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The migrations of the Yuezhi through Central Asia, from around 176 BCE to 30 CE
Total population
Some 100,000 to 200,000 horse archers, according to the Shiji, Chapter 123.[1] The Hanshu Chapter 96A records: 100,000 households, 400,000 people with 100,000 able to bear arms.[2]
Regions with significant populations
Kushan deities
Related ethnic groups

The Yuèzhī or Rouzhi (Chinese: 月氏; pinyin: Yuèzhī; Wade–Giles: Yüeh4-chih1; Old Chinese 月支) were an ancient Indo-European people[5][6] who were first reported living in an arid grassland area spanning the modern Chinese provinces of Xinjiang and Gansu, before the 2nd century BCE.

After a major defeat by the Xiongnu, the Yuezhi fragmented, during the 2nd century BCE, into groups that emigrated in different directions. The Greater Yuezhi or Great Yuezhi (Da Yuezhi 大月氏) migrated west through the Tarim Basin into the Ili Valley (on the modern borders of China and Kazakhstan), where they reportedly displaced elements of the Sakas (Scythians). Most members of another group, the Lesser Yuezhi or Little Yuezhi (Xiao Yuezhi 小月氏) reportedly moved south, towards the Tibetan Plateau. The Greater Yuezhi were driven from the Ili Valley by the Wusun and migrated southward to Sogdia and, later, Bactria, where they displaced the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom. The Greater Yuezhi were consequently often identified with the Tókharioi (Greek Τοχάριοι; Sanskrit Tukhāra) and Asii or Asioi mentioned in classical European sources.

During the 1st century BCE, one of the five major Yuezhi tribes in Bactria, the Kushanas (Chinese: 貴霜; pinyin: Guishuang), began to subsume the other tribes and neighbouring peoples. The subsequent Kushan Empire, at its peak in the 3rd century CE, stretched from Turfan in the Tarim Basin, in the north to Pataliputra on the Gangetic plain of India in the south. The Kushanas played an important role in the development of trade on the Silk Road and the introduction of Buddhism to China.


There are numerous theories about the origin of the Chinese name "Yuezhi", written with the characters yuè () "moon" and shì () "clan", but none has yet found general acceptance.[7][8] Some scholars, such as Zhang Guang-da, have suggested that the name Yuezhi may be a sinicized transliteration of an endonym, cognate to Visha ("the tribes") or Vèsh ("divisions") in Eastern Iranian languages; or Vijaya ("victory" in Indo-Aryan languages).[9] This theory has not been widely accepted.

The relationship between the Yuezhi and other Indo-European peoples who lived in China and Central Asia is often unclear. The Kushanas, who were among the conquerors of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom during the 2nd century b.c.,[10] are widely believed to have originated as a dynastic clan or tribe of the Yuezhi.[11][12] Because some inhabitants of Bactria became known as Tukhāra (Sanskrit) or Tókharoi (Τοχάριοι; Greek) and these names became retrospectively associated with the Yuezhi.

When manuscripts dating from the a.d. 6th to 8th centuries, and written in two hitherto-unknown centum-type, non-Iranian languages, were discovered in the northern Tarim Basin, the early 20th-century linguist Friedrich W. K. Müller assumed that the authors were Tókharoi and referred to the newly discovered languages as "Tocharian". This became the common name for both the languages of the Tarim manuscripts and the people who produced them.[13][14] Most historians now reject the identification of the Tókharoi of Bactria with the Tocharians of the Tarim, because the Tókharoi are not known to have spoken any languages other than Bactrian: a satem-type, Eastern Iranian language. Other scholars suggest, however, that the Kushanas may be an example of an invading or colonising elite adopting a local language. That is, they did not necessarily speak Bactrian before arriving in Bactria, and they may previously have spoken the Tocharian languages of the Tarim.[15][16] In support of this claim, Christopher Beckwith argues that the character 月, usually read as Old Chinese *ŋʷjat > modern yuè,[17] could have been pronounced in an archaic northwestern dialect as *tokwar or *togwar, a form that resembles the Bactrian name Toχοαρ (Toχwar ~ Tuχwar) and the medieval form Toχar ~ Toχâr.[18][19] Likewise, Craig Benjamin points out that "the problem of identifying the Yuezhi ... intersects history and language, since they may have spoken the centum Indo-European language variant of Tokharian."[20]

Theories on origins[edit]

Locations of Afanasevo culture (green, top right) to the north of the Tarim basin and Andronovo culture (orange) to the northwest

The Yuezhi may have been an Europoid people, as indicated by the portraits of their kings on the coins that were struck following their exodus to Transoxiana (2nd–1st century BCE), portraits from statues in Khalchayan, Bactria in the 1st century BCE,[21] some old place names in Gansu explainable in Tocharian languages,[22] and especially the coins which they struck in India as Kushans (1st–3rd century CE).[23][24][25][26]

