CHINESE TURKESTAN ii. In Pre-Islamic Times



ii. In Pre-Islamic Times

In antiquity the Tarim and Dzungar (Zungar, Jungar) basins lay at the crossroads of three main Eurasian routes (see i, above; EIr. II/6, p. 595 fig. 47). These three routes included the Southern Silk Road, which skirted the northern foothills of the Altin Tagh (A-er jin Shan) and Kunlun ranges; the Northern Silk Road along the southern foothills of the Tien Shans; and a northern route passing between the Bogdo-ola (Bo-ko-tuo) range and the Tien Shans, then along the northern edge of the latter, through the Dzungarian Gate between lakes Alakol and Ebi Nor (Ai-bi Hu), and across the Eurasian steppes as far as Europe. In the Tarim basin, which consists mainly of the desert of Takla Makan, a number of small oasis states provided halting places for travelers (Samolin, 1964, pp. 9-18); they included Kamul (Ha-mi), Turfan (Tu-lu-fan), Qarāšahr (near modern Yan-qi), Kucha (Ku-che), and Aqsu (A-ke-su) on the Northern Silk Road and Miran (near modern Ruo-qiang), Niya near modern Endere Langan (An-ti-er Lan-gan), Khotan, and Yarkand (Suo­-che) on the Southern Silk Road. These two routes merged at Kashgar (Ka-shi) at the western end of the basin.

The principal textual references to the geography and early inhabitants of Central and Inner Asia are found in the Old Persian inscriptions of Darius I (521-486 b.c.e.) and Xerxes I (486-65), the works of Greek authors beginning with Herodotus in the 6th century b.c.e., and early Chinese histories of the Han (206 b.c.e.-220 c.e.) and preceding, largely legendary dynasties. The Old Persian inscriptions include lists of the territories in the Persian empire; farthest to the northeast were those of the Sogdians, Gandharans, and Sakas (Scythians). The easternmost peoples named by Herodotus, in his de­scription of the Silk Road, were the “Issedonians” (4.25-­26), who were probably located in the northern steppes as far east as the Altai mountains (Pauly-Wissowa, IX/2, cols. 2235-46), but he knew little of the land between them and the Scythians farther south and west. Claudius Ptolemy (fl. 127-45 c.e.), drawing on information from traders and other travelers along the silk roads, described the country of the Sakas (6.13; Ronca, pp. 37-39), located east of the Jaxartes (Syr Darya), and the “Scythians beyond the Imaos” (the Pamirs; 16.14; Ronca, pp. 49-­51), to the north and east of the Sakas. He mentioned no Saka cities but did refer to “Scythian” Issedon, probably in the vicinity of modern Kashgar. Still farther east lay Serica (6.16; Ronca, pp. 52-58), approximately equiva­lent to the eastern Tarim and Dzungar basins, with another Issedon, perhaps located near the later site of Kroraina (Lop-Nor; Pulleyblank, 1962, p. 127), and in the extreme northeast Throana, later Dun-huang, which is mentioned in the 4th-century Sogdian Ancient Letters as ’rwʾʾn (the origin of the name is uncertain; Pulleyblank, 1966, p. 21, proposed a Yue-zhi origin, H. W. Bailey, 1982, pp. 20 n. 46, derived it from Ir. *druvāna “stronghold,” and V. Mair, forthcoming, argues for a relationship with Ind. draṃga “frontier post,” itself also ultimately an Iranian loanword). The Chinese sources include a few references to the area that may have been preserved from pre-Han times. King Mu of the Zhou dynasty (traditionally 1122-256 b.c.e.) was supposed to have traveled there in approximately 985-80 b.c.e., but the account of his journey (Mu tian-zi zhuan), the extant text of which probably dates from before 300 b.c.e., is extremely difficult to interpret in the light of information available from other sources (Haloun, pp. 301-02; Watson, 1983, p. 537 and n. 1; Pulleyblank, 1966, p. 19). There are also vague references to western peoples and places in other early texts like Shu-jing (Book of documents, compiled largely in the Han period and perhaps preserv­ing some Zhou elements) and Shan-hai-jing (Book of mountains and seas, composed at an indeterminate date before the beginning of the current era; Loewe, p. 658; Pulleyblank, 1966, p. 21), but they, too, are difficult to correlate with known archeological and historical data. Several reports by travelers who went as far as Syria under the Han dynasty (e.g., Hou Han-shu; Chavannes, 1907) include considerable information about the geography and history of eastern Turkestan. Persian and Arabic authors, on the other hand, had only vague notions of the geography of the area before the Muslim expansion into the region in the 4th/10th century (see, e.g. Ebn Ḵordāḏbeh, pp. 29-31; Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, tr. Minorsky, pp. 83-86, 223-35); the Pahlavi books of the 8th and 9th centuries contain no mention of the area.

During a brief interlude of intensive archeological exploration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries Russian, French, German, Swedish, English, and Japanese schol­ars discovered traces of a variety of ethnic groups and political configurations that had existed in the Tarim basin during the 1st millennium c.e. (Yaldiz). Subsequently, however, apart from systematic Chinese excavations in the Kucha oasis begun in 1950 (Chao et al., pp. 2-3) and a few isolated finds from salvage excavations elsewhere in Sinkiang (Xin-jiang), little further progress has been made. The Tarim basin as a whole has not yet been the object of sustained archeological investigations compa­rable to those carried out in Soviet Turkestan since World War II.

