Section 1 – The Di Tribes

1.1. By the time of the Han dynasties (206 BCE – 220 CE), the term Xirong or ‘Western Rong’ 西戎, was used in the very general sense of ‘the tribes to the west of Han.’ The term once applied to a specific people from whom a number of tribes descended, which helps explain how the more generalised version of the name came about. It will be useful here to have a look at early Chinese concepts of ethnicity and how they had developed by the period of the Han dynasty:

            “By the beginning of the first millennium BC an awareness of being “Chinese” had emerged in northern China. This identity is intimately connected with the growth of early states, especially the Shang and the Zhou, whose centers lay in the region of what is today Henan 河南, Shanxi 山西, and Shaanxi 陕西 Provinces. This area, known as the Zhongyuan 中原 (Central Plains) or zhongguo (central states), formed a nucleus around which early “Chinese” civilization flourished.
            Texts written down by the mid-first millennium
BC suggest that the people living in this area regarded themselves as “civilized,” a concept that was closely connected to li . Li is commonly translated as ceremony or rite, as well as etiquette. In reality, the concept of li is complex and implies an entire system of behaviour and ritual – a kind of customary law. Its principles regulated the lives of the people living within the zhongguo. Whoever practised li was eligible to be regarded as a member of the Hua-Xia “We-group.” Thus, it seems entirely reasonable to suggest, as have many (Creel 1970; Eberhard 1982; Pulleyblank 1983), that the concept of being “Chinese” at this early date was not fixed and static. It was a flexible category defined in cultural and political terms, and membership expanded along with the spread of the early Chinese state.
            Some of the earliest categorizations and perceptions of “other” people in ancient China are found in the Zhouli
and the Erya 爾雅, texts that date from the latter half of the first millennium BC. What is striking in both of these texts is the classification of groups into broad categories that set up oppositional clusters of cultural traits. The key here is the word “broad” – the categories are defined in such a way that individuals or groups of people could easily shift in and out of the categories as the boundaries of “Chinese civilization” expanded and people adopted the trappings of what the “Chinese” perceived as “being Chinese.”
            The Zhouli (c. third century
BC) defines the Chinese world in terms of “inner” (nei ) and “outer” (wai ). According to this view, the world consisted of nine concentric circles surrounding a central zone known as the king’s domain. In this schema, the six zones closest to the king’s domain were considered neifu, i.e., outside. They did not belong to the world of the king’s domain and were inhabited by “outsiders.”
            This basic concept of “inside” vs. “outside” continues as a constant theme in Chinese literature and is further developed in the Erya, a Han period (second century
BC) text. In the Erya the inside / outside theme is given a stronger geographical basis. The “outsiders” were consequently subdivided into four groups associated with the four cardinal directions – the “Four Seas.” There were the northern Di, the Eastern Yi 東夷, the southern Man , and the western Rong . Each of the Four Seas was further split into “inside” and “outside.” The nei or inside groups were again dissected into sheng (raw), i.e., uncivilized and hence potentially dangerous, and shu (cooked or ripe), i.e., civilized in the sense that these groups had been tamed by the influence of Chinese civilization (see Cushman 1970: ch. 2 for a detailed discussion of this analysis).
            The constant sub-theme running through these texts is politics. The groups are first defined according to categories of “inside” and “outside.” Those groups on the inside are linked with the growing authority and strength of the early Chinese state and are beginning to lose their sense of differentiation. Those groups living at the peripheries of the Chinese state are, in contrast, perceived of as “different” and are consequently potential threats to the unity of the state.         
            To sum up, while Chinese texts do provide information on how the Chinese texts do provide information on how the Chinese distinguish between themselves and others, the categories are not fixed or rigid. Individuals or groups could abandon those cultural traits regarded as “raw” or non-civilized, and adopt those used by the Chinese. In doing so, the people became “cooked,” i.e., more civilized, and potentially less ethnically distinct.
            During the Han Dynasty, descriptions begin to appear in texts that still reflected the broader categories of “inner” and “outer,” and “raw” and “cooked,” but also provided more detailed information about what these “other,” i.e., non-Chinese, people looked like, how they lived, and what names they were called.” Peters (2002), pp. 83-85.   


          “The Sai tribes, which appeared in the valleys of the Ili and Chu rivers by the end of the seventh century B.C. had possibly come from the east. The precursors of the Asii, the Tochari, the Gaisani and the Sacarauli seem to have been the Rong of the surname Yun 戎姓之允, the Daxia, the Yuzhi 禹知 (Yuzhi 禹氏) and the Suoju 莎車 who appeared in pre-Qin records and books. In 623 B.C., Duke Mu of Qin dominated the Western Rong and opened up territories which extended for 1,000 li [416 km]. This event possibly caused the Sai tribes’ westerly migration.
          The Rong
of surname Yun , the Daxia 大夏 and the Yuzhi 禹知 (Yuzhi 禹氏) can respectively be traced back to the Shaohao 少昊, the Taotang 陶唐 and the Youyu 有虞.
          The Shaohao
少昊, which has known [sic] as the state of the surname Yun , originally dwelt in the valley of the Ruo River, then moved to Qiongsang 窮桑 in the north of Lu . A branch of the descendants of the Shaohao 少昊 dwelled at Ruo , and of them, those who moved to Guazhou 瓜州 were called “the villains of the surname Yun ”. Among the “villains of the surname Yun ”, some moved inwards (the Central Plains) and the others went westwards. Of the latter, those who reached the valleys of the Ili and Chu rivers became a tribe of the Sai people, but those who remained to the west of Hami 哈密 (Kumul) were known as the Wusun 烏孫.” Yu (2000), pp. 1-2.

There are references in Chinese literature to a work or works by Yu Huan, the Weilue 魏略, or “Summary of the Wei Dynasty,” and the Dianlue 典略, or “Records of the Wei Dynasty.” The originals have long since disappeared and there are varying accounts of how many chapters each contained or, indeed, whether they were even separate documents.

The surviving text translated here was quoted by Pei Songzhi in his notes to the Sanguozhi 三國志, or “Memoir of the Three Kingdoms,” published in 429 CE. It begins thus: “The Weilue’s Chapter on the Western Rong says: . . . . ” For further information see: Chavannes (1905), p. 519; Pelliot (1906), pp. 362-363; de Crespigny (1970), pp. 75-76.

“According to the Book of History, Yu divided the world into five concentric domains, the outermost of which was the wilderness domain 荒服. 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 Rong, Qiang, and Di peoples were known to the Chinese by Shang times [1765-1122 BCE]. ‘Rong’ was originally used by the Chinese to refer to a people they later described as the ancestors of the Qiang tribes. Considered a major threat, the Shang mounted large campaigns against them.

The Rong moved into the area to the south of the Yellow River soon after the middle of the 7th century BCE. Although the Di are usually considered “a clearly defined national and political grouping,” the name ‘Rong’ was commonly used in the looser sense of “barbarian” or “bellicose.” By Han times, the meaning of Rong’ had been expanded to refer generally to all non-Sinitic populations of the West. See: Průšek (1971), pp. 38-42, 210; Molè (1970), p. 86, n. 61; Dictionnaire Français de la Langue Chinois. 1976: 478, No. 2486. See also the notes on the Di and Qiang (nn. 1.2 and 1.19).


1.2. The Di [Ti ] people.

Di – K. 590a: *tiər / tiei; EMC: tɛj.

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 Zhoujing Ji in the 12th century BCE.

“It appears that the term Di referred to people originally of Qiang origin settled in the Qin Ling ranges and further south. As this territory was occupied by the Chinese, the Di became increasingly heavily influenced by that culture, though still retaining elements of the Qiang. [Chinese records refer to a “White Horse” (Baima) Qiang and a “White Horse” Di, both on the frontiers of Wudu and Guanghan commanderies in northern Sichuan. These are probably references to the same people.] See, in particular, HHS 86/76, 2359-60, and also HHS 87/77, 2898-99.” de Crespigny (1984), p. 470, n. 8. See also: 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.

      “Earlier History of the Ti People. Of the “Five Races of Barbarians” traditionally associated with the “Sixteen States,” Fu Chien’s clan was affiliated with the Ti race, a proto-Tibetan group ethnically related to the Ch’iang , with whom they are associated in the Book of Songs. [Fu Chien (Pinyin: Fu Jian), 338-385, took power in 357 and subdued all of northern China, founding the Former Ch’in or Qin – one of the ‘Six Kingdoms’]. There are no clearly identifiable remains of the Ti language in the Chinese sources.6 Information about the history and distribution of these people is contained in the dynastic histories in sections specifically devoted to them as well as in separate documents;7 of the latter, a memorial composed by Chiang T’ung 江统 (d. 310) is especially informative.
      In pre-Han times the Ti were spread principally in the mountainous country that extended from southern Kansu to northern Szechwan, one of their most important seats being at Ch’ou-ch’ih. In 36 A.D. a considerable number of Ti and Ch’iang were moved into Kuan-chung and Ho-tung, a fact which Chiang T’ung later deplored on the grounds that the descendants of those people, having grown in numbers and strength, oppressed the Chinese inhabitants of the areas. Eruptions of the Ch’iang and Ti which began in 107 lasted a decade and were unprecedentedly devastating. Chiang T’ung asserts that during the last years of the Later Han the barbarians of Yung Province reduced Kuan-chung to desolation, and the Wei-lüeh’s account of the activities of the Ti in Kansu, Shensi, and Szechwan tends to confirm this. There can be no doubt that, as Chiang T’ung says, the Ti profited substantially during the rise of the kingdom of Wei from the rivalry between it and the state of Shu; indeed, the bargaining position which they then enjoyed must have been of prime significance in the history of their entrenchment in China. One episode which is of particular interest for the history of the Fu clan was the removal in 236 of on Fu Chien, who then held the title “King of the Ti of Wu-tu,” with his following of 400 Ti house-holds into Kuang-tu (in Szechwan). This Ti leader is probably to be identified with the illustrious ancestor after whom Fu Chien’s uncle, Fu Chien, was named.”

6. Eberhard states that the Ti could be regarded merely as more sinicized Ch’iang, were it not for the fact that their language is said (in TT) to have differed from that of the Ch’iang; but according to the Wei-lüeh their language was the same as that of the Ch’iang.

7. WS 101, SS 98, Chou-shu and PS 96. The relevant portion of the Wei-lüeh, preserved in P’ei Sung-chih’s commentary on SKC, was translated by Chavannes (“Wei Lio”). Its opening section is devoted to the Ti.

Rogers (1968), pp. 4-5; 80, nn. 6 and 7.


1.3. Yi zhou 益州 [I-chou]. During the Han a zhou was a territory under Chinese control, but outside China proper. It was equivalent to a jun , which is usually translated as: ‘commandery.’ Yi zhou was established in 109 BCE by Emperor Wu. Its administrative centre was to the east of modern Puning County, Yunnan (Prefecture and Province). The Yi zhou of the Han must not be confused with the Yi zhou of the Five Dynasties which corresponds with Chengdu fu of Sichuan. See Chavannes (1905), p. 521, n. 1. Yi zhou, during the Han, included most of modern Yunnan and southern Sichuan. It bordered on Jiaozhi (centred near modern Hanoi) to the southeast, and modern Burma to the southwest.

