Infobox Former Country
common_name = Göktürk Empire
native_name = Göktürk Empire
continent = Asia
region = Central AsiaFact|date=October 2008
capital = ÖtükenFact|date=October 2008
year_start = 551
year_end = 747
p1 = Xiongnu
s1 = Uyghur Khaganate
title_leader = Göktürk Khans
leader1 = Tumen Il-Qağan
year_leader1 = 551-553
leader2 = Bagatur-Shad Khieli-Qağan
year_leader2 = 621-630
Turkish: "'Gök Türkler" ) were a Turkic people of ancient Central AsiaFact|date=October 2008. Known in medieval Chinese sources as "T'u küe" (突厥 Tūjué), the Gök türklerFact|date=October 2008 under the leadership of Bumin Khan(d. 552) and his sons succeeded the Xiongnuas the main Turkic power in the regionFact|date=October 2008 and took hold of the lucrative Silk Roadtrade.
The Gök türk rulers originated from the
Ashinatribe, an Altaic peoplewho lived in the northern corner of the area presently called XinjiangFact|date=October 2008. Under their leadership, the Göktürkler rapidly expanded to rule huge territories in north-western China, North Asiaand Eastern Europe(as far west as the Crimea). They were the first Turkic tribe known to use the name "Turk" as a political name.
The state's most famous personalities other than its founder Bumin were princes Kül Tigin and Bilge and the General
Tonyukuk, whose life stories were recorded in the famous Orkhon inscriptions.
The name "Tujue" (like that of
Ashina) appeared in Chinese sources relatively late, the first record being dated 542meaning "strong" or "powerful". [Xue 39-85] Kök-Türks is said to mean "Celestial Turks", but this is contested. Alternate meanings are "Blue Turks", and "Numerous Turks"; as "kök" meant both "sky" and "blue" in the Köktürk language, and a similar sounding word stands for "root"Fact|date=October 2008. This is also consistent with "the cult of heavenly ordained rule" which was a pivotal element of the Altaic political culture before being imported to China. [Wink 64.] Similarly, the name of the ruling Ashina dynasty probably derives from the Khotanese Saka term for "deep blue", "āšše(i)na". [Findley 39.] The name might also derive from a Tungusictribe related to "Aisin". [Zhu 68-91.]
According to the ancient
East Asian cosmologyoutlined in the theory of the Five Elements (五行 Wǔ-xíng), to which the Turks have also ascribed since ancient times, the color blue is a symbol representing the eastern direction, and it is associated with good omens. The Guardian Deity of the Eastern Direction is the Azure Dragon. Thus, it would not be surprising if the Göktürks had chosen to call themselves "Blue Turks" in the primary sense of "East Turks", with all the associated connotations of "first," "rising," "dawning," "auspicious," and so forth. Göktürk is pronounced IPA2|ɡʲøkʲˈtʏɾk.
Four hundred years after the collapse of northern
Xiongnupower in Inner Asia, leadership of the Turks was taken over by the GöktürksFact|date=October 2008 after rebelling against the Rouran. Formerly an element of the Xiongnu nomadic confederation, the Göktürks inherited their traditions and administrative experienceFact|date=October 2008. From 552to 745, Göktürk leadership bound together the nomadic Turkic tribes into an empire, which eventually collapsed due to a series of dynastic conflicts. The great difference between the Göktürk Khanate and its Xiongnu predecessor was that the Göktürks' temporary "khans" from the Ashinaclan were "subordinate" to a sovereign authority that was left in the hands of a council of tribal chiefsFact|date=October 2008. The Khanatereceived missionaries from the Buddhists, Manicheans, and Nestorian Christians, but retained their original shamanistic religion, Tengriism. The Göktürks were the first Turkic people to write their language in a runic script.
First unified empire
The Turks' rise to power began in
546when Bumin Khanmade a pre-emptive strike against the Uyghur and Tiele tribes who were planning a revolt against their overlords, the Rouran. For this service he expected to be rewarded with a Rouran princess, "i.e." marry into the royal family. Disappointed in his hopes, Bumin allied with the Wei state against Rouran, their common enemy. In 552, Bumin defeated the last RouranKhan, Yujiulü Anagui. He also subdued the Yenisei Kyrgyzand the Khitans of Western Manchuria, was formally recognized by China, and married the Wei princess Changle.
Having excelled both in battle and diplomacy Bumin declared himself Il-
Qaghan("great king of kings") of the new Göktürk empire at Otukan, the old Xiongnucapital, but died a year later. It was his son Mukhan who consolidated his conquests into an empire of global reach. Bumin's brother Istämi(d. 576) was titled "yabghu of the west" and collaborated with the Persian Sassanids to defeat and destroy the White Huns, who were allies of the Rouran. This war tightened the Ashina's grip of the Silk Roadand drove the Avars into Europe.