From the archeological finds it is now clear that the earliest known inhabitants of the Tarim basin spoke Indo-European languages. The two most prominent groups were Tokharians and Iranians, about whose origins and cultures little is known. The only certainly datable Tokharian inscriptions in Indian Brāhmī script are a group found in the Kucha oasis, written in the mid-7th century c.e. (Chao et al., pp. viii, 61, 128-33), but, if, as T. Burrow concluded (1935), one group of Prakrit docu­ments in Kharoṣṭhī script found at Niya, Endere, and Lou­-lan includes linguistic elements borrowed from a Tokharian language, then the presence of these people in the eastern Tarim basin would be attested as early as the 2nd-3rd centuries. The Tokharians spoke a language of the so-called centum (Lat. “hundred”) branch of the Indo-European languages, which is more closely related to Celtic, Germanic, Italic, and Greek than to the Indian and Iranian languages, which belong to the satəm (Av. “hundred”) branch. They were probably not immigrants from far western regions, however; more likely they represented an old, marginal section of the proto-Indo-European community that had been displaced by the expansion of central groups, including the Indo-Iranians. The date at which they arrived in the Tarim basin is still a matter of debate. It has been customary to identify as “Indo-Scythians” or Iranians the Yue-zhi (variant pronunciation Ru-zhi) and the Wu-sun (perhaps pronounced *ʾa[g]sən in Old Sinitic; see Schnessler, pp. 645b, 592b), mentioned in Chinese texts of the 2nd century b.c.e. as inhabitants of the area around Dun-huang (see Pulleyblank, 1970). Other scholars, on the other hand, most recently E. G. Pulleyblank, have identified the Yue-zhi with the Tokharians, presumably displaced eastward by Indo-Iranian migrations at an early date (1966, p. 14; 1983, p. 457-58; cf. Grousset, pp. 22-28; Narain, 1987, pp. 7-15; chinese-iranian relations ii). If this identification is accepted and if, as several scholars have argued, the Yue-zhi were already present on the western borders of China in the late 2nd millennium b.c.e. (Narain,1987, pp. 4-7; cf. Pulleyblank, 1983, p. 457), then the Tokharian migrations must have occurred even earlier.

Iranians in the Tarim basin. Artifacts and artistic motifs commonly found in Sinkiang reveal clear links with known “Scythian” pieces from neighboring areas, and it is clear that Iranians must have been present in the Tarim basin from an early date (for the Zaman-Baba culture, see Past Worlds, p. 149). Among their descendants must be included the peoples still settled in the southwestern Tarim basin and the Pamirs (see vi, below); the Khotanese, who lived along the Southern Silk Road east of Khotan; a group on the Northern Silk Road around present-day Maralbashi (Ba-chu) and nearby Tumshuq (Tu-mu-xiu­ke) west of Aqsu; and the Sogdians, who, though settled in Central Asia, were active as traders throughout what is now Chinese Turkestan from the early centuries of the present era. Plants (e.g., alfalfa, grapes; Laufer, Sino­-Iranica, pp. 208-45; cf. Schafer, pp. 141-45), animals first domesticated on the Persian plateau (goats, sheep; Schafer, pp. 75-76; see boz; cattle; dāmdārǰ), musical instruments (balloon guitar, harp; see, e.g., Hayashi, pp. 98, 128), and other aspects of Iranian culture reached the Tarim basin and China quite early. The elaborate underground irrigation system (kārēz) in the Turfan basin (see, e.g., Le Coq, 1929, pp. 52-53) reflects technology devel­oped in Persia and Armenia in the first half of the 1st millennium b.c.e. (see Gaube, p. 28 nn. 2-3 with refs.; D. Hill, pp. 29, 33-36, and refs. pp. 45-46), and already in the Western Han period the horses of Fergana (Farḡāna) were in great demand in China and the Tarim basin (Samolin, 1964, pp. 22-23 and n. 16). The Sogdians and Khotanese were primarily responsible for dissemination throughout the region of the four great pre-Islamic religions: Bud­dhism, Mazdaism, Manicheism (see vii, below), and Christianity. Iranian-speaking peoples were also involved in the eastward spread of Islam.

The Sogdians’ principal base of operations was the fertile Zeravshan valley around the capital, Afrasiyab (Afrāsīāb, near Samarkand), which was visited by Chinese ambassadors in the 7th century (depicted on murals of the residential quarters preserved in the Afrasiyab museum; Mair, personal observation). According to the Xin Tang-shu (New Tang history, comp. 1060 c.e.), Sogdians went “wherever profit is to be found” (Pulleyblank, 1952, p. 317). They established colonies at all the main entrepôts along the eastern portion of the silk roads, in the Han capital at Lo-yang, and far into Inner Mongolia (Pulleyblank, 1952). According to the Sogdian Ancient Letters, there was a large and economically active community at Dun-huang in the 4th century c.e., attested by the large number of individuals with the surname Kang (< Kang-qu = Samarkand; Pulleyblank, 1952, p. 320) who lived there (Grenet and Sims-Wil­liams). So prominent were the Sogdians along the Asian trade routes that until the 7th/13th century their language was the virtual lingua franca in the region; it was then replaced by Persian (Pelliot, 1912, p. 105).

The kingdom of Khotan near the western end of the Southern Silk Road was founded, according to legends reported in Tibetan and Chinese sources, during the reign of the Maurya king Aśoka (ca. 272-31 b.c.e.; see Stein, 1907, pp. 156-66; Emmerick, 1967, pp. 15-25; aśoka iv) in India, but no mention is made of Iranians in these stories. Nor is it possible to conclude from several references to Khotan in the annals of the Han dynasty, beginning in about 140 b.c.e., whether or not the inhab­itants were Iranians (Chavannes, 1903, passim; Samolin, 1964, passim). The kingdom expanded after the middle of the 1st century c.e., but in about 73 the king was forced to submit to the Chinese, who established a garrison in his territory (Chavannes, 1903, p. 156). After 150 it became fairly independent again, but coins from this period found at the site of Khotan, inscribed in Chinese and Kharoṣṭhī (Cribb), provide no clue to the ethnic identity of the Khotanese. The first concrete evidence of an Iranian presence in the country is found in a document probably of the 3rd century, discovered by M. A. Stein at the site of Endere (facsimile in Stein, 1921, pl. xxxviii; transcription in Boyer and Senart, p. 249; tr. 1940, p. 137; cf. Emmerick, 1979, p. 168 and n. 7). It was written in a local Middle Indian dialect in Kharoṣṭhī script by Khotana maharaya rayatiraya hinajha Vij’ida Siṃha “General Vijida Simha, great king, king of kings of Khotan” in his tenth chuna (< Khot. kṣuṇa) “regnal year.” The Khotanese title hīnāysa (pronounced hīnāza, lit. “army leader”) is also attested in much later indigenous texts. Khotan was an early center of Buddhism and was visited over several centuries by Chinese Buddhist travelers, who reported on the land and its people. The earliest was Fa-xian, who was there in 400 (Beal, I, pp, xxv-xxvii).

