The Gök Türks were a large federation of nomadic tribes that dominated the northern steppes between the 6th and the 8th century. The Chinese designations for the Türks were Tujue 突厥 /dʱuət ki̯uət/ or Tiele 鐵勒 /tʰiet lək/, from the Türkish words "Türk" or "Türküt" (Plural form). The Türkic languages are one branch of the Altaic language family, the other ones are Mongolian and Tungusic. We will use the spelling "Türks" in order to avoid confusion with the Ottoman Turks.
The Türks were originally nomads that migrated with their cattle from pasture to pasture along the rivers in the steppe area south of the Altai Range (at that time called Jinshan 金山). They lived in felt tents (qionglu 穹廬), ate meat and drank milk or fermented milk, wore furs in winter and woolen cloth in summer, usually with the left sleeve left free. They were excellent in shooting from horseback and produced many kinds of weapons of horn, wood, and even of metal after they had learned to cast bronze and iron. Their main "export" goods to China were coarse cloth, horses, and fish glue. Other steppe tribes relied on the metallurgical expertise of the Türks.
The Türks used wooden plates as notetables for treaties and for records of tax collection. They had developed a kind of "runic" script, the so-called Orkhon Script which was based on the Soghdian alphabet; Türkic texts are known from many inscriptions discovered from the late 17th century on. These were found at the banks of River Yenissej and in Outer Mongolia. The most famous inscriptions on steles are that of Kül Tegin (Que-te-qin bei 闕特勤碑), Bilge Khan (Pi-qie Ke-han bei 毗伽可汗碑), and the Tonyukuk Inscription (Tun-yu-gu bei 暾欲谷碑) that were discovered and deciphered by the Danish scholar V.L.P. Thomsen (1856-1940, Chinese name Tang Musen 湯姆森), the Russian Vasily V. Radlov (1837-1918, Ladeluofu 拉德洛夫), and the Japanese Onogawa Hidemi 小野川秀美 (1909-1980). In the past decades, many Türkish tombs were discovered in the steppe region between Mongolia and Kazakhstan.
The totem of the early Türks was a wolf (like later that of the Mongols), and their organisation consisted of ten tribes of which the tribe or family A-shi-na 阿史那 was the mightiest and would eventually produce the khans (kèhán ! 可汗). The A-shi-na intermarried with the A-shi-de 阿史德 family. Their legendary area of origin was the Qian-si-chu-zhe-shi 踦踐斯處折施 Mountain (unknown place, somewhere in what is today Xinjiang, according to some sources, even more to the west, or in the upper Yenissej region), some sources say, in the region of the city of Pingliang 平涼, Gansu. Later on, under the pressure of the Northern Wei empire 北魏 (386-534), they moved to the area north of Gaochang 高昌 (north of today's Xinjiang province), where they adopted the technology of processing iron tools from the Dingling 丁零, likewise a Turkic-speaking people.
In that area, the Türks were surrounded by the "nine tribes" of the Tölöš (Jiuxing Tiele 九姓鐵勒), but were subjects of the steppe federation of the Rouran 柔然. The Rouran called the Türks duan-nu 鍛奴, which meant "ironsmith slaves". At the beginning of the 6th century, when the Rouran empire began to disintegrate, the Türks again moved south, and under the chieftain Tu-men 土門, they started to develop trade relations with the Chinese border regions. From 545 on, North China and the Türks had regular relations. These trade relations perhaps contributed to their economical and then also political rise.
The name Tujue is first mentioned in a document dated 542 found in the history Zhoushu 周書 (biography of Yuwen Ce 宇文測). In 545, the Counsellor-in-chief of the Western Wei dynasty 西魏 (535-556), Yuwen Tai 宇文泰 (507-556), sent the Soghdian (see Zhaowu Jiuxing 昭武九姓) An-nuo-pan-tuo 安諾槃陀 to the Türks, which in turn sent an envoy a year later.
In 552 Tumen finally defeated the Rouran and founded the Türkish Khanate (Tujue Hanguo 突厥汗國). The Western Wei accepted him as the ruler of the steppe and sent him Princess Changle 長樂公主 into marriage. Tümän adopted the title of Yi-li Qaghan 伊利可汗 and took residence (the nomad residence was usually called yazhang 牙帳 in Chinese sources, a word actually referring to the tent of a chief commander during a military campaign) near the Ötükän Mountains at the banks of the Orkhon River (within the borders of today's Mongolia, in Chinese sources Yu-du-jin 于都斤, Wu-de-jian 烏德鞬 or Yu-du-jun 郁督軍). His brother Shi-dian-mi 室點密 (also transcribed Se-di-mi 瑟帝米) launched campaigns to the west and expanded the empire of his brother by defeating the On Oq 十姓 tribes.