According to one theory, the Yuezhi were connected to a large migration of Indo-European-speaking peoples from eastern Central Asia in the Bronze Age.[8][21] These were possibly ethnic Tocharian speakers and connected to the Afanasevo culture.[8][21] Very well preserved Tarim mummies from the 18th century BCE to the first centuries BCE with Europoid features (light hair and eyes) and dominated by the Y-DNA haplogroup R1a1 have been found in the Tarim Basin. One mummy today displayed at the Ürümqi Museum and dated from the 3rd century BCE, found at the ancient oasis on the Silk Road, Niya, has been connected to the Yuezhi.[27] Evidence of the Indo-European Tocharian languages also has been found in the same geographical area. Although the first known epigraphic evidence dates to the 6th century CE, the degree of differentiation between Tocharian A and Tocharian B and the absence of Tocharian language remains beyond that area suggest that a common Tocharian language existed in the same area of Yuezhi settlement during the second half of the 1st millennium BCE.

Esther Jacobson emphasizes that "the Yuezhi/Kushans may properly be considered to have belonged to the larger Scytho-Siberian culture."[28] The nomadic people, probably Scythians, of the Ordos culture of the Ordos Plateau, who lived in northern China, east of the Yuezhi, are another of a later similar migration. According to some scholars the Yuezhi might themselves have been Scythians.[29] The Yuezhi (Rouzhi) are associated by some scholars with the Ordos culture.[30] Also, the Europoid mummies of Pazyryk, which were probably Scythian in origin, were found around 1,500 kilometers northwest of the Yuezhi and date to around the 3rd century BCE.[31] The Pazyryk burials coincide with the apex of Yuezhi power, and have been connected to the Yuezhi by some scholars.[29]

Some scholars relate the Yuezhi to the tribes of early Turks,[32][33] others consider that the Yue-Chi are the same as the Getae.[34]

Early history[edit]

The Yuezhi resided to the northwest of Qin China in the 3rd century BCE.

The Yuezhi are described in ancient Chinese historical accounts. They may have been mentioned by Sima Qian, who described how the first Qin emperor, Qin Shi Huang (reigned 246-210 BCE) had dealt with a man named Luo – leader of a people called Wuzhi (sic) – in the trade of both jade and horses.[35] Sima Qian also makes the first clear reference to the Yuezhi, saying that – in the 2nd century BCE – "The Yuezhi originally lived in the area between the Qilian or Heavenly Mountains and Dunhuang." (Records of the Great Historian, or Shiji; "The Account of Dayuan", 123).[1] While the area between the Qilian and Dunhuang lies in the modern Chinese province of Gansu, some scholars have argued that "Dunhuang" should be Dunhong, a mountain in the Tian Shan, and have placed the original homeland of the Yuezhi 1,000 km further west (in the northern part of modern Xinjiang).[36] [37]

A text known as the Guanzi (73, 78, 80 and 81) described how nomadic pastoralists called the Yúshì 禺氏 or Niúshì 牛氏 had supplied jade to the Chinese.[38][39] The supply of Tarim Basin jade from ancient times is well documented archaeologically. The hundreds of jade pieces found in the tomb of Fuhao from the late Shang dynasty all originated from Khotan, on the southern rim of the Tarim Basin.[40] According to the Guanzi, the peoples of the Tarim, unlike the neighbouring Xiongnu, did not engage in conflict with nearby Han Chinese states.

The Yuezhi were recorded by the Chinese during the Warring States period ( 495-221 BCE) as nomadic people living in the the lands of the Western Region. The Chinese turned to the Yuezhi for the supply of good horses. Moreover, the Yuezhi supplied the Qin Empire with crucial military mounts.[41] The Yuezhi maintained a profitable trade of horses and cattle for Chinese silk, which they sold on to their neighbours. Thus the Yuezhi began the Silk Road trade, acting as intermediaries between China and Central Asia.[42]

The Han Shu further records: "The Great Yuezhi was a nomadic horde. They moved about following their cattle, and had the same customs as those of the Xiongnu. As their soldiers numbered more than hundred thousand, they were strong and despised the Xiongnu. In the past, they lived in the region between Dunhuang and Qilian Mountains(south of Hexi Corridor)" The Yuezhi was so powerful that the Xiongnu monarch Touman even sent his eldest son Modu as a hostage to the Yuezhi. The Yuezhi often attacked their neighbour the Wusun to acquire slaves and pasture lands. Wusun originally lived together with the Yuezhi in the region between Dunhuang and Qilian Mountain. The Yuezhi attacked the Wusuns, killed their monarch Nandoumi and took his territory. The son of Nandoumi, Kunmo fled to the Xiongnu and was brought up by the Xiongnu monarch.

Gradually the Xiongnu grew stronger and war broke out between them and the Yuezhi. There were at least four wars between the Yuezhi and Xiongnu according to the Chinese accounts. The first war broke out during the reign of the Xiongnu monarch Touman (who died in 209 B.C) who suddenly attacked the Yuezhi. The Yuezhi wanted to kill Modu, the son of the Xiongnu king Touman kept as a hostage to them, but Modu stole a good horse from them and managed to escape to his country. He subsequently killed his father and became ruler of the Xiongnu.[43] It appears that the Xiongnu did not defeat the Yuezhi in this first war. The second war took place in the 7th year of Modu era (203 B.C.). From this war, a large area of the territory originally belonging to the Yuezhi was seized by the Xiongnu and the hegemony of the Yuezhi started to shake. The third war probably was at 176 BC (or shortly before that) and the Yuezhi were badly defeated.