In the high Pamirs there was a kingdom around Tashqurghan (Ta-shi-ku-er-gan) mentioned in the Jiu Tang-shu (Old Tang history, 945) as Cong-ling (Chavannes, 1903, pp. 32, 73 n.) and later as He-pan-tuo, Han-tuo, Ke-le-tuo, and Jie-pan-tuo (Chavannes,1903, p. 124). According to the Xin Tang-shu (XX, p. 6234; tr. Chavannes, 1903, pp. 124-25, cf. p. 162), it was situated south of Kashgar (Su-le) and east of Wāḵān (Wakhan, Hu-­mi) and Šeḡnān (Shughnan, Shi-ni or Shi-qi-ni). The royal family had come originally from Kashgar, and the people, considered violent, looked like the Khotanese and spoke the same language (note that the modern Iranian dialect spoken in Wāḵān is, in certain respects, more closely related to Khotanese than to any other Iranian language; for a survey, see Skjærvø, 1989, p. 375). The Xin Tang-shu adds that people in Kashgar had “green eyes and tattoos on their bodies” and that their king was from the Pei family, that is, the royal family of Kashgar (cf. Chavannes, 1903, pp. 121, 124). In 435-39, according to the Xin Tang-shu, Cong-ling first established relations with China, under the rule of the Northern Wei dynasty, (386-534; Chavannes, 1903, pp. 124-25). According to the Bei-shi, which includes information gathered by the party with which Song Yun traveled in 519, Ke-pan-tuo, Khotan, Wāḵān, Bukhara, and Gandhara were among the countries subject to the Hephthalites (Chavannes, 1903, pp. 224-25). In 635 an ambassador from Cong-ling appeared at the Tang court, and in 659 the three kingdoms of Kashgar, Zhu-jiu-bo (south of Yarkand), and He-pan-­tuo joined together in the conquest of Khotan (Xin Tang-­shu; Chavannes, 1903, p. 72). Between 713 and 741 China conquered the entire western Tarim basin and placed it under the protectorate of An-xi (see below). The Korean Buddhist monk Hui-chao (Kor. Hye-ch’o) trav­eled to Cong-ling in around 726, taking fifteen days to pass through Wāḵān (north of which, he was told, lay Šeḡnān), but he found no population in the area, as King Pei-xing had rebelled and fled to Tibet (Fuchs, p. 455; Yang et al., pp. 55-56).

The Iranians on the Northern Silk Road inhabiting the area around Tumshuq and Maralbashi spoke an Iranian language (Tumshuqese, also referred to as “Tumshuq”) most closely related to Khotanese but in some respects more archaic (Konow; Bailey, 1958, pp. 147-54; Emmerick, 1989). Very little is known about them, however. Some fifteen documents in this language sur­vive, most of them official and private letters, with a few Buddhist Hinayana (Nikāya) texts (among them a frag­ment of the Araṇemi-jātaka, Bailey, 1968, p. 44) and one Manichean text (W. B. Henning apud Konow, p. 171). They include the names of kings and their regnal dates (Konow), but as these rulers are not mentioned in other sources their reigns cannot be synchronized with what is known of the history of the region. The Tumshuqese must have been in close contact with the Tokharians in the nearby Kucha oasis, with whom they shared a common form of the Brahma alphabet and from whom they borrowed the names for poetic meters (Konow, pp. 172-73; Bailey, 1968, p. 44), probably in the 7th century.

Relations with China. China, like all the major states bordering on what is now Chinese Turkestan, was interested in controlling and exploiting the region from an early date. Although throughout history civil and military units were nominally charged with supervision of the Tarim and Dzungar basins, they seldom exercised real or lasting authority beyond Dun-huang at the eastern tip of the Tarim basin, the strategic garrison town at the western end of the long Gan-su corridor. A significant Chinese agricultural population was settled there, and the oasis was protected by an elaborate system of defensive works, constituting the westernmost extension of a line that was eventually replaced by the Great Wall. It was there that the true boundary between China and the Western Re­gions (Xi-yu, until recently the Chinese name for Inner Asia), between Han and nomad, lay (Mair, 1989).

The first reliable records of Chinese activity in Inner and Central Asia are connected with the mission of the Chi­nese emissary Zhang Qian (Chang Ch’ien), which lasted from 138 to126 b.c.e. He had been dispatched by the Han emperor Wu-di (r. 141-87 b.c.e.) to forge an alliance with the Yue-zhi against the nomadic Xiong-nu, who were said to have displaced them from their ances­tral lands around Dun-huang. Having followed the Southern Silk Road, he found the Yue-zhi in Sogdiana (between the Oxus and Samarkand), where they had settled after conquering Bactria and dividing it into five kingdoms (Shi-ji; cf. Pulleyblank, 1970, p. 159). One of these kingdoms was Kušān (Gui-shuang), which came in subsequent centuries to have enormous influence in India and Central Asia. Zhang Qian failed to convince the Yue-­zhi to help fight the Xiong-nu, but he did succeed in opening Inner Asia to Chinese power and interests. As a result of his explorations, Wu-di sent expeditionary forces into the region, erected a line of limites and watchtowers, and created a network of government offices for dealing with the Western Regions (see, e.g., Loewe, pp. 163-65; Yü, pp. 405-12). The main reasons for looking west were to prevent Asian nomads from pouring into Chinese territory and to ensure the uninterrupted flow of com­merce, consisting mainly of the export of silk; there is only scant evidence for what might have been imported in exchange (Watson, 1983, pp. 547-53), though the horses of Fergana (see Pulleyblank, 1966, p. 22 with n. 5; Samolin, 1964, pp. 22-23 with n. 18) were much sought after in China.

When the Chinese began to extend their direct control into the Tarim basin at the end of the 2nd century b.c.e. there were thirty-six independent kingdoms along the trade routes south of the Tien Shans (Hou Han-shu; Chavannes, 1907, p. 153; Pulleyblank, 1966, p. 15); the mountains themselves and the area north of them were inhabited by nomadic tribes, including the Xiong-nu, and the Wu-sun. During the final years of the Former (or Western) Han dynasty (206 b.c.e.-23 c.e.) the thirty-six kingdoms split into fifty-five kingdoms, formed an alli­ance against China, and submitted to the Xiong-nu (Hou Han-shu; Chavannes,1907, p. 155). The Chinese sources contain no useful information about the ethnic composi­tion of any of these kingdoms, however.

