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Wow! Really? World’s First Hun History Museum Opens in Northern China

In the latest installment of our (semi)regular segment, Wow! Really?, we examine little-known or unexpected facts about Hungary and Hungarian culture. Today, we turn our gaze to Northern China, where the world’s first museum dedicated to the history of the Huns has officially opened.

The museum, located in Honhot the capital of China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region, opened on July 5th. Its main mission is to chronicle the history of the “Hun tribes,” known in China as the Xiongnu.

The newly-opened Xiongu (Hun) Museum in Honhot, the capital of northern China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region (Photo: china.org.cn)

The Hun Museum itself is located in the Zhaojun Museum tourism area on the outskirts of Hohhot. It houses a large number of Hunnic cultural relics. In addition, the building of the museum coincides with the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

And, as for the Huns…despite the naming similarity, there is no evidence to suggest that they were, in fact, the ancestors of today’s Hungarians (Magyars). While such theories were popular among medieval chroniclers, and continue to be held today by some segments of Hungarian society, modern historical and archaeological research has largely disproven the theory of any direct links between the Huns and todays Hungarians (there are many varying theories on the exact nature of the relationship).

What is certain, however, is that the empire of Attila, the legendary Hun ruler who brought the Roman empire to its knees, was centered in what is today Hungary. When not on campaign terrorizing Europe, and conquering ever more lands, Attila’s court was headquartered in the Carpathian basin, in Hungary.

A map showing Attila’s empire at its height, with his headquarters in modern-day Hungary noted with a star (Wikimedia Commons)

While alive, Attila, who earned the moniker “the Scourge of God” from his Roman foes for his seeming invincibility and reported brutality, carved out an empire that stretched from the Caspian to what is today western Germany, from the Baltic Sea in the North to the Black Sea and the Balkans in the South. In one legendary encounter, the city of Rome itself, the cradle of European civilization and the birthplace of one of history’s greatest empires, was only spared from destruction at the hands of Attila due to the pleading of Pope Leo I, an event memorialized in a famous painting by Renaissance artist Raphael.

“The Meeting of Leo the Great and Attila”, by Raphael. Completed in 1514, it is located in the Apostolic Palace inside Vatican City (Wikimedia Commons)

Attila ruled the Hun Empire from 434 until his death, under mysterious circumstances, in March of 453. In yet another connection to Hungary, legend says that Attila was buried in the Tisza River, with the great waters diverted so that a tomb could be built; some versions say that all those who worked on the tomb were themselves slaughtered after the water was allowed to return, hiding Attila’s body for all time. In any case, while generations of Hungarian and international adventurers and scholars have searched for the legendary tomb, it remains, like much about the Huns themselves, a mystery.

Via china.org.cn, origo.hu, and history.com

Images via china.org.cn and Wikimedia Commons