B. Lukács

CRIP RMKI H-1525 Bp. 114. Pf. 49., Budapest, Hungary


Japanese has kanji country names only for very limited number of nations; in Europe only for Hungary (and United Kingdom, if you count her to Europe). And, what is interesting, the kanji pronunciation seems to differ from that of the katakana name. This study tries to interpret the phenomenon.


Since this study is connected with Far Eastern & Hungarian matters, naturally given names take always second place, after family ones.


Written Japanese language is rather peculiar. A generic text generally uses 3 different "alphabets"; scientific texts even more. Although any Japanese text could be written (according to pronunciation) with any of the two syllabaries, hiragana or katakana, and in special cases (e.g. in the now rather obsolete way of sending a telegram) it is indeed done, generally root (if possible) is written with the Chinese-invented hieroglyphs kanji, other inherently Japanese grammatical parts, unhieroglyphic roots of Japanese or Chinese origin and so with hiragana, while some special elements plus words borrowed from any language excepting Chinese with katakana. The use of kanji & kana is practical because of many homonymous words while the original reason may have been simply tradition; the parallel use of the 2 kanas are interesting but is not the topics of the present study.

Maybe because of Japan's position "at the extreme East, on the verge of Nothing" many nations' names are borrowed and then are written with katakana. Many of them were taken during XIXth century from English or simply transliterated from the original language. This is so even for genuinely Far East nations as Betonamu = Viet-Nam, or Fuiripin = Philippines. Surely the old writing used more kanjis, but the reform put some of them out of use.

Even Japan can be written by katakana, as Japan, the foreign name, but the use of this word is of course very special in Japanese texts. Also, England has the katakana form Igirisu, but the United Kingdom is a kanji form read as Eikoku (koku is cca. "country"). America is Amerika, but the USA is again kanji form: Beikoku. Of course, China has the kanji from Chinese. Similarly, Korea has its kanjis, not even one, according to history (Kankoku, Chósen, Silla = Shiraga, Paekche = Hyakusai = Kudara &c.). Also, Mongolia has the kanji, according to the unsuccessful attempts of Kubilay to occupy Japan. But these nations are few.

And there is Hungary, having both kanji and katakana names. The second is Hangarí, obviously phonetical from English, although the last vowel is long. But there is a kanji alternative; and in addition it is anomalous.

Why this double representation for a small nation in far Europe? This is an interesting question, but by no doubt, some Japanese historian can answer in half a dozen sentence. (Of course, I am interested in the answer and this is half of the reason to put the text on Internet.) Still, the really important question is the reason for the anomaly. I want to discuss that.


The kanji name for Hungary is composed of 3 kanjis, pronunciation will come immediately. Nobody seems ever have seriously challenged the common opinion that the second kanji is cca. "ga" and the third "ri". (The reading of kanjis is not a trivial question, each having at least one Chinese and one Japanese pronunciation, if not more.)

When I looked on Internet about the Japanese name of Hungary, I found very few materials. They are generally Hungarian (of course), and if they tell anything about the origin of the first kanji, they tell e.g. that "han" means "multitude", "chaos" or such. But this is rather strange. The 10 million population of present Hungary, or even the 20 million one century ago is hardly a "multitude" compared to the billion Chinese, or even to the more than hundred million Japanese. And while we always brood over our own chaotic nature, it is slightly too proud to assume that its fame reached Japan and Japanese named us about that property in a pun.

I claim, and try to prove, that Hungary's kanji name is not Hangarí. I try to find the real name. Then still will remain the question: why? I cannot answer that for sure; but at least some probable explanation will be suggested. But first, in the next Chapter, it is necessary to discuss the European names of Hungary; they are nontrivial either.


Hungary is the English name of a country, located within the Carpathian Basin. The capitol is Budapest, cca. at 47.5 N, 19 E., along river Danube. The nation is Hungarian. The state goes back to 1000 AD, between 1000 and 1920 it was all the Basin (with some parts under Ottoman Turkish military occupation bw. 1526 & 1686). From 1000 to 1250 the capitols were Esztergom (Strigonium, Gran, Ostrihom &c.) and Székesfehérvár (Stuhlweissenburg, Alba Regia, Ustolni Belgrad &c.), then Buda (Ofen, Budun, Budim &c.), western half of present Budapest, during its Ottoman occupation Pozsony (Pressburg, Posonium, Presporok, Bratislava &c.). Hungary comes from the Latin name Hungaria; the official language of the state was Latin bw. 1000 and 1841.

