Four Garrisons of Anxi

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Four Garrisons of Anxi
Traditional Chinese 安西四鎮
Simplified Chinese 安西四镇

The Four Garrisons of Anxi were Chinese military garrisons installed by the Tang Dynasty between 648 and 658. They were stationed at the Indo-European city-states of Kucha, Khotan, Kashgar and Karashahr. Kucha was also the seat of the Protectorate General to Pacify the West. The troops were sent and stationed here from within Tang China proper.[1]

It has long been claimed that the expedition against Kucha in 648 established Tang rule over the entire Tarim Basin.[4]This is in part due to a number of inaccurate Chinese sources linking the expedition to the establishment of the Four Garrisons of Anxi. However, Zhang Guangda has used excavated texts from Gaochang (Karakhoja or Turfan) to show that the Tang abandoned the attempt to move the headquarters of the Protectorate of the Pacified West to Kucha after the Protector-general Guo Xiaoke's assassination by Kuchean resistance forces. Instead the headquarters returned to Gaochang until 658, when it was moved back to Kucha following a Tang army's suppression of a local pro-Turk revolt.[2] The Tang only gained a loose suzerainty over the Tarim Basin states in 649, and did not establish military garrisons in the Tarim Basin. Most of the Tarim Basin states transferred their vassalage to the new Western Turk qaghan, Ashina Helu, in 651, reflecting the fact that they regarded the Western Turks as their traditional overlords. The establishment of the Four Garrisons, and with them a formal Tang military protectorate over the Tarim Basin, should be dated to 658 (after Ashina Helu's defeat) or even to 660, since Kashgar remained allied with the Western Turk leader Duman until Duman's defeat in later 659.

The main challengers to the Chinese for hegemony over the region were the Tibetans, who had been invading the region since 662 and briefly seized it between 670 and 692. Wang Xiaofu, building on an earlier theory by Hisashi Sato, argues that during this period the Chinese re-captured some or all of the garrisons in 675, 679, 682 and again in 686.[3] However this theory is disputed by Christopher Beckwith.[4] Meanwhile in 679, another fortress was built in Suyab, situated near the Chui River, this would later replace Karashahr as one of the Four Garrisons until 719, when the Turgesh took over it.[1]

With the defeat of the Tibetans in 692, and after a brief seizure of Kucha by the Turgesh for 8 months in 709, the Four Garrisons were continuously controlled by the Chinese, until their eventual loss. Even though most of the regular prefectures at Hexi Corridor, such as Liangzhou (764), Ganzhou, Suzhou (766), Guazhou (776), Yizhou (781) and Shazhou (787) were occupied between the 760s and 780s by the Tibetans, and the contacts between the Tarim Basin and the capital were limited, the Chinese troops left in the Tarim Basin continued to hold these garrisons until 791, when these, along with the seat of the Protectorate to Pacify the West, eventually fell into Tibetan hands.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Xue, p. 596-598.
  2. ^ Zhang 1995, p. 144-147.
  3. ^ Wang, p. 69-89, 294-295
  4. ^ Beckwith, p. 197-202
  5. ^ Wang, p. 207-210, 296-300