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The migrations of the Yuezhi through Central Asia, from around 176 BC to 30 AD
Total population
Some 100,000 to 200,000 horse archers, according to the Shiji, Chapter 123.[1] The Hanshu Chapter 96A records: 100,000 households, 400,000 people with 100,000 able to bear arms.[2]
Regions with significant populations
Kushan deities
Related ethnic groups

The Yuezhi or Rouzhi (Chinese: 月氏; pinyin: Yuèzhī; Wade–Giles: Yüeh4-chih1, [ɥê ʈʂɻ̩́]) were an ancient people first reported in Chinese histories as nomadic pastoralists living in an arid grassland area in the western part of the modern Chinese province of Gansu, during the 1st millennium BC. After a major defeat by the Xiongnu in the 2nd century BC, the Yuezhi split into two groups: the Greater Yuezhi (Dà Yuèzhī 大月氏) and Lesser Yuezhi (Xiǎo Yuèzhī 小月氏).

The Greater Yuezhi initially migrated northwest into the Ili Valley (on the modern borders of China and Kazakhstan), where they reportedly displaced elements of the Sakas. They were driven from the Ili Valley by the Wusun and migrated southward to Sogdia and later settled in Bactria, where they then defeated the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom. The Greater Yuezhi have consequently often been identified with Bactrian peoples mentioned in classical European sources, like the Tókharioi (Greek Τοχάριοι; Sanskrit Tukhāra) and Asii (or Asioi). During the 1st century BC, one of the five major Greater Yuezhi tribes in Bactria, the Kushanas (Chinese: 貴霜; pinyin: Guìshuāng), began to subsume the other tribes and neighbouring peoples. The subsequent Kushan Empire, at its peak in the 3rd century CE, stretched from Turfan in the Tarim Basin, in the north to Pataliputra on the Gangetic plain of India in the south. The Kushanas played an important role in the development of trade on the Silk Road and the introduction of Buddhism to China.

Most of the Lesser Yuezhi appear to have migrated southward into Tibet. However, some are reported to have settled among the Qiang people in Qinghai, and to have been involved in the Liangzhou Rebellion (184–221 CE). Others are said to have founded the city state of Cumuḍa (now known as Kumul and Hami) in the eastern Tarim. A fourth group of Lesser Yuezhi may have become part of the Jie people of Shanxi, who established the 4th Century AD Later Zhao state (although this remains controversial).

While the Yuezhi have often been associated with artifacts of extinct cultures in the Tarim Basin, such as the Tarim mummies and the so-called Tocharian languages, the evidence for any such link is purely circumstantial.


Before 221 (all dates BCE):[5] Yuezhi are powerful near Dunhuang at the west end of the Gansu corridor, and control the jade trade from the Tarim basin. Somewhere west were the Wusun,[6] and further east near the Ordos Plateau are the beginnings of the Xiongnu.
221–209: China and the Xiongnu become unified.
207: Xiongnu raid the Yuezhi.
176: Xiongnu defeat the Yuezhi.
173: Yuezhi defeat the Wusun.
162: Xiongnu drive the Yuezhi west to the Ili valley.
132: Wusun expel the Yuezhi from the Ili valley.
132–130: Yuezhi flee southwest and conquer northern Bactria.
128: Zhang Qian reaches the Yuezhi. Later they split into five tribes.
Around 30: The tribes reunite as the Kushans and later become a major empire.

Earliest references in Chinese texts

By the 3rd century BC, the Yuezhi resided to the northwest of Qin China.

Three pre-Han texts mention peoples who appear to be the Yuezhi, albeit under slightly different names.[7]

  • The philosophical tract Guanzi (73, 78, 80 and 81) mentions nomadic pastoralists known as the Yúzhī 禺氏 (Old Chinese: *ŋʷjo-kje) or Niúzhī 牛氏 (OC: *ŋʷjə-kje), who supplied jade to the Chinese.[8][7] (The Guanzi is now generally believed to have been compiled around 26 BC, based on older texts, including some from the Qi state era of the 11th to 3rd centuries BC. Most scholars no longer attribute its primary authorship to Guan Zhong, a Qi official in the 7th century BC.[9]) The export of jade from the Tarim Basin, since at least the late 2nd millennium BC, is well-documented archaeologically. For example, hundreds of jade pieces found in the Tomb of Fu Hao (c. 1200 BC) originated from the Khotan area, on the southern rim of the Tarim Basin.[10] According to the Guanzi, the Yúzhī/Niúzhī, unlike the neighbouring Xiongnu, did not engage in conflict with nearby Chinese states.
  • The Tale of King Mu, Son of Heaven (early 4th century BC) also mentions the Yúzhī 禺知 (OC: *ŋʷjo-kje).[7]
  • The Yi Zhou Shu (probably dating from the 4th to 1st century BC) makes separate references to the Yúzhī 禺氏 (OC: *ŋʷjo-kje) and Yuèdī 月氐 (OC: *ŋʷjat-tij). The latter may be a misspelling of the name Yuèzhī 月氏 (OC: *ŋʷjat-kje) found in later texts, composed of characters meaning "moon" and "clan" respectively.[7]

In the 1st century BC, Sima Qian – widely regarded as the founder of Chinese historiography – describes how the Qin dynasty (221–206 BC) bought jade and highly valued military horses from a people that Sima Qian called the Wūzhī 烏氏 (OC: *ʔa-kje), led by a man named as Luo. The Wūzhī traded these goods for Chinese silk, which they then sold on to other neighbours.[11][12] This is probably the first reference to the Yuezhi as a lynchpin in trade on the Silk Road,[13] which in the 3rd century BC began to link Chinese states to Central Asia and, eventually, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and Europe.