In a lot of languages the name is similar and closely related. E.g. in French it is Hongrie, and in German Ungarn. It is slightly more tricky the name in Slavic languages. In Russian it is Vengriya, in Polish Wegry (but with nasal "e", to be sure). But this form may have the same origin. Although nothing is sure, medieval Latin was rather ambiguous about initial "h"'s and observe that the "H" is absent in the German. Now an initial "U" can have got to Slavic "V". We will return to this point later.

However in some languages, having intimate connection with Hungary, the name is not at all Hungary. E.g. in Bohemian it is Mad'arsko, or in Turkish (of the Republic of Turkey) it is Macaristan. Macaristan is formed exactly in the way of Turkish/Central Asian countries: Kazakistan, Türkmenistan or even Afganistan and Pakistan. Macaristan is the country of Macars.

And indeed, now the official name of Hungary, on the official language Magyar, is Magyarország, the mirror translation of Macaristan. (Both the Magyar and the Bohemian name contains in the middle a soft "d", which is, however, still written in Magyar as soft "g", because originally it was such; and Turkish "c" stands for that sound, roughly the English "j".) The form "Hungária" is known and used in Magyar, but it is rare and not quite official (however note the rhytmic shouting on soccer games "Ria, Ria, Hungária").

So, even in Europe, Hungary seems to have two names from very different roots, one cca. from "Hungaria" and one from cca. "Majar". And the geographic distribution is strange. Bohemians use the root "Majar", their two neighbours on both sides Poles and Austrians the root "Hungaria". Turks know "Majar", Bulgars and Greeks "Hungaria". Any reason?

Now let us consider Slovakians. Slovakians also live exclusively in the Carpathian Basin (except, of course, emigrants of both in the USA); as a general rule, to the North (but present Slovakia has a Magyar minority on the South and present Hungary a Slovakian one, again on the South (!)). And Slovakian, at last, shows a logic. Slovensko is the country of Slovaks (in Turkish it would be Islavistan, not used), while Mad'arsko is the country of Magyars (and this is the Turkish Macaristan). But the Slovakian language has a third name, formed exactly as a country name: Uhorsko. It is the whole Carpathian Basin; and the Turkish parallel holds: Üngüristan/Üngürüs. Formally Uhorsko would be "the country of Uhors", but who are the Uhors? Maybe the Üngürs of Üngüristan? Still, in the Slovakian there is e.g. "uhorská historia", which is the history of the Carpathian Basin.

Now, linguists confirm that "uhorsky" comes from the same root as "Hungarus". In some Slavic languages, as e.g. in proto-Slovakian, the nasal "o" or "-on-" in certain positions changed in the Xth century into "-u-".

Let us see an example. The quasi-plant "mushroom" has a generic name in Magyar: "gomba". In Slovakian it is "huba". Surely the same root. The g/h alterattion is trivial (it is "grzyba" in Polish and "gryba" in Russian), and of course the Magyar took it from proto-Slovakian after arriving into the Basin in 9th century (the Magyars were steppe horseriders, originally rather unfamiliar with forest habitats). Then the "-om-" is either the original proto-Slovakian form, or a Magyar reflex of the proto-Slovakian nasal "-o-", which later evolved into "-u-" in Slovakian, but never in Magyar where this linguistic evolution is unknown.

Then we see a clear "-n-" in Russian "Vengriya", a nasal vowel in Polish "Wegry" (I skip the question, why "-e"; there is an answer), and no "-n-" at all in Modern Slovakian, while the "-g-" has changed into "-h-", exactly as "gomba" -> "huba"; indeed "uhor" seems to come from some *ongor, not too far e.g. German "Ungar".

We could trace this word slightly more back, but that will be done later. Let us accept (if somebody is against, he may try with another explanation, but my linguistics is quite orthodox here, and for Slovakian usage you may ask Slovakians) that in the Slovakian Uhorsko » Hungary means the whole Carpathian Basin, uhorsky » Hungarian is not a language or ethnos, but the population of the Basin, while mad'arsky is the special, non-Indogermanic language in the center of the Basin.

Then Magyar means the Magyar-speaking ethnos in the Basin. The present Hungary (after 1920) practically does not contain other languages (below 5 % anyway), so can be called Mad'arsko, Magyarország or Macaristan (although a lot of Magyars are outside of present Hungary). But in Middle Ages, when language was not a central issue, and in the same time the whole Basin was one state, it was referred as Hungaria. Some languages inherited one word, some others the other.

