Eastern Turkic Khaganate
Greatest extent of the Eastern Turkic Khaganate
StatusKhaganate (Nomadic empire)
Common languages
Tengrism, Buddhism[2]
• 603–609
Yami Qaghan
• 620–630
Illig Qaghan
• 645–650
Chebi Khan
Historical eraEarly Middle Ages
• Göktürk civil war, Eastern Khaganate founded
• East-West split
• Conquest by Tang dynasty
• Empire reestablished
• Reconquest by Tang dynasty
• Second Turkic Khaganate established
624[3]4,000,000 km2 (1,500,000 sq mi)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
First Turkic Khaganate
Protectorate General to Pacify the North
Second Turkic Khaganate
Today part ofChina
Shoroon Bumbagar tomb mural, Göktürk, 7th century CE, in modern-day Mongolia.[4][5][6][7]
Shoroon Bumbagar tomb mural, Göktürk, 7th century CE, Mongolia.[8][9][6][7]
A Turk mourning the Buddha, Kyzyl, Mingoi, Maya cave.[10][11]

The Eastern Turkic Khaganate (Chinese: 東突厥; pinyin: Dōng Tūjué or Dōng Tújué) was a Turkic khaganate formed as a result of the internecine wars in the beginning of the 7th century (AD 581–603) after the First Turkic Khaganate (founded in the 6th century in the Mongolian Plateau by the Ashina clan) had splintered into two polities – one in the east and the other in the west. Finally, the Eastern Turkic Khaganate was defeated and absorbed by the Tang dynasty, and Xueyantuo occupied the territory of the former Turkic Khaganate.


See also: Timeline of the Göktürks


In 552–555 the Göktürks replaced the Rouran Khaganate as the dominant power on the Mongolian Plateau, forming the First Turkic Khaganate (552–630). They quickly spread west to the Caspian Sea. Between 581 and 603 the Western Turkic Khaganate in Central Asia separated from the Eastern Khaganate in the Mongolian Plateau. In the early period the Central Plain regimes were weak and paid tribute to the Turks at times. The Tang dynasty eventually overthrew the Eastern Turks in 630.

Before the Khaganate

The ethnonym Türk (pl. Türküt, > Middle Chinese as 突厥: early *dwət-kuɑt > late *tɦut-kyat > Mandarin Tūjué or Tújué) is ultimately derived from the Old-Turkic migration-term[12][13][14] 𐱅𐰇𐰼𐰰 Türük/Törük,[15] which means 'created, born',[16] from the Old Turkic word root *türi-/töri- 'tribal root, (mythic) ancestry; take shape, to be born, be created, arise, spring up' and derived with the Old Turkic suffix 𐰰 (-ik), perhaps from Proto-Turkic *türi-k 'lineage, ancestry',[15][17] (compare also the Proto-Turkic word root *töre- to be born, originate').[18] or 'strong',[19][20] or originally a noun and meant "'the culminating point of maturity' (of a fruit, human being, etc.), but more often used as an [adjective] meaning (of a fruit) 'just fully ripe'; (of a human being) 'in the prime of life, young, and vigorous'".[21]

The Chinese Book of Zhou (7th century) presents an etymology of the name Turk as derived from 'helmet', explaining that this name comes from the shape of a mountain where they worked in the Altai Mountains.[22] Hungarian scholar András Róna-Tas (1991) pointed to a Khotanese-Saka word, tturakä 'lid', semantically stretchable to 'helmet', as a possible source for this folk etymology, yet Golden thinks this connection requires more data.[23]

In 439 a man surnamed Ashina led 500 families west from Gansu to Gaochang near Turfan.[24] In about 460 the Rouran moved them east to the Altai, which was an important source of metalwork for Siberia and Mongolia. David Christian says that the first dated mention of ‘Turk’ appears in Chinese annals in 542 when they made annual raids across the Yellow River when it froze over. In 545 the future Bumin Qaghan was negotiating directly with the Western Wei (535–57) without regard to his Rouran overlords. Later the Turks were sent east to suppress a rebellion by the Kao-ch’e, but the Turks absorbed them into their own army. Bumin demanded a royal bride from the Rouran and was denounced as a ‘blacksmith slave’. Bumin took a bride from the Western Wei, defeated the Rouran ruler in Jehol and took the royal title of Khagan (552).