1.4. Wudu Jun (Wudu Commandery) 武都郡 [Wu-tu chün] was established by Emperor Wu in 111 BCE to the west and southwest of Changan.

“South of the Wei and the Tao was Wudu commandery, which had been in Yi circuit under the Former Han, but was in Liang Province of Later Han. The commandery covered the mountainous country of the Min Shan in present-day southern Gansu and the borders of Sichuan, with the upper course of the Han River and of the Bailong Jiang. In this region also, both non-Chinese and the Chinese settlements were scattered and isolated among the mountains at the foothills of Tibet and the base of the great ridge of the Qin Ling.” de Crespigny (1984), pp.13-14, and the maps on pp. 92, 98.

“Han Wu-ti decreed the establishment of Wu-tu Commandery at Ch’ou-ch’ih in 111 B.C. (HS 28: Ti-li chih 8B. 1a; Dubs, II, 82). Ch’ou-ch’ih was the seat of the “White Horse (Po-ma) tribe, which is described as the strongest of the Ti tribes. Ti rebellions against the Chinese colonists of that region were recorded for the years 108 B.C. (Wei-lüeh; Dubs, II, 93; de Groot, Urkunden, II, 198) and 80 B.C. (HS 7; Dubs, II, 163).” Rogers (1968), p. 81, n. 9.

See also: Note 3.8, and Chavannes (1905), p. 521, n. 2, where he mistakenly gives 118 BCE instead of 111 BCE for the establishment of Wudu Commandery. He says that its centre was 80 li to the west of Cheng County (Sub-prefecture of Jie, Gansu Province).

1.5. “Fulu 福祿was the name of a County (xian) of Jiuquan Commandery (now Su County, Gansu Province).” Translated from Chavannes (1905), p. 521, n. 3.

“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 [Ho-hsi] “West of the River”. Jiuquan [Chiu-ch’üan], Zhangye [Chang-yeh] and Dunhuang [Dunhuang] were probably established in 104 and subsequent years, Wuwei [Wu-wei] and Jincheng [Chin-ch’eng] 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. On the southwest, they were backed by the Qilian Shan [= Nan Shan] and the mountainous regions of present-day Qinghai [Ch’ing-hai]. To the north and east they faced the Helan [He-lan] Shan, the Tengger and other deserts on the edge of the Gobi. The cities and settlements were based on oases, supplied by the snowmelt streams which flow from the high ground to the south and then disappear into marshes in the desert. As in the Tarim basin of central Asia, irrigation agriculture was maintained around these cities, and the settled farming economy was sufficient to provide a frontier defence for the trade and communications of the Silk Road which led through the Western Regions to India and Rome.” de Crespigny (1984), pp. 7-8.

For a discussion of the dates of the establishment of the four commanderies, see also: Dubs (1944), p. 83 and note 23.1.

1.6. Qian [Ch’ien].

“The ancient County of Qian was to the south of the present County of Long (Fengxiang Prefecture, Gansu Province)”. Adapted from Chavannes (1905), p. 521, n. 4. Qian County was approximately 180 km northwest of Changan (modern Xian) on the Long road.

“(Shensi, S of Lung hsien) LTYT 36a, SLKCYC 4133.2. A prefecture of Fu-feng Commandery, Ssu-li.” Rogers (1968), p. 310.

1.7. Ancient Long [Lung] County was to the west of Qian County, and included the strategic Long Pass which is approximately 215 km northwest of Changan on the Long Road.

“(Shensi, Lung hsien) LTYT 36b, SLKCYC 4137.1. Area of Lung Mountain near the Lung-ch’eng Prefecture that lay in Lüeh-yang Commandery in Ch’in Province. It was the western of the Four Fortresses of Kuan-chung.” Rogers (1968), p. 324.

“Lung is the name of a chain of mountains at the sources of the river Wei on the border between Shen-si and Kan-su”. Molè, (1970), p. 71, n. 13.

“The main communications route east and west along the Wei River was the Long Road, so called from the mountain by which it passed. It seems most probable that the ancient road generally followed the line of the modern railway from Xian along the Wei valley, then crossed the watershed to the Tao River, and then went north to the Yellow River near Lanzhou, where it joined the Silk Road leading northwest into central Asia. Most of the country of eastern Gansu is rolling loess hills, not a major obstruction to open movement and manoeuvre, but sufficient to render attractive the silted flood-plains of the major streams, while in the upper reaches of the Wei and about the Yellow River the terrain is steep enough to make travel away from the valleys quite difficult.

      Near Long Mountain, however, on the borders of present-day Gansu and Shaanxi, the Wei River runs through gorges in the loess. In this region the road left the Wei valley and crossed the hill country through the Long Pass, north of the river. The Long Pass was a fortified barrier, and it appears also that the Long Road itself was protected as a military highway, with patrols, garrisons, stores and arsenals at intervals along its course.” de Crespigny (1984), pp. 14-15.

1.8. Panhu 縏瓠 [P’an-hu]. In spite of the popular etymology recounted below, the name Panhu was probably a transliteration of a Di name.

“At the beginning of Chapter CXVI dedicated to the Barbarians of the South (translated by WYLIE, Rev. de l’Extr. Orient, 1882, pp. 200-201), the Hou Hanshu has recounted in full the legend of the dog, Panhu, who married the daughter of Emperor Gaoxin (identified by Sima Qian with Emperor Ku), and who was the ancestor of the Barbarians of the South. The commentary on the Hou Hanshu quotes, on these remarks, a passage from the Weilue itself which indicates to us a popular etymology of the name Panhu: ‘Emperor Gaoxin had an old married woman who lived in the house of the king, and who had an earache. While removing the problem, an object was found big as a cocoon. This woman placed it in a gourd (hu), which she covered with a bowl (pan). In an instant, the object transformed itself into a multicoloured dog. That is why it is called Panhu.” Translated from Chavannes (1905): 521, n. 6. Note: the reign of the legendary emperor Gaoxin or Di Ku is traditionally assigned to c. 2436 BCE to 2366 BCE.

1.9. Ran Di 蚺氐 [Jan Ti] – ‘Giant Python’ Di. Williams (1909), p. 403, identifies the word jan as:

“A large serpent found in southern China, described as 50 [Chinese] feet long, which can seize deer for food; it has long teeth and a bright variegated skin which is cured for covering guitars; it carries its head close to the ground. . .    the gall is reputed to be useful in curing consumption; this description doubtless refers to a sort of boa like that reported to be found in Hainan Island.”

This description of a snake up to 50 chi [about 17 metres] is undoubtedly an exaggeration, but the description could otherwise refer to either of two giant pythons common in Southeast Asia: the Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus), or the Indian Python (P. molurus).
          The Reticulated Python ranges from southern Burma to Indonesia and the Philippines and is probably the world’s longest snake, with specimens found up to at least 9.6 metres (31 feet) long, although the Anaconda is heavier. It has been known to take deer and even, occasionally, children.

“The reticulated python gets its name from the distinctive color and pattern on its scales. According to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary the word “reticulated” is an adjective defined as “having lines intercrossed, forming a network.”  It is also known as the regal python (regal is a word that refers to a king). Its scientific name is Python reticulatus. . . . Reticulated pythons live in tropical forests on the continent of Asia. Their range extends from Myanmar and India, across Southeast Asia and on many of the islands of the Philippines and Indonesia. They are at home on the ground, in caves or in trees and they have adapted to living in towns and cities where they hunt chickens, ducks, rats and domestic cats, dogs and pigs. Large reticulated pythons have eaten monkeys, wild boar, deer and even people. There are not many cases of these pythons capturing and eating people, but it has been reported even in recent years. . . . The largest reticulated python ever found in the wild was reported in 1912 from the island of Celebes (now known as Sulawesi) in Indonesia.  This snake measured thirty-three feet.” Shwedick (2002).

However, ran, according to GR Vols. III, p. 449 and IV, p. 334, refers to Python molurus bivittatus Schlegel. It adds that it is edible and that its flesh and bile are used as medicines. This snake, commonly known as the ‘Indian Python’, is usually less than 4 metres but is sometimes twice that length, or about 8 metres (26 feet).
          I have translated ran as ‘Giant Python,’ as it is impossible to decide which of these two species of python was intended in the text.

1.10. Early Chinese accounts refer to at least two main groups of Di: the ‘Red Di’ and the ‘White Di’. It has been suggested that this could be a reference to geographical divisions, with the White Di to the west, and the Red Di to the south, but it seems:

“quite clear that the term Red Di was not a geographical one and did not distinguish the bearers of it from Ti living in other places; it was a political and particularly a social term, distinguishing one group of implacable enemies of Chin from others who were tired of fighting and anxious to come to terms; it was primarily the distinction between one aristocratic ruling group and another subordinate group.” Průšek (1971), p. 219.

There seems to be little reason to doubt the early claims, repeated here in our text, that the names refer to the colour of the clothes worn by various clans or groups. “Thus explaining the terms ‘Green Di’ 青氐, ‘White Di’ 白氐 above.” Translated from Chavannes (1905): 522, n. 2.

1.11. Hezhi 盍稚 [Ho-chih]. Ancient pronunciations:

he – K. 642n: *g’âp / γâp; EMC: γap; he: g’âp / γâp
zhi – EMC: drih. Reconstructed pronunciations of this word are not included in Karlgren.

1.12. Xingguo Di 興國氐 [Hsing-kuo Ti]. Xingguo refers to the ancient state of Xing in the Hebei plain at the foot of the Taihang Shan, which the Di conquered circa 660 BCE and was settled by the ‘Red’ Di. See: Průšek (1971), pp. 144-145. GR Vol. II, p. 1196 states that it refers to the ancient prefecture of Hubei which is now known as Yangxin.

1.13. Baixiang Di 白項氐 [Pai-hsiang Ti] literally reads: “The White Section of the Di”. Chavannes (1905), p. 522. mistakenly gives Zi [Tzu] for the similar Bai [Pai] (which can also be pronounced bo).

“Mr. Chavannes always makes use of the edition of the twenty-four historians published by the library of Tushujicheng [T’u-shu-chi-ch’eng] in Shanghai from 1888. This edition has the advantage of being printed clearly in a convenient format and is relatively inexpensive. It accurately reproduces the imperial edition published in the 18th century by order of Jianlong [Ch’ien-lung] which is authoritative in China today. Only this edition in moving characters, generally correct for the Shiji [Shih-chi] or the Histories of the Han which are the first and only true readings of the dynastic histories, is quite negligent from the Sanguozhi [San kuo chih] onwards. Moreover, Mr. Chavannes has had at his disposal the edition of the Sanguozhi known as the Barentang [Pao-jen-t’ang](p. 550, n. 2; p. 555, n. 1) but it does not seem to have been always checked, for in at least two cases it is unlikely that the Barentang edition gives readings which, in the edition of Shanghai are clearly printing errors: on p. 222, “Zixiang Di” [Tzu-hsiang Ti] is incorrect for Baixiang Di [Pai-hsiang-ti],and the correct reading is found in the xylographic edition published by Jiangnanshuzhu [Chiang-nan-shu-chu] in 1887. It is the same for the Weibi [Wei-pi] of p. 526, where M. Chavannes clearly sees that it ought to be written Xianbi [Hsien-pi] and which is, in fact, correctly written Xianbi [Hsien-pi] in the edition of Jiangnanshuzhu and, very probably, in that of [the Barentang].” Translated from Pelliot (1906), pp. 365-366.