I know and admit that some points have been simplified somewhat. E.g. historic Turkish sources often use Macaristan for the whole Basin; as well as some XIXth century text in Magyar language Magyarország. At the first point the explanation is that Turks practically stopped at the Magyar/Slovakian linguistic "border" (which rather was a zone of bilingualism); at the second point Magyar linguistic chauvinism in the XIXth century. Contemporary Slovakian texts are always consequent. The remaining minor other points also can be explained; now let us continue.


As I told, Hungary's kanji name consists of 3 kanjis. I did not found any doubt about the second and third, so the reading is cca. "X-GA-RI". The second and third syllables reasonably correspond to those of the katakana form; so now I concentrate on the first syllable. Unfortunately it would be rather cumbersome to reproduce the proper kanjis in HTML (although not impossible). As I mentioned, some Internet sites suggest the reading "Han" for our "X" with the meaning "multitude" or ""chaos".

Now, modern kanji vocabularies give both readings and meanings. Let us see Halpern (1990): if anybody suggests another modern vocabulary, I ask him to inform me about the result. Our kanji X is kanji N 386 in the vocabulary, with different Japanese and Chinese readings (which is usual) and 3 meanings. Let us go step by step.

The Japanese reading is "ko", but the vowel is long. So in hiranaga it would be transliterated as "kou" and in katakana as "koo"; I would like to write "kó", only see the following paragraph.

The Chinese reading is "hóng", and here the prime denotes not length, but intonation.

Then surely, X should not be read as "Han", anything be the katakana name. It is either "Koo" or something similar, or "Hóng" or similar; we will choose.

And, as for the meaning. The dictionary gives 3 meanings. The first is "flood" and close relatives; the second is "vast" and relatives; the third is "simply" Hungary.

Obviously there is not much hope in the meaning "flood" in the name of Hungary; and as I told, I do not see why the "vast". (However I will return later to this meaning.) The third "meaning" is really a tautology, suggesting that the first kanji of "Hungary" means Hungary (!).

However if we look at the explanation, we understand why the dictionary tells this. For the third meaning the dictionary gives a 4-kanji expression, whose first kanji is the first of Nippon (or Nihon), so Japan, the second is our kanji kó or hóng, and the meaning of the whole 4 kanji expression is some "Japanese-Hungarian good relations", a diplomatic slogan. Now, obviously, the slogan gives the "shorthand" abbreviations of both country (or nation) names, usual in Japanese. But then kanji X does not mean Hungary. X-GA-RI means Hungary.

Now let us turn to Sinology. Maspero H. in 1927 wrote his famous book La Chine antique. A newer edition, with the author's corrections, is Maspero (1965). As the editor explains at the Introduction, no Index was made, and the Chinese kanjis were directly in the text.

However, when translated to Magyar (Maspero 1978), the Hungarian editor (personally either the translator, Csongor B., or the commentator, Tôkei F.; both outstanding Sinologists) collected the kanjis into proper index, but already according to Magyar orthography. So the 4 intonations are not distinguished, but the vowels are written with the nearest Magyar vowel (Magyar orthography is strictly phonetic). In this Index our kanji X has the Chinese reading: hung.

Obviously the hóng/hung difference is not worth to much discussion. Namely, none of them exists in Japanese. Hung is of course impossible, not being hu- syllable; but even hong is impossible, because a syllable cannot end with -ng. Note that this "ng" is not two consonants, but a variant of "n", which, however, does not exist in Japanese.

But then our X-GA-RI cannot be read as HUNG-GA-RI. It could be read "Kógari" but this cannot be taken seriously as the Japanese word for Hungary. I suggest the solution that "X-GA-RI" is "symbolically" "Hunggari" and every Japanese may pronounciate this as he can. Anyway, e.g., the word "symmetry" is impossible in Japanese phonetics. On an international symmetry conference in Tsukuba in 1994 different solutions were heard: from "shimetori" which is the closest approximation with Japanese phonetics, through "simetori", which is impossible in Japanese, to "simetri" where even two neighbouring consonants were successful. But the meaning was always the same.


