Section 4 – The three main overland routes to the Western Regions

4.1. Xiyu 西域 [Hsi-yü] translates literally as “the Western Regions.” This term is used sometimes to refer all the countries to the west of China, but often refers specifically to the countries of the Tarim Basin, as in this passage from the Hanshu, chap. 96A:

“Communications with the Western Regions started only in the time of Emperor Hsiao Wu. Originally there had been thirty-six states, but afterwards these were gradually divided into more than fifty. These all lie to the west of the Hsiung-nu and south of the Wu-sun. To the north and south there are great mountains, and a river flows through the middle. The distance from east to west extends for more than 6000 li and from north to south more than 1000 li.
          On the east the area adjoins Han [territory], being blocked by the Yü-men and the Yang barriers. On the west it is confined by the Ts’ung-ling. Its southern mountains emerge in the east in Chin-ch’eng [commandery] and are linked with the Nan-shan of the Han. Its river has two sources, of which one rises in the Ts’ung-ling and the other in Yü-t’ien. Yü-t’ien lies at the foot of the southern mountains, and its river runs northward to join the river that comes from the Ts’ung-ling. Eastward it flows into the P’u-ch’ang Sea. . . . ” CICA, pp. 71-72.

This confirms that China began communicating with the Western Regions during the reign of Xiaowu or Wudi [Hsiao Wu or Wu Ti], who reigned 140-87 BCE.
          As the translators make plain in their notes (ibid., p. 72, notes 8-12), Jincheng [Chin-ch’eng] Commandery was in the region of modern Lanzhou [Lanchou] in southeast Gansu [Kansu]; Nanshan [Nan-shan] referred to the Zhongnan shan [Chung-nan shan]; south of Xian [Hsi-an], the Congling [Ts’ung-ling] refers to the Pamirs; Yutian [Yü-t’ien] is Khotan; and the Puchang [P’u-ch’ang] Sea is Lob-nor.
          Although the distance given from east to west – more than 6,000 li [= 2,496 km] is too long, and the distance from north to south – more than 1,000 li [= 416 km] is too short, there can be no doubt whatsoever that Xiyu [Hsi-yü] – ‘the Western Regions’ – here refers to the region of the Tarim Basin.

4.2. Hulsewé and Lowe (CICA: 71, n. 2) add:

“The Chinese commentators attempt, with some difficulty, to relate the figure 36 to states actually mentioned in the text. The figure was probably chosen for a symbolical significance or mythical connotation, it is in fact a “pseudo number” ; see Liu Shih-p’ei (1928), 8. 6a-9a, Katō (1952), p. 432 and Ise (1968), pp. 21-37. For the figure of 36 commanderies of which the Ch’in empire was alleged to have been formed, see Kurihara (1960), p. 76-81, and Kamada (1962), p. 74f. For a reference to the “36 states beyond the seas” mentioned in the Huai-nan-tzu, ch. 4, see Erkes (1917), p. 65, and Haloun (1926), p. 135.”

The Hou Hanshu, chap 118, says:

“In the period of Emperor Wu [140-87 BCE], the Western Regions were under the control of the Interior [China]. They numbered thirty-six kingdoms. The Imperial Government established a Colonel (in charge of) Envoys there to direct and protect these countries. Emperor Xuan [73-49 BCE] changed this title [in 59 BCE] to Protector General. Emperor Yuan [40-33 BCE] installed both a Mao and a Ji Colonel to take charge of the agricultural garrisons on the frontier of the king of Nearer Jushi (Turfan).

           During the time of Emperor Ai [6 BCE-1 CE] and Emperor Ping [1-5 CE], the principalities of the Western Regions split up and formed fifty-five kingdoms.” From: TWR by John Hill.

The exact number of kingdoms is of little relevance. The stark figures indicate the continuous grouping and regrouping of these kingdoms throughout the Han period. This was undoubtedly due to the struggle to control the massive increase in East-West trade and its profits, both by the local kingdoms themselves, and by the major regional powers of the time, China, the Xiongnu, and the Kushans.

4.3. The routes to the West.

The Weilue actually describes four overland routes to the west after leaving China (not three, as stated in the text):

1. The ‘New Route of the North’ (sometimes referred to as the ‘New Southern Route,’ which travelled to the north of the Tianshan range, and three routes that crossed the Tarim Basin:

2. The ‘Southern Route’ which left Dunhuang, and went south of Lop Nor to Khotan and Yarkand, via Hunza and Gilgit, and on to northwestern India or Jibin (Kapisha–Gandhāra).

3. The ‘Central Route’ (called the ‘Northern Route’ in the two Han histories) which headed from Dunhuang to Loulan north of Lop Nor, and on to the region of Korla where it met up with the route coming from Turfan and headed on, along the southern foot of the Tianshan range to Kashgar

4. The ‘New Route’ which turned north before reaching Loulan and headed directly to the Turfan oasis. From Turfan it turned west, where it met up with the ‘Central Route’ at Kucha.

For details of the various caravan routes see Appendix A. For the maritime route, see Appendix F.

4.4. Yumen Guan 玉門關 [Yü-men kuan] or ‘Jade Gate Frontier Post.’ Sir Aurel Stein seems to have definitively located the Yumen Guan or ‘Jade Gate’ frontier-post or ‘barrier’ of the Han period about 85 km west of Dunhuang:

“From the very beginning, when the western frontier of the empire was extended to the region of Tun-huang, we find the two ‘barriers’ of Yü-mên and Yang always mentioned in close conjunction by the Annals of both Han dynasties. There can be no doubt that the frontier troops stationed there were meant to offer mutual support. We have seen above that the ‘Yang barrier’ must be located at the present Nan-hu, and that the Jade Gate was certainly situated to the north-west of it and on the line defended by the main wall and watch-stations of the Lime.” Stein (1921), pp. 695-696.

“In connexion with the documentary evidence from the site of T. xiv it only remains for me to point out that its identification with the ‘Jade Gate’ headquarters is consistent with our knowledge of the other localities that we find mentioned besides Yü-men in the records of this site. As regards Ta-chien-tu (or Chien-tu), named in Doc. Nos. 304, 307, 356, I have already had occasion to show that it must in all probability be identified with the westernmost section of the Limes, and it was controlled from Yü-men. As the first-named document, No. 304, dates from 96 B.C. and the last from A. D. 15, we see that this administrative connexion was maintained for more than a century. The watch-station Ta fu, named in T. xiv. iii. 64, Doc., No. 309, is not mentioned elsewhere and cannot be located. We are in a better position as regards the local name P’ing-wang, Doc., Nos. 313, 314, 377, repeatedly met with also in records from other sites as designation of a watch-station, a company, or a ‘barrier’. From an examination further on of these records, more definite than those from T. xiv, we shall see that the name was probably borne by the section of the wall extending from T. xxii. c, on the Khara-nör, to T. xiv. a, where it joined the ‘Yü-men barrier’.
          If we review the conclusions arrived at by the detailed scrutiny of the records from T. xiv, join with them what our preceding survey of the natural advantages of the site and its topographical setting has shown us, it is easy to realize that, for the period covered by the extant dated remains of the Limes, the position of the ‘Jade Gate, the chief frontier station through which all traffic westwards by the ancient Lou-lan route had to pass, may now safely be fixed at T. xiv. Well withdrawn behind the defensive line of wall and watch-towers, and protected besides from direct attack by impassable marshes to the north-west and south-east, the position was admirably adapted to serve as a point d’appui for the posts along the most advanced section of the Limes. It was equally well chosen as a head station for controlling traffic by the route which, from the reign of the Emperor Wu-ti down to the close of the Former Han dynasty, was certainly the main link between the Chinese empire and its Central-Asian ‘sphere of influence’. Fortunately an archaeological discovery made on this ground permits us to clinch the argument, while at the same time illustrating once again the accuracy of Chinese historical records.” Stein (1921), Vol. II, p. 691.

“For discussions regarding the location of the Yü-men and Yang-kuan, which were located at the western terminal of the Han defence lines at the northwestern tip of present-day Kansu province, see Hulsewé (1957), p. 7, Lao Kan (1959), pp. 375-382 and (1960 : 1), pp. 40-52 (abstracted in RBS 6, no. 101), Lo Che-wen (1964) and Ch’en Meng-chia (1965); see also Chavannes (1902), p. 67, note 2, and Chavannes (1913), p. vi.” CICA, p. 71, n. 7.

4.5. The Chuo Qiang 婼羌 [Ch’o Ch’iang]. The ‘Unruly’ or ‘Disobedient Qiang’. See note 3.3.

4.6. The Congling [Ts’ung-ling] or Pamirs. See note 3.5.

4.7. Xuandu 縣度 [Hsün-tu] – the terrifying, narrow and dangerous ‘Hanging Passages’ or rafiks in the Hunza valley.

It is significant that Xuandu is never listed as a guo (= ‘kingdom’ or ‘country’) in the literature. The name translates literally as ‘Hanging Passages,’ and it has long been recognised that it refers to the terrifying hanging pathways, locally known as rafiks, which are so characteristic of the route through the Hunza valley to Gilgit. See, for example, Chavannes (1905), p. 529, n. 5. For details, see Appendix A, under the subheading: South to India over the ‘Hanging Passages.’

4.8. The Da Yuezhi 大月氏 [Ta Yüeh-chih] or the Kushans. See note 5.16.

4.9. The Southern Route. Refer to Appendix A, under the subheading: “The Southern Route.”

4.10. The Dadujing 都護井 [Ta-tu ching], literally: ‘The Protector General’s Well’.

“With this point [the location of the ‘Three Ridges’, see next note] of the Wei lio’s itinerary once determined, it is possible to fix upon the probable locations also for the ‘well of the Protector-General’, which precedes it, and ‘the Chü-lu granary’, which follows it. In the former, I think, we can safely recognize the depression within the westernmost angle of the Limes wall, guarded by the watchtowers T. iv. a, b (Map No. 74. B. 3; also Plate 33), which, owing to plentiful grazing and to fresh water obtainable in springs and wells, would offer a very convenient halting-space for caravans following the protected border line. My description of this locality further on will show that I found here traces of what seems to have been a large entrenched camp, probably dating back to the time when the route and the line of the wall guarding it up to this point were first established. It is certain that there is no place on the route between the Jade Gate (T. xiv) and Bēsh-toghrak which could offer similar advantages for a half-way halting-place.” Stein (1921), Vol. II, pp. 556-557.

“Starting from Yü-mên kuan, the famous ‘Jade Gate’, the position of which in Han times near the ruined fort T. xiv of the Limes west of Tun-huang is established without doubt [see Map No. 35. D. 4], the ‘route of the centre’ followed the Limes westwards, just as the present caravan track does, to its extreme end near the watch-towers T. iv. a. b. There I place the ‘well of the Protector General’.” Stein (1928), Vol. I, p. 308.

4.11. The Sanlongsha 三隴沙 [San-lung-sha], literally: ‘The Three Sand Mounds.’

“A clear indication is next supplied in the statement that the route ‘turns back at the northern extremity of the San-lung (‘Three Ridges’)[desert of] sand.’ With the knowledge of the ground which my explorations have furnished, I feel assured that by this must be meant that part of the route which lies immediately to the east of Bēsh-toghrak and has been described above as the end of its second section. A reference to Map No. 74 and 70 will show that the route, where it passes through the old terminal basin of the Su-lo Ho, in some places skirts round, and in others actually crosses, the northernmost off-shoots of the high range of dunes which flanks the Bēsh-toghrak valley all along on the south. This range represents, as it were, only the foot-hills of successive ranges of drift-sand which extend upwards to the great gravel glacis of the high Anambar-ula portion of the ­Āltin-tāgh (Map No. 75. A-D. 1) and further west find their continuation in the area of high sand dunes spoken of by the Lopliks as Kum-tāgh (the ‘Sand Mountains’), south of the dried-up Lop lake-bed.
          Looking at the general map, we see quite clearly that the northern extremity of this great desert is formed by the low sand ridges which jut out like promontories into the above-mentioned basin and are crossed by the route. There we can safely locate ‘the northern extremity of the [desert of] sand of the Three Ridges’. This identification is further supported by the change of bearing which the Wei lio’s account implies, where it says that the route ‘turns back (revient)’ at this point. As we follow the route on the map, we see plainly that, after leaving the western end of the Limes, it runs almost straight to the north-west until it crosses the dune promontory nearest to Bēsh-toghrak, whence it strikes a south-westerly course in conformity with the general direction of the Bēsh-toghrak valley.
          The agreement between the wording of the text and the topographical configuration is so close that I am tempted to connect the name of San-lung, ‘the Three Ridges’, with the fact of the route actually crossing three distinct offshoots or promontories of the high sand ridge on the south. The maps show these plainly stretching across the line of route between Camp 153 (Map No. 74. A. 3) and the head of the Bēsh-toghrak Valley (No. 70. D., 4). This feature of the ground must have impressed itself all the more on the Chinese wayfarers of old because it is only at this point that real dunes have to be traversed on the Lou-lan route. The dunes of the three offshoots referred to did not appear to me to rise anywhere above 40 feet or so, and would certainly be practicable for Chinese cart traffic such as I have seen elsewhere. Yet I know only too well from experience how troublesome an obstacle they are bound to present to weary men and beasts engaged upon such a desert journey.” Stein (1921), Vol. II, p. 556.

“As regards the ‘Three Ridges Sands’, the evidence furnished by the actual configuration of the ground, by the reference to the route which there ‘turns back’, and by the very name, makes it practically certain that we have to place them at the northern extremity of a belt of high sand dunes crossed by the present caravan route to the east of Bēsh-toghrak. It is at or near the last-named important halting-place that I consider that the ‘Chü-lu Granary’ was probably situated.” Stein (1928), Vol. I, p. 308.

4.12. Julucang 居盧倉 [Chü-lu ts’ang], literally: ‘The Depot Dwellings’.

It is most unlikely that Julu is meant to be a name as Daffinà (1982), p. 331, points out. The character ju means ‘residence,’ or ‘to dwell;’ and lu means ‘cottage,’ ‘cabin,’ ‘hut,’ ‘house,’ or ‘inn;’ cang means ‘granary,’ ‘depot,’ ‘magazine,’ ‘storehouse.’
          It is likely that there would have been several buildings near such a strategic granary and depot. There would undoubtedly have been guards, and possibly an inn of some sort. I have translated the term as the ‘depot dwellings’ but it could equally be rendered as the ‘Granary Inn’ or even the ‘granary residence and inn.’

“The ‘Chü-lu granary’, which is likely to have been one of the early ‘resting stations’ established soon after the Lou-lan route was first opened, may with some probability be located at Bēsh-toghrak. There is no other site likely to have offered such advantages as this place, which nowadays, too, has more grazing than any other west of the Limes. Being just beyond a difficult stage of the route, Bēsh-toghrak would be particularly suited for an advanced base of supply. But I could trace no remains to give archaeological support to the identification, and considering the character of the ground, with subsoil water near the surface and a good deal of shōr in the soil, no structures of mud bricks or mere clay would have had much chance of leaving visible traces here after many centuries of abandonment. No one who, like myself, has seen the wretched mud hovels which serve as Chinese ‘inns’ and guards’ quarters on the desert route from An-hsi to Hāmi, the modern pendant of the Lou-lan route, could feel any doubt about their complete disappearance in the course of a thousand years or even less after they were abandoned. And yet they somehow suffice for a traffic which at times may not be much less than that seen by the Lou-lan route in its heyday.” Stein (1921), Vol. II, p. 557. See also: Stein (1928), Vol. I, p. 308.   

“. . . .  Wang Kuo-wei, in his Preface to the Liu-sha chui chien, KTCL 17.6a., believed this granary to have been situated to the West of the sand dunes of the White Dragon Mounds Pai-lung tui, but Enoki (1963), p. 146f., referring to Chavannes, (1905), pp. 529-531, has demonstrated that this granary was located to the East of the White Dragon Mounds, between these dunes and the San-lung sha Desert. . . . ” CICA, p. 156, n. 460

4.13. The Shaxi jing 沙西井 [Sha-hsi ching], literally: “The West-of-the-Sand Well.”

“As regards the position of the Sha-hsi well, we are furnished with a very helpful indication by the statement that the route there turned to the north-west. This, read in the light which my explorations of 1914 have thrown upon the line followed by the ancient Lou-lan route, takes us clearly somewhere near the point where it turns the last south-western offshoot of the low Kuruk-tāgh range, overlooking the Bēsh-toghrak valley from the north. This point approximately corresponds to 91° 32 long. 40° 23 lat. in Map No. 67. From there the line of the ancient route, as I have traced it, makes a sharp turn to the north-west and follows this bearing, along the shore of the dried-up Lop sea, till it reaches the point where its salt-encrusted bed and the ‘White Dragon Mounds’ flanking it are traversed. It was within about twelve miles to the north-east from this point that, when tracking in 1914 the line of the ancient route in the opposite direction, I came upon the first living vegetation at the foot of the clay cliffs lining the eastern inlet of the ancient sea-bed, north-west of Kum-kuduk. Three miles or so further on we succeeded in digging a well on a strip of ground where the soil became sandy. Though the water proved too salt even for the camels, its presence suggests that in early times, when desiccation had not yet proceeded so far, a ‘resting station’ with drinkable water, corresponding to the ‘Sha-hsi well’ of the Wei lio, might have existed somewhere near this place at the western end of the Bēsh-toghrak valley.” Stein (1921), Vol. II, p. 557. See also: Stein (1928), Vol. I, pp. 308-309.

“Is it possible that a characteristic feature of the ground here suggested the designation Sha-hsi 沙西 for this station? It may literally be interpreted to mean ‘the west [end] of the sand’. The place mentioned in the text is certainly the last westwards to which the light drift-sand covering the bottom of the Bēsh-toghrak valley extends. Beyond it no drift-sand is met with now on the ancient route until the vicinity of the Lou-lan site is reached.” Ibid., p. 557, note 20.

