- Kushan Empire
Infobox Former Country
conventional_long_name = Kushan Empire
common_name = Kushan Empire
continent = Asia
era = Antiquity
Kujula Kadphisesunites Yuezhitribes into a confederation
year_start = 60s
event_end = Subjugated by the
year_end = 375
p1 = Yuezhi
s1 = Gupta Empire
image_map_caption = Kushan territories (full line) and maximum extent of Kushan dominions under
Kanishka(dotted line), according to the Rabatak inscription. ["The Rabatak inscriptionclaims that in the year 1 Kanishka I's authority was proclaimed in India, in all the satrapies and in different cities like Koonadeano (Kundina), Ozeno ( Ujjain), Kozambo (Kausambi), Zagedo ( Saketa), Palabotro ( Pataliputra) and Ziri-Tambo (Janjgir-Champa). These cities lay to the east and south of Mathura, up to which locality Wima had already carried his victorious arm. Therefore they must have been captured or subdued by Kanishka I himself." "Ancient Indian Inscriptions", S. R. Goyal, p. 93. See also the analysis of Sims-Williamsand J.Cribb, who had a central role in the decipherment: "A new Bactrian inscription of Kanishka the Great", in "Silk Road Art and Archaeology" No4, 1995-1996. Also Mukherjee B.N. "The Great Kushanan Testament", Indian Museum Bulletin.]
Begram Taxila Mathura
religion = Central Asian Cults
Zoroastrianism Greco-Buddhism Buddhism Ancient Greek religion Hinduism
government_type = Monarchy
year_leader1 = 60-80
year_leader2 = 350-375
title_leader = Emperor
The Kushan Empire (c. 1st–3rd centuries) was a
Bactrianstate that at its cultural zenith, circa 105–250 CE, extended from what is now Tajikistanto Afghanistan, Pakistanand down into the Ganges rivervalley in northern India. The empire was created by the Kushan tribe of the Yuezhiconfederation, believed to have been an Indo-European people[ [http://www.metmuseum.org/TOAH/HD/kush/hd_kush.htm Kushan Empire (ca. 2nd century B.C.–3rd century A.D.) | Thematic Essay | Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art ] ] from the eastern Tarim Basin, China, possibly related to the Tocharians. They had diplomatic contacts with Rome, Persia and China, and for several centuries were at the center of exchange between the East and the West.
tamgas] Chinese sources describe the "Guishuang" (Ch: 貴霜), "i.e." the "Kushans", as one of the five aristocratic tribes of the Yuezhi, also spelled Yueh-chi, [For romanized spelling Yueh-chi see: Keay, p. 110.] (Ch: 月氏), a loose confederation of supposedly Indo-European peoples. [ [http://www.metmuseum.org/TOAH/HD/kush/hd_kush.htm Kushan Empire (ca. 2nd century B.C.–3rd century A.D.) | Thematic Essay | Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art ] ] The Yuezhi are also generally considered as the easternmost speakers of Indo-European languages, who had been living in the arid grasslands of eastern Central Asia, in modern-day Xinjiangand Gansu, possibly speaking versions of the Tocharian language, until they were driven west by the Xiongnuin 176–160 BCE. The five tribes constituting the Yuezhi are known in Chinese history as Xiūmì (Ch: 休密), Guishuang (Ch: 貴霜), Shuangmi (Ch: 雙靡), Xidun (Ch: 肸頓), and Dūmì (Ch: 都密).
Historian John Keay contextualizes the movements of the Kushan within a larger setting of mass migrations taking place in the region:
The Yuezhi reached the Hellenic kingdom of
Greco-Bactria, in the Bactrianterritory (northernmost Afghanistan and Uzbekistan) around 135 BCE. The displaced Greek dynasties resettled to the southeast in areas of the Hindu Kushand the Indus basin (in present day Pakistan), occupying the western part of the Indo-Greek Kingdom.
Some traces remain of the presence of the Kushan in the area of
Bactriaand Sogdiana. Archaeological structures are known in Takht-I-Sangin, Surkh Kotal(a monumental temple), and in the palace of Khalchayan. Various sculptures and friezes are known, representing horse-riding archers [Lebedynsky, p. 62.] , and significantly men with artificially deformed skulls, such as the Kushan prince of Khalchayan [Lebedynsky, p. 15.] (a practice well attested in nomadic Central Asia). On the ruins of ancient Hellenistic cities such as Ai-Khanoum, the Kushans are known to have built fortresses. The earliest documented ruler, and the first one to proclaim himself as a Kushan ruler was Heraios. He calls himself a " Tyrant" on his coins, and also exhibits skull deformation. He may have been an ally of the Greeks, and he shared the same style of coinage. Heraios may have been the father of the first Kushan emperor Kujula Kadphises.