Shortly before 176 BCE, led by one of Modu's tribal chiefs, the Xiongnu invaded Yuezhi territory in the Gansu region and achieved a crushing victory.[44][45] Modu boasted in a letter (174 BCE) to the Han emperor[citation needed] that due to "the excellence of his fighting men, and the strength of his horses, he has succeeded in wiping out the Yuezhi, slaughtering or forcing to submission every number of the tribe." The son of Modu, Laoshang Chanyu (ruled 174–166 BCE), subsequently killed the king of the Yuezhi and, in accordance with nomadic traditions, "made a drinking cup out of his skull." (Shiji 123.[1])

Exodus of the Great Yuezhi[edit]

A Scythian horseman from the area invaded by the Yuezhi, Pazyryk, c.300 BCE

After this disaster, the Yuezhi split into two groups. The Lesser or Little Yuezhi (Xiao Yuezhi) moved to the southern mountains, on the edge of the Tibetan plateau.

The so-called Great or Greater Yuezhi (Da Yuezhi) began migrating north-west circa 165 BCE,[46] first settling in the Ili valley, immediately north of the Tian Shan mountains, where they defeated the Sai (Scythians): "The Yuezhi attacked the king of the Sai who moved a considerable distance to the south and the Yuezhi then occupied his lands" (Han Shu 61 4B). This was "the first historically recorded movement of peoples originating in the high plateaus of Asia."[47] (The Sai then undertook their own migration, which was to lead them as far as Kashmir, after travelling through a "Suspended Crossing" (probably the Khunjerab Pass between present-day Xinjiang and northern Pakistan). The Sakas ultimately established an Indo-Scythian kingdom in northern India.[48])

In 132 BCE the Wusun, in alliance with the Xiongnu and out of revenge from an earlier conflict, again managed to dislodge the Yuezhi, forcing them to move south-west.[44] The Yuezhi passed through the neighbouring urban civilization of Dayuan (in Ferghana) and settled on the northern bank of the Oxus, in the region of Transoxiana (modern Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), just north of the Hellenistic Greco-Bactrian Kingdom. The Greek city of Alexandria on the Oxus was apparently burnt to the ground by the Yuezhi around 145 BCE.[49][contradictory]

Yuezhi settlement in Central Asia[edit]


The Chinese mission of Zhang Qian to the Yuezhi in 126 BCE, Mogao Caves (circa 618–712 CE mural painting)>

The Yuezhi were visited in Transoxiana by a Chinese mission, led by Zhang Qian in 126 BCE,[50] which sought an offensive alliance with the Yuezhi against the Xiongnu. Zhang Qian, who spent a year in Transoxiana and Bactria, wrote a detailed account in the Shiji, which gives considerable insight into the situation in Central Asia at the time.[51] The request for an alliance was denied by the son of the slain Yuezhi king, who preferred to maintain peace in Transoxiana rather than seek revenge.

Zhang Qian also reported that "the Great Yuezhi live 2,000 or 3,000 li (832–1,247 kilometers) west of Dayuan, north of the Gui [Oxus ] river. They are bordered on the south by Daxia [Bactria], on the west by Anxi [Parthia], and on the north by Kangju [beyond the middle Jaxartes/Syr Darya]. They are a nation of nomads, moving from place to place with their herds, and their customs are like those of the Xiongnu. They have some 100,000 or 200,000 archer warriors." (Shiji 123.[1])

In a sweeping analysis of the physical types and cultures of Central Asia, Zhang Qian reports that "although the states from Dayuan west to Anxi (Parthia), speak rather different languages, their customs are generally similar and their languages mutually intelligible. The men have deep-set eyes and profuse beards and whiskers. They are skilful at commerce and will haggle over a fraction of a cent. Women are held in great respect, and the men make decisions on the advice of their women." (Shiji 123.[52])

In 124 BCE, the Yuezhi were apparently involved in a war against the Parthians, in which the Parthian king Artabanus II was wounded and died:[53]

During the war against the Tochari, he (Artabanus) was wounded in the arm and died immediately" (Justin, Epitomes, XLII,2,2: "Bello Tochariis inlato, in bracchio vulneratus statim decedit"). Pompeius Trogus also mentions that Artabanus II was mortally wounded by the Tokhari.


A painted clay bust of a man found at the major Yuezhi/Kushan site of Khalchayan, in Bactria (near modern Denov, Uzbekistan).[54] (The head is sometimes described as "Saka" – a people sometime conflated with the Yuezhi.)

