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Chinese History - Soghdia or Soghdiana 粟特

Periods of Chinese History
The Soghdians, by the Chinese transliterated as Sute 粟特, Suyi 粟弋, Suli 窣利 or Xinghu 興胡, lived in the fertile River plain (called Soghdiana, or, in the native language, Sugda or Soγd) between the rivers Amu-Darya and Syr-Darya in modern Uzbekistan. Most of the inhabitants lived of pastoral nomadism, but a few also engaged in trade, a business that became more and more important for them. They were first subject to the empire of Daxia 大夏 (Bactria), later to the steppe federation of the Yuezhi 月氏 (Tokharians). During the Northern Dynasties period 北朝 (386-581) the state of Sogdhia came into being. The main cities were Maraganda, Afrāsiāb (country of Kang 康), Varakhsha and Ramitan (country of An 安). A lot of Soghdian merchants traveled along the Silk Road and came to China. A large communitiy of Soghdian merchants lived in Guzang 姑藏 (modern Wuwei 武威, Gansu), the capital of the Northern Liang empire 北涼 (398-439/460), but Soghdians also came to Chang'an 長安 (modern Xi'an 西安, Shaanxi), Luoyang 洛陽, Huaiyang 淮陽 and even to Hongzhou 洪州 (modern Nanchang 南昌, Jiangxi) and Jiangling 江陵. When the Northern Wei 北魏 (386-534) conquered Northern Liang, Soghdian merchants and craftsmen were captured and moved to the capital of the Northern Wei in Pingcheng 平城 (modern Datong 大同, Shanxi). The nobility of the Northern Wei especially liked the glass utensils produced by Soghdian tradesmen and adorned their palaces with pieces of glass. The knowledge of glass making was transmitted to Chinese craftsmen in the region of Datong, and this place was for a long time known for this handicraft métier. Soghdian communities were to be found in many regions of western China. In Dunhuang 敦煌 (modern Dunhuang, Gansu), for example, lived 1,300 Soghdian merchants with their families. Even the famous rebel An Lushan 安祿山 who nearly brought the Tang dynasty 唐 (618-907) to an end, was of Soghdian origin. Soghdian merchants brought with them not only merchandise, but also the Persian religions of Manicheism and Zoroastrianism and Central Asian music, dance and astronomical knowledge.
During the 6th century the state of the Soghdia disintegrated into nine statelets. The Chinese called these countries Kangguo 康國, Anguo 安國 (the two of them being the largest), as well as the city states of Shiguo (1) 石國, Miguo 米國, Shiguo (2) 史國, Heguo 何國, Caoguo 曹國, Huoxun 火尋 and Wudi 戊地. These nine states were known as the "nine barbarian families of Zhaowu" (Zhaowu jiu xing hu 昭武九姓胡). The name of Zhaowu comes from the ancient city of Zhaowu 昭武 north of the Qilian Range 祁連山 (modern Linze 臨澤, Gansu). During the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) the inhabitants moved to the west, forced by the raids of the steppe federation of the Xiongnu 匈奴. Their king founded the state of Kang 康 (Kangju 康居) and enfeoffed his eight sons with statelets located in the neighborhood. Historiographical sources of China also mention some other communities in the region of the Sogdhiana, like Nasebo 那色波 or Lesser Shi 小史 (modern Karshi), Wunahe 烏那曷 (modern Andkhoy, Afghanistan), Muguo 穆國, or Pohanna 鏺汗那 (near Andijon, Uzbekistan). There is still discussion going on about the origin of the name Zhaowu.
The region of the Soghdiana acted as cultural turntable between Persia, India, and China. During the Tang period the Soghdian cities were incorporated into the Protectorate of the Pacified West (Anxi duhufu 安西都護府). The influence of the Tang empire can be seen, for instance, in the coins of the Soghdian states that imitated the Chinese coins with the square hole in the middle. Yet the coins are inscribed in Soghdian script with the names of the rulers, which helps reconstructing the history of that region as well as the rendering of native names in Chinese sources. From the 8th century on the Soghdiana came into the orbit of the invading Muslims (by the Chinese called Dashi 大食), and the region was envolved into the wars between Tang China, the Persians, and the various tribes of the Turks 突厥. In 751 the Tang troops and their Qarluq (Chinese name Geluolu 葛邏祿) allies were defeated by the Arabian general Ziyād ben Ṣāliḥ. Some Soghdian paper craftsmen were captured by the Muslims and brought the art of papermaking to Western Asia.
The Soghdian language, related to Iranian, was common as a lingua franca among the merchants of the Silk Road until the 12th century when it was replaced by Uyghurian and Mongolian. In Dunhuang and Turfan 吐魯番 as well as in Mongolia, several monolingual and bilingual documents (Soghdian and Uyghurian) are preserved that help to reconstruct the language of the Soghdians. The Soghdian script was the basis for the Uyghurian and so indirectly for the Mongolian and Manchurian scripts.


