628–723 (?-723 under Second Turkic Khaganate)
Year 630, the Xueyantuo directly controlled areas.
CapitalIh Huree
Common languagesOld Turkic
Shamanism, Tengrism
GovernmentTribal confederation
Historical eraMiddle age
• Established
• Disestablished
723 (?-723 under Second Turkic Khaganate)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
First Turkic Khaganate
Eastern Turkic Khaganate
Tang dynasty
Second Turkic Khaganate

The Xueyantuo were an ancient Tiele[1] tribe and khaganate in Northeast Asia who were at one point vassals of the Göktürks, later aligning with the Tang dynasty against the Eastern Göktürks.



Xue 薛 appeared earlier as Xinli 薪犁 in Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian, vol. 110 but were not referred to again until the 7th century.[2][3] Golden (2011) proposed that 薛 Xue's Old Turkic form Sir derived from Sanskrit Śrī "fortunate, auspicious"[4]


The etymology of Yantuo 延陀 is much debated. It was first identified with Tarduš, one of two divisions, besides Töliš, of the short-lived Xueyantuo Qaghanate, by Western Orientalists (like Vilhelm Thomsen) who considered Töliš and Tarduš to be tribal names. The ethnonym is thus reconstructable as Syr-Tardush.[5] However, Chinese scholars viewed Töliš and Tarduš as names of political organizations or districts: for example, Cen Zhongmian viewed the Töliš-Tarduš division as east–west whereas Wang Jingru, citing New Book of Tang, viewed Töliš-Tarduš as north–south.[6]

Sergey Klyastorny (2003:305), apud Golden (2018), proposed that Xueyantuo transcribed *Sir-Yamtar;[7] in contrast to the tribal name Sir, [Ïšβara] Yamtar appeared as a personal name of one companion of Kül Tigin, mentioned the eponymous inscription in his memory.[8]

Tongdian records the origin of Yantuo: "During the reign of Murong Jun in the Former Yan, the Xiongnu chanyu Helatou (賀剌頭, "the leader of the Alat tribe") led his tribe of thirty-five thousand people and came to surrender. Yantuo people are probably their descendants." Based on this, Bao (2010) proposed that Yantuo people were the descendants of the Alat tribe, also known as Hala-Yundluɣ; therefore, the name Yantuo was probably derived from Yundluɣ, and Xueyantuo can be reconstructed as Sir-Yundluɣ.[9]


The epitaph of Pugu Yitu, a Xueyantuo who died in 678
Cavalry figurines from the tomb of Pugu Yitu, a Xueyantuo leader
Ceramic figures from Shoroon Dov Kurgan, the tomb of Pugu Yitu, a Xueyantuo leader.
Painting from the Shoroon Bumbagar tomb

Initially the Xue and the Yantuo were two separate tribes. Tongdian states that: "Xueyantuo is a splinter tribe from Tiele. In the time of Former Yan [emperor] Murong Jun, Xiongnu Shanyu Helatou led his tribe, numbering 35,000, to come surrender. Yantuo are probably their descendants. With the Xue tribe [Yantuo] live intermixed. Thus the appellation Xueyantuo. The Khagan clan's surname is Yilitu. For generations they have been a strong nation."[10] The rulers of Xueyantuo claimed to be originally named Xue (薛/偰), and that the name of the tribe was changed to Xueyantuo after the Xue defeated and merged the Yantuo into their tribe.[11][12]

After Yishibo, the Xueyantuo founded a short-lived Qaghanate over the steppe under Zhenzhu Khan, his son Duomi Khan and nephew Yitewushi Khan, the last of whom eventually surrendered to the Tang dynasty.

