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The Tuoba (Middle Chinese: *t?ak-b?t) also known as the Taugast or Tabgach (Old Turkic: ?Tab?a?), was a Xianbei clan in ancient China.[1][2][3][4]

The Tuoba founded the Northern Wei (386-535), a powerful dynasty that unified northern China after the Sixteen Kingdoms period and became increasingly sinicized. As a result, from 496, the name "Tuoba" disappeared by an edict of Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei, who adopted the Chinese language surname of Yuan (?). After the Northern Wei split into the Eastern and Western Wei in 535, the Western Wei briefly restored the Tuoba name in 554. A surviving branch of the Tuoba established the state of Tuyuhun before submitting as a vassal of the Tang dynasty. A branch of the Tanguts originally bore the surname Tuoba, but their chieftains were subsequently bestowed the Chinese surnames Li (?) and Zhao (?); the founding emperor of the Western Xia, Li Yuanhao, later adopted the surname Weiming ().

Ethnicity and Language

Tuoba and their Rouran enemies descended from common ancestors.[5]Weishu stated that the Rourans were of Donghu origins[6][7] and Tuoba originated from Xianbei,[8][9] who were also Donghu's descendants.[10][11] The Donghu ancestors of Tuoba and Rouran were most likely proto-Mongols.[12] Nomadic confederations of Inner Asia were often linguistically diverse, and Tuoba Wei comprised the para-Mongolic Tuoba as well as assimilated Turkic peoples such as Hegu () and Yizhan (); consequently, about one quarter of the Tuoba tribal confederation was composed of Dingling elements as Tuoba migrated from northeastern Mongolia to northern China.[13]

Alexander Vovin (2007) identifies the Tuoba language as a Mongolic language.[14][15] On the other hand, Juha Janhunen proposed that Tuoba might have spoken an Oghur Turkic language.[16] According to Peter Boodberg, Tuoba language was essentially Turkic with Mongolic admixture.[17] Chen Sanping observed that Tuoba language contains both elements.[18][19] Liu Xueyao stated that Tuoba may have had their own language which should not be assumed to be identical with any other known languages.[20]


Tuoba people and their neighbours, c. III century AD
Remnants of Tuoba in Alxa League
Remnants of Tuoba in Alxa League

The distribution of the Xianbei people ranged from present day Northeast China to Mongolia, and the Tuoba were one of the largest clans among the western Xianbei, ranging from present day Shanxi province and westward and northwestward. They established the state of Dai from 310-376 AD[21] and ruled as the Northern Wei from 386-536. The Tuoba states of Dai and Northern Wei also claimed to possess the quality of earth in the Chinese Wu Xing theory. All the chieftains of the Tuoba were revered as emperors in the Book of Wei and the History of the Northern Dynasties.

Marriage policies

The Northern Wei started to arrange for Chinese elites to marry daughters of the Xianbei Tuoba royal family in the 480s.[22] More than fifty percent of Tuoba Xianbei princesses of the Northern Wei were married to southern Chinese men from the imperial families and aristocrats from southern China of the Southern dynasties who defected and moved north to join the Northern Wei.[23] Some Chinese exiled royalty fled from southern China and defected to the Xianbei. Several daughters of the Xianbei Tuoba Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei were married to Chinese elites, the Han Chinese Liu Song royal Liu Hui , married Princess Lanling ? of the Northern Wei,[24][25][26][27][28][29] Princess Huayang ? to Sima Fei , a descendant of Jin dynasty (265-420) royalty, Princess Jinan ? to Lu Daoqian , Princess Nanyang to Xiao Baoyin , a member of Southern Qi royalty.[30]Emperor Xiaozhuang of Northern Wei's sister the Shouyang Princess was wedded to the Liang dynasty ruler Emperor Wu of Liang's son Xiao Zong .[31]

When the Eastern Jin dynasty ended Northern Wei received the Han Chinese Jin prince Sima Chuzhi ? as a refugee. A Northern Wei Princess married Sima Chuzhi, giving birth to Sima Jinlong ?. Northern Liang Xiongnu King Juqu Mujian's daughter married Sima Jinlong.[32]

Chieftains of Tuoba Clan 219-377 (as Princes of Dai 315-377)

