China, Chuy, History, Horse Back, Kyrgyzstan

Turkic (Göktürks) Khaganate (552 CE –744 CE)

The Turkic Khaganate or Göktürk Khaganate was a khaganate established by the Ashina clan of the Göktürks in medieval Inner Asia. Under the leadership of Bumin Qaghan (d. 552) and his sons, the Ashina succeeded the Rouran Khaganate as the hegemonic power of the Mongolian Plateau and rapidly expanded their territories in Central Asia. Initially the Khaganate would use Sogdian (See my post about these interesting traders) in official and numismatic functions. It was the first Turkic state to use the name Türk politically and is known for the first written record of any Turkic language in history.

The first Turkic Khaganate collapsed in 581, after which followed a series of conflicts and civil wars which separated the polity into the Eastern Turkic Khaganate and Western Turkic Khaganate.

The Eastern Turkic Khaganate was subjugated by the Tang dynasty in 630 and the Western Turkic Khaganate disintegrated around the same time. The Second Turkic Khaganate emerged in 682 and lasted until 744 when it was overthrown by the Uyghurs, a different Turkic group.

Western Turkic (Göktürks) Khanate

The Western kaghan Sheguy and Tong Yabghu Qaghan constructed an alliance with the Byzantine Empire against the Sasanian Empire and succeeded in restoring the southern borders along the Tarim River and Amu Darya River. Their capital was Suyab in the Chu River Valley, about 6 km south east of modern Tokmok. In 627 Tung Yabghu, assisted by the Khazars and Emperor Heraclius, launched a massive invasion of Transcaucasia which culminated in the taking of Derbent and Tbilisi (see the Third Perso-Turkic War for details).

Western Turkic Khaganate

In April 630 Tung’s deputy Böri Shad sent the Göktürk cavalry to invade Armenia, where his general Chorpan Tarkhan succeeded in routing a large Persian force. Tung Yabghu’s murder in 630 forced the Göktürks to evacuate Transcaucasia.

The Western Turkic Khaganate was modernized through an administrative reform of Ashina Clan (reigned 634–639) and came to be known as the Onoq.   The name refers to the “ten arrows” that were granted by the khagan to five leaders (shads) of its two constituent tribal confederations, Dulo and Nushibi, whose lands were divided by the Chui River.

The division fostered the growth of separatist tendencies, and soon the Old Great Bulgaria under the Dulo chieftain Kubrat seceded from the khaganate.

Tang campaigns against the Western Turks, against the khaganate and their vassals, the oasis states of the Tarim Basin. The Tang campaign against Karakhoja in 640 led to the retreat of the Western Turks, who were defeated during the Tang campaigns against Karasahr in 644 and the Tang campaign against Kucha in 648,   leading to the In 657 conquest of the Western Turks by the Tang general Su Dingfang.  See my post Protectorate General to Pacifify the West  to learn about the story from a Chinese perspective.

Tang Dynasty's conquest of Western Turks
Tang Dynasty’s conquest of Western Turks

Emperor Taizong of Tang was proclaimed Khagan of the Göktürks.

In 657, the emperor of China could impose indirect rule in the entire Silk Road as far as Iran. They installed 2 khagans to rule the ten arrows (tribes) of Göktürks.

  • Five arrows of Tulu were ruled by khagan bearing title of Xingxiwang.   Five Tulu corresponded to area east of Lake Balkash
  • while five arrows of Nushipi ruled by Jiwangjue . Five Nushipi corresponded to the land east of Aral Sea.

Göktürks now carried Chinese titles and fought by their side in their wars. The era spanning from 657–699 in the steppes was characterized by numerous rulers – weak, divided, and engaged in constant petty wars under Anxi Protectorate until the rise of Turgesh.e Eastern Turkic

Eastern Turkic  (Göktürk) Khanate

The eastern part, still ruled from Otukan, remained in the orbit of the Sui and retained the name Göktürk. The Shibi Khan (609–19) and Illig Qaghan (620–30) attacked China at its weakest moment during the transition between the Sui and Tang.

Shibi Khan’s surprise attack against Yanmen Commandery during an imperial tour of the northern frontier almost captured Emperor Yang, but his Chinese wife Princess Yicheng—who had been well treated by Empress Xiao during an earlier visit—sent a warning ahead, allowing the emperor and empress time to flee to the commandery seat at present-day Daixian in Shanxi.

Daixian was besieged by the Turkish army on September 11, 615, but Chinese reinforcements and a false report from Princess Yicheng to her husband about a northern attack on the khaganate caused him to lift the siege before its completion.

Tang campaign against the Eastern Turks.

Illig Qaghan (620-30), was the last independent ruler of the Eastern Turcki Khanate.  He led yearly raids against the new Tang dynasty (618-907). In 626 he reached the gates of Chang’an.

Emperor Taizong of Tang, who had just overthrown his father, chose to pay an enormous ransom. Taizong waited and enlarged his cavalry. In 627-29 unusual cold led to mass livestock deaths and famine. Instead of lowering taxes, Illig raised them. The Xueyantuo, Uyghurs, Bayegu and some of Illig’s people rebelled and in 629 were joined by the Kitan and Taizong. Six Chinese armies attacked in a 1200 kilometer front and Illig was captured (630).

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