Tuyuhun invasion of Gansu

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Tuyuhun invasion of Gansu
Part of Emperor Taizong's campaign against Tuyuhun
Date 623
Location Gansu
Result Tang victory; Tuyuhun soldiers retreat from Gansu
Tang Dynasty Tuyuhun
Commanders and leaders
Chai Shao
Casualties and losses
500 killed

The Tuyuhun invasion of Gansu was a battle between the Tuyuhun Kingdom and the Tang Dynasty in 623. During the battle, the Tang general Chai Shao distracted the Tuyuhun soldiers with an erotic dance performed by two dancing girls. While the nomads watched the dance, Chai Shao attacked from the rear and defeated the Tuyuhun. The Tuyuhun suffered more than five hundred casualties over the course of the battle.


Clay figure of a dancing girl from the 8th century from the same era, the Tang Dynasty.

The Tuyuhun and Tanguts regularly raided Chinese settlements along the western Tang frontier.[1] In 623, the Tuyuhun departed from their homeland in the pastures surrounding Qinghai Lake, known in Mongolian as Kokonur, and invaded Gansu.[2] The Tang general Chai Shao was dispatched to defeat the nomads and prevent further incursions. The Tuyuhun held the higher ground and shot arrows against the encroaching Tang forces.[1]

Chai Shao, in the words of historian Charles Patrick Fitzgerald, "was a general of many, if unorthodox, resources."[2] He devised a decoy by sending two dancing girls and a group of musicians to a small hill near the Tuyuhun camp.[1] The musicians played the pipa, a stringed instrument of foreign origin,[1] while the girls positioned themselves on top of a hill. On the hill, the dancing girls performed an erotic dance in front of the nomads. The attention of the Tuyuhun was diverted entirely towards the girls [2] as the soldiers disbanded their military formation[3] and rushed to the hill for a clearer view of the dance.[2]

Seizing the opportunity, Chai Shao surprised the soldiers who were distracted by the performance, and attacked them in the rear with his cavalry. Over five hundred Tuyuhun soldiers were killed in the ensuing battle,[3] forcing the Tuyuhun's retreat from Gansu. Fitzgerald ends his description of the Tuyuhun defeat with the moral that "it is most unwise, in the midst of battle, to let the mind dwell on the delights of peace."[2]


Hostilities between the Tuyuhun and Tang continued after the battle. Between 634 and 635, Emperor Taizong conducted a large military expedition against the Tuyuhun led by the general Li Jing. The Tang forces were reinforced with allied Tangut and Turkic soldiers during the invasion. Tuyuhun was defeated, and capitulated to the Tang court as a vassal.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d Graff 2009, p. 147.
  2. ^ a b c d e Fitzgerald 1933, p. 135.
  3. ^ a b Graff 2009, p. 148.
  4. ^ Twitchett 2000, p. 115.


  • Fitzgerald, Charles Patrick (1933). Son of Heaven: A Biography of Li Shih-Min, Founder of the Tʻang Dynasty. Cambridge University Press. 
  • Graff, David A. (2009). Nicola Di Cosmo, ed. Military Culture in Imperial China. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-03109-8. 
  • Twitchett, Denis (2000). H. J. Van Derven, ed. Warfare in Chinese History. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-04-11774-7.