In medieval ages it was a commonplace in Europe that the name Hungaria/Hungarus is connected with the name of the great Eastern nation, initiator of the Great Migrations, the Hun. They did great harm to both Roman Empires; and, although vanished from history a few years before the end of the Western Roman Empire, for any case the father of the very last Western Emperor Romulus Augustus, Orestes, was earlier a high councillor of Attila, Great King of Huns; his enemy, who eliminated the long line of Emperors in 476 was Odoaker, King of the Skirrs, whose father, Edika, was the Commander of the Guard of Attila; and the brother of Odoaker, a general of the Eastern Roman Emperor, was Hunwulf, i.e. Hun Wolf. So obviously, Huns were a great nation from Scythia, horseriders, with characteristically non-Mediterranean and non-German facial and postskeletal formations. Then, in 896 again appeared a horseriding "non-European" group, the Magyars, who soon started multitude of raiding parties so far as the Atlantic shores and Moorish Spain. Therefore they were considered as inheritors or relatives of the Huns by Westerners. Sometimes they were called Huns, sometimes Avars (the previous Asian wave in the Carpathian Basin from 568), sometimes Turks. Never Magyars. It is told that in the first half of the Xth century Western Europe regularly prayed that God free them "de sagittiis Hungarorum", i.e. from the arrows of Hungarians. Of course, Hungarus is not exactly Hun; but the two names resemble each other, so for the layman, including kings, there was nothing else to look for.

Medieval Hungarian internal sources also see some connection between Huns and Hungarians/Magyars. I mention here 4 chronicles, because they are the most detailed ones. Maybe the first was the Gesta Ungarorum, whose author is somewhat a mystery, so he is called simply Anonymus. We know that he was Magister P., "notary of the late King, Bela". Now, there were 4 kings of such name (Adalbertus in Latin) scretching from 1061 to 1270 and theories are manifold. Then comes Simon of Kéza, priest and tutor of later King Ladislaus IV the Kuman (really, this is his name in Hungarian history); the king ruled bw. 1272 and 1290. Then comes the Illustrated Vienna Chronicle. About 1370 the daughter of the Hungarian King was married into France, and the Hungarian Court compiled for her a nice illustrated book about Hungarian history; anyway, maybe the French will be interested. Finally, in 1488 a retired councillor of the Chancellery, Thuróczy J., published a printed chronicle, Chronica Hungarorum, parallelly in Brünn and Augsburg (Thuroczy 1488). We can see that all the 4 authors were high members of the royal administration. So the texts must reflect the official opinion, either facts or propaganda.

All of them see something direct connection between Great King Attila of Huns and the Hungarian Kings. The Illustrated Vienna Chronicle goes so far that puts the Magyar Conquest back to 677 instead of the canonical 896, so seriously narrowing the time gap between Attila and Árpád, son of Álmos, leader of the Conquest.

Let us take Thuróczy, maybe the lest exotic for a Westerner. The language is of course Latin. It is recurrent in the text the "Hunni, sive Hungari" expression. It does not need any explanation, because of the similarity of the names. However the usual Magyar translation is "hunok, azaz magyarok", "Huns i.e. Magyars", which means a nontrivial identification. Still, this second identification is also explicit in the chronicle. Namely, there is a forefather of the nation, one of biblical patriarchs, either Nimrod the "great hunter before God" or Magog, son of Japhet. His wife was Eneh, and their two sons were Hunor & Magor. Once they went to hunt a white female deer, who led them to new lands in the marshes of Maiotis. Thence came the Hungarian nation.

This story is pertinent in the traditions of Hungarians and especially in those of Magyars, and unknown outside of the Carpatian Basin. (Excepting that Iordanes, the Italian Goth knows it for the Huns; in times when Magyars are still somewhere in the Maiotis.) The essence is that the Conquerors had double origin, from two brothers. The names are Hunor & Magor. Now the first name very much resembles the Huns, the second the Magyars, which seems to have been the self-nomination of the Conquerors, either in 896, or slightly later.

I am not interested in the historical truth of the above story; it must be at least as true as the story of the two Saxon brothers Hengist & Horsa + a white horse arriving to the British Island in 461 helping the Brits against Picts. What is interesting: the story does not explain the "-g-" in "Hungaria", but gives some clue for the Magyar, Slovakian, Bohemian and Turkish names Magyar, Mad'ar, Macar.

Anyway, we can be sure that in Middle Ages in Europe the state and nation of the Carpathian Basin was generally called on a name which either had an initial H or not, the first vowel was an "-u-" (or "-o-" as in French), and then either an "-ng-" group, or a nasalisation of the previous vowel + "g". What is interesting, the starting Chinese hieroglyph, as we saw, is also "Hóng" or "Hung", even if the "-ng-" is not two consonants here but a single one (but also this is the situation really in many European languages).

