KHOTAN, town (lat 37°06′ N, long 79°56′ E) and major oasis of the southern Tarim Basin in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China, historically an important kingdom with an Iranian-speaking population. The indigenous name for the people was Old Khotanese hvatana, the land was hvatana-kṣīra (later hvaṃ-kṣīra), and the language hvatanau (see below). The term hvatana may be from hvata “self” and be a self-reference to the Khotanese as the “(rulers) themselves” (pointed out by S. Konow, “Ein neuer Saka-Dialekt,” SPAW, phil.-hist. Kl., Berlin, 1935, no. 20, p. 30 [= 799]). In Indic, the land is called Gostana, literally “cow [= earth] breast” (Tibetan sa-nu “earth breast”), a name which was also applied to Kuṇāla, son of Aśoka (q.v.) and legendary founder of Khotan. The Tibetan name for Khotan was Li-yul “the land of Li,” with unexplained “Li.” The older Chinese form was 于闐 yutian from older *Ḫwa(h)dεn, and the modern form is 和田 hétián.

For the early history of Khotan, see further CHINESE TURKESTAN i. See also R. E. Emmerick, A Guide to the Literature of Khotan (2nd ed., Tokyo, 1992) for miscellaneous information and bibliographies; and H. Kumamoto, “Kōtan-go bunken gaisetsu,” in Kōza Tonkō 6: Tonkō ko-go bunken II: Kōtan-go bunken, Tokyo, 1985, pp. 101-40.

(Prods Oktor Skjærvø)


i. Geography (forthcoming).

ii. History in the pre-Islamic period.

iii. Khotanese language  (forthcoming).

iv. Khotanese literature.

(Multiple Authors)

Originally Published: January 1, 2000

Last Updated: September 6, 2011