4.14. Longdui 龍堆 [Lung-tui], literally, ‘The Dragon Dunes.’ The Weilue mentions only the Longdui, dropping the Bo (‘white’) of the name Bo Longdui as given in the Hanshu and certain other texts. See CICA, pp. 89, n. 108; 190 (but note that on ibid., p. 202, they are translated as, simply, the “Dragon Mounds.”).

“It is called “Dragon-shaped Dunes” or “White Dragon-shaped Dunes” 白龍堆, a part of the desert where the dunes of white sand are stretched out regularly, looking like dragons. Here, in fact, is what the commentator Meng Kang 孟康 says in the third century of our era (in the Hanshu, chap. XCIV, b, p. 7 b):

‘The Dragon-shaped Dunes have the appearance of the body of an earthen dragon without a head, but with a tail. The tallest are two to three zhang high [15.2 feet, or 4.63-6.93 m]; the lower ones are more than one zhang [7.6 feet, or 2.31 m]. All are turned towards the northeast and look alike.”

According to Xu 徐松 Song (Hanshu Xiyu zhuan bu zhu 漠書西域傳補注 1829, chap. II, p. 27 a), the Longdui, or desert of the Dragon-shaped Dunes, is the part of the Gobi desert of which one crosses the northern extremity when going through Shisan jianfang 十三間房 [note – Chavannes incorrectly wrote this place name as: 三十間房] on the route from Hami to Turfan. The locality of Shisan jianfang is shown about 350 li to the east of Pizhan 闢展 [modern Shanshan or Piqan] on the map of the territory of Turfan in the Xin jiang shi lue 新疆識畧 of Song Yun 松筠 (1821). This work, describing the present route from Hami 咍密 to Turfan, says (chap. I, p. 8b of the little edition published in Shanghai in 1894):

“From Hami, walking towards the west, you turn and go towards the north to cross the Wukeke 烏克克 [Bogdo Ula] Mountains. You go between two mountains to avoid the dangers of the windy Gobi 風戈壁.” In the margin the author adds: “To the south of these mountains the windy Gobi is found. It extends for several thousand li in all directions. This is what is called the (bitter) sand desert of Gahun 噧順沙噧 . These are the White Dragon-shaped Dunes of Antiquity 卽古之白龍堆也.”

 If you glance at map 62 of the Stieler Atlas (1902 edition), you will verify that the highway from Hami to Turfan, in fact, describes a circular arc to pass the mountainous northern region. It thus avoids the Valley of the Devil (Teufelsthal) or, more exactly, the Valley of the Demons, which is situated on the most dangerous, but most direct route going from Hami to Turfan.

It is this more southerly route which the Chinese ambassador Wang Yande 王延德 [Wang Yen-to] took in 981 A.D. to make the journey from Hami to Turfan (Sungshi, chap. CCCCXC, p. 4 b; cf. STAN. JULIEN, Mélanges de géographie asiatique, pp. 91-92):

“Setting off from Hami 伊州 (Yizhou), this traveller then went through Yidu 益都 [I-tu], then he went through Nazhi 納職 [Na-chih]. . . .  This town is the closest place to Yumen guan [Yü-men kuan] which is to the southeast of the desert of the extremely evil demons 城在大患鬼魅磧之東南玉門關管甚近.*

In this region there is neither water nor pasture. (Wang Yande) set out taking some roasted grain with him. After three days he arrived at the relay of Bifeng (‘Shelter from the wind’) at the outlet to the Valley of the Demons 至鬼谷口避風驛. Conforming to the rule of this country, he made a sacrifice and offered an invitation to the gods to stop the wind, and the wind then ceased. After eight days in all, he arrived at the Zetian (‘Field Fertilising’) Temple 澤田寺. (The king of) Gaochang 高昌, learning of the arrival of the ambassador, sent some men to meet him. He then went through a place called Baozhuang 寶莊 (this must be Pizhan), then through Lukchung 六種 (Luzhong), and then arrived at Gaochang 高昌, which is none other than the district of Xi 西州 (Yar-khoto, 20 li to the west of Turfan).”

* [According to Pelliot (1906), p. 369, this sentence should read, “This town is to be found to the southeast of the desert of the extremely evil demons; it is very close to Yumen guan.” Therefore the desert of the demons is between Nazhi and Hami, not between Yumen guan and Nazhi as this paraphrase by Chavannes indicates].

It was necessary to reunite here all these texts in order to show that the route followed in antiquity, to go from Hami to Turfan, crossed the northern extremity of the great desert which extends to the south as far as Yumen guan (near Dunhuang or Shazhou). The term Bolongdui (the White Dragon-shaped Dunes) applies in fact to an immense region. This is why the Hanshu can tell us that, “straight to the west of Tunhuang (Shazhou), outside the passes (Yumen guan and Yang guan) is the Bolongdui sand desert and there is Puchang Lake (Lop Nor) 正西關外有白龍堆 蒲昌海.” It does not necessarily follow that the route which crossed the Bolongdui headed straight to the west from Shazhou to Hami (or, to be more exact in speaking of the ancient route, “to the west of Hami”. . . . ), then to Turfan since, between these two localities, you cross the northern extremity of the Bolongdui. We are going to show in the following note that it is this second route which must be the route called ‘Central’ in the Weilue.” Translated from Chavannes (1905), p. 529, n. 7. Also see note 4.9.

“I believe that the designation of Po-lung-tui, ‘the White Dragon Mounds’, was applied by the Chinese, from the time of the first opening of the route, to that particular portion where it skirts and then crosses the extreme north-eastern extension of the dried-up salt bed of the ancient Lop-nōr. There strings of salt-coated clay terraces, all undoubtedly carved out by wind-erosion from what was the lake bottom of an earlier geological period, run parallel to each other in the direction from east-north-east to west-south-west, and extend for a considerable distance along both the western and eastern shores of the ancient salt-encrusted lake bed. Their fantastic and yet curiously uniform shapes would readily suggest to Chinese eyes the form of ‘a dragon in earth which was without a head but had a tail. The highest rise to two or three chang (twenty or thirty feet); the lowest to over one chang (over ten feet). All of them are turned towards the north-east and resemble each other.’ Thus a Chinese commentator of the Former Han Annals, writing in the third century A.D., accurately and graphically describes them.
          These belts of salt-impregnated ‘Mesas’ form the most striking feature of the dismal ground crossed by the last two marches but one of the ancient route before it reached the extreme eastern limit of the Lou-lan area which once possessed water and vegetation. This explains why the Wei lio, where it describes ‘the route of the Centre’ which led direct from Tun-huang towards Kuchā, places the Lung-tui or ‘Mound in the shape of Dragons’ immediately before the station of ‘the ancient Lou-lan’. My explorations of 1914 have proved that on the line followed by the old Han route, the Wei lio’s ‘route of the Centre’, there was, for a distance of over 120 miles [193 km], a stretch of ground to be crossed which in Han times was already a waterless desert of salt, bare clay, or gravel. This forbidding waste lay between the line of wells still available in the long-extended depression which connects the terminal Su-lo Ho drainage with the easternmost end of the ancient salt lake-bed of Lop-nōr and the furthest point reached by the Kuruk-daryā, the river branch which is now quite dry, but then stretched its delta to the northern settlements of Lou-lan, including the ruined station of ‘Lou-lan’.
          It was for crossing this absolutely barren desert without water or vegetation that the Chinese missions required provision to be made, from the nearest part of inhabited Lou-lan, for guides and for the carriage of water and supplies to meet them near the ‘White Dragon Mounds’. Even with the help thus provided, it remains somewhat of a problem how those ancient Chinese organizers of transport succeeded in maintaining traffic, including the movement of large bodies of men, over so great a stretch of ground devoid of all resources and presenting formidable natural obstacles. In any case, the passage from the Annals plainly shows to what tribulation the use of the ancient route north of the dried-up Lop sea-bed by large Chinese convoys &c., must have exposed the Lop population, semi-nomadic as it was.” Stein (1921), Vol. I, pp. 341-342. See also: Stein (1928), Vol. I, pp. 3089-310; CICA, p. 89, n. 108

4.15. Loulan 僂籣 [Lou-lan]

“The evidence thus afforded by the Ch’ien Han shu enables us to feel certain that, from about 77 B.C. onwards, the capital of the ‘kingdom’ corresponding to the medieval and modern Lop was situated in the present Charkhlik tract. It also supplies the definite date when the name of the territory was changed from the original Lou-lan to Shan-shan. There is nothing in the record of the Annals to suggest that this change in the official Chinese designation was prompted or accompanied by any change in the position of the capital. . . .
          In reality the ‘ancient Lou-lan’, which the Wei lio mentions on its ‘route of the Centre’, is identical with the ruined ‘site of Lou-lan’ to the north of the Lop-nōr, but yet within the Lop region. The exploration of these ruins, first discovered by Dr. Hedin in 1900, has convinced me by conclusive archaeological evidence that the ‘route of the Centre’, which the Wei lio’s author knew about the middle of the third century A.D., passed this site, and that it was not abandoned until about the middle of the fourth century. Documentary evidence obtained at the site, and discussed in Chapter XI, shows that the Chinese military station represented by those ruins was actually called Lou-lan in local Chinese records of the third and fourth centuries.
          This proves that the Wei lio and the source used in Li Tao-yüan’s commentary on the Shui ching were right in giving the name of Lou-lan to the Chinese military colony which guarded the route along the north side of Lop-nōr in their own time. But the continued application of the archaic name Lou-lan to this particular locality cannot be accepted as proof that the capital of the whole Lop tract or Lou-lan, as the Chinese called it down to 77 B.C., must also necessarily have stood there. It is simple enough to assume that the Chinese retained in use or revived the antiquated designation of Lou-lan for that part of Lop through which the most direct route westwards from Tun-huang led, and which to them was consequently of special importance, while for the capital of the territory situated to the south of Lop-nōr and the terminal Tārim the new official designation of Shan-shan took root.” Stein (1921), Vol. I, pp. 343-344.

“The original name of the state of Shan-shan was Lou-lan. The seat of the king’s government is in the town of Wu-ni, and it is distant 1600 li [666 km] from the Yang barrier and 6100 li [2538 km] from Ch’ang-an. There are 1570 households, 14100 individuals with 2912 persons able to bear arms. . . .  To the north-west it is a distance of 1785 li [743 km] to the seat of the protector general [at Wu-lei = modern Yangisar, 350 li or 146 km east of Kucha]. It is 1365 li [568 km] to the state of [Mo]-shan, and to the north-west it is 1890 li [786 km] to Chü-shih [Karakhoto or Kao-ch’ang near Turfan].
          The land is sandy and salt, and there are few cultivated fields. The state hopes to obtain [the produce of] cultivated fields and looks to neighbouring states for field-crops. It produces jade and there is an abundance of rushes, tamarisk, the balsam poplar, and white grass [which was said to be used as an arrow poison in Yarkand]. In company with their flocks and herds the inhabitants go in search of water and pasture, and there are asses, horses and a large number of camels. [The inhabitants] are capable of making military weapons in the same way as the Ch’o [‘Unconquered’] of the Ch’iang tribes. . . .
          Shan-shan is situated on the Han communication routes; to the west it is connected with Chieh-mo [near modern Cherchen] at a distance of 720 li [300 km]. . . . ” CICA, pp. 81-85, 92

“Shan-shan 鄯善 [205a? and] 205a : [di̯an / źi̯än] – dźan / źi̯än. . . .   Shan-shan was the name adopted when the state had come under Chinese domination in 77 B.C. The name has been identified as being the origin of Cherchen or Charchan by Hamilton (1958), p. 121 ; see also Pulleyblank (1963), p. 109. . . . ”. CICA, p. 81, n. 77. See also the discussion in Giles (1930-1932), pp. 827-830.

[Note: Pulleyblank gives the EMC for Shanshan as: dʑian’ or dʑianh + dʑian’ or dʑianh]

“In antiquity Lop Nor was a large salt lake at the hub of communications between the Gansu corridor and the Tarim basin, but changes in the course of rivers have caused it to dry up and become a salt marsh. The famous Lou-lan site lies on the north-west bank of the Lop Nor marsh, where the Kongque river now flows into the marsh. In the first century B.C. it was the capital of the state of Shan-shan. The graves found near by used to be considered as graves of the Western Han period, but recent Chinese excavations have yielded material from the seventh to the first century B.C.” Ma and Wan (1994), p. 211.

4.16. Qiuci 龜玆 [Ch’iu-tz’u] = Kucha. Qiuci unquestionably refers to the Kucha oasis. See, for example: CICA, p. 163, note 506. It has frequently been transcribed as Qizi [Ch’iu-tzu] (as in the previous reference), but this is incorrect, the last character is properly ci [tz’u] in this name. See: Daffinà (1982), 331; DFLC, p.1026; Pelliot (1920), pp. 181 and nn. 1-3; 182 and n. 1; and, especially, the detailed study of the name in Pelliot (1923), pp. 126-128 and nn.  It has long been the most populous and productive oasis state in the Tarim Basin. The Hanshu gives a total population of 81,317 for the oasis, with 21,076 people able to bear arms. CICA, p. 163.     

          “One MS. [of the Tarikh-i-Rashidi] reads Kus and others Kusan. Both names were used for the same place, as also Kos, Kucha, Kujar, etc., and all appear to stand for the modern Kuchar of the Turki-speaking inhabitants, and Kuché of the Chinese. An earlier Chinese name, however, was Ku-sien.” Elias (1895), p. 124, n. 1.

“The country of Ch’iu-tz’u is 170 li̲ south of the Po-shan (“White Mountains”), and 6.700 li̲ west of Ch’ang-an. . . .  The walled city which is its capital is five or six li̲ square. In its penal laws, a murderer is executed, and a robber has one arm and one leg cut off. For its military and civil administrative taxes, they measure the land in order to assess the levies. Those who hold no fields remit in silver specie. Marriages, funerals, customs, and products are about the same as in Yen-ch’i [Karashahr], but one difference is the climate, which is here somewhat warmer. It also produces delicate felt, deerskin rugs, cymbals, a great deal of “salty green,” orpiment, and exotic cosmetics, as well as good horses, wild oxen, and the like. . . .  Three hundred li̲ to the south there is a great stream, which flows east and is called the Chi-wu River; this is the Yellow River [a common Chinese misconception – it was actually the Tarim River].” Chou shu 50.13b–14a; covering the years 557-581 CE. From Miller (1959), p. 10.

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

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

            “The Oasis of Kuchar, the town with its wide lanes of poplars, and the active population make a better impression than the rest of the Hsin-chian Oasis [sic] south of the Celestial Mountains. The oasis occupies a very favourable position which from ancient times made it an important economical and political center. It is situated at the point where the Muzart and the Kuchar rivers emerge from the T’ien Shan Mountains and direct their course toward the Tarim Basin.
            Kuchar is by far the most important trading center along the caravan route from Kashgar to Urumchi. The abundant supply of glacier water, carried down by the two rivers of the oasis, and the numerous springs of subsoil water make the oasis an ideal place for cultivation and an important fruit growing center of the whole Province. From early times, Kuchar was known as an emporium of Chinese trade, with nomad tribes occupying the higher grazing valleys of the Tekes and Kunges in the central T’ien Shan and the steppe country of Jungaria. Nowadays, the oasis conducts an extensive trade with Kalmuck, Torgut, and Ölöt tribes, occupying the higher mountain valleys of the T’ien Shan and the steppe country round Karashahr. Kuchar is connected with Khotan by a desert route following the bed of the Keriya River, and receives by that route its share of the Khotan trade.” Roerich (1931), pp. 98-99.

          “Kucha was the largest of the 36 kingdoms of the Western Regions noted in the second century BC by the first of the Silk Road travellers, the Chinese emissary Zhang Qian. In AD 91 Kucha surrendered to General Ban Chao, whose wide-ranging Central Asian campaigns against the Xiongnu brought 50 kingdoms under the suzerainty of the emperor. By the fourth century, the Kuchean Kingdom of Guici was an important centre of Central Asian trade and Indo-European culture. Subsidiary trade routes running north to Junggar and south across the Taklamakan Desert (along the Khotan River) to Khotan intersected with the Silk Road at Kucha.” Bonavia (1988), p. 154.

“The extensive ruins of this ancient capital of the Kingdom of Guici [the ‘City of Subashi’] lie 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Kucha. They are divided into two parts by the Kucha River, which in flood cuts access to the northern section. The city dates from the fourth century and includes towers, halls, monasteries, dagobas and houses. The ruins of the large Zhaoguli Temple date from the fifth century. A recently excavated tomb revealed a corpse with a square skull, confirming Xuan Zang’s claim that, in Guici, ‘the children born of common parents have their heads flattened by the pressure of a wooden board’. The city was abandoned or destroyed in the 12th century.” Bonavia (1988), p. 159.


4.17. The Central Route.

The ‘Central Route’ (known to the two Han histories as the “Northern Route”) left from Yumen Guan (‘Jade Gate’), west of Dunhuang, and headed via Loulan to the north of Lop Nor on to Kucha where it met up with the ‘New Route’ and headed on to Kashgar. For further details see Appendix A, under the subheading: “The Central Route.”

4.18. Hengkeng 橫坑 [Heng-k’eng] – literally: ‘East-West Gully’ = the present Bēsh-toghrak Valley. Seeing as Hengkeng translates literally as the ‘East-West Gully,’ it undoubtedly refers to the Bēsh-toghrak valley which has always provided the only practicable corridor of communication between Dunhuang and Loulan, to the north of Lop Nor, and between Dunhuang and Charklik.

“The ground through which the route leads from Achchik-kuduk [= ‘Bitter Well” – east of Lop Nor on the route from Charklik to Dunhuang] to beyond Bēsh-toghrak, for a total marching distance of over 80 miles, bears the unmistakable impress of a great desert valley, flanked by the Kuruk-tāgh on the north and the sand-buried glacis of the Āltin-tāgh on the south.” Stein (1921), Vol. II, p. 550.

