Khaganate (Old Turkic: 𐰜𐰇𐰛:𐱅𐰇𐰼𐰰 Kök
Türük; Chinese: 突厥汗国; pinyin: Tūjué hánguó) 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 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
Khaganate was subjugated by the
Tang dynasty in 630 and the
Western Turkic Khaganate
Western Turkic Khaganate disintegrated around the same time. The
Khaganate emerged in 682 and lasted until 744 when it
was overthrown by the Uyghurs, a different Turkic group.
1 First Khaganate
2 Civil war
2.1 Eastern Turkic Khaganate
2.2 Western Turkic Khaganate
3 Second Turkic Khaganate
4 Customs and culture
4.1 Political system
5 See also
6 External links
See also: Timeline of the Göktürks
Göktürk petroglyphs from Mongolia (6th to 8th century).
The origins of the Turkic
Khanate trace back to 546, when Bumin Qaghan
made a preemptive strike against the Uyghur and Tiele groups planning
a revolt against their overlords, the Rouran Khanate. For this service
he expected to be rewarded with a Rouran princess, thus marrying into
the royal family. However, the Rouran khagan, Yujiulü Anagui, sent an
emissary to Bumin to rebuke him, saying, "You are my blacksmith slave.
How dare you utter these words?" As Anagui's "blacksmith slave"
(Chinese: 鍛奴; pinyin: duànnú) comment was recorded in Chinese
chronicles, some claim that the
Göktürks were indeed blacksmith
servants for the Rouran elite, and that "blacksmith
slavery" may have indicated a form of vassalage within Rouran
society. According to Denis Sinor, this reference indicates that
the Türks specialized in metallurgy, although it is unclear if they
were miners or, indeed, blacksmiths. Whatever the case, that
the Turks were "slaves" need not be taken literally, but probably
represented a form of vassalage, or even unequal alliance.
A disappointed Bumin allied with the
Western Wei against the Rouran,
their common enemy. In 552, Bumin defeated Anagui and his forces north
of Huaihuang (modern Zhangjiakou, Hebei).
Having excelled both in battle and diplomacy, Bumin declared himself
Khagan of the new khanate at Otukan, but died a year later. His
son, Muqan Qaghan, defeated the Hephthalite Empire, Khitan and
Kyrgyz. Bumin's brother
Istämi (d. 576) bore the title "
the West" and collaborated with the Sassanid Empire of
Iran to defeat
and destroy the Hephthalites, who were allies of the Rouran. This war
tightened the Ashina clan's grip on the Silk Road.
The appearance of the
Pannonian Avars in the West has been interpreted
as a nomadic faction fleeing the westward expansion of the Göktürks,
although the specifics are a matter of irreconcilable debate given the
lack of clear sources and chronology. Rene Grousset links the Avars
with the downfall of the Hephthalites rather than the Rouran,
Denis Sinor argues that Rouran-Avar identification is "repeated
from article to article, from book to book with no shred of evidence
to support it".
Istämi's policy of western expansion brought the
Europe. In 576 the
Göktürks crossed the
Kerch Strait into the
Crimea. Five years later they laid siege to Chersonesus; their cavalry
kept roaming the steppes of
Crimea until 590. As for the southern
borders, they were drawn south of the Amu Darya, bringing the Ashina
into conflict with their former allies, the Sasanian Empire. Much of
Bactria (including Balkh) remained a dependency of the Ashina until
the end of the century.
Main article: Göktürk civil war
Western and Eastern Turkic Khaganates in 600 AD
Khanate split in two after the death of the fourth ruler,
Taspar Qaghan c. 584. He had willed the title of khagan to Muqan's son
Apa Qaghan, but the high council appointed
Ishbara Qaghan instead.
Factions formed around both leaders. Before long, four rivals claimed
the title. They were successfully played off against each other by Sui
and Tang China.
The most serious contender was the western one, Istämi's son Tardu, a
violent and ambitious man who had already declared himself independent
from the Qaghan after his father's death. He now seized the title and
led an army east to claim the seat of imperial power, Otukan.[citation
In order to buttress his position, Ishbara of the Eastern Khaganate
Emperor Yang of Sui
Emperor Yang of Sui for protection.
Chang'an, the Sui capital, around 600, demanding Emperor Yangdi end
his interference in the civil war. In retaliation, Chinese diplomacy
successfully incited a revolt of Tardu's Tiele vassals, which led to
the end of Tardu's reign in 603. Among the dissident tribes were the
Uyghurs and Xueyantuo.
Eastern Turkic Khaganate
Main article: Eastern Turkic Khaganate
Further information: Tang campaign against the Eastern Turks
Eastern Turkic Khaganates in 700
The civil war left the empire divided into eastern and western parts.
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
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. This
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.
Illig Qaghan took advantage of the
Xuanwu Gate Incident
Xuanwu Gate Incident and
drove on to Chang'an. On September 23, 626
Illig Qaghan and his
iron cavalry reached the bank of the
Wei River north of Bian Bridge
(in present-day Xianyang, Shaanxi). On September 25, 626 Li Shimin
(later Emperor Taizong of Tang) and
Illig Qaghan formed an alliance by
sacrificing a white horse on Bian Bridge. The Tang paid compensation
and promised further tribute, so
Illig Qaghan ordered his iron cavalry
to withdraw. This is known as the Alliance of the Wei River
(渭水之盟), or the Alliance of Bian Qiao (便橋會盟 /
便桥会盟). All in all, 67 incursions on Chinese territories
Before mid-October 627, heavy snows on the Mongolian-Manchurian
grassland covered the ground to a depth of several feet, preventing
the nomads' livestock from grazing and causing a massive die-off among
the animals. According to the New Book of Tang, in 628, Taizong
mentioned that "There has been a frost in midsummer. The sun had risen
from same place for five days. The moon had had the same light level
for three days. The field was filled with red atmosphere (dust
Illig Qaghan was brought down by a revolt of his Tiele vassal tribes
(626–630), allied with Emperor Taizong of Tang. This tribal alliance
figures in Chinese records as the Huihe (Uyghur).