A multi-cultural Empire
In the following century, the "Guishuang" (Ch: 貴霜) gained prominence over the other Yuezhi tribes, and welded them into a tight confederation under "yabgu" (Commander)
Kujula Kadphises. The name "Guishuang" was adopted in the West and modified into "Kushan" to designate the confederation, although the Chinese continued to call them "Yuezhi".
Gradually wresting control of the area from the Scythian tribes, the Kushans expanded south into the region traditionally known as
Gandhara(An area lying primarily in Pakistan's Pothowar, and Northwest Frontier Provinces region but going in an arc to include Kabul valley and part of Qandaharin Afghanistan) and established twin capitals near present-day Kabuland Peshawarthen known as Kapisa and Pushklavati respectively.
The Kushans adopted elements of the Hellenistic culture of
Bactria. They adapted the Greek alphabet (often corrupted) to suit their own language (with the additional development of the letter Þ "sh", as in "Kushan") and soon began minting coinage on the Greek model. On their coins they used Greek language legends combined with Pali legends (in the Kharoshthiscript), until the first few years of the reign of Kanishka. After that date, they used Kushan language legends (in an adapted Greek script), combined with legends in Greek (Greek script) and legends in Pali ( Kharoshthiscript).
The Kushans are believed to have been predominantly
Zoroastrianand later Buddhistas well. However, from the time of Wima Takto, many Kushans started adopting aspects of Indian culture. Like the Egyptians they absorbed the strong remnants of the Greek Culture of the Hellenistic Kingdoms, becoming at least partly Hellenised. The first great Kushan emperor Wima Kadphises may have embraced Saivism, as surmised by coins minted during the period. The following Kushan emperors represented a wide variety of faiths including Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, and possibly Saivism.
The rule of the Kushans linked the seagoing trade of the Indian Ocean with the commerce of the
Silk Roadthrough the long-civilized Indus Valley. At the height of the dynasty, the Kushans loosely oversaw a territory that extended to the Aral Sea through present-day Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan into northern India.
The loose unity and comparative peace of such a vast expanse encouraged long-distance trade, brought Chinese silks to
Rome, and created strings of flourishing urban centers.
Direct archaeological evidence of a Kushan rule of long duration is basically available in an area stretching from
Surkh Kotal, Begram, the summer capital of the Kushans, Peshawarthe capital under Kanishka I, Taxilaand Mathura, the winter capital of the Kushans. [Rosenfield, p. 41.]
Other areas of probable rule include
Khwarezm(Russian archaeological findings) [Rosenfield, p. 41.] Kausambi(excavations of the Allahabad University), [Rosenfield, p. 41.] Sanchiand Sarnath(inscriptions with names and dates of Kushan kings), [Rosenfield, p. 41.] Malwaand Maharashtra, [For "Malwa and Maharashtra, for which it is speculated that the Kushans had an alliance with the Western Kshatrapas", see: Rosenfield, p. 41.] Orissa(imitation of Kushan coins, and large Kushan hoards). [Rosenfield, p. 41.]
The recently discovered
Rabatak inscriptiontends to confirm large Kushan dominions in the heartland of India. The lines 4 to 7 of the inscription [For a translation of the full text of the Rabatak inscription see: Mukherjee, B.N., "The Great Kushana Testament", Indian Museum Bulletin, Calcutta, 1995. This translation is quoted in: Goyal (2005), p.88.] describe the cities which were under the rule of Kanishka, among which six names are identifiable: Ujjain, Kundina, Saketa, Kausambi, Pataliputra, and Champa (although the text is not clear whether Champa was a possession of Kanishka or just beyond it). [For quotation: "The Rabatak inscription claims that in the year 1 Kanishka I's authority was proclaimed in India, in all the satrapies and in different cities like Koonadeano (Kundina), Ozeno (Ujjain), Kozambo (Kausambi), Zagedo (Saketa), Palabotro (Pataliputra) and Ziri-Tambo (Janjgir-Champa). These cities lay to the east and south of Mathura, up to which locality Wima had already carried his victorious arm. Therefore they must have been captured or subdued by Kanishka I himself."see: Goyal, p. 93.] [See also the analysis of Sims-Williams and J. Cribb, specialists of the field, who had a central role in the decipherment: "A new Bactrian inscription of Kanishka the Great", in "Silk Road Art and Archaeology" No. 4, 1995-1996. pp.75-142.] [cite web
last = Sims-Williams
first = Nicholas
authorlink = Nicholas Sims-Williams
title = Bactrian Documents from Ancient Afghanistan
url = http://www.gengo.l.u-tokyo.ac.jp/~hkum/bactrian.html
accessdate = 2007-05-24 ] Northward, in the 2nd century CE, the Kushans under
Kanishkamade various forays into the Tarim Basin, seemingly the original ground of their ancestors the Yuezhi, where they had various contacts with the Chinese. Both archaeological findings and literary evidence suggest Kushan rule, in Kashgar, Yarkand and Khotan. [Rosenfield, p. 41.]