          “The northern route leading to Lou-lan must have remained the main line of communication from Tun-huang westwards during the first centuries after Christ. But when the Later Han Annals mention the route leading to Shan-shan, they do not give any detail regarding it except that it started from the barrier of Yü-mên, the ‘Jade Gate.” Fortunately we fare better in the case of the record which the Wei lio, composed between A.D. 239-65, furnishes regarding the three routes used from Tun-huang to the ‘Western Countries’ during the ‘Epoch of the Three Kingdoms’. I have already had occasion, when dealing with the historical topography of the Lou-lan Site, to discuss the interesting information which this text supplies, and which M. Chavannes’ translation and full commentary have rendered conveniently accessible. I quoted there the whole of the important passage, and shown that the ‘central route’ of the Wei lio is identical with our Lou-lan route, passing from the Jade Gate through the Bēsh-toghrak valley to the ancient Lop lake-bed, and across it to the extreme north-east end of the once habitable Lou-lan area.” Ibid, p. 555.

4.19. Wuchuan 五船 [literally: ‘Five Boats’].

The Hanshu says:

“During the reign-period Yüan-shih [1-5 A.D.] there was a new route in the further royal kingdom of Chü-shih. This led to the Yü-men barrier from north of Wu-ch’üan, and the journey was comparatively shorter. Hsü Pu, the Wu and Chi colonel, wanted to open up this route for use, so as to reduce the distance by half and to avoid the obstacle of the White Dragon Mounds. Ku-kou, king of the further state of Chü-shih, realised that because of [the passage of] the road he would be obliged to make provisions available [for Han travellers] and in his heart thought that this would not be expedient. In addition, his lands were rather close to those of the southern general of the Hsiung-nu. . . .  [Ku-kou was finally beheaded by the Chinese for disobedience].” CICA, pp. 189-190, 192.

“Wu-ch’uan 五船, lit. “Five Boats”, GSR 58a and 229e: ngo / nguo - di̯wan / dźi̯wan. Hsü Sung thinks these might be five flat topped hills with steep sides on the Hsiao Nan lu (Lesser Southern Route?) which neither Chavannes (1905), p. 533, note 1, nor we have been able to locate.” CICA, pp. 189, n. 658.

“That we are so far unable to identify the intermediate locality of Wu-ch’uan (literally meaning ‘the five boats’) and that of Hêng-k’êng, which the Wei lio mentions in addition, is not to be wondered at, since that portion of the easternmost Kuruk-tāgh which lies west of the route from Tun-huang to Hāmi, and which ‘the new route of the north’ must have crossed, has up to the present remained practically unexplored.” Stein (1921), Vol. II, p. 706.

4.20. Gaochang 高昌 [Kao-ch’ang] – the southernmost town of the Turfan oasis; 47 km southeast of the modern town of Turfan.

“The name Kao-ch’ang goes back to Han times. As Kao-ch’ang-pi, or “Wall of Kao-ch’ang”, it was the designation of a Chinese military colony which first existed for a short time in 59 B.C. Its aim was to strengthen Chinese influence in the territory of the king of Anterior Chü-shih, whose capital was at Yar, to the north-west of Turfan. Kao-ch’ang grew enough in importance to become in 327 the seat of a chün (“commandery” in Chavannes’ terminology), which was created by the irregular dynasty of the Anterior Liang of Kan-su.” Pelliot (1959), pp. 162-163.

Gaochang was later chosen by the Uighurs as the capital of their kingdom which flourished from about 850 to 1250 CE. During the Han period it seems to have been mainly a garrison town for Chinese troops.
          There were two kingdoms of Jushsi [Chü-shih], one centred in the Turfan oasis, which the Chinese called ‘Nearer Jushi’, while the other which was over the mountain range to the north, near modern Jimasa, the Chinese called ‘Further Jushi’. See: CICA, pp. 76, n. 49, 183, nn. 618, 621; Daffinà (1982), p. 312.

“Liu-jong in the east of the Turfan basin was the long-term central location for the garrison troops and farming colonies [t’un-t’ien]. These troops were under the command of an officer of higher rank called the Wu-chi commandant. The site of his headquarters was called Kao-ch’ang-pi, this being the origin for the use of the name Kao-ch’ang (Qocho) for the Turfan basin as a whole. During the latter days of the Eastern Han, the Wu-chi commandant had become the highest commanding officer of the Western Regions garrisons, comparable to the secretary-general, who held authority over the inhabitants of the Western Regions; duties were divided between the two.” Ma and Wan (1994), p. 240.

For details on the early history and structure of the kingdoms of Jushi, see: Shimazaki (1969), pp. 27-81.

4.21. The Mao (Wu) and Ji Colonel(s) 戊己校尉 = Colonel(s) or Commandant(s) in charge of the military agricultural garrisons.
          Maoji xiaowei
戊己校尉 GR, Vol. VI, p. 655 states that this title refers to the Commandant responsible for the military garrisons at Jushi [Chü-shih] or Gaozhang [Kao-ch’ang] – in the Turfan oasis – during the Han dynasty. It also mentions that the first character, wu or mou [‘fifth Heavenly Stem’] was pronounced mao until it was changed by an Imperial edict during the Five Dynasty period (907-960 CE). I have, therefore, given preference to the original form of mao (reconstruction: *mug) in my translation.
          The text specifically states here that there were two xiaowei here (“maoji er xiaowei”), but it is unclear whether it means there were two maoji xiaowei, or one Mao and one Ji ‘Colonels.’ I have chosen the latter interpretation as the most likely. Certainly, between 74 and 78 CE, there was both a Mao (Wu) and a Ji [‘sixth Heavenly Stem’] Colonel. However: “In 89 only the wu colonel and his regiment were re-established, to be abolished again in 107 CE.” CICA: 79, note 3. Both the Mou and the Ji Colonels are stated later on in the text (see Section 2) to be stationed “within the walls of Gaochang.”
          Dubs and de Crespigny (1967), p. 65 translate the title as ‘The Wu-and-chi Colonel.’ Hucker (No. 7740) says, “HAN: Commandant of the Centre (?), rank = 600 bushels, from 48 B.C. the designation of some commanders of military garrisons in Central Asia; the title seems to reflect the Taoist concepts that the celestial symbols wu and chi represent the center (chang), but the relevance of this explanation is questionable. . . . ”
          It is difficult to determine what exactly is meant by the terms mao and ji, or maoji, here. Mao (or wu)
usually refers to the fifth of the ‘Ten Heavenly Stems’ and, by extension, can mean ‘the fifth’ or ‘the central’. See GR No. 12341. Ji , on the other hand, refers to the sixth of the ‘Ten Heavenly Stems’ and, by extension, ‘the sixth’. It also can carry the meaning of ‘to direct;’ ‘to govern;’ ‘to moderate;’ ‘to restrain.’ ‘Moderation;’ ‘moderate.’
          So, it is possible that the two titles together – maoji – traditionally referred to the earth and may have been a reference to their function of organizing the military agricultural colonies.
          On the other hand, Maoji xiaowei may have implied something like: ‘Central Governing Commandant.’ ‘Nearer Jushi’ refers to the kingdom or state centred in the Turfan oasis or, sometimes, to the tribe which controlled it.
屯田 = ‘agricultural garrisons,’ or ‘military agricultural colonies’ were set up to provide for the needs of diplomatic and trade missions as well as Chinese officials and troops stationed in distant regions. For details on their establishment and functioning during the Han, see: Hucker (1985) No. 7409; Stein (1921), pp. 740-745; de Crespigny (1984), pp. 62-67 and 471, n. 17.

“For the wu-chi hsiao-wei, see Lao Kan (1959), pp. 485-496. Lao’s conclusion is that the latter post was established in 48 B.C. and filled by one officer down to the end of the Former Han, although as early as 31 B.C. a chi regiment was split off from his command and placed elsewhere under the command of a ssu-ma major. After the renewed penetration of the Chinese into Central Asia in 74 A.D., there were two officers, a wu and a chi colonel, down to 78 A.D. In 89 only the wu colonel and his regiment were reestablished, to be abolished again in 107 A.D. See also, Chavannes, (1907), p. 153, note 2, and Ise (1968), pp. 9-14.” CICA: 79, note 63.

“In 48 B.C. an additional office, that of the wu-chi colonel (wu-chi hsiao-wei), was established at Turfan. Though the title suggests a post of a military nature, the duties of the office revolved mainly around financial and logistical matters, especially those related to the management of the agricultural garrisons (t’un-t’ien), and the general provisioning of food and services for Han forces. At an earlier date, there had been a post of colonel of agricultural garrisons (t’un-t’ien hsiao-wei) attached to the protector-general. The office of the wu-chi colonel was in all likelihood a reorganization of that of the colonel of agricultural garrisons, with expanded functions. Apart from the regular responsibility for the supervision of the agricultural garrisons, we find wu-chi colonels engaged in a number of other activities: a colonel by the name of Hsü P’u took charge of road construction around A.D. 3; another named Tiao Hu arrested, in A.D. 10, the king of a Turfan statelet (in Jimasa) who had refused to provide a Chinese diplomatic mission to the Western Regions with the required supplies of food and service; and a third such officer, Kuo Ch’in, led an army to attack Karashahr in A.D. 16.” Yü (1986), p. 412.

“In 48 B.C. the Han stationed a wu-chi hsiao-wei (colonel of Wu and Chi) in the Anterior Chü-shih city of Kocho (Kao-ch’ang), 30 km south-east of Turfan in Xinjiang. The wu-chi hsiao-wei’s main responsibilities were, first, to command the Han troops from the central plains of China and, second, to make the soldiers work the agricultural colonies which provided food for the Han troops garrisoned in the Western Regions and for the Han diplomatic envoys passing through the area. During the period of Yüan-shih (A.D. 1–5), the wu-chi hsiao-wei Hsü P’u-yü opened the ‘New Northern Route’, which greatly shortened the journey from the Jade Gate in the Dunhuang limes to the territory of the Posterior Chü-shih. With the opening of this direct route via Hami (Qomul), Turfan was destined to become even more important to the Chinese than before.
          In the first century A.D., control of Turfan constantly changed hands between the Han and the Hsiung-nu. From 73 onwards, and especially after 89 when General Pan Ch’ao of the Eastern (Later) Han (24-220) brought the Tarim basin back under Han control, the Chü-shih were once again under Han jurisdiction. Following the conquest of Chü-shih, the Eastern Han re-established, after an interval of some 60 years, the offices of Protector-General and wu-chi hsiao-wei. Increasing numbers of Han garrison troops were stationed in the area and the newly opened up territory was expanded. Pan Chao’s [sic – should read Pan Ch’ao’s] son Pan Yung, who was appointed chang-shih of the Western Regions in 123, stationed his troops at Lukchun (T’ien Ti), an important site located in the centre of Turfan, not far east of Kocho. Gradually, the Han Chinese from the central plains of China and the Ho Hsi corridor intermingled with the Chü-shih natives. During the Wei dynasty (220-265), founded by the House of Ts’ao, and the Western Chin dynasty (265-316), the kingdom of Chü-shih was basically loyal to China thanks to the implementation of a continuous policy of ‘control by reconciliation’ through the wu-chi hsiao-wei. The so-called ‘Kocho soldiers’ of the Wei and Chin dynasties may have been a local army made up of Chü-shih natives and immigrant Han Chinese.” Zhang (1996), p. 304.

In 74 CE, a Ji Xiaowei (a ‘Ji Colonel’) was stationed in the town of Chinbu (near Jimasa), on the territory of the tribe of the Further King of Juwei, and a Wu Xiaowei (a ‘Wu Colonel’) was stationed in Lukchun (near Turfan), a dependency of the King of the Nearer Jushi. See: The ‘Biography of Keng Kung’ in Hou Hanshu, chap. XLIX, p. 6 b; Chavannes (1907), pp. 225-226.

4.22. The ‘New Route.’ Refer to Appendix A: subsection (c) “The New Route.”

Section 5 – The Southern Route

5.1. The Southern Route. See the notes in Appendix A in subsection: (a) “The Southern Route.”

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

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

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

5.3. Xiao Yuan (or Wan) 小宛 [Hsiao-yüan] was, according to the Hanshu (CICA, p. 92), three days’ march south of Jushi [present-day Qiemo or Cherchen]: “It lies secluded to the south and is not situated on the route.” It was bordered on the east by the 婼羌 Chuo [‘Unruly’ or ‘Unsubdued’ – the first character is sometimes transcribed as er] Qiang. The Hou Hanshu described it is as a small place with just over 1,000 inhabitants that was later annexed by Shanshan. 
          The name Xiao Yuan (literally, ‘Little Yuan’) is evocative of Da Yuan (‘Great Yuan’), or Ferghana. Brough suggests that it might have been the home of the smaller group of Yuezhi who settled among the Qiang in the mountains to the south of the main trade route when the largest group, the Da (‘Great’) Yuezhi – fled to the west after their defeat by the Xiongnu about 162 BCE. See Benjamin (2003), p. 1.
          They became known to the Chinese as the Xiao (‘Lesser’) Yuezhi. Brough (1965), pp. 592-593; CICA, pp. 93 and n. 130; 121.

There are two main possibilities for the location of Xiao Yuan:

          1. Stein suggested that if one travelled south from Qiemo, and then southwest, it must have been located near modern Atqan [Ajiang], about 110 km from Qiemo. Atqan controlled the route running southwest along the northern foot of the mountain range:

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

          2. However, it seems more likely that the route headed south from Qiemo and then east, up the Cherchen River gorges, Xiao Yuan must have been near modern Tura [T’u-la], about 125 km [77 miles] from Qiemo or, perhaps, Bash Mulghun [Bashi Maergong, W-G: Pa-shih-ma-erh-kung], about 22 km further east. Tura and Bash Mulghun control a valley of rich grasslands, easily-defended and guarding the junction of two important routes. 
          The first of these branches formed an alternative to the main southern “Silk Route” from Dunhuang to Khotan and is still in use today. It headed west from Lanzhou via Xining and Koko Nor (= Qinghai Hu = Kökenagur or ‘Blue Sea’ – Bailey (1985), p. 80) past Dzun (or Zongjiafangzi) – where a road then branched south towards Lhasa, and across the Qaidam [Tsaidam] marshes through Bash Mulghun and Tura to Qiemo.
          The second branch forms the main route to the relatively fertile valleys of Central Tibet. It heads almost directly south from Bash Mulghun about a thousand kilometres to Xigaze [Shigatse], presently Tibet’s second-largest city.
          Maillart (1937), pp. 171-175, describes the journey from Bash Mulghum to Cherchen as taking four days; indicating that the journey from Qiemo to Tura, which is about 22 km shorter than to Bash Mulghum, could be easily covered by well-rested travellers from Qiemo in three days – exactly the time indicated in the Hanshu.
          Recently discovered evidence indicates the early use of the route through the Qaidam towards Koko Nor and on to Lanzhou via Xining. The following article was downloaded from: 2002-17/03/content_468165.htm on 8 July 2002. 

Byzantine Gold Coin Unearthed in Qinghai

Xinhuanet 2002–07–03 14:12:27

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

The town of Xiangride mentioned in the article is about 175 km southwest of (Lake) Koko Nor (Qinghai Hu= Kökenagur or ‘Blue Sea’ – Bailey (1985), p. 80), or 50 km southeast of Dzun (or Zongjiafangzi), on the main road between Xining and Golmud. The people referred to in the article as Tubo are more accurately described as Qiang. Tubo (or, more correctly, Tufan) refers to “Tibetans,” who had not yet formed a national identity at this period. For further information on the recent finds of Byzantine gold coins in China see: Lin (2003).

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

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

          “Niya, with its inhabited surface of 45 sq km, was one of the largest city oases on the Southern Silk Road in those times. While Stein had already identified over forty ancient structures during the course of his three excavations, a Sino-Japanese team was able, from 1993 on, to lay open thirty more buildings as well as two graveyards. As in other oases only half-timbered buildings have withstood the winds and sandstorms, while the more numerous clay buildings have long since crumbled away. A cautious estimate of the population figures arrives at about 800 to 1,000 families and perhaps 100 monks. According to the Han Chronicle, the local prince in the oasis also had kept an army of about 800 men.” Baumer (2000), p. 100.

5.5. The kingdom of Loulan 僂籣 [Lou-lan] = Lop Nor and surrounds. The site plan included at the end of Volume III of Serindia by Aurel Stein (1921), Plan No. 23 shows that the external stamped clay walls of Loulan were about 4,050 ft or 1,235 metres long and were almost square in form.

          “Loulan is first mentioned in 176 BC, in a letter of the Xiongnu ruler addressed to the Chinese emperor Wen Ti, in which the Hun leader praises the victory of his commander-in-chief over the Yüeh-chih and the fact that he had subjugated Loulan as well as twenty-eight other kingdoms. The mention of Loulan is a clear indication of the significance of that town in those times. In 126 BC, Zhang Qian, the famous travelling ambassador of the Han emperor Wu Di, concisely yet revealingly describes Loulan: “The areas of Loulan and Gu-Shi have a walled city and walled suburbs; they are situated on a salt marsh. Therefore, the city played a military role even then.
          But it seems that Loulan had abused its strategic position on the Middle Silk Road to raid and plunder Chinese trade caravans, leading to the first Chinese military reprisal under General Cao Po Nu in 108 BC. Thus, the weak King of Loulan had to send one of his sons to the Chinese court as a hostage and also put a second son at the disposal of the Huns.
          When a new prince had to be chosen in the year 92 BC, it was the prince who had been educated by the Xiongnu who was to occupy the throne, as his unfortunate brother had been castrated at the imperial court. But, because the new king recommenced the plunder of Chinese traders and also informed the Xiongnu of Chinese troop movements, China sent off a second punitive expedition in the year 77 BC. The commanding Chinese general, Fu Gia Dsi (Fu Jiezi), captured the treacherous king by an underhand trick, had him beheaded, and then sent the head to the imperial court as proof of having done his duty. Thus ended Loulan’s history as a more-or-less autonomous kingdom, for the Chinese no longer installed the new prince in Loulan, but rather in southern Shan Shan (today’s Kargilik, or Ruoqiang), in this way removing him from Xiongnu influence. Loulan, however, remained an important garrison city on the Middle Silk Road and until about AD 330 was part of a chain of forts and watch-towers securing the stretch from Dunhuang to Korla, as an extension of the Great Wall.
          From the old, dried-up mulberry trees discovered by Stein, one may conclude that at one time sericulture was practised in Loulan and silk was manufactured. However, as with the rest of the Tarim Basin, Shan Shan once again fell under the control of the Huns in the beginning of the 1st century AD when the Han Dynasty was shaken by a severe crisis. But although General Pan Ch’ao successfully re-established Chinese supremacy in around AD 75 (as already mentioned) it is not possible to determine the strength and duration of Chinese military presence in Loulan after AD 124 and during the following 140 years.
          On the other hand, on the basis of numerous documents dating back to the time between AD 264 and AD 330, we are well informed in respect of Loulan’s last golden age. It began with the establishment of a military colony of one thousand men by General So Man about AD 260. . . .
          Loulan’s revival as a garrison city falls in the era of the Western Jin Dynasty (AD 265-316) which, under the leadership of its energetic first emperor, Wu Ti, once again brought the “Western Countries” – today’s Xinjiang – under their sovereignty. However, the small garrison city rapidly seems to have fallen into oblivion, for the last dated document of AD 330 was still written in the name of the last Western Jin emperor whose rule ended in 316. Hence, in the year 330 Loulan already must have been isolated from the central government for fourteen years. As mentioned elsewhere, Loulan was abandoned in that year because of hydrological changes in the Lop Nor area. The military garrison was transferred some fifty kilometres further south, to Haitou, designated by Stein as L.K. Maybe the successful attack on Shan Shan in 335 by the Former Liang (317-376) of Gansu also influenced the decision to move the garrison from L.A. to L.K. But the fort of Yingpan, situated to the north-west, remained occupied right into the time of the Tang Dynasty.” Baumer (2000), pp. 133-135.

