Notes to the “New T’ang History”

1. [On the Türk Empire or T’u-chüeh, see Denis Sinor, “The establishment and dissolution of the Türk empire,” in Denis Sinor ed., The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia (Cambridge etc.: Cambridge University Press, 1990), Ch. 11. — DCW[

2. [On the Hsiung-nu or Xiongnu, see Ying-shih Yü, “The Hsiung-nu,” Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, Ch. 5, and Nicola Di Cosmo, Ancient China and Its Enemies:  The Rise of Nomadic Power in East Asian History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), esp. Part III. — DCW]

3. An Lu-Shan...was the leader of the most important rebellion in the history of the T’ang.  On the background and sources for the rebellion and for An Lu-shan’s life until 752 see particularly E.G. Pulleyblank, The Background of the Rebellion of An Lu-shan, London Oriental Series Volume 4 (London etc., 1955).

4. Li Ch’eng-shen (d. 758) was the great-grandson of the Emperor Kao-tsung.

5. The P’u-ku was one of the nine T’ieh-le tribes of the Uighur confederation.

6. Kuo Tzu-i ... was the most important of the Chinese generals of this period.  He rendered invaluable assistance to the imperial court during the An Lu-shan rebellion and was largely responsible for its successful suppression.  He also served against the Tibetans.  He expelled them from Ch’ang-an when they occupied it in 763, and in 765 repulsed a Tibetan invasion.  In 762 he received the title of Prefectural Prince of Fen-yang and in 768 became a chief minister.  He was thus one of the highest officials in the empire.

7. The T’ung-lo were one of the nine T’ieh-le tribes that made up the Uighur confederation... Consequently, the main body of the people was probably allied to the Chinese government.  However, there were groups of dissenters who had joined the rebellion.

8. Yeh-hu was the transcription of a Turkic title, yabγu... Chinese sources call this particular yeh-hu simply Yeh-hu or the yeh-hu, and I shall refer to him throughout as Yeh-hu.

9. A hu and a shih of grain wre equal in T’ang times.  However, a hu was a measure of capacity being equal to 103.54 litres or approximately 23 English gallons, while a shih was a measure of weight being equal to 72.544 kilogrammes or approximately 160 English pounds.

10. The Hsiang-chi Temple, founded in 706, was not far south of Ch’ang-an.

11. One li was approximately equal to 540 metres or a third of an English mile.

12. An Ch’ing-hsü ... was the second son of An Lu-shan.  When the latter was assassinated on 29 January 757, leadership of the rebellion fell to Ch’ing-hsü with Yen Chuang among his chief advisers and supporters.  After the battle of Hsin-tien most of the rebels, including Yen Chuang, surrendered.  Only 1,300 exhausted troops still followed Ch’ing-hsü and his resistance petered out.  He died in April 759.  some say he was strangled, others that he was allowed to commit suicide.

13. A Director of Public Works was a chief minister and was first rank, first grade... To give so exalted a title to the Uighur prince was consequently an extremely high honour.

14. The Abbasid Caliphate, which ended with the fall of its capital Baghdad to the Mongols in 1258, had only shortly before been founded (750)... According to the standard histories ... the Abbasids had sent an embassy to court “to render tribute” at the beginning of the Chih-te period (756-8). Arab forces assisted in the battles against the An Lu-shan rebellion and the mission no doubt discussed the question of military support for the T’ang government.  Of course, the Abbasids did not consider their embassies to China as the bearers of “tribute.” Indeed, during the reign of Mahdi (775-85), missions were sent to various countries, including China, to demand tokens of submission.

15. The Heavenly Khaghan was of course the Chinese emperor.  According to the Chiu T’ang-shu 3.1a “from then [19/V/630] on, the north-wstern barbarians all asked the emperor to honour himself with the title of ‘Heavenly Khaghan’.” ... Though the phrase was frequently applied to the emperor, it was also used by the Uighurs to refer to their own khaghans.

16. The particular type of cotton called tieh was one of the usual items of Uighur tribute to the Chinese court in the tenth century.

17. The Kirghiz lived at this time on the Upper Yenisei. They later came south and were responsible for the fall of the Uighur empire.