Posthumous name Full name Period of reign Other
Shényuán ? Tuòbá Lìwéi 219-277 Temple name? Shíz?
? Zh?ng ? Tuòbá X?lù 277-286
? Píng Tuòbá Chuò 286-293
? S? Tuòbá Fú 293-294
? Zh?o ? Tuòbá Lùgu?n 294-307
? Huán ? Tuòbá Y?tu? 295-305
? Mù ? Tuòbá Y?lú 295-316
None ? Tuòbá P?g?n 316
None Tuòbá[33] 316
Píngwén ? Tuòbá Yùl? 316-321
? Huì ? Tuòbá Hèr? 321-325
? Yáng ? Tuòbá Hén? 325-329 and 335-337
? Liè ? Tuòbá Yìhuaí 329-335 and 337-338
Zha?chéng Tuòbá Shíyìjiàn 338-377 Regnal name? Jiànguó

Legacy of the Tuoba/Tabgach name

As a consequence of the Northern Wei's extensive contacts with Central Asia, Turkic sources identified Tabgach, also transcribed as Tawjach, Taw?a?, Tamghaj, Tamghach, Tafgaj, and Tabghaj, as the ruler or country of China until the 13th century.[34]

The Orkhon inscriptions in the Orkhon Valley of Mongolia from the 8th century identifies Tabgach as China.[34]

I myself, wise Tonyukuk, lived in Tabgach country. (As the whole) Turkic people was under Tabgach subjection.[35]

In the 11th century text, the D?w?n Lugh?t al-Turk ("Compendium of the languages of the Turks"), Turkic scholar Mahmud al-Kashgari writing in Baghdad for an Arabic audience, describes Tawjach as one of the three components comprising China.

n [i.e., China] is originally three fold: Upper, in the east which is called Tawj?ch; middle which is Khit?y, lower which is Barkh?n in the vicinity of Kashgar. But now Tawj?ch is known as Man and Khitai as n.[34]

At the time of his writing, China's northern fringe was ruled by Khitan Liao dynasty while the remainder of China Proper was ruled by the Northern Song dynasty. Arab sources used S?n (Persian: Ch?n) to refer to northern China and M?s?n (Persian: Mach?n) to represent southern China.[34] In his account, al-Kashgari refers to his homeland, around Kashgar, then part of the Kara-Khanid Khanate, as lower China.[34] The rulers of the Karakanids adopted Temahaj Khan (Turkic: the Khan of China) in their title, and minted coins bearing this title.[36] Much of the realm of the Karakhanids including Transoxania and the western Tarim Basin had been under the suzerainty of the Tang dynasty prior to the Battle of Talas in 751 and the Karakhanids continued identify with China, several centuries later.[36]