This general political alignment persisted through the Later (or Eastern) Han period (25-220 c.e.), with only rare breaks, most particularly in the years 73-102, when China exercised genuine authority in the Tarim and Dzungar basins. In 73, according to the Hou Han-shu (Chavannes, 1907, p. 156), Emperor Ming-di (29-75) sent his generals to attack the Xiong-nu, and the kings of Khotan and the other states sent their sons to serve the emperor (i.e., as hostages). In the year 77 the extremely able general Ban Chao was established in Khotan (Hou Han-shu; Chavannes, 1907, p. 158). Through a combi­nation of clever strategy and ruthless machinations he managed to install a number of local rulers who were more favorably disposed to the overlordship of the Han than to that of the Xiong-nu or other powers. In 91 he became protector-general, with his seat at Kucha, whence in 94 he attacked Qarāšahr farther east and in 97 even sent a mission as far west as Parthian Mēšān (Mesene; see characene and charax) at the head of the Persian Gulf (Hou Han-shu; Chavannes, 1907, pp. 159, 177-78; cf. Samolin, 1964, pp. 35-44). Immediately after his death in 102, however, Chinese influence in the region began to wane (Bielenstein, p. 269; Yü, p. 413).

By the beginning of the 3rd century China was too weak to exercise control over the Western Regions and for most of the next four centuries was itself (or at least that part of its territory north of the Yangtze [Yang-zi]) ruled by a succession of foreign peoples, Xiong-nu, Tibeto-Burmans, proto-Mongols (e.g., Xian-bei [< *Särbi], Wu-huan [Avars]), and Turks; it was finally reunited only under the short-lived Sui dynasty (581-618). Of these groups the Wu-huan were in control of the Tarim and Dzungar basins in the 3rd-5th centuries (Pulleyblank, 1983, pp. 452-54; Samolin, 1964, pp. 52-54; Grignaschi, pp. 225-31). By the beginning of the Tang period (618-­907) various other Turkic groups were also gradually filtering into the Tarim basin from the north. These movements were the first in a gradual process of Turkization of Inner and Central Asia.

Although documentation is scarce, it seems that the Hua, or Hephthalites (Ye-dai-yi-li-tuo; on the identifica­tion of the Hephthalites see Enoki and Ghirshman, who concluded they were basically Iranians; and chionites), supplanted the Wu-huan in the Tarim basin. The Hua invaded Khotan in 445 (Chavannes, 1903, p. 224), and between 502 and 556 the country appears to have been subject to them (cf. Stein, 1907, p. 171). Beginning in the 6th or 7th century reports in the Chinese records can be compared with Khotanese documents, which contain names of kings and references to local events (Zhang and Rong, 1987; idem, 1988, in which a 5th- or 6th-century date is proposed for some Khotanese legal documents on wood found at the site of Domoqo, q.v.; see also maps in Zhang and Rong, 1987, p. 86).

Under the Tang the Chinese embarked on a series of conquests of the oasis states surrounding the Tarim basin, though the actual campaigns were conducted mainly by Turkish (Tu-jue) condottieri on their behalf (Grignaschi; Samolin, 1964, pp. 56, 59-60). In 644 the famous Buddhist traveler Xuan-zang described Khotan in some detail (Beal, II, pp. 309-24). Four years later, in 648 or 649, the Chinese placed the country under the An-xi (Gua­zhou) protectorate and transferred the administrative seat from Qočo (Gao-chang) in the Turfan basin to Kucha; Kucha, Kashgar, Khotan, and Qarāšahr were designated thenceforth as the “four garrisons” (see map in Wechsler, p. 227). The names of the kings of Khotan, as well as some key events during the period between 648 and the Tibetan conquest of the country in 791, have also been recorded in the Tibetan versions of what were apparently official annals of Khotan (J. E. Hill). From the mid-7th to the mid-8th century China sent huge armies into Inner and Central Asia and decimated much of the indigenous population. Expansion to the west was, however, brought to a sudden halt in 751, at the battle of Talas (Ṭarāz), when Tang troops under the Korean general Gao Xian-zhi were defeated by Muslim armies led by Zīād b. Ṣāleḥ (Ebn al-­Aṯīr, V, p. 449; Chavannes, 1903, pp. 143, 152-53; Barthold, Turkestan3, pp. 195-96; Samolin, 1964, pp. 66-­67; see also central asia iv. in the islamic period up to the mongols).

The corrupt Tang government was also experiencing difficulties at home. At the end of 755 the general An Lu-shan (703-57; see also an-hsi), a favorite of the Tang emperor, Xuan-zong (685-762), staged a coup d’état. His father had been part of a group of Sogdian origin attached to the eastern Turks in Mongolia and his mother a Turkish aristocrat, and he was said to be fluent in six non-Chinese languages. He weighed more than 400 pounds and was renowned at the Tang court for his ability to dance the “Sogdian whirl” (Hu-xuan wu). Soon after his forces had succeeded in taking the capital he was killed by a eunuch slave in collusion with his own son An Qing-xiu. The restored Tang dynasty remained weak, however, and it can fairly be said that An Lu-shan was directly instrumen­tal in its demise (Pulleyblank, 1955; Samolin, 1964, p. 67).

Toward the end of the 8th century the Tibetans extended their domination over the Tarim basin, capturing Khotan in 791 (Samolin, 1964, pp. 69, 80-81). In one Khotanese document, dated in the sixteenth regnal year of Viśa Kīrrti (ca. 803; Skjærvø, forthcoming), it was noted that the land of Khotan was being “watched over” by the Tāguttas, most probably to be identified as the Tibetans (Bailey, 1968, p. 91). Not much is known about the kingdom during the Tibetan occupation, which lasted until about 842 (see, e.g., Beckwith, pp. 155, 171; Samolin, 1964, pp. 69-70), at which time a combination of internal struggles and pressure from the eastern Turkish Uighurs, who had migrated from their homeland in Mongolia after their capital city on the Orhon was sacked by the Qirghiz in 840 (Samolin, 1964, pp. 68-70; Beckwith, pp. 146-71; Hamilton, 1986, p. xv), brought an end to Tibetan power in the Tarim basin. One group of Uighurs settled along the Northern Silk Road, with its capital at Qočo, remaining independent until 1130, when it submitted to the Qarā Ḵeṭāy (Samolin, 1964, p. 70). A second group settled in Gan-su and founded a small state with its capital at Gan­zhou; it became a vassal state of the Tanguts (Tibeto-­Burmans), or Xi-xia, in 1028 (Samolin, 1964, pp. 70, 75 n. 15, 83). At approximately the same time that the Uighurs were consolidating their hold on the eastern Tarim basin the Īlek-ḵāns (Qarakhanids), with their capitals at Balāsāḡūn on the Chu river in what is now eastern Kazakhstan and at Talas, were expanding both westward into Samanid territory and eastward into Fergana and the western Tarim basin. After the Samanids took Talas in 280/893 the second Qarakhanid capital was shifted to Kashgar (Samolin, 1964, pp. 78-79).