          “Concerning the many registered names of places it is worth mentioning that Miran was called “Fort of the small Nob” and Karglik “Fort of the large Nob”. The latter is considered to be the capital of the Shan-Shan principality, to which Loulan probably belonged as from 77 BC.” Baumer (2000), p. 115.

“The evidence thus afforded by the Ch’ien Han shu enables us to feel certain that, from about 77 B.C. onwards, the capital of the ‘kingdom’ corresponding to the medieval and modern Lop was situated in the present Charkhlik tract. It also supplies the definite date when the name of the territory was changed from the original Lou-lan to Shan-shan. There is nothing in the record of the Annals to suggest that this change in the official Chinese designation was prompted or accompanied by any change in the position of the capital. . . .
          In reality the ‘ancient Lou-lan’, which the Wei lio mentions on its ‘route of the Centre’, is identical with the ruined ‘site of Lou-lan’ to the north of the Lop-nōr, but yet within the Lop region. The exploration of these ruins, first discovered by Dr. Hedin in 1900, has convinced me by conclusive archaeological evidence that the ‘route of the Centre’, which the Wei lio’s author knew about the middle of the third century A.D., passed this site, and that it was not abandoned until about the middle of the fourth century. Documentary evidence obtained at the site, and discussed in Chapter XI, shows that the Chinese military station represented by those ruins was actually called Lou-lan in local Chinese records of the third and fourth centuries.
          This proves that the Wei lio and the source used in Li Tao yüan’s commentary on the Shui ching were right in giving the name of Lou-lan to the Chinese military colony which guarded the route along the north side of Lop-nōr in their own time. But the continued application of the archaic name Lou-lan to this particular locality cannot be accepted as proof that the capital of the whole Lop tract or Lou-lan, as the Chinese called it down to 77 B.C., must also necessarily have stood there. It is simple enough to assume that the Chinese retained in use or revived the antiquated designation of Lou-lan for that part of Lop through which the most direct route westwards from Tun-huang led, and which to them was consequently of special importance, while for the capital of the territory situated to the south of Lop-nōr and the terminal Tārim the new official designation of Shan-shan took root.” Stein (1921). Vol. I, pp. 343-344.

5.6. The kingdom of Shanshan 鄯善 [Shan-shan] included as dependencies the “kingdoms” of Loulan and all the region around Lop Nor (‘Lop Lake’) and along the southern route including the oases of Miran and Ruoqiang (Charklik) and Qiemo (Cherchen), all the way west to Niya (Jingjue) and south to Xiaoyuan. The text here informs us that the kingdom, at this time, extended over 800 km from Loulan west to Jingjue.
          Its capital during early Han times is called Yüni
扜泥. It is often incorrectly transcribed as Wuni in the Hanshu – see CICA, p. 81-82 and n. 77. It probably referred to the region of modern Ruoqiang or the Charklik oasis, to the southwest of the died-up bed of Lop Nor. It is sometimes referred to as the kingdom of Krorän.

          “Lou-lan is the Kror’ina or Krorayina of the Kharoṣṭhī-documents ; it was originally, it seems, the name of the whole country and known as such to the Chinese – although they may have been ignorant of its position – since 176 B.C., when the Hsiung-nu ruler Mao-tun informed emperor Wen of his conquest of this and of other states (HS 94 A.10b, Urkunden I, p. 76). In a more restricted sense, Lou-lan continued to refer to the town of Kror’ina, i.e. the area designated LA by Stein (1921), vol. I, pp. 414-415 : see also Enoki (1963), p. 147.” CICA, p. 81, n. 77. For the use of NW Prakrit in Kroraina (and in Kucha and Karashahr), see Bailey (1985), pp. 4-5.

Shanshan controlled both the main ‘Southern’ and ‘Central’ routes to the west of Dunhuang:

          “From the mid-third to the mid-fifth century the kingdom of Shan-shan maintained its control over the southern route of the Tarim, leading from Dunhuang to Khotan, and incorporating the smaller kingdoms and principalities of Ch’ieh-mo (Calmadana, Cherchen), Hsiao Yüan and Ching-chüeh (Niya, Cad’ota). At the height of its power, Shan-shan seems to have been composed of a series of rājas or rāyas (districts) administered by rājadarāgas or rājadareyas nominated by the king. Ching-chüeh was listed, for example, among the rājas, retaining the original ruler.” Zhang (1996), pp. 288-289.

The kingdom of Shanshan also included the important strategic community, Loulan, located near the northwest corner of Lop Nor, which, at that time was near the outflow of the Tarim River. Loulan provided an invaluable supply point on the difficult but important desert ‘Central’ route from Dunhuang to Korla. 
          This has caused considerable confusion about where the “capital” lay. I tend to agree with Stein, Baumer and Yu Taishan that the seat of government was always in the fertile Charklik oasis:

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

          “The town of Wuni was not situated northwest of Lob Nor, but was situated in the present Ruoqiang country (Qarkilik), on the south bank of the Charchen River, by the northern foothills of the Altyn Tagh, southwest of Lob Nor.” Ibid., p. 201. See also note 5.5.

Both CICA and Taishan Yu have given the wrong romanization for the first character of the name of the capital (the modern Pinyin for 扜泥 should read yu not wu), hence the following detail:

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

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

I believe the original should be accepted, but, as several alternatives are presented in CICA, I have included them here, for the reader’s consideration:

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

The name of the kingdom Loulan was changed by the Chinese to Shanshan in 77 BCE. See: Chavannes (1905), p. 537, n. 2; Brough, (1965), p. 592; Molè (1970) p. 116, n. 183 [note that the date of the name change in CICA to Shan-shan in AD 77 is incorrect]; CICA, p. 81, n. 77.
          Pulleyblank (1963), p. 109, suggests that Shanshan was plausibly identified by Hamilton (1958, p. 121): “with modern Charchan < *Jarjan. The name Shan-shan appears as a substitute for the earlier Lou-lan in the first century BCE. If the foreign original had indeed palatials at this period, we must suppose that the Chinese palatials were already beginning to develop, perhaps in and intermediate stage *di̯. There are too many uncertainties, however, for this to provide a firm argument.”
          Hamilton’s argument does seem to be overridden by the argument that it must refer to the largest oasis in the region – that of modern Charklik:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One hopes that this research is done soon before more damage is done to these important sites by looters. The following newsbrief emphasizes the need for urgent protection of the sites because of the inherent interest for the region’s history. It was downloaded from: on 7 July 2003:


Volume 56 Number 3, May/June 2003


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

5.7. The kingdom of Ronglu 戎盧 [Jung-lu] (4 marches south of Jingjue / Niya). Ronglu 戎盧 [Jung-lu] was, according to the Hanshu, south of Jingjue (Niya), and adjoined Qule (south of Keriya) to the east, and the Chuo (‘Unruly’ or ‘Unsubdued’) Qiang tribes to the south. It was said to “lie secluded to the south and is not situated on the route.” It was, perhaps, near modern Atqan – see note 5.3.

5.8. The kingdom of Hanmi 扞彌 [Han-mi] = Keriya. Unfortunately, the name of this kingdom is recorded with a wide variety of characters used for the first syllable. 
          The Hou Hanshu gives Jumi
拘彌 [Chü-mi] = Keriya. It is described as Yumi 扜彌 [Yu-mi] in the Hanshu. Unfortunately, this is incorrectly rendered as Wu-mi in CICA p. 94, although the extensive note (p. 94 n. 138) contains much useful information about the various forms of the name and the geography of the region.  
          The Weilue and the Tangshu both refer to it as Hanmi
扞彌, which Chavannes thinks is the preferable reading, but there are several other variants in other texts. See the note in Chavannes (1905) p. 538, n. 1 for a discussion of the various forms of this name. Pulleyblank (1963), pp. 88-89, discusses its derivation and notes that it probably relates to the Kema in the Kharoṣṭhī documents from Loulan, as well as the Kan , City of the Tang and the Gan , Prefecture of the 10th century.
          Stein (1907), p. 467, suggested that Hanmi represented the whole area between Chira and Keriya. This was undoubtedly due to his faulty estimation of the li as being approximately one fifth of a mile, or about 322 metres. The Han li is now known to have been 415.8 metres, as I have discussed in my Introduction under ‘Measurements.’
          Both the Hanshu, and the Hou Hanshu place this kingdom 390 li [162 km] east of Khotan. This is almost exactly the distance between Khotan and Keriya on modern maps. Besides, the Keriya oasis is the only place in the region capable of supporting the populations indicated in the two Han histories (20,040 are mentioned in the Hanshu account, which does seem a bit high as it only lists 3,340 households and 3,540 persons able to bear arms).

“. . . .  This kingdom must be identified with the territory of Keriya.; the Xiyu shuidaoji (Chap. II, p. 7a), which follows this identification, remarks meanwhile, that the present town of Keriya is to the west of the river, while the Tang zhou places the capital of the kingdom of Jumi to the east of the river; but it is clear that the displacement of the town is not a serious objection.” Translated from Chavannes (1900), p. 128, n. 1. See also, Chavannes (1907), p. 167, n. 8; CICA, pp. 94, n. 138, and 95-96.

There is confusion caused by the present Chinese name for Keriya where Yutian is written with the identical characters as for the ancient name for Khotan, only dates back to the late 19th century. See CICA, p. 96, n. 4.1.

The 16th century Tarikh-i-Rashidi has a description of this whole region:

“To the east and south of Káshghar and Khotan are deserts, which consist of nothing except heaps of shifting sands, impenetrable jungles, waste lands and salt-deserts. In ancient times there were large towns in these [wastes], and the names of two of them have been preserved, namely Lob and Katak ; but of the rest no name or trace remains: all are buried under the sand. Hunters, who go there after wild camels, relate that sometimes the foundations of cities are visible, and that they have recognised noble buildings such as castles, minarets, mosques and colleges, but when thy returned a short time afterwards, no trace of these was to be found ; for the sand had again overwhelmed them. On such a scale were these cities of which, nowadays neither name nor vestige remains! In a word, the habitable districts of Káshghar and Khotan lie along the western skirts of these mountains. On the frontier of Káshghar is the district of Artuj ;1 from there to the confines of Khotan, at Kariyá and Jariyá,2 is one month’s journey. But as for the breadth of fertility of the cultivated region (from the foot of the western range to the eastward) by travelling quickly one can leave all cultivation behind in a day or two. On the banks of every stream that comes down from that range, corn is sown and the land is cultivated.”

1 This place is often mentioned in the Tarikh-i-Rashidi. It is, nowadays, a favourite summer resort of the townspeople of Kashghar. According to the late Mr. R. B. Shaw the proper spelling is Artush. (J. R. G. S., 1876, p. 282.)

2 Usually Kiria and Chiria or Chira [= modern Keriya and Qira]. Both exist to the present day, the former a town of some size.”

Elias (1895), p. 295, and nn. 1-2.

5.9. The kingdom of Qule 渠勒 [Ch’ü-le] (to the south of Keriya). Qule 渠勒 [Ch’ü-le] was probably situated along the ancient route that led south from Keriya into northern Tibet, near modern Pulu, at the foot of the mountains.

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

The Hanshu says:

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

5.10. The kingdom of Pikang 皮亢 [P’i-k’ang] = modern Pishan or Guma. The Hou Hanshu gives: Pishan 皮山 [P’i-shan] = modern Pishan or Guma.
          The Hanshu Chap. 96 A states that Pishan is 380 li (158 km) west of Khotan, which is as close as I can measure the distance between the two towns on modern maps. See CICA, p. 97, and n. 152.
          See also Chavannes (1900) p. 125 and (1907) 174, n. 1, and the discussions by Aurel Stein (1907) pp. 99-103, and (1921a) p. 86 where he says: “. . . . the identity of P’i-shan with the modern Guma is certain.”

5.11. The kingdom of Yutian 于寘 [Yü-t’ien] = Khotan. The identification of the ancient name of Yutian with the Khotan oasis has long been confidently established – the evidence from the ancient histories is overwhelming. See, for example, Pulleyblank (1963), pp. 91, 100, 213. Other accounts include:

“Khotan (Khotana in Kharos̱t̲hī script, Hvatäna in Brāhmī and Hvamna or Hvam in the later Khotanese texts) was known throughout its 1,200 years as a kingdom (Hvatäna-kshīra).” Zhang (1996), p. 284.

          “As the main source of jade, the Khotan envoys carried pounds (kīna) of the stone for presentation to the heads of states. They used the word īra- ‘stone’ for their stone par excellence, the ‘jade’, and the Bud. Skt. word śilā. Hence they could call their river the Śailodā and in Khotan-Saka ranījai ttāji ‘the river of precious stone (ratna-)’. The īra- in the adjective form īrīnaa- was also used to render the mountain name Vajraka. The rivers in Khotan were in Turkish times called the yörüng qaš öküš and qara qaš öküš ‘the white and black jade rivers’.” Bailey (1985), p. 14; also p. 58.

“The major oasis of the southern Tarim basin, Khotan, was favourably set amidst the Yurung-kāsh and the Qara-qāsh, the only two rivers to carry the melt waters of the Qurum (Kunlun) Mountains northwards to join the Tarim rather than, like so many others, dissipating into a sea of sand. The fertile loess soils of the Khotan oasis ensured that its agricultural foundation would support a major settlement, and when Aurel Stein and other explorers visited it at the turn of the [20th] century, they observed that the region was underpopulated given its agricultural potential (the population at that time was estimated roughly at c. 200,000, approximately ten times larger than that given in the Hanshu). But despite all its fertility, like all the other oases its agricultural potential depended entirely on irrigation.
          Khotan was also the centre of silk production in the Tarim Basin and Stein suggested that it might have been the actual Serindia of the ancient geographers (rather than China) whence the West learned of the product itself. The legend tells that at the time when the Chinese prohibited the export of silk worms, mulberry trees and the knowledge of the manufacture of silk, a wily king of Khotan requested the hand of a Chinese princess in marriage. Before she departed to her new land, her husband made it clear that if she expected to be kept in silks, she had better procure what was necessary for their production, so she secreted silkworms’ eggs and seeds of the mulberry tree in her headdress and carried them to Khotan.” Mallory and Mair (2000), p. 77.

For a broader discussion of the early introduction of silk cultivation to Khotan, see: TWR Appendix A: The Introduction of Silk Cultivation to Khotan in the 1st Century CE.

“The paper mulberry tree (Broussonetia papyrifera) is also found primarily in the region of Khotan and its bark was pulped into the earliest paper in the region [c. 105 CE], another gift of Chinese technology to the West. Both cotton and wool production have been major products of Khotan since antiquity, while Khotan was also a major supplier of jade to China (the ‘Jade Road’ between Khotan and China is considerably older than the Silk Road).
          Khotan also occupied a remarkably strategic position. To its south, the forbidding Qurum and Qaraqurum ranges were absolutely desolate and Stein could count but a mere 400 people scattered across a territory of 9,000 sq. miles [23,310 sq. km]. To its east one could follow the Silk Road, but beyond Niya (Minfeng) the oases were so few and far between that it would have been difficult to facilitate any major approach to Khotan other than one that had been highly organized, such as might be found in Chinese military operations. To the north lay the full expanse of the Täklimakan Desert. Only the west provided a relatively easy route through which populations might have entered this region in deep antiquity. Khotan itself, despite its prestige, was surprisingly small. The sole historical source (Beishi) to provide a dimension of the town reckons its circuit at 8 or 9 li [3.4 to 3.7 km] and this is roughly confirmed by Aurel Stein’s own excavations at Yōtkan which discovered that the circumference of the town was merely about 2.5 to 3.2 km (1.5 to 2 miles).” Mallory and Mair (2000), pp. 77-78.

The invention of paper is attributed by the Hou Hanshu (chap. CVIII, p. 2b) to 蔡倫 Cai Lun in 105 CE (although there is a heated debate presently underway as to whether paper was, in fact, first invented some time earlier):  

“In the first Huanxing year (105 CE) he [Cai Lun] offered his invention to the Emperor who praised his skilfulness. From this moment there was nobody who did not adopt the use (of his paper), and this is why throughout the Empire gave the name of zhi (to paper) from the honourable Cai.” Translated from Pelliot (1905), p. 6.