“Po-ching 百頃 was another name for Ch’ou-ch’ih. It is explained as indicating the area (100 ch’ing) of the Pond (ch’ih); in late editions (e.g. K’ai-ming: Wei-chih 30. 1006. 2) Wei lüeh wrongly writes Tzu-hsiang 自項, which Chavannes in his translation (n. 7) fails to correct. Po-na (SKC 30.31a) has Po -hsiang.” Rogers (1968), p. 84, n. 47.

The Chinese text of the Weilue that I have been using (the five volume Sanguozhi published by the New China Bookstore Publishing House, Beijing, 1975, zhuan 30: 858-863), like the Po-na edition, also has Bai- (or Bo-)xiang 白項 [Pai- (or Po) hsiang]. This name would appear to be correct and carries the meaning of the ‘White Section.’
          This interpretation seems to be confirmed by the description given earlier in the text of the various sections (or clans) of the Ti peoples: “Some are called the Qing Di (Green Di), others the Bai Di
白項氐 (White Di), and others the Ran Di (Giant Python Di), referring to the class of reptiles in which they are placed. The people of the Middle Kingdom name them according to the colour of their clothes, but they call themselves Hezhi [盍稚].” See also notes 1.11 and 3.8.

1.14. Ma Chao 馬超.

“In chapter 1 of the Wei zhi section of the Sanguozhi, one reads that Ma Chao’s rebellion indeed broke out in 211, but it was only in 213 that he obtained the cooperation of the Di tribes: ‘In the eighteenth Jianan year (213), . . .   Ma Chao, finding himself at Hanyang (to the south of the County of Qingfu, Xuchou Prefecture, Sichuan Province), began to make trouble again using the Qiang and the Hu. The king of the Di, Qianwan, rebelled to join forces with him. (Ma) Chao camped at Xingguo. Xiahou Yuan attacked him.’ In the first month of the nineteenth year [29 January to 26 February, 214], Xiahou Yuan defeated Qianwan and put him to flight. He exterminated the people of Xingguo.” Translated from Chavannes (1905), p. 522, n. 3.

          “During the Chien-an period (196-220), according to the Wei-lüeh . . . , the Ti leaders A-kuei 阿貴 of Lüeh-yang and Ch’ien-wan of Ch’ou-ch’ih each controlled tribes numbering more than a myriad [10,000]. They made common cause with the rebel Ma C’hao 馬超 (176-222; SKC 36. 6b-9a) in 213 (SKC 1, 38a; Wei-lüeh’s 211 seems to be wrong). After Ma Ch’ao’s defeat in the following year, A-kuei and his followers were wiped out by Hsia-hou Yüan夏侯淵 (d. 219; SKC 9, 3b-7b), while Ch’ien-wan went southwest into Shu, where his tribes all submitted to Han authority. The latter deported those whose conduct had been equivocal, placing them in Mei-yang; at the time of the composition of the Wei-lüeh these were under the jurisdiction of a Protecting Army (hu-chün). Those who had “conducted themselves wisely” were left in Nan-an and T’ien-shui commanderies.” Rogers (1968), p. 82, n.12.

“By 214, however, Ma Chao was finally driven into exile in Sichuan, and in the same year Han Sui and his allies, who included the Shaodang Qiang, were decisively defeated at the Changli River in Hanyang, identified with the present-day Hulu River, north of Tianshui. In the winter of 214, Xiahou Yuan followed that success with a campaign against Song Jian. Song Jian died, his capital at Fuhan was captured, and all his officials were killed. With this victory, the whole territory east of the Yellow River was in the control of Cao Cao.” de Crespigny (1984), p. 165.

1.15. For a more detailed description of these events see: Haloun (1949-50), pp. 126-130; de Crespigny (1984), pp. 162-172. Shu = modern Western Sichuan.

“Shu designates the western part of presentday Ssu-ch’uan province, the Red Basin around Ch’eng-tu, or the commandery of that name. . . . ” CICA, p. 220, n. 829

“(Szechwan) A state of high antiquity traditionally thought to stem from the enfeoffment of a cadet line of the descendants of Ti-kao as Marquis of Shu. Used specifically as an area designation for the part of Szechwan centering on Ch’eng-tu and generally for the whole Szechwan basin.” Rogers (1968), p. 331.

6. (Hist. Geog.) Shu : a. Anc. name of the region corresponding to the central part of 四川 of modern Szu-ch’uan (Sichuan). b. A state annexed by the state of Ch’in [Qin] during the 戰國 [403-222 CE] era of the Warring States and corresponding to the plain of 成都 Ch’eng-tu (Chengdu), in四川 modern Szu-ch’uan. Against this state a military operation was organised by 孝公 Hsiao Kung [Xiao Gong] (381-338 BCE) of the state of Ch’in, which prepared the way for the great military expeditions of the Ch’in and Han empires. c. chün4 or commandery, under the Ch’in and Han, corresponding to the anc. State.” GR Vol. V, No. 9891.

1.16. Meiyang 美陽.

“Meiyang was a county (xian) [] of the Commandery of you Fufeng (that is to say, the Fufeng to the right, or west, of the capital). It is to the southwest of the present District of Wugong (Jian County, Shensi Province).” Translated from Chavannes (1905): 522, n. 4. Meiyang was approximately 100 km northwest of Changan. See also: Rogers (1968), p. 82, n. 12.

1.17. Anyi 安夷 [An-i] literally, ‘Peaceful Yi’ and Fuyi 撫夷 [Fu-i] literally, ‘Governed Yi’.

“The I, “barbarians of the east” settled in southern Shang-tung, northern Kiang-su and northern An-hui, had generally faded before the Chou epoch and the last remnants disappeared in the IIIrd century B.C. (Eberhard, Kultur und Siedlung, p. 385ff). As is evident here, the name can only have the very general meaning of “barbarians”.” Molè (1970), p. 86, n. 61.

1.18. Hujun 護蕈 [Hu-chün] = Military Protector.

“(1) HAN: Military Protector, briefly from A.D. 1, an officer on the staff of the Defender-in-chief (ta ssu-ma), one of the eminent Three Dukes (san kung); rank apparently 2,000 bushels, but functions not clear; not continued in Later Han. . . .  HB: commissioner over the army.” Hucker, No. 2775.

Professor Dubs translates hu-chün as ‘The Protector of the Army’. See: de Crespigny (1967), p. 12. I think it is quite clear that the title refers here to a military officer supervising previously pacified tribes. I have, therefore, used Hucker’s suggestion of ‘Military Protector.’

1.19. Tianshui 天水 [T’ien-shui].

“The centre of Tianshui Commandery was to the southwest of the present Tong County (Gongchang Prefecture, Gansu Province).” Translated from Chavannes (1905), p. 523, n. 1.

“During the Han period, under the arrangements of Emperor Wu, the commandery of Tianshui was established to control the Wei valley immediately west of Long Mountain. . . . ” It was renamed Han-yang in AD 74. de Crespigny (1984), pp. 13, 70.

“The commandery of Tianshui (later Hanyang), in the upper Wei valley, appears to have been regarded as marginal territory between East and West.” de Crespigny (1984), p. 57.

1.20. Nanan 南安 [Nan-an].

Chavannes (1905), p. 523, n. 2, places Nanan County in Jianwei Commandery in present Sichuan. This must be a mistake. The reference here is undoubtedly to Nanan Commandery that was established in CE 188 to the west of Hanyang Commandery. See the map in de Crespigny (1984), p. 148.

“. . .    the city of Nan-an (near Kung-ch’ang). . . . ” Kung-ch’ang is to the south of Lan-chou, near Min in the lower valley of the T’ao shui (western Kan-su). Molè (1970), pp. 126, n. 236, and 86, n. 59.

1.21. Guangwei 廣魏 [Kuang-wei] Commandery.

“The text reads thus: 今之廣平魏郡所守是也 [jinzhi guangpingwei jun suoshoush ye]. But further on, one finds the name 廣魏郡 Guangweijun, which proves that the word [ping] is superfluous here and, in fact, the introduction of this parasite character renders the text unintelligible. Meanwhile, the name of the Guangwei Commandery is itself very puzzling, for it does not figure in the geographical chapters of the Jinshu (chaps. XIV and XV) and, consequently, is not found in Li Zhaoluo’s dictionary of historical geography which is solely based on the canonical historians. By good luck, the geographical chapters of the Jinshu were made the object of a study by Bi Yuan 畢沅published in 1781 under the title of 晉書地理志新補正 “The Geographical Treatise of the Jinshu Recently Completed and Corrected”. It is in this work that we finally find the desired solution. Indeed, we read there (chap. I, p. 4 b of the reprint made in the Jingxuntangcong shu 竞訓堂从叢書:” Emperor Wu (= Cao Cao, who lived from 155 to 220), of the Wei dynasty, established Guangwei 廣魏Commandery. Under the Jin, during the Taishi period (265-274), this name was changed for the first time to Lüeyang 略陽.”

          The name of Lüeyang Commandery is, in fact, raised again in the Jinshu (chap. XIV, p. 15, b) with a commentary confirming that the name of Lüeyang was formerly Guangwei. Li Zhaoluo’s dictionary, furthermore, informs us that the administrative centre of Lüeyang Commandery (ancient Guangwei), was 90 li [37 km] to the northeast of the present Qinan 秦安 County (Qin Prefecture, Gansu Province). Thus, the site occupied by Guangwei Commandery is resolved. – We remark, incidentally, that the use Yu Huan made of the name of Guangwei, which was only in use from about 220 to 265, is in perfect agreement with the approximate date assigned by Liu Zhishi to the work written by this author.” Translated from Chavannes (1905), p. 523, n. 3.

1.22. The Qiang [Ch’iang]. See note 3.1.

1.23. The Hu peoples. Hu is a rather vague term used for northern and western peoples of non-Sinitic origin, usually, but not exclusively, for those of Caucasian appearance. It was commonly used for people of Persian, Sogdian, and Turkish origin, Xianbi, Indians, Kushans and even, occasionally, for the Xiongnu (who, however, are usually clearly differentiated from the Hu).
          Pulleyblank (1991), p. 126, gives as definitions of hu
: “dewlap; interrogative adverb, why?, how?; general name for horse-riding nomads (Han); for Iranians from Central Asia (Tang); foreign, western.”
          On this subject I am greatly indebted to Thomas Bartlett of Latrobe University in Melbourne, Australia who, in a private communication dated 14th April 2002, wrote:

“Etymologically, the graph “hu(2)” means literally “old flesh.” According to the Shuo-wen dictionary, this character originally meant the dewlap – loose skin that hangs down from the neck of an ox. Later the word was used to refer to certain central Asian peoples, perhaps because the heavy beards of such men may have seemed to Chinese to resemble the flesh hanging down from the necks of oxen (dewlaps). Such central Asian peoples were usually cattle-raising pastoralists, so the classifying epithet “Hu” may have pejoratively implied a fundamental affinity between the people and their animals. Many ancient Chinese names for foreign peoples had such uncomplimentary implications.
          Later, “Hu” in China became a general term for “northern barbarians,” whether they were of central or east Asian origin. This usage apparently has less to do with beardeness than with non-Chineseness. Thus, for example, Han period historians refer to a certain Tungusic people as “eastern Hu.” In the 17th and 18th centuries, one purpose of the literary inquisition carried out in China by the Manchus, a Tungusic people not known for heavy beards, was to remove derogatory remarks to “Hu” in extant Chinese literary works.”

