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Türgesh Khaganate

Common languagesOld Turkic
Türgesh Kagans 
o 699-706
Üch Elig
o c. 750-766
Ata Boyla Qaghan
Historical eraEarly Middle Ages
o Established
o Disestablished

The Türgesh or Türgish (Old Turkic: :‎, romanized: Türüge? budun, lit. 'Türgesh people'[1] /, Pinyin: t?qísh?, Wade-Giles: t'u-ch'i-shih; Old Tibetan: Du-rgyas[2]) were a Turkic tribal confederation. Once belonging to the Duolu wing of the Western Turkic On Oq elites, Türgeshes emerged as an independent power after the demise of the Western Turks and established a khaganate in 699. The Türgesh Khaganate lasted until 766 when the Karluks defeated them. Türgesh and Göktürks were related through marriage.[3]


Atwood (2013), citing Tekin (1968), etymologizes the ethnonym Türgi? as contains gentilic suffix -? affixed onto the name of lake Türgi-Yar?un, which was mentioned in Kültegin inscription.[4][5][6]

Tribal composition

By the 7th century, two or three sub-tribes were recorded: "Yellow" Sarï Türgesh tribe Alishi () and the "Black" Qara Türgesh tribe(s) (Suoge < *Soq or *Saqal) - (Mohe < *Ba?a).[7][8] To the Black Türgesh sub-tribe, Chebishi () (*?avï?), belonged 8th century Türgesh chor and later khagan Suluk.[9][10][11][12] The Turgesh Khaganate also contained Western Turkic remnants: Suluk's subordinate Kül-chor belonged to the Duolu tribe Chumukun (), who lived south of Lake Balkash between Türgesh and Qarluq lands.[13][14][15]Tang general Geshu Han was of Duolu Turgesh extraction[16] and bore the Nushibi tribal surname Geshu ().[17] Chinese historians, when naming the Duolu Turk tribes, might have mentioned Khalajes alongsides Türgesh, under the common appellation - (Mand. T?qísh?-hèluósh?; reconstructed Old Turkic *Türge?-Qala?).[18]

A late-7th century Uyghur chief was also surnamed Türgesh.[19]


Foundation of the Turgesh Khaganate

Prior to independence, the Turgesh were ruled by a subordinate tutuk, later shad, of the Western Turkic Khaganate's Onoq elites. Turgesh leaders belonged to Duolu division and held the title chur. A Turgesh commander of the Talas district and the town of Balu possessed a name symbolizing some sacred relation to a divine or heavenly sphere. The first Turgesh Kaghan Wuzhile (Chinese transcription Wuzhi means "black substance") was a leader of a Manichaean consortium known as yüz er "hundred men". He established the Turgesh Khaganate in 699. In 703, the Turgesh captured Suyab from the Tang dynasty.[20] In 706 his son Saqal succeeded him. Both khagans had a church rank of Yuzlik according to Yuri Zuev.[21]

Saqal attacked the Tang city of Qiuci (Kucha) in 708 and inflicted a defeat on the Tang in 709. However Saqal's younger brother Zhenu rebelled and sought military support from Qapagan Khaghan of the Second Turkic Khaganate in 708. Qapaghan Khagan defeated the Turgesh in 711 in Battle of Bolchu and killed both Saqal and Zhenu.[22] The defeated Turgesh fled to Zhetysu. In 714 the Turgesh elected Suluk as their khagan.

Timeline of Suluk

Map of Transoxiana in the 8th century

In 720 Turgesh forces led by Kül-chor defeated Umayyad forces led by Sa'id ibn Abdu'l-Aziz near Samarkand.[23]

In 722 Suluk married the Tang Princess Jiaohe.[23]

In 724 Caliph Hisham sent a new governor to Khorasan, Muslim ibn Sa'id, with orders to crush the "Turks" once and for all, but, confronted by Suluk on the so-called "Day of Thirst", Muslim hardly managed to reach Samarkand with a handful of survivors, as the Turgesh raided freely.[24]

In 726 the Turgesh attacked Qiuci (Kucha).[20]

In 727 the Turgesh and the Tibetan Empire attacked Qiuci (Kucha).[20]

In 728 Suluk defeated Umayyad forces while aiding the Sogdians in rebellion and took Bukhara.[24]