The khanate covered the region between River Sunggari in the east and the Amu Darya in the west, and was in the north limited by River Tuul in Mongolia. The own designation was Gök Türk "Blue Türks" (Lan Tujue 藍突厥), while other Türkish tribes were called "Black Türks" (Hei Tujue 黑突厥 or Heimin 黑民 "Black people"). All tribes and nations from the kingdom of Koryŏ 高麗, the Kitans 契丹 and Xi 奚 in the east, to the city states in the Tarim Basin (see Silk Road) and the Soghdian cities in the west were subjects to the Gök Türks.
After Tu-men's death, his son Ke-luo 科羅 (r. 552–553) became khan (with the title Yi-xi-ji Qaghan 乙息記可汗), then Yan-du-si-jin 燕都俟斤, who is known as Mu-gan Qaghan 木杆可汗 (also written 木桿, r. 553–572). During his rule, the Türks destroyed the last forces of the Rouran, defeated the federation of the Kitans in the east and the Hephthalites (Yeda 嚈噠) in the west, and brought the Tuyuhun 吐谷渾, living in the south of the steppe region, under their domination. In the northwest, the tribes of the Qi-gu 契骨(Kirgiz) were integrated into the Türkish federation. There were diplomatic and trade relations with Persia and even with the Levant.
The Gök Türk khanate was a federation of several tribes that accepted the dominance of a militarily powerful and authoritative leader, the Great Qaghan (da kehan 大可汗). His male relatives were given subordinated posts and ruled the tribes (Türkish: oq, Chinese: buluo 部落) and subtribes (organised as yabghu/Chinese: yehu 葉護 , shad/she 設 or sha 殺, tigin/teqin 特勤, elteber/yilifa 俟利發, ilgin/yijin 俟斤 and tudun/tutun 吐屯). There were 28 ranks in total. In order to administer the vast empire, sub-khans (xiao kehan 小可汗) were appointed, overlooking parts of the empire. Some of these sub-khans soon began to yearn for independence, like Shi-dian-mi's successor Da-tou Qaghan 達頭可汗.
Harsh winters in 581-583 aggravated the economical situation of the Gök Türks. Internal quarrels weakened the political and military power of the Gök Türk khanate, and in 581, after the death of Tuo-bo Qaghan 佗缽 (r. 572–581), it fell apart into an Eastern Khanate (Dong Tujue 東突厥) and a Western Khanate (Xi Tujue 西突厥). Tuo-bo Qaghan was first succeeded by Da-luo-bian 大邏便, a son of Mu-gan Qaghan, but because his mother was of modest origin, the nobles refused to accept him, and preferred the enthronement of An-luo 庵邏 (A-bo Qaghan 阿波可汗, r. 581), a son of Tu-bo Qaghan. Yet Da-luo-bian announced his insubordination, and A-bo Qaghan therefore ceded khanship to She-tu 攝圖, a son of Yi-xin-ji Qaghan. She-tu adopted the title of Sha-bo-lüe Qaghan 沙缽略可汗 (r. 581-587), residing in Du-jin, while An-luo accepted the title of vice khan and resided at the banks of River Du-le 獨樂 (Tuul). Da-luo-bian decided to take over the northwest, while the Great Khan's younger brother Chu-luo-hou 處羅侯 (known as Tu-li Qaghan 突利可汗) controlled the northeast. Furthermore, Shi-dian-mi still reigned in Qiuci 龜茲 in the west as Yi-li Qaghan. North of Gaochang was the domain of Tan-han Qaghan 貪汗可汗 (affiliation unclear).