Strictly speaking, the politonym Kök Tür(ü)k "Blue ~ Heavenly Turks", found on the Orkhon inscriptions, only denotes the Eastern Turks,[25] as Old Turkic kök means "heaven, blue" and signifies the cardinal direction east.[26] The Uyghurs, another people contemporary to Eastern Turks' Latter Göktürk successors, were also Turkic speakers yet used Türük to denote Latter Göktürks, not themselves.[27] Chinese chroniclers used 突厥 Tūjué or Tújué to denote First Turkic Khaganate, the Eastern Turks, as well as peoples politically associated with Eastern Turks such as: the "Wooden-Horse Tujue" (including the Tuvans,[28] whom Book of Sui and History of the Northern Dynasties listed as a Tiele tribe),[29][30] the Tujue Sijie 突厥思結[31][32] (a tribe who were also members of the Tiele and later Toquz Oghuz), as well as the Shatuo Tujue 沙陀突厥 and Khazars (突厥曷薩 Tūjué Hésà or Tújué Hésà; 突厥可薩部 Tūjué Kěsà bù or Tújué Kěsà bù), as well as the Shatuo's and Khazars' predecessors, the Western Turks 西突厥 Xī Tūjué or Xī Tújué, who were not named as Türük, but On-Ok "Ten Arrows, Ten Tribes" in the Orkhon inscriptions.[33][34] Only later would Islamic chroniclers use Turks to denote Inner Asian nomadic peoples, and then modern historians would use Turks to refer to all peoples speaking Turkic languages, differentiated from non-Turkic speakers.[35][36]

Nominal unity (552–581)

The west was given to Bumin's younger brother Istämi (552–75) and his son Tardush (575–603). Ishtami expanded the empire to the Caspian and the Oxus river. The Gokturks gained the Tarim Basin and thus the Silk Road trade and the Sogdian merchants that managed it. Bumin died in the year of his rebellion (552) and was followed by three of his sons. Issik Qaghan (552–53) reigned briefly. Muqan Khagan (553–72) finished off the remaining Rouran, who resisted until 555, pushed the Kitans east and controlled the Yenisei Kirghiz. He was followed by Taspar Qaghan (572–81). The Eastern Turks extracted a large amount of booty and tribute from the Western Wei (535–57) and Northern Zhou (557–581) dynasties, including 100,000 rolls of silk annually, which they tried to sell in Central Asia.[37]

East-West split (581-603)

In 581 the Sui dynasty was founded and began to reunify China proper. The Sui began pushing back, generally by supporting or bribing one faction against the other. Taspar died the same year the Sui dynasty was founded. The three claimants were the sons of the three previous rulers. Taspar chose Muqan's son Apa Qaghan, but the elders rejected this and chose Taspar's son Anlo (581). Anlo soon yielded to Issik's son Ishbara Qaghan (581–87). Anlo became insignificant and Apa and Ishbara fought it out. In 584 Ishbara attacked Apa and drove him west to Bumin's brother Tardush, who ruled what was becoming the Western Khaganate. Apa and Tardush then drove Ishbara east. He submitted to the Sui and with Sui support drove Apa west into Tardush's territory. In 587 both Apa and Ishbara died. (See Gokturk civil war) Ishbara was followed in the east by his brother Bagha Qaghan (587–88) who was followed by Ishbara's son Tulan Qaghan (588–99). In 587 Tulan stopped paying tribute to the Sui and two years later was assassinated. Tardush moved from the west and briefly reunified the Turkic empire (599–603). The Sui supported his rivals, he attacked the Sui dynasty, the Sui poisoned the wells and he was forced to retreat.

Independence (603–630)

From 603 the east and west were definitely split. The east went to Yami Qaghan (603-09) as a sort of Suu vassal. He admired Han culture and had the Han people build him a civilized house in the Ordos country.

As the Sui dynasty's power waned, some individuals agreed to become vassals of Shibi Qaghan (609–19) and adopted Turkic-style titles, as well as the Khaganate's wolf's-head banners.[38] In 615, the Sui lured his Sogdian advisor into a trap and killed him. He stopped paying tribute and briefly besieged Emperor Yang of Sui in Shanxi.

In 615 Emperor Yang assigned Li Yuan, who would later become the first emperor of the Tang dynasty, the impossible task of protecting the Sui dynasty's northern border. In 617, when tens of thousands of Turks reached Taiyuan, they found the gates open and the city suspiciously quiet. Fearing an ambush, the Turk's retreated. Li Yuan's deception had been successful and he quickly pressed his advantage offering the Turks "prisoners of war, women, jade and silks" in return for their friendship. The Turks declined, demanding instead that Li Yuan become a "Son of Heaven" and accept a Turkic title and banner.[38]

Shibi's younger brother Chuluo (619–20) ruled for only 18 months. The next brother, Illig Qaghan (620–30), was the last independent ruler. He led yearly raids against the new Tang dynasty (618–907). In 626 he reached the gates of Chang’an. Emperor Taizong of Tang, who had just overthrown his father, chose to pay an enormous ransom. Taizong waited and enlarged his cavalry. In 627-29 unusual cold led to mass livestock deaths and famine. Instead of lowering taxes, Illig raised them. The Xueyantuo, Uyghurs, Bayegu and some of Illig's people rebelled and in 629 were joined by the Khitans and Taizong. Six Tang armies attacked in a 1200 kilometer front and Illig was captured (630). See Tang campaign against the Eastern Turks.

After the First Khaganate (630–683)

After the fall of the Khaganate Zhenzhu Khan (629–45) of the Xueyantuo ruled much of the north. Taizong made the Ashina live inside the Ordos Loop. In 639, after an Ashina assassination attempt, Taizong made them live between the Yellow River and Gobi under Qilibi Khan (639–43) as a buffer state between China and the Xueyantuo. In 642 the Xueyantuo drove them south of the river. (See Tang campaign against the Eastern Turks#Aftermath in Mongolia.) Zhenzhu's son Duomi Khan (645–46) planned to attack China. Taizong allied with the Uyghurs and broke up the Xueyantuo clan. The Ashina Chebi Khan (646–50) tried to revive the Khaganate but was captured by the Chinese and Uyghurs. Two more attempts by Ashina Nishufu (679–80) and Ashina Funian (680–681) failed. Turkic power was restored by the Second Turkic Khaganate (682–744), followed by the Uyghur Khaganate (744–840).

See also




  1. ^ Lirong MA: Sino-Turkish Cultural Ties under the Framework of Silk Road Strategy. In: Journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (in Asia). Band 8, Nr. 2, Juni 2014
  2. ^ Гумилёв Л. Н. Древние тюрки. — СПб.: СЗКЭО, Издательский Дом «Кристалл», 2002. — С. 576. — ISBN 5-9503-0031-9.
  3. ^ Taagepera, Rein (1979). "Size and Duration of Empires: Growth-Decline Curves, 600 B.C. to 600 A.D.". Social Science History. 3 (3/4): 129. doi:10.2307/1170959. JSTOR 1170959.
  4. ^ ALTINKILIÇ, Dr. Arzu Emel (2020). "Göktürk giyim kuşamının plastik sanatlarda değerlendirilmesi" (PDF). Journal of Social and Humanities Sciences Research: 1101–1110.
  5. ^ Narantsatsral, D. "THE SILK ROAD CULTURE AND ANCIENT TURKISH WALL PAINTED TOMB" (PDF). The Journal of International Civilization Studies.
  6. ^ a b Cosmo, Nicola Di; Maas, Michael (April 26, 2018). Empires and Exchanges in Eurasian Late Antiquity: Rome, China, Iran, and the Steppe, ca. 250–750. Cambridge University Press. pp. 350–354. ISBN 978-1-108-54810-6.
  7. ^ a b Baumer, Christoph (April 18, 2018). History of Central Asia, The: 4-volume set. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 185–186. ISBN 978-1-83860-868-2.
  8. ^ ALTINKILIÇ, Dr. Arzu Emel (2020). "Göktürk giyim kuşamının plastik sanatlarda değerlendirilmesi" (PDF). Journal of Social and Humanities Sciences Research: 1101–1110.
  9. ^ Narantsatsral, D. "THE SILK ROAD CULTURE AND ANCIENT TURKISH WALL PAINTED TOMB" (PDF). The Journal of International Civilization Studies.
  10. ^ Yatsenko, Sergey A. (2009). "Early Turks: Male Costume in the Chinese Art Second half of the 6th – first half of the 8th cc. (Images of 'Others')". Transoxiana. 14: Fig.16.
  11. ^ Grünwedel, Albert (1912). Altbuddhistische Kultstätten Chinesisch Turkistan. p. 180.
  12. ^ Golden, Peter B. (1992), An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples, p. 93-95
  13. ^ Golden, Peter B. "Some Thoughts on the Origins of the Turks and the Shaping of the Turkic Peoples". (2006) In: Contact and Exchange in the Ancient World. Ed. Victor H. Mair. University of Hawai'i Press. p. 143: "Subsequently, "Türk" would find a suitable Turkic etymology, being conflated with the word türk, which means one in the prime of youth, powerful, mighty (Rona-Tas 1991,10–13)."
  14. ^ (Bŭlgarska akademii︠a︡ na naukite. Otdelenie za ezikoznanie/ izkustvoznanie/ literatura, Linguistique balkanique, Vol. 27–28, 1984, p. 17
  15. ^ a b “Türk” in Turkish Etymological Dictionary, Sevan Nişanyan.
  16. ^ Faruk Suümer, Oghuzes (Turkmens): History, Tribal organization, Sagas, Turkish World Research Foundation, 1992, p. 16)
  17. ^ “türe-” in Turkish Etymological Dictionary, Sevan Nişanyan.
  18. ^ “*töre-” in Sergei Starostin, Vladimir Dybo, Oleg Mudrak (2003), Etymological Dictionary of the Altaic Languages, Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers.
  19. ^ American Heritage Dictionary (2000). "The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition – "Turk"". bartleby.com. Retrieved 2006-12-07.
  20. ^ T. Allsen, P. B. Golden, R. K. Kovalev, and A. P. Martinez (2012), ARCHIVUM EURASIAEMEDII AEV, p. 85
  21. ^ Clauson, G. An Etymological Dictionary of Pre-13th Century Turkish (1972). p. 542-543
  22. ^ Sinor, Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, Page 295
  23. ^ Golden, Peter B. "Türks and Iranians: Aspects of Türk and Khazaro-Iranian Interaction". Turcologica (105): 25.
  24. ^ Christian, page 251, citing 'Sui annals'
  25. ^ Cheng Fangyi. "The Research on the Identification Between Tiele (鐵勒) and the Oghuric Tribes". Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi: 86.
  26. ^ Golden, P.B. (1992) Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples Series: Turcologia, Volume 9. Otto-Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden p. 117
  27. ^ Bayanchur Inscription, text at Türik Bitig
  28. ^ Xin Tangshu vol. 217b txt: "木馬突厥三部落,曰都播、彌列、哥餓支," tr. "The three Wooden Horse Tujue tribes, called Dou-bo, Mi-lie, [and] Ge-e-zhi"
  29. ^ Suishu vol. 84 Tiele
  30. ^ Beishi Vol. 99
  31. ^ Sima Guang et al. Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 196
  32. ^ Zuev, Yu. "Horse Tamgas from Vassal Princedoms" (Translation of Chinese composition "Tanghuiyao" of 8–10th centuries), Kazakh SSR Academy of Sciences, Alma-Ata, 1960, p. 114 (in Russian)
  33. ^ Tonyukuk inscriptions, text at Türik Bitig
  34. ^ Bilge Khagan inscriptions text at Türik Bitig
  35. ^ 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): 101–32
  36. ^ Lee & Kuang (2017) "A Comparative Analysis of Chinese Historical Sources and Y-DNA Studies with Regard to the Early and Medieval Turkic Peoples", Inner Asia 19. p. 197-239
  37. ^ Haug, Robert (June 27, 2019). The Eastern Frontier: Limits of Empire in Late Antique and Early Medieval Central Asia. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 66. ISBN 978-1-78831-722-1.
  38. ^ a b Wang, Zhenping and Joshua A. Fogel (Ed.). 2017. 1. Dancing with the Horse Riders: The Tang, the Turks, and the Uighurs. In Tang China in Multi-Polar Asia, 11–54. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Retrieved 12 Feb. 2018