Sima Qian and the Book of Han

The earliest detailed account of the Yuezhi is found in chapter 123 of the Records of the Great Historian by Sima Qian, describing a mission of Zhang Qian in the late 2nd century BC. Essentially the same text appears in chapter 61 of the Book of Han, though Sima Qian has added occasional words and phrases to clarify the meaning.[14] Both texts use the name Yuèzhī 月氏 (OC: *ŋʷjat-kje).[7]

Yuezhi and Xiongnu

The account begins with the Yuezhi occupying the grasslands to the northwest of China at the beginning of the 2nd century BC:

The Great Yuezhi was a nomadic horde. They moved about following their cattle, and had the same customs as those of the Xiongnu. As their soldiers numbered more than hundred thousand, they were strong and despised the Xiongnu. In the past, they lived in the region between Dunhuang and Qilian.

— Book of Han, 61

The area between the Qilian Mountains and Dunhuang lies in the western part of the modern Chinese province of Gansu, but no archaeological remains of the Yuezhi have yet been found in this area.[15] Some scholars have argued that "Dunhuang" should be Dunhong, a mountain in the Tian Shan, and that Qilian should be interpreted as a name for the Tian Shan. They have thus placed the original homeland of the Yuezhi 1,000 km further northwest in the grasslands to the north of the Tian Shan (in the northern part of modern Xinjiang).[15][16] Other authors suggest that the area identified by Sima Qian was merely the core area of an empire encompassing the western part of the Mongolian plain, the upper reaches of the Yellow River, the Tarim Basin and possibly much of central Asia, including the Altai Mountains, the site of the Pazyryk burials of the Ukok Plateau.[17]

By the late 3rd century the Yuezhi were so powerful that the Xiongnu monarch Touman even sent his eldest son Modu as a hostage to the Yuezhi. The Yuezhi often attacked their neighbour the Wusun to acquire slaves and pasture lands. Wusun originally lived together with the Yuezhi in the region between Dunhuang and Qilian Mountain. The Yuezhi attacked the Wusuns, killed their monarch Nandoumi and took his territory. The son of Nandoumi, Kunmo fled to the Xiongnu and was brought up by the Xiongnu monarch.

Gradually the Xiongnu grew stronger and war broke out between them and the Yuezhi. There were at least four wars between the Yuezhi and Xiongnu according to the Chinese accounts. The first war broke out during the reign of the Xiongnu monarch Touman (who died in 209 B.C) who suddenly attacked the Yuezhi. The Yuezhi wanted to kill Modu, the son of the Xiongnu king Touman kept as a hostage to them, but Modu stole a good horse from them and managed to escape to his country. He subsequently killed his father and became ruler of the Xiongnu.[18] It appears that the Xiongnu did not defeat the Yuezhi in this first war. The second war took place in the 7th year of Modu era (203 B.C.). From this war, a large area of the territory originally belonging to the Yuezhi was seized by the Xiongnu and the hegemony of the Yuezhi started to shake. The third war probably was at 176 BC (or shortly earlier) and the Yuezhi were badly defeated.

Shortly before 176 BC, led by one of Modu's tribal chiefs, the Xiongnu invaded Yuezhi territory in the Gansu region and achieved a crushing victory.[19][20] Modu boasted in a letter (174 BC) to the Han emperor[21] that due to "the excellence of his fighting men, and the strength of his horses, he has succeeded in wiping out the Yuezhi, slaughtering or forcing to submission every number of the tribe." The son of Modu, Laoshang Chanyu (ruled 174–166 BC), subsequently killed the king of the Yuezhi and, in accordance with nomadic traditions, "made a drinking cup out of his skull." (Shiji 123.[1])

Exodus of the Great Yuezhi

Central Asia in the 1st century BCE

After their resounding defeat by the Xiongnu, the Yuezhi split into two groups. The Lesser or Little Yuezhi (Xiao Yuezhi) moved to the "southern mountains", believed to be the Qilian Mountains on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, to live with the Qiang.[22]

The so-called Greater (or Great) Yuezhi (Da Yuezhi) began migrating north-west in about 165 BC,[23] first settling in the Ili valley, immediately north of the Tian Shan mountains, where they defeated the Sai (Sakas): "The Yuezhi attacked the king of the Sai who moved a considerable distance to the south and the Yuezhi then occupied his lands" (Book of Han 61 4B). This was "the first historically recorded movement of peoples originating in the high plateaus of Asia."[24]

In 132 BC the Wusun, in alliance with the Xiongnu and out of revenge from an earlier conflict, again managed to dislodge the Yuezhi from the Ili Valley, forcing them to move south-west.[19] The Yuezhi passed through the neighbouring urban civilization of Dayuan (in Ferghana) and settled on the northern bank of the Oxus, in the region of northern Bactria, or Transoxiana (modern Tajikistan and Uzbekistan).