Hulsewé’s translation of hu as “nomad” (CICA: 80, n. 71) cannot be justified, as his own translation from the Hanshu on the state of Xiye [Hsi-yeh] shows. Ibid. p. 101. To say that the people of a ‘land of nomads’ are ‘different from the nomads’ is meaningless.
          I have translated the word hu here as “Westerner” with considerable hesitation, but feel that this, at least, closely represents the way it is used in the Hou Hanshu and the Weilue.

1.24. The ‘renlu’ 衽露 [jen-lu].

Ren refers to the front of a garment, a skirt, or the lapel or flap in front of a coat which is buttoned under the right arm, and lu means to bless, or blessed. The ‘renlu’, therefore, is likely to have been similar to the pang-gdan, or striped apron, which Tibetan women, to this day, wear from the time they are married.

1.25. Jie [Chieh].  

“The locality of Jie is mentioned further on as adjoining the ancient Commandery of Wudu and the District of Yinjin. It is, therefore, probably necessary to read in place of and to identify this place with the District of Shanggui which was a dependency of the Commandery of Longxi, and which was to the southwest of the present Secondary Prefecture of Qin , in Gansu Province.” Translated from Chavannes (1905), p. 524, n. 2. See also note 1.32.

1.26. Ji [Chi].

“Ji was a District of the Commandery of Tianshui. This is nowadays the District of Fuqiang (Gongchang Prefecture, Gansu Province).” Translated from Chavannes (1905), p. 524, n. 3.

Ji was also the name of the capital of Tianshui Commandery (renamed Hanyang Commandery in CE 74), and was west of the Long Pass on the main route to the northwest from Changan. See the map in: de Crespigny (1984), p. 92.

1.27. Huandao 獂道 [Huan-tao].

“The District of Huandao (the correct orthography is 豲道) was in the Commandery of Tianshui. It was to the northeast of the present District of Longxi 陇西隴 (Gongchang Prefecture, Gansu Province).” Translated from Chavannes (1905), p. 524, n. 4.

1.28. The fiefdoms du [tu]. The word is used here meaning a fiefdom. Although it often refers to a large city or capital, it can also mean a fief granted to a prince. See, for example, Williams (1909), p. 846; GR Vol. VI, No. 11668, 4b.

1.29. The ‘Commanderies and Kingdoms’ shaoguo 郡國 [shao-kuo].

“. . .    this term designates the principal administrative divisions of the Chinese who had divided all their territory into a certain number of Commanderies and Kingdoms.” Translated from Chavannes (1905), p. 524, n. 5. Also, see the discussion in: de Crespigny (1984), pp. 1-3.

1.30. Wudu 武都 [Wu-tu]. See note 1.4.

1.31. Yinping 陰平 [Yin-p’ing]

“The District of Yinping was to the northwest of the present District of Wen (Jie Prefecture, Gansu Province.” Translated from Chavannes (1905), p. 525, n. 2.

1.32. Chavannes interpreted this passage somewhat differently than I have, thus:

“Regarding those who live (in the region of) Jie , Ji , and Huandao 獂道, although they are now under Chinese administration, they have, nevertheless, preserved their kings and chiefs who live in their territory and among their tribes. Besides, in the ancient region of Wudu, in the region of Yinping 陰平 and Jie , there are some tribes numbering more than 10,000 men.” Translated from Chavannes (1905), pp. 524-525. See also n. 1.25.                                                                                                                                                                                           

Section 2 – The Zilu Tribes

2.1. The Zilu 貲虜 [Tzu-lu]. 

zi – ‘ransom,’ ‘property,’ ‘valuables’ – not in K; EMC: tsia̭ /tsi

lu – ‘capture’, ‘captive’. K. 69e *lo / luo; EMC: lɔ

The Zilu gradually grew into a powerful state centred around (Lake) Koko Nor. They were later known to the Chinese as the Tuyuhun [T’u-yü-hun], and to the Tibetans as the ‘A-zha.
          After many years of warfare, they were decisively defeated by the Tibetans in 663, and never recovered their independence. Some of them fled to the Chinese, others remained, and were gradually absorbed by the Tibetans. See: Molè (1970), pp. 2, 30, and 73, n. 22.

2.2. Xiongnu 匈奴 [Hsiung-nu].

xiong – ‘breast’, ‘heart’. K. 1183d *χįung / χįwong; EMC: xuawŋ.

nu – ‘slave’, ‘dependents’, ‘wife and children’. K. 94l *no / nuo; EMC: nɔ

“As the Hsiung-nu empire continued to expand throughout Mongolia, Sinkiang and parts of Manchuria, the Han rulers were forced to greater efforts to defend themselves and garrison the silk route. During the early Han the throne had become so weakened by internal revolts that a takeover by the Hsiung-nu would have been possible, but the Shan-yü may have avoided the temptation in the belief that conquest would only serve to alienate them completely and that permanent control would be impossible. The Shan-yü may not have been quite so astute, but all the alien powers that have gained the Chinese throne were either forced to retreat or were eventually assimilated.
          Toward the end of the Han, the loosely organized Hsiung-nu empire fell apart through over-extension and internal dissensions. The northern faction broke away to appear later in the Orkhon-Selenga region, while the southern faction fled further southward. The northerners were shortly faced with the emergence of the Hsien-pi, who became powerful contenders for control of the northern steppes. For a time they held their own, but eventually they were forced to retreat westward. The defeat of the northern Hsiung-nu and their flight to Ili, the land of the Wu-sun – whom they defeated - marks the beginning of the western Hunnic empire and the pillaging of Europe under Attila in the fifth century AD.” Bowles (1977), p. 260.

“The Hiung-nu headed a powerful alliance of stock-raising tribes in the late 3rd – the early 2nd century B.C. and dominated the eastern part of Central Asia during two centuries, laying the foundations for the emergence of tribal alliances there in the Middle Ages. The military-political events of Hiung-nu rule are well-known from written sources but the origin of the Hiung-nu themselves and the early stages of their history remain obscure to this day. It is difficult to “picture and expound consistently” all those stages, as Ssu-ma Ch’ien, a contemporary of the Hiung-nu, pointed out in his time. Having rounded up all the information about that tribe, the great historiographer of old, remarked only that “the Hiung-nu descended from Shun-wei, a scion of the Hsia rulers’ family.” The evidence of written sources alone is not sufficient to resolve the above question.” Minyaev (1985), p. 69.

“Hsiung-nu is the designation for the nomad tribes living to the north of China ; they have often, but by no means certainly, been identified with the Huns ; see Sinor (1963), p. 263 (cf. p. 220) for the literature on the point ; cf. also Pulleyblank (1963), p. 39, for further identifications.” CICA, p. 71, n. 4.

2.3. Jincheng 金城 [Chin-ch’eng] Commandery was to the east of the salt (Lake) Koko Nor and had its centre to the northwest of the prefectural capital of Lanzhou (Gansu Province). See: Chavannes (1905), p. 525, n. 7.

“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.” de Crespigny (1984), p. 7.

“It is not certain where the Silk Road from China crossed the Yellow River during Han times, but it was surely in the region of present-day Lanzhou; and this frontier place of early Han became the base for expansion to the west of the river. The commandery of Jincheng was not formally established until 81 BC, but administrative and political control had been maintained for a generation before that time, based notably upon the garrison city of Lianju, on the Datong River, about a hundred kilometres northwest of present-day Lanzhou. . . .

          The establishment of Jincheng commandery, therefore, served two purposes: firstly as the base for the communications line across the Yellow River which led north through Wuwei and into central Asia; second as an area for colonisation by the Chinese, north of the Yellow River and among the Xining valley.” de Crespigny (1984), pp. 11-13.

“Around 60 B.C., the Han extended the name Chin-ch’êng to cover the whole region inhabited by the Ch’iang between Huang-ho and the Kuku-nor and set up a protectorate there centred upon present-day Lan-chou.” Molè (1970), p. 92, n. 88.

2.4. Wuwei 武威 [Wu-wei] Commandery was situated to the west of the Tengger Desert, its centre at what is now modern Wuwei (seat of Liangzhou prefecture since Tang times), in Gansu Province.

“For the dates of the establishment of the four commanderies of the north-west, see Hulsewé (1957), pp. 6-7, and RHA I pp. 59-60, where it is concluded, tentatively that (i) Chiu-ch’üan and Chang-i were established in 104, (ii) Tun-huang was established shortly afterwards, at least before 91 B.C.; (iii) Wu-wei was probably set up between 81 and 67, although minor administrative units had existed there previously. See also Chang Ch’un-shu (1967), p. 748 : Chiu-ch’üan 111 B.C.; Chang-i between 111 and 109 B.C.; Tun-huang between 101 and 94 B.C. ; Wu-wei c. 7 B.C.” CICA, p. 75, n. 40.

2.5. Jiuquan 酒泉 [Chiu-ch’üan] Commandery was centred where modern Jiaquan is now, just to the southeast of Jiayuguan [Chia-yü-kuan]. Situated on the main road to the west, it also protected the approaches to the strategic Etsin Gol delta to the northeast. See CICA, p. 75, n. 40 in note 2.4.

2.6. The Hei Shui 黑水 [Hei Shui] literally ‘Black River;’ and the Xi He 西河 [Hsi Ho] literally ‘Western River.’

“It appears the Hei shui can be identified with the Dang He, or the Shazhou [Dunhuang] river. Cf. Sima Qian, French trans., bk. I, p. 126, n. 2. The term ‘Hei shui’ designating a river, and not an administrative district. It must be the same with the term ‘Xi He’ which cannot apply here to the Commandery of Xi He straddling the Huang He in the north of Shanxi and Shenxi. I therefore consider the Xi He in our text as being the western branch of the great loop of the Huang He. The domain of the Zilu is thus bordered by Shazhou [Dunhuang] to the west, and the Helan Shan massif to the east.” Translated from Chavannes (1905), p. 525, nn. 5 and 6.

While I agree with Chavannes that these are references to rivers, not administrative areas, I do not agree with his identifications. I believe it is far more likely that they refer to the upper and lower reaches of the Ruo Shui or Etsin Gol (Etsin River), which flows north into two lakes, the Sogo Nur (Sokho Nōr) and the Gaxun Nur (Gashun Nōr).
          The well-watered valley of the Ruo Shui led directly southwest from the homelands of the Xiongnu would have provided the shortest and most practicable escape route for their slaves to reach Chinese-controlled territory.
          The river which flows from the Loulang Nanshan and Lenglong ranges across the ‘Gansu corridor,’ through ancient Jiuquan [Chiu-ch’üan] Commandery to the north and west of Zhangye [Chang-yeh ; formerly known as Kan-chou], to join the river at the entrance to the Etsin Gol valley, is known to the Chinese as the Hei He.
          Still, today, it is called the Hei He on some maps as far as the Heli Shan range where it changes its name to the Ruo Shui. This is undoubtedly the Hei Shui of this text (the characters shui
and he are often used interchangeably for river).

