Protectorate General to Pacify the West

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Protectorate General to Pacify the West
Traditional Chinese 安西都護府
Simplified Chinese 安西都护府
Part of a series on the
History of Xinjiang
Museum für Indische Kunst Dahlem Berlin Mai 2006 063.jpg
Tang dynasty around 700 CE
Tang dynasty in 742 CE

The Protectorate General to Pacify the West, Grand Protectorate General to Pacify the West, or Anxi Protectorate (640–790) was a protectorate established by the Tang Dynasty in 640 to control the Tarim Basin.[1] The head office was first established at the prefecture of Xi, now known as Turpan, but was later shifted to Qiuci (Kucha) and situated there for most of the period.[2] The Four Garrisons of Anxi in Kucha, Khotan, Kashgar, and Karashahr were installed between 648 and 658 as garrisons under the western protectorate. In 659 Soghd and Ferghana along with cities like Tashkent, Samarkand, Balkh, Herat, and Kabul became part of the protectorate under Emperor Gaozong of Tang.[3] Afghanistan's Herat and Uzbekistan's Bukhara and Samarkand became part of the Tang protectorate.[4][5] The defeat of the Western Turks and the defeat of the Sassanids by the Arabs had facilitated the Chinese expansion under Emperor Gaozong into Herat, northeastern Iran and Afghanistan (Tukharistan), Bukhara, Samarkand, Tashkent, and Soghdiana which previously belonged to the western Turks.[6] Kashmir, Kabul, Tokharistan, Pamir, and Tashkent came under the Chinese protectorate.[7] After the An Lushan Rebellion the office of Protector General was given to Guo Xin who defended the area and the four garrisons even after communication had been cut off from Chang'an by the Tibetan Empire. The last five years of the protectorate are regarded as an uncertain period in its history, but most sources agree that the last vestiges of the protectorate and its garrisons were defeated by Tibetan forces by the year 790, ending nearly 150 years of Tang influence in central Asia.


The Western Regions during the Tang era were known as Qixi (磧西). Qi refers to the Gobi Desert while Xi refers to the west.

On 19 September 640 Hou Junji of Tang conquered Gaochang and set up Xi Prefecture in its place. Xi Prefecture became the seat of the Anxi Protectorate on 11 October. Qiao Shiwang became the first protector general of the Anxi and served from 640-642. Guo Xiaoke received the next post and served from 640-648.

In 648, the seat of Anxi was moved to Kucha after its conquest, and was known to the Chinese as Qiuci, where it remained under the governance of Chai Zhewei from 649-651. Karasahr was conquered, and was known to the Chinese as Yanqi. Kashgar submitted and was known to the Chinese as Shule. The Kingdom of Khotan submitted and was known to the Chinese as Yutian.

In 651 the seat was moved back to Xi Prefecture (Gaochang) where it remained under the governance of Qu Zhizhan from 651-658.

In 658 the seat was moved back to Qiuci (Kucha) after Su Dingfang defeated the Western Turkic Khaganate. Its title was changed to "Grand Protectorate" and granted governorship of former Western Turkic territories, which were further separated into the Mengchi and Kunling protectorates.

In 670 Qiuci (Kucha) was captured by the Tibetan Empire and the seat was moved to Suyab, known as Suiye to the Chinese, in modern Kyrgyzstan. Qiuci (Kucha) was recaptured in 673, but was taken again by the Tibetan Empire in 677, and recaptured again by the Tang in 679 by Pei Xingjian. Wu Zetian was compelled to decrease military expenditures in 687 and relinquished direct control over the Anxi Protectorate.

The Anxi Protectorate was restored in 693 by Wang Xiaojie and the seat was moved back to Qiuci (Kucha), where it remained until the protectorate's ultimate demise in 790.

In 702 Wu Zetian set up the Beiting Protectorate, which was granted governorship over some of Anxi Protectorate's northern domains.

During the An Lushan Rebellion (755-763), the Tibetan Empire invaded the Hexi Corridor and cut off the Anxi Protectorate from the Tang dynasty. By 760 the Hexi Corridor had been conquered, but the Anxi and Beiting protectorates were left relatively unmolested under the leadership of Guo Xin and Li Yuanzhong. Guo Xin and Li Yuanzhong were officially made protectorate generals after sending secret messages to Emperor Dezong of Tang in 780.