Visit of Zhang Qian

A later mural (c. 618–712 CE) from the Mogao Caves, depicting the Chinese mission of Zhang Qian to the Yuezhi in 126 BC.

The Yuezhi were visited in Transoxiana by a Chinese mission, led by Zhang Qian in 126 BC,[25] which sought an offensive alliance with the Yuezhi against the Xiongnu. Zhang Qian, who spent a year in Transoxiana and Bactria, wrote a detailed account in the Shiji, which gives considerable insight into the situation in Central Asia at the time.[26] The request for an alliance was denied by the son of the slain Yuezhi king, who preferred to maintain peace in Transoxiana rather than seek revenge.

Zhang Qian also reported:

the Great Yuezhi live 2,000 or 3,000 li [832–1,247 kilometers] west of Dayuan, north of the Gui [Oxus ] river. They are bordered on the south by Daxia [Bactria], on the west by Anxi [Parthia], and on the north by Kangju [beyond the middle Jaxartes/Syr Darya]. They are a nation of nomads, moving from place to place with their herds, and their customs are like those of the Xiongnu. They have some 100,000 or 200,000 archer warriors.

— Shiji, 123[1]

In a sweeping analysis of the physical types and cultures of Central Asia, Zhang Qian reports:

Although the states from Dayuan west to Anxi (Parthia), speak rather different languages, their customs are generally similar and their languages mutually intelligible. The men have deep-set eyes and profuse beards and whiskers. They are skilful at commerce and will haggle over a fraction of a cent. Women are held in great respect, and the men make decisions on the advice of their women.

— Shiji, 123[27]
Watershed of the Oxus River (modern Amu Darya)

Zhang Qian also described the remnants of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom on the other side of the Oxus River (Chinese Gui) as a number of autonomous city-states under Yuezhi suzerainty:[28]

Daxia is located over 2,000 li southwest of Dayuan, south of the Gui river. Its people cultivate the land and have cities and houses. Their customs are like those of Ta-Yuan. It has no great ruler but only a number of petty chiefs ruling the various cities. The people are poor in the use of arms and afraid of battle, but they are clever at commerce. After the Great Yuezhi moved west and attacked the lands, the entire country came under their sway. The population of the country is large, numbering some 1,000,000 or more persons. The capital is called the city of Lanshi and has a market where all sorts of goods are bought and sold.

— Shiji, 123[29]

Later Chinese accounts

The next mention of the Yuezhi in Chinese sources is found in chapter 96A of the Book of Han (completed in 111 CE), relating to the early 1st century BC. At this time, the Yuezhi are described as occupying the whole of Bactria, organized into five major tribes or xīhóu (Ch:翖侯, "Allied Prince").[30] These tribes were known to the Chinese as:

  • Xiūmì (休密) in Western Wakhān and Zibak;
  • Guìshuāng (貴霜) in Badakhshan and adjoining territories north of the Oxus;
  • Shuāngmí (雙靡) in the region of Shughnan;
  • Xīdùn (肸頓) in the region of Balkh, and;
  • Dūmì (都密) in the region of Termez.[31]

The Book of the Later Han (5th century CE) also records the visit of Yuezhi envoys to the Chinese capital in 2 BC, who gave oral teachings on Buddhist sutras to a student, suggesting that some Yuezhi already followed the Buddhist faith during the 1st century BC (Baldev Kumar (1973)).

Chapter 88 of the Book of the Later Han relies on a report of Ban Yong, based on the campaigns of his father Ban Chao in the late 1st century CE. It reports that one of the five tribes of the Yuezhi, the Guishuang, had managed to take control of the tribal confederation:[32]

More than a hundred years later, the xihou of Guishuang, named Qiujiu Que (Ch: 丘就卻, Kujula Kadphises) attacked and exterminated the four other xihou. He set himself up as king of a kingdom called Guishuang (Kushan). He invaded Anxi (Parthia) and took the Gaofu (Ch:高附, Kabul) region. He also defeated the whole of the kingdoms of Puda (Ch: 濮達) and Jibin (Ch: 罽賓, Kapiśa-Gandhāra). Qiujiu Que (Kujula Kadphises) was more than eighty years old when he died. His son, Yan Gaozhen (Ch:閻高珍) (Vima Takto), became king in his place. He returned and defeated Tianzhu (Northwestern India) and installed a General to supervise and lead it. The Yuezhi then became extremely rich. All the kingdoms call [their king] the Guishuang (Kushan) king, but the Han call them by their original name, Da Yuezhi.

