Registered & Protected  EWYF-AUCZ-AAR8-HLZT Bulgarians: 2016-10-30


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Yuezhi and Bulgars

Yuezhi were an ancient Indo-European people who were first reported in Chinese sources as
Yuezhi migration from China to Bactria
The migrations of the Yuezhi through Central Asia
nomads living in an arid grassland area spanning the modern Chinese provinces of Xinjiang and Gansu (northwestern China), before the 2nd century BCE. In the second century BC Xiongnu defeated them and the main body of the Yuezhi, later called the Great Yuezhi,  moved westward into Sogdiana and Bactria, putting an end to Greek rule in both regions. They and related tribes are the Asi (Asiani) and Tocharians (Tochari) of Western sources. About 128 bce the Yuezhi were recorded living north of the Oxus River (Amu Darya), ruling Bactria as a dependency, but a little later the Great Yuezhi kingdom was in Bactria, and Sogdiana was occupied by the Dayuan (Tocharians). The remnant in Gansu were called Little Yuezhi. According to Otto Maenchen-Helfen some of the Yuezhi tribes migrated far to the west and were present in the steppes north of the Caucasus and on the shores of the Black Sea as early as 1st century BC.[1]

During the 1st century BCE, one of the five major Yuezhi tribes in Bactria, Kushanas (Chinese: 貴霜; Guishuang), began to subsume the other tribes and neighbouring peoples. A new dynasty, the Kushan, was subsequently founded by one of the five chieftains among whom Bactria was divided. The Kushan kingdom extended its power southward and eastward into India and northward into Central Asia. From the 3rd century, however, Kushan power declined, and about 400 ce the Kidara dynasty arose in Gandhara; the latter survived only to about 450 ce, when it was overwhelmed by the Hephthalites.

The name Yuezhi

The Chinese name "Yuezhi", written with the characters yuè () "moon" and shì () "clan", is translated as Moon people or Moon clan. The Kushanas, who were among the conquerors of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom during the 2nd century b.c., are widely believed to have originated as a dynastic clan or tribe of the Yuezhi.

Origin of the Yuezhi

The Yuezhi may have been an Europoid people, as indicated by the portraits of their kings on the coins that were struck following their exodus to Transoxiana (2nd–1st century BCE), portraits from statues in Khalchayan, Bactria in the 1st century BCE, some old place names in Gansu explainable in Tocharian languages, and especially the coins which they struck in India as Kushans (1st–3rd century CE).

Some authors as James P. Mallory and Victor H. Mair relate the Yuezhi with the Massagetae : "(Greater) Yuezhi or in the earlier pronunciation d'ad-ngiwat-tieg, has been seen to equate with the Massagetae who occupied the oases and steppelands of West Central Asia in the time of Herodotus; here Massa renders an Iranian word for "Great", hence "Great Getae". This identification was made by Alexander Cunningham and is supported by B.S. Dahiya (1980, 23) and Edgar Knobloch (2001, 15). Dahiya wrote about the Massagetae and Thyssagetae : "These Guti people had two divisions, the Ta-Yue-Che and Siao-Yue-Che, exactly corresponding to the Massagetae and Thyssagetae of Herodotus... Thyssagetae, who are known as the Lesser Getae, correspond with the Xiao Yuezhi, meaning Lesser Yuezhi."(Dahiya 1980, 23)[2]

The first theory on their origin was developed by W. B. Henning who connected the name of the Yuezhi with the Guti people from the Zagros Mountains in Iran/Iraq who supposedly left their homeland about 2000 BC heading to the Steppes of the heart of Asia, and eventually to the Gansu in China.[3] The only evidence presented by Henning on the basis of similar ceramics is considered to be unconvincing.[4] More convincing argument was made by H. W. Bailey who reconstructed the name of the Yuezhi in 9-10 century Khotan-Saka texts as Gara people. According to Bailey the forms of the name tu-γαρα or Great Gara are many, some of them are Θογαρα (Greek) but also thog-gar/ bho-gar in Tibetian.[5] Mallory and Mair suggest that the Yuezhi and Wusun were among the nomadic peoples, at least some of whom spoke Iranian languages, who moved into northern Xinjiang from the Central Asian steppe in the 2nd millennium BCE