In 731 the Turgesh were defeated at the Battle of the Defile by the Arabs, who suffered enormous casualties.[25][26]

In 735 the Turgesh attacked Ting Prefecture (Jimsar County).[27]

In the winter 737 Suluk, along with his allies al-Harith, Gurak (a Sogdian leader) and men from Usrushana, Tashkent and Khuttal attacked the Umayyads. He entered Jowzjan but was defeated by the Umayyad governor Asad at the Battle of Kharistan.[20]


Following his defeat Suluk was murdered by his relative Kül-chor. Immediately, the Turgesh Khagante was plunged into a civil war bewteen the Black (Kara) and Yellow (Sary) factions. Kül-chor of the Sary Turgesh vanquished his rival Tumoche of the Kara Turgesh. In 740 Kül-chor submitted to the Tang dynasty but rebelled anyway when he killed the Turgesh puppet sent by the Tang court in 742. He was then defeated and executed by the Tang in 744. The last Turgesh ruler declared himself a vassal of the recently established Uyghur Khaganate. In 766 the Karluks conquered Zhetysu and ended the Turgesh Khaganate.[28]


Tuhsi and Azi might be remnants of the Türgesh, according to Gardizi,[29] as well as Khalaj,.[30][31][32] The Turgesh-associated tribe Suoge, alongsides Chuyue and Anqing, participated in the ethnogenesis of Shatuo Turks.[33][34]

According to Baskakov, the ethnonym Türgesh survives in the name of the seok Tirgesh among Altaians.[35]

List of Türgesh Khagans

  1. Wuzhile (699-706)
  2. Suoge (706-711)
  3. Suluk (716-738)
  4. Kut Chor (738-739)
  5. Kül Chor (739-744)
  6. El Etmish Kutluk Bilge (744-749)
  7. Yibo Kutluk Bilge Juzhi (749-751)
  8. Tengri Ermish (753-755)
  9. Ata Boyla (750s - 766)