“The Edsin Gol springs from two sources, in the Kan Chou and Hsü Chou oases at the foot of the Nan Shan. After watering several minor oases, of which the chief is Chin-t’a (the Golden Pagoda), they unite near Mao-mei, off the southeastern extremity of the Pei Shan. Thence they flow somewhat east of north, as the Hei Shui or Black Water, crossing the indeterminate borders of Kan-su and entering Inner Mongolia. The Hei Shui then separates into the Eastern and Western Edsin Gol, which, after reaching Outer Mongolia, end in two communicating lakes or meres, Gashun Nor and Sokho Nor.” Lattimore (1929), p. 205.

Further north, the Ruo Shui splits into the Xi He (‘Western River’ – also known as Mörün-gol or Ar-gol), and the Dong He (‘Eastern River’ – also known as Ümne-gol or Iké-gol), before flowing into the two lakes. The former, the Xi He, is almost certainly the same river as the Xi He of the Weilue. I should note here, however, another possibility: Xi He [Hsi Ho] is also used to refer to “the eastern vertical leg of the great bend of the Yellow River.” Rogers (1968), p. 84, n. 44.

The importance of this region, at the junction of the main ‘Silk Route’ to the west, and the easiest, and most direct route to central Mongolia, is hard to overestimate:

“Nature, by affording water and grazing over a continuous line of some two hundred miles, has at all times provided in the valley of the Etsin-gol an exceptionally easy route for raids and invasions from the Altai region, that true home of the Mongols and other great nomadic races, towards the line of the westernmost oases of Kan-su. These, extending along the foot of the Nan-shan, constitute the great natural highway between China and innermost Asia. Wide belts of desert and barren hill-ranges stretch both to the west and the east of the Etsin-gol. These belts, very difficult for any large bodies of men to cross, hardy nomads though they may be, help to protect this important ‘corridor’ for trade and military operations against serious attack from the north. But the valley of the Etsin-gol stands open, like a gate inviting invasion. . . . It will suffice to point out that those who since the first Chinese advance under the Emperor Wu-ti into ‘Ho-hsi’ were concerned with the safeguarding of this indispensable passage land between China and Central Asia, were not likely to ignore or neglect the advantage that a cultivated area, well to the north of the great highway and yet easily capable of support from the side of both Su-chou and Kan-chou, would necessarily present for the purpose of a barrier whereby to close that gate against inroads, or as an advanced base for offensive movements against nomadic hosts.” Stein (1928): Vol. I, pp. 409-410.

“It is here that the route of invasion from the Mongolian steppes cuts through the ancient border line drawn by the Chinese when they first occupied the passage land to the north of the Nan-shan. The ruined forts of imposing size and evident antiquity which we found here on both sides of the river were, no doubt, intended to guard the gateway for invasion here presented. One fort built with clay walls of exceptional strength looked an exact counterpart of the ancient frontier post of the “Jade Gate” as located by me seven years before on the Limes in the desert west of Tun-huang.
            As we moved down by the Etsin-gol from that last outlying Chinese settlement we found the sandy bed of the river nearly a mile wide in places but absolutely dry at the time. Only at rare intervals could water be obtained from wells dug in deep hollows below the low rocky spur thrown out by the Pei-shan and then spreads out in a delta extending for some 110 miles to the north before it terminates in a line of brackish lakes and marshes.
            The conditions brought about here by a succession of low-water seasons furnished a striking illustration of the appearance which the Lou-lan delta may have presented before the Kuruk-darya had finally dried up. Where river beds lined by narrow belts of jungle had been left dry for long years, we found many of the wild poplar trees already dead or dying. The wide stretches of ground separating the several beds showed but scanty scrub or else were absolutely bare. No wonder we heard sad complaints in the scattered camps of the two-hundred-odd families of Torgut Mongols which are established in the Etsin-gol delta, and about the increasing difficulties caused by inadequate grazing. Yet this extensive riverine tract, limited as are its resources, must always have been of importance for those, whether armed hosts or traders, who would make the long journey from the heart of Mongolia in the north to the oases of Kansu. The line of watch towers of later construction met at intervals afforded proof that this route into Mongolia had been frequented and guarded during late medieval times.
            The analogy thus presented with the ancient Lou-lan delta impressed me even more when I proceeded to examine the ruins of Khara-khoto, the “Black Town,” which Colonel Kozloff, the distinguished Russian explorer, had been the first to visit in 1908–09. There remained no doubt for me then that it was identical with Marco Polo’s “City of Etzina.” Of this we are told in the great Venetian traveler’s narrative that it lay a twelve day’s ride from the city of Kan-chou, “toward the north on the verge of the desert; it belongs to the Province of Tangut.” All travellers bound for Karakorum, the old capital of the Mongols, had here to lay in victuals in order to cross the great “desert which extends forty days’ journey to the north and on which you meet with no habitation nor baiting place.”
            The position thus indicated was found to correspond exactly to that of Khara-khoto, and the identification was completely borne out by the antiquarian evidence brought to light at the ruined site. This soon showed me that through the walled town may have suffered considerably, as local Mongol tradition asserts, when Chingiz Khan with his Mongols first invaded Kansu from this side about A.D. 1226, yet it continued to be inhabited down to Marco Polo’s time and at least partially even later, down to the fifteenth century. This was certainly the case with the agricultural settlement for which it had served as a local center, and of which we discovered extensive remains in the desert to the east and northeast. But the town itself must have seen its most flourishing times under the Tangut of Hsi-hsia rule from the beginning of the eleventh century down to the Mongol conquest. . . .
            There was much to support the belief that the final abandonment of Khara-khoto was brought about by difficulties of irrigation. The dry river bed which passes close to the ruined town passes some seven miles away to the east of the nearest branch still reached by the summer floods. The old canals we traced leading to the abandoned farms eastward are removed considerably farther. It was impossible definitely to determine whether this failure of irrigation had been brought about by a reduction in the volume of the Etsin-gol’s water or had been caused by a change in the river course at canal head with which the settlement had for some reason been unable to cope. Anyhow, there seemed good reason to believe that the water supply now reaching the delta during a few summer months would no longer suffice to assure adequate irrigation for the once cultivated area. Even at Mao-mei oasis, over 150 miles farther up the river, and with conditions far more favourable for the maintenance of canals, serious trouble had been experienced for years past in securing an adequate supply of water early enough in the season. Hence, much of the once cultivated area had been abandoned.” Stein (1931), pp. 188-191.

“In one part of this region, now known by the Mongol name of Edsin Gol, the Ruo Shui flows past the present city of Jiuquan for more than three hundred kilometres into the desert. Nowadays, the Edsin Gol provides little more than brackish water and salt pans, but in the time of Han these marshes were fertile, and abundant with wild life. The whole river system then provided a salient of arable land stretching into the heart of the desert.
          This territory, called Juyan by the Han Chinese, was maintained and garrisoned by the empire from the time of Emperor Wu till the last century of Later Han. Militarily, the outpost of the Great Wall was important for two reasons: as a supply point for the garrisons in the northwest and, perhaps more significant, as a means to deny this prosperous region to the northern nomads. Left undefended, Juyan would have provided an ideal route for attack against the Chinese commanderies of the corridor itself.” de Crespigny (1984), p. 9.

2.7. Liangzhou 涼州 [Liang-chou].

“The Liang province of Later Han was divided in two by the Yellow River, flowing eastwards from the Tibetan massif and then north towards the desert land of the Ordos. In this region, unlike other territories, the Yellow River was of only minor importance as a communications route: its valley and its waters provide some opportunity for travel upstream or down, but river transport is generally practicable only during the high water of summer, and there were, in any case, few places of interest or value along the stream. On the contrary, in fact, in the time of Qin and at the beginning of the Former Han the Yellow River served as the frontier line of the empire, and during later centuries it was a barrier to overcome for communication between China and central Asia.” de Crespigny (1984), p. 7.

2.8. The Xianbi or Xianbei 鮮卑 [Hsien-pi or Hsien-pei] people.

“The Hsien-pi, who took over control of Mongolia after the fall of the Hsiung-nu state, had emerged as a powerful tribal union as early as the first century B.C. The main clan of the Hsien-pi had set up their nomadic camp in south-east Mongolia and lived along the middle course of the Liao-ho river. A large number of Hsien-pi now settled in central Mongolia and over 100,000 Hsiung-nu families, who had settled there earlier, adopted their tribal name. T’an-shih-huai, leader of the Hsien-pi tribal union, in A.D. 155 established the Hsien-pi state, which rapidly became one of the most powerful empires of its day, as powerful as the previous Hsiung-nu Empire. The Han court considered that the Hsien-pi’s horses were swifter and their weapons sharper than those of the Hsiung-nu, and the Hsien-pi, too, managed to acquire good-quality iron from the border regions of China. Their political centre, the headquarters of T’an-shih-huai, was in the south-east near the Darkhan mountains but was later moved to the former shan-yü’s headquarters in the Khangay mountains.
          Between A.D. 155 and 166, T’an-shih-huai conducted a series of major military campaigns that led to the extension of Hsien-pi power over the Great Steppe as far as southern Siberia and from Ussuri to the Caspian Sea. Until the third decade of the third century A.D. the Hsien-pi was the leading power in Central Asia.” Ishjamts (1994), pp. 155-156.

“The place of origin of the Hsien-pi as a political force was in the Khingan range area of the upper Amur basin, in a region inhabited later by speakers of Tungusic languages; for this reason it was assumed that they were also Tungusic, but more recent research links them with the Mongols. . . .
          Having defeated the northern Hsiung-nu in AD 166, the Hsien-pi shifted to the Orkhon-Selenga basin just west of the Amur in northern Outer Mongolia. There they formed the nucleus of what became within a few centuries the Mongol empire. Just as the control of Sinkiang shifted from Indo-European speakers to the Turks with the defeat of the Yüechih-Tochari between 174 and 161 BC, so the control of Mongolia switched from the Turks to the Mongols.” Bowles (1977), pp. 260-261

“The histories are agreed that the manners and customs of the Xianbi were very close to those of the Wuhuan (HHS 90/80, 2985, SGZ 30, 836, commentary quoting the Wei shu of Wang Shen; Schreiber, “Hsien-pi”, 147 ff. and 162-163. . . .
          The Xianbi are said to have taken their name from the mountain called Xianbi, now identified as a peak of the Great Xingan range, west of the Horqin/Khorqin West Wing Centre banner in Kirin (Gezu jianshi, 46). It is equally possible, however, that the mountain took its name from the tribe. . . . ” de Crespigny (1984), p. 524, n. 12.

