The Xianbei people actually consisted of a federation of sizeable non-Han groups of which the most important was the Tuoba (拓跋). They first became a significant part of Chinese culture during the Han Dynasty, where they occupied the steppes in Mongolia, Hebei and Liaodong. After the fall of the Han dynasty, the Xianbei formed a number of empires of their own, including the Yan Dynasty, Western Qin, Southern Liang and most significantly, the Northern Wei (see Sixteen Kingdoms). By the time of the Tang dynasty they had largely merged with Han populace by adopting its customs, administration and language. The emperors Yang Guang of the Sui Dynasty and Li Yuan of the Tang Dynasty were born of Xianbei mothers and therefore half-Xianbei.
The Xibe people believed themselves to be descendants of the Xianbei. The name of Russia's Siberia is a direct phonetic translation to the ancient tribe of "Xianbei". There is a city wall in Siberia today that remains from the Xianbei tribe.