Early history of Yuezhi

The Yuezhi were recorded by the Chinese during the period of Warring States (495-221 B. C.) as
nomadic people living in the the lands of the Western Region, specifically around Dunhuang and Guazhou. The Yuezhi had occupied Dunhuang district and became very strong nation in the
Yuezhi in Dunhuang, China received tribute from Xiongnu Huns
Yuezhi in Dunhuang, China
Northwest China. Han Shu further records:
" The Great Yuezhi was a nomadic horde. They moved about following their cattle, and had the same customs as those of the Xiongnu. As their soldiers numbered more than hundred thousand, they were strong and despised the Xiongnu. In the past, they lived in the region between Dunhuang and Qilian [Mountain](south of Hexi Corridor)" 
The Yuezhi was so powerful that the Xiongnu monarch Touman even sent his eldest son Modu as a hostage to the Yuezhi. The Yuezhi often attacked their neighbour the Wusun to acquire slaves and pasture lands. Wusun originally lived together with the Yuezhi in the region between Dunhuang and Qilian Mountain. The Yuezhi attacked the Wusuns, killed their monarch Nandoumi and took his territory. The son of Nandoumi, Kunmo fled to the Xiongnu and was brought up by the Xiongnu monarch. Gradually the Xiongnu grew stronger and war broke out between them and the Yuezhi. There were at least four wars between the Yuezhi and Xiongnu according to the Chinese accounts. The first war broke out during the reign of the Xiongnu monarch Touman (who died in 209 B.C) who suddenly attacked the Yuezhi. The Yuezhi wanted to kill Modu, the son of Touman kept as a hostage to them, but Modu stole a good horse from them and managed to escape to his country. It appears that the Xiongnu did not defeat the Yuezhi in this first war. The second war took place in the 7th year of Modu era (203 B.C.). From this war, a large area of the territory originally belonging to the Yuezhi was seized by the Xiongnu and the hegemony of the Yuezhi started to shake. The third war probably was at 176 BC (or shortly before that) and the Yuezhi were badly defeated. The forth war was during the the period of Xiongnu monarch Laoshang (174 BC-166 BC) and was a disaster for the Yuezhi, their king was killed and a drinking cup was made out of his skull. Probably around 165 BC the majority of the Yuezhi migrated from the Tarim basin westward to Fergana. They finally settled in Transoxiana and Bactria.[6][7]

Bactria and Transoxiana

The Yuezhi were visited in Transoxiana by a Chinese mission, led by Zhang Qian in 126 BCE which sought an offensive alliance with the Yuezhi against the Xiongnu. The request for an alliance was denied by the son of the slain Yuezhi king, who preferred to maintain peace in Transoxiana rather than seek revenge. Zhang Qian spent a year in Transoxiana and Bactria and later wrote a detailed account about the situation in Central Asia at the time. He reported that the Great Yuezhi continue to live as nomads moving from place to place with their herds, and their customs are like those of the Xiongnu. They have some 100,000 or 200,000 archer warriors.[8]

The Chinese missions to Bactria and Transoxiana may have been driven by other incentives in addition to the possible alliance with the Yuezhi against the Xiongnu. The Chinese emperors during the Han period were interested in possessing the so called Heavenly Horses which had the property of sweating blood. The Chinese poet Li Bai wrote in his "Song of the Heaven Horse" that the horses of Heaven come out of the caves of the Yuezhi and their backs were tiger-striped.[9] In 101 BC the Han emperor Wu sent military expedition to Sogdiana to obtain the so-called Heavenly Horses. The quest for perfect horses may have been more spiritual than practical or military. The emperor Wu even composed a "hymn" as he waited the arrival of 30 "superior" horses. The desire to get Heavenly Horses was driven by the hope that they would carry him to Kunlun Mountains, the holy mountain that was the home of the immortals.[10] Some authorities see a connection between the Heavenly Horses and the yellow mares found in the first royal burial at Pazyryk,[11] and possibly the memory of Yuezhi survived with Pazyryk burials.[12][13]

Customs and language

It is hard to say if the Yuezhi (Yue-Chi) should be included in any of the recognized divisions of Turanian tribes such as Turks or Huns. Nothing whatever is known of their original language. Judging by the physical type represented on the Kushan's coins the Yue-Chi type is Turkish rather than Mongol or Ugro-Finnic. Some authorities think that the name Turushka or Turukha sometimes applied to them by Indian writers is another evidence of the connexion with the Turks. But the national existence and name of the Turks seem to date from the 5th century A.D., so that it is an anachronism to speak of the Yue-Chi as a division of them. The Yue-Chi and Turks, however, may both represent parallel developments of similar or even originally identical tribes. Some authors consider that the Yue-Chi are the same as the Getae and that the original form of the name was Ytit or Get, which is also supposed to appear in the Indian Jat.[14]