In 763 Yanqi (Karasahr) was conquered by the Tibetan Empire.

In 787 Qiuci (Kucha) was conquered by the Tibetan Empire.

In 792 Yutian (Kingdom of Khotan) and Xi Prefecture (Gaochang) were conquered by the Tibetan Empire, although Xi Prefecture had no garrisons, and Yutian had no Tang garrisons.

It is unclear what happened to Shule (Kashgar).

List of protector generals[edit]

List of grand and assistant protector generals of the Protectorate General to Pacify the West (Anxi):[8]


  • Qiao Shiwang (喬師望) 640–642
  • Guo Xiaoke (郭孝恪) 642–649
  • Chai Zhewei (柴哲威) 649–651
  • Qu Zhizhan (麴智湛) 651–658

Grand Protectorate:

  • Yang Zhou (楊胄) 658–662
  • Su Haizheng (蘇海政) 662
  • Gao Xian (高賢) 663
  • Pilou Shiche (匹婁武徹) 664
  • Pei Xingjian (裴行儉) 665–667


  • Tao Dayou (陶大有) 667–669
  • Dong Baoliang (董寶亮) 669–671
  • Yuan Gongyu (袁公瑜) 671–677
  • Du Huanbao (杜懷寶) 677–679,
  • Wang Fangyi (王方翼) 679–681
  • Du Huanbao (杜懷寶) 681–682
  • Li Zulong (李祖隆) 683–685

Grand Protectorate:

  • Wang Shiguo (王世果) 686–687
  • Yan Wengu (閻溫古) 687–689


  • Jiu Bin (咎斌) 689–690
  • Tang Xiujing (唐休璟) 690–693

Grand Protectorate:

  • Xu Qinming (許欽明) 693–695
  • Gongsun Yajing (公孫雅靖) 696–698
  • Tian Yangming (田揚名) 698–704
  • Guo Yuanzhen (郭元振) 705–708,
  • Zhou Yiti (周以悌) 708–709
  • Guo Yuanzhen (郭元振) 709–710
  • Zhang Xuanbiao (張玄表) 710–711
  • Lu Xuanjing (呂玄璟) 712–716
  • Guo Qianguan (郭虔瓘) 715–717,
  • Li Cong (李琮) 716
  • Tang Jiahui (湯嘉惠) 717–719,
  • Guo Qianguan (郭虔瓘) 720–721
  • Zhang Xiaosong (張孝嵩) 721–724
  • Du Xian (杜暹) 724–726
  • Zhao Yizhen (趙頤貞) 726–728
  • Xie Zhixin (謝知信) 728
  • Li Fen (李玢) 727–735
  • Zhao Hanzhang (趙含章) 728–729
  • Lu Xiulin (吕休琳) 729–730
  • Tang Jiahui (湯嘉惠) 730
  • Lai Yao (萊曜) 730–731
  • Xu Qinshi (徐欽識) 731–733
  • Wang Husi (王斛斯) 733–738
  • Ge Jiayun (蓋嘉運) 738–739
  • Tian Renwan (田仁琬) 740–741
  • Fumeng Lingcha (夫蒙靈詧) 741–747
  • Gao Xianzhi (高仙芝) 747–751
  • Wang Zhengjian (王正見) 751–752


  • Feng Changqing (封常清) 752–755
  • Liang Zai (梁宰) 755–756
  • Li Siye (李嗣業) 756–759
  • Lifei Yuanli (荔非元禮) 759–761
  • Bai Xiaode (白孝德) 761–762
  • Sun Zhizhi (孫志直) 762–765
  • Zhu Mou (朱某) 765-?
  • Er Zhumou (爾朱某) 765-778
  • Guo Xin (郭昕) 762–787 (uncertain as to what actually happened after the An Lushan Rebellion)


An 8th-century Tang dynasty Chinese clay figurine of a Sogdian man (an Eastern Iranian person) wearing a distinctive cap and face veil, possibly a camel rider or even a Zoroastrian priest engaging in a ritual at a fire temple, since face veils were used to avoid contaminating the holy fire with breath or saliva; Museum of Oriental Art (Turin), Italy.[9]