A large number of Khotanese documents from the 10th century attest continued close relations with the Uighur rulers of Sha-zhou (Dun-huang) between 914 and 1014 (Zhang and Rong, 1984, p. 41). In 938, according to the Chinese histories, diplomatic relations between Khotan and China were reestablished when King Viśa Saṃbhava (r. 912-ca. 966; Skjærvø, forthcoming), whom the Chi­nese called Li Sheng-tian, was then officially recognized as the legitimate ruler of the “jewel country of Khotan” (Zhang and Rong, 1984, p. 29 n. 18). The embassy dispatched to his court arrived in his twenty-ninth regnal year (ca. 941). Viśa Saṃbhava/Li Sheng-tian married a princess of the Chinese governing family at Sha-zhou, the Cao, and both are identified by inscriptions on wall paintings in the caves at Mo-gao/Dun-huang (Zhang and Rong, 1984, p. 42; See caves of the thousand buddhas). Their son Viśa Śūra led a victorious army against the Muslim Īlek-ḵān (tāžik) of Kashgar and reported on the campaign in a letter to the ruler of Sha-zhou, dated 17 February 970, in which he mentioned the capture of a dancing elephant; both the original letter and a record of it in the Chinese annals have been preserved (Pulleyblank, 1954, pp. 91-92; Bailey, 1968, pp. 58-61). One of Viśa Śūra’s brothers, Cong-de, has been identified with Tcūṃ­ttehi, known to have composed poems in Khotanese (Kumamoto, 1986, pp. 231-32). King Viśa Śūfra was succeeded by Viśa Darma in 978 (Skjærvø, forthcoming), and relations with the Sha-zhou government seem to have been broken off shortly thereafter.

The continued presence of the Uighurs along the bor­ders of Khotan and in Sha-zhou and Gan-zhou is reflected in a series of Khotanese documents, probably dating from 990-93 and connected with the resumption of relations (Hamilton, 1977; Kumamoto, 1982). If the dates are correct, these documents are among the latest that have been preserved from Khotan before the Muslim conquest, which was accomplished by 396/1006 (see iii, below). Buddhist culture and the Khotanese language itself disappeared, and few traces of the early Iranian or Tokharian languages formerly spoken in the Tarim basin remain.

