Kingdom of Khotan
|Kingdom of Khotan|
Map of Tarim Basin. Khotan kingdom shown in green in the southern region.
|Languages||Gāndhārī language 3-4th century.[web 1]|
|-||c. 56||Yulin: Jianwu period (25–56 CE)|
|-||Khotan established||c. 300 BCE|
|-||Yarkant attacks and annexes Khotan. Yulin abdicates and becomes king of Ligui||56|
|-||Tibet invades and conquers Khotan||670|
|-||Khotan held by the Muslim, Yūsuf Qadr Khān||1006|
The Kingdom of Khotan was an ancient Buddhist kingdom that was located on the branch of the Silk Road that ran along the southern edge of the Taklamakan Desert in the Tarim Basin (modern Xinjiang, China). The ancient capital was originally located to the west of modern day Hotan (Chinese: 和田) at Yotkan. From the Han dynasty until at least the Tang dynasty it was known in Chinese as Yutian (Chinese: 于闐, 于窴, or 於闐). The kingdom existed for over a thousand years until it was conquered by the Muslims in 1006.
- 1 Geography
- 2 History
- 3 Historical timeline
- 4 Early names
- 5 Buddhism
- 6 Social and economic life
- 7 Silk
- 8 Jade
- 9 Neighbours
- 10 See also
- 11 Notes
- 12 References
- 13 Sources
- 14 Further reading
- 15 External links
The oasis geographical position is the main contributing factor to its success and wealth. The oasis of Khotan is situated in one of the most arid and desolate climates on the earth, the Taklamakan Desert. However Khotan is located at the far south of the Taklamakan at the foothills of the Kunlun Mountains, extending along the range for around 40 miles.
Khotan was irrigated from the Yurung-kàsh and Kara-kàsh rivers, which water the Tarim Basin. These two rivers produce vast quantities of water which made habitation possible in an otherwise arid climate. The position next to the mountain not only provided irrigation for crops but it also increased the fertility of the land as the rivers reduce the gradient and deposited their sediment, creating a more fertile soil. This therefore increased the productivity of the agricultural industry which has made Khotan famous for its cereal crops and fruits. Therefore Khotan’s lifeline was its vicinity to the Kunlun mountain range and without this Khotan would not have become one of the largest and most successful oasis cities along the Silk Roads.
According to legend, the foundation of Khotan occurred when Kushtana, said to be a son of Ashoka, the Mauryan emperor, settled there about 224 BCE. The first inhabitants of the region appear to have been Tibetans and Indians from South Asia.
Afterwards king Vijaya Krīti, for whom a manifestation of the Ārya Mañjuśrī, the Arhat called Spyi-pri who was propagating the religion (dharma) in Kam-śeṅ [a district of Khotan] was acting as pious friend, through being inspired with faith, built the vihāra of Sru-ño. Originally, King Kanika, the king of Gu-zar [Kucha] and the Li [Khotanese] ruler, King Vijaya Krīti, and others led an army into India, and when they captured the city called So-ked [Saketa], King Vijaya Krīti obtained many relics and put them in the stūpa of Sru-ño.—The Prophecy of the Li Country.
The town grew very quickly after local trade developed into the interconnected chain of silk routes across Eurasia. By the time of the Han conquest, the population had more than quadrupled. The Book of the Later Han, covering 6 to 189 CE, says:
The main centre of the kingdom of Yutian (Khotan) is the town of Xicheng ("Western Town", Yotkan). It is 5,300 li (c.2,204 km) from the residence of the Senior Clerk [in Lukchun], and 11,700 li (c.4,865 km) from Luoyang. It controls 32,000 households, 83,000 individuals, and more than 30,000 men able to bear arms.
During the Yongping period (58-76 CE), in the reign of Emperor Ming, Xiumo Ba, a Khotanese general, rebelled against Suoju (Yarkand), and made himself king of Yutian (in 60 CE). On the death of Xiumo Ba, Guangde, son of his elder brother, assumed power and then (in 61 CE) defeated Suoju (Yarkand). His kingdom became very prosperous after this. From Jingjue (Niya) northwest, as far as Shule (Kashgar), thirteen kingdoms submitted to him. Meanwhile, the king of Shanshan (the Lop Nor region, capital Charklik) had also begun to prosper. From then on, these two kingdoms were the only major ones on the Southern Route in the whole region to the east of the Congling (Pamir Mountains).
The Tibetans later defeated the Chinese and took control of the Four Garrisons, and the Khotanese helped the Tibetans to conquer Aksu. Tang China later regained control in 692, but eventually lost control of the entire Western Regions after it was weakened considerably by the An Lushan Rebellion. After the Tang Dynasty, Khotan formed an alliance with the rulers of Tohan until the arrival of Muslim invaders.