          “Old Khotan experienced an economic golden age in those days [c. 4th century], thanks to silk production and exports to the west. The mulberry trees in the plantations not only furnished the leaves to feed the silkworms, but from the bark valuable paper was manufactured, an export article also in great demand. This kind of paper manufacture was widespread in Khotan even at the beginning of the 20th century, as recorded in the diary of the British Consul-General in Kashgar, C. P. Skrine. . . .
          Khotan’s wealth was not based on silk and paper alone, but also on the production of felt and woollen carpets and on the export of precious jade. Khotan was indeed predestined to be the centre of jade commerce, for jade was found along the upper course of both rivers that surround the city. In the west runs the Yurung Kash which means “white stone” in Uighur and where white jade is found, while in the east flows the Kara Kash – the “black stone” – which yields green jade.
          Apparently, a lively jade exchange with central China had taken place from the 3rd BC onwards. . . . ” Baumer (2000), p. 59.

 “I have left to the last the mention of the gold produce of Khotan ;  for if we except the little gold washed from the sand of the Yurung-kāsh, the precious metal with which the name of Khotan is often associated is found in its natural state only at places situated at considerable distances from the oasis. The gold mines of Surgak, Kapa, near the headwaters of the Cherchen river and on the high plateaus of the Arka-Tāgh towards Tibet, may well have been worked in ancient times. But no mention is made of them in the old Chinese notices of Khotan ;  and it is doubtful whether, with the exception of the first-named place (on the upper course of the Niya river), any of these localities ever fell within the political boundaries of the Khotan kingdom. That the gold extracted from them must have helped to increase the commercial importance of Khotan, as the nearest emporium for its disposal, may, on the other hand, be considered certain.” Stein (1907) Vol. I, p. 136.

“Landsell [H. Landsell, Chinese Central Asia. London] (1893) noted, among other occurrences, the presence of gold at twenty two places in Khotan.” Lahiri (1992), p. 79.

Note: Unfortunately, since late in the 19th century the identical name, Yutian 于寘, has been used for the subprefecture centred in Keriya, which has, naturally, caused considerable confusion. See note 3.1 and Stein (1907), pp. 166-172; CICA p. 96, n. 147.

5.12. Refer to Appendix K.

5.13. Daxia 大夏 [Ta Hsia] = Bactria – derived from Old Persian Bākhtri-, an Iranian but non-Persian form of the name. Frye (1963), p. 69. The Avesta gives the form Bāxδi (or ‘Bachdi’). Negmatov (1994), p. 442. For other possible derivations of this name see Bailey (1985), p. 130.
          There can be no doubt that Daxia referred to the ancient region of Bactria. It was taken over by the Da Yuezhi and other nomad hordes in the late second century
BCE. The previous rulers were of Greek descent and heritage and had been there since Alexander’s conquest c. 328 BCE. It had become independent of the Seleucids about the middle of the third century CE but had retained its largely Greek ruling class and was heavily influenced by Hellenistic culture.
          Bactria is best described as a region (rather than a state) consisting of the fertile plains on either side of the Amu Darya or Oxus River, and was known to the Persians as the Jayhun. It is usually thought to have included most of northern Afghanistan, including Badakhshān in the east, and what is now southern Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, at least as far west as the region of Termez.

“It should be emphasized that Bactria never resembled Parthia in being a unified state. Bactria is above all a historico-geographical term, rather than a political one. During these nearly five hundred years various states were formed in this area – the Graeco-Bactrian state, the empire of the Kushans (which continued to exist for a while after the fall of the Parthian state, and the various principates of the Great Yüeh-chih.” Rtveladze (1995), p. 181. 

Bactria’s major city, under both the Persians and Greeks (and probably the Kushans), was Zariaspa or Bactra (modern Balkh). It was situated south of the Oxus, 84 km southwest of Termez, and about 15 km northwest of modern Mazar-e Sharif. It is a very ancient city, still known throughout the region as the ‘Mother of Cities.’
          It is not clear whether the Greeks managed to retain control of the city or whether, as some claim, it was taken from them by the Parthians:

“The root of the name Aspionus [an eastern district of Bactria taken by the Parthians probably between 160 and 150 BCE] is clearly the word asp (horse), which was used to form many toponyms in Central Asia. In Bactria in particular, it was one of the main components of the name of the town Bactra-Zariaspa (golden horse), which is mentioned by Strabo and Pliny. In view of the linguistic similarities, it is a reasonable hypothesis that the satrapy of Aspionus was connected with the region of Bactra-Zariaspa. If this is true, during the reign of Mithradates I the Parthians wrested from the Graeco-Bactrian kingdom of Eucratides the western territories of Bactria, including Bactra.” Rtveladze (1995), p. 185.

Mark Passehl commented (personal communication July 7, 2003) on the two quotes from Rtveladze above, and I believe his criticisms are worthy of serious attention:

“I don’t understand Rtveladze’s distinctions between Parthia and Baktria. . . .
          Both were former Persian satrapies which became the “home territories” of successful conquests states/dynasties (Parthian Empire of the Arsakids, Bactrian dominion of the Diodotids, Euthydemids, etc.)
          Next page the comments about the Arsakid seizure of Baktra seem quite wrong. The Arsakids probably took the two satrapies right near the end of Eukratides’ reign when he was campaigning in India (ca. 146 BC), but the archaeology (Rapin’s article) seems to say that even when the great nomad invasions came in the 140s-130s BC Baktra held out longest as a Greek-dynasty outpost. So either at their weakest they retook it from the Parthians (unlikely!) or never lost it when they lost the two westernmost provinces.”

The middle reaches of the mighty Oxus River, which presently forms the northern boundary of Afghanistan, is frequently up to a mile [1.6 km] wide. It, however, has a number of important fordable points, each of which, naturally, became the site of fortifications to control traffic across the river. The system used to ford the river during the Kushan period probably hadn’t changed very much by the time the 1911 version of the Encyclopædia Britannica was compiled:

          “The principle on which the Oxus ferries are worked is peculiar to these regions. Large flat-bottomed boats are towed across the river by small horses attached to an outrigger projecting beyond the gunwale by means of a surcingle or bellyband. They are thus partially supported in the water whilst they swim. The horses are guided from the boat, and a twenty- or thirty-foot [6-9 metres] barge with a heavy load of men and goods will be towed across the river at Kilif [approximately 100 km west of Termez] (where, as already stated, the width of the river is between 500 and 600 yards [457–549 metres]  – only) with ease by two of these animals. The Kilif ferry is on the direct high-road between Samarkand and Akcha. It is perhaps the best-used ferry on the Oxus.” EB – under ‘Oxus’.

By the time of Fitzroy Maclean’s visit to the region in 1938, horses had given way to steamboats:

          “The frontier post is situated at Patta Hissar [near Termez]. Along the river, stretch for a mile [1.6 km] or so in a narrow strip the barracks of the frontier troops, the officers’ bungalows and piles of merchandise awaiting transhipment; then, as far as the eye can reach, a jungle of reeds ten or eleven feet high [3-3.6 metres], reputed to harbour tigers as well as a great deal of smaller game. The Oxus must at this point be almost a mile wide, a vast muddy river full of mud flats and sandbanks, flowing between low mud banks. I have seen more exciting rivers, but its name and the knowledge that very few Europeans except Soviet frontier guards have ever seen it at this or at any other point of its course, made up for its rather drab appearance. In the distance there were some blue mountains. . . .
          The crossing took half an hour or more, the sandbanks making navigation rather complicated. From the upper floor of the two-storeyed cottage which combined the functions of bridge, engine-room and sleeping-quarters for the crew, I commanded an extensive view of the river and of the jungle on both shores, with, on the Soviet side, watch towers at intervals and a patrol of frontier troops setting out to look for Diversionists. On the Afghan side there was, as far as I could see, nothing except jungle.” Maclean (1949), pp. 129, 131.

           “After a few miles’ riding we emerged from the reeds of the jungle into the desert. It was very much like any other desert in Central Asia, with its dunes of drifting sand and shrivelled tamarisk bushes. Marmots with their short forelegs, long hind-legs and bushy tails whistled petulantly and scuttled in and out of their holes. From time to time we came upon the bleached skeletons of horses and camels. Then, after some miles of crawling up sand dunes and slithering down the other side, we came out on to a flat, completely barren plain with absolutely nothing in sight. Underfoot was hard white clay. There was no road, but something approaching a track had been worn by the caravans making their way down to the Oxus. . . .
          [After a stop at a small mud fort] An hour or two later we sighted a small earth-coloured hump on the horizon. The drab, khaki-coloured desert was absolutely flat and it was a very long time before we came near enough to see that it was the immense dome of a ruined mosque, apparently of very great age. From now onwards the plain was scattered with ruins, sometimes a few crumbling stones, at others, whole cities with mosques and watch towers and city walls stretching for miles. Away to the west lay what is left of Balkh, the ancient Bactria, the Mother of Cities. . . . .  There were no signs of vegetation near any of these ruins and any water supply there may have been must have dried up or been diverted.
          Towards sunset we came to the cultivated fields and plantations of the oasis of Seyagird [about 25 km north of Mazār-e Sharif], the first we had seen since the Oxus. Here a large military fort, with crenellated mud wall, towers over a cluster of houses and gardens surrounded by high walls and a small mosque, all built of the mud bricks used throughout Turkestan. In a large open space before the fort the camels of a number of caravans were resting, before setting out once more.” Maclean (1949), pp. 134, 135.

Bactria, with its major trade emporium of Balkh or Baktra, was a key centre on the extensive trade routes developed to transport lapis lazuli, spinel rubies and, quite possibly, emeralds – from the mines in the mountains – see Giuliani et al (2000), pp. 631-633; Giuliani et al (2000b), pp. 58-65; Schwarz and Giuliani (2001), pp. 17-23; Bowersox (1985), and refer to Appendix K.
          Lapis lazuli from Badhakshan was being traded to Mesopotamia, and Egypt from the second half of the fourth millennium and to the Indus River cultures by the third millennium BCE. Sarianidi (1971), pp. 12-15. These routes were later to form the basis of the networks we now call the ‘Silk Routes.’

“Daxia (Bactria) is described as lying more than 2,000 li [838 km] southwest of Ferghana, south of the Gui (Amu Darya). Like the people of Ferghana, its occupants were a settled people living in walled towns. They lacked powerful chiefs and rather were divided into small individual towns with their own leaders. Their armies are described as insignificant and cowardly, a clear come-down from their reputation when they faced Alexander, but they excelled in commerce with enormous markets, especially in their capital Lanshicheng (Bactra). They numbered about a million people. While in Bactria, Zhang saw trade goods from Sichuan and asked how they had come there. He learned that they were obtained from a land called Shendu (i.e. Sind, the Punjab), which lay in the region of a great river (the Indus) and was occupied by a people who employed elephants in warfare.” Mallory and Mair (2000), p. 59.

“Archaeological evidence reveals intensive exploitation of new agricultural land and the expansion of agricultural oases at the beginning of the Christian era in the river valleys and ancient agricultural oasis areas of Central Asia, especially in the southern regions, even though the best and most suitable croplands were by that time already under cultivation. It has also been established that, with the opening up of new regions and the extension of crop-farming to the northern provinces of Central Asia on the lower reaches of the Zerafshan, on the middle reaches of the Syr Darya and in the Tashkent oasis, large numbers of nomadic livestock-breeders switched to a settled way of life and new centres of urban civilization were formed. As a result of the extensive development of irrigation networks, practically all the main provinces of Central Asia were brought under cultivation during this period and the establishment of the major crop-growing oases was completed. The extent to which northern Bactria was populated and brought under cultivation at this time can be judged from the 117 archaeological monuments of the Kushan period recorded in recent years in the territory of the Surkhan Darya province. A major channel, the Zang canal, leading from the Surkhan river, was constructed. In the zone irrigated by it a new oasis, the Angor, was established around the town of Zar-tepe. The founding of Dalverzin-tepe as a major urban centre also dates back to this period. The Surkhan Darya and Sherabad Darya valleys, with their flourishing agricultural oases, fortified towns and extensive grazing lands, were able to provide a strong base for unifying the domains of the Yüeh-chih on the right [northern] bank of the Amu Darya. When they were unified by the ruler of the Kuei-shuang [Kajula Kadphises], who subjugated the four other Yüeh-chih principalities, the nucleus of the Kushan Empire was formed.” Mukhamedjanov (1996), pp. 265-266. 

Strabo (c. 23 CE), XI. xi. 1, also describes the exceptional fertility of ancient Bactria and proves that its reputation had spread as far as the Mediterranean world:

“As for Bactria, a part of it lies alongside Aria towards the north, though most of it lies above Aria and to the east of it. And much of it produces everything except oil. The Greeks who caused Bactria to revolt grew so powerful on account of the fertility of the country that they became masters, not only of Ariana, but also of India, as Apollodorus of Artemita says: and more tribes were subdued by them than by Alexander. . . . ”

“The coexistence of Hellenistic traditions might have continued after the Yuezhi-Kushan entered into Daxia. One Tang Dynasty scholar, who also annotated Sima Qian’s History, quoted from the a now-lost text [the Yiwuzhi by the 3rd century scholar, Wan Zhen] as saying:

“The Great Yuezhi is located about seven thousand li north of India. Their land is at a high altitude; the climate is dry; the region is remote. The king of the state calls himself “son of heaven.” There are so many riding horses in that country that the number often reaches several hundred thousand. City layouts and palaces are quite similar to those of Daqin (the Roman empire). The skin of the people there is reddish white. People are skilful at horse archery. Local products, rarities, treasures, clothing, and upholstery are very good, and even India cannot compare with it.”36

It is difficult to verify the sources of this record about the Kushan, since the quoted book appears to be lost.37 The descriptions, however, accord very well with the horse-riding Kushan who ruled a formerly Hellenistic country. The climate and location sound like Bactria; the kings of the Kushan did indeed call themselves devaputra, meaning “son of heaven” or “son of god.” They owned numerous good horses and cultivated nomadic skills and cultures. Yet they ruled a country with a population of Greeks and other immigrants from the Mediterranean, so that the architecture of the country combined Greco-Roman style with local materials and flavor. At least it looked similar to the Roman style in Chinese eyes, and the people looked fairer than Indians and some other Central Asian populations.”

36. Sima Qian, Shiji, 123/3164.

37. The book entitled Nanzhouzhi, literally “the history of the southern states,” authored by Wan Zhen [3rd century CE – see Leslie and Gardiner (1996), p. 333], was available to Zhang Shoujie, the Tang scholar who annotated the History by Sima Qian, as it was listed in the bibliographies of the Tang History with the title of Nanzhou Yiwuzhi, meaning “history of exotic things in the south states.” However, it did not appear in the bibliographies of later official histories. Liu (2001), pp. 278-279.

Liu (2001), p. 278.

The Da Yuezhi overran Bactria and settled there in the late second century BCE. This gave them control of the main, and increasingly busy, overland trade routes between China, India and the West. This not only quickly made them rich and powerful, but their exposure to Persian, Hellenic and Indian cultures helped them become a more sophisticated and effective force. It is thought that before they entered Bactria they were not literate. By the time they invaded northern India in the first century CE they had become capable administrators, traders and scholars.

The ‘Iron Gates’ – the northern border of Daxia

About 107 km northwest of Termez (13 km west of Derbent) the main trade route passed through a formidable, very narrow and easily defended gorge known in antiquity as the “Iron Gates” which has traditionally marked the boundary between Sogdiana and Tokharistan and almost certainly marked the frontier between Kangju and Kushan territory during the period of the Kushan Empire.

“When he spoke of borders, Euthydemus [Graeco-Bactrian monarch, late 3rd century CE] probably meant a dense ridge of mountains consisting of a spur of the southern part of the Hissar chain together with the adjacent Baysuntau and Kughitang Mountains. In this area, near the settlement of Darband, a monumental defensive wall of the Kushan period (1st–2nd centuries A.D.) has been discovered. This wall (Fig. 1) was probably built to block the main entry route into Bactria and also the gateway which in early medieval, especially Chinese texts, is known as the «Iron gates». Further investigation of the wall and of the adjoining fortifications has brought to light fragments of pottery of the Graeco-Bactrian period, a fact which may indicate that the wall was already in use in the preceding period, i.e. in the early Graeco-Bactrian period. It is possible that after Euthydemus’s political successes and the consolidation of his power, he and the later kings of Graeco-Bactria managed to defend this part of the border against the onslaught of the nomads. The most valuable part of the border, the one about which the Graeco-Bactrian kings were worried, was in my opinion the north-western side of the country, the area along the middle reaches of the Amu-darya (the area of modern Gaurdak, Mukry, Kerki and Chardjow), where entry into the centre of Bactria was facilitated by the ford over the river at Kerki and not impeded by impassable mountains. At any rate it is precisely this region that Strabo means when he tells of the Parthians annexing «part of Bactria, driving back the Scythians, and even earlier Eucratides and his successors» (STRAB. XI, 9, 2). In the same passage, listing the principal towns of Bactria, Strabo mentions Eucratidea (Dilberdjin) [identified in Rapin (2001), pp. 217-218 however, as Ay Khanum]. «After seizing this region the Greeks divided it into satrapies; of these, the Parthians took the satrapies of Aspionus and Turiva from Eucratides» (X, 9, 2). When he speaks of Sogdiana, «which is situated above Bactria», the ancient author is referring to the region known to modern scholars as southern Sogdiana (the western and south-western parts of the modern region of Kashka-darya).” Abdullaev (1995). In: ITLOTG, pp, 151-152.

When Xuanzang passed through here in 630 CE he described it as having iron or ironclad gates with numerous small bells suspended on it. Later writers make no mention of actual gates. Clavijo, the Spanish ambassador to the court of Timurlane passed through the Iron Gates in August 1405 CE. He said the ravine looked:

“as if it had been artificially cut, and the hills rise to a great height on either side, and the pass is smooth, and very deep. In the centre of the pass there is a village, and the mountain rises to a great height behind. This pass is called the Gates of Iron, and in all the mountain range there is no other pass, so that it guards the land of Samarkand in the direction of India. These Gates of Iron produce a large revenue to Timūr, for all the merchants who came from India pass this way.” Quoted in Verma (1978), p. 39, [from G. Le Strange, The Lands of the Eastern Caliphate. Cambridge, 1930, pp. 441-2.]