The Japanese kanjis are not of Chinese origin; they are the Chinese hieroglyphs themselves. Also, writing went from China to Japan and not backwards. Finally, China had much more Western connections than Japan. So the origin of the kanji name KOO-GA-RI » HUNG-GA-RI is probably to be understood through China.


But first back to Eastern Europe from Far Eastern Asia. Attila, Great King (Tanhu or shanyü, see Szász 1994; Groot 1921-26; Shiratori 1902) of Huns dies in 453, while consumming the marriage with his German bride Ildico or Ildikó, who may or may not be identical with Krimhilde of the Burgund legends and Wagnerian operas. Comes a general German revolt (only the Skirrs of Edika remain on the side of "Attila's sons", and in the next year the sons lose at the "river Nedao". Archaeologists are unable to locate the battlefield and historians are baffled by the name; but it may be a copy error and the German name of Danube (now Donau) may be behind, with a metathesis. The leading tribes leave the Basin for the East. Afterwards information is scanty. But it seems that 3 sons carried weight, Ellak, Dengizik & Irnak. Maybe Ellak was killed in the battle; Dengizik gave battles to the East Romans until 469, when he was captured and executed in Constantinople; but Irnak went farther, to the northern shores of the Black Sea, and his group survived. Since in Bulgarian tradition the Dulo dynasty of later Khagan Kovrat, father of Khagan Asparuch, founder of present Danube Bulgaria in 681, starts with Irnak or Irnic, there is few doubts that Irnak, "youngest son" of Attila, organised a new tribal alliance somewhere along rivers Volga and/or Don. Also, remember that Priscus Rhetor, ambassador to Attila, records that Attila liked only this youngest son, because priests predicted that after his death his sons would lose the Empire, but then Irnak organizes a new one.

The usual name of this alliance was/is Bulgar. However it has another name. Many times "Bulgarian" alliances are called Onogur. On Ogur is Ten Tribe in mirror translation (in rational languages after a definite numeral the noun of course remains in singular), or Ten Arrow, tribes symbolised by arrows.

However in Ottoman Turkish the expression would be On Oguz. The form Ogur is characteristic for a well defined minority group of Turks, the "-r Turks". Nowadays there is only one living r-Turk language, the Chuvash along river Volga, therefore r-Turks are sometimes called Chuvasoid Turks; Chuvashes are very probably remnants of Volga Bulgars. However r-Turkish survives, after a fashion, also in the Turkish strata of two non-Turkish languages: Slavic Danube Bulgarian and Finno-Ugric Magyar. It is natural for Danube Bulgars, whose original language was r-Turkish Bulgar; but for Magyars? Still Magyar has a very strong pre-Conquest r-Turkish stratum. Only, they are not called to Bulgar, but Onogur. Since probably Bulgar and Onogur had only dialectal differences, this distinction is only to tell that the carriers of the r-Turkish stratum were not from Bulgaria Proper, either Volga or Danube, but tribes not organised as Bulgars. We do know from archaeology that Onogurs lived in the Carpathian Basin in the VIIIth century, most probable from cca. 680. Note that the Illustrated Vienna Chronicle, official product of Hungarian Royal Court, puts the Conquest to 677; and Khagan Asparuch arrives at Danube Bulgaria in 681. This cannot be an accidental misprint.

And now we arrived at something. The Hungarian State, from the Christmas of 1000, had multiple origins. There were old Basin peoples, e.g. the precursors of Slovakians, who were not horseriders, and much of them were already Christians. There were the conquerors in 896, let us call them simply Magyars. But also, there were the remnants of Avars, from 568, and also the immigrants (conquerors?) from 680, the Onogurs.

Now, Onoguria is just the proper old term for a country pronunciated now as Uhorsko in modern Slovakian. Imagine an old *Onogursko in proto-Slovakian. The starting "on-" becomes by regular change an "u-" in Xth century and "-g-" softens in some time to "-h-". We have seen these changes on "gomba" -> "huba". We are at Uhursko; almost Uhorsko. And: Lutheran Superintendent Daniel Krmán, in the beginning of the XVIIIth century, calls once Prince Svätopluk of the Basin, about 880 (so definitely before Magyars) "kral' Uhorska" i.e. King of Uhorsko" (Käfer 1991). In that time, indeed, one may have called the Basin Onugria; and German Emperor Louis, in a chart issued in Regensburg, May 8, 860, gives some lands to the Mattsee abbey in modern Austria, bordered on the East at the "Uuangariorum marcha", the "Border of Wangaris", Ungaris or as you want (Kher 1934). These Uuangaris cannot be anything else than Onogurs.

