Section 1 – Historical Background

1. The term Xiyu 西域 [Hsi-yü] the ‘Western Regions’ – was sometimes used specifically to refer to the territories that were directly controlled by China to the west of what is generally referred to as “China Proper” – particularly the small oasis states strung along the main branches of the Silk Routes between Dunhuang and Kashgar. At other times, though, the term xiyu was used in a general way to denote all countries to the west of China.
          The term xiyu is sometimes translated as the ‘Western Kingdoms’ or the ‘Western Countries,’ but this is not strictly correct. The character yu signifies ‘frontiers,’ ‘limits’ or ‘territory included within the frontiers.’ It is for this reason I have used the more general term of ‘regions.’

2. Nei [Nei] – literally ‘inner,’ or ‘interior’ – referring to the land within the Wall – within the frontiers; that is, “China Proper.”

3. Shizhe xiaowei 使者校尉 [Shih-che hsiao-wei] = ‘Commandant of Imperial Envoys.’ My translation of this title is based on the following definitions: Hucker (No. 5208) says that shih-che 使者 means: “Lit., someone sent as a representative. (1) HAN: Envoy, occasional designation of a diplomatic representative from China to a foreign state or chief. HB: messenger.” He defines hsiao-wei 校尉 (No. 2456) as: “Commandant, normally prefixed with functionally descriptive or laudatory terms. (1) HAN-SUNG: title of functioning military officers in a wide range of ranks; see under prefix.”
          The Hanshu states that, after the commandery of Jiuquan [Chiu-ch’üan] was established
circa 104 BCE, missions to distant lands became commonplace:

“Thereafter [more] envoys were sent out, and reached An-hsi, Yen-ch’i, Li-kan, T’iao-chih and Shen-tu. These envoys were in sight of each other on the roads. A single mission comprised several hundred members, if large, and a hundred or so if small; and the gifts they carried were generally [chosen to] resemble those sent in the time of the noble of Po-wang [i.e. the famous explorer and envoy, Zhang Qian]. Later [the despatch of missions] became more a matter of routine, and they were reduced to smaller numbers. Each year the number of Han missions amounted to over ten, if many, and five or six if few; those that went on long distances returned after eight or nine years, those on shorter distances after several years.” CICA, pp. 219-220. See also the discussions in Chavannes (1907), p. 153, n. 2, and CICA, pp. 57ff. 

4. (Xiyu) duhu = ‘Protector General (of the Western Regions).’ Hucker (No.7237) describes this title, duhu 督護 [tu-hu] : “HANYÜAN: Protector-general, a military duty assignment to preside over submitted alien peoples, especially in modern Sinkiang, as an imperial delegate with viceregal powers; appears in many variations....”

“The post of Protector General was created in 59 B.C., and officials were appointed in this capacity from then until the end of Wang Mang’s government. The establishment of the post was an innovation in Han institutions and marked a new and more sophisticated stage in the development of Han policy. It was now recognised that some degree of co-ordination was desirable, both so as to regulate relations with the states of the west and to facilitate the passage of travellers and goods along the northern and southern routes. The post was designed to extend Han protection to those alien communities who wished to benefit from it, to act as an authority to which they could appeal in times of emergency, and to seek help from such communities when this was needed by Han. The existence of the protectorate general served to confirm rather than invalidate the authority of the local leaders and their officials who had received Han titles, seals and ribbons of office; and members of the protector general’s staff would visit the states of the west or were occasionally stationed there.” CICA, p. 64. See also the discussion in Chavannes (1907), p. 154, n. 1. 

5. Maoji xiaowei 戊己校 GR, Vol. VI, p. 655 states that this title refers to the Commandant responsible for the military colonies at Cheshi [Ch’e-shih] or Gaozhang [Kao-ch’ang] – in the Turfan oasis – during the Han dynasty. It also mentions that the first character, wu or mou [‘fifth Heavenly Stem] was pronounced mao until it was changed by an Imperial edict during the Five Dynasty period (907-960 CE). I have, therefore, given preference to the original form of mao (reconstruction: *mug) in my translation.
          The text specifically states here that there were two xiaowei here (“maoji er xiaowei”), but it is unclear whether it means there were two maoji xiaowei, or one Mao and one Ji ‘Commandants.’ I have chosen the latter interpretation as the most likely. Certainly, between 74 and 78
CE, there was both a Mao (Wu) and a Ji [‘sixth Heavenly Stem] Commandant. However: “In 89 only the wu colonel and his regiment were re-established, to be abolished again in 107 CE.” CICA: 79, note 3. Both the Mou and the Ji Commandants are stated later on in the text (see Section 2) to be stationed “within the walls of Gaochang.”
          Dubs and de Crespigny (1967), p. 65 translate the title as ‘The Wu-and-chi Colonel.’ Hucker (No. 7740) says, “HAN: Commandant of the Centre (?), rank = 600 bushels, from 48 B.C. the designation of some commanders of military garrisons in Central Asia; the title seems to reflect the Taoist concepts that the celestial symbols wu and chi represent the center (chang), but the relevance of this explanation is questionable....” 
          I would suggest that, as the position(s) related to the control of the State Farms, the term is more likely a reference to the attribute ‘earth
’ which traditionally applies to the characters mao (or wu) and ji taken together
For the position of xaiowei see note 1.3 above. ‘Nearer Jushi’ refers to the kingdom or state centred in the Turfan oasis or, sometimes, to the tribe which controlled it. See note 26.1 (see below).

 6. tuntian 屯田 = ‘State Farms’ or ‘agricultural colonies’ were set up to provide for the needs of diplomatic and trade missions as well as Chinese officials and troops stationed in distant regions. This passage is usually translated to imply that they were set up at the “court” of the King of Nearer Jushi, but this comes from a mistaken reading of the word ting which can be read as ‘court’ but it also carries the meaning of a ‘frontier region’ or ‘march’ – see GR No. 10984. In fact, as Chavannes (1907), p. 155, n. 1, notes, the prince of the court of Jushi resided at Yarkhoto, about 20 li (8.3 km) west of modern Turfan, while the Commandant responsible for the military colonies had his residence at the fortified camp of Gaochang (Karakhojo), 70 li (29 km) southeast of modern Turfan – the southernmost oasis of the Turfan depression, strategically placed to control both the route from Hami and the direct, but far more difficult, alternate route from Dunhuang across the desert, which was used when the Chinese were not able to control the region of Hami. See note 1.25 below.
For details on the establishment and functioning of the Han ‘State Farms,’ see: Hucker (1985) No. 7409; Stein (1921), pp. 740-745; de Crespigny (1984), pp. 62-67 and 471, n. 17. See also note 1.26 below.

 7. The passage bianyi houwang 易侯王 [pien-i hou-wang] is rather difficult to interpret. It seems to imply that the ‘kings’ of the 55 kingdoms were demoted in rank from ‘king’ to ‘marquis’ (which is why they rebelled and submitted to the Xiongnu). This is the sense I have adopted here.
          However, Chavannes (1907), p. 155, interprets it to mean that Wang Mang insulted the Chanyu of the Xiongnu by changing his title to “vassal king”, thus inciting the 55 kingdoms to rebel and join the Xiongnu. Chavannes explains his position as follows:

“In 9 CE, Wang Mang sent an envoy to the Chanyu to notify him of his accession and to give him a new seal of investiture : but, while the seal bestowed on the Chanyu by the Han carried the inscription: “Seal of the Chanyu of the Xiongnu”, the seal given by Wang Mang presented the words: “Insignia of the Chanyu of the Xiongnu, (dependent) of the Xin,” Xin being the name that Wang Mang had given to the new dynasty that he claimed to have founded. – The Chanyu immediately protested these modifications. He remarked that, under the Han dynasty, the seals which were called “insignia” and began with the word “(dependent of the) Han,” were reserved for vassal-kings or other functionaries of the Empire. By changing the term [xi – Imperial Seal] to and by making the inscription on the seal begin with the word “(dependent of the) Xin,” Wang Mang was, therefore, treating the Chanyu not as an independent sovereign, but as a simple subject of the Empire (Qian Hanshu, chap. XCIV, b, pp. 8b–9a). This was the cause that provoked the split between the Xiongnu and the Empire.” Translated and adapted from Chavannes (1907), p. 155, n. 2.

          The Xiongnu 匈奴 [Hsiung-nu. K1183d + K94l: i̯ung-no; EMC: xuawŋ-nc] were originally a northern nomad people who became very powerful towards the beginning of the 3rd century BCE. They defeated the Yuezhi and Wusun, and posed a major threat to China itself. They managed , at times, to subjugate most of the countries to the north and west of China. In 51 BCE they split into two groups – the eastern (also known as ‘southern’) horde who submitted to China, and the western (or ‘northern’) horde who became the major power to the north of China. For a discussion of the derivation and possible connections of the name Xiongnu with the later Huns, see Pulleyblank (1963), p. 139.
          However, in spite of Pulleyblank’s arguments, it must be admitted that the name Xiongnu carries strongly derogatory connotations, and was unlikely to have been used by the people themselves.
          The first character
xiong nowadays means ‘thorax’ or ‘chest,’ the seat of intelligence and emotions; but originally it had the meaning of ‘evil hidden within the man’ – see GR No. 4593. The second character, nu means simply ‘slave’ or ‘serf’. I believe the answer lies in the fact that they did not refer to themselves as Xiongnu but, rather, used other terms ore or less closely related in sound but without the derogatory overtones. The clues may be found, I believe, in the following passage from Yu (2000), p. 180 which apparently lists transcriptions of some of the names the Xiongnu tribes may have used for themselves:

“Of the tribes of the Xiongnu 匈奴as seen in the Shiji , ch. 110, there was a Hunyu 渾庾 and a Hunxie , which may have derived from the Kunwu 昆吾. This is because the Hunyu 渾庾 [kuən-jio], Hunxie [kuən-zya] and Kunwu 昆吾[kuən-nga] can be regarded as different transcriptions of the same name.”

Pulleyblank’s EMC reconstructions for these characters are: hunyu 渾庾 – ɣwən-juă; hunxie 渾邪ɣwən-zia or ɣwən-yé; kunwu 昆吾 – kwən-ŋ¿.
          Although the question of a connection between some branch of the Xiongnu and the Huns who invaded Europe in the 4th century remains unproven, it does seem likely, and is accepted by many scholars. The strong possibility of phonetic connections between these names and the later names for the ‘Huns’ who invaded Europe is clear. This can be easily seen by looking at the forms of the names for the later Huns in various languages given in Partridge (1958), p. 299.

“Hun, whence Hunnian, Hunnic, Hunnish.
Hun is a b/f from OE Hüne or Hünas, the Huns, itself prob. From LL Hūni (ML, usu Hunni), with less correct var Chūni or Chunni, prob from Ch Han (var Hiong-nu); cf. Skt Huṇa, Gr Ounnoi or Khounoi, and also ON Hūnar and OHG Hūni (G Hunnen). These invaders from Asia overran and terrorized Europe c372-453
A.D., Attila dying in the latter year. Cf the G derivative Hune, MHG hiune, a giant (Walshe).”

8. Suoche 莎車 [ So-ch’e, sometimes written: So-chü] = Yarkand. It is rather difficult to decide on a particular transliteration for this name. The written form in both ancient and modern Chinese is identical. Unfortunately, there are two alternative pronunciations for each of the two characters. In spite of the identical characters, the name is regularly transcribed as Shache on many modern maps and is recorded as So-chü or Suoji in other sources. I have chosen the lead of GR and rendered it, with some hesitation, as Suoche. GR Vol. V, p. 520, No. 9989; Vol. I, p. 288, No. 558. See also note 20.1 below.