|Yi-li Qaghan 伊利可汗, called Tumen 土門 (Bumïn, "Commander"), also called Bumin Qaghan||552|
|Yi-xi-ji (Issik) Qaghan 乙息記可汗 (or Yi Qaghan 逸可汗), personal name Ke-luo 科羅, son of Tu-men||552–553|
|Mu-gan (Muqan) Qaghan 木杆可汗 (or 木桿可汗), personal name Yan-du-si-jin 燕都俟斤, son of Tu-men||553–572|
|Tuo-bo (Taspar) Qaghan 佗缽可汗 (or Tuo-bo Qaghan 佗鉢可汗), son of Tu-men||572–581|
|personal name Da-luo-bian 大邏便, son of Mu-gan Qaghan||581|
|A-bo (Apa) Qaghan 阿波可汗, personal name An-luo 庵邏 (also written 菴羅), son of Tuo-bo||581|
|Under the domination of the Sui dynasty|
|Sha-bo-lüe (Ishbara) Qaghan 沙缽略可汗, personal name She-tu 攝圖, son of Yi-xin-ji||581–587|
|Mo-he Qaghan (Bagha) 莫何可汗 or Tu-li Qaghan 突利可汗, personal name Chu-luo-hou 處羅侯, son of Yi-xin-ji||587–588|
|Du-lan (Tulan) Qaghan 都藍可汗, personal name Yong-yu-lü 雍虞閭, son of Yi-xin-ji||588–599|
In the first phase of the Eastern Türkish khanate, also called that of the Northern Türks (Bei Tujue 北突厥), there were four scions of the house of A-shina which fought for supreme power, namely Sha-bo-lüe Qaghan 沙鉢略可汗 (r. 581–587), An-luo 菴羅, A-bo Qaghan 阿波可汗 (r. 581–587), and Tu-li Qaghan 突利可汗 (r. 599–609). Furthermore, Shi-dian-mi still reigned in the west as Yi-li Qaghan. In 582, Sha-bo-lüe Qaghan 沙鉢略, in the function of supreme khan, sent A-bo Qaghan into a trap against the army of the newly founded Sui dynasty 隋 (581-618). A-bo was defeated, and Sha-bo-lüe destroyed the rest of his forces, and A-bo took refuge among the western khans.
A year later, Sha-bo-lüe himself was defeated by the Sui, and offered the Chinese empire his submission. The Sui court allowed Sha-bo-lüe to bear the imperial family name Yang 楊, and granted his Chinese wife, a princess from the court of the late Northern Zhou dynasty 北周 (557-581), the title Dayi Gongzhu 大義公主.
Sha-bo-lüe was succeeded by his son Chu-luo-hou 處羅侯, known as Mo-he Qaghan 莫何可汗 or Ye-hu Qaghan 葉護可汗 (r. 587–588). He captured A-bo Qaghan, but died during a battle in the west. His brother Yong-yu-lü 雍虞閭 succeeded as Du-lan Qaghan 都藍可汗 (r. 588–599), while the son of Chu-luo-hou, Ran-gan 染干, held the title of Tu-li Qaghan 突利可汗 ("lesser khan").
Zhangsun Sheng 長孫晟 (551-609), advisor of the Sui emperor, suggested to support both khans, and gave two princesses to the Lesser Khan, namely Princess Anyi 安義公主 and Princess Yicheng 義成公主, helped him to build a fortification and ordered him to resettle groups of Türks on the territory of Sui China. The other khans were enraged because of this overt support for a man of lesser nobility, and attacked Ran-gan, but the Sui supported Ran-gan all the more, and allowed him to adopt the title Qi-min Qaghan 啟民可汗. The Sui launched a campaign against Du-lan Qaghan, who was killed during a battle by his officers. Da-tou Qaghan fled to the west.
The Sui general Yang Su 楊素 (544-606) urged Qi-min Qaghan to conquer the northern region of the Turkish land, and promised him all cattle he would obtain. Qi-min Qaghan also conquered territory in the west. In 607, he was received by the Emperor Yangdi 隋煬帝 (r. 604-617) in his headquarters in Yulin 榆林, and two years later even in the Eastern Capital Luoyang 洛陽 (in today's Henan), where he died. Qi-min Qaghan was succeeded by his son Duo-ji-shi 咄吉世, known as Shi-bi Qaghan 始畢可汗 (r. 609–619).
Shi-bi Qaghan harboured hatred against the Sui, raided border towns and even attacked Yanmen 雁門, when Emperor Sui was there on a tour. His rebellion against the Chinese overlords echoed the many rebellions which shook the Sui empire during these years. When Shi-bi Qaghan died, the Sui was history and replaced by the Tang Dynasty 唐 (618-907). His successors Chu-luo Qaghan 處羅可汗 (r. 619–620) and Jie-li Qaghan 頡利可汗 (r. 620–630) continued to harass the northern border prefectures of China. In 629 Jie-li Qaghan even advanced into the vicinity of the capital Chang'an 長安 (today's Xi'an 西安, Shaanxi), and only a formal peace with Emperor Taizong 唐太宗 (r. 626-649) could stop him from further intrusions.
Yet Taizong decided that this was too much. In 629, the generals Li Jing 李靖 (571-649), Li Ji 李勣 (594-669) and Zhang Gongjin 張公瑾 (594-632) forged an alliance with the Syr Tarduš (Xueyantuo 薛延陀), Uyghurs (Huihe 回紇), and several Tölöš tribes (Tiele 鐵勒), and destroyed the Eastern Turk federation.
