A Preliminary Discussion on the Migration of Early Xianbei and Their Subsistence Adaptations

Author(s): Yi Jia Gabriela Poh

Year: 2017


The Xianbei tribe, prior to establishing their political regime, embarked on a journey of migration from the now-Northeast China to the "Central Plain"; and archaeologically, we observe their burials en route. Past studies focused on identifying the Xianbei from other tribes, but in the era of ethnic fusion, the in-congruence of burial goods with ethnic identity poses a range of complexities. This paper shifts focus to look at the Xianbei from an economic perspective to depict the social development that was previously underestimated. Unlike its politically-inclined development in later pre-regime stages, early Xianbei present a case of their adaptation to the external environment. Referencing related studies that have been done for Neolithic China, this paper utilizes primarily quantitative methods to analyze the burial goods of Xianbei tombs—production tools, ornaments, birch bark containers among others—and seeks to outline this economic shift in subsistence structure. A further comparison between tombs of three different sub-tribes—the Tuoba Xianbei, Tanshihuai Xianbei and Eastern Xianbei also reveal varying degrees of adaptability amongst them. Unlike Tanshihuai Xianbei’s unsustainable military exploits or Eastern Xianbei’s inactive migration efforts, this paper argues that Tuoba Xianbei’s eventual political success is linked to economic foundations laid via a steady, adaptive migration process.

Cite this Record

A Preliminary Discussion on the Migration of Early Xianbei and Their Subsistence Adaptations. Yi Jia Gabriela Poh. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430643)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: 66.885; min lat: -8.928 ; max long: 147.568; max lat: 54.059 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14747