 9. Xiao Yuan (or Wan) 小宛 [Hsiao-yüan] was, according to the Hanshu (CICA, p. 92), three days’ march south of Jushi [present-day Qiemo or Cherchen], “It lies secluded to the south and is not situated on the route.” It was bordered on the east by the 婼羌 Chuo [literally, ‘Unsubdued’ or ‘Unruly’– the first character is sometimes transcribed as er] Qiang. It is described as a small place with just over 1,000 inhabitants and was later, according to the Hou Hanshu, annexed by Shanshan. 
          The name Xiao Yuan (literally, ‘Little Yuan’) is evocative of Da Yuan (‘Great Yuan’), or Ferghana. Brough suggests that it might have been the home of the small group of Yuezhi who settled among the Qiang in the mountains to the south of the main trade route when the largest group – the Da (‘Great’) Yuezhi – fled to the west after their defeat by the Xiongnu about 175
BCE. They became known to the Chinese as the Xiao (‘Lesser’) Yuezhi. Brough (1965), pp. 592-593; CICA, p. 93 (including note 130), 121.
          There are two main possibilities for its position. Stein suggested the first. If one travelled south from Qiemo, and then southwest, it must have been located near modern Atqan [A-chiang], about 110 km from Qiemo. Atqan controls the route running southwest along the northern foot of the mountain range:

“As to the still smaller ‘kingdom of Little Wan’ or Hsiao-yüan, which lay about three days’ journey to the south of Chü-mo, and of which a brief account is given in the succeeding notice of the Hsi yü chuan [of the Hou Hanshu], it is certain that it must be identified with the small settlements of cultivators and herdsmen which are scattered along the foot of the K’un-lun south and south-west of Charchan, from Achchan to the debouchure of the Mölcha and Endere Rivers (see Maps Nos 43, 47). To judge from the distance indicated, the ‘capital’ of this tract, the ‘city’ of Yü-ling, may be placed about Dalai-kurghan, as suggested by Dr. Herrman. The population recorded for Hsiao-yüan, 150 families, throws light on the modest resources of this hill tract. It is correctly described as ‘lying out of the way of the high road’ and adjoining on the east of the territory of the nomadic Jo Ch’iang, who held the high plateaus south of the Altin-tagh, including Tsaidam.” Stein (1921), p. 296.

          If, however, as seems more likely, the route headed south from Qiemo and then east, up the Cherchen River gorges, Xiao Yuan must have been near modern Tura [T’u-la], about 125 km or 77 miles from Qiemo or, perhaps, Bash Mulghun [Bashi Maergong, W-G: Pa-shih-ma-erh-kung], about 22 km further east. Tura and Bash Mulghun control an easily defended valley of rich grasslands and guard the junction of two important routes. 
          The first route formed an alternative to the main southern “Silk Route” from Dunhuang to Khotan and is still in use today. It headed west from Lanzhou via Xining and Koko Nor (= Qinghai Hu = Kökenagur or
Blue Sea– Bailey (1985), p. 80) past Dzun (or Zongjiafangzi) where a road branched south towards Lhasa, and across the Qaidam [Tsaidam] marshes through Bash Mulghun and Tura to Qiemo.
          The second one forms the main route to the relatively fertile valleys of Central Tibet. It heads almost directly south from Bash Mulghun about a thousand kilometres to Xigaze [Shigatse], presently Tibet’s second-largest city.
          Maillart (1937), pp. 171-175, describes the journey from Bash Mulghum to Cherchen as taking four days; indicating that the journey from Qiemo to Tura, which is about 22 km shorter than to Bash Mulghum, could be easily covered by well-rested travellers from Qiemo in three days – exactly the time indicated in the Hanshu.
          Recently discovered evidence indicates the early use of the route through the Qaidam towards Koko Nor and on to Lanzhou via Xining. The following article was downloaded from: on 8 July 2002. 
          The town of Xiangride mentioned in the article is about 175 km southwest of (Lake) Koko Nor (Qinghai Hu= Kökenagur or
Blue Sea– Bailey (1985), p. 80), or 50 km southeast of Dzun (or Zongjiafangzi), on the main road between Xining and Golmud. The people referred to in the article as Tubo are more accurately described as Qiang. Tubo (more correctly, Tufan) refers to “Tibetans,” who had not yet formed a national identity at this period.


Byzantine Gold Coin Unearthed in Qinghai

Xinhuanet 2002–07–03 14:12:27

DULAN (QINGHAI), July 3 (Xinhuanet) – A Byzantine gold coin recently unearthed in Dulan in northwest China's Qinghai Province, may shed new light on the history of East-West trade routes.
          Xu Xinguo, head of the Qinghai Cultural Relics and Archeology Institution, said that the coin excavated from a tomb in Xiangride Township in Dulan County was made during the reign of Theodosius II (408-450 AD.).
          The tomb was for an ethnic Tubo who lived in the Northern Dynasties (386-550 AD). This is the second ancient Roman gold coin unearthed in Dulan.
          As sites where coins are found usually indicate the trade and traffic routes, Xu says that archeologists should think again about the east end of the
Silk Road.
          A widely accepted theory is that the road entered the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region through present-day Lanzhou and the Gansu Corridor.
          But Xu said that a number of recent archeological findings from Tubo tombs including this coin had shifted people's attention to Dulan County deep in the Qaidam Basin.
          He believed that the Dulan region occupied a very important position for East-West traffic during the early and middle fifth century. And the route from Xining to Xinjiang through the Qaidam Basin, slightly to the south, may be equally important, he said.
          Before sea routes opened between the East and the West, the Silk Road was the land corridor linking China with Central and Western Asia to the eastern shore of the Mediterranean between 100 BC and 800 AD.
          Experts said that the 2.36 gm coin, with a diameter of 14.5 mm, may have been used as an ornament. 

10. J
ingjue [Ching-chüeh] = Niya. For the identification of Jingjue as the ancient site of Niya see: Stein (1921), p. 219. Stein had some difficulties with its identification because of a mistaken distance given in the Hanshu and then repeated in the Shuijing. The Hanshu states that Jingjue is 2,000 li (832 km) west of Qiemo which has been “long since identified with Calmad(ana), in the area of modern Cherchen or Charchan.” CICA, p. 92, n. 125. This is a gross overestimate as the actual distance is only about 250 km.
          The location of ancient Niya is made certain by the fact the Hanshu gives a distance of 460 li (191 km) from Qiemo west to Wumi (= Jumi of the Hou Hanshu) which can be confidently identified with the oasis of Keriya, see note 3.1 below. As I measure it on modern maps, it is approximately 92 km in a straight line across the desert from Keriya to modern Minfeng or Niya Bazar, and then about 100 km north, along the course of the Niya He, to the ancient site described by Stein which included the ruins of houses and a stupa. See Stein (1921), Vol. 5, Map No. 37 – Niya. See also: Enoki (1963), pp. 143 and 159; CICA: 93, n. 132.

“Now this definite mention of Chü-mo or Charchan as a territory with which the ruler of the ancient oasis represented by the Niya Site stood in close relation, necessarily forces the question as to the identity of his own ‘kingdom’ upon our attention. Since it is clearly proved by these little tablets that the ancient oasis possessed its own ruling family, I do not hesitate to identify the site as the chief place of the territory of Ching-chüeh . . . which the Chinese historical records from Han to T’ang times place to the west of Chü-mo. In the Former Han Annals ‘the kingdom of Ching-chüeh’ is described as situated to the west of Chü-mo at a distance of two thousand li. Its western neighbour was the kingdom of Yü-mi at a distance of 460 li. Since the latter territory must certainly be identified with the Chira-Keriya tract, we are thus led to place Ching-chüeh on the Niya River in spite of the greatly exaggerated distance indicated between Chü-mo and Ching-chüeh The capital of the kingdom is named ‘the city of Ching-chüeh.’ But the limited size of the ‘kingdom’ is sufficiently proved by the estimates of its population, ‘480 families, comprising 3,360 persons, with 500 trained troops.’
          No details are given about Ching-chüeh by the Later Han Annals, which merely mention it along with Shan-shan and Chü-mo on the route from Yü-men to Khotan. Ching-chüeh figures similarly in the list of territories which the Wei lio, composed between A.D. 239-65, enumerates along the ‘southern route’ leading westwards from Lop-n
ōr to Khotan. But here we have in addition the distinct statement that Ching-chüeh along with Chü-mo and Hsiao-wan, another small territory which lay to the south of Chü-mo and evidently corresponds to the hill settlements between Kapa and Achchan, was dependent upon Shan-shan or Lou-lan, the territory adjoining Lop-nōr. The statement has its special interest for the identification of Ching-chüeh with the territory of which the Niya Site may be assumed to have been the chief place. On the one hand, it dates from the period immediately preceding the time when we assume the site to have been abandoned. On the other, it helps to explain why among the Chinese documents excavated in 1901 there was the cover, N. xv. 345, of an edict emanating from the ‘king of Shan-shan’, and why the records of N. xxiv discussed below include two covers bearing the seal-impression of the commander of Shan-shan.” Stein (1921), p. 219.

 11. Ronglu 戎盧 [Jung-lu] was, according to the Hanshu, south of Jingjue (Niya), and adjoined Qule (south of Keriya) to the east, and the Chuo (‘Unsubdued’ or ‘Unruly’) Qiang tribes to the south. It was said to “lie secluded to the south and is not situated on the route.” It was, perhaps, near modern Atqan – see note 1.9 above.

 12. Qiemo 且末 [Ch’ieh-mo] = modern Charchan or Cherchen. There has been some confusion about this name as first Chavannes (1907), p. 156, and then Stein (1921), 296 ff., gave the wrong romanization for the first character (Chavannes, using the French EFEO romanization system gave tsiu, and Stein used the Wade-Giles chü). In fact the character is correctly represented by ch’ieh in Wade-Giles and qie in Pinyin. However, there has never been any serious dispute about its identification with modern Charchan – see for example, Stein (1921), p. 295, CICA, p. 92, n. 125; although Pulleyblank (1963), p. 109, following Hamilton 1958, p. 121, suggests it was Shanshan (see note 1.13 below).
          Charchan is strategically located at the junction of the main route from Dunhuang to Khotan, and the route which goes south through the mountains, around the southern shore of Koko Nor, and on to Xining, and China. A branch from this second route goes south from Kharakhoto to Lhasa.
          An ancient trail ran from Xining via Koko Nor and the southern turn-off towards Lhasa at Kharakhoto, and then on to Charchan in the Tarim Basin. Chinese travellers at times attempted to make use of this route to avoid the horrors of the desert journey between Dunhuang and Loulan, south of Lop Nor. West of Koko Nor the trail goes through barren country, with little fodder and was inhabited by a hostile Qiang tribe (or tribes) referred to in the Chinese texts as the Chuo (‘Unsubdued’ or ‘Unruly’) Qiang:

“Charchand is reported to lie at a month’s distance from Khoten by a road which leads all the way along the foot of a mountain range (the so-called Kue-lun of Chinese and European geographers), and between it and the great Desert of Takla-Makān or Gobi. No roads are known to lead across this range further East than that from Poloo, which brings the traveler over to the Pangong Lake in Western Tibet; but there is a road leading eastward into China, which, however, was not used by the Chinese when they were in possession of the country.” Shaw (1871), p. 37.

“We had to go down the other side of the mountain in a cloud of dust, and then, once more, we were on a blistered, yellow table-land. It was bordered with abrupt, eroded mountains on which nothing grew. The great trail from Dulan to Lhasa by Barun wound through here and I even thought I saw traces of the plough. Yes, I was right. There were field shapes, a wall, an earthen roof. We were at Kharakhoto [west of Koko Nor at the junction of the trails from Cherchen to Xining and the road south to Lhasa; about two days’ march to the east of Dzun].” Maillart (1937), p. 101.

13. The kingdom of Sh
anshan 鄯善 [Shan-shan] = ancient Loulan and included the region around Lop Nor (‘Lop Lake’). Its capital during early Han times is called 扜泥 Yüni (often incorrectly transcribed as Wuni) in the Hanshu – see CICA, p. 81-82 and n. 77 – which probably referred to the region of modern Ruoqiang or the Charklik oasis, to the southwest of the died-up bed of Lop Nor. It is also sometimes referred to as the kingdom of Krorän. For the use of NW Prakrit in Kroraina (and in Kucha and Karashahr) see Bailey (1985), pp. 4-5.