— Book of the Later Han, trans. John Hill[33][34]

A later Chinese annotation in Zhang Shoujie's Shiji (quoting Wan Zhen 萬震 in Nánzhōuzhì 南州志 ["Strange Things from the Southern Region"], a now-lost 3rd-century text from the Wu kingdom), describes the Kushans as living in the same general area north of India, in cities of Greco-Roman style, and with sophisticated handicraft. The quotes are dubious, as Wan Zhen probably never visited the Yuezhi kingdom through the Silk Road, though he might have gathered his information from the trading ports in the coastal south.[35] Chinese sources continued to use the name Yuezhi and seldom used the Kushan (or Guishuang) as a generic term:

The Great Yuezhi are located about seven thousand li [2,910 km] north of India. Their land is at a high altitude; the climate is dry; the region is remote. The king of the state calls himself "son of heaven". There are so many riding horses in that country that the number often reaches several hundred thousand. City layouts and palaces are quite similar to those of Daqin [the Roman Empire]. The skin of the people there is reddish white. People are skilful at horse archery. Local products, rarities, treasures, clothing, and upholstery are very good, and even India cannot compare with it.

— Wan Zhen (3rd century CE)[36]


A bust of a man (c. 100 century BC) found at the major Yuezhi/Kushan site of Khalchayan, in northern Bactria (near modern Denov, Uzbekistan).[37] (The head is sometimes described as "Saka" – a people often conflated with the Yuezhi.)

The central Asian people who called themselves Kushana, who were among the conquerors of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom during the 2nd century BC,[38] are widely believed to have originated as a dynastic clan or tribe of the Yuezhi.[39][40] Because some inhabitants of Bactria became known as Tukhāra (Sanskrit) or Tókharoi (Τοχάριοι; Greek), these names later became associated with the Yuezhi.

The Kushana were a Caucasoid people, as indicated by the portraits of their kings on the coins they struck in Bactria (2nd–1st century BC), portraits from statues in Khalchayan, Bactria in the 1st century BC, and especially the coins which they struck in India as Kushans (1st–3rd century CE).[41][42][43][44] They spoke Bactrian, an Eastern Iranian language.[45]


In the 3rd century BC, Bactria had been conquered by the Greeks under Alexander the Great and since settled by the Hellenistic civilization of the Seleucids. The resulting Greco-Bactrian Kingdom lasted until the 2nd century BC. The Greek city of Alexandria on the Oxus was apparently burnt to the ground around 145 BC.[46] The last Greco-Bactrian king, Heliocles I, retreated and moved his capital to the Kabul Valley. The kingdom was finally overthrown by a group of nomadic peoples in 140 or 130 BC. The Greek geographer Strabo mentions this event in his account of the central Asian tribes he called "Scythians":[47]

All, or the greatest part of them, are nomads. The best known tribes are those who deprived the Greeks of Bactriana: the Asii, Pasiani, Tochari, and Sacarauli, who came from the country on the other side of the Jaxartes [Syr Darya], opposite the Sacae and Sogdiani.

— Strabo, [48]

The Roman historian Pompeius Trogus (1st century BC) attributes it to the Scythian tribes of the Sacaraucae and the Asiani "kings of the Tochari".[47]

Pompeius Trogus and Justin (2nd century CE) record that the Parthian king Artabanus II was mortally wounded in a war against the Tokhari in 124 BC.[49] Several relationships between these tribes and those named in Chinese sources have been proposed, but remain contentious.[47]

Kushana copy of a coin of Greco-Bactrian king Heliocles
Kushana copy of a coin of Greco-Bactrian king Heliocles, with original horse on the reverse

After they settled in Bactria, the Yuezhi became Hellenized to some degree – as shown by their adoption of the Greek alphabet and by some remaining coins, minted in the style of the Greco-Bactrian kings, with the text in Greek.[50] The area of Bactria they settled came to be known as Tokharistan and the Yuezhi were known as Tókharoi by the Greeks.

In the Hindu Kush

The area of the Hindu Kush (Paropamisadae) was ruled by the western Indo-Greek king until the reign of Hermaeus (reigned c. 90 BC–70 BC). After that date, no Indo-Greek kings are known in the area. According to Bopearachchi, no trace of Indo-Scythian occupation (nor coins of major Indo-Scythian rulers such as Maues or Azes I) have been found in the Paropamisade and western Gandhara. The Hindu Kush may have been subsumed by the Yuezhi,[original research?] who by then had been dominated by Greco-Bactria for almost two centuries.

As they had done in Bactria with their copying of Greco-Bactrian coinage, the Yuezhi copied the coinage of Hermeaus on a vast scale, up to around 40 CE, when the design blends into the coinage of the Kushan king Kujula Kadphises. Such coins may provide the earliest known names of Yuezhi yabgu (a minor royal title, similar to prince), namely Sapadbizes[original research?] and/or Agesiles, who both lived in or about 20 BC.

Kushan Empire

Asia circa 1 AD – the Yuezhi ("Tocharians") are located near the centre of the map.
The first self-declared Kushan ruler Heraios (1–30 AD) in Greco-Bactrian style
Obv: Bust of Heraios, with Greek royal headband.
Rev: Horse-mounted King, crowned with a wreath by the Greek goddess of victory Nike. Greek legend: TVPANNOVOTOΣ HΛOV – ΣΛNΛB – KOÞÞANOY "The Tyrant Heraios, Sanav (meaning unknown), of the Kushans"

After that point, they extended their control over the northwestern area of the Indian subcontinent, founding the Kushan Empire, which was to rule the region for several centuries.[51][52][53] Despite their change of name, most Chinese authors continued to refer to the Kushanas as the Yuezhi.

