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The Battle of Zhizhi (郅支之戰) was a battle between the Han Dynasty and the Zhizhi Guduhou Chanyu (sometimes known as Western Xiongnu) in 36 BC. The battle was a success for the Han, who were led by Gan Yanshou and Chen Tang. It occurred at the Fortress of Zhizhimarker on Talas River, constructed soon after he arrived in the state of Kangju (centered on Beitianmarker) in 44 BC, when he fled from the east.

In 49 BC, Zhizhi Chanyu left Mongoliamarker after a dispute with his brother who had accepted a tributary relation with the Han. In 44 BC, Zhizhi started to move west towards Kangju, and made an alliance with them with a spare of 3,000 armies. The king of Kangju used Zhizhi with his armies as auxiliary to attack his rival Wusun several times, but a dispute took place soon after. Zhizhi killed few of his men including his daughter and compel Kangju to build a fortress for him, through efforts of 500 men per day for 2 years.

His conflicts with Eastern Xiongnu eventually lead Han to an expedition. As a result of the war, Zhizhi was killed, his head was cut off by one of Chen Tang's generals, Du Xun, during the battle and was sent to Chang'anmarker.


The destruction of Zhizhi Chanyu lead to half a century of peace between the Han Dynasty and Xiongnu, until Wang Mang enraged the Xiongnu in 10 AD. Thus, the long-term raiding campaign only began after 10 through Eastern Han.

Roman presence?

From Han sources, there was mentioned that a "fish scale" formation was used by Zhizhi's forces. It was crushed by the Han cavalry. Nevertheless, as the Xiongnu were poor infantry, it was speculated that they may be Romans captured by Parthians and used as mercenaries for Zhizhi.


  • Ban Gu et al., Hanshu. Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1962. ISBN 7-101-00305-2
  • Sima Guang, comp. Zizhi Tongjian. Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1956. ISBN 7-101-00183-1
  • David Wilkinson (1999) " Power polarity in the Far Eastern World System," Journal of World-Systems Research, Vol V, 3, 1999, 501-617.

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