The name is spelled as t-o-ň-uq-uq (𐱃𐰆𐰪𐰸𐰸) in the Old Turkic script, variously interpreted as Tunuquq, Tonuquq, Tuj-uquq, Tony Yuguq, Tujun-oq, Tojuquq, with a number of suggestions for its etymology.
He played a major role in the politics of the Turkic tribes and the establishment and assertion of the Göktürk state against the Chinese Tang Dynasty. Tonyukuk first served the Tang Empire, then joined the Göktürk rebellion against the empire. Tonyukuk was a "guardian of Türk values" and rejected Taoism and Buddhism as unsuitable to a people of warriors, advising the Turks to "follow the water and the grass" (i.e. to adhere to their nomadic lifestyle) to avoid annexation by the Chinese Empire, as they numbered "less than a hundredth part of the Chinese". He was one of the Turkic commanders during the battle on the Tola River and led the Göktürk campaigns against the Kirgiz Khanate in 708–709 and against the Turgesh Khanate and Arab Qalifate in 711–712. After Qaghan Qapaghan's death, he did not support Kultegin and Bilge in their struggle against the power of Qapaghan's sons. When they emerged victorious, he was discharged from ruling the khanate. Subsequently, however, Bilge decided to rehabilitate him.
Coordinates: His biography, achievements and advices for state administration were carved in the so-called Orkhon-Turkic script on two stelae erected in 716 (before his death) at a site known as Bayn Tsokto, in Ulaanbataar's Nalaikh district.
In popular culture
- Nadelyaev V.M. “Orhon–Eniseisk mark’s reading” and “Etymology of the name of Tonuquq”. // Turkology researches M.L. 1963 pp. 197–213; Amanzholov A.C. “Talas, Enisey and Orhon inscriptions’ graphics” /Kazakh language and literature, KAz SU, Almaty, 1973. Amanzholov A.C. “Old Turkic inscriptions History and Theory”, Almaty, 2003; pp. 56–57.
- Denis Sinor (ed.), The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, vol.1, Cambridge University Press, 1990, ISBN 978-0-521-24304-9, 312–313.
- For the site see Sören Stark Die Alttürkenzeit in Mittel- und Zentralasien. Archäologische und historische Studien (Nomaden und Sesshafte, Band 6), Reichert: Wiesbaden 2008, pp. 75–76. Ross (1930): "About 48° N. and a little more 107° W. [sic] of Greenwich, near a place said to have the name of Bain Chokto, between the Nalaikha post-station and the right bank of the upper waters of the Tola."
- E. Denison Ross, The Tonyukuk Inscription, Being a Translation of Professor Vilhelm Thomsen's final Danish Rendering, Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, University of London, 1930.
- Nathan Light. An 8th Century Turkic Narrative: Pragmatics, Reported Speech and Managing Information. Turkic languages. 10.2, 2006. pp 155–186.