   “Lou-lan is the Kror’iṃna or Krorayina of the Kharoṣṭhī-documents ; it was originally, it seems, the name of the whole country and known as such to the Chinese – although they may have been ignorant of its position – since 176 B.C., when the Hsiung-nu ruler Mao-tun informed emperor Wen of his conquest of this and of other states (HS 94 A.10b, Urkunden I, p. 76). In a more restricted sense, Lou-lan continued to refer to the town of Kror’iṃna, i.e. the area designated LA by Stein (1921), vol. I, pp. 414-415 : see also Enoki (1963), p. 147.” CICA, p. 81, n. 77.

This kingdom also controlled the strategic community located near the northwest corner of Lop Nor, near the outflow of the Tarim River, which was on the route from Dunhuang to Korla. This has caused considerable confusion about where the “capital” lay. I tend to agree with Yu Taishan that the seat of government was always in the fertile Charkhlik oasis:

“On the location of the royal government of Shanshan, there have been two main theories. The first suggests that Wuni was situated southwest of Lob Nor, around present Ruoqiang county. The second suggests that Wuni lay northwest of Lob Nor, around the ruins of Loulan (Kroraimna, Krorayina). In addition, it has been suggested that Shanshan had established its capital at Kroraimna when the name of the state was Loulan, and later moved its capital south of Lob Nor. In my opinion, Shanshan (i.e. Loulan) never moved its capital and the seat of the royal government had always been southwest of Lob Nor.” Yu (1998), p. 197 – and see the whole of his Appendix 2, “On the Location of Capital of the State of Shanshan,” ibid., pp. 197-211 for his detailed presentation for this scenario.

   “The town of Wuni was not situated northwest of Lob Nor, but was situated in the present Ruoqiang country (Qarkilik), on the south bank of the Charchen River, by the northern foothills of the Altyn Tagh, southwest of Lob Nor.” Ibid., p. 201.

As it seems that both CICA and Taishan Yu have given the wrong romanization for the first character of the name of the capital (the modern Pinyin should read yu not wu), I think I should give more details here:

yu [yü] GR 13088 [64:3] “1. To make a hand sign; 2. to pull to oneself (the string of a bow).” Couvrier (p. 345) gives: “to make a hand sign. To take.” This character is, unfortunately, not listed in either Pulleyblank or Karlgren.

ni [85:5] EMC: nεj or nεjh; K. 563d * niər.

I am unable to see why this original cannot be accepted, but, as I am no expert in these matters, and several alternatives are presented in CICA, I thought I should include them here, for the reader’s consideration:

   “Wu-ni, however, has given rise to considerable discussion because of the uncertainties surrounding the word here transcribed as wu, viz. . According to Yen Shih-ku, it is pronounced ·o· / ·ua, and this view is repeated in T’ai-p’ing yü-lan 792.5a (it is not clear whether this passage belongs to the original Hua-lin p’ien-lüeh of 524, or whether it was copied from a later – T’ang or Sung – manuscript of the Han-shu only around 983; see Tjan (1949), pp. 60-61; Pulleyblank (1963), p. 89, calls it “an anonymous gloss”, but the chances are that it is Yen Shih-ku’s remark).
          Secondly, although wu
is included in the dictionary Shuo-wen chieh-tzu of A.D. 100 (see Shuo-wen chieh-tzu ku-lin 5505a) and even in the earlier wordlist Fang-yen, compiled before A.D. 18, if we follow the emendation by Tai Chen (1937) in his Fang-yen su-cheng, p. 295, in the Shuo-wen it is not written but . Still more curious, however, is the fact that it does not seem to occur in Han inscriptions or in pre-Han literature, i.e. it is not found in Uchino’s index to the Li shih (1966) nor in Grammata Serica Recensa. According to its rare occurrences in Han literature, assembled in T. Moroashi’s Dai Kan-wa jiten, vol. V, p. 103, no. 11799, wu seems only to occur in these few placenames in HS 96!
          Thirdly, there are variant readings, where wu
is replaced by (K. 139q : g’ân / ɣân), or , K. 108p : ku / ku, or ku / kəu, or g’u / g’u). These variants occur in some editions of SC 123 (Shao-hsing ed. 123.1b. Palace ed. of 1739, 123.3b. This reading has not been adopted by Takigawa, SC 123.7, who writes without further explanation), cq. HHS Mem. 78.6bff., both not regarding the city of Wu-ni, but the country of Wu-ni (HS 96.16a ; see note 138).
          Now either Wu-mi or Chü-mi (not ni !) may be correct for the completely different country (see below), but, as regards the capital of Lou-lan – Shanshan, it would seem that
扞泥 Han-ni is right, supported as it is by the reading 驩泥 (GSR 158.l : χwân / χuân) in the Hou Han chi by Yüan Hung (328-375), for this agrees with the word occurring in the kharoṣṭhī inscriptions : kuhani (or kvhani), meaning “capital” (Enoki (1963), p. 129-135 as well as Enoki (1961) and Enoki (1967), cf. Brough (1965) ), Pulleyblank (1963), p. 89 reconstructs the “Old Chinese” pronunciation of Wu-ni as ·wāĥ-ne(δ) and believes it “unnecessary … to adopt the reading … The variant 驩泥 *hwan-nei seems closer to ·waĥ than to *ganh as an attempt to render the hypothetical original behind khvani or kuhani”.” CICA, pp. 81-82, n. 77.

          The name of the kingdom Loulan was changed by the Chinese to Shanshan in 77 BCE. See: Chavannes (1905), p. 537, n. 2; Brough, (1965), p. 592; Molè (1970) p. 116, n. 183 [note that the date of the name change to Shan-shan in AD 77 is incorrect]; CICA, p. 81, n. 77.
          It seems that the ancient kingdom of Krorän also included the territory of the oasis of Charkhlik to the southeast of Lop Nor, on the Southern Route, and that this was, indeed, the “capital” or “seat of government”.
          Note, however, that Pulleyblank (1963), p. 109, suggests that Shanshan was plausibly identified by Hamilton (1958, p. 121): “with modern Charchan < *Jarjan. The name Shan-shan appears as a substitute for the earlier Lou-lan in the first century
BCE. If the foreign original had indeed palatials at this period, we must suppose that the Chinese palatials were already beginning to develop, perhaps in and intermediate stage *d. There are too many uncertainties, however, for this to provide a firm argument.” This argument does, however, seem to have been overridden by the argument that it must refer to the largest oasis in the region – that of modern Charklik:

“There can be no doubt that by Shan-shan is here meant [that is, in the Weilue] the present Lop tract with its main oasis of Charkhlik.” Stein (1921), p. 328. See also: Giles (1930-1932), p. 830; Part 4, note 15; Pelliot (1963), p. 770.

“The northern and southern routes came together again on the eastern rim of the Tarim near the great salt marsh of Lopnur in the kingdom of Krorän (Kroraina, Loulan) before continuing into the world of the ethnic Chinese.” Mallory and Mair (2000), pp. 64-65.

“The statelet that formed about the great salt marshes of Lopnur was known in Chinese sources originally as Loulan and then later was called Shanshan . . . when the territory came under Chinese dominion in 77 BC. The name Loulan reflects an attempt to render in Chinese what we find in later Indian (Kharoṣṭhī) documents from the region as Krora’ina or Krorayina (now Krorän).... As for the name ‘Shanshan’, this has been seen as a precursor to the name ‘Chärchän’, where some of the most spectacular mummies have been recovered. This is hardly unexpected as the region possesses immense deserts laden with salt that both early Chinese guidebooks and modern explorers have described in detail. A 1st-century BC document informs us that from the Chinese outpost at Dunhuang to Krorän there was a desert that stretched for 500 li [208 km] in which there was neither water nor grass.” Ibid. p. 81.

   “During the Han period the population of Krorän is given as 1,570 households, with 14,100 people of whom 2,912 could bear arms. The agricultural potential of the region is described as limited, its soils being too sandy and salty, and food crops had to be brought in from neighbouring states. There was an important nomadic component in the region where asses, horses and many camels are reckoned. Other products were jade, rushes, tamarisk and balsam poplar.” Ibid, p. 85.

   “Another prominent site to see some excavation is the town of Krorän which was excavated by Sven Hedin, Aurel Stein and, most recently, by Hou Can. Its stamped earth walls still stand up to 4 m (13 ft) in height and ran about 330 m (1,083 ft) on each side. It housed clusters of temples, the government central offie, residential quarters and what has been dismissed as a ‘slum’. Within 5 km (3 miles) of the town Hou Can uncovered seven tombs. Among the burials was a middle-aged woman who had a child placed over her head, reminiscent of the ‘Scream Baby’ excavated at Zaghunluq.” Ibid., p. 165.

“The next town [to the east, after Quemo/Cherchen], Ruoqiang (Charkhlik) is no bigger but is nevertheless the most important in the vast region encompassing the salt seabed of the dried-up Lop Nor. In the first century BC it formed part of the Kingdom of Loulan, which was later to change its name to ‘Shanshan.’ At Ruoqiang the road divides, one branch heading north to Korla, the other taking a more southerly road than the original Silk road, crossing into Qinghai Province and then turning northeast to Dunhuang. East of Ruoqiang lies another archaeological site, Miran, which Stein visited in 1906. In the 1970s Chinese archaeologists found a Han-Dynasty system of irrigation canals here. To the south lie the Altun Mountains, where a large nature reserve has been established. It was here in the 1880s that the Russian explorer, Nikolai Prejewalski, discovered the only existing species of the original horse, which was named Equus prezawalski. Extinct in the wild, the species is now only bred in zoos.” Bonavia (1988), p. 192.  

   “Krorän was included in the lists of conquests carried out by the Xiongnu leader Modu in 176 BC and, with the westward expansion of the Han, it found itself in the middle of two warring empires…. The king saw that it was impossible to navigate between two such masters and tilted his hand towards the Han, who took advantage of the situation, assassinating one king and beheading another until they had installed someone they could trust, and in 77 BC the name of Shanshan. Although ostensibly under Han control, as late as AD 25 it was recorded that Krorän was still in league with the Xiongnu.
          Understandably, during the floruit of the Silk Road, Krorän was a place of great strategic importance. About
AD 119 Ban Yong, the son of General Ban Chao, recommended that the Chinese governor be sent to Krorän with 500 men to establish a Chinese colony…. It was intended that that this colony dominate all approaches to Dunhuang, the main Chinese outpost in the west, by way of both the northern and southern routes and it was also intended to check any Xiongnu incursions. In order to provide the colony with a secure agricultural basis, major irrigation works were required and a much later account depicts how attempts to place a barrage across a river in order to dam the water for irrigation were thwarted by an intractable river throwing itself against and over the barrage. First the governor tried prayers and sacrifices to get the water to recede but when these failed he sent his troops in to assault the waters with swords, spears and arrows, and the river, apparently cowed, dropped its water level and supplied the desired irrigation channels.
          The administrative capital of Krorän was discovered and investigated by Sven Hedin…, Aurel Stein and Hou Can. The 429 documents found in these investigations provide contemporary evidence of the running of the Chinese colony in the 3rd century
AD and the approximate date of its abandonment in the 4th century (the most recent document dates to c. 330). In addition to the documents written in Chinese there were tablets in Prākrit, a north Indian language, which also contained traces of the language of the native inhabitants…. Stein could only speculate that physical changes robbing the region of adequate water supplies led to its current deserted state and Hou Can supports this theory with documentary evidence, indicating pressure on water resources and the need to build a reservoir upstream. The Chinese abandoned the territory and did not attempt to resettle it during their reconquest of the Tarim in the 7th century Krorän apparently went out with a whimper rather than a bang: in his excavations of the home of one of the leaders of Kroränian society Stein discovered thick layers of sheep dung that preceded its total abandonment – animals had been stalled in rooms where nobility had once dwelt.” Mallory and Mair (2000), pp. 86-87.

   “More recent analysis suggests that the Cherchen burials were made about 1000 BC, whilst the Loulan graveyard bodies seem to have been buried as early as 2000 BC. Though the site is now barren, salty, sandy and windswept, the rings of dried tree-trunks surrounding the graveyard, the bundles of ephedra twigs in the graves , and the arrows and baskets all point to a different environment thousands of years ago, enabling a semi-settled life. When the Chinese of the Han dynasty first set out into Central Asia, Loulan was still an important caravan stop with water and food in abundance. A disastrous flood in about AD 330 destroyed the town, and the Lop lake gradually dried up into salt flats, although, out of custom, many travellers still passed through the remains of Loulan on the northern route that offered no shelter or sustenance. From this time onwards the southern route was safer, though longer
          The mummies found at Loulan and Cherchen were strikingly European-looking. They had high-bridged noses, substantial beards, deep, round eye-sockets and fairish or reddish hair. They were tall, if fully grown, and wore clothing of furs, woven cloth, often in an interesting plaid pattern, leather and felt….” Wood (2002), pp. 61 and 63.