At the time when Tang troops smashed the Eastern Türkish Khanate, more than 100,000 families decided to become subjects of the Tang. Quite a few of their leaders and their descendants served the Tang dynasty in high positions. Others went over to the victorious Syr Tarduš or settled in the Western Territories.
After 630, territory occupied by the Türks was administered as area command (dudufu 都督府) Dingxiang 定襄 and Yunzhong 雲中 and the protectorates (duhufu 都護府) Shanyu 單于, and Hanhai 瀚海, with eight indirectly administered prefectures (jimi zhoufu 羈縻州府). In addition to the nominal subordination of Türkish territory under the suzerainty of the Tang empire, the qaghans were allowed to bear the imperial surname Li 李. In 639, Li Simo 李思摩 (A-shi-na Si-mo 阿史那思摩) was the first qaghan factually reigning as an official of the Tang dynasty. He nevertheless bore the title Qi-li-bi Qaghan 俟力苾可汗 (r. 639–644). He was succeeded by Hu-bo 斛勃 (Che-bi Qaghan 車鼻可汗, r. 646-649), Ni-shu-fu 泥熟匐 (r. 679-680), and Fu-nian 伏念 (r. 680-681). The region north of the Gobi Desert was first called Protectorate of Yanran 燕然, from 664 on Protectorate of the Pacified North (Anbei duhufu 安北都護府, 663-669 Protectorate of Wohai 瀚海都護府), the region south of the Gobi desert was first named Protectorate of Yunzhong 雲中都護府, then Grand Protectorate of the Qaghan (Shanyu da duhufu 單于大都護府. It united 24 indirectly administered prefectures.
|Qi-min Qaghan (Yаmï) 啟民可汗, personal name Ran-gan 染干 (also called Tu-li Qaghan 突利可汗)||599–609|
|Shi-bi Qaghan 始畢可汗, personal name Duo-ji-shi 咄吉世, son of Qi-min||609–619|
|Chu-luo Qaghan 處羅可汗, personal name Yi-li-fu She 俟利弗設, son of Qi-min||619–620|
|Jie-li (Illig) Qaghan 頡利可汗, personal name Duobi 咄苾 or Mo-he-duo She 莫賀咄設, son of Qi-min||620–630|
During the westward migration of Shi-dian-mi's group, various other Türkic-speaking tribes like Chu-yue 處月, Chu-mi 處密 or Türgiš 突騎施, became part of the Western Türkish federation, while others, like Tölöš tribes, Qarluqs (Geluolu 葛邏祿), or Bašmyl (Baximi 拔悉密), were forced into submission.
Shi-dian-mi agreed with Sassanid Persia to destroy the Hephthalites (Yeda 嚈噠), but thereafter turned against Persia by agreeing with Byzantine over the silk trade. In 568, Shi-dian-mi, in Byzantine chronicles called Sizaboulos or similar, received an envoy from Eastern Rome in this residence in Yingshachuan 鷹娑川. Two years later, Türkish groups even invaded the northeastern border regions of Persia and occupied the territory between the Amur Darya and Syr Darya.
With the disintegration of the First Türkish Khanate, the west was of its own. It was controlled by several scions of the house of A-shi-na, namely A-bo Qaghan 阿波可汗 (r. 581–587), Tan-han Qaghan 貪汗可汗 (both sons of Mu-gan Qaghan, and Da-tou Qaghan 達頭可汗 (r. 575–602), a son of Shi-dian-mi, for whom the designation Ye-hu Qaghan 葉護可汗 was used. When A-bo Qaghan was captured by the Eastern Türks, Yang-su Te-qin's 鞅素特勤 son replaced him as Ni-li Qaghan 泥利可汗 (r. 587–601). Ni-li in turn was succeeded by his son Da-man 達漫, who was called Ni-jue-chu-luo Qaghan 泥撅處羅可汗 (r. 604–611).
Da-tou Qaghan sided with Du-lan Qaghan 都藍可汗, the opponent of Qi-min Qaghan 啟民可汗 in the eastern part of the Türkish realm. After Du-lan's death, Da-tou Qaghan occupied the northern zone in what is modern Mongolia, and adopted the title of Bu-jia Qaghan 步迦可汗. The eastward expansion of the Western Türkish Khanate (Xi Tujue 西突厥) found an end in 603, when a dozen of tribes rebelled against Bu-jia Qaghan and declared their loyalty to Qi-min Qaghan. Bu-jia Qaghan is said to have escaped to the land of the Tuyuhun.