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Bussagli, Central Asian Painting. From Afghanistan to Sinkiang, New York, 1979. H. Chao et al., Sites divers de la région de Koutcha. Épigraphie koutchéenne, Mission Paul Pelliot, Documents archéologiques 8, Paris, 1987. É. Chavannes, Documents sur les Tou-kiue (Turcs) occidentaux, St. Petersburg, 1903. Idem, “Les pays d’Occident d’après le Heou Han chow,” T’oung Pao 8, 1907, pp. 149-234. J. Cribb, “The Sino-Kharosthi Coins of Khotan. Their Attribution and Relevance to Kushan Chronology,” Numismatic Chronicle, 1985, pp. 128-52. J. A. Dabbs, History of the Discovery and Exploration of Chinese Turkestan, Central Asiatic Studies 8, 1963. R. E. Emmerick, Tibetan Texts Concerning Khotan, London, 1967. Idem, “The Historical Importance of the Khotanese Manuscripts,” in J. Harmatta, ed., Prolegomena to the Sources on the History of Pre-Islamic Central Asia, Budapest, 1979, pp. 167-77. Idem, “Khotanese and Tumshuqese,” in R. 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A Study of the Scythians and the Huns and the Part They Played in World History, with Special Reference to Chinese Sources, Chapel Hill, N.C., 1939. R. A. Miller, tr., Accounts of the Western Nations in the History of the Northern Chou Dynasty, University of California, Chinese Dynastic Histories Translations 6, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1959. A. K. Narain, On the “First” Indo-Europeans. The Tokharian-Yuezhi and Their Chinese Homeland, Papers on Inner Asia 2, Bloomington, Ind., 1987. Idem, “Indo-Europeans in Inner Asia,” in D. Sinor, ed., The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, Cambridge, 1990, pp. 151-76. P. Pelliot, “Les influences iraniennes en Asie centrale et en Extreme-Orient,” Revue d’histoire et de littérature religieuses, N.S. 3/2, 1912, pp. 97-119. Idem, Notes on Marco Polo, 3 vols., Paris, 1959-73. Past Worlds. The Times Atlas of Archaeology, London, 1988. E. G. Pulleyblank, “A Sogdian Colony in Inner Mongolia,” T’oung Pao 41, 1952, pp. 317-56. Idem, “The Date of the Staël-Holstein Roll,” Asia Major, N.S. 4, 1954, pp. 90-97. Idem, The Background of the Rebellion of An Lu-shan, London, 1955. Idem, “The Consonantal System of Old Chinese,” Asia Major 9, 1962, pp. 58-144, 206-265. Idem, “Chinese and Indo-Europeans,” JRAS, 1966, pp. 9-39. Idem, “The Wu-sun and Sakas and the Yüeh-chih Migration,” BSOAS 33, 1970, pp. 153-60. Idem, “The Chinese and Their Neighbors in Prehistoric and Early Historic Times,” in D. N. Keightley, ed., The Origins of Chinese Civilization, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1983, pp. 411-66. I. Ronca, ed. and tr., Ptolemaios, Geographie 6,9-21. Ostiran und Zentralasien I, Rome, 1971. W. Samolin, “The Historical Ethnography of the Tarim Basin before the Turks,” Kodaigaku/Palaeologia, 4/1, 1955, pp. 33-40. Idem, “Ethnographic Aspects of the Archae­ology of the Tarim Basin,” Central Asiatic Journal 4/1, 1958-59, pp. 45-67. Idem, East Turkestan to the Twelfth Century. A Brief Political Survey, Central Asiatic Studies 9, the Hague, 1964. E. H. Schafer, The Golden Peaches of Samarkand. A Study of Tang Exotics, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1963. A. Schnessler, A Dictionary of Early Zhou Chinese, Honolulu, 1987. P. O. Skjærvø, “Modern East Iranian Languages,” in R. Schmitt, ed., Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum, Wiesbaden, 1989, pp. 370-83. Idem, “Kings of Khotan,” in the proceedings of the Colloquium on the Silk Route, Paris, 1988, forthcoming. M. A. Stein, Sand-Buried Ruins of Khotan. Personal Narrative of a Journey of Archaeological and Geographical Exploration in Chinese Turkestan, London, 1903. Idem, Ancient Khotan. Detailed Report of Archaeological Explorations in Chi­nese Turkestan, 2 vols., Oxford, 1907. Idem, Serindia. Detailed Report of Explorations in Central Asia and Westernmost China, 5 vols., Oxford, 1921. Idem, In­nermost Asia. Detailed Report of Explorations in Central Asia, Kan-su and Eastern Iran, 4vols., Oxford,1928. W. Watson, Cultural Frontiers in Ancient East Asia, Edinburgh, 1971. Idem, “Iran and China,” in Camb. Hist. Iran III/2, 1983, pp. 537-58. H. J. Wechsler, “T’ai-­tsung (Reign 626-49) the Consolidator,” in D. Twitchett and M. Loewe, eds., The Cambridge History of China, III/1. Sui and T’ang China, 589-906, Cambridge, 1979, pp. 188-241. R. Whitfield, “Buddhist Monuments in China. Some Recent Finds of Śarīra Deposits,” in T. Skorupski, ed., The Buddhist Heritage, Tring, U.K., 1989, pp. 129-41. Xiang Ta, Tang-dai Chang-an yu xi-yu wen-ming (Chang-an during the Tang dynasty and the civilization of the Western Regions), Beijing, 1957. Xin-jiang gu-­dai min-zu wen-wu (Cultural relics of the ancient peoples of Sinkiang), Beijing, 1985. Xin-jiang she-hui ke-xue­-yuan, Kao-gu yan jiu-suo [Sinkiang Academy of Social Sciences, Institute of Archeology], Xin-jiang kao-gu san-­shi nian [Thirty years of Sinkiang archeology], Urumchi, 1983. M. Yaldiz, Archäologie und Kunstgeschichte Chinesisch-Zentralasiens (Xinjiang), HO VII/3/2, 1987. H. Yang et al., tr. and ed., The Hye Ch’o Diary. Memoir of a Pilgrimage to the Five Regions of India, Berkeley and Seoul, n.d. Yu Tai-shun, Ya-da shi yan-jiu (Studies on the history of the Hephthalites), Jinan, 1986. Y. Yü, “Han Foreign Relations,” in D. Twitchett and M. Loewe, eds., The Cambridge History of China I. The Ch’in and Han Empires 221 B.C.-AD. 220, Cambridge, 1986, pp. 377-462. G. Zhang and X. Rong “Les noms du royaume de Khotan. Les noms d’ère et la lignée royale de la fin des Tang au début des Song,” in M. Soymié, ed., Contributions aux études de Touen-Houang III, Publi­cations de l’École française d’Extrême-Orient 135, Paris, 1984, pp. 23-46. Idem, “Sur un manuscrit chinois découvert à Cira près de Khotan,” Cahiers d’Extrême-­Asie 3, 1987, pp. 77-92. Idem, “Guan-yu He-tian chu­-tu Yu-tian wen-xian de nian-dai ji qi xiang-guan wen-ti” (The dating of some Khotanese-Chinese documents discovered in Khotan and related problems) Tōyō gakuhō/The Toyo Gakuho 69/1-2, 1988, pp. 59-86.

Iranian Religious Terms in Pre-Islamic Central and Inner Asia


Buddhism, Manicheism (see vii, below), and Nestorian Christianity (see christianity iii. in central asia and chinese turkestan) were the predominant religions among the Iranian peoples of Central and Inner Asia in the historical period. Despite pressure from these proselytiz­ing religions, however, traces of the original Mazdaism of the Iranians must have survived there and in the early 6th century may even have penetrated into China, where the heavenly, or fire, god was worshiped in some places as late as the 12th century (See chinese-iranian relations i. in pre-islamic times). Most of the evidence consists of linguistic survivals: Beside an Old Sogdian version of one Zoroastrian prayer, preserved in a manuscript in the Stein collection at the British Library, London (Gershevitch in Sims-Williams, pp. 75-82), Old Iranian religious terms are found in both Buddhist and Manichean Sogdian texts, though some of the Manichean terms may have been borrowed indirectly, through Middle Persian or Parthian. A few Sogdian expressions found in Zoroastrian contexts are also best characterized as loan translations, for ex­ample, šyrʾk šmʾrʾk “good thought” < Av. Vohu manah (See bahman) and MN sʾpt zʾnwkʾ ʾkw xwʾrʾnt MN xwʾrʾnt zʾnwkʾ ʾkw sʾpt “from the left knee to the right, from the right knee to the left,” which Nicholas Sims-Williams (p. 48) has compared with Av. hāuuōiia bāzuuō dašinača dašina bāzuuō hāuuaiiača “with the left arm and the right, with the right arm and the left.” Furthermore, the names of the days in the Sogdian calendar (see calendars i. pre-­islamic calendars), known from both Manichean texts and from documents excavated at Mount Mug in the Zeravshan valley east of Samarkand, correspond to those of the old Zoroastrian calendar. Fragments of a Sogdian manuscript containing the story of Rostam, a popular mythical figure in ancient Sogdiana, and his steed Raxš fighting with the dēws (demons; see daiva) are also pre­served in the Bibliothèque Nationale and the British Library, London (Sims-Williams, pp. 54-61); in addition, several wall paintings (probably of the 8th century) from the site of Pyanjikent, near Samarkand, include scenes of mounted warriors combating serpents and other foes, which some scholars have identified with the “Rostam cycle” (Azarpay, pp. 108-09, pls. 4-12).