          “Initially, the socio-political institutions of the Hsien-pei centred around Hsien-pei clan and tribal alliances, but the Hsien-pei ultimately sought to create a nomadic “state on horseback.” As the Northern Hsiung-nu retreated, relations between the Hsien-pei and other nomadic groups became more volatile, with the Hsien-pei staging frequent raids to secure essential goods and expand their grazing areas and power. “[The Hsien-pei] looted along the [Han] border on the south, resisted the Ting-ling on the north, repulsed the Fu-yü on the east, attacked the Wu-sun on the west, and occupied all the old territories of the Hsiung-nu, all of which spanned [approximately] four thousand li [1,663 km] east to west and seven thousand li [2,911 km] south to north.”39
          Hsien-pei power solidified under the leadership of Tan-shih-huai (d. 181 A.D.), and the Han dynasty viewed their growing strength as a threat. During the reign of Emperor Huan-ti (r. 147-167 A.D.), the court responded by ordering Lieutenant General Chang Huan, who was responsible for the supervision of the Southern Hsiung-nu, to attack the Hsien-pei, but he failed to subdue them. The court thereupon sent an envoy with a seal and sash to confer the title of prince on Tan-shih-huai and propose a marriage alliance with him. Tan-shih-huai rejected the offer, and the border intrusions and lootings worsened.40
          . . . .  As a powerful nomadic force north of China during the decline of the Han, the Hsien-pei became deeply involved in the struggle for power in China as that dynasty disintegrated. Hsien-pei’s relations with Ts’ao Ts’ao, the founder of the Wei dynasty (220-264 A.D.) of the Three Kingdoms period (222-280 A.D.), suggests that the pattern of interaction between the nomad and agriculturalist courts changed very little during he middle of the third century. The Hsien-pei leader, K’o-pi-neng, initially allied himself with Ts’ao Ts’ao and aided him in pacifying a rebellion led by T’ien Yin in present-day Hopei. He then joined with the Wu-huan when they revolted against Ts’ao. K’o-pi-neng’s forces were defeated by Ts’ao’s, and he was forced to retreat north of the Great Wall. However, he soon sent tribute to Ts’ao’s Wei dynasty in northern China and sought to establish peace. The Hsien-pei leader’s desire to normalize relations suggests that he was faced with the same economic difficulties that the Hsiung-nu had suffered. After he and his people withdrew from close proximity to arable territory toward more remote areas, it was difficult to acquire agricultural products, and during this time, the Hsien-pei were not strong enough to breech and loot the powerful Wei borders. Consequently, K’o-pi-neng was forced to negotiate peace with the Wei. The Wei court, eager to gain the Hsien-pei as allies, granted K’o-pi-neng the title Fu-I Wang (“Prince of Upright Subordination”), thereby suggesting his subordinate status to the dynasty. K’o-pi-neng accepted the title and took advantage of renewed ties with the Wei to lead three thousand horsemen in driving twenty thousand horses and oxen to the border markets for exchange.”42

39. [Hou Han shu] 90, chüan 80, “Account of the Hsien-pei,” 9b.

40. San-kuo chih, “Book of Wei,” 30, “Account of the Hsien-pei,” 6a.

41. Ibid., “Biography of K’o-pi-neng,” 8b-9a.

42. Ibid., 8a.

Jagchid and Symons (1989), pp. 34-37.

          “In transcriptions of the Later Han period we begin to find cases of *kh- and we find *th also in the transcriptions of the Chin-shu. These my perhaps reflect increasing penetration and admixture with the Eastern Hu, that is the Hsien-pi and Wu-yüan 烏桓 (or ) [should be read Wu-huan (or –wan)] M. ou-h̑wan  <  *aĥ- ĥwan = Avar, who probably spoke a Mongolian type of language. It was the Hsien-pi who became dominant on the steppe after the collapse of the Hsiung-nu empire in the second century A.D.” Pulleyblank (1963), II, p. 242.

“The Wu-huan and the Hsien-pei people, who created the most powerful nomadic states after the Hsiung-nu decline, also traded their livestock and furs: “In the twenty-fifth year [of Chien-wu, 4 AD], Hao-tan, the leader of the Wu-huan on the west of the Liao [River] and others . . . admired [our] culture. They led their people to the court and presented their tribute, male and female slaves, cattle and horses, bows and the furs of tigers, leopards and sables.” And again, “The Hsien-pei are a branch of the Eastern Barbarians [Tung-hu]. . . . Their animals, which are different than those of the Middle Kingdom, are wild horses, great horned goats, and chiao-tuan cattle. The bow made from horns is commonly known as the chiao-tuan bow. Besides, there are sables, na [= seals – presumably the seals from Lake Baikal], and ermines. Their skin and hair are tender and soft and they are known as the best furs under heaven.” Jagchid and Symons (1989), p. 167. From the Hou Hanshu, zhuan 80, “Account of the Wuhuan”, 5a.

“When the ruler of the Northern Hsiung-nu was beaten by Chinese forces in 91 and fled in an unknown direction, a new people, the Hsien-pi, took the opportunity to migrate, and settled on his territories. The remaining Hsiung-nu clans, which numbered more than 100,000 yurts, began to call themselves Hsien-pi, and from that time on the Hsien-pi began to gather strength.

According to the Chinese chronicles, the Hsien-pi originated in a land of forests and high mountains near the basin of the River Amur. Their language and customs are described as similar to those of the Wu-huan, except that before a wedding they first shaved their heads, then held a large assembly on the river during the last month of spring; they feasted, and once the feasting was over, celebrated the marriage. Wild birds and beasts not found in the Middle Kingdom of China lived in the territories of the Hsien-pi, who made bows out of horns. There were also sables, foxes and squirrels with soft fur, from which fur coats renowned for their beauty were made in the Celestial Kingdom. The breeding of cattle, sheep, goats and horses by the Hsien-pi is also mentioned and they are said frequently to rustle each other’s herds of livestock and horses.

          The Hsien-pi were described by one of the Chinese emperor’s councillors in 117 as follows:

After the Hsiung-nu fled, the Hsien-pi, who took over their former territories, grew in strength. They have hundreds of thousands of warriors, they are remarkable for their physical strength, and are more quick-witted than the Hsiung-nu. It should also be noted that, as a result of lack of discipline at the guard-posts on the line of fortifications, there are many ways of evading the embargo, which robbers use to obtain fine metal and iron of good quality. The Chinese get in [through these gaps] and become the main counsellors of the Hsien-pi, and so they acquire keener weapons and faster horses than the Huns.

During the reign of the Han emperor Huang-ti (146-168), an energetic leader named T’an-shih-huai appeared among the Hsien-pi. He subjected the elders to his authority, introduced laws, gathered large forces and defeated the Northern Hsiung-nu around 155.

All the elders of the eastern and western nomadic communities submitted to him. As a result of this he looted the lands along the line of fortifications, repulsed the Ting-ling in the north, made the Fo-yü kingdom retreat in the east, attacked the Wu-sun in the west, and took possession of all the former Hsiung-nu territories, which extended for more than 14,000 li [5,821 km] to the east and the west, were intersected by mountains and rivers, and had large numbers of fresh and salt-water lakes.

Thus the territories of the Hsien-pi extended as far as those settled by the Wu-sun in the Ili basin in the west, while in the north they adjoined those of the Ting-ling alliance of tribes which occupied the Altai mountains, the basins of the upper and middle Yenisey and the areas adjoining and to the west of Lake Baikal.” Kyzlasov (1996), pp. 318-319.

Apparently, the “edition of the twenty-four historians” published by the library of Tushujicheng [T’u-shu-chi-ch’eng] in Shanghai from 1888 of the Weilue, which Chavannes used, has mistakenly used Weibi 魏卑 here instead of 鮮卑 Xianbi, as Chavannes himself recognised, (1905), p. 526 n. 1. See also the discussion in Pelliot (1906), pp. 365-366, quoted in note 1.13.

For an excellent French translation of the major texts referring to the Xianbi, see: Mullie (1969), pp. 24-51.

2.9. The Dahu
大胡 [Ta-hu] people.

da, dai = ‘great,’ ‘big.’ K. 317a *d’âd / d’âi; EMC da’, dajh, dah 

hu = ‘why?’ or ‘how?’ – name for non-Chinese peoples to the west of China. K. 49a’  *g’o / γuo; EMC ɣɔ

As the name does not seem to be verified in any other text, it is possible that Dahu 大胡 [Ta-hu] was a simple copyist’s error for Donghu 東胡 [Tung-hu] or ‘Eastern Hu.’

東胡 tung1 hu2 (Hist.) Tung-hu or Eastern Hu : anc. name of the Tungus, a horse-breeding people from southeastern Mongolia and the basin of the Liao, and who, at the time of the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE) were dominated by the 匈奴 Xiongnu. The Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE) tried to put an end to this domination, but also to control the Donghu’s territories.” GR 11836, p. 347.

However, the Weishu states that the Xianbi are the remnants of the Donghu – see Mullie (1969), p. 41. So, it is rather odd to find the Weilue saying that there are Dahu (= Donghu?), as well as Dingling and Qiang, living among the Xianbi.
          It seems more likely that the Weilue was referring here to another group of people and the obvious similarity between the name Dahu and that of the Dahur or Daghur people mentioned in the following quotes suggest that they may be one and the same people. The present-day Chinese name for this Mongol people is Dawoer
達斡爾 [Ta-wo-erh].
          There is, on the other hand, a very long gap between the time of the Weilue and when the first accounts of these people came to the notice of Western scholars, and so the identification remains uncertain.

Daghur, also called DAGUR, DAHUR, or DAUR. Mongol people living in the Heilungkiang Province of China. Their language, formerly thought to be Tungistic of a mixture of Mongolian and Tungus, is now known to be an archaic Mongolian dialect preserving features found in 13th-century documents. Their own name is Daghur; the Manchu form is Dahur; the Russian form Daur occurs in the name of the Daur mountain range.
          Russian settlers in the 17th century found the Daghur well established in eastern Transbaikalia and the Amur region. . . . Their chief occupations are agriculture, logging, hunting, stock raising, and horse breeding. The clan system prevails. The religion is shamanistic, although some of them are adherents of Tibetan Buddhism.” NEB III, p. 343.

“The Tungus tribes today are divided loosely on a regional and linguistic basis into two groups: the northern Evenk and Even (Lamut) of Siberia and the upper Amur basin; and the southern Nanay (Goldi), Ulchi, Oroch (including Udege), Orok, Negidal and Solon. To these some would add the Dahur, who are generally classed with the Mongols. In a special category are the Manchu and ancient tribes of the lower Amur, some of whom appear later in history as the Koreans and as part of the ancestral population of Japan.
          The origin of the Tungus is closely related to the east coast Neolithic province which spread southward into the Yangtze basin and northward into the Tung-Pei (‘East–North’) – the basins of the Liao and Amur. The Amur or Hei-lung (‘Black Dragon’) basin forms the northern third of the Chinese Neolithic culture area of the second millennium. With the commencement of the Chinese Bronze Age Tung–Pei became the land of the Tung or ‘eastern’ barbarians [Donghu or Tung-hu]. The term Manchuria has been applied only since the emergence of the highly sinicized Manchus, successors to the earlier Jurchen Tungus who ruled China as the Jin or Chin dynasty.
          The earliest Chinese reference to the inhabitants of Tung-Pei is to the Su–Shen of the second millennium BC, the ancestors apparently of the I-lou. By the time of the Han dynasty the I-lou were located in eastern Manchuria. They seem to have combined cattle, horse and pig-breeding with millet and wheat agriculture. They lived in semi-subterranean houses with corridor entrances, wore hemp and shredded tree-bast garments and enjoyed falcon hunting. The economy is similar to that of other sedentary Tungus tribes of northern Korea of approximately the same time.” Bowles (1977), pp. 282-283.