Now, Uungars, Ungars, Uhors, Hungars, Vengers and so may all come from Onogurs, so maybe that name is behind Hungarus. Magyar historians, generally overcautious about Hun connections, definitely like this solution; but anyway, it contains at least a "-g-" and Onogurs and Magyars in fact were something of brother tribal alliances in the marshes of Maiotis, near to Khazaria.

However the "-g-", or a shadow of it, is also there in the Chinese hieroglyph "hóng" or in Magyar reading "hung". Did Chinese scholars know about Onogur tribes in Eastern Europe? It is very, very far on West. Of, course, originally they were more on the East. But so much?


Chinese chronicles are full with stories when China, the Middle Country, is surrounded by various barbarians, disturbing civilisation. Ecsedy Ildikó (see; the given name is that of the last bride of Great King Attila the Hun), great Sinologist (but from the other side of the Great Wall), collected a lot of texts about this (Ecsedy 1979). She gets the result that Chinese geography worked with stereotypes. So the Southern barbarians are always nan-man, Southern Man, note the Japanese nanban applied to Portuguese, the Westerns are szi-zsung, Western Zsung, the Northerns pei-ti, Northern Ti, and the Easterns tung-ji, Eastern Ji. (For simplicity here I used the Hungarian Academic transliteration; for very crude pronounciation they would be Man, Zhung, Ti and Yi outside Hungary, but who cares?) So if a text tells that Tis attack, of any colour, White, Red of Spotty, that only means that uncharacteristic barbarians raid from North. However, there are some barbarians with real (?) names. E.g. the Hiung-nu on the North and the Zhuan-zhuan at Northwest. European historians, since Deguignes (1756-58), identify the first with the Asian Huns, who then emanated the European Huns to the Far West, and more or less the second with the Avars, losing against Turks in the Altai in 552 AD, defeating King Gisebert of Thuringia in 562, entering the Carpathian Basin in 567 and taking over Pannonia on Easter Monday of 568.

Chinese often use derogatory names for outsiders, and, indeed, nomadic way of life was very strange for Chinese intelligentsia. So it is not at all strange that some Hungarian Sinologists simply find the name zhuan-zhuan meaning "nyüzsi-nyüzsi" using the diminutive form of the Magyar "nyüzsgés", cca. "swarming" doubly. Zhuans-zhuans are laughable people for Chinese swarming always (instead of paying tax). Also, there is some derogatory in "Hiung-nu" (the -nu, -slave, at least). Still, Hiung-nus are taken somewhat more seriously.

The Hia, or Hsia was the first permanent dynasty in China. (No archaeologic proof yet.) It flourished in the first half of second millenium BC. Slowly it was losing the Mandate of Heaven, and the 17th king, Kié, a tyrant, was deposed by the Sangs in 1766 BC. But one son of him, Sun-ui, fled with some aristocrats to North, they became nomads and founded the Hiung-nu nation (Groot 1921).

It is unimportant if the sory is true or not. It is enough that according to Chinese view there are two ancient enemies. As for agriculturalist Iranians horseriding Turan is the archenemy, so for Chinese the Hiung-nu.

And in the 1700's AD Europeans got reach into Chinese chronicles and suggested the Hiung-nu -> Hun connection. It is quite possible; and for the present purpose it is enough if Chinese, some time in the past, believed the connection. Then, when they got information about the Hungarians, they could use an archaic name for them. There is the "-ng-" consonant in Hiung-nu, which is disturbingly absent in Hun.

Only that the kanji X, the kanji koo/hóng/hung is not the kanji used for Hiung-nu.

I stop here; what is still unclear, belongs to History of Science. It is quite possible that experts of XVIIth century French Jesuit - Chinese connections know by name the French who suggested the kanji "hóng" to start "Hongrie" with it. It is possible, even, that the kanji means "chaos" or "multitude" as 16th meaning in China, in the same way as the name of Avars mean "continuous swarming". I only tell that the 3-kanji name of Hungaria is not Han-ga-ri, and "Han" does not mean "chaos". In the Appendix I give some classical names for Huns; but only for completeness.