Some time after 124 BCE, possibly following further incursions from the north – and apparently also following a defeat by the Parthian king Mithridates II, successor to Artabanus – the Yuezhi moved south to Bactria. (Two centuries earlier, Bactria had been conquered by the Greeks under Alexander the Great and since settled by the Hellenistic civilization of the Seleucids and the Greco-Bactrians.) This event is recorded in classical Greek sources, when Strabo – who tended to refer to all central Asian tribes as "Scythians" – explained that these tribes had caused the destruction of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom in the second half of the 2nd century BCE. "Most of the Scythians, beginning from the Caspian Sea, are called Dahae ... and those situated more towards the east Massagetae and Sacae; the rest have the common appellation of Scythians, but each separate tribe has its peculiar name. All, or the greatest part of them, are nomads. The best known tribes are those who deprived the Greeks of Bactriana: the Asii, Pasiani, Tochari, and Sacarauli, who came from the country on the other side of the Jaxartes [Syr Darya], opposite the Sacae and Sogdiani."[55] Likewise, Ptolemy (writing in the 2nd century CE) referred to the Ιατιοι Iatioi (or Jatioi) and ταχαροι Takharoi (or Tachorai) as being on Jaxartes; scholars such as Edwin Pulleyblank, Josef Markwart (a.k.a. Joseph Marquart) and László Torday, suggest that Iatioi may be an attempt to render Yuezhi.[56]

The last Greco-Bactrian king, Heliocles I, retreated and moved his capital to the Kabul Valley. The eastern part of Bactria was occupied by Pashtun people.

The Yuezhi appear to have quickly obtained the submission of the Greco-Bactrians. At the time, the Yuezhi were organized into five major tribes, each led by a yabgu, or tribal chief. These tribes were known to the Chinese as:

  • Xiūmì (休密) in Western Wakhān and Zibak;
  • Guishuang (貴霜) in Badakhshan and adjoining territories north of the Oxus;
  • Shuangmi (雙靡) in the region of Shughnan;
  • Xidun (肸頓) in the region of Balkh, and;
  • Dūmì (都密) in the region of Termez.[57]

A description of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom was made by Zhang Qian after the area's conquest by the Yuezhi. "Daxia [Greco-Bactria] is located over 2,000 li southwest of Dayuan, south of the Gui (Oxus) river. Its people cultivate the land and have cities and houses. Their customs are like those of Ta-Yuan. It has no great ruler but only a number of petty chiefs ruling the various cities. The people are poor in the use of arms and afraid of battle, but they are clever at commerce. After the Great Yuezhi moved west and attacked the lands, the entire country came under their sway. The population of the country is large, numbering some 1,000,000 or more persons. The capital is called the city of Lanshi [most likely Bactra/Balkh] and has a market where all sorts of goods are bought and sold."(Shiji 123.[58])

Asia circa 1 CE – the Yuezhi ("Tocharians") are located near the centre of the map.

After they settled in Bactria, the Yuezhi became Hellenized to some degree – as shown by their adoption of the Greek alphabet and by some remaining coins, minted in the style of the Greco-Bactrian kings, with the text in Greek. The area of Bactria they settled came to be known as Tokharistan and the Yuezhi were known as Tókharoi by the Greeks.

Commercial relations with China also flourished, as many Chinese missions were sent throughout the 1st century BCE: "The largest of these embassies to foreign states numbered several hundred persons, while even the smaller parties included over 100 members ... In the course of one year anywhere from five to six to over ten parties would be sent out." (Shiji, trans. Burton Watson).

The Hou Hanshu also records the visit of Yuezhi envoys to the Chinese capital in 2 BCE, who gave oral teachings on Buddhist sutras to a student, suggesting that some Yuezhi already followed the Buddhist faith during the 1st century BCE (Baldev Kumar (1973)).

A later Chinese annotation in Zhang Shoujie's Shiji (quoting Wan Zhen 萬震 in Nanzhouzhi 南州志 ["Strange Things from the Southern Region"], a now-lost 3rd-century text from the Wu kingdom), describes the Kushans as living in the same genral area north of India, in cities of Greco-Roman style, and with sophisticated handicraft. The quotes are dubious, as Wan Zhen probably never visited the Yuezhi kingdom through the Silk Road, though he might have gathered his information from the trading ports in the coastal south.[59] The Chinese never adopted the term Guishuang and continued to call them Yuezhi:

The Great Yuezhi are located about seven thousand li [2,910 km] north of India. Their land is at a high altitude; the climate is dry; the region is remote. The king of the state calls himself "son of heaven". There are so many riding horses in that country that the number often reaches several hundred thousand. City layouts and palaces are quite similar to those of Daqin [the Roman Empire]. The skin of the people there is reddish white. People are skilful at horse archery. Local products, rarities, treasures, clothing, and upholstery are very good, and even India cannot compare with it.[60]

Hindu Kush[edit]

The area of the Hindu Kush (Paropamisadae) was ruled by the western Indo-Greek king until the reign of Hermaeus (reigned c. 90 BCE–70 BCE). After that date, no Indo-Greek kings are known in the area. According to Bopearachchi, no trace of Indo-Scythian occupation (nor coins of major Indo-Scythian rulers such as Maues or Azes I) have been found in the Paropamisade and western Gandhara. The Hindu Kush may have been subsumed by the Yuezhi,[original research?] who by then had had dominated Greco-Bactria for almost two centuries.

