch
name =(Mete Han(Khan)in Turkish language)Modu Shanyu
title =Xiongnu Khan

caption =Domain and influence of Xiongnu under Motun at the start of his rule.
reign =209 BCE - 174 BCE
coronation =
othertitles =
full name = (Mete Han(Khan)in Turkish language) Baatur Tengrikhan Mao-Tun
predecessor =Toumen (father)
successor =Laoshang
suc-type =
heir =
queen =
consort =
spouse 1 =
spouse 2 =
spouse 3 =
spouse 4 =
spouse 5 =
spouse 6 =
issue =
royal house = Turul clan
dynasty = Dulo
royal anthem =
father = Toumen
mother =
date of birth = 234
place of birth =
date of death =
place of death =
date of burial =
place of burial =|

Modun Shanyu (Chinese: 冒頓單于, Baatur, Bator, Baghadur, Bahadır)(in modern Turkish Bahadır) (born 234 BC) was the founder of the Asian Hun Empire (Xiongnu Empire), in 209 BC. According to Chinese records, the name is Modu. The beginning of his rule is also accepted as the formation of the first systematic nomad army. The years of his rule were 209 BCE to 174 BCE.

He was a military leader under his father Touman, and later the Shanyu and emperor of the Xiongnu Empire, located in modern day Mongolia. He made many conquests in Central Asia, before the Turkic Göktürks, Genghis Khan and the Mongol conquests.

Legend to the throne

His legendary ascension to the throne was recorded by Chinese scholars. [The Turul clan, From Scythia to the City of King Attila. Dezso Dummert, Budapest, Hungary, 1978]

He was the eldest son of Toumen, the Khan of the Xiongnu at the time. Since his childhood, Modu was well-known for his outstanding courage and valor. He was so valourous that he was regarded as one of the most heroic men in the realm. However, a beauty called E'shi was the favourite wife of Toumen Khan and he decided to raise her son to be his successor. Touman's new wife had wanted to kill Modu so he adopted a cruel plot to kill Modu by another person's hands: the Khan sent Modu to the Yuezhi, another tribe, as a hostage and then he waged wars against them, to make Modu the victim. Fortunately, Modu had sensed something suspicious so he pretended to be seriously sick when he was staying in the Yuezhi camp. His guards then slackened their guard. In the evening when the Khan was massing his troops to attack the Yuezhi tribe, Modu killed the guards, stole the Yuezhi's precious horse and fled. To avoid the pursuit of the Yuezhi tribe and a surprise attack by the Khan, Modu disguised himself and could return.

Later for his bravery his father gave him a "tumen" of soldiers. He controlled his 10,000 men strictly, and trained them hard every day for battle.

On a hunting trip, he killed his father with a fatal arrow shot to seek revenge for deceiving him. Also his father's wife and the rival heir were executed. After this he gained the leadership of all the tribes his father had controlled and he was crowned as the new Xiongnu ruler. He disciplined all the tribes for warfare and to follow his every command. Legend says that he invented the whistling arrow, and commanded every man to shoot and charge in the direction of the sound. Sometimes he tested his soldiers' loyalty: commanded them to kill his favorite wife (concubine), or favorite horse. Whoever questioned or hesitated to follow his orders were immediately executed. He became feared and respected by his men and none would dare to challenge his authority. After his army was ready for war, he began his conquests.

The rise of the Xiongnu Empire

First he marched on the Donghu, the Xiongnu’s eastern neighbours, and brought them under his rule in 208 BC. After his Donghu campaign (the Donghu split into Xianbei and Wuhuan); he defeated the other Turkic peoples living in Northern Mongolia like the Dingling and finally he defeated the Yuezhi in 203 BC and brought them under the Xiongnu rule. With these victories, he was able to gain the control of the important trade roads, which later supplied the Xiongnu with great incomes. He later (in 200 BC) fought a three-year campaign with the Han Dynasty of China, and defeated (more accurately, trapped) the Han ruler Gaodi, forcing him to pay yearly tributes to the Xiongnu: when Emperor Gao of Han Dynasty launched a military offensive against him, Modu (with 40,000 soldiers) lured the Han army into a trap and ambushed the emperor reputedly with 300,000 elite Xiongnu cavalry, and encircled them for seven days at Baideng. The emperor was cut off from supplies and reinforcements. The siege was only relieved when the Han royal court sent spies to bribe Modu's wife. The result of this campaign resulted in Han China resorting to the humiliating "marriage alliance" strategy with Xiongnu for the next seventy years.

Modu never tried to invade China completely, because he thought that a foreign dynasty couldn't have ruled such a vast country for a long time. After his Chinese Campaign, Modu forced the Yuezhi and the Wusun to become vassals of the Xiongnu.

During his reign, many peoples were brought under Xiongnu rule. He united all of them under one empire, all the nomad horse archer tribes of the steppes. Apart from his nomadic subjects, Modu also made the oasis city-states of the Tarim Basin swear fealty to him. His organizations in both military and administration were later used by many other Central Asian peoples and states.

Under his rule, he launched 26 major war campaigns to conquer 26 countries, and became greatly feared widely throughout Asia, even in the mighty Chinese Empire. He was a great warrior and a master tactician and was undefeated in his battles against many empires including the Chinese.

It is believed by scholars that his life story created the historical basis for the legend of Oghuz Khan.


The word "Baatur" (Batur, Bator) means brave, courageous, in old Hunnic, Mongolian, Turkic languages and Hungarian language. Baghadur (Baghatur): hadur means warlord in Hungarian.So his name approximately could be translated to meaning Brave Warlord.

Modu Shanyu in popular culture

Modu appeared in the action RPG The Prince of Qin as a hero who can be part of the team. He belongs to the "Muscleman" character class. In the game, Modu first appeared in Yanmen Pass and meets the main character Prince Fusu. The player can choose to help him kill his evil father Toumen and seize the position of Khan of the Xiongnu. In return, Modu can join the team and promises not to wage war on the Central Plains for ten years.

Modu was also depicted as the villain, Shan Yu, in Disney's Mulan based on the Chinese folk tale of Hua Mulan. Much like the history of the Xiongnu, the fictional Shan Yu was identified as a Hun that led nomadic warriors who threatened China's northern border during the Han dynasty.


c.234 - 174 BCKing of the Huns

Mao-tun was the first great ruler of the Huns, a Turkish-speaking nomadic people to the north of China.

After killing his father Mao-tun united the Huns in central Asia in a large military state and invaded China. He withdrew only after the Chinese proposed to pay tribute. He then campaigned westwards where he advanced as far as Turkestan.

External links

* [ The Xiongnu Empire]


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