The Kushanas expanded to the east during the 1st century CE. The first Kushan emperor, Kujula Kadphises, ostensibly associated himself with King Hermaeus on his coins, suggesting that he may[citation needed] have been one of the king's descendants by alliance, or at least wanted to claim his legacy.

The Kushanas integrated Buddhism into a pantheon of many deities and became great promoters of Mahayana Buddhism, and their interactions with Greek civilization helped the Gandharan culture and Greco-Buddhism flourish.

During the 1st and 2nd centuries, the Kushan Empire expanded militarily to the north and occupied parts of the Tarim Basin, putting them at the center of the lucrative Central Asian commerce with the Roman Empire. The Kushanas collaborated militarily with the Chinese against their mutual enemies. This included a campaign with the Chinese general Ban Chao against the Sogdians in 84 CE, when the latter were trying to support a revolt by the king of Kashgar. In around 85 CE,[citation needed] the Kushanas also assisted the Chinese in an attack on Turpan, east of the Tarim Basin.

Possible Yuezhi king and attendants, Gandhara stone palette, 1st century CE

Following the military support provided to the Han, the Kushan emperor requested a marriage alliance with a Han princess and sent gifts to the Chinese court in expectation that this would occur. After the Han court refused, a Kushan army 70,000 strong marched on Ban Chao in 86 CE. The army was apparently exhausted by the time it reached its objective and was defeated by the Chinese force. The Kushanas retreated and later paid tribute to the Chinese emperor Han He (89–106).

In about 120 CE, Kushan troops installed Chenpan – a prince who had been sent as a hostage to them and had become a favorite of the Kushan Emperor — on the throne of Kashgar, thus expanding their power and influence in the Tarim Basin.[54] There they introduced the Brahmi script, the Indian Prakrit language for administration, and Greco-Buddhist art, which developed into Serindian art.

Buddhist art c. 300 CE, depicting (left to right) a Kushan lay Buddhist, Maitreya, Buddha, Avalokitesvara, and a Kushan Buddhist monk.

Following this territorial expansion, the Kushanas introduced Buddhism to northern and northeastern Asia, by both direct missionary efforts and the translation of Buddhist scriptures into Chinese.[55] Major Kushan missionaries and translators included Lokaksema (born c. 147 CE) and Dharmaraksa (c. 233 – c. 311), both of whom were influential translators of the Mahayana sutras into Chinese. They who went to China and established translation bureaus, thereby being at the center of the Silk Road transmission of Buddhism.[citation needed]

In the Records of the Three Kingdoms (chap. 3), it was recorded that in 229 CE, "The king of the Da Yuezhi [Kushanas], Bodiao 波調 (Vasudeva I), sent his envoy to present tribute, and His Majesty (Emperor Cao Rui) granted him the title of King of the Da Yuezhi Intimate with the Wei (Ch: 親魏大月氏王, Qīn Wèi Dà Yuèzhī Wáng)."

Soon afterwards, the military power of the Kushanas began to decline. The rival Sasanian Empire of Persia extended its dominion into Bactria during the reign of Ardashir I around 230 CE. The Sasanians also occupied neighboring Sogdia by 260 AD and made it into a satrapy.[56]

During the course of the 3rd and 4th centuries CE, the Kushan Empire was divided and conquered by the Sasanians, the Hephthalite tribes from the north,[57] and the Gupta and Yaudheya empires from India.

Later references to the Lesser Yuezhi

Xiao Yuezhi may have been used as a generic term for various Caucasoid minorities that remained in northern China (following the migration of the Greater Yuezhi). The term is used of peoples in locations as diverse as Tibet, Qinghai, Shanxi and the Tarim Basin.

Some of the Lesser Yuezhi settled among the Qiang people of Huangzhong, Qinghai, according to archaeologist Sophia-Katrin Psarras.[58] Yuezhi and Qiang were said to be among members of the Auxiliary of Loyal Barbarians From Huangzhong that mutinied against the Han dynasty, in the Liangzhou Rebellion (184–221 CE).[59]

Elements of the Lesser Yuezhi are said to have been a component of the Jie people, who originated from Yushe County in Shanxi.[citation needed] Other theories link the Jie more strongly to the Xiongnu, Kangju, or the Tocharian-speaking peoples of the Tarim. Led by Emperor Shi Le the Jie established the Later Zhao state (319–351 CE) and were massacred by King Ran Min of the Ran Wei state, during the Wei–Jie war.