Istämi's policy of western expansion brought the Turks into
Eastern Europe. In 576 the Göktürks crossed the Cimmerian Bosporusinto the Crimea. Five years later they laid siege to Tauric Chersonesus; their cavalry kept roaming the steppes of Crimea until 590.Grousset 81.] As for the southern borders, they were drawn south of the Oxus River, bringing the Ashina into conflict with their former allies, the Sassanids of Persia. Much of Bactria(including Balkh) remained a dependency of the Ashina until the end of the century.. In 588 they were under the walls of Heratbut Bahram Chobinably countered the invasion during the First Perso-Turkic War.
In the eastern part of their extensive dominions, the Göktürk Empire maintained close political ties with the
GoguryeoEmpire of Koreawhich controlled southern Manchuriaand the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. Giving gifts, providing military support, and free trade were some of the benefits of this close mutual alliance. Both rival states in north China paid large tributes to the Göktürks from 581.
This first Göktürk Empire split in two after the death of the fourth Qaghan,
Taspar Khan(ca. 584). He had willed the title Qaghanto Mukhan's son Talopien, but the high council appointed Ishbara in his stead. Factions formed around both leaders. Before long four rival khans claimed the title of Qaghan. They were successfully played off against each other by the Sui and Tang dynasties of China.
The most serious contender was the Western Khan, 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 titled himself as Qaghan, and led an army to the east to claim the seat of imperial power, Otukan.
In order to buttress his position, Ishbara of the Eastern Khanate applied to the Chinese Emperor Yangdi for protection. Tardu attacked
Changan, the Sui capital, around 600, demanding from Emperor Yangdi to end his interference in the civil war. In retaliation, Chinese diplomacy successfully incited a revolt of Tardu's Tiele vassaltribes, which led to the end of Tardu's reign in 603. Among the dissident tribes were the Uyghur and Syr-Tardush.
The civil war left the empire divided into the eastern and western parts. The eastern part, still ruled from Ötüken, remained in the orbit of the Sui Empire and retained the name Göktürk. The khans Shipi (609-19) and Khieli (620-30) of the East attacked China at its weakest moment during the transition between the Sui and Tang dynasties. All in all, 67 incursions on Chinese territories were recorded. Khieli 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). After the Khan was taken prisoner, the Tang dynasty had his empire divided into protectorates.
The Western khans
Shekueiand Tung Yabğuconstructed an alliance with the Byzantine Empireagainst the Persian Sassanidsand succeeded in restoring the southern borders along the Tarim and Oxus rivers. Their capital was Suyabin the Chui Rivervalley, about 60 km east of modern Tokmok. In 627 Tung Yabğu, assisted by the Khazarsand Emperor Heraclius, launched a massive invasion of Transcaucasiawhich culminated in the taking of Derbentand Tbilisi(see the Third Perso-Turkic Warfor details). In April 630 Tung's deputy Buri-sadsent the Göktürk cavalry to invade Armenia, where his general Chorpan Tarkhansucceeded in routing a large Persian force. Tung Yabğu's murder in 630 forced the Göktürks to evacuate Transcaucasia.
Western Turkic Khaganatewas modernized through an administrative reform of Ishbara-Qağan(reigned 634-639) and came to be known as the Onoq.Gumilev 238.] The name refers to "ten arrows" that were granted by the khagan to five leaders ("shads") of its two constituent tribal confederations, Tulu and Nushipi, whose lands were divided by the Chui River. The division fostered the growth of separatist tendencies, and soon the Bulgarian tribes under the Dulochieftain Kubratseceded from the khaganate. In 657, the eastern part of the khaganate was overrun by the Tang general Su Ding Fang, while the central part had emerged as the independent khaganate of Khazaria, led by a branch of the Ashina dynasty.
659the Tang Emperor of China could claim to rule the entire Silk Roadas far as "Po-sse" ( Persia). The Turks now carried Chinese titles and fought by their side in their wars. The era spanning from 659-681 was characterized by numerous independent rulers - weak, divided, and engaged in constant petty wars. In the east, the Uyghurs defeated their one-time allies the Syr-Tardush, while in the west the Turgeshemerged as successors to the Onoq.
Despite all the setbacks, Ilteriş Şad (Idat) and his brother Bäkçor Qapağan Khan (Mo-ch'o) succeeded in reestablishing the Khanate. In 681 they revolted against
Tang DynastyChinese domination and, over the following decades, steadily gained control of the steppes beyond the Great Wall of China. By 705, they had expanded as far south as Samarkandand threatened the Arabcontrol of Transoxiana. The Göktürks clashed with the Umayyad Califatein a series of battles (712-713) but, again, the Arabs emerged as victors.