In 605, Xueyantuo were attacked by the Western Türkic Chuluo Khagan. Consequently, they abandoned the Western Turks and established their own Khaganate under a leadership of Qibi tribe's Yağmurčin Bağa-Qağan, retaining the control and income from the Turfan segment of the Silk Road. Later, Xueyantuo leader Yshbara was installed as a lesser Kagan Yetir (yeti er "seven tribes"). In 610, Shekui (r. 610–617) ascended to the Western Turkic throne, both rulers renounced their Kagan ranks and rejoined the Western Türkic Khaganate. The next Western Türkic Tong-Yabgu-Kagan (r. 617–630) annexed all seven tribes of the Xueyantuo-headed Tiele confederation, which also included Uighur, Bayïrku, Ădiz, Tongra, Bugu and Barsil tribes. In 627 Xueyantuo leader led his tribes into the territory of the Eastern Türkic Khaganate, defeated the main force of the Khaganate led by the son of the reigning Illig Qaghan, Yukuk Shad, and settled in the valley of river Tola in the Northern Mongolia. After the victory, Uighur leader Yaoluoge Pusa assumed a title huo xielifa (Chinese: 活頡利發 *kat-elteber[13] or *war-hilitber[14]) and split from the confederation, and in 629 the Xueyantuo Yinan-erkin declared himself Inčü Bilge-Khagan of a new Xueyantuo Khaganate.

This Xueyantuo Khaganate was quickly recognized by the Tang Empire, as a counterweight against its enemy Eastern Türkic Khaganate.[15] "Raising Yi'nan on Kagan throne was done under pressure from the Tang court interested in stripping El-kagan of the rights to the supreme power in the huge region, and also in final dismemberment of the Türkic state, a source of many conflicts on their northern borders."[16] Xueyantuo provided military service by assisting the Tang Empire against the Tatars in the 630s. The Xueyantuo's vast khaganate spanned from the Altai Mountains to the Gobi desert.

Emperor Taizong's campaign against Eastern Tujue

See also: Emperor Taizong's campaign against Eastern Tujue

On March 27, 630, the Xueyantuo allied with the Tang to defeat the Eastern Qaghanate in the Yin Mountains. Illig Qaghan escaped, but was handed over to the Tang by his subordinate qaghan on May 2.[17][18]

After Eastern Göktürk Illig Qaghan Ashina Duobi was defeated by Tang in 630, the Xueyantuo effectively took over control of the Eastern Göktürks' former territory, at times submissive to the Tang and at times warring with the Tang and the subsequent khan of the Eastern Göktürks that Tang supported, the Qilibi Khan Ashina Simo.

In 632 the Xueyantuo repulsed an army of Si Yabgu Qaghan from the Western Qaghanate, then subjugated the Qarluq at the Ulungur and Irtysh River, and then the Yenisei Kyrgyz tribes. In 634 one of their rivals, Dubu Qaghan (Ashina Shier), son of Chuluo Khan, who ruled much of the eastern half of the Western Qaghanate, was eliminated before escaping to the Tang dynasty.[19]

After that they maintained a friendly relationship with the Tang until 639, when a raid on the Tang capital was planned by the Gökturks under Ashina Jiesheshuai (阿史那结社率), who had been disparaged by the Tang emperor. He allied with his nephew Ashina Heluohu (阿史那贺逻鹘), choosing him as the leader of the raid on May 19. They were unsuccessful and over 40 rebels were executed. Heluohu was spared and expelled to the far south.[20][21]

After this incident, an arraignment was made on August 13. A deportation of all Goktürks north of Ordos was carried out, in an attempt to restore the puppet Eastern Qaghanate as a barrier against the Xueyanto, in an attempt to distract them from the territorial competition in the west.

Among the Göktürk nobles, Ashina Simo was selected as the qaghan (Qilibi Khan) with his capital at the border. The plot failed, as he was unable to gather his people, many of his tribesmen having escaped to the south by 644 after a series of unsuccessful incursions by the Xueyantuo supported by the Tang dynasty. Defeats by the advancing Tang troops had made their tribal allies lose confidence in them. The crisis deepened the next year when a coup d'état took place within the clan.

