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0042 Innermost Asia : vol.2
Innermost Asia : vol.2 / Page 42 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000187
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Hun opera-
tions based
on Turfân.

Chinese attacks upon Chüshih, 89-67 B. C.


The army numbers 1865.'3 Then follow the usual enumeration of a series of local officers, all bearing high-sounding titles, and indications of the distances from the seat of the Chinese Governor-General (Wu-lei, at present Yangi-hissâr or Châdir) and Yen-ch`i (Kara-shahr), 1810 and 835 li respectively. With the latter we need not concern ourselves, as the account given of the position of the capital places it beyond all doubt at the site of Yâr-khoto, five miles to the north-west of the Kôna-shahr of Turfân, as was long ago recognized by Chinese and Western scholars alike. Nor need the figures given of the population detain us, beyond the observation that they closely approach the corresponding numbers mentioned for Ulterior Chü-shih (595 families, 4,774 persons, 1,890 soldiers), but remain greatly below those recorded for the great oases of the Tarim basin, such as Ch`iu-tzü (Kuchâ), So-chê (Y5.rkand) and Yid-t`ien (Khotan).4

Of the role that Turfân played in the struggle between the Han and the Huns at the time of the Chinese advance into the Tarim basin, there is significant evidence in the very first mention of the territory traceable in translated portions of Chien Han shu and Ssû-ma Ch`ien's Shih chi. We are told that the missions passing between the Emperor Wu-ti and the ` Western countries ', after regular intercourse had first been opened, were repeatedly attacked and robbed by the people of Lou-lan and Ku-shih, who ` on various occasions acted as eyes and ears to the Hsiung-nu,

causing their troops to intercept the Chinese envoys '.5 That Ku-shih   is but another

form of the name Chii-shih    - OJj may be considered as certain.6 A Chinese expedition was
thereupon dispatched in Io8 B. c., when its leader the general Chao P`o-nu, at the head of some seven hundred light cavalry, ` captured the king of Lou-lan and defeated Ku-shih '.' The interest for us of this record lies in the clear indication it affords that Turfân served at that time as a base for Hun raids upon the newly opened Chinese route leading into the Tarim basin through Lou-lan. It also proves that the Chinese counter-operations were conducted against ` Ku-shih' from the south across the Kuruk-tagh.8

That the Hsiung-nu, even after that defeat, retained their hold upon Chü-shih is proved by the mention of an unsuccessful expedition which, with the help of Lou-lan troops, was sent in 99 B. c. against that territory.9 The expedition had evidently been planned in support of bigger but equally unsuccessful operations against the Huns which the Chinese in the same year attempted from Chiu-ch`üan or Su-chou in the direction of the eastern Tien-shan.10 It was with an exactly

3 See Wylie, J. Anthrop. Inst., xi. pp. 105 sq. The first portion of the passage is repeated in the notice of the Hou Han shu, from the translation of which by M. Chavannes, T`oung-pao, 1907, pp. 210 sq., the above rendering has been slightly modified.

4 Here it may be noted that we have no means for locating the two small subdivisions of the Turfân region which the ` Notes on the Western Regions ', Chien Han shu, chap. xcvi (Wylie, J. Anthrop. Inst., xi. p. 1o6), mentions under the designations of ` Chü-shih Protectorate-general ' and ` Ulterior Chü-shih Presidency '. No bearings or distances are recorded.

The identifications with localities about ` P`i-chan' quoted by Wylie from a modern Chinese treatise are obviously guesswork. The numbers of families recorded suffice to show the insignificance of the detached oases probably intended. The same applies also to the petty ` kingdom of Chieh in the Tan-ch`ü valley on the eastern side of the T'ien-shan ' (see Wylie, loc. cit., p. 104), which the same treatise similarly locates about P'i-chan.

5 See Wylie, J. Anthrop. Inst., x. p. 25. The passage is evidently based on a corresponding record in Ssü-ma Ch'ien's Shih chi, chap. cxxiii ; see Ilirth, ` The Story of Chang Kién J.A.O.S., xxxvii. p. 1o6.

6 See Serindia, i. p. 336.

7 Cf. Hirth, J.A.O.S., xxxvii. p. 106.

8 See Serindia, i. p. 338.

9 See Wylie, J. Anthrop. Inst., xi. p. 1o6.

10 Cf. De Groot, Hunnen der vorchristlichen Zeit, p. 162.

The repeated Chinese efforts against Chü-shih in combination with expeditions towards the easternmost Tien-shan suggest an early Chinese endeavour to wrest from the Huns the command of the routes leading to the ` Western regions ' through Hâmi and Turfân-Guchen. It would have secured a physically easier line of communication with the Tarim basin than that through the Lop Desert. This aim, however, was not realized until the opening of the ` new northern route ' about a century later, and even then only partially ; see Serindia, ii. pp. 705 sqq.