Following the Ashina tradition, the power of the Second Empire was centered on
Ötükän(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". [Wink 66.] The son of Ilteriş, Bilge, was also a strong leader, the one whose deeds were recorded in the Orkhon inscriptions. After his death in 734the empire declined. The Göktürks ultimately fell victim to a series of internal crises and renewed Chinese campaigns.
Kutluk Khanof the Uyghurs allied himself with the Karluksand Basmyls, the power of the Göktürks was very much on the wane. In 744 Kutluk seized Ötükän and beheaded the last Göktürk khagan Özmish Khan, whose head was sent to the Tang Dynasty Chinese court. [Grousset 114.] In a space of few years, the Uyghurs gained mastery of Inner Asia and established the Uyghur Khaganate.
First Göktürk Empire
**Yili Qaghan / Ashina Tumen
552- 553elder son of Tuwu
***Yixiji Qaghan / Ashina Keluo
553- 554son of Tumen
Taspar Khan 572- 581son of Bumin Khancite book
coauthors =Jean Deny, Louis Bazin, Hans Robert Roemer, György Hazai , Wolfgang-Ekkehard Scharlipp
title =History of the Turkic Peoples in the Pre-Islamic Period
pages =page 108
id = ]
****Shabolue Qaghan / Ashina Shetu
581- 587son of Keloucite book
title =The great wall: China Against the World, 1000 BC - AD 2000
publisher =Grove Press
pages =page 354
id = ISBN 0802142974 ]
*****Xiegashiduona Dulan / Ashina Chuluohou
588- 599son of Shetu
******Tuli Qaghan or Qimin Qaghan / Ashina Rangan
599- 609son of Chuluohou
*******Shibi Qaghan / Ashina Duoji
611- 619son of Rangancite book
first =Victor Cunrui
title =Emperor Yang of the Sui Dynasty: His Life, Times, and Legacy
publisher =SUNY Press
pages =page 213
id = ISBN 079146587X ]
*******Chuluo Qaghan / Ashina Qilifu
619- 621younger brother of Duoji
*******Jiali Qaghan / Ashina Duobi
621- 630third son of Rangan
****Yehu Qaghan or Mohe Qaghan / Ashina Yongyulu
587- 588brother of Shetu
***Mugan Qaghan / Ashina Qijin
554- 572younger brother of Kelou
***Tuobo Qaghan / Unknown name
572- 581younger brother of Qijin
Unknown title / Ashina Anluo 581son of Tuobo Qaghan
Rival Qağans of Ishbara
Buli Khan 580s
Apa Khan 580s
Datou Khan(also known as Bujia Khan) 599- 603
Istämi Yabghu 553- 573("defacto" qağan in west) second son of Tuwu
Datou Khan 599- 603
603and Chulo Khan 603- 611
Interim claimants of Eastern Turkic throne
Qilibi Khan 639- 644(Tang vassal)
Chebi Khan~ 646- 649
Ashina Nishoufu 679- 680
Ashina Funian 681
Second Göktürk Kaganate
Ilteris Sad(Idat) 682- 694
Qapagan Khaghan("Chinese" Mo-ch'o) 694- 716
*Bilgä Kagan Khan
Kul TiginKhan 716- 731(co-ruler with Bilge)
*Icen Khan -
744- 747(in exile)
747- 759[Yu. Zuev, "Early Türks: Essays on history and ideology", Almaty, Daik-Press, 2002, p. 233, ISBN 9985-441-52-9]
759- 779[Yu. Zuev, "Early Türks: Essays on history and ideology", p. 233]
Ethnic groups in Chinese history
Khosho Tsaidam Monuments
Notes and References
*Findley, Carter Vaughin. "The Turks in World History". Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN 0195177266.
Great Soviet Encyclopaedia, 3rd ed. Article "Turkic Khaganate" ( [http://www.cultinfo.ru/fulltext/1/001/008/113/276.htm online] ).
*Grousset, René. "The Empire of the Steppes". Rutgers University Press, 1970. ISBN 0813513049.
Gumilev, Lev. "The Gokturks" (Древние тюрки). Moscow: AST, 2007. ISBN 5170247931.
*Wink, André. "Al-Hind: The Making of the Indo-Islamic World". Brill Academic Publishers, 2002. ISBN 0391041738.
* Zhu, Xueyuan. "The Origins of Northern China's Ethnicities". Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 2004. ISBN 7-101-03336-9.
* Xue, Zongzheng. "A History of Turks". Beijing: Chinese Social Sciences Press, 1992. ISBN 7-5004-0432-8.
* [http://www.ozturkler.com/data_english/0001/0001_05.htm The Gok-Turks Khans]
* [http://www.zentralasienforschung.de A German-language site]
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