According to Hyun Jin Kim the nomadic Yuezhi possessed political institutions that closely resemble the Xiongnu and later Hunnic models. The Chinese refer to the five xihou or Lords of the Yuezhi who rule the five tribes of their imperial confederation. According to Pulleyblank the Yuezhi were Indo-Europeans and they spoke a Tocharian type language.[15] The title xihou corresponds in the pronunciation to what would later become the Turkic title yubgu. This originally Yuezhi royal title appears on the coins of their rulers as IAPGU/yavuga,[16] and it came to the Xiongnu from the Yuezhi.[17] Among the Turks, the title yabgu gained a new lease of life. In the Turkish inscriptions of Mongolia, it refers to a noble ranking immediately after the qagan.[18] Kuyan/gayan was a "common Uechji" symbol for a terrestrial embodiment for the Moon and Milky Way.[19]

Some scholars have explained the words connecting the Yuezhi 月氏 or the Kushans as coming from the Turkic languages, thus concluding that the language of the Kushans was from the Türkic language branch. this theory is inadequate. In the Zhoushu 周書, ch. 50, it is recorded that: “The ancestors [of the Türks] came from the state of Suo 索.”34 It has been suggested that “Suo索” [sheak] is a transcription of “Sacae.” In other words, it may be possible that the ancestors of the Türks originally were kin of the Sacae. If this is true, it would not be difficult to understand why some words and titles connected with the Yuezhi 月氏 or the Kushans can be explaned by the Türkic languages. In the Rājataraṅgiṇī (I, 170) there is a reference to the fact that the Türkic ruler in Gandhāra claimed his ancestor was Kaniṣka, and maybe this is not merely boasting. Other scholars have judged that the language of the Kushans was the Iranian language. This theory is also inadequate, for the following reasons. First, they were a branch of the Sacae, a tribal union composed of at least four tribes, i.e., Asii, Gasiani, Tochari and Sacarauli. Of these there were some tribes who spoke the Iranian language, but also some who spoke Indo-European languages other than the Iranian language, e.g., the Tochari. Next, the tribes that spoke Tokharian were in close contact with the tribes that spoke the Iranian language, and the words connected to them that can be explained with Iranian possibly originally were Tokharian.[20]

Yury Zuev included the Yuezhi (Uechji) among the tribes of early Turks. He wrote that "in the Northern Caucasus they spoke East - Iranian language, and in the Kangju they spoke in Turkic."[21] His sketches about early Türkic tribes and state type confederations showed that "ideological views coincide in many respects and have a common foundation, which ascends to the last centuries BCE. Such foundation was the pantheon of the ancient confederations of Uechji (Yuezhi) and Kangars that left a trace in the ideological complexes of Ashtak Türks, Oguzes, Kypchaks, Az-kishes, Kimeks, Kangly, etc. Certain features of it still are in the folklore of the modern Türkic peoples. The tradition of the ideological continuity is permeating the history of these peoples from extreme antiquity until the new time."[22] Probably one of the most striking customs was the custom of the population to completely shave their heads. "The seven-tribe Uechji -"Tochars” were “White-headed” i.e. with completely shaven heads. "Bold-headness" was equivalent to Moon-headness."[23] Remember that the word Yuezhi is a Chinese exonym, formed from the characters yuè (月) "moon" and shì (氏) "clan" - hence they shaved their heads to resemble the Moon. The same custom is attested among the rulers of Bulgarian Dulo clan : "These five princes ruled the kingdom over the other side of the Danube for 515 years with shaven heads and after that came to this side of the Danube Asparuh knyaz and until now (rules).[24]

The Little Yuezhi

The Little Yuezhi remained in North China and were included into Xiongnu confederation under the name Chieh people (AY: Jie people). Chinese chronicles documented them as one of the 19 tribes of Xiongnu.[25] Obviously their number wasn't small at all, as it is usually assumed, because we are told that between 184 AD and 221 AD there was a serious revolt of the Little Yuezhi in Gansu and the Chinese couldn't suppress it for almost 40 years.[26] At the beginning of 4th century under the pressure of Rouran Khaganate the Little Yuezhi started migration toward Kazakhstan and Bactria under the name War-Huns.[27] In 349 AD there was a massacre of Chieh people in North China, Maenchen-Helfen points out that 200 000 of them were slain. Probably we can consider that as the final date of their migration from North China/Tarim basin toward Kazakhstan and Bactria. The Jie/Chieh who remained in north China became known as Buluoji Bulgars.[28]