2.10. The Dingling 丁令 [Ting-ling] people

“Nor. . .    should the detail, recorded by Yü Huan [in the Weilue], be overlooked that in the early part of the third century old men of K’ang-chü still told of their journeys – 10,000 li in extent – beyond the kingdom of the Yen-ts’ai to the kingdom of the Dwarfs, in other words, to the country of the Lapps. . . . Further, they [the Xiongnu] were in contact, north of the T’ien Shan, with the Wu-sun, on the river Ili, and with the Ting-ling on the Irtish.” Teggart (1939), pp. 204, 212, and n. 48.

“A description of the Ting-ling (probably a Turkish people) given in the Wei-lüeh was translated by Chavannes (“Wei Lio,” pp. 560 ff.). The accuracy of the Wei-lüeh account [especially that there were two different northern peoples named ‘Ting-ling’] has been challenged by Mori Masao in his two articles and upheld by Uchida Gimpū. Maenchen-Helfen concludes that from the third century B.C. to the third century A.D. the Ting-ling occupied the territory from Lake Baikal to slightly beyond the Yenissei. Immediately following the Fei River debacle of 383, Ti Pin rebelled against Ch’in . . .   , and his successors ruled a quasi-independent nation until 392, when it was wiped out by the Later Yen (CS 9.9b, TCTC 108.1b).” Rogers (1968), p. 231, n. 274.

“On the Dingling people, who lived to the north of the Xiongnu, in the general region of Lake Baikal, there is little recorded. Most of the material has been collected by Wang Jih-Wei “A Brief History of the Ting-ling People”. Pulleyblank, “The Chinese and their Neighbours”, 445, identifies them as a proto-Turkish people.” de Crespigny (1984), p. 510, n. 25.

2.11. Tantuo 檀拓 [T’an-t’o]: a great chief of the Zilu [Tzu-lu]. “The character tuo is also pronounced zhi; but the pronunciation tuo appears preferable when transcribing foreign names.” Translated from Chavannes (1905), p. 526, n. 5.

2.12. Lingju 令居 [Ling-chü] Prefecture in Guangwei 廣魏 [Kuang-wei] Commandery. For Guangwei Commandery, see note 1.21.

2.13. Tugui 禿瑰 [T’u-kuei]: a Zilu Chief.

2.14. Shaoti 劭提 [Shao-t’i]: a Zilu Chief.

2.15. Xizhou 西州 [Hsi-chou] Chavannes, in his translation of the Weilue, translated this term by the “districts of the western wards,” Chavannes (1905), p. 526. This is the sense it should be understood here.
          It should not be confused with the later use of the same name. The whole territory of Turfan was reoccupied by the Chinese c. 640 and turned into the district of Xizhou. Later again it was specifically used to refer to the town of Yarkhoto, about 20 li (8 km) west of Turfan. See: Chavannes (1900), pp. 6, 8, 357; Stein (1928), pp. 578.                                                                                                                                       

Section 3 – The Qiang Tribes

3.1. The Qiang [Ch’iang] tribes. Qiang is a general term referring to the tribes living to the southwest of the ‘Gansu corridor,’ in the area of present-day Qinghai province, Shenxi, Shu and Han. See: Molè (1970), p. 75, n. 25; CICA: 80, n. 69.
          The Qiang have been commonly referred to as ‘Tibetans,’ which is misleading. They appear in the literature many centuries before a ‘Tibetan’ state had emerged. 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.

“In my “Die Bedeuttung der Na-khi für die Erforschung der tibetischen Kultur” (Hummel 1960), p. 308, I have set the presence of the Ch’iang in the Küke-noor region and in A-mdo around 2000 B.C., and the beginning of a southward migration of the Miao (akin to the Ch’iang), possibly in connection with the arrival of ox-breeders from the Eurasian steppe-belt, at the close of the 3rd century. Another possible explanation for this movement of people is offered by the so-called Pontic Migration, the last offshoots of which reached the Küke-noor area before the middle of the 1st century B.C. The presence of the Ch’iang (which the Chinese believe to be the descendents of the Miao) in this region would then have to be fixed accordingly. By and large, this would be in agreement with the annals of the Han period. Concerning the Indo-European influences in Tibet see M. Walter and C.I. Beckwith (1997) “Some Indo-European Elements in Early Tibetan Culture”. Hummel (2000), p. 64, n. 19.

“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.

“The geographical area covered by the Zhang-zhung confederacy, which comprised north-eastern Tibet, and above all the ethnic links with the Ch’iang, should naturally induce us to shift the focus of our linguistic comparisons towards the northern border regions of the Sino-Tibetan settlements, rather than to the western Himalaya.17 This would also solve some problems raised by Stein (1951, “Mi-ñag et Si-hia”), for example the fact that in Tibetan texts mu (in the forme rmu [dmu, smu]) appears to be a typical indicator of the Zhang-zhung religion, as a more specific term for the country of Zhang-zhung, but at the same time rmu is also used to indicate the Mo-so (or Na-khi) who once populated north-eastern Tibet, and were beyond doubt akin to the Ch’iang. The Ch’iang in turn call themselves rma [rme, rmi]. In fact, rme means ‘man’ and ‘tribe’ in the Si-hia language. Probably no connection exists between the meaning of Zhang-zhung-smar [smra and dmar] and rma [rma, rme] or rmu [dmu, smu], even if these ancient words are occasionally mixed up or used one for the other by the Tibetans. It is, however, possible that an identity exists between rmu or rma [rme, rmi] = ‘man’ and dmu [mu, rmu] = ‘sky’ in Zhang-zhung, or mu [ma] used by the Ch’iang and mo in Si-hia. This view is supported by an investigation of the origination myths and of the lists of divine ancestors of northern Mi-nyag, located around the Küke-noor, which was anciently part of the reign of Si-hia, annihilated in the 14th century. These legends are reminiscent of the myths of ‘O[d]-de[lde]-spu[r]-rgyal as ancestor of the Central Tibetan royal family, equally of north-eastern Tibetan provenance.”

17 My views on the eastern-Tibetan origin of the Tibetan tribes, and hence of their language, seem to be shared by D.L. Snellgrove: “. . . it would seem certain that the various waves of people who occupied Tibet, speaking early styles of Tibetan, came from the east, pressing ever further westward. They certainly penetrated at an early period deep into the Himalayan Range to the south, as is proved by the survival of ancient oral traditions, still intoned largely uncomprehendingly by priests of the people now usually referred to as Gurungs and Tamangs, who live mainly on the southern side of the main range almost the whole length of present-day Nepal. Is it therefore conceivable that those early Tibetan speakers did not also press westward up to the main river valley of the Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) and so reach the land of Zhang-zhung? It is also significant that Tibetan dialects are still spoken far to the west of the boundaries of modern Tibet, not only throughout Ladakh, but also in Gilgit and Baltistan, now controlled by the Pakistan Government.” (D.L. Snellgrove, 1987, Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, p. 392).

Hummel (2000), pp. 9 and 63, n. 17.

“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. 

3.2. Dunhuang 燉煌 [Tunhuang]. Often written in later works as Dunhuang 敦煌

“The nearest oasis [to the ‘Caves of the Thousand Buddhas’] is Tunhwang (Blazing Beacon), which is marked on many maps as Shachow (City of Sands). The latter name is appropriate to a town standing among towering sandhills, and the former is equally suitable, for at a short distance from Tunhwang there are several of the desert landmarks called tun by the Chinese. These old erections were used to convey messages by fire-signal across desert spaces, hence the name Blazing Beacon for the town and tower placed at this strategic point. When Shachow was destroyed the new town was built on the old site and the ancient name of Tunhwang, which dates from the Han dynasty (206 B.C. – A.D. 220), was revived. The locality is one which figures prominently in Chinese history by reason of its geographical position, for it stands at the point where the oldest trade-route connecting China with the West is crossed by the road which leads from India through Lhasa toward Mongolia and Southern Siberia.” Cable and French (1943): 41. See also CICA: 75, n. 40 in note 2.4.

          “It does not seem possible, either in hsieh-sheng series or poetic rhymes or transcriptions, to distinguish separately *-l (Sino-Tibetan –r) and *-n words. In transcriptions we find the same characters used for both, thus 安敦 M. ·an-tuən = Anton(inus), but 安息 M. ·an-si̯ək = Aršak and 敦煌 M. tuən-h̑waŋ = Sogdian δrw”n, Greek θρόανα [Throaua]. This means that the two phonemes must have coalesced at an early period.” Pulleyblank (1963), II, p. 228.

3.3. The Chuo or Er Qiang 婼羌 – [Ch’o or Erh Ch’iang] – Literally: ‘The Unconquered’ or ‘Disobedient’ Qiang.

The Chuo (or Er) Qiang were the first people the Chinese met on the ancient Southern Route after leaving Dunhuang, on the way to Shanshan. Several scholars have discussed the various pronunciations of the name. See, for example: Chavannes (1905), p. 526, n. 8; CICA, p. 80, n. 70.
          Paolo Daffinà (1982), pp. 313-314, makes the point that historically the name would have been read êrh rather than the more common ch’o: “…all ancient commentators (Fu Ch’ien, Mêng K’ang, Su Lin) are unanimous in stating that as a name of one of the Qiang tribes the character must be read either
êrh < *ńźie̯ < ńi̯ĕg (873a), or according to the fan-ch’ieh 兒遮 êrh + chê < ńźi̯a < *ńi̯ăg (982a + 804d).” Pulleyblank’s EMC gives: chuò [ch’o] trhiak; and, for er [erh] : ɲiə̆ / ɲi.
          Personally, I doubt whether the Chinese word is an attempt to transcribe a local name but is more likely to refer to its meaning of ‘disobedient,’ ‘disobliging,’ or ‘intractable.’ This seems probable as the word was used, originally, to refer to any of a very wide-ranging group of Qiang tribes in the Southern Mountains who were not yet under the control of, or recently, and tentatively, subject to China. It would have distinguished the various Qiang tribes, stretching in a wide arc from south of Dunhuang through to the Pamirs, from the tribes further east, who were mostly under Han control. They were often as a direct threat to China and the trade routes, explaining why the name was meant in the sense of ‘intractable,’ ‘unruly,’ or ‘unpacified.’ The name seems to be used in this context in the Hanshu (see, for example, CICA, pp. 80, 96, 97, 103), as well as here, in the Weilue.

“The greater part of the Qiang territory remained forever beyond the frontiers of Han, so that much of the geographical description is inevitably vague. There are references to the Fa or “Distant” Qiang, who appear to have inhabited the higher ground of the Tibetan massif, and the Account of the Western Regions in Hanshu tells of the Er Qiang who lived south of the Silk Road in the Tsaidam Basin. But the Qiang people with whom the Chinese had greatest contact were living to the east of the great salt lake, the Koko Nor, along the upper reaches of the Yellow River and its tributaries, the modern provinces of Qinghai, Gansu and parts of Shaanxi.” de Crespigny (1984), p. 56.