Professor Richard Frye (personal communication, 7 July 2003) cautions:

“If the mummies in fact are to be dated very early (= pre 1000 BC) then it is possible that the ancestors of the Hunzakut, Burushaki speaking people, were the mummies. This supposes a pre-Indo-European population extending from the Basques through Rhaetians to the Himalayas etc. (not one people but various pre-Indo-European speakers). On the other hand, if it can be shown that the ancestors of the Tokharians were the same as (or related to) the Guti and Hittites, then Victor [Mair] may be right. It all hangs on the date of the migration of the Tokharians to Gansu from the west. They are hardly the indigenous Indo-Europeans as Narain thought.”

Perhaps DNA analysis of the mummies will be able to give us some more definite answers to these questions. It is of interest to note that a recent study (reported in Nature Science Update and downloaded from on 7 July, 2003) has found that peoples related to the Basques may have been widespread before the later invasions of Indo-European speaking peoples:

“Goldstein's team collected DNA samples from more than 1,700 men living in towns across England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. They took a further 400 DNA samples from continental Europeans, including Germans and Basques. Only men whose paternal grandfathers had dwelt within 20 miles of their current home were eligible.
          The Y chromosomes of men from Wales and Ireland resemble those of the Basques. Some believe that the Basques, from the border of France and Spain, are the original Europeans.”

One hopes that this research is done soon before more damage is done to these important sites by looters. I include the following newsbrief  both to emphasize the need for urgent protection of the sites and because of the inherent interest in terms of Lop Nor history. It was downloaded from: on 7 July 2003:



Volume 56 Number 3, May/June 2003


IIn the remote Lop Nur desert of northwest China, ancient tombs have been ransacked for the second time in two years. A team of archaeologists on an expedition to the area reportedly encountered the tomb robbers and followed their trail back to a previously unknown mausoleum from the Loulan Kingdom, an important stop along the Silk Road, that flourished more than two millennia ago. Inside the 90-foot-high domed mausoleum were high-quality silks, colored coffins, and an extraordinary mural depicting geometric patterns and a gold and a silver camel fighting each other, all of which were damaged by the looters. Mummies were desecrated and scattered bones thrown from the tombs. Although it is still too early to be certain, the quality of the grave goods and the rarity of the funerary architecture suggest that the mausoleum may be royal–or even belong to one of the Loulan kings, whose tombs have never been found. While investigations into the robbery continue, the local heritage administration now faces the tremendous challenge of preserving these unique tombs, which are clearly a popular target for looters. Because of the size of the area in which the tombs are located (they are spread across 25 acres) and the sparse population of this region of China, this will be an extremely difficult task. – JARRETT A. LOBELL

14. Q
ule 渠勒 [Ch’ü-le] was probably situated along the ancient route that led south from Keriya into northern Tibet, near modern Pulu, at the foot of the mountains.

“However, our old Chinese sources do not fail us altogether about the geography of this region ; for the small territory of Ch’ü-lê..., which the Former Han Annals note to the south of Yü-mi, can be safely identified with the present submontane tract known as Tāgh and comprising, as mentioned above, the various small settlements from the Keriya River to those on the river of Chira. Of Yü-mi I have made it certain as I believe, that it comprised the whole of the oases between Chira and Keriya, and the Tāgh subdivision lies, as Maps Nos. 28, 32 show, exactly to the south of these. Ch’ü-lê is described as a very small territory with only 310 families. We have no means of fixing the position of its ‘capital . . . the city of Keen-too’.” Stein (1921), pp. 1322-1323.

The Hanshu says:

“The seat of the king’s government is at the town of Chien-tu, and it is distant by 9950 li [4,139 km] from Ch’ang-an. There are 310 households, 2170 individuals with 300 persons able to bear arms. To the north-east it is a distance of 3852 li [1,602 km] to the seat of the protector general. It adjoins Jung-lu in the east, the [land of the] Ch’iang [tribes who are termed] Ch’o in the west and Wu-mi in the north.” CICA, p. 96.

15. Pishan 皮山 [P’i-shan] = modern Pishan or Guma. See Chavannes (1907) 174, n. 1, and the discussions by Aurel Stein (1907) pp. 99-103, and (1921a) p. 86 where he says: “....the identity of P’i-shan with the modern Guma is certain.” See also CICA, p. 97, n. 152.

16. Yutian [Yü-t’ien] = Khotan. See note 4.1 below.

17. Yuli 郁里 [Yü-li] was probably the same place called Yulishi 立師 in the Hanshu. Yulishi was said to have 1,445 inhabitants and bordered on the “further town of Jushi” to the east, Beilu to the west and the Xiongnu to the north. CICA, p. 180 and n. 601. Note also that the character shi in Han times meant ‘a regiment’, nominally of 2,500 troops, which may possibly indicate that Chinese troops were stationed there during the period covered by the Hanshu.
          Mallory and Mair (2000), p. 68, place Yulishi: “c. 125 km NNE of Turpan, 275 km E. of Manass.”

18. Danhuan 單桓 [Tan-huan].

Mallory and Mair (2000), p. 68, place Danhuan: “near Ürümchi”.

“Along the routes of Eurasia there are many other place names recorded in various Chinese forms that are actually variations of Tuharan [Tokharian]. A tiny settlement of twenty-seven households named Danhuan as recorded in the Hanshu was probably not too far from Qilian Mountain [identified as an earlier name for the present Tianshan mountain range].”14

14. Ban Gu, Hanshu (History of the Han Dynasty) (Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1964), 96/3919. Quoted in Lin Meicun, The Western Region of the Han-Tang Dynasties and the Chinese Civilization, p. 77. Liu (2001), p. 268 and n. 14.

19. Guhu 孤胡 [Ku-hu] was another very small state which, according to the Hanshu had only 264 inhabitants and was 1,147 li (477 km) east of the seat of the Protector General at Wulei (which itself was about halfway between Korla and Kuqa), and 770 li (320 km) from Yancai or Karashahr. CICA, p. 182 and n. 613.
Mallory and Mair (2000), p. 68, place Guhu at: “Lükchün, NE edge of Turpan Basin”. However, these figures don’t fit very well with the figures given in the Hanshu for Nearer Jushi which had its capital at Jiaohe, about 16 km west of modern Turpan (1807 li or 752 km south-west to the seat of the protector general, and 835 li or 347 km to Yancai or Karashahr).

20. Wutanzili 烏貪訾離 [Wu-t’an-tzu-li]. The Hanshu describes Wutanzili as a very small settlement of only 231 people. It adjoined Danhuan (see note 1.18 above) to the east, [Western] Jumi to the south, and the Wusun to the west. CICA, p. 179 and note 592.

21. Jushi 車師 [Chü-shih]. The peoples of “Nearer” and “Further” Jushi, (comprising the Turfan oasis and the region around Jimasa, some 200 km north across the mountains), were closely related and often worked in concert. Because of this the Chinese often referred to them together as “Jushi,” specifying either “Nearer” or “Further” only when there was a reason to differentiate between them. See the descriptions further on in Sections 26 and 27.
          These small settlements or “states” (Yuli, Danhuan, Gushi, and Wutanzili) were strung along the route which followed the northern slopes of the Tianshan Mountains west from the state of Further Jushi (Guchen) to the country of the Wusun. It then led past (Lake) Issyk-kol and Tashkent to the north of the Aral and Caspian Seas to the territory of the Alans, who were in direct contact with the Roman outposts on the Black Sea. This provided a useful alternative route to the Roman Empire and caravans could avoid paying the high taxes imposed by the Parthians. It seems, however, to have been less used, probably because it was difficult to protect and easily raided by Xiongnu and other northern nomad groups. For more information on these small states see the accounts in the Hanshu (CICA, pp. 79 and 179-182 and notes).

22. There were nearly constant shifts of power and alliances between the major oasis states. By the time of the Weilue (presumably referring to the late 2nd or early 3rd century CE), we find the following groups of dependencies listed:

– the kingdom of Juzhi (Cherchen), the kingdom of Xiaoyuan, the kingdom of Jingjue (Niya), and the kingdom of Loulan (north of Lop Nor), listed as dependencies of Shanshan (Charkhlik).

– the kingdom of Ronglu, the kingdom of Hanmi (Keriya), the kingdom of Qule, and the kingdom of Pikang (= modern Pishan or Guma), listed as dependencies of Yutian (Khotan).

– the kingdom of Eastern Jumi (near modern Dashito), the kingdom of Western Jumi (near modern Mulei), the kingdom of Danhuan, the kingdom of Bilu, the kingdom of Pulu, and the kingdom of Wutan (= Wutanzili), listed as dependencies of the king of the Further Jushi (near Jimasa).

23. The term Beilu 北虜 refers to the Northern Xiongnu who frequently posed a serious threat to Chinese power and its communications to the west. Beilu translates literally as ‘Northern Captives’ or ‘Northern Prisoners of War’ – a derogatory term used by the Chinese for their bitter enemies, the Northern Xiongnu. As it doesn’t make sense when translated literally into English, I have followed Hulsewé and Loewe’s suggestion in CICA p. 170, n. 550 of rendering lu as “savage.” Thus, Beilu 北虜 becomes “Northern Savages” and always refers to the Northern Xiongnu in this text.

24. Hexi 河西 (literally ‘West of the Yellow River’) was the region under direct Chinese control west of the Huang He or Yellow River. The four Commanderies of Hexi were centred on the towns of Liangzhou 涼州, Suzhou, Ganzhou, and Dunhuang in the Province of Gansu:

“It was not until the time of Emperor Wu, shortly before 100 BC, that the Han established a military and political presence northwest across the Yellow River and founded the commanderies of Hexi – ‘West of the River.’ Jiuquan, Zhangye, and Dunhuang were probably established in 104 and subsequent years, Wuwei and Jincheng in the half century following.
   Under Later Han, the commanderies of Wuwei, Zhangye, Jiuquan and Dunhuang stretched in that order from southeast to northwest along the present-day Gansu corridor.” de Crespigny (1984), pp. 7-8. See also: Chavannes (1907), p. 156, note 4, and Chavannes (1906), p. 247.

25. Yiwulu 伊吾盧 [I-wu-lu]. Almost all authors place the Yiwu(lu) of the Han period in the region of modern Hami or Qumul.

“Known as Khamil in Mongolian, the name of this important Silk Road town is transcribed in Modern Standard Mandarin as Hami. It is famous for its succulent melons suffused with fragrance and sweetness. Large amounts of cotton are also grown in irrigated fields.” Mallory and Mair (2000), p. 13.

A few scholars, however, identify Yiwu with the modern settlement of the same name (and written with the same characters) about 160 km by road northeast of modern Hami, across the Karlik range. See, for example, de Crespigny (1984), pp. 43 and 522, n. 71. This tiny settlement is also known as Aratürük or Atürük. For the derivation of the name Qāmul = modern Hami, see Bailey (1985), p. 10.
          I have chosen the traditional identification, however, placing it near modern Hami, on the grounds that the strategically important and famously fertile Hami oasis is a far more likely location for the State Farms the Han established at Yiwu than the rather limited agricultural potential of the region surrounding modern Yiwulu / Aratürük. Pelliot places Yiwu some 30 miles (48 km) west of the town of modern Hami:

“In A.D. 73, the Chinese created a military colony in the region, with a walled city.... The military colony of I-wu-lu or I-wu did not thrive like that of Kao-chang..., and was abandoned with the whole of the region in 77. A new occupation in 90 was still less durable. The third effort, in 131, was more successful, but only for a time, and Qomul had already passed out of Chinese reach at the end of the Han dynasty.... As to the I-wu-lu of the Han, which the commentary of 676 on the two passages of the Hou Hanshu calls the ancient small town of I-wu, it was located about 30 miles west of Qomul [Hami], in the district of Na-shih....” Pelliot (1959), p. 155.

