Qiang (Chinese: ; pinyin: Qiāng; Wade–Giles: Ch'iang) was a name given to various groups of people at different periods in ancient China. The Qiang people were thought to be of Tibetan-Burmese origin, and the Tangut people of Tang, Sung and Yuan Dynasties may be of a people of Qiang descent.[1]


The term "Qiang" appears in the Shi Jing in reference to Tang of Shang (trad. 1675–1646 BC).[2] 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 sacrificial victims. The Qiang prisoners were skilled in making oracle bones.[3]

According to Shuowen, they were shepherds, part of the Xirong people.[4] They had a close relation to Zhou, and were mentioned in Shujing and Shiji as one of the allies of King Wu of Zhou who defeated the Shang.[5] The Zhou themselves may also have a Rong origin.[1] 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.[3] 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 (婼羌). They were described in Hanshu 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.[6] In Weilüe other Qiang tribes named were Congzi (Brown Onions Qiang), Baima (White Horse Qiang), and Huangniu Qiang (Yellow Ox Qiang).[7] The various tribes of the Qiangs formed a confederation against the Han but were defeated.[8]

Later in the Han Dynasty, groups of people in the western part of Sichuan were mentioned Hou Hanshu as separate branches of the Qiangs. 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 Tibetan-Burman.[1]

A Qiang leader, Yao Chang, founded the Later Qin kingdom (384–417 AD) during the Sixteen Kingdoms period of Chinese history.


  1. ^ a b c Edwin G. Pulleyblank (1983). "Chapter 14 - The Chinese and Their Neighbors in Prehistoric and Early Historic Times". In David Keightley (ed.). The Origins of Chinese Civilization. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-04229-8.
  2. ^ Shi Jing, Sacrificial Odes of Shang, Yin Wu. 《詩經·商頌·殷武》: "昔有成湯,自彼氐羌,莫敢不來享,莫敢不來王"。
  3. ^ a b Nicola Di Cosmo. "The Northern Frontier in Pre-Imperial China". In Michael Loewe, Edward L. Shaughness (ed.). The Cambridge History of Ancient China: From the Origins of Civilization to 221 B.C. Cambridge University Press. p. 908. ISBN 0-521-47030-7.
  4. ^ Shouwen Original text: 羌:西戎牧羊人也。从人从羊,羊亦聲。
  5. ^ Shiji 武王曰:「嗟!我有國冢君,司徒、司馬、司空,亞旅、師氏,千夫長、百夫長,及庸、蜀、羌、髳、微、纑、彭、濮人,稱爾戈,比爾干,立爾矛,予其誓。」
  6. ^ Hulsewé, A. F. P. (1979). China in Central Asia: The Early Stage 125 BC – AD 23: an annotated translation of chapters 61 and 96 of the History of the Former Han Dynasty. E. Brill, Leiden. pp. 80–81. ISBN 90-04-05884-2.
  7. ^ Annotated translation of the Weilüe by John E. Hill
  8. ^ Joseph P. Yap (2009). "Chapter 9 - War with Qiang". Wars With the Xiongnu: A Translation from Zizhi Tongjian. AuthorHouse. pp. 324–340. ISBN 978-1-4490-0605-1.