Magyars know that they came from East. It is a matter of argumentation, exactly whence. Maybe from different places. Tracing back is certain only until Maiotis; and we know that the Alliance of Seven Magyar(s) was a border defender ally of Khazaria of Kings Bulan & Obadiah in the VIII. c. and at the beginning of the IXth; then they helped the rebel Kabars who became their allies and they started to the West.

Magyars even do not know why they call themselves Magyars. (And my forefathers, although speaking Magyar, did not call themselves Magyar. Maybe they were Onogur, maybe not. The internal name seems to mean "horse with white legs" and we declare ourselves Magyar only for the Roumanian State.) According to an old chronicle, to place names and to lot of reconstructions, the Alliance of Seven Magyar consisted of the following tribes:

Jenô, Kér, Keszi, Kürt-Gyarmat, Megyer, Nyék, Tarján

Maybe Magyar = Megyer, but it is only 1 tribe. In addition, 4 of the names are r-Turkish, 1 of them is z-Turkish, and only 2 Finno-Ugric: Megyer and Nyék. So it is possible that the present Finno-Ugric language of Magyars was a minority a millenium ago. It is even not sure that the princes came from the Megyer tribe: the name of Tarján is more honored, Tarchan or Darhan means Prince or Leader in many Turkish languages (and also Smith).

However the nearest kin of present Magyar language lives just East of the Ural Mountain (so really in Asia!) and called Manyshi. According to linguistic consensus, the first syllable ("kanji") of the two names, Many- and Magy- are homologous. The living members of the Ugric subfamily are 3, 2 along the Western Siberian great river Ob (Khanti & Manyshi) and one along the Central European great river Danube. Our Far Eastern friends and possibly kins, the Japanese, however, do not know our Western Asian name; they write kanjis which either reproduce our European name or our Chinese name.

However, it is interesting to be among the Chosen Few. Japanese reformed their writing and a lot of big nations lost their Japanese names, they can be written only phonetically by borrowed Western words. Maybe glorious France never had one. So it is impossible to write a slogan "Japanese-French Good Relations" by mere kanjis, so in a really honourable way. And still, the analogous slogan with Hungary is possible, not only possible but exists in real use (Halpern 1990). Interesting, isn't it?


I would like to thank Drs. Fodor Gy. & Rácz I. for discussions and linguistic help.


The aim of this Appendix is not to prove or disprove the hiung-nu = hun hypothesis but rather to see if it was believed in some sense. References are not given; the reader can consult with Szász (1994) and Németh (1940). If somebody does not read Magyar, maybe Groot (1921-26) is useful.

But first I call attention to a remark of Ecsedy (1979), to be sure, not the first in literature but very explicit. Namely, the Chinese pictograms permit to recognise the previous phases of the evolutions of kanjis. Now, derogatory elements may be seen in some pictograms in the names of barbarian tribes: e.g. the "dog" in the name of Ti's (generic Northern barbarians) and "worm" in that of Southern ones.

Some European authors suspect that the Hiung-nu means "Hiung slave", and two other names of nomads, resembling "hiung" but different, would mean "long-nosed dog" and "eater of odorous porridge" or such. Other authors tell that they simply applied derogatory kanjis to them. I only want to call the attention that under such circumstances the full phonetic reliability of a Chinese name cannot be expected.

It seems sure that the Chinese called a big nomadic tribal alliance, traditional enemy of China, at the Northern/Northwestern borders, keepers of animals and definitely meat-eaters (contrary to the cereal-eating Chinese) by the name


where the second part is simply "slave" and so can be ignored. Chinese sources do know that in 1st c. BC one part of the Hiungs came gradually under Chinese influence (and so became harmless), while the other part moved to West under Tanhu Chi-chi. Now, a Chinese expedition force occupied and demolished Chi-chi's capitol in the upper valley of Talas (at the border of modern Kazakistan & Kirghizistan) in 36 BC. While this is the end of Hiung danger for a while, the Chinese authors must have been aware, from the extreme low numbers of killed & captured, that the Hiungs simply evacuated the area. (To be sure, Tanhu Chi-chi was killed; he defended the palace with his wives carrying weapons. The Chinese took some 1000 captives altogether &c.) So free Hiungs still existed on the Far West or Northwest.

Note that Groot (1921-26) takes an alternative opinion about the name. He reconstructs the "original" pronunciation of "hiung-nu" as "hung-no", permitting, however, for the first kanji hiong/hiung/hung/hong. The latter two as phonetic readings would be correct for our kanji X as well.