Coins with both Chinese and Karoshthi inscriptions have been found in the southern Tarim Basin.[10]

It was the An Lushan Rebellion and not the defeat at Talas that ended the Tang Chinese presence in Central Asia and forced them to withdraw from Xinjiang- the significance of Talas was overblown, because the Arabs did not proceed any further after the battle.[11] Because the Arabs did not proceed to Xinjiang at all, the battle was of no importance strategically, it was An Lushan's rebellion which ended up forcing the Tang Chinese out of Central Asia.[12] Despite the conversion of some Karluk Turks after the Battle of Talas, the majority of Karluks did not convert to Islam until the mid 10th century under Sultan Satuq Bughra Khan when they established the Kara-Khanid Khanate.[13][14][15][16][17][18] This was long after the Tang dynasty was gone from Central Asia.

The military victories of the Tang in the western regions and Central Asia have been offered as explanations as to why western peoples referred to China by the name "House of Tang" (Tangjia) and another theory was suggested that China was called "Han" because of the Han dynasty military victories against peoples in the north, and the Turkic word for China, "Tamghaj" has been possibly derived from Tangjia instead of Tabgatch (Tuoba).[19]

In the Chu valley in Central Asia Tang dynasty era Chinese coins continued to be copied and minted after the Chinese left the area.[20]

An indelible impression was left on eastern Xinjiang's administration and culture in Turfan by the Chinese Tang rule which consisted of settlements, and military farms in addition to the spread of Chinese influence such as the sancai three colour glaze in Central Asia and Western Eurasia, in Xinjiang there was continued circulation of Chinese coins.[21]

The Buddhist Khitan Kara-Khitan Khanate conquered a large part of Central Asia from the Muslim Karluk Kara-Khanid Khanate in the 12th century. The Kara-Khitans also reintroduced the Chinese system of Imperial government, since China was still held in respect and esteem in the region among even the Muslim population,[22][23] and the Kara-Khitans used Chinese as their main official language.[24] The Kara-Khitan rulers were called "the Chinese" by the Muslims.[25]

Turkic Empires after the Tang gained prestige by connecting themselves with north Chinese states with the Qara-Khitay and Qara-Khanid khans using the title of "Chinese emperor", Khitay was used by the Qara-Khitay and Tabghach was used by the Qarakhanids.[26] The entry into the previously Indo-European Soghdian and Tokharian speaking Central Eurasia and Xinjiang of tribes of Turkic speaking origin and the started of Turkicisation originate in the 7th century with the disintegration of the Turkic Khaganate, resulting in Eurasia being populated by many peoples who consider themselves Turks..

Two different branches, the junior Bughra (bull camel) and the Arslan (lion) formed the Qarakhanid royal family. The title "Khan of China" (Tamghaj Khan) (تمغاج خان) was used by the Qarakhanid rulers.[27] The Qarakhanids were the ones who are responsible for the modern Uyghur population being Muslim and the Qarakhanids were converted when Satuq Bughra Khan converted to Islam after contacts with the Muslim Samanids.

Bughra Khan was overthrown by his nephew Satuq when Satuq converted to Islam, the Arslan Khans were also toppled and Balasaghun taken by Satuq, with the conversion of the Qarakhanid Turk population to Islam following Satuq's accession to power and the spread of Islam among the Qarakhanid Turks led to the conquest of Transoxiana and the Samanids by the Qarakhanids and the Qarakhanids were the people who bequeathed the Islamic religion to the modern Uyghurs while the modern Uyghurs adopted the modern name of their ethnic group from the Uyghur Qocho Kingdom and Uyghur Empire.[28]

The Turkic Qarakhanid and Uyghur Qocho Kingdoms were both states founded by invaders while the native populations of the region were Iranic and Tocharian peoples along with some Chinese in Qocho and Indians, who married and mixed with the Turkic invaders, and prominent Qarakhanid people such as Mahmud Kashghari hold a high position among modern Uyghurs.[29]

Kashghari viewed the least Persian mixed Turkic dialects as the "purest" and "the most elegant".[30]

Persian, Arab and other western Asian writers called China by the name "Tamghaj".[31]