Emperor Taizong's campaign against Xueyantuo

See also: Emperor Taizong's campaign against Xueyantuo

On August 1, 646, the Xueyantuo were defeated by the Uyghur (Huihe, 回纥) and the Tang. The Xueyantuo's Duomi Khan, Bazhuo, was killed by the Uyghur. A Tang army led by the general Li Daozong, the Prince of Jiangxia, crushed the Xueyantuo forces. The last Xueyantuo khan, the Yitewushi Khan Duomozhi, surrendered.[22] Their remnants were destroyed two years later, on September 15.[23][24] The Sir re-appeared later as [Al]tï Sir "Six Sir Tribes", subjects of the Latter Turk ruler Bilge Khagan;[25][26] Klyashtorny controversially proposed that Sir were precursors to Kipchaks.[27]

Xueyantuo's relationship with the later Shatuo Turks is contested. The epitaph of Shatuo leader Li Keyong states that his clan's progenitor was "Yidu, Lord of the Xueyantuo country, an unrivaled general" (益度、薛延陀國君、無敵將軍). However, Chinese chroniclers also traced the Shatuo's origins to a Tiele chief named *Bayar (拔也 Baye)[28] ~ *Bayïrku (拔也古 Bayegu)[29] or Western Turkic Chuyue 處月 (often identified with Chigils).[30][31][32]

Khans of Xueyantuo

Under Second Turkic Khaganate

Surname of Khans

The surname of Xueyantuo's khans is uncertain, although modern Chinese historian Bo Yang lists their surname as "Yishi" in his edition (also known as the Bo Yang Edition) of the Zizhi Tongjian, but without citing a source.[35] It is possible that Bo was influenced by the Tongdian, which refers to the Xueyantuo surname as Yilitu 壹利吐, Yiliduo一利咄 as in Cefu Yuangui, Yilidie 壹利咥 as in New Book of Tang. Li Keyong's epitaph also records his alleged Xueyantuo ancestor's name as Yidu 益度.

According to Cen Zhongmian, the aforementioned names are related to a variant of elteris.[36] Duan Lianqin asserted that the name Yishibo (Yiedie Khan) can also be read interchangeably as Yedie (也咥).[37] The Zizhi Tongjian, in the original, referred to one ethnic Xueyantuo general named Duomo, possibly the Yitewushi Khan (after he became a Tang general) by the family name of Xue[38]—although the Tang Huiyao indicated that it was not the same person, as it indicated that the Yitewushi Khan died during Emperor Taizong's reign.[11]