18. Tzu-chih t’ung-chien yin-chu 221.7076 describes the mourning ceremony for the dead among peoples north of the Gobi.  The body was placed in a tent.  The members of the dead man’s family each killed an ox and a horse which were then arranged in front of the tent and sacrificed.  The mourners went round the tent on horseback seven times, after which they went up to the entrance of the tent.  There they slashed their faces with a knife.  This was done seven times.  A passage in Ts’e-fu yüan-kuei gives a description of mourning ceremonies for a khaghan among the T’u-chüeh...[and] goes on to report that the mourners selected an appropriate day and burned the corpse together with the horse and other things the dead man used when alive.  Later on they buried the ashes in a pit.  On the same day the earlier ceremony ... was repeated.  A stone was set up saying how many men the dead ruler had killed during his life and the heads of the sacrificed animals were all hung on the top of poles... These customs were probably followed among the Uighurs and it is interesting to note that upon the death of P’u-ku Huai-en, who was of T’ieh-le extraction..., his body was cremated before burial...  According to archaeological evidence, it was the custom to bury the horse and other possessions with the corpses not only of khaghans but of other Uighurs as well... However, it may be remarked that the customs prevailing among the Kao-ch’e ancestors of the Uighurs during the Wei dynasty (386-534) were somewhat different.  According to the Wei-shu (103.28a), a large hole was dug and the corpse placed within it in a sitting position; it was then fitted with a bow, knife, and spear, just as if the man were still alive, and the mourners rode on horseback around the still open pit... The slashing of the face among the Uighurs appears to have been a symbol of loyalty, which could be used on occasions other than to mourn for a dead khaghan.

19. Mo-ho was the Chinese transcription of the Turkish title baγa.

20. The rebels under Shih Ssu-ming captured Lo-yang once again on 7 June 760.

21. The T’ai-yüan Granary ... was among the six great granaries of the empire’s metropolitan regions.  In 749 it contained 28,140 shih of grain... It may be noted for comparison that the reserves in the T’ai-yüan Granary were minute compared with the 5,833,400 shih in the Han-chia Granary in Lo-yang.

22. Li Kua [b. 742], the Prince of Yung, was the eldest son of Tai-tsung and the future Emperor Te-tsung.

23. The Po-ma Temple, which is traditionally regarded as the cradle of Chinese Buddhism ... was situated east of the Shang-tung Gate in Lo-yang... The Shang-tung Gate was the main gate leading into the northern section of the city from the east.

24. Although this shocking incident was the most important result of the Uighurs’ sojourn near Lo-yang as far as the Chinese were concerned, there was, from the point of view of Uighur domestic history, a much more significant outcome of these few months.  The khaghan was in constant contact with some Manichaeans in Lo-yang and was eventually influenced by them to impose their religion upon his own people.

25. The Tibetan state had grown very powerful from the earlier half of the seventh century.  From that time on, it was a constant enemy of China’s and, after the An Lu-shan rebellion, succeeded in gaining enormous tracts of territory at China’s expense.  In 763 some Tibetans actually occupied Ch’ang-an for a few days.  The incursions of the Tibetans were of great importance in the decline of the T’ang. [On the Tibetan Empire, see Helmut Hoffman, “Early and medieval Tibet,” in Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, Ch. 14, and Christopher I. Beckwith, The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia: A History of the Struggle for Great Power among Tibetans, Turks, Arabs, and Chinese during the Early Middle Ages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987). — DCW]

26.   Li Han (d. 784) was a distant cousin of the emperor’s, being a great-great-great-great-grandson of the first T’ang “ancestor” T’ai-tsu... The real hero in Chinese eyes of this mission was actually Han’s assistant Tung Chin..., who died in 799 at the age of seventy-five.  The Uighurs again brought up the subject of the silk/horse trade, complaining that the price they were receiving was inadequate.  They threatened violent action against the ambassadors. Li Han was afraid, but Tung Chin pointed out in firm words that it was not because of her lack of horses that China allowed the trade; that many people were dissatisfied with the quality of the horses they were buying and considered them too old. The border officials had wanted to take strong measures against the trade, but the emperor had forbidden this course because the Uighurs had been so helpful to the T’ang during the An Lu-shan rebellion. The Uighurs were most impressed by Tung Chin; they surrounded and paid him respect.

27. According to an edict of 720, one piece of silk should be 4 chang long and 1.8 ch’ih wide (...1 ch’ih was about 30 centimetres or 1 foot; 1 chang about 300 centimetres or 10 feet). Waley reckons that a piece of silk represented the product of about one day’s work, that is one woman produced one piece of silk in one day... It may be added that the price of the horses tended to fluctuate, since both sides constantly strove for a better deal.  Towards the beginning of the ninth century, the Chinese began giving shorter pieces of 3 chang long, made of inferior coarse silk.  This led the Uighurs to complain through their khatun (the Princess of Hsien-an) and in 807 the emperor ordered that such practices be stopped... In a letter Po Chü-i wrote to the khaghan in 809 it becomes plain that the price of the horses at the time was fifty pieces of silk each; it has risen since the Ch’ien-yüan period.