          “The texts in this place [in the Tarikh-i-Rashidi], have Darband-i-Ahanin, or “Iron Gate,” but in all other places Kulugha, the name by which this pass was usually known. It is often mentioned by ancient travellers, but has very rarely been visited in modern times, at any rate up to within the last few years, or before the Russians became possessors of Samarkand and Khokand. The gates, in ancient times, were a reality, for the Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang, who passed the Darband in 630 A.D., describes the defile as “closed by folding gates clamped with iron.” (See Sir H. Yule in Woods Oxus, 1872, p. lxix.) At the time of Chingiz Khan, when Chinese travellers frequently went backward and forwards between China and the conqueror’s camp in various parts of Central Asia, the pass of the Iron Gates is frequently mentioned under the name of Tie-men-Kuan (literally, Iron Gate barrier) ; and one of them, the Taoist monk Cháng Chun, describes his passage through the defile in 1222, with carts and an escort of a hundred Mongol and Muhammadan soldiers : “We crossed the mountains in a south-east direction and found them very high. Masses of rock were lying scattered about. The escort themselves pulled the carts and took two days to pass to the other side of the mountains.” (Chinese Mediæval Travellers to the West, by Dr. E. Bretschneider 1875, pp. 41, 42) The gates themselves seem, thus, to have disappeared by the thirteenth century, and they had certainly done so at the beginning of the fifteenth, when Ruy Gonzalez Clavijo visited the spot, in the course of his embassy (1403-5) from Henry III, of Spain to Amir Timur. He wrote : “These mountains of the Gates of Iron are without woods, and in former times they say that there were great gates covered with iron placed across the pass, so that no one could pass without an order.” (See Embassy of Ruy G. Clavijo to Court of Timur, by C. R. Markham, Hakluyt Series, 1859, p. 122.) From the time of Don Ruy down to 1875, when the Russian Hisar Expedition passed the Darband, no European appears to have seen (or, at any rate, to have described) the defile. Mr. N. A. Mayef, who accompanied the Russian Expedition, described the spot thus : “The famous ravine of the Iron Gate winds through a high mountain chain, about twelve versts to the west of Derbent. It is a narrow cleft, 5 to 35 paces wide and about two versts long. It is known now as Buz-ghala Khána (i.e., the House of Goats). Its eastern termination is 3540 feet above the sea ; its western termination 3740 feet. A torrent, Buz-ghala Khána bulák, flows through it . . .” (Geogr. Magazine, Dec., 1876, p. 328).” Elias (1885), p. 20, n. 3.

After passing through the Gates of Iron one could either head north to Samarkand through Kesh (modern Shahrisabz), or northwest towards Bukhara. From Bukhara one route led southwest via Merv into Parthia – the other avoided Parthian territory by heading northwest along the Syr Darya (or Jaxartes) to the Aral Sea and then continued around to the north of the Caspian before reaching Tanais, the port on the Sea of Azov which gave maritime access via the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.

The derivation of the name ‘Daxia.’

The derivation and significance of the Chinese name for Bactria, Daxia 大夏 [Ta Hsia], is still being contested. I tend to favour a connection with the name ‘Tajik’ (Tibetan ‘Tzag-zig’), as proposed by Charles Allen:

          “The Persian-speaking peoples of the upper Oxus or Amu Daria are known as the Tajiks, a name preserved in the former Soviet republic and now the state of Tajikistan, which borders the northern shores of the Oxus. The name ‘Tajik’ carries a special resonance for followers of Bon because, as Tzag-zig, it is linked inextricably with Olmo-lungring, the homeland of their religion.
          The Tajik country is set amongst the almost impenetrable mountain barriers of the Hindu Kush and the Karakoram but softened by broad, fertile valleys which give access from the west. These valleys form the main migratory and trade routes of the region, a frontier between the settled agricultural peoples of the south and the nomads of the inner Asian steppes. For those seeking to break through the mountains and plunder the fertile Indian plains they provided a natural gateway, which is why they have so often been shaken by the passage of invaders. Between about 500 BCE and 500 CE this Tajik country – known to the Chinese as Ta-hsia and to the Greeks as Bactria and Sogdiana – was ruled over in turn by Achaemenid Persians, Mauryans, Alexander’s Greeks, Parthians, Scythians, Sasanid Persians and Huna – as well as a nomadic people known to the Chinese as the Yuezhi, who came to call themselves the Kushans.” Allen (1999), p. 184.   

Following are accounts of some of the other main theories:

“Haloun (1926), pp. 136, 201-202, has made it clear that the term Ta Hsia originally referred to a mythical or fabulous people, vaguely located in the North (but eventually shifted to the West and even to the South). He states that it was Chang Ch’ien personally who identified the Bactrians with the Ta Hsia, the westernmost people he knew, but that he did not use the words ta and hsia to reproduce their actual name. Haloun rightly stresses this last point, viz. that the pronunciation of this old-established, mythological term need not have been anything like an approximation of the name of the actual country. Henri Maspero completely endorses Haloun’s views in his review of the latter’s work in JA 1927, pp. 144-152.” CICA: 145, n. 387.

“Further to the west the Chinese name for Ferghana, “Dawan,” and that for Bactria, “Daxia,” were also variations of Tuhara.15 Bactria, a name given by the Greeks to northern Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, was known as the “land of the Tuharans” as late as the seventh century C.E., according to the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang.16

15. Yu Taishan. A Study of Saka History, p. 72.

16. Ji Xianlin, Da Tang Xiyuji Jiaozhu (An Edited Edition of the Travelogue of the Western Region by Xuanzang of the Great Tang Dynasty) Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1985, p. 100.

Liu (2001), p. 268.

Taishan Yu also has some interesting comments to make on “Daxia” and its history:

          “In the “Xirongzhuan” 西戎傅 of the Weilue 魏略 it is recorded: “the states of Jibin, Daxia, Gaofu and Tianzhu are all subject to the Da Yuezhi.” “Da Yuezhi” here also refers to the Guishuang Kingdom. If the Guishuang Kingdom was established by the Daxia, the record of the Weilue would be tantamount to saying that the Da Yuezhi were both the conqueror and the conquered.
          In my opinion, “Da Yuezhi” here actually refers to the Guishuang Kingdom. However, “Daxia” here must refer to Tukhārestān. Therefore, the statement that the state of Daxia was subject to the Da Yuezhi only shows that Tukhārestān (the land of the former state of Daxia) was a part of the Guishuang kingdom, namely the Xihou of Guishuang, was established by the Daxia, but it was not equal to the state of Daxia, and that the territory of the Guishuang Kingdom far exceeded the boundary of the former state of Daxia.” Yu (1998), pp. 31-32.

          “Daxia” was a transcription of “Tochari”, but there were some differences between “Daxia” as described in the Shiji, ch. 123 and the Hanshu, ch. 96 and “Daxia”, in the pre-Qin books. The latter was referring to the Tochari. The former had in fact included the Asii, the Gasiani and the Sacarauli. As far as the Tochari, those who had migrated west to the valleys of the Ili and Chu and then to Tukharestan should be different from those who remained in the Hexi region, due to being affected by different surrounding tribes. More accurately, there must have been some differences in language, custom and physical characteristics between them.
          Also, there must have been differences between the Tochari who moved south into the Pamir region from the valleys of the Rivers Ili and Chu and then spread east to the Tarim Basin, and those who entered Tukharestan from the northern bank of the Syr Darya.
          For the same reason, though “Yuezhi” “Guishuang”, and “Jushi” and “Qiuci” all were transcriptions of “Gasiani”, there must have been some differences between those who migrated west in late [sic] of the 7th century B.C. and those who migrated west in c. 177/176 B.C. The former had divided into two groups later. One of them entered Tukharestan, and the other entered the Tarim Basin. There must have been some differences between the two groups. The circumstances of the Asii and the Sacarauli may be explained at the same time.” Yu (1998), p. 35.

“Markwart (1901), p. 206, suggests that the Tochari must have been identical with the Daxia. The Hellenic Kingdom of Bactria was destroyed by the Daxia, and the latter was destroyed by the Yuezhi. I think his theory is correct. . . . ” Yu (1998), pp. 38-39, n. 18.

“. . . .  Tarn suggests that “Asii”, whose adjectival form was “Asiani”, may have been identical with “Kushān”. I disagree. Yu (1998), p. 40, n. 30.

5.14. The kingdom of Gaofu 高附 [Kao-fu] = Kabul. Gaofu is almost universally taken to represent Kabul or, rather, Kabulistan. The Greek form of the name is usually given as Kophen, although Strabo writes it Kophes – the Vedic form was Kubha. See Lèvi (1895), pp. 372-373. This identification as the phonetic resemblance plus the geographic indications make, I believe, a convincing case. Pulleyblank (1963), p. 223, reconstructs the name as *kauĥ-bōh = Kabul, Κάβουρα [Kaboura]. See also, Chavannes (1907), p. 192; CICA, p. 122, n. 296.
          Bailey (1985), p. 10, gives: “Kābul, Καβουρα, Zor. Pahl. K’pwl k’wl *kāpul, kāvulastān, N Pers. Kābul. For more details, see ibid., p. 119.
          Kabul naturally related more to the west and south than to the valley containing Kapisha/Begram which joins the lower Kabul River valley on the way to Jalalabad and Peshawar. The easily-defended and extremely narrow gorge which the Kabul River runs through to the west of the city was always difficult to traverse and often completely flooded.

5.15. The kingdom of Tianzhu 天竺 [T’ien-chu] = Northern India). These names for India: Tianzhu 天竺 [T’ien-chü] – a transcription of the Iranian, ‘Hinduka, – and Juandu身毒 [Chüan-tu] – a transcription of Sanskrit, ‘Sindhu,’ seem to be merely different forms of the same name and are practically interchangeable.

Tian K.361a *t’ien / t’ien; EMC: thɛn
 K.1019f *tô / tuok; EMC: truwk

Juan  K.386a *śi̯ĕn / śi̯ĕn; EMC: ɕin
 K.1016a *d’ôk / d’uok; EMC: dəwk

The name Juandu is sometimes (less correctly) rendered Shendu. They are both ultimately derived (perhaps via Iranian Hinduka) from Sanskrit Síndhu – a river or stream – especially the Indus. A form of this name was used in very early Indian literature to refer to the country around the lower Indus – known today as ‘the Sind’ or ‘the Sindh.’
          Juandu seems to be used here in a more general sense than Tianzhu, which is specifically stated to be beside a ‘great river,’ i.e. the Indus. However, Tianzhu is also frequently used in later times in a much broader sense – sometimes referring to the whole of northern India, including the Ganges valley and sometimes, even, to the whole sub-continent. For a detailed discussion of the derivation of these names see Bailey (1985), pp. 22-24. Also see: Pulleyblank (1963), pp. 108, 117.
          Mukherjee (1988), pp. 297-303) argues quite convincingly that the name Juandu referred only to the region of the lower Indus at the time of Zhang Qian’s report included in the Shiji (completed c. 100 BCE). Later, as Chinese knowledge of the subcontinent expanded, Juandu, and by association, Tianzhu, came to include lands further and further east until, by the time of Kang Dai’s mission to Funan (c. 245-250 CE), Tianzhu referred to the whole of northern India and even included the kingdom of Danmei (Tāmralipti) at the mouth of the Ganges on the Bay of Bengal. By the time of Xuan Zang’s visit in the 7th century it included “roughly the whole of the subcontinent.” See also: CICA, p. 97, note 154 and the discussions in Leslie and Gardiner (1996), pp. 257-258.

          “We next come to T’ien-chu (天竺) and T’ien-tu () said to represent only one name pronounced something like Tendu or Tintok. We are told by one Chinese writer that the name Tien-chu was first applied to India in the Han Ho-Ti period (A.D. 89 to 106) but the authority for the statement is not given. Another account makes Mêng K’an (about A.D. 230) the first to identify T’ien-chu with Shên-tu, but this likewise is unsupported by authority. We are also told that the chu () of T’ien-chu is a short way of writing tu (), a statement which is open to very serious doubt. This word tu occurs in the ancient classical literature, and native students declare that it represents an earlier chu. This is specially noted with reference to the occurrence of tu in a wellknown passage of the “Lun-Yü”. Then as to the first part of the name there seems to have been an old and perhaps dialectical pronunciation of the character as Hien or Hin. This pronunciation is found at present in the dialect of Shao-wu foo in the Province of Fuhkeen in which天竺 is read Hien-tu.
          But what was the sound originally represented by the character now read Chu in the compound T’ien-chu? It seems that no satisfactory and decisive answer can be given at present to this question. We find that in the Han period the character represented several sounds which cannot be said to be very like each other. The upper part chu meaning bamboo is not significant here, we are told, but only phonetic; and the lower part is significant, and refers the word to the category earth. The character might then be read something like du. But this account of the syllable may be doubted, as we learn also that the character was read like tek, an old and still current pronunciation of the word for bamboo. Then this same character was also read as chah, tuh, kat, and kc or gou. . . .
          T’ien-tu, on the other hand was the name of a place in the Eastern Sea mentioned in the “Shan-hai-ching” along with Chao-hsien or Korea. This place was afterwards identified wrongly with the T’ien-chu of writers on India and Buddhism. But we find mention also of another T’ien-tu (written in the same way), a small country to the west of China, which has been supposed by some to be the Shên-tu of Chang Ch’ien.
          Whatever the name T’ien-chu may have signified originally, however, it came to be given by the Chinese in their literature to the great extent of territory between the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, and reaching from the Kapis country in the north to Ceylon in the south. Thus used it supplanted the old Shên-tu, and all other names for India among the Chinese; and it continued to be the general literary designation for that country down to the T’ang period when the new name Yin-tu was brought into fashion. We even find the term T’ien-chu used with a wider application, and it is employed as a synonym for “Buddhist countries”, for example, in a title given to the “Fo-kuo-chi” of Fa-hsien.” Watters (1904-05), I, pp. 135-137.

5.16. The kingdom of the Da Yuezhi 大月氏 [Ta Yüeh-chih] = the Kushans. There is a translation of this whole passage, plus others on the Kushans, in the useful and interesting article by Zürcher (1968), pp. 346-390. See also: Enoki (1968), pp. 1-13.
          Theories abound regarding the possible connections of this name, Yuezhi. Translated literally, it means something like “The Moon People.” This explanation seems to lead us nowhere, although among the many gods represented on the coins of Kanishka and his successors was Mao, the Iranian moon goddess, partner of Miiro / Mihr, the sun god. The moon goddess is also found represented by the name of the Greek goddess, Salene or Selene.
          Of more interest, perhaps, are the theories connecting the Chinese name (Da) Yuezhi with one or the other tribes or peoples mentioned by Classical and Indian writers as invading first the Bactrian region and, later, India itself.
          The first theory, developed by W. B. Henning in his 1965 paper, “The first Indo-Europeans in history,” is discussed at some length in Mallory and Mair (2000), pp. 281-282. They explore Henning’s suggestion that the ancient pronunciation of ‘Yuezhi” could be approximately reconstructed as *Gu(t)-t’i and related it to the ‘Guti’ people who began harassing the western borders of Babylon from c. 2100 BCE.
          According to Assar (2003), the Parthian king Mithradates II mounted a major campaign into the “Gutian country” circa 120 BCE and there is a reference to actions by Parthia involving the Guti as late as circa 77 BCE.
          Apparently, Henning believed that Guti in the ‘Kuchean-Agnean’ or ‘KA’ language “would have been rendered Kuči, and hence be equivalent to Kuchean. As for the toχri mentioned in the Uighur colophon, Henning believed one need look no further than the name of the Tukriš who had been neighbours of the Guti in western Persia and hence had given their name both to the toχri of the northern Tarim and the Tocharians of Bactria.”
          Unfortunately, for this theory, Mallory and Mair find his supposed support on the basis of similar ceramics unconvincing but, “Of greater detriment to such a theory is that Henning accepted a reconstructed Chinese pronunciation of Yuezhi as *Gu(t)-t’i, when, in fact, it is commonly reconstructed now as *ngi̯ wāt-ti̯ĕg – which makes it a far less transparent correspondence.”