The Qarakhanid ruler of Kashgar was called Tamghaj Khan, while the Khitan ruler was called the Khan of Chīn, some Khitans migrated into western areas like the Qarakhanid state even before the establishment of the Kara-Khitan state.[32]

During the Liao dynasty Han Chinese lived in Kedun, situated in present-day Mongolia.[33]

In 1124 the migration of the Khitan under Yelü Dashi included a big part of the Kedun population, which consisted of Han Chinese, Bohai, Jurchen, Mongol tribes, Khitan, in addition to the Xiao consort clan and the Yelü royal family on the march to establish the Qara-Khitan.[34]

The Kara-Khitai had among its court languages, the Chinese language.[35]

The Khitan Qara-Khitai empire in Central Asia kept Chinese characteristics in their state since the Chinese characteristics appealed to the Muslim Central Asians and helped validate Qara Khita rule over them, despite the fact that Han Chinese were to be found among the population of the Qara Khitan because it was comparatively small so it is clear that the Chinese characteristics were not kept to appease them, the Mongols later moved more Han Chinese into Besh Baliq, Almaliq and Samarqand in Central Asia to work as aristans and farmers.[36]

The Qara Khitai used the "image of China" to legitimize their ruler to the Central Asian Muslims since China had a good reputation at the time among Central Asian Muslims before the Mongol invasions, it was viewed as extremely civilized, known for its unique script, its expert artisans were well known, justice and religious tolerance were among the virtues attributed to Chinese despite their idol worship and the Turk, Arab, Byzantium, Indian rulers, and the Chinese emperor were known as the world's "five great kings", the memory of Tang China was engraved into the Muslim perception so their continued to view China through the lens of the Tang dynasty and anachronisms appeared in Muslim writings due to this even after the end of the Tang, China was known as chīn (چين) in Persian and as ṣīn (صين) in Arabic while the Tang dynasty capital Changan was known as Ḥumdān (خُمدان).[37]

Muslim Muslim writers like Marwazī and Mahmud Kashghārī had more up to date information about China in their writings, Kashgari viewed Kashgar as part of China. Ṣīn [i.e., China] is originally three fold; Upper, in the east which is called Tawjāch; middle which is Khitāy, lower which is Barkhān in the vicinity of Kashgar. But know Tawjāch is known as Maṣīn and Khitai as Ṣīn" China was called after the Toba rulers of the Northern Wei by the Turks, pronounced by them as Tamghāj, Tabghāj, Tafghāj or Tawjāch. India introduced the name Maha Chin (greater China) which caused the two different names for China in Persian as chīn and māchīn (چين ماچين) and Arabic ṣīn and māṣīn (صين ماصين), Southern China at Canton was known as Chin while Northern China's Changan was known as Machin, but the definition switched and the south was referred to as Machin and the north as Chin after the Tang dynasty, Tang China had controlled Kashgar since of the Tang's Anxi protectorate's "Four Garrisons" seats, Kashgar was among them, and this was what led writers like Kashghārī to place Kashgar within the definition of China, Ṣīn, whose emperor was titled as Tafghāj or Tamghāj, Yugur (yellow Uighurs or Western Yugur) and Khitai or Qitai were all classified as "China" by Marwazī while he wrote that Ṣīnwas bordered by placed SNQU and Maṣīn.[38] Machin, Mahachin, Chin, and Sin were all names of China.[39]

Muslim writers like Marwazī wrote that Transoxania was a former part of China, retaining the legacy of Tang Chinese rule over Transoxania in Muslim writings, In ancient times all the districts of Transoxania had belonged to the kingdom of China [Ṣīn], with the district of Samarqand as its centre. When Islam appeared and God delivered the said district to the Muslims, the Chinese migrated to their [original] centers, but there remained in Samarqand, as a vestige of them, the art of making paper of high quality. And when they migrated to Eastern parts their lands became disjoined and their provinces divided, and there was a king in China and a king in Qitai and a king in Yugur., Muslim writers viewed the Khitai, the Gansu Uighur Kingdom and Kashgar as all part of "China" culturally and geographically with the Muslim Central Asians retaining the legacy of Chinese rule in Central Asia by using titles such as "Khan of China" (تمغاج خان) (Tamghaj Khan or Tawgach) in Turkic and "the King of the East and China" (ملك المشرق (أو الشرق) والصين) (malik al-mashriq (or al-sharq) wa'l-ṣīn) in Arabic which were titles of the Muslim Qarakhanid rulers and their Qarluq ancestors.[40][41] After Yusuf Qadir Khan's conquest of new land in Altishahr towards the east, he adopted the title "King of the East and China".[42]