As late as the 3rd century CE, decorated coins of Huvishka were dedicated at
Bodh Gayatogether with other gold offerings under the "Enlightenment Throne" of the Buddha, suggesting direct Kushan influence in the area during that period. [British Museum display, Asian Art room.]
Main Kushan rulers
Kujula Kadphises (30–80)
According to the "
Hou Hanshu": "the prince (xihou) of Guishuang ( Badakhshanand the adjoining territories north of the Oxus), named Kujula Kadphises(Ch: 丘就却, "Qiujiuque") attacked and exterminated the four other princes (xihou). He set himself up as king of a kingdom called Guishuang." [Hill, John E. 2004. "The Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu." Draft annotated English translation. [http://depts.washington.edu/silkroad/texts/hhshu/hou_han_shu.html] ]
He invaded Anxi (Parthia) and took the Gaofu (
Kabul) region. He also defeated the whole of the kingdoms of Puda, and Jibin (Kapisha-Gandhara). Qiujiuque (Kujula Kadphises) was more than eighty years old when he died."
These conquests probably took place sometime between 45 and 60, and laid the basis for the Kushan Empire which was rapidly expanded by his descendants.
Kujula issued an extensive series of coins and fathered at least two sons, unicode|Sadaṣkaṇa (who is known from only two inscriptions, especially the
Rabatak inscription, and apparently never have ruled), and seemingly Vima Taktu.
Kujula Kadphises was the great grandfather of Kanishka.
Vima Taktu (80–105)
[Vima Takto|Vima Takt [u] (or Tak [to] , Ancient Chinese: 阎膏珍 "Yangaozhen" ) is not mentioned in the
Rabatak inscription( Sadashkanais instead. See also the reference to Sims-William’s article below). He was the predecessor of Vima Kadphises, and KanishkaI. He expanded the Kushan Empire into the northwest of the Indian subcontinent. The " Hou Hanshu" says:
:"His [Kujula Kadphises'] son, Yangaozhen (Vima Taktu), became king in his place. He conquered
Tianzhu(Northwestern India) and installed a General to supervise and lead it. The Yuezhi then became extremely rich. All the kingdoms call [their king] the Guishuang (Kushan) king, but the Han call them by their original name, Da Yuezhi." [Hill, John E. 2004. "The Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu." Draft annotated English translation. [http://depts.washington.edu/silkroad/texts/hhshu/hou_han_shu.html] ]
Vima Kadphises (105–127)
Vima Kadphises(Kushan language: Οοημο Καδφισης) was a Kushanemperor from around 90–100 CE, the son of Sadashkanaand the grandson of Kujula Kadphises, and the father of Kanishka I, as detailed by the Rabatak inscription.
Vima Kadphises added to the Kushan territory by his conquests in
Afghanistanand north-west India. He issued an extensive series of coins and inscriptions. He was the first to introduce gold coinage in India, in addition to the existing copper and silver coinage.
Kanishka I (127–147)
The rule of
Kanishka, fifth Kushan king, who flourished for at least 28 years from c. 127. Upon his accession, Kanishka ruled a huge territory (virtually all of northern India), south to Ujjainand Kundinaand east beyond Pataliputra, according to the Rabatak inscription::"In the year one, it has been proclaimed unto India, unto the whole realm of the governing class, including Koonadeano (Kaundinya< Kundina) and the city of Ozeno (Ozene, Ujjain) and the city of Zageda ( Saketa) and the city of Kozambo ( Kausambi) and the city of Palabotro ( Pataliputra) and so long unto (i.e. as far as) the city of Ziri-tambo (Sri-Champa)." Rabatak inscription, Lines 4–6.
His territory was administered from two capitals: Purushapura (now
Peshawarin northern Pakistan) and Mathura, in northern India. He is also credited (along with Raja Dab) for building the massive, ancient Fort at Bathinda( Qila Mubarak), in the modern city of Bathinda, Indian Punjab.
The Kushans also had a summer capital in
Bagram(then known as Kapisa), where the "Begram Treasure", comprising works of art from Greece to China, has been found. According to the Rabatak inscription, Kanishka was the son of Vima Kadphises, the grandson of Sadashkana, and the great-grandson of Kujula Kadphises. Kanishka’s era is now generally accepted to have begun in 127 on the basis of Harry Falk’s ground-breaking research. [Falk, Harry. 2001. "The yuga of Sphujiddhvaja and the era of the Kuşâņas." "Silk Road Art and Archaeology VII", pp. 121–136.] [Falk, Harry. 2004. "The Kaniṣka era in Gupta records." Harry Falk. "Silk Road Art and Archaeology X" , pp. 167–176.] Kanishka’s era was used as a calendar reference by the Kushans for about a century, until the decline of the Kushan realm.