  1. ^ Bilge kagan's Memorial Complex, TÜRIK BITIK
  2. ^ Venturi, Federica (2008). "An Old Tibetan document on the Uighurs: A new translation and interpretation". Journal of Asian History. 1 (42): 30. JSTOR 41933476.
  3. ^ Muharrem Ergin (1975), Orhun Abideleri (in Turkish), p. 80.
  4. ^ Tekin, Talât. (1968). Grammar of Orkhon Turkish. Bloomington: Indiana University. p. 107, 269, 387.
  5. ^ Atwood, Christopher P., "Some Early Inner Asian Terms Related to the Imperial Family and the Comitatus" (2013). Central Asiatic Journal. 56(2012/2013). p. 69 of 49-86, note 113.
  6. ^ Kültegin Inscription, line E34. at Türik Bitig
  7. ^ Stark (2016), p. 2122
  8. ^ François THIERRY, "Three Notes on Türgesh Numismatics", Proceedings of the Symposium on Ancient Coins and the Culture of the Silk Road, Sichou zhi lu guguo qianbi ji Silu wenhua guoji xueshu yantaohui lunwenji , Shanghai Bowuguan, décembre 2006, Shanghaï 2011, 413-442.
  9. ^ Zizhi Tongjian, vol 211
  10. ^ Tuqishi , Türgi? from chinaknowledge.de - An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art
  11. ^ History of civilizations of Central Asia. Dani, Ahmad Hasan., Masson, V. M. (Vadim Mikha?lovich), 1929-, Harmatta, J. (János), 1917-2004., Litvinovski?, B. A. (Boris Abramovich), Bosworth, Clifford Edmund., Unesco. (1st Indian ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. 1992-1999. p. 346. ISBN 8120814096. OCLC 43545117.CS1 maint: others (link)
  12. ^ Inaba, M. "Nezak in Chinese Sources?" Coins, Art and Chronology II. Ed. M. Alram et.al. (2010) p. 191-202
  13. ^ Grousset 1970, p. 115.
  14. ^ Gibb 1923, p. 91.
  15. ^ Skaff 2012, pp. 180, 386.
  16. ^ Xiong, Victor Cunrui (2016). Capital Cities and Urban Form in Pre-modern China: Luoyang, 1038 BCE to 938 C. Asian States and Empires (Book 13). Routledge. p. 151. ISBN 9781317235569.
  17. ^ Kenzheakhmet, Nurlan (2014). ""Ethnonyms and Toponyms" of the Old Turkic Inscriptions in Chinese sources". Studia et Documenta Turcologica. II: 303.
  18. ^ Stark (2016), p. 2122
  19. ^ Golden, Peter B. The Turkic Word in Mahmud al-Kashgari, p. 530, note 138
  20. ^ a b c d Bregel 2003, p. 18.
  21. ^ A., Zuev, I?U?. (2002). Rannie ti?u?rki : ocherki istorii i ideologii. Da?k-Press. Almaty. ISBN 978-9985-441-52-7. OCLC 52976103.
  22. ^ Yu. Zuev, "Early Türks: Essays on history and ideology", Almaty, Daik-Press, 2002, p. 207, 209, 239, ISBN 9985-4-4152-9
  23. ^ a b Golden 1992, p. 140.
  24. ^ a b Asimov 1998, p. 25.
  25. ^ Shaban 1979, p. 113.
  26. ^ Blankinship, p. xv.
  27. ^ Bregel 2003, p. 19.
  28. ^ Asimov 1998, p. 33.
  29. ^ Yu. Zuev. (2002) Early Turks: Sketches of history and ideology Almaty. p. 153 (in Russian)
  30. ^ Gumilyov, L. Searches for an Imaginary Kingdom: The trefoil of the Bird's Eye View' Ch. 5: The Shattered Silence (961-1100)
  31. ^ Pylypchuk, Ya. "Turks and Muslims: From Confrontation to Conversion to Islam (End of VII century - Beginning of XI Century)" in UDK 94 (4): 95 (4). In Ukrainian
  32. ^ Minorsky, V. "Commentary" on "§17. The Tukhs" in ?ud?d al'?lam. Translated and Explained by V. Minorsky. pp. 300-304
  33. ^ Golden, Peter Benjamin (1992). "An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples: Ethnogenesis And State Formation in the Medieval and Early Modern Eurasia and the Middle East". Turcologica. 9. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. ISBN 978-3-447-03274-2. p. 165
  34. ^ Atwood, Christopher P. (2010). "The Notion of Tribe in Medieval China: Ouyang Xiu and the Shatup Dynastic Myth". Miscellanea Asiatica: 693-621.
  35. ^ Baskakov N.A., "Dialects of Taiga Tatars, Taba-kishi. Texts and translations", Moscow, 1965, p.9

General bibliography

  • Asimov, M. S. (1998), History of civilizations of Central Asia, Volume IV: The age of achievement: A.D. 750 to the end of the fifteenth century Part One: The historical, social and economic setting, UNESCO Publishing
  • Barfield, Thomas (1989), The Perilous Frontier: Nomadic Empires and China, Basil Blackwell
  • Blankinship, Khalid Yahya, ed. (1989). The History of al-?abar?, Volume XXV: The End of Expansion: The Caliphate of Hish?m, A.D. 724-738/A.H. 105-120. SUNY Series in Near Eastern Studies. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-0-88706-569-9.
  • Bregel, Yuri (2003), An Historical Atlas of Central Asia, Brill
  • Golden, Peter B. (1992), An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples: Ethnogenesis and State-Formation in Medieval and Early Modern Eurasia and the Middle East, OTTO HARRASSOWITZ · WIESBADEN
  • Millward, James (2009), Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang, Columbia University Press
  • Shaban, M. A. (1979), The ?Abb?sid Revolution, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-29534-5
  • Stark, Sören (2016). "Türgesh Khaganate". In McKenzie, John M.; Dalziel, Nigel R.; Charney, Michael W.; Doumanis, Nicholas (eds.). Encyclopedia of Empire. Volume IV: S-Z. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell. pp. 2122-2127.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Xiong, Victor (2008), Historical Dictionary of Medieval China, United States of America: Scarecrow Press, Inc., ISBN 978-0810860537, ASIN 0810860538
  • Xue, Zongzheng (). (1992). Turkic peoples (). Beijing: . ISBN 978-7-5004-0432-3; OCLC 28622013

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