I came across this figure a while ago in Peter Golden’s book about Central Asia while I was attending Brookdale Community College. Mugulü’s story sounds interesting enough to be made into an article.
There is not much records about Mugulü’s early childhood or what his original name was. He was likely born before 277 AD.
What made his name stand out was the fact that he was not born with this name, rather he was given this name as a sobriquet. When he became a slave to Tuoba Liwei of the Xianbei nation, he was given the name Mugulü, which many times have been reconstructed as meaning “bald-headed” in the Mongolic languages, particularly because the Xianbei language is part of the Mongolic language family. This may have been due to the fact that he was bald.
He eventually gained his freedom at 30-years-old and became a cavalryman for the Xianbei. However, when he was sentenced to death for tarrying past the deadline, he fled with a group of escapees along the Yellow River. Eventually, they would seek refuge with a Gaoche tribe.
Around Mugulü’s death, he had founded his own family under the name Yujiulü, which also has an ambiguous etymology. It has been speculated that it means “feasible, opportune, auspicious, fortunate,” also in the Mongolic language family.
His son, Cheluhui, would organize an entire tribe within circumference of the Yujiulü clan as the nucleus called the Rouran. There is not much detail about how it came about, though it can be assumed that it composed of the original escapees and some of Gaoche men. Cheluhui’s reign was described as being nomadic and peaceful.
This has definitely been an entry waiting to be written about, because even though I read about the brief detail of his life so many years ago, I was still fascinated by it. From a slave to a progenitor of a Khagan family, this is definitely a story worth telling. Of course, I am looking at this from an outsider’s perspective, since I do not know how any reader from China might respond to it or what they think about the Rouran. Nonetheless, it was an interesting life story that we know little about.
- Golden, Peter B. Central Asia in World History. 1st Edition. Oxford University Press. 2011.
- Vovin, Alexander. Once Again on the Tabghach Language. MongolianStudiesXXIX. 2007.
- Yujiulü Clan. Wikipedia.
- Yujiulü Mugulü. Wikipedia.