The Ili, Chu and Talas rivers are three steppe rivers that flow west and then northwest. The Ili River rises in Xinjiang, flows west to a point north of Lake Issyk Kul and then turns northwest to reach Lake Balkash. The Chu River rises west of Lake Issyk Kul, flows out into the steppe and dries up before reaching the Syr Darya. The Talas River starts west and south of the Chu, flows west and northwest, but dries up before reaching the Chu.
During the Battle of Talas (named after the river) in 751, the Abbasid force defeated the TangChinese forces led by the General Gao Xianzhi over a dispute regarding a client kingdom in the Fergana Valley. The battle was won by the Abbasids after the Karluks defected.
The Chinese monk Xuanzang arrived from the Chui river to Talas during one of his journeys.