“Perhaps the earliest reference to Hami – or Yiwu, Yizhou or Kumul, as it was variously known – was in a book, made of bamboo slips and bound together with white silk, found in a second-century BC tomb in Henan Province. This record, discovered in the third century, is an account of the quasi-mythical travels of Emperor Mu, the fifth emperor of the Zhou Dynasty (1027-256 BC), who, on returning from his visit to the Queen Mother of the West, stayed in Hami for three days and received a present of 300 horses and 2,000 sheep and cattle from the local inhabitants.
          Hami was considered by the Chinese the key to access to the northwest, but they were not always successful in keeping the city free of nomadic incursions. In 73 BC [sic – should read AD] the Han general Ban Chao wrested the area from a Xiongnu army and established a military and agricultural colony....
          Like Turpan, Hami is in a fault depression about 200 metres (650 feet) below sea level, and temperatures are extreme, from a high of 43o C (109o F) in summer to a low of -32o C (-26o F) in winter.” Bonavia (1988), pp. 105; 110-111.

“Cumul occupies a geographical position of great strategical importance. Like Ansi on the south, so Cumul on the north is a stepping-off and landing-place for all travellers who cross the inhospitable tract of Gobi between the provinces of Kansu and Chinese Turkestan. The approach to the oasis is by long and desolate stages, but from the moment that the traveller’s foot touches watered land he is in the midst of beauty and luxuriant agriculture, and for several miles before reaching the town the road leads through fields and by farmhouses surrounded with elm and poplar trees. Everything indicates prosperity and an abundance of every product.” Cable and French (1943), p. 138.

“Beyond Hami the track led to Tsi-kio-king [Qijiaojing
not quite 200 km northwest of Hami], the Seven-Horned Well, which stands as sentinel where north and south trade-roads divide, each taking its own way on one or the other side of the dividing mountain range. The old well watches the South Road disappear over a dismal gravel plain toward the burning oases of the Flame Hills [north of Turfan], and the North Road enter the narrow tortuous defile which cuts the Tienshan range of mountains in two. In times of peace Seven-Horned Well was a dreary hamlet, but in war-time it became a strategic desert outpost from which soldiers guarded three main arterial roads toward Turfan, Hami and Urumchi. It has been a scene of fierce Gobi battles, and its sands have many a time been reddened with blood and littered with the bodies of men and carcasses of horses. Every invader covets its strategic position and knows of its tamarisk growth, which, though smothered by sand, will supply abundant fuel for his army.... The southern road kept south of the mountain range, past East Salt Lake and West Salt Lake to Turfan, and over the steep Dawan Pass to Urumchi. The northern road, however, led through a jagged cut in the Tienshan where, for a long nine-hour stage, a narrow and almost level path wound with innumerable turns between great bare crags and lofty granite cliffs, emerging at last on the Dzungarian plain.” Ibid. 297-298.

“This constant liability to northern attack, from which Hami has suffered whenever Chinese power in Central Asia weakened, is fully illustrated by its chequered history, as recorded in the Chinese Annals, and right down to our own times.... As regards the former [Han] period, it will suffice to point out that within four years of the first establishment of a Chinese military colony in A.D. 73 I-wu was lost again to the Hsiung-nu; reoccupied between A.D. 90-104, it suffered once more the same fate. The notice concerning the re-establishment of a military colony there in A.D. 131 brings out clearly the strategic value which the Chinese rightly attached to Hami. But obviously their hold upon it ceased when imperial control over the ‘Western regions’ was abandoned after the middle of the second century.” Stein (1921), p. 1149.

26. Yihe Duwei 宜禾都尉 – ‘Commandant in Charge of Crops.’ “Tu-wei: “Commandant or Commander-in-chief: throughout history a common military title, in later dynasties used mostly for merit titles (hsün); in all cases, specific identification is possible only by taking note of prefixes....” Hucker No. 7326. Yi has the original meaning of making an offering to the spirits of the soil and means field crops. Thus we get a title with a literal meaning of “Commandant in Charge of Crops.” See also note 1.6 above and 21.5 below.

27. Emperor Ming died in 8th month of the yongping period, that is, between 31 August and 28 September, 75 CE – see Chavannes (1907), p. 158, n.1, and Tung (1960). On the Western Han, p. 10.  Yanqi 焉耆 [Yen-ch’i] = Karashahr. See note 22.1 below.

28. Qiuci 龜玆 [Ch’iu-tz’u] = Kucha or Kuqa. “.... Guangyun gives this reading with unaspirated initial k which corresponds to the usual reading guī  in the sense of turtle. Compare Amoy ku. The reading qiū, with aspirated initial, based on Yan Shigu's commentary to the Hanshu, is of doubtful validity as evidence of a genuine Chinese reading for the graph....” Pulleyblank (1991), p. 257; see also the detailed discussion on ibid. p. 109. Bailey (1985), pp. 2-6; 137-139, also gives a detailed discussion of the origins and associations of the name.
          Qiuci is universally accepted as referring to the Kucha oasis but, unfortunately, the site of the Han capital within the oasis is not known although it may well have been on the same site that Stein identified as the probable site of the capital during the Tang period. Because of its importance, particularly as a point to measure routes from, I will give a few of the details on his surface survey of the area:

   “The present town, situated close to the western river bank and surrounded for the most part by weak walls of stamped clay, manifestly of modern construction, shows no old remains above ground as far as I could ascertain. But on the opposite side of the river, where lively suburban Bāzārs, stretching along the main roads towards the town, mingle with orchards, fields, and clusters of cultivators’ farms. I was able to trace the ruins of a larger and certainly much older circumvallation. Their position, almost due south of the Sū-bāshi shrines and somewhat nearer to them than that of the present town, suggests that they may well mark the site of the walls that enclosed the Kuchā city of T’ang times. As I know of no published account of them, I append a brief record of the rapid survey that I made during my first halt.
          Our camp was pitched in the Qāzī Muḥammad ‘Alī’s garden, near the eastern bank of the river, and about a mile above the high road where it enters the town. Proceeding thence eastward for half a mile, I came upon the first extant section of the old circumvallation, of which Maḥsüd, my intelligent old ‘Darögha’ and guide of 1908, had told me. It consisted of a rampart solidly built of stamped clay, some 60 feet wide at the base and in its ruined condition still rising to a height of about 18 feet. It maintained approximately these dimensions about 300 yards. Farther on its remains were lost in fields….
          The imposing ruin of Pīlang-tura, about three-quarters of a mile from the south-eastern corner of the circumvallation, presents the appearance of a massive tower, but gives no definite indication of its original character. It rises on a base of stamped clay to a height of 37 feet, and shows solid masonry of bricks 16 X 8 X 3½ inches in size. It measures 82 feet by 70 at the top, where there are traces of walls enclosing two rooms and of a large platform, as seen in the sketch plan, Pl. 39. I was unable to form an opinion as to the purpose of the ruined structure, but could not doubt its antiquity. Judging from the position it occupies in the plan of the circumvallation (Pl. 39), the Pīlang-tura cannot be far from the point where the wall turned to the north to form the western face of the enceinte.
          The ground here was too closely packed with suburban shops and houses to permit of a search, in the short time available, for the line which the wall probably followed northward. Assuming that it joined the northern face near the point where I first noted the well-preserved section of the latter, we find that the total circumference of the enclosed area is approximately 3 miles and 3 furlongs [5.43 km]. This measurement agrees very closely with the figure of 17–18 li which Hsüan-tsang’s notice indicates as the circumference of the capital of Kuchā. Taken with what I have mentioned above as regards the circumvallation in relation to Su-bāshi, this curious correspondence in the figures creates a distinct presumption in favour of the belief that the ruined circumvallation dates back to T’ang times, and marks the approximate size and extent of the capital of Kuchā as Hsüan-tsang saw it.” Stein (1928), pp. 806-807.

          According to the Hanshu, Kucha was the largest of the ‘Thirty-six kingdoms of the Western Regions,’ with a population of 81,317 including 21,076 persons able to bear arms. See: CICA: 163, and note 506.
          Kucha has frequently been transcribed as Qiuzi [Ch’iu-tzu], as in the previous reference, but this is incorrect, the final character is properly ci [tz’u] in this name. See: Daffinà (1982), p. 331.

“Far more favourable conditions prevail in the T’ien-shan north of the territory of Kucha. Agricultural settlements of some size are to be found among the foot-hills... ; mines of copper, lead and iron attest valuable mineral resources ; the presence of conifer forests at the head of several of the valleys draining the southern slopes affords striking evidence of the effect that atmospheric moisture, carried across the range from the north, has produced, by clothing the higher slopes with more abundant vegetation and thus favouring grazing. More important still is the fact that north of the watershed there extends along this portion of the main chain of the T’ien-shan a series of wide lateral valleys – those of Yulduz and of the Tekes and Kunges rivers – which provide not only rich grazing grounds but also, in their lower portions, large areas suitable for cultivation. We know that in Han times these fertile hill tracts were included in the territory of the powerful Wu-sun nation....
          Channels for profitable trade between these attractive valleys and the oases included in the ancient kingdom of Kucha are provided by a number of passes. Of these the Muz-art pass, situated on the flank of the great Tengri-khan massif, at an elevation of about 11,400 feet..., is the westernmost and best known. Others lead from the head-waters of the Kucha and Bugur rivers to the plateau-like top portion of the Great Yulduz. All of them, though closed by snow during part of the winter and early spring, are practicable with laden animals during the rest of the year. These routes provide adequate openings for the trade which is the natural outcome of the abundance of natural products on both sides of the range. Yet owing to their height, and the narrowness of the valleys by which they debouch southwards, they are far easier to defend against nomadic inroads and domination than the corresponding routes from the north into the territories of Karashahr, Turfan, and Hami, all farther to the east.” Stein (1928), p. 805.

“Kucha must always have been a considerable trade nucleus upon the great Central-Asian high road which passed through it.... The importance of the main oasis in this respect, apart from its local resources, is sufficiently indicated by the fact that it lies about half-way between Kashgar in the west and Turfan in the east; or, if we consider the times when the ancient Chinese ‘route of the centre’ was in use, between Kashgar and Lou-lan.
          .... During this period [the Han], when the region north of the T’ien-shan was still independent of Chinese control, there was an additional advantage in placing the administrative centre near Kucha : it was easy to watch from this point the several routes leading down from the north, by which barbarian inroads might threaten the main line of communication of Chinese trade and military operations. Finally it should be remembered that the riverine belts of the Tarim and Khotan-darya provide the shortest practicable line of access from the great northern high road to Khotan and the other oases south of the Taklamakan, as well as to those of Yarkand and Lop in the south-west and south-east.” Ibid. pp. 805-806.