As they had done in Bactria with their copying of Greco-Bactrian coinage, the Yuezhi copied the coinage of Hermeaus on a vast scale, up to around 40 CE, when the design blends into the coinage of the Kushan king Kujula Kadphises. Such coins provide the earliest names of presumed Yuezhi princes, Sapadbizes (probably a yabgu's prince of Yuezhi confederation[original research?]) and Agesiles, both around 20 BCE.

Kushan Empire[edit]

Main article: Kushan Empire
The first self-declared Kushan ruler Heraios (1–30 CE) in Greco-Bactrian style
Obv: Bust of Heraios, with Greek royal headband.
Rev: Horse-mounted King, crowned with a wreath by the Greek goddess of victory Nike. Greek legend: TVPANNOVOTOΣ HΛOV – ΣΛNΛB – KOÞÞANOY "The Tyrant Heraios, Sanav (meaning unknown), of the Kushans"
Depiction of Heraios, from his clearest coins

By the end of the 1st century BCE, one of the five tribes of the Yuezhi, the Guishuang (貴霜, origin of name Kushan adopted in the West), managed to take control of the Yuezhi confederation. From that point, the Yuezhi extended their control over the northwestern area of the Indian subcontinent, founding the Kushan Empire, which was to rule the region for several centuries.[61][62][63] The Yuezhi came to be known as Kushan among Western civilizations; however, the Chinese kept calling them Yuezhi throughout their historical records over a period of several centuries.

The Yuezhi/Kushans expanded to the east during the 1st century CE to found the Kushan Empire. The first Kushan emperor, Kujula Kadphises, ostensibly associated himself with King Hermaeus on his coins, suggesting that he may[citation needed] have been one of the king's descendants by alliance, or at least wanted to claim his legacy.

The unification of the Yuezhi tribes and the rise of the Kushan are documented in the Chinese Historical chronicle, the Hou Hanshu:

"More than a hundred years later, the xihou (Ch:翖侯, "Allied Prince") of Guishuang (Badakhshan and the adjoining territories north of the Oxus), named Qiujiu Que (Ch: 丘就卻, Kujula Kadphises) attacked and exterminated the four other xihou ("Allied Princes"). He set himself up as king of a kingdom called Guishuang (Kushan). He invaded Anxi (Parthia) and took the Gaofu (Ch:高附, Kabul) region. He also defeated the whole of the kingdoms of Puda (Ch: 濮達) and Jibin (Ch: 罽賓, Kapiśa-Gandhāra). Qiujiu Que (Kujula Kadphises) was more than eighty years old when he died.
"His son, Yan Gaozhen (Ch:閻高珍) (Vima Takto), became king in his place. He returned and defeated Tianzhu (Northwestern India) and installed a General to supervise and lead it. The Yuezhi then became extremely rich. All the kingdoms call [their king] the Guishuang (Kushan) king, but the Han call them by their original name, Da Yuezhi." (Hou Hanshu, trans. John Hill,[64][65]).

The Yuezhi/Kushan integrated Buddhism into a pantheon of many deities and became great promoters of Mahayana Buddhism, and their interactions with Greek civilization helped the Gandharan culture and Greco-Buddhism flourish.

During the 1st and 2nd centuries, the Kushan Empire expanded militarily to the north and occupied parts of the Tarim Basin, their original grounds, putting them at the center of the lucrative Central Asian commerce with the Roman Empire. When the Han Dynasty desired to advance north, Emperor Wu sent the explorer Zhang Qian to see the kingdoms to the west and to ally with the Yuezhi people, in order to fight the Xiongnu tribe. The Yuezhi continued to collaborate militarily with the Chinese against nomadic incursion, particularly with the Chinese general Ban Chao against the Sogdians in 84 CE when the latter were trying to support a revolt by the king of Kashgar. Around 85 CE,[citation needed] they also assisted the Chinese general in an attack on Turpan, east of the Tarim Basin.

Possible Yuezhi king and attendants, Gandhara stone palette, 1st century CE

In recognition of their support to the Chinese, the Kushans requested, but were denied, a Han princess, even after they had sent presents to the Chinese court. In retaliation, they marched on Ban Chao in 86 CE with a force of 70,000 but, exhausted by the expedition, were finally defeated by the smaller Chinese force. The Kushans retreated and paid tribute to the Chinese Empire during the reign of the Chinese emperor Han He (89–106).

About 120 CE, Kushan troops installed Chenpan—a prince who had been sent as a hostage to them and had become a favorite of the Kushan Emperor—on the throne of Kashgar, thus expanding their power and influence in the Tarim Basin,[66] and introduced the Brahmi script, the Indian Prakrit language for administration, and Greco-Buddhist art, which developed into Serindian art.