In Tibet, the Lesser Yuezhi constituted the Gar or mGar – a clan name associated with blacksmiths. The Gar became influential during the period of the Tibetan Empire – until the end of the 7th century, when 2,000 of them were massacred by the Tibetan emperor Tridu Songtsän.[citation needed]

Some of the Lesser Yuezhi are said to have founded the city state of Cumuḍa (also Cimuda or Cunuda), near the Lop Nur lake system, in the eastern Tarim.[60] Cumuḍa and its people were known to the Han as 仲雲 Zhongyun (pinyin; Wade–Giles Tchong-yun). In the 10th century, a Chinese monk named Gao Juhui, who had traveled to the Tarim Basin, stated that the Zhongyun were descendants of the Xiao Yuezhi, and that the king of Zhongyun resided near Lop Nur.[61] (Following the subsequent settlement of Uyghur-speaking people in the area, Cumuḍa became known as Čungul, Xungul and Kumul. Under subsequent Han Chinese influence, it became known as Hami 哈密.)

Whatever their fate may have been, the Xiao Yuezhi ceased to be identifiable by that name and appear to have been subsumed by other ethnicities, including Tibetans, Uyghurs and Han.

Proposed links to other groups

A depiction of the Kushan ruler Heraios, who reigned 1–30 CE.

The relationship between the Yuezhi and other Central Asian peoples is unclear. Based on claimed similarities of names, different scholars have linked them to several groups, but none of these identifications is widely accepted.[62]

Mallory and Mair suggest that the Yuezhi and Wusun were among the nomadic peoples, at least some of whom spoke Iranian languages, who moved into northern Xinjiang from the Central Asian steppe in the 2nd millennium BCE.[63]

Scholars such as Edwin Pulleyblank, Josef Markwart (a.k.a. Joseph Marquart) and László Torday, suggest that the name Iatioi – a Central Asian people mentioned by Ptolemy in Geography (150 CE) – may also be an attempt to render Yuezhi.[64]

There has been only limited scholarly support for a theory developed by W. B. Henning, who proposed that the Yuezhi were descended from the Guti (or Gutians) and an associated, but little known tribe known as the Tukri, who were native to the Zagros Mountains (modern Iran/Iraq), during the mid-3rd millennium BCE. In addition to phonological similarities between these names and *ŋʷjat-kje and Tukhāra, Henning pointed out that the Guti could have migrated from the Zagros to Gansu,[65] by the time that the Yuezhi entered the historical record in China, during the 1st millennium BC. However, the only material evidence presented by Henning, namely similar ceramic ware, is generally considered to be far from conclusive.[66]

Proposed links with the Aorsi, Asii, Getae, Goths, Gushi, Jatts, Massagetae,[67][68][69] and other groups have also gathered little support.[62]

When manuscripts dating from the 6th to 8th centuries AD written in two hitherto-unknown languages were discovered in the northern Tarim Basin, the early 20th-century linguist Friedrich W. K. Müller assumed that the authors were Tókharoi and referred to the newly discovered languages as "Tocharian". This became the common name for both the languages of the Tarim manuscripts and the people who produced them.[45][70] Most historians now reject the identification of the Tocharians of the Tarim with the Tókharoi of Bactria, who are not known to have spoken any languages other than Bactrian.[3][71] Other scholars suggest that the Kushanas may previously have spoken Tocharian before shifting to Bactrian on their arrival in Bactria, an example of an invading or colonising elite adopting a local language.[72][73] However, while Tocharian contains some loanwords from Bactrian, there are no traces of Tocharian in Bactrian.[45]

Another possible endonym of the Yuezhi was put forward by H. W. Bailey, who claimed that they were referred to, in 9th and 10th century Khotan Saka Iranian texts, as the Gara. According to Bailey, the Tu Gara ("Great Gara") were the Great Yuezhi.[74] This is consistent with the Ancient Greek Τόχαροι Tokharoi (Latinised Tochari) in reference to the faction of the Kushans that conquered Bactria, as well as the Tibetan language name Gar (or mGar), for the members of the Lesser Yuezhi who settled in the Tibetan Empire.