A far more convincing argument is made in the detailed essay on the name ‘Gara’ in Bailey (1985), pp. 110-141 and his ‘Epilogus’ on p. 142. I will have to summarize the development of his position by quoting brief excerpts from his text:

“In Khotan-Saka script this name is written gara, inflected as an -a- stem, plural gara, gen. plural –garām̲, loc. plural garvā, garrvā, and allative (‘towards’) garvās̲t̲ä. . . .
          Below, reasons are given for equating the Khotan-Saka gara- with the γαρα of Greek Θογαρα, and Tibetan -gar in to-gar. The -a- is always an essential part of the name, and was emphasized by the long -ā- in Bud. Skt. tukhāra, N Persian tuxāristān and Khotan-Saka ttahvāra. . . .  
The development of g, γ, χ (stop, fricative, unvoiced fricative) is important. Tibetan had -gar, -ggar in tho-gar and thog-gar, but also bh̲o-gar for Bukhāra, and could put -d-k, -dk- in place of -g-.
          The replacement of voiced γ by unvoiced χ is fairly common in various languages. . . .
          The forms of the name Gara involve many complex differences. In the ninth- to tenth-century Khotan-Saka texts, when the Turks of various tribes are reported in the Chinese cities of S̲acū and Kamcū (Θροανα and Θογaρα) in good orthography, the people of Gara are cited: KT 2.113.102 mājā gara ‘our Gara (allies)’. . . .
          The Chinese records report a people whom they named with the syllable
(with added suffix or, with the same pronunciation according to an old gloss, ) one of whose centres was the very Čaʼn-ie, the centre also of (θο-)γαρα, Tibetan hgar and, as proposed above, of the Khotan-Saka gara- in the region of Kamcū (Θογαρα). . . .
, if it can in any way be found to indicate such a syllable as this gara-, will easily express the same ethnic name in the very place of its base. This can in fact be shown. . . .
the Tibetans spelt hgvyar, hgyar, hgvar in which the laryngeal h- could also indicate a nasal sound, as in Ga-hǰag for Kančaka-, the name of Kāšγar. . . .
          The importance of the unaccepted transcriptions of
by G. Haloun (sgu), K. Enoki (sguǰa), and Ed. Pulleyblank’s (i̭at-), lies in their recognition that the name began with and that consequently the t’ai, ta ‘great’ placed before was an adjective epithet. When later two divisions of these people were known, besides the ta ‘great’ they employed also ‘small, little’ for the group remaining beside them in the Nan-şan and in the Köke-nagur (Kokonor) region.
          The Chinese quoted this name adding to
( = γar) a syllable K 1212 t̲s̲ï < tśie̯ (from t’a), G 864 a t̑i̯ě, and K 879 s̲ï < tśie̯, G 864 a t̑i̯ĕg. The syllable is then a foreign -čik, -jik to be read -čik, with either -i- or -ī-.
          To an Iranist the -čik is the commonest of suffixes to form ethnic names. Three forms are known. . . .
          The base tau-: tu- ‘to increase in size, strength or number’ is very widely attested in Indo-European. . . .
          For the present problem of the gara- it is important to recognise Iranian tu- ‘great’. . . .
          In the θο- of θογara (second century A.D.) and το- of τόχαροι of 300 years earlier (second century B.C.) is transmitted and Iranian tu- ‘great’ (from earlier tuυi-, as in Old Ind. tuυi-). Note that Old Iranian did not have the graphic means to distinguish ŭ from ǒ, so that foreigners recorded Iranian u as either u or ǒ. With u and o distinct, Greek τόχαροι, Armenian toxara-stan, touuxrstan, touxari-k’ (ou = u), Bud. Skt. tukhara-, Old Ind. tokşāra-, Kuči-Skt tokharika, Arabic script tuxāristān. . . . ” Bailey (1985), pp. 110-115 + 118-119, 123. For those with a special interest in the issue, I recommend a thorough study of his original essay.


Following from this, it is likely the ‘Kara’ mentioned of some of Kujula’s coins denotes that he belongs to the Gara people = the Yuezhi.
          There is also a possibility worth considering that the name Yuezhi is related to that of the Άσιοι or Asiani mentioned in Classical sources along with the Tochari as one of the tribes who invaded ancient Bactria:

          “Pelliot cited this example apropos of the famous and controversial name Yüeh-chih 月氏 M. ŋi̯wαt-ci̯e, pointing out that the initial ŋ- was unlikely to have represented a foreign g-, as has been generally assumed, before the mid-T’ang period. Pelliot did not himself make any proposal as to the true equivalent of the name but his argument greatly strengthens the case for one of the many proposals that have been made, namely that of the ’Ιάτιοι found on the north side of the upper Yaxartes in Ptolemy. The initial of the second syllable would have been still unpalatalized *t- ath the beginning of the Han dynasty when the Yüeh-chih first appear. The labial element in the Chinese transcription remains unexplained. The true initial may have been the yw- found in some Tocharian words (= I.P. ´?) which could not have been exactly represented in any other way in Greek. The question as to whether the ’Ιάτιοι are the same as the Άσιοι or Asiani, as has often been stated, must be left aside for the moment. The equation seems highly probable on historical grounds.” Pulleyblank (1963), pp. 93-94. For a discussion of the occasional later replacement of the second character in Yuezhi (zhi: rad. 83) by other characters (zhi: rad. 65; zhi: radical 75-4), see ibid. pp. 106-107.  

Other proposals and quotes of interest on this subject follow:

“As we have just mentioned, the people who emerge as Tocharians in Western sources are often equated with a branch of the Yuezhi of Chinese sources who were driven first from the Gansu borderlands by the Xiongnu, then further west by the Wusun, arriving at the Oxus, and going on to conquer Bactria and establish the Kushan empire. Narain argues that once one accepts the equation Tocharian = Yuezhi, then one is forced to follow both the Chinese historical sources (which for him would propel the Yuezhi back to at least the 7th century BC) and the geographical reference of their first cited historical location (Gansu) to the conclusion that they had lived there ‘from times immemorial’. Narain infers that they had been there at least since the Qijia culture of c. 2000 BC and probably even earlier in the Yangshao culture of the Neolithic. This would render the Tocharians as virtually native to Gansu (and earlier than the putative spread of the Neolithic to Xinjiang) and Narain goes so far as to argue that the Indo-Europeans themselves originally dispersed from this area westwards. Seldom has a tail so small wagged a dog so large.” Mallory and Mair (2000), p. 281.

“By the third century B.C.E., when the Xiongnu became a real threat to the border of the Chinese empire, the Yuezhi were better known as suppliers of horses.” Liu (2001), p. 272.

“In the Sanguozhi 三國志, ch. 3, it is recorded that on the date of Guimao 癸卯 of the 12th month, in the third year of Taihe 太和 (i.e., A.D. 229), “The king of the Da Yuezhi, Bodiao 波調 (Vāsudeva), sent his envoy to present tribute and His Majesty granted him a title of “King of the Da Yuezhi Intimate with Wei .” If the Guishuang Kingdom was established by the Daxia, it would not have accepted this title.
            In my opinion, the so-called Da Yuezhi actually [by this time] included the Asii, the Tochari, the Gasiani and other tribes. The Xihou of Guishuang may have been the Gasiani, because “Guishuang” can be a transcription of “Gasiani”. As mentioned above, the Gasiani and the Yuezhi had the same origin, thus “Guishuang” and “Yuezhi” were objectively different transcriptions of one and the same name. Therefore, there was no difference between “the king of the Da Yuezhi” and “the king of the Great Guishuang”. Why should Podiao not have gone ahead to accept?” Yu (1998), p. 31.

“The Yuezhi resided on the border of agricultural China even earlier that the Xiongnu. While the Xiongnu were famous in history because of their conflicts with Chinese empires, the Yuezhi were better known to the Chinese for their role in long-distance trade. Ancient economist Guan Zhong (645 B.C.E.) referred to the Yuezhi, or Niuzhi, as a people who supplied jade to the Chinese. It is well known that ancient Chinese rulers had a strong attachment to jade. All of the jade items excavated from the tomb of Fuhao of the Shang dynasty [a royal consort of the early 12th century BCE], more than 750 pieces, were from Khotan in modern Xinjiang. As early as the mid-first millennium B.C.E. the Yuezhi engaged in the jade trade, of which the major consumers were rulers of agricultural China.” Liu (2001), p. 265.

Section 6 – The Kingdom of Linni (Lumbini)

6.1. Linni (Lumbini). Lin-ni 臨兒.

– K669e *bli̭əm / pi̭əm; EMC lim

– K873a *ńi̭ĕg / ńźie̯; ni/ er; EMC ŋgj

The characterni, is also pronounced er, and this is how Chavannes transcribed it in his translation. Chavannes (1905), p. 539, n. 2, and others have noted, it is clearly meant to be a transcription of the name of Lumbini, the garden in which the Buddha was born and, therefore, should be read ni not er.

The famous Chinese Buddhist monk, Faxian, in c. 405 CE , visited Lumbinī which he transcribed as 論民 – Lunmin. 

– K470b *li̯wən / li̯uĕn; EMC lwənh

– K457a  *mi̯ən / mi̯ĕn; EMC mjin.

          “Lumbinī is Rumminideī in the Nepalese Terai, 2 miles to the north of Bhagavanpur and about a mile to the north of Paderia” Law (1932), p. 45.

          “It was not till the nineties of the last century [i.e. the 19th century] that Lumbinī came to light once again. In the forest the wood-cutters were plying their axes as usual, felling timber-tress. Through an opening in the trees, something strange and man-made showed itself, – a yellowish pillar of sandstone cleft down to the middle by a stroke of lightening and the top of it shattered and largely embedded in the accumulated debris. Below the crack made by the lightening, the ruined pillar showed some strange unintelligible inscriptions.
          The existence of the inscribed pillar had been known to the foresters of the Terai for some years before it attracted in 1894 the attention of an official archaeologist Dr. Führer, – just 2,175 years after Emperor Asoka had set it up. On 1st December, 1895, it was identified as Asoka’s monolith, and the ‘river of oil’, Hsüan-tsang had heard of centuries before, it trickled down still within sight. Hill-men still called it by the same ancient name, Tilaur, the ‘river of Til (oilseed)’. Buried in a thicket and perched on a mound was also a small brick-built shrine to a goddess unknown to Hindu or Buddhist mythology. The shrine had been kept up by local hill-men since forgotten antiquity.
          The inscription below the crack in the pillar was deciphered and edited by Dr. Bühler in 1898. It is in five lines containing three sentences only : 

(a) when king Devānampiya Piyadasi had been anointed twenty years, he came himself and worshipped (this spot), because the Buddha Sākymuni was born here.

(b) (He) both caused to be made a stone bearing a horse (?) and caused a stone pillar to be set up (in order to show) that the Blessed One (Bhagava) was born here.

(c) (He made the village of Lumminī [in later readings – Lumbinī] free of taxes, and paying (only) an eighth share (of the produce).

          The language of the inscription was an eastern dialect, possibly the court language of Pāaliputra in Asoka’s time, of which the principal peculiarity was the tendency to convert ‘r’ into ‘l’. Thus in the inscription the ‘Rājina’ (by the king) is modified as ‘Lājina’, and this phonological peculiarity was particularly helpful in equiparating the name, Rummin, by which the hill-men called the find-place of the pillar, with the Lumbinī of the legends.
          The ‘goddess of Rummin’ also was identified through the discovery near the shrine of a much defaced relief in stone showing the Buddha’s nativity as given in the legends, – Queen Māyā holding the branch of a tree and the divine child, just delivered, standing by her side. The nativity panel was of yellowish sandstone like the Asokan pillar, though its age and original emplacement are unknown, the likelihood being that it belonged to the original shrine.” Dutt (1955), pp. 21-22. Another (later) translation of the inscription on the pillar is given in Thapur (1961), p. 261:

Rummindei Pillar Inscription

“The beloved of the Gods, the king Piyadassi, when he had been consecrated twenty years, came in person and reverenced the place where Buddha Śakyamuni was born. He caused a stone enclosure to be made and a stone pillar to be erected. As the Lord was born here in the village of Lumbinī, he exempted it from tax, and fixed its contribution [i.e. of grain] at one-eighth.”

6.2. Futu 浮屠 [Fu-t’u] = the Buddha. An early and common transcription of the Buddha’s name into Chinese. See, for example, GR Vol. II. p. 709, No. 3615.

6.3. The body of the Buddha was endowed with a yellow colour. His hair was blue like blue silk. His breast was blue, his body-hair red like copper.

“The “golden colour” (suvara-vara) of the Buddha is one of his 32 characteristics (lakana).” Zürcher (1972), p. 383, n. 168.

Regarding the blue breast and hair of the Buddha; blue represented ‘refined’ and ‘true’ – see Zürcher (1972), pp. 178 and 384, n. 181. It was commonly used in illustrations of Buddha (and other holy personages):

“In early Buddhist texts liu-li also denoted blue or green precious stone, primarily lapis lazuli. The Buddhist literature which was translated into Chinese in the fourth and early fifth centuries describes the enlightened Buddha showing his hair, as beautiful as liu-li, to his father; devotees who did not hurt others would be born with hair the colour of liu-li. From the earliest times up to now Buddhist artists always paint the hair of the Buddha, Bodhisattvas and even other heavenly beings, sky-blue. . . .  At least in the Buddhist context of the early centuries AD, vaidūrya in Sanskrit and liu-li in Chinese meant lapis lazuli. Probably because the liu-li sold to the Chinese included not only lapis lazuli and similar precious stones but also blue or green glass, the Chinese gradually, certainly by the fifth century, found out that certain kinds of liu-li could be made by melting different kinds of stones together (WS: CII, 2275).” Liu (1988), p. 59.

6.4. At first I assumed that the statement that the Buddha was born from the left side of his mother was a simple mistake as he is usually always represented as having emerged from the right side of his mother, if not from her womb itself. This apparent mistake was noticed by Chavannes (1905), p. 545, n. 2, and p. 540, line 5 of the note.
          However, there may be some basis for it in Chinese literature. There is a Taoist tradition dating back at least as far as the 4th century CE that Laozi [Lao-tzu] was born from his mother’s left arm-pit. See the discussion in Zürcher (1972), p. 433, n. 70, where he explains: “The change from left to right is understandable: in general, left is the direction which corresponds with the male principle (yang) (cf. M. Granet, Pensée chinoise, p, 369).”

6.5. The “topknot” or ushnisha is commonly represented on Buddha images and signifies the additional wisdom and knowledge a Buddha possesses.

“The representations of the Buddha must always have either the chignon or the protuberance on the skull which is presumably the seat of the manas, or divine mind (soul) of the Buddha.” Getty (1928), p. 18.

For more details on the Buddha’s ushnisha see: Banerjea (1931); and Chandra (1934).

6.6. “As soon as he touched ground, he was able to take seven steps.” This is a condensed version of the popular accounts of the birth of the Buddha as recounted in many early Indian Buddhist texts such as the Mahāvastu (c. end of 2nd century BCE), Nidānakathā and Lalitavistara, and the celebrated Buddhacarita or The Acts of the Buddha by Ashvaghosha, who wrote in the first or early second century CE.

           “There lived once upon a time a king of the Shakyas, a scion of the solar race, whose name was Shuddhodana. He was pure in conduct, and beloved of the Shakyas like the autumn moon. He had a wife, splendid, beautiful, and steadfast, who was called the Great Maya, from her resemblance to Maya the Goddess. These two tasted of love’s delights, and one day she conceived the fruit of her womb, but without any defilement, in the same way in which knowledge joined to trance bears fruit. Just before her conception she had a dream. A white king elephant seemed to enter her body, but without causing her any pain. So Maya, queen of that god-like king, bore in her womb the glory of her dynasty. But she remained free from the fatigues, depressions, and fancies which usually accompany pregnancies. Pure herself, she longed to withdraw into the pure forest, in the loneliness of which she could practise trance. She set her heart on going to Lumbini, a delightful grove, with trees of every kind, like the grove of Citraratha in Indra’s Paradise. She asked the king to accompany her, and so they left the city, and went to that glorious grove.
          When the queen noticed that the time of her delivery was approaching, she went to a couch overspread with an awning, thousands of waiting-women looking on with joy in their hearts. The propitious constellation of Pushya shone brightly when a son was born to the queen, for the weal of the world. He came out of his mother’s side, without causing her pain of injury. His birth was as miraculous as that of Aurva, Prithu, Mandhatri, and Kakshivat, heroes of old who were born respectively from the thigh, from the hand, the head or the armpit. So he issued from the womb as befits a Buddha. He did not enter the world in the usual manner, and he appeared like one descended from the sky. And since he had for many aeons been engaged in the practice of meditation, he now was born in full awareness, and not thoughtless and bewildered as other people are. When born, he was so lustrous and steadfast that it appeared as if the young sun had come down to earth. And yet, when people gazed at his dazzling brilliance, he held their eyes like the moon. His limbs shone with the radiant hue of precious gold, and lit up the space all around. Instantly he walked seven steps, firmly and with long strides. In that he was like the constellation of the Seven Seers. With the bearing of a lion he surveyed the four quarters, and spoke these words full of meaning for the future: ‘For enlightenment I was born, for the good of all that lives. This is the last time that I have been born into this world of becoming’.” From: Conze (1959), pp. 35-36. For another translation of the same text see: Johnston (1936), Part II, pp. 1-4.

6.7. Shalu 沙律 [Sha-lü] = Sāriputra.

“Mr. SYLVAIN LÉVI (Journal As. Jan.-Feb. 1897, p. 16, n., and May-June 1900, p. 461–462), has shown that the characters Shalu could be a vernacular transcription of the name of Sāriputra.” Translated from Chavannes (1905), p. 546, n. 2.

“According to Ch’en Tzu-liang 陳子良, as quoted in Fa-lin’s 法琳 Pien-cheng-lun 辨正論 (Treatise on the Discernment of the Right), Sha-lü was aged and white-haired, constantly instructing men to construct Buddha (stūpas) 沙律年老髮白, 常敎人浮圖. Sha-lü appears to be Śāriputra, one of the Buddha’s most renowned disciples. While the Lao-tzu hua-hu-ching 老子化經 (the Scripture of Lao-tzu’s Conversion of the Barbarians) is said to be the work of Taoist practitioner Wang Fu 王符, composed during the reign of Emperor Ch’eng of the Eastern Chin 東晉成帝, its origins can be detected as early as in Hsiang K’ai’s 襄楷 memorial; in sum it is a work of considerable age.” Wada (1978), p. 34, n. 8.

Note the phonetically almost identical to the first part of the Tibetan name, Sharu, in the following quote:

“S’ÂRIPUTRA or S’arisuta or S’aradvatiputra (Pali. Sariputta. Singh. Seriyut. Burm. Thariputra. Tib. Sharu by or Saradwatu by or Nid rghial). . . .  One of the principal disciples of S’âkyamuni, whose “right hand attendant” he was; born at Nalandagrama, the son of Tichya (v. Upatichya) and S’ârika, he became famous for his wisdom and learning, composed 2 works on the Abhidharma, died before his master, but is to re-appear as Buddha Padmaprabha in Viradja during the Maharatna pratimandita kalpa.” Eitel (1888), pp. 148-149.

The Singhalese name, Seriyut, is almost identical to the hypothesized Prakrit form, *Sariyut, proposed by Zürcher:

“S. Lévi (in J. As. 1897, p. 16 and 1900, p. 461-462) has demonstrated that this sha-lü沙律 (Arch. *sa.bli̯wət > Anc. *sa.bli̯wĕt) must be a very archaic rendering of the name Sāriputra or of a corresponding Prākrit form *Sariyut.” Zürcher (1972), p. 428, n. 23.

Apparently, the Yellow Turban rebels who led a rebellion from 184 to c. 204 CE under the leadership of a Daoist faith healer named Zhang Jue [Chang Chüeh], claimed that Shalu or Sāriputra, the Buddha’s elder disciple, was actually Laozi. For a detailed discussion of this story and Chavannes’ rather convoluted attempts to explain it, see Zürcher (1972), pp. 391-392 (5); 428, n. 25. 