See also



  1. ^ Wei Shou. Book of Wei. Vol. 1
  2. ^ Grousset, Rene (1970). The Empire of the Steppes. Rutgers University Press. pp. 60-65. ISBN 0-8135-1304-9.
  3. ^ Holcombe, Charles (2001). The Genesis of East Asia: 221 B.C. - A.D. 907. p. 131.
  4. ^ Tseng, Chin Yin (2012). The Making of the Tuoba Northern Wei: Constructing Material Cultural Expressions in the Northern Wei Pingcheng Period (398-494 CE) (PhD). University of Oxford. p. 1.
  5. ^ Hyacinth (Bichurin), Collection of information on peoples lived in Central Asia in ancient times, 1950. p.209
  6. ^ Golden, B. Peter. "Some Notes on the Avars and Rouran" in The Steppe Lands and the World beyond Them. Ed. Curta, Florin; Maelon, Bogdan-Petru. Ia?i (2013). p. 55
  7. ^ Book of Wei vol. 103 ",," tr. "Rúrú, offsprings of D?nghú, surnamed Yùji?l?"
  8. ^ Wei Shou. Book of Wei. Vol. 1
  9. ^ Tseng, Chin Yin (2012). The Making of the Tuoba Northern Wei: Constructing Material Cultural Expressions in the Northern Wei Pingcheng Period (398-494 CE) (PhD). University of Oxford. p. 1.
  10. ^ Book of Later Han vol. 90 ",,,?" "The Xianbei who were a branch of the Donghu, relied upon the Xianbei Mountains. Therefore, they were called the Xianbei." translated by Xu (2005)
  11. ^ Xu Elina-Qian, Historical Development of the Pre-Dynastic Khitan, University of Helsinki, 2005
  12. ^ *Pulleyblank, Edwin G. (2000). "Ji ? and Jiang ?: The Role of Exogamic Clans in the Organization of the Zhou Polity", Early China. p. 20
  13. ^ Lee, Joo-Yup (2016). "The Historical Meaning of the Term Turk and the Nature of the Turkic Identity of the Chinggisid and Timurid Elites in Post-Mongol Central Asia". Central Asiatic Journal 59(1-2): 112-3.
  14. ^ Vovin, Alexander. 2007. 'Once again on the Tab?a? language.' Mongolian Studies XXIX: 191-206.
  15. ^ Holcombe 2001, p. 132.
  16. ^ Juha Janhunen, (1996), Manchuria: An Ethnic History, p. 190
  17. ^ Holcombe 2001, p. 132.
  18. ^ Chen, Sanping 2005. Turkic or Proto-Mongolian? A Note on the Tuoba Language. Central Asiatic Journal 49.2: 161-73.
  19. ^ Holcombe 2001, p. 248
  20. ^ Liu Xueyao p. 83-86
  21. ^ Grousset, Rene (1970). The Empire of the Steppes. Rutgers University Press. pp. 57. ISBN 0-8135-1304-9.
  22. ^ Rubie Sharon Watson (1991). Marriage and Inequality in Chinese Society. University of California Press. pp. 80-. ISBN 978-0-520-07124-7.
  23. ^ Tang, Qiaomei (May 2016). Divorce and the Divorced Woman in Early Medieval China (First through Sixth Century) (PDF) (A dissertation presented by Qiaomei Tang to The Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the subject of East Asian Languages and Civilizations). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University. pp. 151, 152, 153.
  24. ^ Lee (2014).
  25. ^ Papers on Far Eastern History. Australian National University, Department of Far Eastern History. 1983. p. 86.
  26. ^ Hinsch, Bret (2018). Women in Early Medieval China. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 97. ISBN 978-1538117972.
  27. ^ Hinsch, Bret (2016). Women in Imperial China. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 72. ISBN 978-1442271661.
  28. ^ Lee, Jen-der (2014). "9. Crime and Punishment The Case of Liu Hui in the Wei Shu". In Swartz, Wendy; Campany, Robert Ford; Lu, Yang; Choo, Jessey (eds.). Early Medieval China: A Sourcebook (illustrated ed.). Columbia University Press. pp. 156-165. ISBN 978-0231531009.
  29. ^ Australian National University. Dept. of Far Eastern History (1983). Papers on Far Eastern History, Volumes 27-30. Australian National University, Department of Far Eastern History. pp. 86, 87, 88.
  30. ^ China: Dawn of a Golden Age, 200-750 AD. Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2004. pp. 30-. ISBN 978-1-58839-126-1. Xiao Baoyin.
  31. ^ Ancient and Early Medieval Chinese Literature (vol.3 & 4): A Reference Guide, Part Three & Four. BRILL. 22 September 2014. pp. 1566-. ISBN 978-90-04-27185-2.
  32. ^ China: Dawn of a Golden Age, 200-750 AD. Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2004. pp. 18-. ISBN 978-1-58839-126-1. sima.
  33. ^ No known given name survives.
  34. ^ a b c d e Biran 2005, p. 98.
  35. ^ Atalay Besim (2006). Divanü Lügati't Türk. Turkish Language Association, ISBN 975-16-0405-2, p. 28, 453, 454
  36. ^ a b Biran, Michal (2001). "Qarakhanid Studies: A View from the Qara Khitai Edge". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)


  • Bazin, L. "Research of T'o-pa language (5th century AD)", T'oung Pao, 39/4-5, 1950 ["Recherches sur les parlers T'o-pa (5e siècle après J.C.)"] (in French) Subject: Toba Tatar language
  • Biran, Michal (2005), The Empire of the Qara Khitai in Eurasian History: Between China and the Islamic World, Cambridge University Press
  • Boodberg, P.A. "The Language of the T'o-pa Wei", Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 1, 1936.
  • Clauson, G. "Turk, Mongol, Tungus", Asia Major, New Series, Vol. 8, Pt 1, 1960, pp. 117-118
  • Grousset, R. "The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia", Rutgers University Press, 1970, p. 57, 63-66, 557 Note 137, ISBN 0-8135-0627-1 [1]
  • Lee Jen-der (2014), "Crime and Punishment: The Case of Liu Hui in the Wei Shu", Early Medieval China: A Sourcebook, New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 156-165, ISBN 978-0-231-15987-6.
  • Pelliot, P.A. "L'Origine de T'ou-kiue; nom chinoise des Turks", T'oung Pao, 1915, p. 689
  • Pelliot, P.A. "L'Origine de T'ou-kiue; nom chinoise des Turks", Journal Asiatic, 1925, No 1, p. 254-255
  • Pelliot, P.A. "L'Origine de T'ou-kiue; nom chinoise des Turks", T'oung Pao, 1925-1926, pp. 79-93;
  • Zuev, Y.A. "Ethnic History Of Usuns", Works of Academy of Sciences Kazakh SSR, History, Archeology And Ethnography Institute, Alma-Ata, Vol. VIII, 1960, (In Russian)

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