Vāsishkawas a Kushanemperor, who seems to have a short reign following Kanishka. His rule is recorded as far south as Sanchi(near Vidisa), where several inscriptions in his name have been found, dated to the year 22 (The Sanchi inscription of "Vaksushana" – i. e. Vasishka Kushana) and year 28 (The Sanchi inscription of Vasaska – i. e. Vasishka) of the Kanishka era.
Huvishka(Kushan: Οοηϸκι, "Ooishki") was a Kushanemperor from the death of Kanishka(assumed on the best evidence available to be in 140 CE) until the succession of Vasudeva Iabout forty years later. His rule was a period of retrenchment and consolidation for the Empire. In particular he devoted time and effort early in his reign to the exertion of greater control over the city of Mathura.
Vasudeva I (191–225)
Vasudeva I( Kushan: Βαζοδηο "Bazodeo", Chinese: 波調 "Bodiao") was the last of the "Great Kushans." Named inscriptions dating from year 64 to 98 of Kanishka’s era suggest his reign extended from at least 191 to 225 CE. He was the last great Kushan emperor, and the end of his rule coincides with the invasion of the Sassanids as far as northwestern India, and the establishment of the Indo-Sassanidsor Kushanshahsfrom around 240 CE.
The Kushan religious pantheon is extremely varied, as revealed by their coins and their seals, on which more than 30 different gods appear, belonging to the Hellenistic, the Iranian, and to a lesser extent the Indian world. Greek deities, with Greek names are represented on early coins. During Kanishka's reign, the language of the coinage changes to Bactrian (though it remained in Greek script for all kings). After Huvishka, only two divinities appear on the coins: "Ardoxsho" and "
Oesho" (see details below).
Representation of entities from Greek mythology and Hellenistic syncretism are:
* Ηλιος (
Helios), Ηφαηστος ( Hephaistos), Σαληνη ( Selene), Ανημος ( Anemos). Further, the coins of Huvishka also portray two demi-gods: "erakilo" Heracles, and "sarapo" Sarapis.
The Indic entities represented on coinage include:
* Βοδδο ("boddo", Buddha)
* Μετραγο Βοδδο ("metrago boddo", bodhisattava
* Mαασηνo ("maaseno",
* Σκανδo koμαρo ("skando komaro",
* Ϸακαμανο Βοδδο ("shakamano boddho",
The Iranic entities depicted on coinage include:
* Αρδοχϸο ("ardoxsho",
* A?αειχ?o ("ashaeixsho",
* Αθϸο ("athsho",
* Φαρρο ("pharro",
* Λροοασπο ("lrooaspa",
* Μαναοβαγο, ("manaobago",
* Μαο ("mao",
* Μιθρο, Μιιρο, Μιορο, Μιυρο ("mithro" and variants,
* Μοζδοοανο ("mozdooano", Mazda *vana "Mazda the victorious?")
* Νανα, Ναναια, Ναναϸαο (variations of pan-Asiatic "nana", Sogdian "nny", in a Zoroastrian context
Aredvi Sura Anahita)
* Οαδο ("oado" Vata)
* Oαxϸo ("oaxsho", "Oxus")
* Ooρoμoζδο ("ooromozdo",
* Οραλαγνο ("orlagno",
* Τιερο ("tiero", Tir)
* Οηϸο ("oesho"), long considered to represent Indic
* Two copper coins of Huvishka bear a 'Ganesa' legend, but instead of depicting the typical
ome deities on Kushan coinage:
The Kushans and Buddhism
Cultural exchanges also flourished, encouraging the development of
Kanishka is renowned in Buddhist tradition for having convened a great Buddhist council in
The art and culture of
In the iconography, they are never associated however with the very Hellenistic "Standing Buddha" statues (See image), which might therefore correspond to an earlier historical period. The style of these friezes incorporating Kushan devotees is already strongly Indianized, quite remote from earlier Hellenistic depictions of the Buddha:
Contacts with Rome
The Chinese Historical Chronicle of the
The summer capital of the Kushan in
Contacts with China
During the 1st and 2nd century, the Kushan Empire expanded militarily to the north and occupied parts of the
In recognition for their support to the Chinese, the Kushans requested, but were denied, a Han princess, even after they had sent presents to the Chinese court. In retaliation, they marched on Ban Chao in
The Kushans are again recorded to have sent presents to the Chinese court in
Following these interactions, cultural exhanges further increased, and Kushan Buddhist missionaries, such as
After the death of
The Eastern Kushan kingdom was based in the Punjab. Around
These remnants of the Kushan empire were ultimately wiped out in the
The Kushan Empire was used to represent a
Main Kushan rulers
* Kanishka I (
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