Farther east, in the Tarim basin, the earliest dated Khotanese texts are from the 7th century, when the Buddhist religion was completely dominant along the Southern Silk Route; as they contain far fewer Old Iranian terms than do the Sogdian Buddhist texts, it is probable that the Mazdean religion had never been as deeply rooted in this region as it was in Sogdiana.

The following lists of terms, compiled by P. O. Skjærvø, contains most of the words attested in published Sogdian and Khotanese texts.


ʾṇγrnʾ (Mug), the thirtieth day of the month; cf. Av.

Anaγranąm, lit. “(day) of the infinite (lights)”; note also

nṛγʾ rwxšnyʾkt, cf. Av. anaγra raočå “the infinite lights”

(Hamilton and Sims-Williams, pp. 67-68; ref. kindly

supplied by Sims-Williams)

ʾpwxl/ʾʾbwx (Man.), the tenth day of the month; cf. Av.

Apąm, lit. “(day) of the waters,” āpō vaŋᵛhīš “the good

waters” (Gershevitch, p. 252)

ʾʾš (Man.), the ninth day of the month; cf. Av. Āθrō, lit.

“(day) of fire”

ʾβtkyšpʾ (Buddh., Man.) “the seven climes”; cf. Av. hapta

karšuuąn (Benveniste, p. 68, text P 3.209; see clime),

in a prayer to the wind that contains several phrases

reminiscent of Avestan, e.g., wnʾntktwntwʾṭ . . . wʾt ʾrtʾw

“victorious, powerful winḍ . . . righteous wind,” vāta

vərəθraǰana “with the victorious wind,” vātahe aṧaonō

“of the righteous wind” (AirWb., col. 1409); in Manichean texts the name ʾβtkyšpy xwtʾw “lord of the seven climes” referred to the Living Spirit (Sundermann, pp. 102, 131)

ʾrtʾt (Man.), the sixth day of the month; cf. Av.

Hauruuatātō, lit. “(day) of the Hauruuatāt (wholesomeness)”

ʾrtxwšt (Mug),ʾrtʾwxwšt (Man.), the third day of the

month; cf. Av. Aṧahe Vahištahe, lit. “(day) of Aṧa

Vahišta (best truth)” (See ardwahišt, ašÂ¡a); in Manichean texts the name is applied to Light, the third son of the First Man (Sundermann, pp. 101, 126)

ʾrtxw/ʾrtwx (Mug), the twenty-fifth day of the month; cf.

Av. Ašōiš, lit. “(day) of Aši” (q.v.)

ʾryʾnwyjn (Man.), a place near Sumeru (in Indian

mythology the mountain in the middle of the world); cf.

Av. ariianəm vaējō, lit. “the Aryan expanse” (Henning,

1945, pp. 476-77)

(ʾ)smʾn (Mug), smʾn (Man.), the twenty-seventh day of the

month; cf. Av. Asmō, lit. “(day) of the sky”

ʾsp(ʾ)nt(ʾ)rmt (Mug), pndʾrmt or spndʾrmd (Man.), the

fifth day of the month; cf. Av. Spəntaiiå Ārmatōiš, lit.

“(day) of Spəntā Ārmaiti” (q.v.; prosperous right-mindedness). In Manichean texts zʾy spndʾrmṯ, lit. “Spandārmat, the earth,” is the name of the Glorious King, fourth son of the Living Spirit (Sundermann, pp. 101, 127; see also Khot. Śśandrāmatā, below)

ʾtδrmnw (Buddh.), šmnw (Man. > Old Turkish šimnu and

Chr. “Satan”) < *Ahra manyu; cf. Av. Aŋra Mainiiu

“the evil spirit” (see ahriman); for ʾtδrmnw ZY ‘ywty

“Ahriman and the demons” (Henning, 1944, pp. 138,

140; Sundermann, pp. 101, 129), cf. Mid. Pers. Ahrimen

ud dēwān

ʾxšywr (Mug), xšywr (Man.), the fourth day of the month;

cf. Av. Xšaθrahe Vairiiehe, lit. “(day) of the Xšaθra Vairiia (best dominion)”

(ʾ)xwrmzt (Mug), xwrmzṯʾ (Man.), the first day of the

month; cf. Av. Daθušō Ahurahe Mazdå, lit. “(day) of

the creator, Ahura Mazdā” (q.v.); in Manichean texts xwrmztʾ-βγ (> Old Turkish Xormuzta) is the name of the

primal man (Sundermann, pp. 101, 125; cf. Khot. urmaysdān-, below)

(ʾ)xwmnʾ (Mug), xwmnʾ(ḫ) (Man.), the second day of the

month; cf. Av. Vanhəˊuš Manaŋhō, lit. “(day) of Vohu


ʾzmwxtwγ (Mug), zmwxtwγ (Man.), the twenty-eighth

day of the month; cf. Av. Zəmō huδåŋho, lit. “(day) of

the beneficent earth”

(ʾ)zrwʾ (Buddh. > Old Turkish Äzrua), name applied to the

Indian god Brahma,

(ʾ)zrwʾ βγyy (Man.), name of the highest god in the

Manichean pantheon (see cosmog­ony and

cosmology ii. manichean); cf. Av. Zruuan

(Sundermann, pp. 101, 124; Asmussen, pp. 130-39)

βγnrtw “lord of the temple” (Mug); See bagina,


δtš/mzyxδtšš (Mug), ʾʾš δšcyy(-yḫ or δyšcyy/δšcyy or

δyšcy (Man.), and dtšy rwc (Chr., in an unpublished

text; Sims-Williams, personal communication), the

eighth or fifteenth day of the month; cf. Av. Daθušō

Ahurahe, lit. “(day) of the creator, Ahura Mazdā”

δyn (Man.), name for the soul of the dead, which meets the

departed in the shape of a maiden; cf. Av. daēnā

(Henning, 1945, pp. 476-77; see dēn)

δynʾk (Mug), the twenty-fourth day of the month; cf. Av.

Daēnaiiå, lit. “(day) of the religion”

δynmztʾyzn βγyy (Man.), referring to the Great Nous, lit.

“god of the Mazdean religion”; cf. Av. daēnā

māzdaiiasnisˊ, Pahl. dēn mazdēsn (Sundemmann, pp. 103, 132)

δyw (Buddh., Man.) “demon, devil”; cf. Av. daēuu

frwrt (Man.), the nineteenth day of the month; cf. Av.