See also



  1. ^ a b c d Watson 1993, p. 234.
  2. ^ Hulsewé, A.F.P. and Loewe, M.A.N. China in Central Asia: The Early Stage: 125 B.C.-A.D. 23: An Annotated Translation of Chapters 61 and 96 of the History of the Former Han Dynasty. Leiden. E. J. Birll. 1979. ISBN 90-04-05884-2, pp. 119–120.
  3. ^ a b Hansen, Valerie (2012). The Silk Road: A New History. Oxford University Press. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-19-993921-3.
  4. ^ André Wink, Al-Hind, the Making of the Indo-Islamic World: The Slavic Kings and the Islamic conquest, 11th–13th centuries, (Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 57
  5. ^ All dates from Benjamin
  6. ^ Wei Lanhai, Li Hui and Xu Wenkan, The separate origins of the Tocharians and the Yuezhi, page 284, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/318897882_The_separate_origins_of_the_Tocharians_and_the_Yuezhi_Results_from_recent_advances_in_archaeology_and_genetics
  7. ^ a b c d e Thierry 2005.
  8. ^ "Les Saces", Iaroslav Lebedynsky, ISBN 2-87772-337-2, p. 59
  9. ^ Liu Jianguo (2004). Distinguishing and Correcting the pre-Qin Forged Classics. Xi'an: Shaanxi People's Press. ISBN 7-224-05725-8. pp. 115–127
  10. ^ Liu 2001a, p. 265.
  11. ^ Benjamin 2007, p. 32.
  12. ^ Liu 2010, pp. 3–4.
  13. ^ Liu 2001a, p. 273.
  14. ^ Loewe, Michael A.N. (1979). "Introduction". In Hulsewé, Anthony François Paulus. China in Central Asia: The Early Stage: 125 BC – AD 23; an Annotated Translation of Chapters 61 and 96 of the History of the Former Han Dynasty. Brill. pp. 1–70. ISBN 978-90-04-05884-2. pp. 23–24.
  15. ^ a b Mallory & Mair 2000, pp. 283–284.
  16. ^ Liu 2001a, pp. 267–268.
  17. ^ Enoki, Koshelenko & Haidary 1994, pp. 169–172.
  18. ^ Mallory & Mair 2000, p. 94.
  19. ^ a b Benjamin, Craig (October 2003). "The Yuezhi Migration and Sogdia". Transoxiana Webfestschrift. Transoxiana. 1 (Ēran ud Anērān). Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  20. ^ Beckwith 2009, pp. 380–383.
  21. ^ EARLY TÜRKS: ESSAYS on HISTORY and IDEOLOGY, Yu. A. Zuev, page 15: "...Maodun proudly informed emperor Han: ". . . Due to the favor of the Sky, the commanders and soldiers were in sound condition, and the horses were strong, which allowed me to destroy Uechji, who were exterminated or surrendered."
  22. ^ Enoki, Koshelenko & Haidary 1994, p. 170.
  23. ^ Chavannes (1907) "Les pays d'occident d'après le Heou Han chou". T'oung pao, ser.2:8, p. 189, n. 1
  24. ^ Grousset, Rene (1970). The Empire of the Steppes. Rutgers University Press. pp. 27–28. ISBN 0-8135-1304-9.
  25. ^ Silk Road, North China, C. Michael Hogan, The Megalithic Portal, A. Burnham, ed.
  26. ^ Watson 1993, pp. 233–236.
  27. ^ Watson 1993, p. 245.
  28. ^ Enoki, Koshelenko & Haidary 1994, p. 175.
  29. ^ Watson 1993, p. 235.
  30. ^ Narain 1990, p. 158.
  31. ^ Hill (2004), pp. 29, 318–350
  32. ^ Narain 1990, p. 159.
  33. ^ Hill 2009, pp. 28–29.
  34. ^ 後百餘歲,貴霜翕候丘就卻攻滅四翕候,自立為王,國號貴霜王。侵安息,取高附地。又滅濮達、罽賓,悉有其國。丘就卻年八十餘死,子閻膏珍代為王。復滅天竺,置將一人監領之。月氏自此之後,最為富盛,諸國稱之皆曰貴霜王。漢本其故號,言大月氏云。Hanshu, 96
  35. ^ Yu Taishan (2nd Edition 2003). A Comprehensive History of Western Regions. Zhengzhou: Zhongzhou Guji Press. ISBN 7-5348-1266-6
  36. ^ Notes to Section 13, The Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu, trans. John Hill.
  37. ^ "Greek Art in Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Northwest India", Encyclopaedia Iranica, plate VIII
  38. ^ Millward, James A. (2007). Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang. Columbia University Press, New York. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-231-13924-3.
  39. ^ Runion, Meredith L. (2007). The history of Afghanistan. Westport: Greenwood Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-313-33798-7. The Yuezhi people conquered Bactria in the second century BC, and divided the country into five chiefdoms, one of which would become the Kushan Empire. Recognizing the importance of unification, these five tribes combined under the one dominate Kushan tribe, and the primary rulers descended from the Yuezhi.
  40. ^ Liu, Xinrui (2001). Adas, Michael, ed. Agricultural and pastoral societies in ancient and classical history. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. p. 156. ISBN 978-1-56639-832-9.
  41. ^ "巴里坤:月氏与匈奴的远古王庭". Archived from the original on 2012-07-12. Retrieved 2010-03-07.
  42. ^ [1][permanent dead link] 《东黑沟——月氏与匈奴人的古家园》
  43. ^ [2] 月氏?还是匈奴? – 新疆天山网
  44. ^ [3][permanent dead link] 学术通讯
  45. ^ a b c Krause, Todd B.; Slocum, Jonathan. "Tocharian Online: Series Introduction". University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  46. ^ Bernard 1994, p. 100.
  47. ^ a b c Enoki, Koshelenko & Haidary 1994, p. 174.
  48. ^ Strabo, 11-8-1.
  49. ^ Grousset, Rene (1970). The Empire of the Steppes. Rutgers University Press. p. 31. ISBN 0-8135-1304-9. This would seem to prove that the Yueh-chih of Chinese history – if they correspond, as supposed, to the Tokharoi of Greek history – were from that time established in Bactria, a country of which they later made a 'Tokharistan'.
  50. ^ Narain 1990, p. 161.
  51. ^ Runion, Meredith L. (2007). The history of Afghanistan. Westport: Greenwood Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-313-33798-7. The Yuezhi people conquered Bactria in the second century BC and divided the country into five chiefdoms, one of which would become the Kushan Empire. Recognizing the importance of unification, these five tribes combined under the one dominate Kushan tribe, and the primary rulers descended from the Yuezhi.
  52. ^ Liu 2001b, p. 156.
  53. ^ Beckwith 2009, pp. 84–85.
  54. ^ Hill 2009, pp. 14, 43.
  55. ^ Rong, Xinjiang (2004). Translated by Zhou, Xiuqin. "Land route or sea route? Commentary on the study of the paths of transmission and areas in which Buddhism was disseminated during the Han period" (PDF). Sino-Platonic Papers. 144: 26–27.
  56. ^ Mark J. Dresden (1981), "Introductory Note," in Guitty Azarpay, Sogdian Painting: the Pictorial Epic in Oriental Art, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, p. 5, ISBN 0-520-03765-0.
  57. ^ "Afghanistan: Central Asian and Sassanian Rule, ca. 150 B.C.-700 A.D." United States: Library of Congress Country Studies. 1997. Retrieved 2016-09-16.
  58. ^ Sophia-Karin Psarras, Han Material Culture, New York, Cambridge University Press, pp. 31, 297.
  59. ^ Haloun, Gustav (1949). "The Liang-chou rebellion 184–221 A.D." (PDF). Asia Major. New Series. 1 (1): 119–132.
  60. ^ H. W. Bailey, Indo-Scythian Studies: Being Khotanese Texts, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp. 6–7, 16, 101, 133.
  61. ^ Ouyang Xiu & Xin Wudai Shi, 1974,New Annals of the Five Dynasties, Beijing, Zhonghua Publishing House, p. 918 – cited by: Eurasian History, 2008–09, The Yuezhi and Dunhuang (月氏与敦煌) (18 March 2017).
  62. ^ a b Mallory & Mair 2000, pp. 98–99, 281–283.
  63. ^ Mallory & Mair 2000, p. 318.
  64. ^ Jhutti, Sundeep S. (2003). "The Getes" (PDF). Sino-Platonic Papers. 127: 15–17.
  65. ^ Henning, W.B. (1978) "The first Indo-Europeans in history"
  66. ^ https://depts.washington.edu/silkroad/texts/hhshu/notes13.html
  67. ^ Jhutti 2003, p. 22.
  68. ^ page 201, https://books.google.com/books?id=fX8YAAAAQBAJ&pg=PA201&dq=yuezhi+massagetae&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjH3_if8JjQAhUDVRQKHVUoDMIQ6AEIIDAB#v=onepage&q=yuezhi%20massagetae&f=false
  69. ^ Enoki, Koshelenko & Haidary 1994, p. 171.
  70. ^ Adams, Douglas Q. (1988). Tocharian Historical Phonology and Morphology. pp. 2–4. ISBN 978-0-940490-71-0.
  71. ^ Mallory & Adams 1997, p. 590.
  72. ^ A.K. Narain. "6 – Indo-Europeans in Inner Asia". In Denis Sinor. The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia. p. 153. ISBN 978-0521243049.
  73. ^ Beckwith 2009, p. 5, footnote #16, as well as pp. 380–383 in appendix B, but also see Hitch, Doug (2010). "Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present" (PDF). Journal of the American Oriental Society. 130 (4): 654–658. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-12-26. Retrieved 2015-01-02. He equates the Tokharians with the Yuezhi, and the Wusun with the Asvins, as if these are established facts, and refers to his arguments in appendix B. But these identifications remain controversial, rather than established, for most scholars.
  74. ^ page 110, Gara, https://books.google.com/books?id=OOK-fBNwZ7kC&printsec=frontcover&dq=gara+H+W+bailey&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=gara%20H%20W%20bailey&f=false