End of Buddhist Khotan
During the latter part of the tenth century, Khotan became engaged in a struggle against the Kara-Khanid Khanate. They briefly took Kashgar from the Kara-Khanids in 970, and according to Chinese accounts, the king of Khotan offered to send in tribute to the Chinese court a dancing elephant captured from Kashgar. However, in 1006, the Kara-Khanid Yusuf Kadir Khan of Kashgar conquered Khotan, ending Khotan's existence as an independent state. The Karakhanid writer Mahmud al-Kashgari wrote in a short poem about the conquest:
- The first inhabitants of the region appear to have been Tibetans and Indians from adjacent India bordering the Kunlun Mountains.
- The foundation of Khotan occurred when Kushtana, said to be a son of Ashoka, the Indian emperor belonging to the Maurya Empire settled there about 224 BCE.
- c.84 BC: Buddhism is reportedly introduced to Khotan.
- c.56: Xian, the powerful and prosperous king of Yarkent, attacked and annexed Khotan. He transferred Yulin, its king, to become the king of Ligui, and set up his younger brother, Weishi, as king of Khotan.
- 61: Khotan defeats Yarkand. Khotan becomes very powerful after this and 13 kingdoms submitted to Khotan, which now, with Shanshan, became the major power on the southern branch of the Silk Route.
- 78: Ban Chao, a Chinese General, subdues the kingdom.
- 105: The 'Western Regions' rebelled, and Khotan regained its independence.
- 127: The Khotanese king Vijaya Krīti is said to have helped the Kushan Emperor Kanishka in his conquest of Saket in India.
- 127: The Chinese general Ban Yong attacked and subdued Karasahr; and then Kucha, Kashgar, Khotan, Yarkand, and other kingdoms, seventeen altogether, who all came to submit to China.
- 129: Fangqian, the king of Khotan, killed the king of Keriya, Xing. He installed his son as the king of Keriya. Then he sent an envoy to offer tribute to Han. The Emperor pardoned the crime of the king of Khotan, ordering him to hand back the kingdom of Keriya. Fangqian refused.
- 131: Fangqian, the king of Khotan, sends one of his sons to serve and offer tribute at the Chinese Imperial Palace.
- 132: The Chinese sent the king of Kashgar, Chenpan, who with 20,000 men, attacked and defeated Khotan. He beheaded several hundred people, and released his soldiers to plunder freely. He replaced the king [of Keriya] by installing Chengguo from the family of [the previous king] Xing, and then he returned.
- 151: Jian, the king of Khotan, was killed by Han chief clerk Wang Jing, who was in turn killed by Khotanese. Anguo, the son of Jian, was placed on the throne.
- 175: Anguo, the king of Khotan, attacked Keriya, and defeated it soundly. He killed the king and many others.
- 399 Chinese pilgrim monk, Faxian, visits and reports on the active Buddhist community there.
- 632: Khotan pays homage to China, and becomes a vassal state.
- 644: Chinese pilgrim monk, Xuanzang, stays 7–8 months in Khotan and writes a detailed account of the kingdom.
- 670: Tibet invades and conquers Khotan (now known as one of the "four garrisons").
- c.670-673: Khotan governed by Tibetan Mgar minister.
- 674: King Fudu Xiong (Vijaya Sangrāma IV), his family and followers flee to China after fighting the Tibetans. They are unable to return.
- c.680 - c.692: 'Amacha Khemeg rules as regent of Khotan.
- 692: China under Wu Zetian reconquers the Kingdom from Tibet. Khotan is made a protectorate.
- 725: Yuchi Tiao (Vijaya Dharma III) is beheaded by the Chinese for conspiring with the Turks. Yuchi Fushizhan (Vijaya Sambhava II) is placed on the throne by the Chinese.
- 728: Yuchi Fushizhan (Vijaya Sambhava II) officially given the title "King of Khotan" by the Chinese emperor.
- 736: Fudu Da (Vijaya Vāhana the Great) succeeds Yuchi Fushizhan and the Chinese emperor bestows a title on his wife.
- c. 740: King Yuchi Gui (Wylie: btsan bzang btsan la brtan) succeeds Fudu Da (Vijaya Vāhana) and begins persecution of Buddhists. Khotanese Buddhist monks flee to Tibet, where they are given refuge by the Chinese wife of King Mes ag tshoms. Soon after, the queen died in a smallpox epidemic and the monks had to flee to Gandhara.
- 740: Chinese emperor bestows a title on wife of Yuchi Gui.
- 746: The Prophecy of the Li Country is completed and later added to the Tibetan Tengyur.
- 756: Yuchi Sheng hands over the government to his younger brother, Shihu (Jabgu) Yao.
- 786 to 788: Yuchi Yao still ruling Khotan at the time of the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Wukong's visit to Khotan.
- 969: The son of King Lishengtian (Vijaya Sambhava) named Zongchang sends a tribute mission to China.
- 971: A Buddhist priest (Jixiang) brings a letter from the king of Khotan to the Chinese emperor offering to send a dancing elephant which he had captured from Kashgar.
- 1006: Khotan held by the Muslim Yūsuf Qadr Khān, a brother or cousin of the Muslim ruler of Kāshgar and Balāsāghūn.
- Between 1271 and 1275: Marco Polo visits Khotan.