On March 27, 630 a Tang army under the command of Li Jing defeated
Eastern Turkic Khaganate under the command of
Illig Qaghan at the
Battle of Yinshan
Battle of Yinshan (陰山之戰 / 阴山之战). Illig
Qaghan fled to Ishbara Shad, but on May 2, 630 Zhang Baoxiang's
army advanced to Ishbara Shad's headquarters.
Illig Qaghan was taken
prisoner and sent to Chang'an. The Eastern Turkic Khaganate
collapsed and was incorporated into the
Jimi system of Tang. Emperor
Taizong said, "It's enough for me to compensate my dishonor at Wei
Western Turkic Khaganate
Main article: Western Turkic Khaganate
Further information: Third Perso-Turkic War, Tang campaigns against
the Western Turks, and Conquest of the Western Turks
The Western kaghan
Tong Yabghu Qaghan
Tong Yabghu Qaghan constructed an
alliance with the
Byzantine Empire against the
Sasanian Empire and
succeeded in restoring the southern borders along the Tarim and Amu
Darya rivers. Their capital was
Suyab in the
Chu River valley, about
6 km south east of modern Tokmok. In 627 Tung Yabghu, assisted by
Khazars and Emperor Heraclius, launched a massive invasion of
Transcaucasia which culminated in the taking of
Derbent and Tbilisi
Third Perso-Turkic War
Third Perso-Turkic War for details). In April 630 Tung's
Böri Shad sent the Göktürk cavalry to invade Armenia, where
Chorpan Tarkhan succeeded in routing a large Persian
force. Tung Yabghu's murder in 630 forced the
Göktürks to evacuate
Western Turkic Khaganate
Western Turkic Khaganate was modernized through an administrative
Ashina Helu (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
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
Tang campaign against Karakhoja
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
Tang campaign against Kucha in 648,
 leading to the In 657 conquest of the Western Turks by the
Tang general Su Dingfang.
Emperor Taizong of Tang
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 (咄陆) were ruled
by khagan bearing title of Xingxiwang (興昔亡可汗) while five
arrows of Nushipi (弩失畢可汗) ruled by Jiwangjue
(繼往絕可汗). Five Tulu corresponded to area east of Lake Balkash
while five arrows of Nushipi corresponded to the land east of Aral
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.
Second Turkic Khaganate
Main article: Second Turkic Khaganate
Ilterish Qaghan and his brother
Qapaghan Qaghan revolted against the
Tang dynasty in 679 and established the Second Turkic
682. Over the following decades they steadily gained control of
the steppes beyond the Great Wall of China. By 705, they had expanded
as far south as
Samarkand and threatened
Arab control of Transoxiana.
Göktürks clashed with the
Umayyad Caliphate in a series of
battles (712–713) but the Arabs emerged as victors.
The Second Khaganate was centered on
Ötüken in the upper
reaches of the Orkhon River. This polity was described by historians
as "the joint enterprise of the Ashina clan and the Soghdians, with
large numbers of Chinese bureaucrats being involved as well". The
son of Ilterish, Bilge Qaghan, was also a strong leader whose deeds
were recorded in the Orkhon inscriptions. After his death in 734 the
Khaganate went into decline. The
fell victim to a series of internal crises and renewed Chinese
Kutlug I Bilge Kagan of the
Uyghurs allied himself with the
Karluks and Basmyls, the power of the
Göktürks was very much on the
wane. In 744 Kutlug seized
Ötüken and beheaded the last Göktürk
khagan, Ozmish Qaghan, whose head was sent to the Tang court. In
the span of a few years, the
Uyghurs gained mastery of
Inner Asia and
established the Uyghur Khaganate.
Customs and culture
Göktürks were governed by Kurultai, a political and military
council of khans and other high ranking leaders, such as aqsaqals.
The Turkic temporary qaghan from the Ashina clan were subordinate to a
sovereign authority, the kurultai.
Göktürks and other ancient
Turkic peoples were mainly adherents
of Tengrism, worshipping the sky god Tengri. The
missionaries from the
Buddhist religion, which was incorporated into
Tengrism. After the fall of the khaganate, many refugees settled in
Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe, and adopted the Islamic
Bain Tsokto inscriptions
Göktürk family tree
History of the Turkic peoples
Turks in the Tang military
Horses in East Asian warfare
Orkhon inscription (Khöshöö Tsaidam Monuments)
Qaghans of the Turkic khaganates
Timeline of the
Turkic peoples (500–1300)
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Inner Asia history series
Northern Yuan dynasty
Tang dynasty in Inner Asia
Protectorate General to Pacify the North
Western Liao dynasty
Yuan dynasty in Inner Asia
Qing dynasty in Inner Asia
The Cambridge History of Inner Asia
Western Turkic Khaganate
Tong Yabghu Qaghan
Irbis Bolun Cabgu
Eastern Turkic Khaganate
Second Eastern Turkic Khaganate
Western Turkic Protectorate
Exiled House A
Exiled House B
Bugri qaghan (Ashina Qushraq)
Old Turkic language
Old Turkic alphabet
Turks in the Tang military
Göktürk wars and treaties
Göktürk civil war
Battle of Bukhara
Tang Eastern Turk campaign
Tang Western Turk campaigns
Battle of Bolchu