An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Tuqishi 突騎施, Türgiš

Feb 9, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

The Türgiš, Chinese rendering Tuqishi 突騎施, were a people in the federation of the Western Türks 西突厥 whose ten tribes were divided into five tribal groups (nushibi 弩失畢) administered in five daqijin 大俟斤. The five Duolu 咄陸 tribes were administered in daduo 大咄, one of which was called Heluoshi 賀邏施, the chieftain of the Türgiš. In the mid-7th century the Türgiš became part of Ashina Helu's 阿史那賀魯 federation of the Western Türks. When the armies of the Tang empire 唐 (618-907) defeated Ashina Helu they created the area command (dudufu 都督府) of Walu 嗢鹿 that was headed by the chieftains of the Türgiš, Sugemohe 素葛莫賀, while Alishi 阿利施 headed the area command of Jieshan 絜山. Two other area commands in that region were called Kunling 昆陵 and Mengchi 濛池. The Türgiš became part of the Chinese Protectorate of the Pacified West (anxi duhufu 安西都護府).

During the reign of Empress Wu Zetian Ashina Huseluo 阿史那斛瑟羅 was appointed khan (with the Chinese title of Jiezhong shizhu kehan 竭忠事主可汗) of the Türks and protector-general (duhu 都護) of Mengchi, but was proved to be such a cruel leader that the Türgiš did not accept his overlordship. The Türgiš leader Wuzhile 烏質勒, who acted as mohegadan 莫賀達干 of the Türkish federation, was a chieftain with much more charisma and leadership qualities and was therefore more and more accepted as unofficial leader of the Türks.

He established 20 area commands in which 7,000 families were administered. He took his main residence (daya 大牙) in Suiye 碎葉, while his secondary residence (xiaoya 小牙) was in the valley of the Ili River. In the eastern part of this territory he was the factual khan over the Later Türks, and in the west he dominated the states of the Soghdiana. Wuzhile declared that he was willing to be a vassal of the Tang empire and in 699 payed a visit to the Tang court in Chang'an 長安 (modern Xi'an 西安, Shaanxi).

In 706 he was rewarded with the title of Commandery King (junwang 郡王) Huaide 懷德 "Considering Virtue", two years later as Commandery King of Xihe 西河. Yet Wuzhile died before the envoy arrived at his court. He was succeeded by his son Suoge 娑葛 who was by the Tang given the title of Commandery King of Jinhe 金河. Suoge was at odds with one of his generals, Queduo Zhongjie 闕咄忠節. The latter bribed the Counsellor-in-chief of the Tang, Zong Chuke 宗楚客, with the hope the the latter might support Zhongjie's candidation for khanship.

Suoge thereupon arrested Zhongjie, killed the Tang envoy Feng Jiabin 馮嘉賓, and on his turn bribed the protector-general of Anxi, who suggested pardoning Suoge because he had restored order in the land of the Türgiš. Later on Suoge was killed by Modo Khan 默啜, leader of the Later Türkish federation. At the beginning of the 8th century Sulu 蘇祿, a leader of the Chebishi tribe 車鼻施 of the Türgiš proclaimed himself khan and was able to take control over the whole western region. This troops even invaded Persia (Dashi 大食). He was therefore called by the Persians Abū Muzāhim "Father of the Bull" because of his forcible attacks.

The Tang court in 713 appointed him Great General of the Left Wing of the Forestial Army (zuoyu lingjun da jiangjun 左羽林軍大將軍), Grand Military Commissioner (jinglüe dashi 經略大使) of the province (dao 道) of Jinfang 金方, and bestowed upon him the title of Zhongshun Khan 忠順可汗 "Loyal-Obedient". Sulu occupied an important position in the western region as a mediator between the Tang empire, the Later Türks, and the kingdom of Tubo 吐蕃 (Tibet). Accordingly, Sulu had three khatuns (female form of khan), namely a Türkish princess, a Tibetan princess, and a daughter of the Türkish leader Ashina Huaidao 阿史那懷道 that was sinicized by the title of Princess Jinhe 金河公主.

In later years Sulu had a personal conflict with protector-general Du Xian 杜暹 and attacked the four garrisons (sizhen). Only when Du Xian was ordered to return to Chang'an to become Counsellor-in-chief, Sulu ended his aggression and again sent tributes to the Tang court. In 738 Sulu was murdered, but his son Tuhuoxian 吐火仙 was not able to defend his position as khan. The Türgiš federation disintegrated in the fight of the two houses of the Black Türgiš (descendants of Sulu) and White Türgiš (descendants of Suoge). After 779 the Qarluqs 葛邏祿 took over control over the western region and enslaved the Türgiš or forced them into their federation.

Gao Wende 高文德, ed. (1995). Zhongguo shaoshu minzu shi da cidian 中國少數民族史大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin jiaoyu chubanshe), 1758.
Guo Pingliang 郭平梁 (1992). "Tuqishi 突騎施", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu), Vol. 2, 1157.
Shi Xuanyuan 施宣圓 et al., ed. (1987). Zhongguo wenhua cidian 中國文化辭典 (Shanghai: Shanghai shehui kexue yuan chubanshe), 690.
Xinjiang baike quanshu bianzuan weiyuanhui 《新疆百科全書》編纂委員會, ed. (2002). Xinjiang baike quanshu 新疆百科全書 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu), 55.
Zhou Weizhou 周偉洲, Ding Jingtai 丁景泰, ed. (2006). Sichou zhi lu da cidian 絲綢之路大辭典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin chubanshe), 368.