Benefiting from this territorial expansion, the Yuezhi/Kushans were among the first to introduce Buddhism to northern and northeastern Asia, by direct missionary efforts and the translation of Buddhist scriptures into Chinese. Major Yuezhi missionaries and translators included Lokaksema and Dharmaraksa, who went to China and established translation bureaus, thereby being at the center of the Silk Road transmission of Buddhism.[citation needed]

The Chinese kept referring to the Kushans as Da Yuezhi throughout the centuries. In the Sanguozhi (三國志, chap. 3), it is recorded that in 229 CE, "The king of the Da Yuezhi, Bodiao 波調 (Vasudeva I), sent his envoy to present tribute, and His Majesty (Emperor Cao Rui) granted him the title of King of the Da Yuezhi Intimate with the Wei (魏) (Ch: 親魏大月氏王, Qīn Wèi Dà Yuèzhī Wáng)."

The Sasanian Empire extended their dominion into Bactria during the reign of Ardashir I around 230 CE. The Sasanians also occupied neighboring Sogdia by 260 CE and made it into a satrapy.[67] Over the course of the 3rd century AD, the Kushan realm was divided and conquered by the rival Sasanian Empire of Persia, the Gupta Empire of India, and the Hephthalite Empire.[68]

Later references to the Yuezhi in East Asia[edit]

The Lesser Yuezhi (Xiao Yuezhi) appear to have been quite numerous and some evidently remained in Gansu. For instance, between 184 AD and 221 AD there was a serious revolt by the Lesser Yuezhi in Gansu, which could not be suppressed by the Chinese government.[69]

Buddhist art c. 300 CE, depicting (left to right) a Kushan lay Buddhist, Maitreya, Buddha, Avalokitesvara, and a Kushan Buddhist monk.

Yuezhi Buddhist scholars were influential in the emergence of Buddhism in China and other East Asian countries. The historian Rong Xinjiang, reexamining various hypotheses regarding the dissemination of Buddhism concludes: "The view that Buddhism was transmitted to China by ... sea ... lacks convincing and supporting materials, and some arguments are not sufficiently rigorous [... T]he most plausible theory is that [Chinese] Buddhism started from the Greater Yuezhi ... and took the land roads to reach Han China."[70] Yuezhi Buddhists prominent in China included the monks Lokakṣema (Chinese: 支婁迦讖; pinyin: Zhī Lóujiāchèn; sometimes abbreviated Zhīchèn 支讖), born c. 147 CE and Dharmarakṣa Chinese: 竺法護; pinyin: Zhú Fǎhù (c. 233 – c. 311), both of whom were influential translators of the Mahayana sutras into Chinese.[citation needed]

Elements of the Lesser Yuezhi may have been the basis of the Jie people, who established the Later Zhao state under Shi Le. However, other theories link the Jie to the Xiongnu, Kangju, Tocharians or Greater Yuezhi. The Jie were mostly massacred by King Ran Min of Ran Wei (modern Hebei), during the Wei–Jie war, of the mid-4th century.[citation needed]

Some of the Lesser Yuezhi (Xiao Yuezhi) are said to have founded the city of Cumuḍa (also known as Cimuda, Cunuda; Chinese Zhongyun, Tchong-yun; Uyghur Čungul, Xungul), later known as Kumul and Hami (哈密; pinyin Hāmì), near Lop Nur, in the eastern Tarim basin.[citation needed]

In the 5th century, an unnamed Yuezhi glassblower was said to have amazed the court of Emperor Taiwu of the Northern Wei at Pingcheng (Datong).[citation needed]

In Tibet, the Lesser Yuezhi constituted the Gar or Mgar – a clan name associated with blacksmiths. The Gar became influential during the period of the Tibetan Empire – until the end of the 7th century, when 2,000 of them were massacred by the Tibetan emperor Tridu Songtsän.[citation needed]

