Ishbara Qaghan

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Ishbara Qaghan (Old Turkic: Old Turkic letter N1.svgOld Turkic letter G1.svgOld Turkic letter Q.svg Old Turkic letter A.svgOld Turkic letter R1.svgOld Turkic letter B1.svgOld Turkic letter SH.svgOld Turkic letter I.svg, Ϊšbara qaγan,[1] 沙缽略可汗/沙钵略可汗, Pinyin: shābōlüè kěhàn, Wade-Giles: sha-po-lüeh, alternative names: Shapolo, full name: Il Kül Shad Bagha Ishbara Qaghan 伊利俱盧設莫何始波羅可汗/伊利俱卢设莫何始波罗可汗, personal name: 阿史那攝圖/阿史那摄图, āshǐnà shètú, a-shih-na she-t'u) (before 540 – 587) was the first son of Issik Qaghan, grandson of Bumin Qaghan, and the fifth khagan of the first Eastern Turkic Khaganate (581–587)[2]

The first son of Kelo, grandson of Bumin Khagan, fifth khagan of the Göktürk Empire, he was appointed to the throne by the high council as the legal resolution to the crisis created by his uncle Taspar Qaghan who had bequeathed the title of khagan to his nephew Talopien (son of Muqan Qaghan). This act violated the traditional system of inheritance from oldest brother to youngest brother and oldest son to youngest. Immediately after his appointment, the legal basis of his power was contested by the erstwhile heir Talopien, Jotan, and Tardu. This highly unstable situation quickly became a smoldering civil war, which the Sui Chinese took advantage of in every way possible to weaken the Göktürks.

Ishibara married Princess Qianjin of Northern Zhou and accepted refugees from the Chen Dynasty, two moves that were undertaken to legitimize his authority. One of the envoys in his wife's escort was the spy/ambassador Zhangsun Sheng. He managed to become a friend of Ishibara, and spent many years with the Turks. Chang Sun-Sheng's knowledge about the customs and institutions of the Gokturks was of great importance for the Sui Empire.

In order to end the civil war Ishbara finally acknowledged the Sui Dynasty as his overlords. With the help of the Chinese he defeated his main rival, Tardu in 603 by poisoning the wells which his army needed to cross the desert into China. In the end Ishibara succeeded in saving the khaganate, albeit at the price of losing his sovereignty. His reign marks the official split between East and West Turkic khaganates. He bequeathed the title of khagan to his brother Chulo-Hou.

The old Turkish name Seto or Shetu means white dragon. It was a cultural act to give this name to a boy, when a family member has dreamed about this white dragon.

Ishbara Qaghan
Preceded by
Taspar Qaghan
Khagan of the Turkic Khaganate
Succeeded by
Bagha Qaghan


  • Christoph Baumer, History of Central Asia, v2, p174-206 (full history of the Turkic Khaganate)



  • The Turks / editors, Hasan Celal Güzel, C. Cem Oğuz, Osman Karatay. Other author Güzel, Hasan Celâl. Oğuz, Cem. Karatay, Osman, 1971- Ocak, Murat. Imprint Ankara : Yeni Türkiye, 2002. ISBN 975-6782-55-2 (set)