Mon 21 Nov 2005
‘’The Uygur for over two thousand years have played a central role in the historical and cultural development of the central Asian region. Around the time of Christ the Uighur were emerging as a potent political, military and cultural force. In constant battle or confederation with the numerous tribes of the region and the dynasties of the ethnic Chinese, the Uygur grew into a great Central Asian empire. Their influence as concerns religion, literature, lawmaking, diplomacy, industry and trade was immense.
The consequences of these particular influences combined with their political and intellectual maturity would eventually have ramifications felt around the world and impact upon the civilisation we now know.
The Uighurs, being at the very crossroads of two great cultures, East and West, acted as conduits for the transference of culture and trade betwwen the two . Over the centuries thay have been involved, one way or the other, in the intrigues and strategic and political positioning of great religions, nations and empires. The Chinese Dynasties, British and Russian Empires, the Soviets, the communist Chinese and the Americans all have wooed the Uighurs and as many times betrayed them. Buddhism and Islam have both been championed by the Uighurs and their influence in the expansion of both in Central Asia and China is immense.To a modern world, that knows little or nothing of them, claims as to the Uygur’s global influence would come as a great surprise. However, in learning more about these unique people, suprise will give way to admiration for a people that for 2,000 years have defied great events and empires to develop a unique and wonderful culture in the crucible of modern civilisation.
A people who have, to this date and for over 2,000 years, maintained their cultural an ethnic identity in the face of immense military and political powers and pressures.
The Uygurs (or those tribes that would eventually be recognised as Uygurs) were first recognised by history with reference to them in Han Dynasty, Greek and Iranian records as being identified as a peoples traced back in Central Asia circa 300 B.C.E.
Circa 300 B.C.E. There is hypothesis that the Uygur were descendents of the Hun, however this does not seem to be proven. Chinese records would indicate that they can definitely be traced back to the Dingling nomadic tribe that roamed north and north western present day China and in areas south of Lake Baykal (south central Siberia) and between the Intush River and Lake Balkush in Mongolia. The Dingling were later referred to as Tiele, Tielli, Chile and Gao Che which means “High Wheel”, a name still used today by some Han Chinese to describe the Uygur.
Circa 138 B.C.E and 119 B.C.E The first official Chinese envoy Zang Qian (Chang Chien) is recorded as being in the area of the Uygur and making representations to tribes as far west as the Ferghana Valley in present day Uzbekistan
Circa 73 C.E The Uighur commence a continuous 28 year period of conflict with the Han Chinese.
Circa 60-59 B.C.E Emporor Xuan Di of the Western Han Dynasty takes control of the Uighur area and establishes an office of the Governor of the “Western Region” a name used by the Chinese for many years to refer to the area that now includes modern day Xinjiang.
Circa 10 B.C.E Uygurs regain their autonomy.
Circa 220-581 C.E The Six Dynasties Period in which the “Western Region” once again becomes a political dependency of the central Chinese.
327 C.E . Zhang Jun sets up the Gao Chang Prefecture with the administrative capital in present day Turpan
Circa 552-752 The Uygurs are conquered by and ruled by the Go Turks (a.k.a. Kok Turks)
Circa 670, 688, 693, Go Turk, Uygur, Tibetan and Shato groups join to harrass and capture Chinese outposts
Circa 744-745 Uygurs throw off the rule of the Go Turks and under Ruler Khutlugh Bilge Kul Khagan (Khagan = Ruler/King) form the first true Uygur state.
Under the guidance of Khutlugh and subsequently his son Moyunchar the Uygurs commence the building of an empire by subjugation of other Turkic tribes and eventually extend Uygur sovereignty north to Lake Bayakal, east to present day Gansu China and South west to present day Tibet and India. The capital of the Uygur empire is established in Togabash on the banks of the Orkon River in Mongolia.
Moyunchar set up trading outposts with the Chinese where a large number of goods such as horses, yaks, camels, reindeer, fur, wool, silk jade, metals, medicines and diamonds were traded. The Uighurs used their wider network of subject tribes to become a nexus point for goods movement. In doing so they amassed great wealth. A descriptions from the Chinese embassey in Ordu Baligh around the time of empire state that the Khagans of this period wore a ceremonial saffron robe and a rimmed hat with fur ear flaps. He was surrounded by a heavily armed squadron of bodyguards, which included some of most elite warriors in his army, and held discussions regularly with his administrators and army staff. There were embassies from various Turkic tribes, Chinese, Tibetans, Indians and Arabs that called upon the Khagan to negotiate trading deals. This point clearly illustrates the power the Uighurs gained by taking control of the Central Asian trading hubs. They also set up a courier service throughout Mongolia and other conquered domains. These developments allowed the Uygur to have the best of their nomadic steppe world as well as those of the settled civilizations.
Circa 747: Tokhuz Oghuz, Khyrghiz, Kharlukhs, Türgish, Basmyls, Sékiz Oghuz, Tokhuz Tatars and Chiks tribes brought under Uyghur rule
Circa 751: Battle of Talas; Tang Dynasty withdraw from Eastern Turkistan; Moyunchar invasion of the Tarim Basin in present day Xinjiang.
Circa 755-757 The Tang Dynasty of the Middle Kingdom requests help from the Uygur to quell an internal rebellion against its sovereignty. The Uygur successfully prosecute several campaigns and eventually the Tang are triumphant. In reward they bestow favourable trade terms on the Uygur as well as an annual Tribute measured in Silk. Also the Chinese Emporer gives his daughter as a bride to the Uygur Khagan.
All told in the period 740 – 840 A.D. three Chinese Princess’ become Uygur Khatuns (Khagan wife). During this period the Chinese also set up the Anxi Governors office in Xizhou (Turpan) later moving to Guizi (present day Gulja). Garrison towns were set up in Shule (Kashgar) and Suiye on the banks of the Che River.
Circa 759 Moyunchar Khagan dies and is succeeded by his son Bogu. It is under his rule that the Uighur reach their political and military peak.
Circa 762: Bögü Khaghan launched a campaign against the Tibetans with the Tang and managed to re-capture Luo Yang (the Western capital of the Tang) from the Tibetans. During the campaign, Bögü met with Manichaeist priests and converted to Manichaeism. Thus, Manichaeism became the official religion of the Orkhun Uyghur Khaghanate.
Circa 779, In 779 Bogu Khagan, considering Uygur military might to be equal to the task, collaborated with the Sogdians in planning an invasion of China to take advantage of the death of the then Emperer. Fearing not defeat but the ultimate loss of cultural and physical identity as a result of possible success, the plan is stopped by the assassination of Bogu by his cousin Baga a famous Uygur General.
780: Krygyz tribe brought under Uygur rule
End of Uygur Empire: Military Wane and Migration
Circa 805 War commences with northern neighbours the Krygyz
Circa 833: Anarchy in the khaghanate, Ay Téñridé Ülüg Bolmysh Küchlüg Bilgé killed
Circa 839 Severe winter destroys the Uighur economy. 839: Ay Téñridé Khut Bolmysh Alp Külüg Bilgé Khaghan killed by his ministers and rebels
Circa 840 Krygyz capture Uighur capital kills the Khagan Ho Sa and subjugates the people, Orkhun Uighur Khaghanate collapses