And now let us see the Western sources. Without claiming completeness, more or less contemporary authors give the following names:

Early authors

Funi (Pliny)

Ounnoi (with Greek, Dionysius Periegetes)

Chuni (Orosius)

Huniscite (Hieronimus)

Khounoi (with Greek, Ptolemy)

"Persian connections" cca. 360

Chionites (Roman sources about Persia in 357)

H'yaona (Avestan)

Xyon (Pehlevi)

Xionaye (Syrian)

Romans, Migration Period

Huni (Generic, maybe -u- is long)

Hunni (many sources)

Chuni (e.g. sometimes Chron. Gallica)

Uni (e.g. Isidorius)

Ugni (e.g. Victor Tonnensis, annus 395)

Hugni (e.g. Victor Tonnensis, anni 449, 453)

We can see that

1) there is no "g" in Western data, except for the last two ones;

2) on the West the starting consonant is generally "H" (sometimes silent), but rarely ch/kh, and the latter is usual in sources in connection with Persia;

3) there is a palatal "ch" in the "Persian" data but not anywhere else.

These data could be used for arguing for and against the hiung -> hun genetic connection; if we assume it, we can tell that the original "i" is preserved among White Huns near Persia, but there was a h -> kh shift, while the original Chinese "ng" everywhere on the West went into familiar "n" (but see the interesting "gn" of Victor Tonnensis). But now we are interested not in truth but belief of Chinese. So let us see the last more or less contemporary report about the Hiung-nu. A Chinese chronicle about the Wei dynasty from VI. c. AD writes that

1) some generations ago the Hiung-nu occupied the country Suk-tak, which is also called An-t'-sai (or Yeng-c'ai, or anything);

2) when they were there 3 generations, their king was Hu-ni;

3) King Hu-ni sent envoys to Emperor Kau-Tsung (452-466).

(Szász 1994; Hirth 1901.) Experts and other chronicles tell that Chinese chronicles call later An-t'-sai A-lan-na.

So sometimes at the second half of IVth century the Hiung-nu occupied in Chinese records the home country of Alans. But that event is also reported by Western sources, namely by Ammianus Marcellinus. But it is done by the Huns, on the way to Europe.

Again, it is not important now if Suk-tak was Sogdiana or not; and the exact identity of King Hu-ni may be left for experts. The important thing is that the Huns in Alania are called Hiung-nu by a Chinese source, so Chinese call still the horse nomads on their Far West Hiung-nu. Hungarian State was indeed founded by King Stephen I, 4th descendant of Prince Árpád, the leader of Seven Magyar, the Conqueror, who was the son of Prince Álmos, about whom his mother saw a prophetical dream, son of the Holy Bird Turul/Togrul in the Eternal Blue Sky (or even more properly Kök Tängri). The A#rpáds traced back the family to Tanhu Attila, whom the Chinese did not know, but he was overlord of Hiung Hu-ni, so for them also a Hiung.

But again: the first kanji of the Japanese name for Hungary is not the same as the first kanji of Chinese Hiung-nu. Only the Chinese pronounciations are similar. If somebody knows more, let us see it. The matter is nontrivial.


Deguingnes H. (1756-58): Histoire générale des huns, des turcs at des autres tartares occidentaux avant at depuis J. C. jusqu'à présent, I-II. Paris

Ecsedy Ildikó (1979): Nomádok és kereskedôk Kína határain. Gondolat, Budapest

de Groot J. M. (1921-26): Die Hunnen der vorchristianliche Zeit, Berlin-Leipzig

Halpern J. (1990): New Japanese-English Character Dictionary. Kenkyusha, Tokyo

Hirth Fr. (1901): Hunnenforschungen. Keleti Szemle 2, 81

Käfer I. ( 1991): A miénk és az övék. Magvetô, Budapest. (Let me note that it would have been better not to translate the critical sentence to Magyar.)

Kher P. (ed.) (1934): Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Diplomatarium regum Germaniae ex stirpe Karolinorum I. Berolini

Maspero H. (1965): Le Chine antique. Presses Universitaries de France, Paris

Maspero H. (1978): Az ókori Kína. Gondolat, Budapest

Németh Gy. (1940): Attila és hunjai. Magyar Szemle, Budapest

Shiratori K. (1902): Über die Sprachen der Hiung-nu und der Tung-hu Stämme. Bull. Acad. Imp. Sci., 17

Szász B. (1994): A hunok története. Szabad Tér, Budapest

Thuroczy J. (1488): Chronica Hungarorum. Feger Th., Augsburg

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