Throughout China’s history and during the Romance of the Three Kingdoms period, there were always Xiongnu attacking/invading China’s borders and lands. Even the great wall of China was build by many centuries of Chinese emperors to block northern barbarians such as the Xiongnu from invading China’s rich lands.
Modu Chanyu was born c. 234 BCE was the fourth known emperor and founder of the Xiongnu Empire after he killed his father in 209 BCE. Modu ruled from 209 BCE to 174 BCE. He was a military leader under his father Touman, and later the Chanyu and king of the Xiongnu, centered in modern-day Mongolia.
Once he had secured the throne, he established a powerful Xiongnu Empire by successfully unifying the tribes of the Mongolian steppes and hence posed an imminent threat to the Chinese Qin Dynasty. His Xiongnu Empire was one of the largest of his time – the eastern border stretched as far as the Liao River, the western borders of the empire reached the Pamir Mountains whilst the northern border reached Lake Baikal. He was succeeded by his son Laoshang.
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According to Sima Qian, Modu was a gifted child but his father Touman wanted the son of another of his wives to succeed him. To eliminate Modu as a competitor to his chosen heir, Touman sent the young Modu to the Yuezhi people as a hostage; then he attacked the Yuezhi in the hopes that they would kill Modu as retribution. Modu was able to escape this fate by stealing a fast horse and returned to the Xiongnu, where he returned a hero. In reward for this show of bravery, his father appointed him the commander of 10,000 horsemen.
Due to his reputation for bravery, Modu began to gather a group of extremely loyal warriors. To be sure of their loyalty, Modu ordered each of the warriors to shoot Modu’s favorite horse. Those who refused were executed. Afterwards, he did this again but with one of his favorite wives and once again executed those who hesitated to do so. After he was sure of the loyalty of his remaining warriors, he ordered them to shoot at his father, killing him in a shower of arrows. With none of his followers failing to shoot at his command and the elimination of his father, Modu proclaimed himself Chanyu of the Xiongnu.
After his self-proclaimed ascension to the title of Chanyu, Modu began to eliminate those who would prove a threat to his newly acquired power. Thus, he proceeded to execute his rival half-brother, his step-mother, and other Xiongnu officials who refused to support his rule. After coming to power in 209 BC, Modu began to act on his ambitions to become the sole ruler over the Central Asian steppes, finding substantial success through both military strength and clever strategy.
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