The Kushans

About 135 bce a loose confederation of five Central Asian nomadic tribes known as the Yuezhi wrested Bactria from the Bactrian Greeks. These tribes united under the banner of the Kushān (Kuṣāṇa), one of the five tribes, and conquered the Afghan area. The zenith of Kushān power was reached in the 2nd century ce under King Kaniṣka (c. 78–144 ce), whose empire stretched from Mathura in north-central India beyond Bactria as far as the frontiers of China in Central Asia.
Missing Buddha of Yuezhi, Bamiyan valley, Afghanistan
Missing Buddha

The Kushāns were patrons of the arts and of religion. A major branch of the Silk Road—which carried luxury goods and facilitated the exchange of ideas between Rome, India, and China—passed through Afghanistan, where a transshipment centre existed at Balkh. Indian pilgrims traveling the Silk Road introduced Buddhism to China during the early centuries ce, and Buddhist Gandhāra art flourished during this period. The world’s largest Buddha figures (175 feet [53 metres] and 120 feet [about 40 metres] tall) were carved into a cliff at Bamiyan in the central mountains of Afghanistan during the 4th and 5th centuries ce; the statues were destroyed in 2001 by the country’s ruling Taliban. Further evidence of the trade and cultural achievement of the period has been recovered at the Kushān summer capital of Bagrām, north of Kabul, including painted glass from Alexandria; plaster matrices, bronzes, porphyries, and alabasters from Rome; carved ivories from India; and lacquers from China. A massive Kushān city at Delbarjin, north of Balkh, and a major gold hoard of superb artistry near Sheberghān, west of Balkh, also have been excavated.[29]

Connection to Bulgars and Huns

The Great Yuezhi entered Europe together with the Huns and in the beginning they were called with their old name Massagetae.[30] For example St Jerome tells us about the Great Hun raid of 395-6 into Armenia and Syria that " swarms of Huns and monstrous Massagetae filled the whole earth with slauther".[31] However despite the fact that Romans called the Huns Massagetae, the Huns and not the Massagetae, attacked the Alans, who threw themselves upon the Goths.[32] After the battle of Nedao the Huns and Massagetae, the latter called now with the name Bulgars, retreated to their "inner" territory east of the river  Dnieper, as we learn from Jordanes, where they reorganized on a smaller scale.[33][34]
Yuezhi and Bulgars were the same peple; Bulgarians
Bulgars were Yuezhi tribes

The results of the research on the origin of Bulgars lead to one particular region in middle Asia - the lower and middle reaches of the Syr Darya. During the second century AD, the culture of the Sarmatians on the lower reaches of Volga underwent significant changes. The burial rites became more homogeneous and were dominated by a number of new and uncharacteristic for the previous period features such as the northern orientation of the burials, the artificial deformation of the skulls. These features are also found in later Bulgar necropoles. The Huns, Bulgars and part of the Yuezhi share some common burial practices as the narrow burial pits, pits with a niche and the northern orientation of the burials.[35] Yuezhi/Kushans practiced the same annular type of artificial skull deformation as the Huns and Bulgars.[36-39]  The Huns and proto-Bulgarians practiced artificial cranial deformation[57] and its circular type can be used to trace the route that the Huns took from north China to the Central Asian steppes and subsequently to the southern Russian steppes. Circular modification appeared for the first time in Central Asia in the last centuries BC as an ethnic attribute of the early Huns. The distribution of the skulls parallels the movement of the Huns.[40]

Edwin G. Pulleyblank, Yury Zuev and some modern Bulgarian scholars identify the Bulgars Utigurs as one of the tribes of the Yuezhi.[41-43] According to Edwin G. Pulleyblank and Yury Zuev the Utigurs of Menander are Uti, and the word Uti was a real proto-type of a transcription Yuezhi < Uechji < ngiwat-tie < uti.[44]


Huns, Bulgars, Yuezhi and Magyars 

Sources for Yuezhi and Bulgars:

1. The Yüeh-Chih Problem Re-Examined, Otto Maenchen-Helfen, Journal of the American Oriental Society Vol. 65, No. 2 page 81