The name of the kingdom in the region now called Khotan has received many forms. The local people about the third century CE wrote Khotana in Kharoṣṭhī script; and Hvatäna- in Brahmi script in the somewhat later texts, whence as the language developed came Hvamna and Hvam, so that in the latest texts they have Hvam kṣīra ‘the land of Khotan’. The name became known to the west while the –t- was still unchanged, and as is frequent in early New Persian. But under different influences the local people wrote also Gaustana, when they felt the prestige of Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit, or Kustana and Yūttina, when the prestige of the Chinese kingdom in Śacu was at its height, in the ninth century. To the Tibetans in the seventh and eight centuries the land was Li and the capital city Hu-ten, Hu-den, Hu-then and Yvu-then.
The kingdom was one of the major centres of Buddhism. Buddhism was introduced in the first century BCE. Up until the 11th century, the vast majority of the population was Buddhist.
The country is prosperous and the people are numerous; without exception they have faith in the Dharma and they entertain one another with religious music. The community of monks numbers several tens of thousands and they belong mostly to the Mahayana.[web 3]
It differed in this respect to Kucha, a Śrāvakayāna-dominated kingdom on the opposite side of the desert. Faxian's account of the city states it had fourteen large and many small viharas. Many foreign languages, including Chinese, Sanskrit, Prakrits, Apabhraṃśas and Classical Tibetan were used in cultural exchange.
Social and economic life
Despite having scant sources of information on the socio-political structures of Khotan, the shared geographical conditions of the Tarim city-states, as well similarities found in archaeological findings throughout the Tarim Basin enables the drawing of some overall conclusions on Khotanese life. A seventh-century Chinese pilgrim, Xuanzang describes Khotan as having limited arable land but this seems to have been particularly fertile, being able to support "cereals and producing an abundance of fruits." He goes further by commenting how the city "manufactures carpets and fine-felts and silks" as well as "dark and white jade". In short, the city’s chief economy was based upon using the water from oases to irrigate the land as well as the manufacture of crafts which could then be traded on.
Xuanzang also praises the culture of the people of Khotan, commenting on how they "love to study literature" and how "[m]usic is much practised in the country, and men love the song and dance." The "urbanity" of the Khotan people is also mentioned in their dress, that of ‘light silks and white clothes’ as opposed to the more rural "wools and furs".
Khotan was the first place outside of China to begin cultivating silk. The story, repeated in many sources, and illustrated in murals discovered by archaeologists, is that a Chinese princess brought silkworm eggs hidden in her hairdo when she was sent to marry the Khotanese king. This probably took place in the first half of the 1st century CE but is disputed by different scholars.
One version of the story is told by the Chinese Buddhist monk Xuanzang who describes the covert transfer of silkworms to Khotan by a Chinese princess. Xuanzang, on his return from India between 640 and 645, crossed Central Asia passing through the kingdoms of Kashgar and Khotan (Yutian in Chinese).
According the Xuazang the introduction of sericulture to Khotan occurred in the first quarter of the 5th century. The King of Khotan wanted to obtain silkworm eggs, mulberry seeds and Chinese know-how - the three crucial components of silk production. The Chinese court had strict rules on these items leaving China as they were determined to maintain their monopoly on the manufacture of silk. Xuanzang states the King of Khotan asked for the hand of a Chinese princess in marriage as a token of his allegiance to the Chinese emperor. The request was granted and an ambassador was sent to the Chinese court to escort the Chinese princess to Khotan. He advised the princess she would need to bring silkworm and mulberry seeds in order to make herself robes in Khotan and to make the people prosperous. The princess concealed silkworm eggs and mulberry seeds in her headdress and smuggled them through the Chinese frontier. According to his text, silkworm eggs, mulberry trees and weaving techniques passed to Khotan, then to India, and from there eventually reached Europe.
Khotan, throughout and before the Silk Roads period, was a prominent trading oasis on the southern route of the Tarim Basin – the only major one “on the sole water course to cross the desert from the south”. Aside from the geographical location of the towns of Khotan it was also widely renowned as a significant area of nephrite jade production for export to China.
Frances Wood provides a number of examples of Khotan jade trade by referring to jade on sale there in observations of Xuanzang in 645 as well as long-established jade sales to Chinese carvers in Xinglongwa and Chahai. She notes that these carvers had been carving ring-shaped pendants "from greenish jade from Khotan as early as 5000 BC". It would seem, from secondary sources, the prevalence of jade from Khotan from east to west is due to the relative lack elsewhere and to its quality.
Evidence for the extent of the jade trade can be seen from archaeological remains as "polished and finished jade pieces were far more durable than ceramics and have survived for many millennia". The jade from the rivers of Khotan continues to be transported along the southern Silk Road route to this day.
- Karashahr — One of the four garrisons
- Kucha — One of the four garrisons
- Lop Nur
- Taklamakan Desert
- Tarim Basin
- Rawak Stupa
- Dandan Oilik
- Silk Road transmission of Buddhism
- Tarim mummies
- If this is correct, and if modern dating of the beginning of Kanishka's era in 127 CE, this must have happened at about this date - just before Ban Yong reasserted Chinese influence over the region.
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