28. The Sogdians (Chiu-hsing hu, literally “barbarians of the nine surnames”) are a fascinating and important feature of T’ang history.  They travelled and settled as traders and carriers of art and new religions in many parts of Central Asia, the steppes and China.  For a discussion of them see especially E. G. Pulleyblank, “ A Sogdian Colony in Inner Mongolia,” T’oung Pao XLI (1952): 317-356. Certain surnames, especially K’ang and An, were characteristically Sogdian... The Uighurs K’ang Ch’ih-hsin and An Yün-ho, mentioned above... were no doubt of Sogdian origin.  One of the reasons why the Sogdians were so favoured by I-ti-chien (Mou-yü Khaghan) was because of their connections with Manicheism. Although Sogdians could be found in Uighur territory before his time..., it appears to have been principally after Mou-yü was converted to Manicheism in 762-3 that the influence of the Sogdians became so great  among the Uighurs. [A good overview of the Sogdians in China is Étienne de la Vaissière, “Sogdians in China: A Short History and Some New Discoveries,” The Silk Road I/2 (2003): 23-27.  The authoritative book on the Sogdians is the same author’s Histoire des marchands sogdiens (Paris, 2002). — DCW]

29. On 28 August 779 the new emperor, Te-tsung, had issued an edict that Uighurs in Ch’ang-an should wear Uighur clothes and refrain from imitating Chinese garb.  One reason for this was that many Uighurs living in Ch’ang-an had been able to mislead or marry Chinese women by adopting Chinese clothes... The Uighurs in the train under discussion here probably consisted mainly of those who had been influenced by the edict to return home.  They would certainly wish to hide any Chinese women who accompanied them.

30. In theory, a ligature or string of cash contained 1,000 coins, each of which had a hole in its centre so that it could be fitted on to the string.  One ligature came to about 9 ¾ English pounds of copper... In practice, it was so common to deduct a few coins from the string that ligatures of 980 were officially tolerated in many periods.  In 821 a standard string of 920 was imposed and the number fell further still as the T’ang neared its end.

31. Yeh-hu was actually the elder brother of Mou-yü (Teng-li Khaghan).

32. It is clear from the report of this conversation in Tzu-chih t’ung-chien 233.7504 that another reason why Li Pi wanted the marriage to go ahead was that he hoped it would cause the Uighurs to assist China against the Tibetans.  In the preceding period, this people had actually been a far greater threat to China than the Uighurs and had been annexing China’s western dependencies. Te-tsung’s government had already concluded a pact with them in 783 but it was not effective for long and in 786 war broke out again between the Chinese and the Tibetans.  Plans were made for a further treaty to be concluded on 8 July 787, that is only a few months before this conversation, but the Tibetans used the occasion for further war and even took the Chinese ambassadors prisoner.

33. The Hisieh-tie was a T’ieh-le tribe ... [of]  the Uighur confederation.

34. [In other words, the T’ang had been cut off from their military outposts which controlled  the “Western Regions.” The An-hsi Protectorate was the region around Kucha in the north central part of the Tarim Basin.    Pei-t’ing (Beiting; Bishbaliq), which may have come under Uighur influence as early as the 8th century and would become the Uighur capital when they were later driven west, is just north of the Tien Shan Mountains, not far from modern Jimsar. — DCW] The final surrender of Pei’t’ing to the Tibetans ... took place in the twelfth month of the sixth year, i.e., 9/I-7/II/791.  However, we shall see later that the Chinese and Uighurs had given up the attempt to recapture the city a few months earlier.  Stein ... remarks on the strategic geographic situation of the area near Pei-t’ing and there is no doubt that the city’s loss meant the end of Chinese colonisation in Turkestan for the time being.

35. A group of the Kharlukh had been incorporated into the Uighur empire soon after its foundation. However, many of them remained independent and became a notable power between the Uighurs and Tibetans.

36. Chang Chien had actually been once before to the Uighur capital, since he was a member of the embassy which escorted the Princess of Hsien-an there in 788.  He died at the age of sixty while on a mission to the Tibetans in 804 to 805 and his corpse was brought back to Ch’ang-an.

37. It is striking that the Chinese standard histories should devote so little space to the reign of a dynastic founder. ‘Huai-hsin’ was in fact one of the most important of all the Uighur khaghans.  It is probably to the career of this khaghan that the second half of the Karabalghasun Inscription refers.