The state of An 安國, short for Alanmi 阿濫謐, was located in the region of Bukhoro (Bukhara) in modern Uzbekistan. During the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) it was called Jiguo 罽國, under the Northern Wei 北魏 (386-534) Niumi 忸蜜, and from the Sui period 隋 (581-618) on Anguo. It was also transcribed as Fuhuo 副貨, Buhua 布豁 or Buhe 捕喝. Alanmi is actually the Chinese name of the capital and is a transcription of the native word Ramithan. According to the official dynastic history Suishu 隋書, its population had moved from the city of Zhaowu 昭武 north of Mt. Qilian 祁連山 (in modern Gansu) into the land of the Yuezhi 月氏 (Tokharians). The Tang dynasty 唐 (618-907) established in the country of An an indirectly administered prefecture (jimizhou 羈縻州) called Anxi 安息 (in remembrance of the Parthian empire), in the neighbouring state of Dong'an 東安國 "Eastern An" (also called Lesser An 小安國 or Hehan 喝捍, near modern Navoi), the prefecture of Mulu 木鹿 was founded. A lot of Chinese travellers passed the city of Anguo on their way to India.


The state of Cao 曹國 was located in the region between Ishtihan and Istaravshan in modern Uzbekistan. The state actually consisted of four city states (Eastern Cao 東曹, Western Cao 西曹, Central Cao 中曹 and Cao proper 曹). The country was also known to the Chinese as Jiebudana 劫布呾那 or Gabudan 伽不單.The country of Cao covered the fertile Ferghana Basin and the valley of River Amu-Darya. The capital of Eastern Cao, Suduishana 蘇對沙那, was built on the relics of the former city of Nishi 貳師, capital of the country of the Dayuan 大宛. In 752 the king of Eastern Cao, She'ahu 設阿忽, asked the court of the Tang empire 唐 (618-907) for support against the Muslims that had invaded Central Asia. King Gelopuluo 哥邏僕羅 even offered tributed to the Tang and was enfeoffed as King Huaide 懷德 by Emperor Xuanzong 唐玄宗 (r. 712-755). It was never made an indirectly administered prefecture.


The state of He 何國 was located near Aktash and Kattakurgan in modern Uzbekistan. In the official dynastic history Xintangshu 新唐書 it is called Qushuangnijia 屈霜你迦 or Guishuangni 貴霜匿, a transliteration of the Persian word Kushanik (related to the kingdom of Kushan, Chinese name Guishuang 貴霜). During the Sui 隋 (581-618) and Tang 唐 (618-907) periods its rulers belonged to the people that had immigrated from Zhaowu 昭武 (modern Linze 臨澤, Gansu) and were made administrators of the indirectly administrated prefecture of (jimizhou 羈縻州) Guishuang 貴霜. The city of the king of He was famous for its paintings and buildings.


The state of Huoxun 火尋 was located on the lower course of the River Amu-Darya, near modern Urganch in Uzbekistan. The Roman geographer Strabo calls it Khorasmia. During the Northern Wei period 北魏 (386-534) the country was called Husimi 呼似蜜, during the Tang period 唐 (618-907) Huoliximiga 貨利習彌伽, Guoli 過利, Huocimi 火辭彌, Hualazimu 花剌子模, or Hulumushi 忽魯木石. The king of Huoxun resided in the city of Aojian 奧鞬. The city of Yulonggechi 玉龍格赤 (probably another transcription of the native name Khwarezm) was an important trade spot not far from the Aral Sea. In 1221 Mongols heavily fought to conquer this place.

Kangguo 康國

See Kangju.


