Section 16 – The Kingdom of Dongli 東離 – The ‘Eastern Division’ (of the Kushan Empire)

1. Dongli 東離 [Tung-li] = the ‘Eastern Division’ of the Kushan Empire. It seems very unlikely that Dongli was intended as a transcription of some foreign name. It translates literally as the ‘Eastern Section’ or ‘Eastern Division.’ From: dong = ‘east’ + li = ‘distant’; ‘be separated from’; ‘arrange’ or ‘divide off’.  
          I have, therefore, rendered it as the ‘Eastern Division’ (of the Kushan Empire), as it obviously refers to their newly conquered territories in eastern India.
          Since I wrote the above note I have finally been able to obtain a copy of the excellent article by F. W. Thomas: “Sandanes, Nahap
āna, Caṣṭana and Kaniṣka : Tung-li Pan-chi and Chinese Turkestan.” New Indian Antiquary VII. 1944, pp. 81-100. I discovered, to my delight, that Thomas had come to the same conclusion (ibid. pp. 90-92) as myself about the name Dongli, i.e. that it was probably not a transcription of a local name but rather should be translated as ‘Eastern Division.’ He notes that the second Chinese character in the name, li:

“ancient lyie < lyia (KARLGREN no. 533 [Analytical Dictionary – in his later Grammata Serica, no. 23f – *lia] meaning ‘oriole’, ‘leave,’ ‘quit,’ ‘separated,’ ‘pass through,’ etc., is frequently used in rendering Sanskrit expressions denoting ‘separation,’ ‘lack,’ etc., especially compounds with vi- (including vibhāga, ‘division’), it seems possible that Tung-li is not a transaction, but a translation, meaning ‘Eastern Division,’ in Sanskrit prācya (or pūrva)- vibhāga or prāg-deśa, an expression which by reason of its intelligibility would be specially likely to be rendered by a translation. [Thomas notes here that: “In later times the Chinese uses the expression ‘Tung T‘ien-chu’, ‘Eastern India.’]. Now prāg (or pūrva) -deśa is a regular term for the eastern half of Hindustan, and its popular use, so as to cover the whole country from Magadha in the east to the borders of the Panjāb, appears from the fact that Alexanders Indian campaign, if continued further east, would have brought him into collision with the Prasioi, the Prācya people, sc. the Magadha empire.Ibid. p. 91. See also note 16.1 above.

Eitel (1888), p. 68, in discussing Prācya or the eastern country,” places it to the east of Madhyadeśa (in which Śāketa was located). Its western borders did change and, according to some ancient authors, stretched at times almost as far west as Prayāga, which is almost due south of Śāketa. Other ancient authorities place it further east, in the catchment area of the Brahmaputra River. For these reasons I have stayed with my earlier suggestion that Dongli referred to the Eastern Division of the Kushan empire.

2. There can be no doubt here that Shaqi
沙奇 [Sha-ch’i] = Śāketa, the famous Buddhist centre in northeastern India. Sha-ch’i has been convincingly identified with Śāketa by F. W. Thomas in New Indian Antiquary, VII, 1944, p. 90:

Returning to Tung-li (Dongli), we may note with some considerations in favour of an identification with the central region of northern India, madhya-deśa, the mid India’ of Chinese writers. It was a great country, extending over ‘several thousand li’ from north to south and from east to west ; it had dozens of great cities, each with a king ; nevertheless it was a unity having a capital city. This cannot fail to recall to mind the fact that from the time of the Nandas and Mauryas the great central part of Hindustan had continued to constitute an imperial state, which in the period of Aśvaghoṣa and Kaniṣka had two capital cities, namely Śāketa/Ayodhyā and Pāṭaliputra. As regards Śāketa, LÉVI has noted (pp. 90-1) that sometimes the Chinese transcriptions of its name, Sha-chi resemble the Chinese form, Sha-ch’i, of the name of the capital of Tung-li ; but, since one of LÉVI’s Sha-chi forms should in fact be Sha-chi’s [sic should read Sha-chi] (KARLGREN, no. 879), there is rather identity than similarity in the two cases ; and, if it is urged that the Chinese ch’ should represent an Indian g rather than a k, that is no difficulty since the Indian name would naturally have been heard in the Prākrit form Sha(sa) geda, which is the one reproduced in Ptolemy’s Σαγδα [Sagda].

            The name occurs again in Faxian as Shazhi [Sha-che] – see Legge (1886), pp. 54-55, which has the identical first character. The text says it is 3,000 li (1,247 km) to the southeast of Tianzhu. This is very close to the distance between Peshawar and modern Lucknow (which is thought to be near the site of ancient Śāketa).
            The text states specifically that
Śāketa was under the control of the Da Yuezhi or Kushans. Now, it is known from archaeological data that Śāketa was conquered by Kanishka in the first year of his era, see Sims-Williams & Cribb (1995/6), especially pp. 78 and 83. The information on Śā