Gushi culture

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The Gushi (Chinese: 姑師文化; pinyin: Gūshī wénhuà), later known as the Jushi (Chinese: 車師文化; pinyin: Jūshī wénhuà) were a people who pursued a nomadic pastoralist way of life during the 1st millenium BCE in the Turpan basin,[1] including the area of Ayding Lake, in the eastern Tian Shan range. The area later became part of the Xinjiang region of China.

Contemporary Chinese sources suggest that the Gushi were Caucasoid in appearance. They may have been one of the so-called Tocharian peoples and spoken one of the associated languages.

During the late 2nd Century BCE and early 1st Century BCE, the area was increasingly dominated by the Han Dynasty and the northern neighbours of the Gushi, the Xiongnu.

Historical accounts[edit]

According to J. P. Mallory and Victor H. Mair, the earliest accounts of the Gushi report them to have "lived in tents, followed the grasses and waters, and had considerable knowledge of agriculture. They owned cattle, horses, camels, sheep and goats. They were proficient with bows and arrows".[2]

The Gushi and the kingdom of Kröran were linked in the account of Zhang Qian (d. 113 BCE), in part because both were under the control of the Xiongnu.

In or about 60 BCE, the Han defeated Xiongnu forces at the Battle of Jushi (which was part of the Han-Xiongnu War). Afterwards the Gushi lands were divided, in effect, into two states: a southern area controlled by the Han, who referred to it as “Nearer Jushi” (or "Anterior Jushi") and a northern area (known to the Han as “Further Jushi" or "Posterior Jushi") was dominated by the Xiongnu. “Nearer Jushi” was administered by the Han from a capital at Jiaohe (16 kilometres west of the site of modern Turpan). The capital of "Further Jushi" appears to have been called Yuli or Yulai, and was located about 10 km north of Jimasa, 200 km north of Jiaohe.[3] The Gushi never regained their independence.


A 2,700-year-old grave discovered in 2008 at the Yanghai Tombs, an ancient cemetery (54,000 m2 in area) has been attributed to the Gushi or a precursor culture. The grave contains the remains of a shaman who had blue eyes and light-coloured hair.[4]

Near the shaman's head and foot were a large leather basket and wooden bowl filled 789 grams of dried cannabis, superbly preserved by climatic and burial conditions. An international team demonstrated that this material contained tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of cannabis. According to psychopharmacological researcher Ethan B. Russo, the cannabis was clearly "cultivated for psychoactive purposes," rather than as fibre for clothing or as food.[5] It may have been employed as a medicinal agent, or an aid to divination. This is the oldest known use of cannabis as a pharmacological agent.[5] The extremely dry conditions and alkaline soil acted as preservatives, allowing a team of scientists to carefully analyze the stash, which still looked green though it had lost its distinctive odour.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jan Romgard, “Ancient Human Settlements in Xinjiang and the Early Silk Road Trade” Sino-Platonic Papers, 185 (November, 2008)[1]
  2. ^ Mallory, J. P.; Mair, Victor H. (2000). The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West. London: Thames & Hudson. pp. 143–144. 
  3. ^ Fan Ye , Chronicle on the 'Western Regions' from the Hou Hanshu. (transl. John E. Hill), 2011] "Based on a report by General Ban Yong to Emperor An (107–125 CE) near the end of his reign, with a few later additions." (20 December 2015)
  4. ^ Viergas, Jennifer (12 April 2008). "World's oldest marijuana stash totally busted". Retrieved 3 August 2016. 
  5. ^ a b "Phytochemical and genetic analyses of ancient cannabis from Central Asia," Ethan B. Russo et al., Journal of Experimental Botany, Vol. 59, No. 15, pp. 4171–4182, 2008 [2]


  • Hill, John E. (2009) Through the Jade Gate to Rome: A Study of the Silk Routes during the Later Han Dynasty, 1st to 2nd Centuries CE. BookSurge, Charleston, South Carolina. ISBN 978-1-4392-2134-1.
  • Hulsewé, A. F. P. (1979). China in Central Asia: The Early Stage 125 BC – AD 23: an annotated translation of chapters 61 and 96 of the History of the Former Han Dynasty. E. J. Brill, Leiden. ISBN 90-04-05884-2.

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