6.8. boshidizu [po-shih ti-tzu].

HAN: lit., disciple of the Erudites (po-shih), first appointed in 124 B.C.: National University Student, a promising man admitted to the National University (t’ai-hsüeh) at the dynastic capital on the basis of a recommendation by a territorial administrator; pursued studies of classical texts for one year; if successful in examinations given then, became a qualified member of the official class and might join the pool of expectant appointees to office called Court Gentlemen (lang) at the capital or might seek an appointment on the staff of a District Magistrate (hsien-ling) or a higher territorial administrator. Comparable to chien-sheng of the late imperial dynasties. Commonly abbreviated to ti-tzu. . . . ” Hucker (1985), p. 390, No. 4753.

6.9. Yicun 伊存 [Yi-ts’un], the envoy of the king of the Da Yuezhi (Kushans).

“If we accept the [Weilue’s] text as it stands, this doubtless means that Ching Lu obtained this instruction in China, most probably at the capital, from a Yüeh-chih who had come to China as an envoy.” Zürcher (1972), p. 24.

This interesting passage has appeared in a number of later Chinese texts in a bewildering variety of forms which are frequently contradictory. This has caused much discussion among scholars; see, for example, the discussions in Chavannes (1905), p. 547, n. 1, and Zürcher, (1972), pp. 24-26.
          I personally feel that there is nothing improbable in having a Da Yuezhi envoy instruct a Chinese scholar in Buddhist teachings in 2 BCE. The Da Yuezhi by then had been in control of the trade routes through Bactria for well over a century and would have been in close contact with Indian thought and philosophies throughout this period.
          As the account in the Weilue predates the others by a couple of centuries, and contains nothing that would seem implausible, it deserves serious consideration. However, Zürcher, (1972), p. 25, says:

“. . . but if this tradition after more than two centuries of silence turns up in some seven versions which are partly unintelligible and in which neither the name of the Chinese scholar nor the function of the Yüeh-chih nor the place of action appears to be fixed, we are no longer allowed to use it as reliable material for historical research.”

Zürcher (1972), pp. 24-25 translates the term koushou 口授 [k’ou-shou] in this sentence as ‘oral instruction’ or ‘orally to instruct,’ but on page 31 he gives a fuller picture of its meaning:

“The master either had a manuscript of the original text at his disposal or he recited it from memory. If he had enough knowledge of Chinese (which was seldom the case) he gave an oral translation (k’ou-shou 口授), otherwise the preliminary translation was made, “transmitted”, by a bilingual intermediary (ch’uan-i 傳譯). Chinese assistants – monks as well as laymen – noted down the translation (pi-shou 筆受), after which the text was subjected to a final revision. . . . ”

6.10. “… Buddhist sūtras which say this man (the Buddha) is the one who is ‘reincarnated’ – 復立 fuli.” The meaning of the term fuli here is unclear. Literally, it means something like ‘the reappeared.’
          Zürcher (1972), p. 429, translates it as “the reinstated.” Rather, it could be an early attempt to represent the Buddhist concept of ‘reincarnation’ in Chinese and that it refers here to the Buddha. The word
fu was used in descriptions of the “calling back the soul” ritual and, although it was not used in the combination fuli, it adds weight to my hypothesis that fuli was probably an early attempt to represent the foreign Buddhist concept of reincarnation in Chinese.

“The Northern equivalent to the ritual of “Calling back the soul” would be the fu “return-ritual” mentioned repeatedly in the three classics on rites. In the Liyun chapter, the ritual is connected with the beginning of ritual practices (compare Ruan Yuan, Shisanjing zhushu, (Zhonghua shuju 2. vol version), p.1415. Here only po is mentioned, zhi qi “knowing/aware? Qi” (de Groot “sentient afflatus”) seems to be used instead of hun. In the following text hun is mentioned too, but the connection between the ritual and hun and po are not clear. A more detailed description of the performance of fu is contained in sangdaji, SSJZS, p.1572. Unfortunately no mention of hun and po here. Even more details in Yili, SSJZS, p.1128. The locus classicus for hun and po is the discussion between Zhao Yingzi and Zi Chan regarding the return of the soul of Bo You contained in the Zuozhuan, Zhao 7, SSJZS, p.2050.

          Unfortunately no mention of the ritual here. This is where the story almost ends. In the preparation of my master thesis on the “Zhaohun” I came across more references to hun and po in WS texts, but to my knowledge the fu ritual is only mentioned in Zhouli, Yili and Liji. Yet the details mentioned suggest a clear awareness of the ritual practice on the side of the authors.
          Hope this information is of some help.” Michael Schimmelpfennig (University of Erlangen-Nuremberg). Posted on on April 24, 2003.

“I am glad my comment was of some use to you. Let me add one remark. In the Shuowen jiezi under the entry of yun grass or Rue (Matthews’, 7749) Xu Shen adds a quotation from Liu An saying that Rue grass can bring the dead back (fu) to life. When I came across the remark, I surmised that it could indicate that the Han lacked the concept of unconsciousness which is sort of supported by the fact that the Chinese language lacks genuine expressions for the loss of consciousness. But here, Don Harper may know more. At the same time fu is the central expression in and designation of the “Northern” Calling back the Soul ritual, if such a procedure was ever practiced.” (A reply from Michael Schimmelpfennig on 21 August, 2003 kindly giving me permission to use the information).

“The following custom exists in China: When someone has just died, a fine new garment, for example, is shown to the soul from the housetop and it is implored to return to the body. This ritual is abundantly attested in the classical texts80 and has continued to our day;81 it even supplied Sung Yü with the subject of a long poem entitled, precisely, “Calling Back the Soul.” Sickness, too, often involved the flight of the soul, and then the sorcerer pursues it in ecstasy, captures it, and replaces it in the patient’s body.83

80 Cf. S. Couvreur, tr. Li Ki; ou, Mémoires sur les bienséances et les cérémonies ( 2nd edn. ), I, 85, 181, 199 ff.; II, 11, 125, 204, etc.; J. J. M. de Groot, The Religious System of China, I, 245 ff. On Chinese conceptions of the life after death, cf. E. Erkes: “Die alt-chinesischen Jenseitsvorstellungen”; “The God of Death in Ancient China.”

81 Cf., for example, Theo Körner, “Das Zurückrufen der Seele in Kuei-chou.”

82 Erkes, Das “Zurückrufen der Seele” (Chao-Hun) des Sung Yüh. Cf. also Maspero, Les Religions chinoises, pp. 50 ff.

83 This type of cure is still practiced today; cf. Groot, VI, 1284, 1319, etc. The sorcerer has the power to call back and replace even the soul of a dead animal; cf. ibid., p. 1214 (the resurrection of a horse). The Thai sorcerer sends some of his souls to search for the strayed soul of the patient, and he does not fail to warn his souls to take the right road when they come back to this world. Cf. Maspero, p. 218.

Eliade (1964), pp. 447-448 and nn.

Chavannes (1905), p. 547 and n. 2 translated the term as “the reappeared” and believed it referred to the Taoist story of Lao Tzu travelling to the West and being reincarnated in India as the Buddha. This hypothesis seems unnecessary and unconvincing in light of the above discussion.
          Wada (1978), p. 33, gives fudu
復豆 as an alternative to fuli 復立 and seems to treat it as another attempt to transcribe Buddha into Chinese. First, of all, I am unable to determine where he found 復豆, or on what grounds he proposes to replace fuli 復立, with 復豆.
          Additionally, the Buddha’s name is clearly transcribed as Futu, a regular transcription of the name, at the beginning of this same passage and I find it hard to believe that the author would have used a completely different transcription, which is otherwise unknown, in the same chapter for the Buddha.

6.11. linpusai 臨蒲塞 [lin-p’u-sai] = Sanskrit upasâka – a male lay disciple. “UPÂSAKA (Singh. Upasika. Tib. Dge snem. Ming. [sic] Ubaschi)… lit. male devotees. Lay-members of the Buddhist church who, without entering upon monastic life, vow to keep the principal commandments. If females, they are called Upâsikâ (Sing. Upasikawa. Tib. Dge snen ma. Mang. [sic] Ubaschanza).” Eitel (1885), p. 187.
          See also: Chavannes (1905), p. 550 and n. 1; Zürcher (1972), p. 27. The first character, lin
, in linpusai is probably, as Sprecht first pointed out, and Chavannes explains in the note, a mistake for yipusai 伊蒲塞 [i-p’u-sai], or youpose 優婆塞 [yu p’o sai], the initial characters of which are all quite similar and are attempts to phonetically transcribe Sanskrit upâsaka – a faithful lay Buddhist).
           The form yipusai is first found in Hou Hanshu zhuan 72, referring to the gift of food in 65
CE toyipusai 伊蒲塞 [i-p’u-sai] and sangmen 桑門 [sang-men] (phonetic transcription of Sanskrit śramaa or monk) by Ying, the king of (the dependent kingdom of) Chou.

“Let the cloth be returned, therewith to supplement the feasts of the i-p’u-sai 伊蒲塞 and sang-men 桑門. I-p’u-sai is the same as yu-p’o-sai 優婆塞 (upāsaka), translated into Chinese as chin-chu 近住 (dwelling close by). It means that, undertaking ascetic behaviour, he is allowed to approach the dwellings of the Sagha. Sang-men [桑門] is the same as sha-men 沙門 (śramaa). The decree was distributed and displayed throughout the realm.” Quoted from Wada (1978), pp. 32-33.

As Chavannes notes, this text proves that the Buddhist church in China was well enough established at this early date to have both monks and lay disciples.

6.12. sangmen 桑門 (śramaa – monks, ascetics).

“(Pali. Saman. Burm. Phungee. Tib. Dges by ong). . . .  Ascetics of all denominations, the Sarmanai or Samanaioi or Germanai of the Greeks. (2.) Buddhist monks and priests “who have left their families and quitted the passions.” Eitel (1888), p. 157. See also the previous note, 6.11.

6.13. bowen 伯聞 [po-wen].

“This term and the two following are very obscure. SYLVAIN LÉVI (J. A., May-June 1900, p. 463) has proposed to see them as translations of the word “śrāvakas” (the hearer) – The Dongdiangives the reading: 伯開 [bokai], 疏間 [shujian], 白間 [baijian]; the Taipinghuanyuji writes: 伯聞 [bowen], 疏閒 [shuxian], 白閒 [baixian]. Meanwhile, although the Shanghai edition (1888) of the Sanguozhi, presents for the last of these three terms, the reading 白疏聞 [baishuwen], I find in the Baorentang, the reading 白疏間 [baishujian].” Translated from Chavannes (1905), p. 550, n. 2.

6.14. shuwen 疏聞 [shu-wen] = śrāvaka – literally, ‘a hearer’, a follower of the Hīnayāna. It seems probable that shu(su)-wen 疏聞, like the better-known form, sheng-wen 聲聞, was meant to represent Sanskrit śrāvaka, lit. ‘voice-hearer’, later used for followers of the Hīnayāna. From DEABT:

聲聞 [py] shēngwèn [wg] sheng-wen [ko] sŏngmun [ja] ショウモン shōmon ||| śrāvaka. ‘voice-hearer’; originally, a disciple of the Buddha (who heard his voice); later, a follower of Hīnayāna. . . . ” DEALT. See also GR, Vol. V, No. 9701, p. 268

“(Pali. Savako. Sing. Srawaka. Tib. Nan thos. Mong. Scharwak). . . .  (1.) All personal disciples of Śàkyamuni, the foremost of whom are called Mahâśrâvakas. (2.) The elementary degree of saintship, the first of the Triyâna, the śrāvaka (superficial yet in practice and understanding) being compared with a hare crossing Sañsara by swimming on the surface.” Eitel (1888), p. 157.

6.15. baishuwen 白疏閒 [pai-shu-wen] – literally: ‘White (or ‘pure’) śrāvaka’.

6.16. biqiu 比丘 [pi-ch’iu] – a regular transcription of the Sanskrit bhiksu – a mendicant monk. (Pâli. Bhikkhu. Singh. Bhikchu. Tib. Dgeslong. Mong. Gelong). Eitel (1888), p. 31.

6.17. chenmen 晨門 [ch’en-men]. According to GR No. 637, chen-men was an ancient term meaning, ‘guardian of the door.’ It is equivalent to the Sanskrit Dvārapāla – ‘Keeper of the Gate.’

          “It appears from the legends that a functionary whose designation was ‘Guardian of the Gate’ acted at both Nālandā and at Vikramaśilā. The gate-keeper of Nālandā, evidently a learned monk of high status, is designated as ‘men-che’ [門者 = ‘doorkeeper’ – Pinyin: menzhe] and of Vikramaśilā as ‘go-srun’ in the Tibetan. The Chinese and the Tibetan expressions are synonymous. Nālandā had one gate, while Vikramaśilā had six, each ‘kept’ by a Go-srun, equivalent to Sanskrit Dvāra-pāla (Keeper of the Gate).
            The function at Nālandā is reported in the Chinese records to have been to judge the qualifications of persons intending to join one of its ‘schools of discussion’. Whether the Vikramaśilā ‘gate-keeper’ exercised the same function is not known, but those named in the Tibetan legends as incumbents of the office of Go-srun or Dvāra-pāla were all scholars of high eminence and celebrity, holding the office on royal commission.” Dutt (1962), pp. 360-361.

          “We have referred already to another important officer – the ‘Door-keeper’ who used to hold the ‘screening examination’ of candidates seeking admission to one of the ‘schools’ of Nālandā.” Ibid., p, 338. See also ibid., p. 351.

6.18. Fotu suosaiyu zhongguo Laozijing xiangchru 佛屠所載與中國老子經相出入 . For an alternate translation of this rather difficult paragraph see Zürcher (1972), p. 291 (4) and for a discussion of its possible meanings and Daoist influences, see p. 428, n. 19.
          This passage has been the subject of lengthy discussion by a number of eminent scholars including Sylvain Lévi, Paul Pelliot, and E. Zürcher. All these discussions, however, have been complicated by the faulty rendering of the term churu
出入 [ch’u-ju] as “analogies” rather than “discrepancies” or “differences.” (See: GR, p. 115, No. 2512; ABC, p. 137). This has led to much fruitless speculation.
          The text now becomes much easier to comprehend – it is clearly a statement intended to discredit the Daoist legend that Laozi [Lao-tzu] went to the West and converted the Barbarians and was later reincarnated as the Buddha. This finds confirmation in the quotation from the Xiyu zhuan of the Weilue by Chen Ziliang [Ch’en Tzu-liang] in his commentary to Falin’s [Fa-lin’s] Bianzhenglun [Pien cheng lun] of 626
CE. This apparently refers to the same original as our text – the Xiyu zhuan of the Weilue quoted by Pei Songzhi [P’ei Sung-chih] in his commentary to the Sanguozhi [San kuo chih]. See especially Zürcher (1972), p. 428, nn. 19 and 25.

6.19. One of my correspondents kindly sent me the following information on this passage:

“In the text Anavatapta-gatha, twenty-nine disciples reported their previous life stories to the Buddha in the Anavatapta Lake. The text is in the Taisho vol. 4, text no. 199, page 190-202. Since you have mentioned that Yu Huan, the author of the Wei lue, composed the text between 239-265 A.D., he is not likely to have referred to the version of Anavatapta-gatha I just mentioned, because it was translated by Dharmaraksa in 303 A.D. However, there is another text closely related to AG, translated by Kang Mengxiang, in the Hou Han period (25-220 A.D.). In other words, if Yu Huan did refer to the text AG in his mention of 29 disciples of the Buddha, there must be some materials existing preceding the received text in Taisho, on which Yu Huan based his comments.”

This would seem very likely. Zürcher (1972), pp. 36, and 333, n. 99, makes the point that the Indian Tanguo [T’an-kuo], who is said to have come from Kapalivastu and worked together with another Indian, Zhu Dali [Chu Ta-li = ?Mahābala] and the Sogdian Kang Mengxiang [K’ang Meng-hsiang] translated: “the earliest extant Chinese accounts of the Buddha : the Chung pen-ch’i ching . . . (T 196) and the Hsiu-hsing pen-ch’i ching . . . (T 184).”

          “The poverty of our information on Buddhism during the Han period is certainly due to the terrible troubles which ravaged the whole Chinese Empire at the end of the 2nd and the beginning of the 3rd century of our era. Certain paragraphs of Muzi prove that at this period a great many Buddhist works had already been translated into Chinese. But the same writer shows all the provinces in the hands of governors who had, in fact, become independent sovereigns who did not allow passage through their territory by subjects of the neighbouring provinces. Long and bloody wars were needed to reduce all these principalities. Still unity was unable to be recovered, and three sovereign princes had to be allowed to secure for each one a relative calm in a portion of the Empire. As a result of these constant quarrels, in which every town was taken and pillaged many times, innumerable documents perished. The same held when, at the beginning of the 4th century, the Tartar invasions took the dominance of the Huang He basin away from the Chinese for about three hundred years. We have some short works on this subject. M. Chavannes has spoken very recently (Mémoires historiques, bk. V, p. 465) of the two works known to have been lost during the troubles which obliged the Qin to leave Luoyang in Henan to establish their capital at Nanjin in 417. Buddhist literature refers to the destruction it underwent then. We know that one of the two monks who arrived at Luoyang in 67 AD, Zhu Falin, besides the Sūtra in 42 Sections, translated four, and perhaps five, other works of Indian Buddhism. Mr. Nanjio (Catalogue, Appendix II, No. 2) states that all those works were lost by the 8th century, but it can be specified more exactly, for the author of the Gaosengzhuan, Bojiao, says in his biography of Zhu Falin that, since the troubles which marked the change of capital these works were lost, and did not reach the “left of the River.” In other words, from the beginning of the 5th century, the revolutions had destroyed almost all the work of the first translator whose memory has been preserved by Chinese Buddhism.” Translated from Pelliot (1906), p. 395, n. 6.