38. It is striking that this should be the first Uighur delegation to China to be accompanied by Manicheans.  There is a strong implication here that Manichean influence had actually increased in Karabalghasun since ‘Huai-hsin’s’ restoration. The strength of Manicheism under the new dynasty is attested also in non-Chinese sources. A Manichean hymn-book ... had been begun under Mou-yü but left incomplete for many years.  It was finished during the reign of Ai teng-li-lo ku mo-mi-shih ho p’i-chia Khaghan...  Furthermore, the Arab traveller Tamim ibn Bahr, who visited Karabalghasun in the early 820s, claims that Manicheism was found outside the capital, but was the dominant religion inside it.

39.  Although the expected invasion did not eventuate, the very incomplete that the flow of horses resumed in 815.

40. Relations between the Uighur and the Tibetans were never friendly and the reader will already have noticed that virtually all glimpses concerning the subject show the two states at war with one another.  A few specific cases of the period in which the present memorial falls can be noted.  In 808 the Uighurs attacked the Tibetans and seized Liang-chou ... from them... Late in 813 they attacked their southern neighbours west of Liu Valley, itself north-west of Hsi-chou... But the most important case concerns a time slightly later than this memorial and is an interesting commentary on Li Chiang’s fear that the Uighurs and Tibetans would make a treaty.  In 822 a Chinese ambassador to Lhasa had seen the famous Tibetan general and chief minister Chang Ch’i-hsin-erh during his journeys to and from his destination.  Shang had said to him: “The Uighurs are a small state! In the year ping-shen (816), I crossed the desert and pursued them to within two days’ march of their walled city.  I planned to destroy it once I had arrived, but just then I heard that my own state was in mourning and returned home.” ... The national mourning to which Shang refers was no doubt due to the death of the Tibetan ruler in 815.

41. Ssu-chieh was the name of one of the nine T’ieh-le tribes of the Uighur confederation.

42. The Princess of T’ai-ho was the seventeenth of Hsien-tsung’s eighteen daughters. She was probably the youngest  of Mu-tsung’s sisters at this time since her only small sister died young. The Princess of T’ai-ho lived among the Uighurs until after their empire collapesed [at which time she was recaptured and returned to Ch’ang-an in 843].

43. It is striking that Hsien-tsung should have agreed to this marriage just at the end of his reign after having resisted it for so long... In 818 the Tibetans began making numerous raids on the western borders and in the Ordos region... Moreover, since Hisien-tsung had come to the throne, relations with the Tibetans had been peaceful until this new series of onslaughts began.  It was reasonable that he should hope to intensify the conflict between the Tibetans and Uighurs by granting the latter a marriage alliance.  As it turned out he calculated correctly.  Moreover, in 821-2 a Sino-Tibetan peace alliance was concluded, and each side guaranteed to refrain from trying to seize territory from the other...  A second reason ... was that there was peace in the provinces...

I am tempted also to relate Hsien-tsung’s unexpected change of mind to the palace coup at the end of his reign. One clique led by the powerful eunuch T’u-t’u Ch’eng-ts’ui ... had wanted Hsien-tsung’s eldest son to succeed to the throne.  An opposing faction had favoured the future Mu-tsung.  Just before Hsien-tsung died (possibly at the hands of an assassinator), T’u-t’u’s party was decisively defeated, and both he and his proposed future emperor murdered.  This resulted also in certain changes of policy, the main one being a transfer of emphasis from the use of military force to a decision to pare the imperial armies... The new attitude would seem to have favoured a marital alliance with the Uighurs.  However, I put forward this suggestion only tentatively, since the precise date that Hsien-tsung agreed to the marriage is unknown, and it could therefore have preceded the coup.  Furthermore, I have been unable to find evidence to confirm that T’u-t’u opposed the marriage.  His bitter hostility to its most important proponent, Li Chiang, and his overall support of military action as against negotiations suggest such a conclusion, but are a long way from proving it.

44. According to Tzu-chih t’ung-chien 246.7947, the war between the Kirghiz and the Uighurs had been initiated by the Uighurs and had been going on for more than twenty years; the Uighurs had been defeated several times.  The Kirghiz had sworn that they would seize “the golden tent” of the Uighurs.  The text adds that the golden tent was the tent where the khaghan lived... It was considered the heart of Uighur power, since gold was symbolic of imperial rule.  The golden tent is mentioned also by the famous Arab traveller Tamim ibn Bahr, whose visit to the Uighur capital took place shortly after the Princess of T’ai-ho married the Uighur khaghan.  Tamim ibn Bahr reports that the tent was covered with gold and could be seen from far off even outside the city.  it was superimposed on the flat top of the khaghan’s castle and could hold 100 men... It had probably been brought from China along with the Princess of T’ai-ho... The Uighurs were not alone in possessing a golden tent; the Tibetan ruler at that time also had one.