   “In describing one of the major populations of the Tarim, the Chinese documents emphasize that the peoples were native so far as the as the Chinese could determine, unlike nomads such as the Xiongnu who constantly disturbed the northern and eastern frontiers of China. They were also urban and their entire way of life was distinguished from the nomadic Xiongnu and the Wusun....
          The Chinese name for Kucha as Qiuci (in Han and medieval times pronounced kiwəg-tsiəg or kjwi-tsi). The Hanshu gives the population of Kucha for the period c. 206
BCAD 8 as 6,970 households, which comprised 81,317 people and 21,076 soldiers, i.e. soldiers comprised about a fifth of the entire population. Kucha as a regional power embraced not only the town of Kucha itself but also Bügür, Bay, Aqsu, Üch, Toksu and Shayar. Kucha was, it might be noted, not only the largest town of East Central Asia but also markedly larger than the imperial seat of the Duhu [Protector General] at Wulei, some 350 li [146 km] distant. Wulei housed only 1,200 people and 300 elite soldiers. Other administrative centres of the Han were of a similarly modest size and when the Chinese determined that Kucha deserved punishing in the 1st century BC, a force of some 50,000 troops gathered from the western lands were required to take the town....
          Descriptions of the town itself are exceedingly few. The Jinshu (History of the Jin Dynasty) mentions that in the Jin period (
AD 265–419) Kucha consisted of both an inner town and an outer town and that the inner citadel itself was enclosed by three walls. Within this precinct were a thousand stupas (shrines) and Buddhist cloisters. The circumference of the town was likened to that of the Chinese capital of Chang’an and the Beishi (History of the Northern Dynasties) describes the town as 5 to 6 li square. The royal palace was splendid and reputedly contained a wine cellar.
          The population lived by agriculture and sources from the 6th century
AD listed the agricultural products of Kucha: red millet, wheat, rice, legumes, hemp, grapevines and pomegranates; livestock included horses, cattle, sheep and camels. When General Lü Guang recaptured Kucha in AD 352, he required 20,000 camels to transport back the foreign valuables; he also returned with 10,000 horses....
          In addition to a sound agricultural subsistence basis, the wealth of the northern Tarim towns rested on exploiting the mineral resources of the surrounding mountains. The Boshan (
White Mountain’) in the Tängri Tagh Range north of Kucha yielded copper, iron, lead, gold, tin, coal, sal ammoniac, copper oxide, orpiment, sulphur and other commodities. Some 200 li [83 km] north of Kucha lay a mountain that reputedly exhibited fire by night and smoke by day. This mountain (identified as the present Hamama or Eshek-bashi Ola), provided sufficient iron to equip the entire Tarim Basin with arrows, swords, lances and armour, weapons that were also important to the Xiongnu nomads, which explains why they attempted to maintain control of the territory. The ammonia, which the Songshi notes could only be exploited by those with wooden soles on their shoes as leather ones would burn, was employed in leather-working to make the lassos of the Tarim riders so feared by the Chinese. The population also produced fine felt and rugs, while silk was obtained from China. Exchange was facilitated by two media cotton goods and coins of copper, silver and gold. Mallory and Mair (2000), pp. 72-74.

“In Kucha the ruling princes came from the House of Po (“white”), first mentioned for the year 91 and referred to in 787 in the Chinese sources.” Zhang (1996), p. 284.

“According to the Chin shu [History of the Chin] (Chapter 97):

They [the people of Kucha] have a walled city and suburbs. The walls are threefold. Within are Buddhist temples and stupas numbering a thousand. The people are engaged in agriculture and husbandry.

The Chou shu [History of the Chou] (Chapter 50) relates:

In the penal laws [of Kucha], a murderer is executed, and a robber has one arm and one leg cut off. For the military and civil administration taxes, they measure the land in order to assess the levies. Those who hold no fields remit in silver coins. Marriage, funerals, customs and products are about the same as in Karashahr. It also produces delicate felt, deerskin rugs, cymbals, sal ammoniac, cosmetics, good horses, wild oxen and the like.

These descriptions are in full agreement with other early records. According to another report, the city walls of Kucha were indeed triple, equal in circumference to those of Ch’ang-an, the capital of the T’ang dynasty, and the number of stupas and temples within the city amounted to 1,000.” Zhang (1996), p. 285.

“One will notice that this chapter of the Hou Hanshu does not dedicate any particular notice to Kucha. Only a little inscription found at Bai informs us that, in the year 158 of our era, a certain Liu Pingguo 劉平國 had the title of General of the Left [East] of Kucha 龜玆將軍 (cf. Dix inscriptions chinoises de l’Asie Centrale, p. 37 and following).” Translated and adapted from Chavannes (1907), p. 208, n. 1.

29. Taishou 太守 (literally: ‘Great Defender’) = ‘Governor.’ Hucker (No. 6221): “CH’INSUI: Governor of the territorial unit of administration called a Commandery (chün), normally with both military and civil responsibilities and often bearing the additional title General (chiang-chün); in Han rank 2,000 bushels....”
          During the Early Han, “... a defensive line was established from Jiuquan (‘Wine Springs’) in the Gansu Corridor west to the Jade Gate Pass at its end.” Mallory and Mair (2000), p. 60.

30. Jiaohe 交河 [Chiao-ho] = Yarkhoto. See note 26.2.

31. The term Yi [I ] was generally used rather loosely for non-Chinese populations of the east. It carried the connotation of people ignorant of Chinese culture and, therefore, ‘barbarians’. The term Di [Ti] is probably also used here in a similar manner to denote non-Chinese peoples of the west. However, this term is also sometimes employed for a specific people.
          The Bamboo Chronicles contain the first historical mention of the Di referring to the capture of “twenty Di kings” during an expedition against the Gui or Di peoples by the Zhou king Ji in the 12th century
          They were apparently originally of Qiang origin settled in the Ling ranges and to the south, where they were gradually influenced by Chinese culture while retaining elements of their own.
          Chinese records refer to Boma (‘White Horse’) Qiang and Boma Di people, both on the frontiers of Wudu and Guanghan commanderies in northern Sichuan. These probably refer to the same people. The Boma Di still survive in their ancient home in northwestern Sichuan, near the border with Gansu and Qinghai in the Boma or White Horse Valley. It seems probable that this “White Horse Valley” is the original home of the White Horse Qiang or Di. This valley is on the upper reaches of the Min Qiang (river), which flows south from the Min Shan (mountains) near the town of Zhangla: 32.50o N, 103.40o E. See, in particular, HHS 86/76, 2359-60, and also HHS 87/77, 2898-99.” de Crespigny (1984), 470, n. 8; de Crespigny (1977), pp. 6-7 and n. 8; Rogers (1968), pp. 4-5 and nn. 6, 9; Molè (1970), p. 83, n. 50; Holmgren (1982), p. 116; Wu (1982), pp. 107-108; CICA: 101, n. 178. Wong (1984), p. 305; and the note on p. 288.

32. Jun Sima 軍司馬[Chün Szu-ma] = Division Commander. Hucker (No. 1790): “HAN: Division Commander, title commonly assigned to the leader of a Division (pu), 5 of which were the normal components of a Campaigning Army (ying) under a General-in-chief (ta chiang-chün).”

33. Da jiangjun 大將軍 [Ta chiang-chün] = General-in-Chief. Hucker (No. 5897): “General-in-chief: throughout history a designation of military officers in command of armies; more prestigious than General (chiang, chiang-chün); location- or task-specific prefixes should be noted.” The biography of General-in-Chief Dou Xian can be found in chap. LIII of the Hou Hanshu – see Chavannes (1907), p. 158, n. 3.

34. Fu Xiaowei 副校尉 [Fu Hsiao-wei] = Deputy Commandant. fu: “Vice: common designation, especially from the T'ang on, of officials who were the principal assistants or deputies to the head of an agency. Most commonly occurs as a prefix....” Hucker (No. 2032). For the position of xiaowei see note 1.3 above. 
          Dubs and de Crespigny (1967), p. 10 define this title as: “The Associate Protector-General and Colonel of the Western Frontier Regions,” but it is difficult to see why they assume it was such an exalted position and it is clear that Yan Pan was under the General-in-chief – there was no Protector General at the time.
          In Chapter IV, p. 2b of the Hou Hanshu, this officer is called
閻礱 Yan Long rather than 閻縏 Yan Pan and places his victory in the same month (the 5th month of the 2nd  yongyuan  year, or between 16th June and 15th July, 90 CE) that Ban Chao triumphed over the Yuezhi or Kushan army sent against him. Chavannes (1907), p. 158, n. 4, and (1906), pp. 232-233.

35. Gaochang 高昌 [Kao-ch’ang] = Karakhoja, 70 li (29 km) southeast of Turfan. See note 1.6 above. Chavannes (1907), p. 155, n. 1, states that:

“The prince of the court of Nearer Jushi had his residence at Jiaohe cheng (Yarkhoto, 20 li west of Turfan); but the jiwu xiaowei (or at least one of them) had their residence at the fortified camp of Gaochang. (Karakhodjo, 70 li to the east of Turfan).” From: Chavannes (1907), p. 155, n. 1.

“The impressive ruins of the ancient city of Gaochang lies 47 kilometres (29 miles) southeast of Turpan. Built in the second century BC as a garrison town, it became the capital of the Kingdom of Gaochang under the Han house of Qu. By the seventh century it held sway over 21 other towns.” Bonavia (1988), p. 143.

See also: Stein (1921), pp. 333 n.14, 412 n. 12, 473, 705, 1167; CICA, p. 191, n. 665.

36. Mao-(Wu-)bu hou 戊部侯 [Mao-pu hou] = Mao Troop Captain. Maobu hou could also be translated as ‘Captain of the Mao Tribe’ but, as this officer is specifically stated to be located in the territory of the (tribe of the) Nearer Jushi, it seems more likely that the word bu here carries its alternative meaning of an army ‘division’ or ‘troop.’ 
          Hucker (4764) gives as one of the meanings for bu: “(2) HAN–N-S DIV: Division of a Campaigning Army (ying), variable in number but according to an old saying 5 under the command of a General-in-chief (ta chiang-chün), presumably fewer normally in an Army (chün) under a General (chiang-chün); each led by a Commandant (hsiao-wei) and subdivided into several Regiments (ch'ü). this usage persisted through the S. Dynasties and even into N. Wei, but with a less specific hierarchical sense, perhaps best rendered Troop....”
          Hucker (2205) has for hou: “(3) HAN: Commandant, a military title with many uses, commonly with a rank of 600 bushels; less prestigious than hsiao-wei (also Commandant) and ssu-ma (Commander) but more prestigious than ch'ien-hu (Battalion Commander).” 
          Dubs and de Crespigny (1967), p. 10 render hou as ‘Captain.’ I have adopted this translation to make the distinction clear between this position and that of the Mao and Ji Xiaowei, or ‘Commandants,’ stationed in Gaochang.

37. He was obviously stationed at the town of Jinman 金滿城 [Chin-man] as the distances given from Gaochang are exactly identical. See also note 2.7 below.

“According to the Xiyushuidaoji (chap. III, p. 5 a), the site of the ancient Beiting is none other than the locality of Hubaozi, about twenty li to the north of the present sub-prefecture of Baohui. In fact, a Tang period stele has been found at this place which, although badly damaged, categorically proves that previously the sub-prefecture of Jinman was to be found here. Now, here is what one reads in the Jiu Tang shu (chap. XL, p. 29 b): “Jinman... was, during the Later Han, the Posterior Royal Court (of the kingdom) of Jushi. In the ancient barbarian court, there were five towns. The common name was therefore, the ‘Territory of the Five Towns.’ In the 14th zhengguan year (640), after (the kingdom of) Gaochang (Yarkhoto) had been pacified, the District of Ting was established.” Several lines above, one reads in the same work that, in the second changan year (702), the Protectorate of Beiting was created from the District of Ting. Thus this text confirms the opinion of the Xiyushuidaoji, for it proves that Beiting is Jinman. Now, we know, from an inscription found in situ that Jinman was 20 li to the north of Baohui xian (or Ximusa) which is 90 li to the southwest of Guchen. Besides, this text shows us that the name of Bishbalek (the five towns), that the Government of Beiting had under the Mongols, corresponds to a very ancient name already known in the T’ang period. Bishbalek is, therefore, not Urumchi. Like Beiting, with which it is identical, it is at some distance to the west of Guchen.” Translated and adapted from: Chavannes (1900) pp. 11, and 305, n.

Aurel Stein found the ruins of the old town about 10 km north of modern Jimasa, just beyond the village of Hu-p’u-tzu (Hupuzi): “The outer walls... appear to have once enclosed a roughly rectangular area, measuring approximately 2,160 yards [1,975 m.] from north to south and 1,260 yards [1,152 m.] from east to west.” Stein (1928), pp. 554-559. See also: CICA: 184, n. 622.
          The Hou Hanshu states that the king of the Posterior Jushi lived in the Wutu valley, which was 500 li [= 208 km] from the residence of the Jangshi [‘Adjutant General’] in Lukchun. As I measure it, this is exactly the distance between Lukchun and a point about 10 km beyond Jimasa on two maps of the route from Turfan to Guchen. See: Stein (1928), Map 28, and the U.S. Defence Mapping Agency’s ONC, Sheet F-7. This confirms the findings of Chavannes and Stein, making the identification virtually certain.