The state of Mi 米國, short for Mimo 彌末 or Mimohe 彌抹賀, was located near Panjakent in modern Tajikistan. In ancient times, this region belonged to the country of Kangju 康居 and became an own state in the late 6th century. Its inhabitants originally came from the city of Zhaowu 昭武 ((modern Linze 臨澤, Gansu), migrated to the west and founded the city of Boxide 鉢息德. For a short time it was occupied by Muslim invaders but became part of the Tang empire 唐 (618-907) in 658, when the indirectly administrated prefecture (jimizhou 羈縻州) of Nanmi 南謐 was established. During the 8th century the country of Mi still sent tributes to the Tang court, like jade articles, lions, and dancers. Emperor Xuanzong 唐玄宗 (r. 712-755) enfeoffed the ruler of Mi officially as King Gongshun 恭順.


The state of Mu 穆國, also transliterated as Mulu 木鹿, Malan 馬蘭, Malu 馬盧, Molu 末祿 or Mali 馬里, was located near modern Türkmenabat in modern Turkmenistan on the banks of River Amu-Darya. It was the westernmost state of the Soghdiana and disappeared at the beginning of the 7th century.


The state of Shi 石國, short for Zhezhe 柘折, was located in the region of Toshkent (Tashkent) in modern Uzbekistan. It was also transliterated as Zheshe 者舌, Zhezhi 柘支, Zheshi 赭時 or Chache 察赤. In Arabian and Persian sources it is called Shasi, and in the geography of Ptomelaios Shita. Around 600 the state of Shiguo was attacked by the Turks 突厥 and became a tributary state of their steppe federation. In 658 the armies of the Tang empire 唐 (618-907) conquered the country of Shi, and it became the seat of the area command (dudufu 都督府) of Dayuan 大宛, with the king of Shiguo as commander-in-chief (dudu 都督). In 740 the ruler of Shi was officially enfeoffed as a prince of the Tang empire and granted the title of King Shunyi 順義. King Shunqi fought against Muslim troops that invaded Central Asia. General Gao Xianzhi 高仙芝 later arrested the king of Shiguo and so caused a widespread rebellion among the Western Territories.


The state of Shi 史國, also called Qusha 佉沙, Jieshuangna 羯霜那, Qishi 乞史 or Keshi 渴石, was located in the area of modern Shahrisabz in Uzbekistan. During the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) it was called Suxie 蘇薤 and belonged to the country of Kangju 康居. In the late 6th century it became independant. The country of Shi was an important point on the Silk Road that connected east and west, controlled the Rivers Amu-Darya and Syr-Darya and the mountain road to India via the Hindukush Range. Its inhabitants originated from the region of Zhaowu 昭武 (in modern Gansu). Emperor Gaozong 唐高宗 (r. 649-683) of the Tang dynasty 唐 (618-907) established an indirectly administrated prefecture (jimizhou 羈縻州) there called Qusha 佉沙. During the reign of Emperor Xuanzong 唐玄宗 (r. 712-755) the name of the country was changed to Laiwei 來威.


The state of Wudi 戊地, also called Fadi 伐地 or Western An 西安國, was located west of modern Bukhara in Uzbekistan.


Sources: Zhang Guangda 張廣達 (1992), "Sute 粟特", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 2, p. 1030. ● Zhang Guangda 張廣達 (1992), "Zhaowu jiuxing 昭武九姓", in idem, Vol. 3, p. 1514. ● Qian Boquan 錢伯泉 (1994), "Anguo 安國" (p. 12), "Caoguo 曹國" (13), "Heguo 何國" (14), "Huoxun 火尋" (14), "Kangju 康居" (276), "Jiuxinghu 九姓胡" (275), "Miguo 米國" (14), "Muguo 穆國" (15), "Shiguo 石國" (13), "Shiguo 史國" (14-15), "Sute 粟特" (280), in Zhongguo sichou zhi lu cidian 中國絲綢之路辭典 (Ürümqi: Xinjiang renmin chubanshe). ● Tan Qixiang 譚其驤 (1996), Zhongguo lishi ditu ji 中國歷史地圖集, Vol. 5, Sui, Tang, Wudai, Shiguo shiqi 隋唐五代十國時期 (Beijing: Zhongguo ditu chubanshe).

November 25, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail