Garrisons of the Han dynasty
Garrisons of the Han dynasty
The modern Tarim Basin and surrounding areas.
The modern Tarim Basin and surrounding areas.

The Protectorate of the Western Regions (simplified Chinese: 西域都护府; traditional Chinese: 西域都護府; pinyin: Xīyù Dūhù Fǔ; Wade–Giles: Hsi1-yü4 Tu1-hu4 Fu3) was an imperial administration imposed by Han China – between the 2nd century BCE and 2nd century CE – on many smaller and previously independent states, which were known in China as the "Western Regions" (Chinese: 西; pinyin: Xīyù; Wade–Giles: Hsi1-yü4).[1]

"Western Regions" referred mostly to areas west of Yumen Pass, especially the Tarim Basin. These areas were later regarded as Altishahr (southern Xinjiang, excluding Dzungaria).[2] Previously, "western regions" was used more generally with Central Asia.

The protectorate was the first direct rule by a Chinese government of the area.[2][3] It comprised various vassal protectorates, under the nominal authority of a Protector-General of the Western Regions, appointed by the Han court.


In the Han–Xiongnu War of the 2nd Century BCE the Chinese state established a military seat at Wulei (near present-day Cedaya 策达雅, in Bugur/Luntei County). They aimed to control the diverse peoples and cultures of the Western Regions at the time, including several groups who originated in Western Eurasia and/or who spoke Indo-European languages. These peoples included the Tocharian-speaking city-states, such as Ārśi (Arshi; later Agni/Karasahr), Kuča (Kucha), Gumo (later Aksu), Turfan (Turpan), Loulan (Krorän/Korla). By controlling the Western Regions, the Chinese would also keep the Xiongnu away from Inner China. The peoples of oasis city-states of Khotan and Kashgar spoke the Saka language, one of the Eastern Iranian languages.[4]

The seat was later shifted to Taqian (or Tagan; near modern Kucha), during the Eastern Han dynasty.[5]

Officially established in 59 or 60 BCE, Protector-General was the highest military position in the west during its existence. During its peak in 51 BCE, the Wusun nation was brought under submission.[3] After at least 18 different protector generals, of whose names only 10 of their names are known, the post was abandoned, by the time of Wang Mang's Xin dynasty in 23 CE.

In 74 CE, Emperor Ming of Han and his successor awarded the position (now with administrative obligations as well) to general Chen Mu. From 83 CE and the appointment of Ban Chao, the Protector-General was known as the Chief Official of the Western Regions.

On 29 July 107, a series of Qiang uprisings in the areas of Hexi Corridor and Guanzhong forced the abandonment of the post,[5] although it was resumed in 119.

In the 7th century, a successor administration, the Protectorate General to Pacify the West was established at Xizhou (Turpan) and moved later to Kucha.

Coins from the period, with inscriptions in both Chinese and the Kharoshthi script used by local Indo-European languages, have been found in the southern Tarim Basin.[6]

Thirty-six city states

Historical cities of the Tarim Basin
Historical cities of the Tarim Basin
City states of the Western Regions (from the Book of Han)
City Households Population Soldiers
Beilu 277 1,387 422
Further Beilu 462 1,137 350
Danhuan 27 194 45
Guhu 55 264 45
Gumo 3,500 24,500 4,500
Hanmi 3,340 20,040 3,540
Jie 99 500 115
Jingjue 480 3,360 500
Eastern Jumi 191 1,948 572
Western Jumi 332 1,926 738
Jushi 700 6,050 1,865
Further Jushi 595 4,774 1,890
Loulan 1,570 14,100 2,912
Moshan 450 5,000 1,000
Pishan 500 3,500 500
Pulei 325 2,032 799
Further Pulei 100 1,070 334
Qiangruo 450, 1,750 500
Qiemo 230 1,610 320
Qiuci 6,970 81,317 21,076
Qule 310 2,170 300
Quli 240 1,610 300
Shule 1,510 18,647 2,000
Suoju 2,339 16,373 3,049
Weili 1,200 9,600 2,000
Weitou 300 2,300 800
Weixu 700 4,900 2,000
Wensu 2,200 8,400 1,500
Wulei (Central Command) 110 1,200 300
Wutanzili 41 231 57
Xiaoyuan 150 1,050 200
Xiye 350 4,000 1,000
Yanqi (colony) 4,000 32,100 6,000
Yulishi 190 1,445 331
Yutian 3,300 19,300 2,400

List of Protectors-General

Western Han and Xin

Eastern Han


See also


  1. ^ Tikhvinskiĭ, Sergeĭ Leonidovich; Perelomov, Leonard Sergeevich (1981). China and her neighbours, from ancient times to the Middle Ages: a collection of essays. Progress Publishers. p. 124. OCLC 8669104.
  2. ^ a b "Xiyu Duhu" Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b Yu, Taishan (2003). A Comprehensive History of Western Regions (2nd ed.). Zhengzhou: Zhongzhou Guji Press. pp. 57–59. ISBN 7-5348-1266-6.
  4. ^ Tremblay, Xavier (2007). "The Spread of Buddhism in Serindia: Buddhism Among Iranians, Tocharians and Turks before the 13th Century". In Heirman, Ann; Bumbacker, Stephan Peter (eds.). The Spread of Buddhism. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill. p. 77. ISBN 978-90-04-15830-6.
  5. ^ a b Yu, Taishan (Oct 2006) [June 1995]. "A Study of the History of the Relationship Between the Western and Eastern Han, Wei, Jin, Northern and Southern Dynasties and the Western Regions" (PDF). Sino-Platonic Papers. Chinese Academy of Social Sciences: 56, 68–71. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ James A. Millward (2007). Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang. Columbia University Press. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-231-13924-3.