38. Tiaozhi 條支 [T’iao-chih] = Characene and Susiana. See notes 9.1 and 9.2 below.

39. Anxi 安息 [An-hsi] = Parthia. See note 10.1 below.

40. yuan – ‘Subaltern,’ or ‘minor official.’ Hucker, No. 8219 gives: “(1) Clerk: lowly or unranked appointee found in many agencies, civil and military, at all levels of the governmental hierarchy; sometimes identifiable by a prefix. (2) Administrator of a clerical Section (ts’ao)in an agency at any level of government, equivalent in rank to a yüan-shih (Administrator), commonly of low rank or unranked….” See also, Williams (1909), p. 958. The envoy Gan Ying 甘英 is referred to as Gan Tu in the 676 commentary to the Xu Hanshu by Sima Biao (240-305 CE) – Chavannes (1906), p. 214, lines 1-7, and (1907), p. 159, n. 3

41. The Shanjing is an abbreviation for the Shanhaijing or ‘Book of the Mountains and Seas’ – a mythical geographical work with descriptions of fabulous monsters. It is composed of texts mostly dating from the time of the Warring States. GR Vol. V, p. 103. See also Chavannes (1907), p. 150, n. 4.

42. It is my opinion that neither Mengqi 蒙奇 [Meng-ch’i] or Doule 兜勒 [Tou-le] have been convincingly identified yet, although some scholars have proposed taking the two names together as Macedonia or as Macedonia and Thrace, or Macedonia and Tuhara. I find it hard to accept that Macedonia which, at this time, was under Roman rule, would have “submitted” to China or even sent “envoys offering tribute” especially as Gan Ying never got further west than Tiaozhi. Pulleyblank (1999), p. 77, n. 6 also believes there is little basis for the identification of Mengqi with Macedonia and that there is “even less to recommend” the proposed identifications of Doule with Tokhara or Thrace. See Leslie and Gardiner (1996), Chapter 12.4, pp. 148-150 for a discussion of the various possibilities.

43. When Ban Chao returned from the Western Regions in 102 CE the maoji (wuji) Commandant Ren Shang was named Protector General in his place. In the 10th month of the 1st yanping year (14th Nov. to 13th Dec., 106 CE) the countries of the Western Regions rebelled and attacked Protector General Ren Shang. The Emperor sent the Deputy Protector General Liang Qin to his aid and he is said to have attacked and conquered the enemy (Hou Hanshu, Chap. V, p. 1b). Ren Shang was recalled and replaced by Duan Xi. In the 6th month of the following year (8th July to 7th August, 107 CE) the post of Protector General of the Western Regions was abolished (ibid. p. 2a), and Chinese control of the region to the west and north of Dunhuang relinquished. Later in this same month the now entitled ‘Conquering Commander of the West’ Ren Shang, led an expedition against some marauding Qiang (ibid. p. 2a). He was apparently defeated by the Qiang between 31st Oct. and 29th Nov. of 108 CE (ibid. p. 3a). He is mentioned again between 28th June and 28th July of 116 CE as a Zhonglang jiang or ‘Leader of Court Gentlemen,’ attacking the same tribe of Qiang (ibid. p. 6a). He attacked the tribe again between 10th Jan. and 8th Feb. of 118, and was soundly defeated (ibid. p. 6b). He was found to be responsible and executed in a public place between Dec. 30th, 118 and Jan. 28th, 119 CE (ibid. p. 7a). Adapted from Chavannes (1907), p. 160, n. 2 and (1906), pp. 243-245.

44. Duan Xi was named Protector General when Ren Shang was recalled but, as we have seen in the previous note, the post of Protector General was abolished in July/August 107 CE. In the spring of 108 CE he and his officers and the officers and soldiers from the military colonies of Hami and Lukchun met at Dunhuang where they were attacked by more than 10,000 men from a number of rebellious Qiang tribes. After initial losses, they finally managed to defeat the Qiang. From the Hou Hanshu’s ‘Biography of Liang Qin’, in Chavannes (1906), pp. 256-258.

45. Dunhuang 燉煌 Commandery was probably established in 104 BCE, or shortly thereafter – see de Crespigny (1984), p. 7; CICA, p. 75, n. 40. For a description of Dunhuang’s geographical and historical importance see Stein (1921), pp. 578-585.
          The Shiji, and the Hanshu both say that the Yuezhi originally dwelt between Dunhuang and Qilian. Qilian is usually identified as the range (still called Qilian), which stretches to the southeast of Dunhuang along the northeastern end of the Tibetan Plateau, forming the western boundary of the Gansu corridor. The Gansu Corridor forms a natural funnel for Chinese access to the north and west. It has always formed the main route for Chinese contact and expansion towards the northwest and west.
          These texts do not indicate how far past Dunhuang and Qilian Yuezhi power spread. It is probable that they merely reflect the fact that these were the main points of contact between the Chinese and the Yuezhi. 
          Recently it has been suggested that perhaps the ‘Qilian’ and ‘Dunhuang’ named here actually refer to other locations. It is thought that, perhaps, ‘Qilian,’ prior to circa 111
BCE, when Dunhuang was made into a Chinese prefecture, may have referred to the present Tianshan range, which forms the northern boundary of the Tarim Basin, perhaps referring to Dunhong Mountain in the Tianshan range, and that: “All this indicates that the location of Dunhuang, the homeland of the Yuezhi people, should be near the modern oasis town of Turfan.” Liu (2001), pp. 267-268; CICA, p. 120, n. 282.
          I support the previous view that the texts do, indeed, refer to the present Dunhuang and the Qilian ranges (and, undoubtedly, beyond) as the “homeland” of the Yuezhi, on the grounds that we know that the Yuezhi had been present in this very region for centuries. In fact, Liu himself (p. 265) notes that:

“Ancient economist Guan Zhong (645 B.C.E.) referred to the Yuezhi, or Niuzhi, as a people who supplied jade to the Chinese. It is well known that ancient Chinese rulers had a strong attachment to jade. All of the jade items excavated from the tomb of Fuhao of the Shang dynasty, more than 750 pieces, were from Khotan in modern Xinjiang. As early as the mid-first millennium B.C.E. the Yuezhi engaged in the jade trade, of which the major consumers were the rulers of agricultural China.”

It is clear, then, that the Yuezhi had the use, and presumably, the control, of the route through the Gansu corridor and the Dunhuang oasis to Khotan as early as the 7th century BCE. They were still there almost five hundred years later, when the Xiongnu forced them out about 176 BCE. It therefore seems quite reasonable to accept this region as their “homeland.”

“In the days of the Silk Road, Dunhuang (meaning ‘Blazing Beacon’) was an important town and, during the first century BC, the westernmost outpost of China. Following General Huo Qubing’s military campaign against the Xiongnu in 121 BC, Dunhuang was fortified and settled by Chinese. The Great Wall was extended to Dunhuang, and a line of fortified beacon towers stretched westwards into the desert. By the second century Dunhuang had a population of more than 76,000 and was a key supply base for caravans setting out on the southern Silk Road’s 30-day journey across the treacherous desert region past Lop Nor. For those arriving from the west, the first mirage-like sight of the walls of Dunhuang signalled safety and comfort at last.” Bonavia (1988), p. 94.

46. Xing Zhangshi 行長史 [hsing chang-shih] – ‘Acting Aide’ (literally: ‘Acting Senior Scribe’). See Hucker (1985), Nos. 2561 and 185.

47. Literally: Yumen Yang guan 玉門 = literally, ‘Yumen and Yang frontier-passes’, from: [yu = ‘jade’ + men = ‘gate’, ‘door’; and Yang [yang = ‘sunny side’, ‘south side of a hill’, ‘north side of a river’] + guan = ‘frontier-passes’.
          The character guan
[kuan] can be translated as a ‘gateway,’ ‘post-house,’ ‘customs post,’ or ‘frontier-pass.’ It is usually rendered in English simply as a ‘pass’ or ‘barrier,’ but I have employed the term ‘frontier-pass,’ for I believe it more clearly reflects the sense in which it is used in the Hou Hanshu.
          Aurel Stein located the Yang frontier-pass in the Nanhu oasis, 34 miles (55 km) southwest of Dunhuang. See: Serinida (1921), pp. 620-624, and Innermost Asia (1928), p. 308 plus map No. 39 A.1. Stein considered that he had established the position of the Yumen or ‘Jade Gate’ frontier-pass during the Han “beyond doubt” as being about 50 miles or 80 kilometres west of Dunhuang [Stein (1921), pp. 688-693; (1928), map No. 35 D. 4]. He also established the fact that a wall joined the two. 
          Each formed the beginning of different routes – the Yumen was the start of the Middle Route towards Loulan, north of Lop Nor, and on to Korla on the northern side of the Tarim Basin – the Yang controlled the Southern Route through Miran to Khotan, as well as a branch route through Qiang territory further south. For more references to discussions on the positions of the Yumen and Yang frontier-passes, see CICA, p. 71, n. 7.

“The remains of these two important Han Dynasty gates are about 68 kilometres (42 miles) apart, at either end of the Dunhuang extension of the Great Wall. Until the Tang dynasty, when the gates fell into disuse, all caravans travelling through Dunhuang were required to pass through one of these gates, then the westernmost passes of China.
          Yumenguan lies about 80 kilometres (50 miles) northwest of Dunhuang. It was originally called ‘Square City,’ but because the great jade caravans from Khotan entered through its portals, it became known as the Jade Gate Pass. In the third and fourth centuries turmoil swept through Central Asia, disrupting trade, and the sea route via India began to supplant it. By the sixth century the pass was abandoned, the caravans favouring the northern route via Hami. In 1907 Sir Aurel Stein found bamboo slips naming the site as Yumenguan, and in 1944 Chinese archaeologists discovered relics that confirmed this. With its 10-metre-high (32 foot) mud walls pierced by four gateways, the square enclosure, covering over 600 square metres (718 square yards) in the midst of unbounded desolation, is an evocative and thrilling sight.
          Yanguan lies 75 kilometres (47 miles) southwest of Dunhuang but consists of only a high, ruined beacon tower.”
Bonavia (1988), p. 103.

48. Pulei 蒲類 [P’u-lei] = Barkol. See notes 23.2 and 24.2 below.

49. Lake Qin [Ts’in] = Tur-köl. Chavannes (1907), p. 162, n. 2, was unable to identify this lake and, with great hesitation, suggested that it might possibly refer to Lake Balkash, north of Issyk-kul. Stein (1928), p. 541, however, suggests that:

“This report [by the Governor of Dunhuang, Zhang Dang in 123 CE] is of special interest because it definitely indicates the valleys of Barkul and Tur-köl as the chief haunt of the Hun chief whose activity was particularly felt on the Tun-huang border ; for there can, I believe, be little doubt that Dr. Hermann is right in identifying the ‘lake Ts’in’ with the Tur-köl, the only lake in the area, other than the lake of Barkul, to which reference can reasonably be intended in such a connexion.”

Stein later (ibid. p. 536) reports that when he visited the area the local ‘Taghliks’ [literally: ‘Mountain dwellers’] were, “growing oats on patches of cultivation lower down towards the lake. But the mud huts built near these were not permanently occupied, and the whole little community was by November moving its ‘Ak-ois’ to the valleys north of the outer range for winter pasture.” This ‘lake’ is shown as dry on many modern maps. It is near the modern town of Yanchi, roughly 120 km southeast of Lake Barkol.

50. This plan to attack the king of the Huyan 呼衍王 clan was not accepted by the Emperor at this time. However, Ban Yong was successful in defeating him and securing control of the ‘Six Kingdoms of Jushi’ in 126 CE – see Stein (1928), p. 541, and note 27.2 below. The Gunlun frontier-pass was, apparently, at a fortress in the ancient district of Guangzhi, to the west of present-day Anxi zhou. Chavannes (1907), p. 162, n. 3.

51. Liuzhong or Lukchun 柳中, is the southernmost oasis in the Turfan Basin, 80 li, or about 33 km, southeast of the main centre of Jiaohe or Yarkhoto (see Section 26). It is the first place of any importance reached on the ancient, but difficult, route directly across the desert from Loulan to Turfan. Ban Yong established a military base here in 123 CE as mentioned a little further on in the text and also in the Biography of Ban Yong – see Chavannes (1906), p. 252. For general information on the oasis and site see: Stein (1912), Vol. II, pp. 355 ff., Stein (1921), p. 1160. For information on the derivation of the name see Bailey (1985), p. 20.