Surnames of Xueyantuo

See also



  1. ^ Wei Zheng et al. Book of Sui, vol. 84 (in Chinese)
  2. ^ Pulleyblank, "Central Asia and Non-Chinese Peoples of Ancient China", pp. vii, 21–26.
  3. ^ Duan, "Dingling, Gaoju and Tiele", p. 370.
  4. ^ Golden, Peter (2011). Central Asia in World History. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 37–38. ISBN 978-0199793174.
  5. ^ Theobald, Ulrich. (2013) "Xueyantuo 薛延陀, Syr Tarduš" for ChinaKnowledge.de – An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art
  6. ^ Cheng Fangyi. "The Research on the Identification Between Tiele (鐵勒) and the Oghuric Tribes". Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi: 83–84.
  7. ^ Golden, Peter B. (August 2018). "The Ethnogonic Tales of the Türks". in The Medieval History Journal, 21(2). 21 (2). p. 309
  8. ^ Kül Tigin Inscriptions at Türik Bitig
  9. ^ Bao, Wensheng (2010). "Name and Origin of Xueyantuo Tribe". Journal of Inner Mongolia University (Philosophy and Social Sciences) (in Chinese). 42 (4): 132–136.
  10. ^ Du You. Tongdian. Vol. 199. "薛延陀,鐵勒之別部也,前燕慕容俊時,匈奴單于賀剌頭率部三萬五千來降,延陀蓋其後。與薛部雜居,因號薛延陀。可汗姓壹利吐氏,代為強族"
  11. ^ a b Tang Huiyao, vol. 96 Archived October 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Jiu Tangshu, vol. 199 Lower Part
  13. ^ Zuev (2004). 1-15
  14. ^ Atwood, Christopher P., "Some Early Inner Asian Terms Related to the Imperial Family and the Comitatus" (2013). Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations. 14. p. 54 of 49–86, note 27
  15. ^ Zuev Yu.A. "Xueyantuo Khaganate and Kimeks. ([A Contribution] to Turkic ethnogeography of Central Asia in the middle of 7th century)" in Shygys, Oriental Studies Institute, Almaty (2004), pp. 1-14, 1-15
  16. ^ Zuev (2004), p. 1-19
  17. ^ Duan, "Dingling, Gaoju and Tiele", pp. 362, 388–389, 430.
  18. ^ Bo Yang, "Zizhi Tongjian", pp. 11,651–11,654 (Vol. 46).
  19. ^ Duan, "Dingling, Gaoju and Tiele", pp. 414–415.
  20. ^ Duan, "Dingling, Gaoju and Tiele", pp. 438–439.
  21. ^ Bo Yang, "Zizhi Tongjian", p. 11,784–11,785 (Vol. 46).
  22. ^ Bo Yang, Outlines of the History of the Chinese (中國人史綱), vol. 2, p. 512.
  23. ^ Duan, "Dingling, Gaoju and Tiele", pp. 416–430, 463.
  24. ^ Bo Yang, "Zizhi Tongjian", pp. 11,786–11,788 (Vol. 46) 11,945, 11,990 (Vol. 47).
  25. ^ Bilge Khagan inscription, line 1 at Türik Bitig
  26. ^ Ergin, Muharrem (1980). Orhun Abideleri (in Turkish). İstanbul: Boğaziçi Yayınları. pp. 33, 52
  27. ^ Klyashtorny, Sergey (2005). "The Polovcian Problems (II): Qipčaqs, Comans, and Polovcians". Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae. 58 (3). p. 243 of 243–248
  28. ^ Xue Juzheng. Jiu Wudaishi, vol. 25
  29. ^ Cited in Ouyang Xiu Xin Wudaishi, vol. 4
  30. ^ Ouyang Xiu. Xin Wudaishi, vol. 4
  31. ^ Atwood, Christopher P. (2010). "The Notion of Tribe in Medieval China: Ouyang Xiu and the Shatup Dynastic Myth". Miscellanea Asiatica (16): 600–604.
  32. ^ Barenghi, Maddalena (2019). "Representations of Descent: Origin and Migration Stories of the Ninth- and Tenth-century Turkic Shatuo" (PDF). Asia Major. 3d. 32 (1): 62–63.
  33. ^ Ercilasun, (1985), p. 59
  34. ^ Hatice Şirin, (2016), Bombogor Inscription: Tombstone of a Turkic Qunčuy ("Princess"), p. 6
  35. ^ See, e.g., Bo Yang Edition of the Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 45, p. 11,633 (referring to the Zhenzhupiqie Khan as Yishi Yi'nan).
  36. ^ Duan 1988b, pp. 371–372.
  37. ^ Duan 1988a, p. 22.
  38. ^ See Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 204.


  • Bo Yang. Modern Chinese Edition of Zizhi Tongjian (Vol. 45). Taipei: Yuan-Liou Publishing Co. Ltd ISBN 957-32-0868-7.
  • Duan Lianqin (1988a). Xueyantuo During the Period of Sui and Tang. Xi'an: Sanqin Press. ISBN 7-80546-024-8.
  • Duan Lianqin (1988b). Dingling, Gaoju and Tiele. Shanghai: Shanghai People's Press. ISBN 7-208-00110-3.
  • New Book of Tang, vol. 217, part 3 [1].
  • Zizhi Tongjian, vols. 192, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199.
  • Zuev Yu.A. "Xueyantuo Khaganate and Kimeks. ([A Contribution] to Turkic ethnogeography of Central Asia in the middle of 7th century)" in Shygys, Oriental Studies Institute, Almaty (2004), No 1 pp 11–21, No 2 pp 3–26 (in Russian)
  • Zuev Yu.A., Horse Tamgas from Vassal Princedoms (Translation of Chinese composition "Tanghuyao" of 8-10th centuries), Kazakh SSR Academy of Sciences, Alma-Ata, I960, (In Russian)