Towards the end of the Former Han at least some of the Chuo Qiang tribes were forced to ally themselves with China:

“Before Han secured the Ho-hsi area, the Western Regions had served as the meeting ground for the Ch’iang and Hsiung-nu. As Wang Shun and Liu Hsin pointed out in 6 B.C., Wu-ti had established the frontier commanderies of Tun-huang, Chiu-ch’üan, and Chang-i with the specific aim of separating the Ch’o-Ch’iang from the Hsiung-nu, thereby “cutting off the right arm” of the latter. The Ch’o-Ch’iang were a powerful Ch’iang tribe, described as the first state southwest of the Yang barrier on the route to the west (in the mountains southeast of Lop Nor). By the middle of the first century A.D. they had dwindled to insignificance, with a registered population of only 1,750 individuals. But in the early years of the Han dynasty, they had been active throughout an extremely large area in the Western Regions, stretching along the K’un-lun Mountains from the neighbourhood of Tun-huang in the east to the Pamir in the west. The king of the Ch’o-Ch’iang bore the unique title ch’ü-Hu-lai, “the king who had abandoned the Hsiung-nu and made over to the Han empire.” This suggests that the Ch’o-Ch’iang must have been forced to switch sides after Han expansion to the northwest. After their submission the Ch’o-Ch’iang not only joined the Han side to fight against the Hsiung-nu, but also occasionally took part in punitive campaigns against other Ch’iang tribes.” Yü (1986), pp. 424-425.

          “Setting out from the Yang barrier the state nearest to Han is that one of the Ch’iang [tribes that is termed] Ch’o. Its king is entitled Ch’ü Hu lai (abandoner of the nomads who made over to the King).” CICA, p. 80.

This submission to the Chinese did not last long:

          “In addition, T’ang-tou the Ch’ü-hu-lai-wang king (abandoner of the nomads who make over to the king) lay close to the Red Water Ch’iang of the Great Tribes,667 and was several times subjected to raiding. Finding the situation intolerable, he reported a state of emergency to the protector general, but Tan Ch’in, the protector general [who held this post between 4 and 13 CE] did not bring him relief or help at the right time. T’ang-tou was in a grave and urgent situation ; angry with [Tan] Ch’in he went east to seek [the means of] defence from the Yü-men barrier, where he was not admitted. He took his wife and children and over 1000 of his people and fled to surrender to the Hsiung-nu. The Hsiung-nu received him and sent an envoy [to Han] with a letter describing the state of affairs.”

667 The text reads: 國比大種赤水羌 (Ssu-ma Kuang, TCTC 35, p. 1137, under pen-shih 2 = A.D. 2, adopts a different reading). The Han texts know no Ch’ih Shui, “Red River”; we have been unable to locate it [but see note 22.2 where Ch’ih Shui is shown to refer to the Kāshgar-daryā]. We have not been able either to find a formal distinction between “greater” and “lesser” tribes, but it is perhaps not without significance that Fu Ch’ien says of a certain name “this is the name of the Ch’iang of the Lesser Tribes” (HSPC 69.8b).” CICA, p.191 and note 667.

3.4. The Nanshan 南山 [Nan shan], literally, ‘Southern Mountains’.

“Nan Shan . . . the general term applied to a vast mountain range, actually a complex of ranges, in Northwest China. The ranges lie between the Tsaidam Basin to the southwest and the plateau of northwestern Kansu Province (sheng) to the north. The Nan Shan consists of a complex system of ranges with a predominantly northwest to southeast axis. . . . The ranges are for the most part about 13,000-16,000 ft (4,000-5,000 m) high; however individual peaks often exceed 20,000 ft and the highest peak reaches 20,820 ft (6,346 m). The ranges are higher and more complex in the west, to the south of Tun-huang and Yü-men (both in Kansu), where, in spite of the aridity of the climate, many peaks are covered with snow and glaciers. The eastern section of the mountains is somewhat lower, and only a few high peaks have a permanent snow cover. Among the ranges are a number of large intermontane depressions and fault basins. The largest of these is the depression in which lies Koko Nor (lake).” NEB, VII, p. 183. See also: de Crespigny (1977), p. 5.

3.5. Congling [Ts’ung-ling], literally the “Onion Range,” refers to the mountain ranges at the southwestern and western end of the Tarim basin = the Pamir Mountains.

“At last Semyonov [the famous Russian explorer and collector, in 1857] reached the top of a pass so high that the mountains now appeared as an undulating plain, dotted with green lakes only partly covered by ice. It was the highest point they had reached – well above 15,000 feet. The expedition now descended on the south of the main range, crossing the alpine meadows thickly strewn with blue and white gentians, pale blue ranunculi and white and golden buttercups. The explorers also found broad glades covered with the golden heads of an unclassified species of onion, shortly to be named after Semyonov (Allium semenovi). Semyonov later learned that onions were so widespread here that the Chinese had given this part of the Tien Shan the name Tsun lin, or “onion mountains”.” St. George, et al. (1974), p. 153.

“The Ts’ung-ling or Onion Range, so called because of the alleged growth of wild onions there, has long been identified with the Pamirs, see, e.g. E. Chavannes (1907), p. 168.” CICA, p. 72, n. 8.

“The Ts’ung, or ‘Onion’ range, called also the Belurtagh mountains, including the Karakorum, and forming together the connecting links between the more northern T’een-shan [T’ien-shan] and the Kwun-lun [Kun-lun] mountains on the north of Thibet.” Legge (1886), p. 20, n. 2.

3.6. Yuezhi 月氏 [Yüeh-chih]

“Ta yüeh-chih 大月氏or , GSR 317a, 306a and 867a or 590a : *d’âd / d’ai - ngįwǎt / ngįwɐt, *d̑įěg/ źięg or tiər / tiei. In view of the fact that our text [Hanshu 96A] further on mentions Yüeh-chih as the name of this people when they were still living in the present-day Kansu area and that it calls this remnant that stayed there after the main group had migrated, the hsiao, i.e. “Little’ or “Lesser” Yüeh-chih, it seems likely that the word ta, meaning “great”, does not belong to the name, as in the case of Ta Yüan and Hsiao Yüan.
          For the Yüeh-chih see Haloun (1937) and Pulleyblank (1966), (1968), (1970), and cf. Pelliot (1929), pp. 150-151. Pulleyblank (1963), p. 92 (cf. ibid., p. 106 and Pulleyblank (1966), p. 17), is inclined to accept the identification (already suggested by Marquart, Eranšahr, 1901, p. 206) of the Yüeh-chih with “the ’Іάτιoι on the north side of the upper Yaxartes in Ptolemy”, but this refuted by Daffiná (1967), p. 45, note 5. Maenchen-Helfen (1945), p. 77 and p. 80, note 110, believes Yüeh-chih to be a transcription and etymologization of “Kusha”, the Moon people.” CICA, p. 119, n. 276.

“The Little Yuezhi were descended from those of the Yuezhi people who had taken refuge in the Qilian ranges at the beginning of the Former Han period, when the Yuezhi were attacked by the great Xiongnu leader Modun and their main force was driven west into central Asia. In later Han times, they evidently numbered some nine thousand fighting men, their chief centres of population being in the Xining valley and the territory of Lianju in Wuwei [Wu-wei], with a few groups further north in Zhangye. See HHS 87/77, 2899.” de Crespigny (1984), p. 478, n. 15.

“What may have been a crucial formative influence on the proto-Tibetans was the migration of the people known in Chinese sources as the Hsiao- (or “Little”-) Yüeh-chih, a branch of the Ta- (or “Great”-) Yüeh-chih. After defeat by the Hsiung-nu in the second century B.C., the Ta Yüeh-chih migrated to Bactria , and are generally identified with the Tokharians, who according to Greek sources invaded and conquered Bactria at just that time. Those among them who were unable to make the trip moved instead into the Nan Shan area, where they mixed with the Ch’iang tribes, and became like them in customs and language.7 Unfortunately, we know nothing substantial about the customs of the early Tokharians, and cannot guess what sorts of practices and beliefs they may have introduced.”

7HHS, 87:2899. See B. Watson, Records of the Grand Historian of China, Translated from the Shih Chi of Ssu-ma Ch’ien (1961) 2:163, 264, 267-268, for a translation of the famous account of the fall of the Ta Yüeh-chih. It is my opinion that the Chinese name Ta Yüeh-chih was etymologized by the ancient Chinese to give a convenient name to those who had settled in the Nan Shan. If the Greek transcription Thagouroi (i.e., T’a-gur if converted to a Chinese-style notation) – for a people thought to be in the area of the Nan Shan – is indeed a reflection of the name of these “Lesser” Tokharians, one could not object to the vowel of the initial Ta-. A form gar lies behind the T’ang-period Yüeh according to the earliest phonetic transcriptions of Chinese, the T’ang-period Tibetan-script works. The final -chih may be either a Central Asian ending, as thought by some scholars, or the Chinese word (the same character, pronounced in all other cases shih) meaning “clan” or “family”.

Beckwith (1987), p. 6, and n. 7.

“Hsia-hou’s lieutenant, Chang Ho crossed the Huang-ho [in late CE 217] and reached the territory of “Little Huang-chung” to the east of Köke-nōr, the seat of the Yüeh-chih tribe which had been the prime movers of the rebellion.” Haloun (1949-50), p. 128.

Huang is the name of a river in Gansu, a tributary of the Datong and Huang He near Xinan fu. Formerly a portion of the department was called Huang zhou and Huang zhong. See Williams (1909), p. 370, and Couvreur (1890), p. 526.

3.7. Congzi [Ts’ung-tzu]. Literally, ‘Brown Onion.’

3.8. Baima 白馬 [Pai-ma] or ‘White Horse’ Qiang. These are the same people who are also described as the Poma Di, the most powerful of the Di tribes. They are variously referred to as either Qiang or Di. Their seat at Zhouchi was made the centre of Wudu Commandery in 111 BCE. See note 1.4. The Baima Di still survive in their ancient home in northwestern Sichuan, near the border with Gansu and Qinghai:

“Deep inside the Min Shan, home of the giant panda, we visited a little-known tribe [of about 10,000 people] sometimes referred to by outsiders as the White Horse Tibetans. . . . The name derives from the White Horse Valley, one of the areas they inhabit.
          The tribe calls itself the Di people – a name that appears in ancient Chinese histories. Yet all written records of the Di end around the year A.D. 420, more than 15 centuries ago. Though the Di have no written language, they enjoy a colorful oral history. . . . ” Wong (1984), p. 305; and note on p. 288.

It seems probable that the “White Horse Valley” mentioned above is the original home of the White Horse Qiang or Di. This valley is on the upper reaches of the Min Xiang (river), which flows south from the Min Shan (mountains) near the town of Zhangla [Chang-la]: 32.50° N, 103.40° E.

3.9. The Huangniu Qiang 黄牛羌 [Huang-niu Ch’iang] or ‘Yellow Ox’ Qiang. Note that Yu Huan, while reporting this folk tale, is careful to say only that it “is rumoured that” (傳聞chuanwen) the Huangniu Qiang are born after a six month pregnancy.