A Chinese monk named Gao Juhui, who traveled to the Tarim Basin in the 10th century, stated that the "people named as Zhongyun (or Čungul)" were descendants of the Xiao Yuezhi" and that the king of Zhongyun still resided in "the Hulu desert" near Lop Nur.[citation needed]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e Watson 1993, p. 234.
  2. ^ Hulsewé, A.F.P. and Loewe, M.A.N. China in Central Asia: The Early Stage: 125 B.C.-A.D. 23: An Annotated Translation of Chapters 61 and 96 of the History of the Former Han Dynasty. Leiden. E. J. Birll. 1979. ISBN 90-04-05884-2, pp. 119–120.
  3. ^ Hansen, Valerie (2012). The Silk Road: A New History. Oxford University Press. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-19-993921-3. 
  4. ^ André Wink, Al-Hind, the Making of the Indo-Islamic World: The Slavic Kings and the Islamic conquest, 11th-13th centuries, (Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 57
  5. ^ Loewe & Shaughnessy 1999, pp. 87–88.
  6. ^ "Zhang Qian". Encyclopedia Britannica online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 28 October 2012. 
  7. ^ Iaroslav Lebedynsky, Les Saces: Les « Scythes » d'Asie, viiie siècle av. J.-C.−ive siècle apr. J.-C. (Paris: Errance, 2006), 240–7.
  8. ^ a b c Mallory & Mair 2000, pp. 98–99, 280–283, 333–334.
  9. ^ Zhang Guang-da, History of civilizations of Central Asia, Volume III: The city-states of the Tarim Basin, p. 284.
  10. ^ Millward, James A. (2007). Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang. Columbia University Press, New York. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-231-13924-3. 
  11. ^ Runion, Meredith L. (2007). The history of Afghanistan. Westport: Greenwood Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-313-33798-7. The Yuezhi people conquered Bactria in the second century BCE, and divided the country into five chiefdoms, one of which would become the Kushan Empire. Recognizing the importance of unification, these five tribes combined under the one dominate Kushan tribe, and the primary rulers descended from the Yuezhi. 
  12. ^ Liu, Xinrui (2001). Adas, Michael, ed. Agricultural and pastoral societies in ancient and classical history. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. p. 156. ISBN 978-1-56639-832-9. 
  13. ^ Adams, Douglas Q. (1988). Tocharian Historical Phonology and Morphology. pp. 2–4. ISBN 978-0-940490-71-0. 
  14. ^ Tocharian Online: Series Introduction, Todd B. Krause and Jonathan Slocum, University of Texas at Austin
  15. ^ Mallory, J.P.; Adams, Douglas Q., eds. (1997). Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. London: Fitzroy Dearborn. p. 509. ISBN 978-1-884964-98-5. 
  16. ^ A.K. Narain. "6 – Indo-Europeans in Inner Asia". In Denis Sinor. The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia. p. 153. ISBN 978-0521243049. 
  17. ^ Baxter, William H. (1992). A Handbook of Old Chinese Phonology. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. p. 806. ISBN 978-3-11-012324-1. 
  18. ^ Beckwith 2009, p. 5, footnote #16, as well as pp. 380–383 in appendix B.
  19. ^ Hitch, Doug (2010). "Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present" (PDF). Journal of the American Oriental Society. 130 (4): 654–658. He equates the Tokharians with the Yuezhi, and the Wusun with the Asvins, as if these are established facts, and refers to his arguments in appendix B. But these identifications remain controversial, rather than established, for most scholars. 
  20. ^ Craig Benjamin, The Cambridge World History Volume 4: A World With States Empires and Networks 1200 BCE–900 CE (2015); Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, p. 475
  21. ^ a b c Mallory 1997, pp. 591–594
  22. ^ 邪说--请大家狂批:华夏文明的白种雅利安人来源
  23. ^ 巴里坤:月氏与匈奴的远古王庭
  24. ^ [1] 《东黑沟——月氏与匈奴人的古家园》
  25. ^ [2] 月氏?还是匈奴? – 新疆天山网
  26. ^ [3] 学术通讯
  27. ^ Mallory & Mair 2000, p. 55: "The strange creatures of the Shanhai jing: (...) we find recorded north of the territory of the "fish dragons" the land of the Whites (Bai), whose bodies are white and whose long hair falls on their shoulders." Such a description could correspond well to a Europoid population beyond the frontiers of ancient China and some scholars have identified these Whites as Yuezhi."
  28. ^ Jacobson, Esther (1993). The Deer Goddess of Ancient Siberia: A Study in the Ecology of Belief. Volume 55 of Studies in the History of Religions (illustrated ed.). BRILL. p. 6. ISBN 9004096280. The most western of the Early Nomads' relatives and those most familiar to the modern observer were Scythians. They are believed to have arrived in the lands of the Caucasus, the Crimea, and the rich steppe north of the Black Sea by the sixth century B.C. ... In the late years of the first millennium B.C., the successors to the Early Nomads and Sakas served as the vehicles for the transformation of Eurasian nomadism into statehood. The Xiongnu of Mongolia gathered an array of nomadic peoples together into a confederation which became the major geopolitical opponent of the Chinese Han Dynasty. In the same period, the second and first centuries B.C., the Yuezhi established hegemony over the vital steppe region west of the borders of Han China and extending through Bactria to the borders of India. Indeed, after their conversion to Buddhism, the Yuezhi- by then known as the Kushans- proceeded to conquer India and to establish the great Kushan Dynasty. Despite these political transformations and despite significant distinctions in language and physical anthropology between the Xiongnu and their Early Nomadic relatives, they as well as the Yuezhi/Kushans may properly be considered to have belonged to the larger Scytho-Siberian culture. 