2. SINO-PLATONIC PAPERS, Number 127 October, 2003, The Getes, page 22-24

3. The first Indo-Europeans in history, Henning, W.B. (1978)


5.  Indo-Scythian Studies: Being Khotanese Texts; Gara, H. W. Bailey, page 110

6. The Yuezhi and Dunhuang

7. Selections from the Han Narrative Histories, Ta Yue-she (Massagetae)

8. Watson, Burton (1993). Records of the Grand Historian of China: Han Dynasty II (revised ed.).

9. The Silk Road: A Very Short Introduction, James A. Millward

10. The Silk Road: Two Thousand Years in the Heart of Asia, Frances Wood, page 55

11. Chinese and Indo-Europeans, E. G. Pulleyblank, page 31

12. EARLY TURKS: ESSAYS on HISTORY and IDEOLOGY, Yu. A. Zuev, Uechji, page 14

13. The Yueh-chin and their migrations, K. Enoki, G. Koshelenko, Z. Haidary,: The Yueh-chin and Pazyryk, page 177


15. THE PEOPLES OF THE STEPPE FRONTIER IN EARLY CHINESE SOURCES, Edwin G. Pulleyblank, University of British Columbia, (1999), Summary, page 35

16. The Huns, Rome and the Birth of Europe, Hyun Jin Kim, (2013, Cambridge University Press), page 256
17. Turks and Iranians: Aspects of Turk and Khazaro-Iranian Interaction, Peter B. Golden, page 17, footnote 89, Zuev, Early Turks, p.31 : "This title is first of all an Uechji title, or, in the opinion of the eminent scientist [F. Hirth, 1899, p. 48-50], it is a “true Tocharian” title. "

18. ENCYCLOPÆDIA IRANICA, JABḠUYA : "Although yabḡu is best known as a Turkish title of nobility, it was in use many centuries before the Turks appear in the historical record. ... Among the Turks, the title yabḡu gained a new lease of life."

19. Yu. A. Zuev, EARLY TURKS: ESSAYS on HISTORY and IDEOLOGY, page 39

20. SINO-PLATONIC PAPERS, Number 212, 2011, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Pennsylvania, (Victor H. Mair, Editor) The Origin of the Kushans, YU Taishan, page 15

21. EARLY TÜRKS: ESSAYS on HISTORY and IDEOLOGY, Yu. A. Zuev, page 153

22. EARLY TÜRKS: ESSAYS on HISTORY and IDEOLOGY, Yu. A. Zuev, page 178

23. EARLY TÜRKS: ESSAYS on HISTORY and IDEOLOGY, Yu. A. Zuev, page 71

24. Nominalia of the Bulgarian khans: These five princes ruled the kingdom over the other side of the Danube for 515 years with shaven heads and after that came to this side of the Danube Asparuh knyaz and until now (rules).

25. The World of the Huns, Otto Maenchen-Helfen, р. 372-375

26. The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, Volume 1, Denis Sinor, р. 170


28. Multicultural China in the Early Middle Ages, Sanping Chen, p. 83

30. SINO-PLATONIC PAPERS, Number 127 October, 2003, The Getes, page 22-24 : Da Yuezhi -> Ta-Yue-ti (Great Lunar Race) -> Ta-Gweti -> Massa-Getae

31. The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, Volume 1, Denis Sinor, p.182

32. The World of the Huns, Otto Maenchen-Helfen, page 4-6: "But considering that Themistius, Claudian, and later Procopius called the Huns Massagetae,..."

33. The Hunnic Language of the Attila Clan, OMELJAN PRITSAK, Harvard Ukrainian Studies 1(982), page 429

34. Encyclopædia Britannica, Bulgar people

35. Khazaria in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries, Boris Zhivkov , pages 30-33

36. The Kushan civilization, Buddha Rashmi Mani, page 5: "A particular intra-cranial investigation relates to an annular artificial head deformation (macrocephalic), evident on the skulls of diverse racial groups being a characteristic feature traceable on several figures of Kushan kings on coins."

37. The Huns, Rome and the Birth of Europe, Hyun Jin Kim, (2013, Cambridge University Press) page 33

38. The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, Volume 1, Denis Sinor, page 172: "A striking resemblance may also be noted in the deformed heads of the early Yueh-chih and Hepthalite kings on their coinage",


40.  Cranial vault modification as a cultural artifact, C. Torres-Rouff and L.T. Yablonsky, HOMO - Journal of Comparative Human Biology, Volume 56, Issue 1, 2 May 2005, Pages 1–16 ; free excerpts :

41. EARLY TURKS: ESSAYS on HISTORY and IDEOLOGY, Yu. A. Zuev, p.38 and p.62 : " The Utigurs of Menandr are Uti, associated with Aorses of the Pliny "Natural history" (VI, 39). The word Uti was a real proto-type of a transcription Uechji < ngiwat-tie < uti (Pulleyblank, 1966, p. 18)"



44. Chinese and Indo-Europeans, E. G. Pulleyblank, 1966, Cambridge University Press