52. shangshu = Imperial Secretary. “HAN–N-S DIV: Imperial Secretary, rank 600 bushels, 4 from the time of Emperor Wu of Han, 5 from 29 B.C., 6 in Later Han, each in charge of a Section with functionally differentiated responsibilities, controlling all documents flowing in and out of the imperial palace. Appointees were required to pass a vocabulary test involving 9,000 characters and came to be assisted in each Section by an Aide (ch’eng) and a Secretarial Court Gentleman (shang-shu lang)....” Hucker (1985), No. 5042.

53. Chavannes (1907), p. 163, n. 5, says that the localities of Langwang 狼望 and Lu Mountain 盧山 are otherwise unknown. I, also, have been unable to find any other reference to them.

54. The Southern Qiang . Qiang [Ch’iang] is a general term referring to the tribes living mainly to the southwest of the Gansu corridor, in the area of present-day Qinghai province, Shenxi, Shu and Han. See: Molè, Gabriella, 1970: 75, n. 25; CICA: 80, n. 69.
          The Qiang have been commonly referred to as ‘Tibetans,’ which is misleading. They appear in the literature far earlier than a ‘Tibetan’ state had emerged and, while it is true that many Tibetans are descended from Qiang tribes, they were only one of many peoples who contributed to the genetic and cultural inheritance of modern Tibetans. For a detailed discussion of the various Qiang groups during the Han, see de Crespigny (1984), pp. 54-75.

“Collectively the tribal confederacies and petty principalities were referred to as the 150 Ch’iang (Chiang) tribes. The ideograph means simply ‘sheep-raisers,’ and their land was called the ‘grass country’ (ts’ao-ti). White stone-worshipping Ch’iang, who claim to be the pastoralists of Chinese history, still survive near Li-Fan on the edge of the plateau [between Kansu and Burma].” Bowles (1977), p. 257.

“The early histories describe conquest and pressure by the Chinese against the western frontier peoples, and HHS 87 states that in the time of Ch’in and Han the territory of the Ch’iang lay west of the region of modern Lanzhou.
          The greater part of Ch’iang territory remained forever beyond the frontiers of Han, so that much of the geographical description is inevitably vague.... But the Ch’iang tribespeople with whom the Chinese had greatest contact were living in the east of the great salt lake, the Kokonor, along the upper reaches of the Yellow River and its tributaries, the modern provinces of Tsinghai, Kansu and parts of Shensi. From this point of view, though the term Ch’iang is sometimes rendered as “Tibetan,” the ascription is not particularly helpful. The Ch’iang who dwelt on the frontiers of Han can be traced as distant ancestors to the peoples of modern Tibet, but they were not then closely associated with that territory, and there is clear implication that they had a long history in the northwestern region of China.
          In discussing Chinese dealings with the Ch’iang during the Han dynasty, the official histories make some distinction between the Western and the Eastern Ch’iang: the Western Ch’iang were those of the frontier valleys and hill country, the Eastern Ch’iang inhabited the lower ground and loessland of the present-day provinces Kansu and Shensi. The distinction is not always clearly maintained: some tribes either emigrated or were forcibly resettled from the west to the east, and the records do not indicate how many of the Ch’iang people were formerly settled under Chinese control east of the Yellow River. The earliest references to the Ch’iang describe them as inhabitants of the frontier region in the west.
          This territory of the Ch’iang is bounded on the north by the Nan Shan, or Richthofen range, along the Kansu corridor, and on the south by the Min Shin, a ridge of the great Tsin Ling divide. The climate of the region is cold and dry....”
de Crespigny (1977), pp. 4-5.

“In these accounts [in the Hanshu and the Hou Hanshu], the Qiang barbarians of the Han period were identified with the San Miao, who were banished to the lands of the west by the legendary Emperor Shun. The name Qiang is related to the ancient clan-name Jiang and the history of these tribes is identified with that of the Rong and Di barbarians of the west during the time of Zhou and Qin. The early histories describe conquest and pressure by the Chinese against the western frontier peoples, and Hou Hanshu 87/77 states that in the time of Qin and Han the territory of the Qiang lay west of the region of modern Lanzhou….
          According to the tradition of the Zuo zhuan, the Qiang-Rong people of the Zhou period had been farmers in the region of modern Gansu, and there is archaeological evidence for some farming and painted-pottery settlements even in the upper reaches of the Yellow River.” de Crespigny (1984), p. 55-58.

“Our next stop was the homeland of a small ethnic minority of some 100,000 people known as the Qiang, who live north of Chengdu in Sichuan Province. The villages of the Qiang resemble fortifications, with slender watchtowers that rise as high as 13 stories, or roughly 30 meters. From a distance the towers look like factory smoke-stacks. They are usually located at the most strategic places, on cliffs or precipices with the farthest view. The abundance of these towers, which today are used mostly for grain storage, attests to a darker period in Qiang history.” Wong (1984), p. 105.

55. Chanyu 單于 [Ch’an-yü]. Often, but less correctly, rendered Shanyu [Shan-yü]. Chanyu was the title of the leaders of the Xiongnu. It was also assumed by Xian, a king of Yarkand (see note 20.5 below).

            According to the GR No. 10333, the title Chanyu is a Chinese transcription of Khan – but how they arrived at this conclusion is unclear. It was, however, certainly the equivalent of the modern terms ‘Khan,’ ‘Shah,’ or ‘King.’

            The Guangyun, a dictionary compiled in 601 CE by Lu Fayan, and completed during t-FAMILY: 'Gentium'; mso-fareast-font-family: SimSun; mso-fareast-language: ZH-CN">.

58. The Rong and Di [Jung and Ti] peoples. This phrase is sometimes used in a broad sense to refer to all the non-Chinese peoples to the west and north of China. However, for a discussion of the use of this term for the Qiang tribes see de Crespigny (1984), pp. 56, 467 nn. 3 and 7, 468 n. 8. See also note 1.31 above.

“According to the Book of History, Yu divided the world into five concentric domains, the outermost of which was the wilderness domain.... Yen Shih-ku says, “The Jung and Ti [occupied] the wilderness domain, hence it is said, ‘The four wildernesses.’ It says that it is a wilderness, [where] they suddenly go and come without any regularity. The Erh-ya says that Ku-chu [in the north], Pei-hu [in the south], Hsi-wang-mu [a place in the west], and Jih-hsia [in the east] are called the four wildernesses.” Dubs (1938), p. 263, n. 1.

   “The terms Jung and Ti were applied originally to tribes living west and north of the Chinese oikoumenè, but were subsequently invested with the more general meaning of “barbarians”. For the general concept of barbarians see the remarks by L. S. Yang in Fairbank (1968), pp. 20-33.” CICA p. 73, n. 29.

59. See note 21.1 below. 

60. For Suoche 莎車 [So-ch’e; sometimes written: So-chü] = Yarkand. See note 1.8 above and also 20.1 below.

61. Wusun 烏孫 [wu = crow; black + sun = grandson. Wu-sun]. The Wusun, “M. ·ou-suən < aĥ-smən, a nomadic people north of the T’ien-shan in the Han period, are probably to be identified with the Άσμίραιοι [Asmiraioi] of Ptolemy.” Pulleyblank (1963), p. 136. Pulleyblank, ibid. p. 227 says: “There is good reason to think that the Wu-sun spoke a Tocharian type of language.”
          The Wusun were a semi-nomadic people who raised horses and grazed their flocks on the rich steppe-lands in the basins of the Ili, Naryn and Chu rivers in Semirechye to the north of the Tianshan ranges and around lake Issyk-kul. They were a large and powerful group; the Hanshu estimating their population as some 630,000, with 188,800 men able to bear arms (CICA, p. 143 and n. 376).
          The Wusun became of great importance to the Chinese as soon as they began extending communications to the west during the Early Han Dynasty. The Wusun not only controlled the main northern branches of the Silk Routes, but also provided a buffer against the raids of the Xiongnu, and were an important source of horses. 
          The Chinese proceeded on a complex course of diplomacy and bribes to win their favour and prevent them falling into the arms of the Xiongnu. A princess was sent to marry their leader, the ‘Kunmi’ c. 110
BCE, but she had to take second place to the princess sent to the Kunmi (or Kunmo) by the Xiongnu. CICA, p. 148, n. 400. 
          Little is heard of them during the Later Han Dynasty and we find only occasional references in the Hou Hanshu. However, there is a rather telling remark in the Chapter on the Western Regions that following the re-establishment of Chinese control in the Tarim Basin in 127
CE, “the Wusun and the countries of the Congling (Pamirs), put an end to their disruptions to communications to the west.” 
          The last reference to them in the Chinese histories is a report of an exchange of diplomatic missions in 436
CE. It is not clear what happened to them after this date. See: Zadneprovskiy (1994) pp. 459-4
          The capital of the main branch of the Wusun, referred to as the ‘seat of the Greater Kunmi’ in the Hanshu, was named Chigu
赤谷; literally, ‘Red Valley’ [chi = ‘red’ + gu = valley’. Ch’ih-ku]. This town has so far remained unidentified but I believe it is now possible to locate it with a fair degree of precision and certainty.
          First, there is the name of the town, Chigu or ‘Red Valley.’ There is, in fact, a very dramatic and famous red-coloured mountain and valley not far west of the present town of Karaköl:

“About 25 km west of Karakol, at the mouth of the Jeti-öghüz canyon is an extraordinary formation of red sandstone cliffs that has become a kind of tourism trademark for Lake Issyk-Kul.
          A village of the same name is just off the main around-the-lake road. Beyond it the earth erupts in red patches, and soon there appears a great splintered hill called Razbitoye Serdtse or Broken Heart. (Legend says two suitors spilled their blood in a fight for a beautiful woman; both died, and this rock is her broken heart.)
          Beyond this on the west side of the road is the massive wall of Jeti-Öghüz. The name means Seven Bulls, and of course there is a story here too – of seven calves growing big and strong in the valley’s rich pastures. Erosion has meant that the bulls have multiplied. They are best viewed from a ridge to the east above the road. From that same ridge you can look east into Ushchelie Drakanov, the Valley of Dragons.
          Below the wall of the Seven Bulls is one of Issyk-Kul’s surviving spas, the ageing Jeti-Öghüz Sanitorium, built in 1932 with a complex of several plain hotels, a hot pool, a restaurant and some woodland walks....
          From here you can walk up the park-like lower canyon of the Jeti-Öghüz river to popular summer picnic spots. Some five km up, the valley opens out almost flat at Dolina Svetov, the Valley of flowers.... There are also said to be pre-Islamic petroglyphs up here, similar to those at Cholpon-Ata.” King, et al. (1996), p. 392.

As there are no other noteworthy red-coloured rock or cliff formations around Issyk-köl, it seems probable that Jeti-öghüz is identical to the ‘Red Valley’ and ‘Red Mountain’ of the early Chinese accounts. This is confirmed by the distances contained in the Hanshu between Chigu and the town of Wensu, to the south of the mountains.
          The Hanshu (CICA: 162) gives the distance from Wensu to Chigu as 610 li (254 km). Wensu, was located in the valley of the Dashigan He (also known as the Taushkan Darya), and is usually identified with the region of modern Wushi (Uch Turfan or Urqtur pan), about 85 km west of Aksu (see note 21.7 below).
          My measurements range from 230 to 270 km from the Jeti-Öghüz Sanatorium, over the relatively low (4,284 m or 14,055 ft) Bedel Pass to the town of Wushi, depending which of several possible routes are chosen through the mountains. (Checked on Russian Military 1:100,000 topographic maps, 1970 and 1973, and the U.S. Defence Mapping Agency Aerospace Center map ONC6, Sheet F6, 1:1,000,000, revised Feb. 1981). This confirms the likelihood that Chigu was located somewhere in the upper Jeti-Öghüz Valley.

Notes on Bedel Pass adapted from Merzliakova (2003):In ancient times the Middle branch of the Silk Route went from Chaogan to Kashgar, then Aksu over the Bedel Pass toward Issyk-Kul. Further two branches of the Silk route went from the Pass along the Southern and Northern side of the Issyk-Kul.” “This is the most convenient Pass to the North of Kashgar.”