The title Malik al-Mashriq wa'l-Ṣīn was bestowed by the 'Abbāsid Caliph upon the Tamghaj Khan, the Samarqand Khaqan Yūsuf b. Ḥasan and after that coins and literature had the title Tamghaj Khan appear on them and were continued to be used by the Qarakhanids and the Transoxania-based Western Qarakhanids and some Eastern Qarakhanid monarchs, so therefore the Kara-Khitan (Western Liao)'s usage of Chinese things such as Chinese coins, the Chinese writing system, tablets, seals, Chinese art products like porcelein, mirrors, jade and other Chinese customs were designed to appearl to the local Central Asian Muslim population since the Muslims in the area regarded Central Asia as former Chinese territories and viewed links with China as prestigious and Western Liao's rule over Muslim Central Asia caused the view that Central Asia was a Chinese territory to reinforce upon the Muslims; "Turkestan" and Chīn (China) were identified with each other by Fakhr al-Dīn Mubārak Shāh with China being identified as the country where the cities of Balāsāghūn and Kashghar were located.[43]

The Liao Chinese traditions and the Qara Khitai's clinging helped the Qara Khitai avoid Islamization and conversion to Islam, the Qara Khitai used Chinese and Inner Asian features in their administrative system.[44]

Muslim writers wrote that "Tamghājī silver coins" (sawmhā-yi ṭamghājī) were present in Balkh while tafghājī was used by the writer Ḥabībī, the Qarakhānid leader Böri Tigin (Ibrāhīm Tamghāj Khān) was possibly the one who minted the coins.[45]

Mural commemorating victory of General Zhang Yichao over the Tibetan Empire in 848. Mogao cave 156, late Chinese Tang Dynasty

The relationship to China was used by the Qara-Khanids to enhace their standing since Central Asian Muslims associated prestige and grandeur with China so the Arabic title "the king of the East and China" (malek al-mašreq wa’l-Ṣin) and the Turkic title "Khan of China" Ṭamḡāj Khan was extensively employed by Khans of the Qara-khanids.[46]

The following account of the country of Yaghma[disambiguation needed] and its towns is given in the tenth century text Hudud al-'alam:

East of the Toquz-Oghuz country; south of it, the river Khuland-ghun which flows into the Kucha river, west of it are the Qarluq borders. In this country there is little agriculture, (yet) it produces many furs and in it much game is found.

Their wealth is in horses and sheep. The people are hardy, strong, and warlike, and have plenty of arms. Their king is from the family of the Toquz-Oghuz kings. These Yaghma have numerous tribes; some say that among them 1,700 known tribes are counted. Both the low and the nobles among them venerate their king ...and in their region there are a few villages.

1. Kashghar belongs to Chinistan but is situated on the frontier between the Yaghma, Tibet, the Qïrghïz, and China. The chiefs of Kashghar in the days of old were from the Qarluq, or from the Yaghma...
— Hudud al-'alam[47]

Although in modern Urdu Chin means China, Chin referred to Central Asia in Muhammad Iqbal's time, which is why Iqbal wrote that "Chin is ours" (referring to the Muslims) in his song Tarana-e-Milli.[48]

Aladdin, an Arabic Islamic story which is set in China, may have been referring to Central Asia.[49]

In the Persian epic Shahnameh the Chin and Turkestan are regarded as the same, the Khan of Turkestan is called the Khan of Chin.[50][51][52]

The Tang Chinese reign over Qocho and Turfan and the Buddhist religion left a lasting legacy upon the Buddhist Uyghur Kingdom of Qocho with the Tang presented names remaining on the more than 50 Buddhist temples with Emperor Tang Taizong's edicts stored in the "Imperial Writings Tower " and Chinese dictionaries like Jingyun, Yuian, Tang yun, and da zang jing (Buddhist scriptures) stored inside the Buddhist temples and Persian monks also maintained a Manichaean temple in the Kingdom., the Persian Hudud al-'Alam uses the name "Chinese town" to call Qocho, the capital of the Uyghur kingdom.[53]