  29. ^ a b Enoki, Koshelenko & Haidary 1994, pp. 171–191
  30. ^ Hanks & Linduff 2009, pp. 284–286
  31. ^ "Ice Mummies: Siberian Ice Maiden". PBS – NOVA. Retrieved 1 September 2009. 
  32. ^ https://depts.washington.edu/silkroad/exhibit/sui/bottom.html
  33. ^ EARLY TÜRKS: ESSAYS on HISTORY and IDEOLOGY: Uechji , Yury Zuev, (2002)
  34. ^ http://www.theodora.com/encyclopedia/y/yuechi.html
  35. ^ Craig Benjamin, 2007, The Yuezhi: Origin, Migration and the Conquest of Northern Bactria, Turnhout, Brepols, p. 32.
  36. ^ Mallory & Mair 2000, p. 283.
  37. ^ Liu 2001a, pp. 267–268.
  38. ^ "Les Saces", Iaroslav Lebedynsky, ISBN 2-87772-337-2, p. 59
  39. ^ The Guanzi was compiled around 26 BCE, and while some of the source materials are older, most scholars do not accept its attribution to Guan Zhong, an official of the State of Qi in the 7th century BCE. (Liu Jianguo (2004)). Distinguishing and Correcting the pre-Qin Forged Classics. Xi'an: Shaanxi People's Press. ISBN 7-224-05725-8. pp. 115–127
  40. ^ Liu 2001a, p. 265.
  41. ^ Liu 2010, pp. 3–4.
  42. ^ Liu 2001a, p. 273.
  43. ^ Mallory & Mair 2000, p. 94.
  44. ^ a b Benjamin, Craig (October 2003). "The Yuezhi Migration and Sogdia". Transoxiana Webfestschrift. Transoxiana. 1 (Ēran ud Anērān). Retrieved 29 May 2015. 
  45. ^ Beckwith 2009, pp. 380–383.
  46. ^ Chavannes (1907) "Les pays d'occident d'après le Heou Han chou". T'oung pao, ser.2:8, p. 189, n. 1
  47. ^ Grousset, Rene (1970). The Empire of the Steppes. Rutgers University Press. pp. 27–28. ISBN 0-8135-1304-9. 
  48. ^ Chandra Sagar, Khrisna (1992). Foiegn Influence on Ancient India. New Dehli: Northern Book Centre. p. 119. ISBN 81-7211-028-6. 
  49. ^ Bernard 1994, p. 100.
  50. ^ Silk Road, North China, C. Michael Hogan, The Megalithic Portal, A. Burnham, ed.
  51. ^ Watson 1993, pp. 233–236.
  52. ^ Watson 1993, p. 245.
  53. ^ Grousset, Rene (1970). The Empire of the Steppes. Rutgers University Press. p. 31. ISBN 0-8135-1304-9. This would seem to prove that the Yueh-chih of Chinese history – if they correspond, as supposed, to the Tokharoi of Greek history – were from that time established in Bactria, a country of which they later made a 'Tokharistan'. 
  54. ^ "Greek Art in Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Northwest India", Encyclopaedia Iranica, plate VIII
  55. ^ Strabo, 11-8-1.
  56. ^ Sundeep S. Jhutti, 2003, "The Getes", Sino-Platonic Papers, no. 127 (October), pp. 15–17. (Access: 18 March 2016).
  57. ^ Hill (2004), pp. 29, 318–350
  58. ^ Watson 1993, p. 235.
  59. ^ Yu Taishan (2nd Edition 2003). A Comprehensive History of Western Regions. Zhengzhou: Zhongzhou Guji Press. ISBN 7-5348-1266-6
  60. ^ Notes to Section 13, The Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu, trans. John Hill.
  61. ^ Runion, Meredith L. (2007). The history of Afghanistan. Westport: Greenwood Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-313-33798-7. The Yuezhi people conquered Bactria in the second century BCE and divided the country into five chiefdoms, one of which would become the Kushan Empire. Recognizing the importance of unification, these five tribes combined under the one dominate Kushan tribe, and the primary rulers descended from the Yuezhi. 
  62. ^ Liu 2001b, p. 156.
  63. ^ Beckwith 2009, pp. 84–85.
  64. ^ Hill 2009, pp. 28–29.
  65. ^ 後百餘歲,貴霜翕候丘就卻攻滅四翕候,自立為王,國號貴霜王。侵安息,取高附地。又滅濮達、罽賓,悉有其國。丘就卻年八十餘死,子閻膏珍代為王。復滅天竺,置將一人監領之。月氏自此之後,最為富盛,諸國稱之皆曰貴霜王。漢本其故號,言大月氏云。Hanshu, 96
  66. ^ Hill 2009, pp. 14, 43.
  67. ^ Mark J. Dresden (1981), "Introductory Note," in Guitty Azarpay, Sogdian Painting: the Pictorial Epic in Oriental Art, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, p. 5, ISBN 0-520-03765-0.
  68. ^ "Afghanistan: Central Asian and Sassanian Rule, ca. 150 B.C.-700 A.D.". United States: Library of Congress Country Studies. 1997. Retrieved 2016-09-16. 
  69. ^ The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, Volume 1, Denis Sinor, page. 170, https://books.google.bg/books?id=ST6TRNuWmHsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=cranial+deformation+Yueh-Chih&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjApt2UmLrMAhWM8RQKHdvQBr04ChDoAQg9MAc#v=onepage&q=Yueh%20Chih&f=false
  70. ^ Rong Xinjiang, 2004, Land Route or Sea Route? Commentary on the Study of the Paths of Transmission and Areas in which Buddhism Was Disseminated during the Han Period, tr. by Xiuqin Zhou, Sino-Platonic Papers 144, pp. 26–27.


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