Frauuašinąm, lit. “(day) of the frauuaṧis (guardian

spirits)”; in Manichean texts the name ʾrtʾw frwrtyy, lit. “the guardian spirit (or profession of the righteous),” referred to Ether, the first son of the First Man; cf. Av. narš aṧaonō frauuaṧīm “the frauuaṧi of the righteous man” (AirWb., cols. 992-94), frauuar- “to profess the faith” (Sundermann, pp. 101, 125-26)

γntrw (Man.), name of a mythical being, < Av.

gandaraəβa­ (Henning, 1945, p. 481 l. 32, cf. p. 482 n. 3;

reference kindly supplied by Sims-Williams); wpʾp γntrw (Buddh.), a mythical creature, < Av. upāpa gandarəβa “the gandarəβa under the water,” mentioned in a text about the magical properties of stones, in a list of monsters to be drawn in preparing a certain charm, the others being drawn from Indian mythology (Benveniste, p. 65 text P3.131; Gershevitch, p. 13)

γwš (Mug, Man.), the fourteenth day of the month; cf. Av.

Gəˊuš, lit. “(day) of the ox or cow”

mʾxy (Mug), mʾx (Man.), the twelfth day of the month;

cf. Av. Måŋhahe, lit. “(day) of the moon”

mnspnt (Mug), mnspnd (Man.), the twenty-ninth day of

the month; cf. Av. Mąθrahe spəntahe, lit. “(day) of the

prosperous (or holy) word”

mrδʾspnd (Man.), the five sons of the First Man; cf. Av.

aməṧa spənta, Man. Mid. Pers. mhrspndʾn

(Sundermann, pp. 101, 125)

mrtʾt (Mug, Man.), the seventh day of the month; cf. Av.

Amərətātō, lit. “(day) of Amərətāt (immortality)”

mrtynh (Man.), the first woman, Eve < *m(a)rtyānī; cf.

Pahl. Mašyānag, Man. Mid. Pers. Mwrdyʾng (Hennning, 1944, pp. 138, 140 and n. 4; Sundermann, p.


mwγ “Magus,” mwγptw “chief of the Magi,” and mwγzt

“murder of the Magi” (all Man.; Henning, 1944, pp.

135-36; Ragoza, p. 47; for mwγptw cf. mγ’yβ (Budd.), which must have been borrowed from Parth. magbed

(Henning, 1940, p. 22)

myšyy βγy (Buddh., Mug, Man.), the sun god < Av. Miθra

(Sundermann, pp. 101, 128)

nryšnx βγy, referring to the Third Messenger; cf. Av.

Nairiō.saŋha (also Nrʾysβ yzδ < Parth. Narēsaf-yazd;

Sundermann, pp. 101, 127)

rʾm (Mug, Man.), the twenty-first day of the month; cf.

Av. Rāmanō, lit. “(day) of Raman”

rwxšnʾγrδmn (Man.), the Manichean paradise; cf. Av.

raoxšna garō dəmāna “the light paradise,” lit. “house of

welcome or praise” (Henning, 1948, pp. 307-08)

srʾwš (Mug), srwš (Man.), the seventeenth day of the

month; cf. Av. Sraošahe, lit. “(day) of Sraoša”

srwšrt βγyy (Man.), referring to the Column of Glory; cf.

Av. Sraoša aṧiia (Sundermann, pp. 101, 128)

wšγnʾḫ (Man.), the twentieth day of the month; cf. Av.

Vərəθraγnahe, lit. “(day) of Vərəθraγna (god of victory)”; in Manichean texts the name wšγnyy βγyy

< AV. Vərəθraγna is applied to Adamas, third son of

the Living Spirit (Sundermann, pp. 101, 127; see also


wštmʾx (Man.) “paradise” (lit. “best existence”); cf. AV.

vahištəm ahūm (e.g., Henning, 1936, p. 51)

wyšprkr (Buddh., Man.), name applied to the Indian god

Siva and the Manichean Living Spirit; cf. AV. vāiiuš

uparō.kairiia, lit. “Vāiiu, whose work is above” (e.g., Vessantara-jātaka, Benveniste, ed., 1946, pp 57-59;

Benveniste, ed., 1940, p. 107, text 8.42; Sundermann, pp. 101, 126 n. 161 with refs.; Humbach, pp. 402-08)

xwr (Mug, Man.), the eleventh day of the month, cf. AV.

Huuarəxšaētahe, lit. “(day) of the sun”

xwrmztʾ-βγ, see (ʾ)xwrmzt, above

zʾmʾspw “Jāmāsp”; cf. AV. Jāmāspa, Pahl., Pers. Zāmāsp

(Henning, 1944, pp. 138, 141)

zrwšč, ʾzrʾwšcw “Zarathustra” < AV. Zaraθuštra; cf.

ʾsptk ʾrtʾw zrwšč “the righteous Spitama Zarathustra” < AV. *Spitaman aṧauuan (< *artāṷan-) Zaraθuštra (Sims-­Williams, pp. 46-48)


dyūva “demon,” referring to Indian bhūta, a class of

demons; cf. OPers. daiva, AV. daēuua

gyasta (pronounced ǰasta) “god”; cf. AV. yazata “god,

one worthy of being worshiped”; the expected form in

Khotanese would be *gyaysda, which was probably influenced phonetically by gyasta “cleaned, purified”; the regular form may be found in the Tumshuqese

jezdaṃpura@ “son of gods”

gyaysna (pronounced ǰazna) “worship” < AV. Yasna

Śśandrāmatā, name for the Indian goddess of luck and prosperity, Śrī-; cf. AV. spəntā ārmatī, lit. “prosperous (holy) right-mindedness,” the aməša spənta (q.v.) in charge of the earth. The earth itself is śśandā < *ćṷantā-­kā, lit. “the prosperous one,” originally an adjective qualifying a word for earth, cf. AV. zam- “earth”; ysamaśśandai (pronounced zamašandai) “the world” is from *zama *ćṷantā-kā, lit. “the prosperous earth” (see also Man. Sogd. ʾsp(ʾ)nt(ʾ)rmt, above)

urmaysde (pronounced urmazde) “sun”; cf. OPers.

Auramazdā, AV. Ahuramazdāh



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(Victor Mair and Prods Oktor Skjærvø)

Originally Published: December 15, 1991

Last Updated: October 17, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. V, Fasc. 5, pp. 463-471