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  • Dorn'eich, Chris M. (2008). Chinese sources on the History of the Niusi-Wusi-Asi(oi)-Rishi(ka)-Arsi-Arshi-Ruzhi and their Kueishuang-Kushan Dynasty. Shiji 110/Hanshu 94A: The Xiongnu: Synopsis of Chinese original Text and several Western Translations with Extant Annotations. Berlin. To read or download go to: [4]
  • Enoki, K.; Koshelenko, G.A.; Haidary, Z. (1 January 1994). "The Yu'eh-chih and their migrations". In Harmatta, János. History of Civilizations of Central Asia: The Development of Sedentary and Nomadic Civilizations, 700 B. C. to A. D. 250 (PDF). Paris: UNESCO. pp. 171–191. ISBN 978-92-3-102846-5.
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External links

  • "Section 13 – The Kingdom of the Da Yuezhi", The Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu, trans. John Hill
    • Notes to Section 13 – Linguistic analysis of the connection between Yuezhi and Kushan
  • Mongolia: Xiongnu and Yuezhi – Overview of Xiongnu history and their wars with the Yuezhi
  • "The Yuezhi Migration and Sogdia", by Craig Benjamin.
  • [5] Kasim Abdullaev on Yuezhi migrations in Central Asia
  • "India and China: beyond and the within", Lokesh Chandra
  • [6] online version of the Guanzi
  • "Evidence that an West-East admixed population lived in the Tarim Basin as early as the early Bronze Age", Li et al. BMC Biology 2010, 8:15.

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