The Turfan Buddhist Uighurs of the Kingdom of Qocho continued to produce the Chinese Qieyun rime dictionary and developed their own pronunciations of Chinese characters, left over from the Tang influence over the area.[54]

The modern Uyghur linguist Abdurishid Yakup pointed out that the Turfan Uyghur Buddhists studied the Chinese language and used Chinese books like Qianziwen (the thousand character classic) and Qieyun *(a rime dictionary) and it was written that "In Qocho city were more than fifty monasteries, all titles of which are granted by the emperors of the Tang dynasty, which keep many Buddhist exts as Tripitaka, Tangyun, Yupuan, Jingyin etc." [55]

In Central Asia the Uighurs viewed the Chinese script as "very prestigious" so when they developed the Old Uyghur alphabet, based on the Syriac script, they deliberately switched it to vertical like Chinese writing from its original horizontal position in Syriac.[56]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Michael Robert Drompp (2005). Tang China and the collapse of the Uighur Empire: a documentary history. Volume 13 of Brill's Inner Asian library (illustrated ed.). BRILL. p. 103. ISBN 90-04-14129-4. Retrieved February 2012 8. 19 The Protectorate-General (duhufu) of Anxi ("Pacified West") was established in 640 by the Tang emperor Taizong as the Chinese administrative unit for the control of various city-states of the Tarim Basin. Its administrative center was based  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  2. ^ Michael Robert Drompp (2005). Tang China and the collapse of the Uighur Empire: a documentary history. Volume 13 of Brill's Inner Asian library (illustrated ed.). BRILL. p. 104. ISBN 90-04-14129-4. Retrieved February 2012 8. In Qocho (Chinese Gaochang, later Xizhou) from 640 to 649, and then in Kucha from 649 until 670, when it was moved back to Qocho due to Tibetan conquests in the Tarim region. . . . In 791, Anxi fell to the Tibetans and was abandoned by the Chinese. . . The Uighurs, who were defeated along with the Chinese, soon recovered and reestablished control over both Qocho and Kucha, which became important centers of Western Uighur power after the collapse of the Uighur empire.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  3. ^ Haywood, John; Jotischky, Andrew; McGlynn, Sean (1998). Historical Atlas of the Medieval World, AD 600-1492. Barnes & Noble. p. 3.20. ISBN 978-0-7607-1976-3. 
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  8. ^ Xue, p. 589-593
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  19. ^ Yang, Shao-yun (2014). "Fan and Han: The Origins and Uses of a Conceptual Dichotomy in Mid-Imperial China, ca. 500-1200". In Fiaschetti, Francesca; Schneider, Julia. Political Strategies of Identity Building in Non-Han Empires in China. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 27–28. 
  20. ^ Belyaev, Vladimir; Nastich, Vladimir; Sidorovich, Sergey (2014). "Fan and Han: The Origins and Uses of a Conceptual Dichotomy in Mid-Imperial China, ca. 500-1200". The coinage of Qara Khitay: a new evidence (on the reign title of the Western Liao Emperor Yelü Yilie). Moscow: Russian Academy of Sciences. p. 3. 
  21. ^ James A. Millward (2007). Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang. Columbia University Press. pp. 41–. ISBN 978-0-231-13924-3. 
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  27. ^ James A. Millward (2007). Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang. Columbia University Press. pp. 51–. ISBN 978-0-231-13924-3. 
  28. ^ James A. Millward (2007). Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang. Columbia University Press. pp. 52–. ISBN 978-0-231-13924-3. 
  29. ^ James A. Millward (2007). Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang. Columbia University Press. pp. 53–. ISBN 978-0-231-13924-3. 
  30. ^ James A. Millward (2007). Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang. Columbia University Press. pp. 54–. ISBN 978-0-231-13924-3. 
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Coordinates: 41°39′N 82°54′E / 41.650°N 82.900°E / 41.650; 82.900