Ni-jue-chu-luo Qaghan was in 605 defeated by the Tölöš and was forced by She-gui Qaghan 射匱可汗 (r. 610–617), a grandson of Da-tou, to flee. He first escaped to Gaochang, and then to the Sui. She-gui revived the unity of the Western Khanate and took residence at Mt. Sanmi 三彌山 west of Qiuci. He was succeeded by his younger brother Tong Ye-hu Qaghan 統野護可汗, who moved the residence to Qianyuan 千泉 in the territory of Shiguo 石國 in Sogdhia. He created an effective administration of the khanate and had each strategic city supervised by a loyal person, who took also care for tax collection. His plans to create an alliance with the Tang empire failed because the Eastern Türks blocked the way towards the east. Tong Ye-hu was killed by his uncle, and thereafter the western khanate fell into disorder.
In 636, Sha-bo-luo Die-li-shi Qaghan 沙鉢羅咥利失可汗 decided to divide the khanate into ten parts, whose leader was given an arrow with a golden head as a symbol of his power. For this reason, the Western Türks were called the "Ten Arrow Tribes" (shi jian buluo 十箭部落). The ten tribes were arranged in two wings, with River Suiye 碎叶川 (today's River Chu or Shu, depending on the langauge) as the dividing line. The eastern wing was called the Five Duo-lu Tribes 五咄陸部, each headed by a chuo 啜. The western tribes were called the Five Nu-shi-bi Tribes 五弩失畢部, each headed by an yi-jin 俟斤. Together, the tribes were known as the "Ten Arrows", On Oq (Chinese shixing buluo 十姓部落).
After their conquest of the Eastern Türkish Khanate, the Tang armies pushed westwards and took in the prefecture of Yizhou 伊州 (today's Hami 哈密, Xinjiang), in 640 Gaochang, in 644 Yanqi 焉耆, and in 648 Qiuci.
In 651, He-lu 賀魯, a descendant of Da-tou, assumed the title Sha-bo-luo Qaghan 沙鉢羅可汗 (650–658) and took residence in Shuanghe 雙河 (area of modern Bole 博樂 and Wenquan 溫泉, Xinjiang). As a unifier of the Western Khanate, he attacked the Tang garrison of Tingzhou 庭州. This "rebellion" of Sha-bo-luo Qaghan 沙鉢羅可汗 against the Tang occupation of the Western Territories was a pretext for war. General Su Dingfang 蘇定方 (592-667) captured the Qaghan in 657, secured the whole area of the Western Territories, and laid the foundation for the Protectorate of the pacified West (Anxi duhufu 安西都護府).
|Shi-dian-mi (Istämi) 室點密, brother of Tu-men||(552–575)|
|A-bo (Apa) Qaghan 阿波可汗, personal name Da-luo-bian 大邏便, son of Mu-gan||(581–587)|
|Bu-jia (Bagha) Qaghan 步迦可汗 or Da-tou Qaghan 達頭可汗, personal name Dian-jue 玷厥, son of Shi-dian-mi||(575–602)|
|Tan-han (Tamgan) Qaghan 貪汗可汗, son of Mu-gan (?)|
|Ni-li (Niri) Qaghan 泥利可汗, grandson of Mu-gan||(587–601)|
|Ni-jue-chu-luo Qaghan 泥撅處羅可汗 (also written 泥厥處羅), personal name Hesana 曷薩那 (He-sha-na 曷娑那) or Da-man 達漫, son of Ni-li||604–611|
|She-gui (Seguy) Qaghan 射匱可汗, grandson of Da-tou||610–617|
|Tong Ye-hu Qaghan 統野護可汗, grandson of Da-tou||617–630|
|Mo-he-duo Si-qu-li-si-pi-du-lu (Külüg Sibir) 莫賀咄俟屈利俟毗都陸, personal name Yang-su Te-qin 鞅素特勤, grandson of Da-tou||630|
|Yi-pi-bo-luo (Irbis Bolun) Si Ye-hu 乙毗鉢羅肆葉護, personal name Die-li Te-qin 咥力特勒, son of Tong Ye-hu||630–632|
|Duo-lu (Dulu) Qaghan 咄羅可汗, personal name Nishu 泥孰 (also called Tun-a-lou-ba-xi-li-duo-lu Qaghan 吞阿婁拔奚利咄陸可汗), son of Mo-he-duo||632–634|
|Sha-bo-luo (Išbara) Die-li-shi 沙鉢羅咥利失, personal name Tong-wo 同俄, son of Mo-he-duo||634–639|
|Yi-pi-duo-luo 乙毗咄羅, personal name Gu-yu (Yukuk) She 欲谷設, grandson of Tong Ye-hu
usurper Mo-he-duo-yi-pi Ye-hu 莫賀咄乙毗葉護 or Yi-qu-li-shi Yi-pi Qaghan 乙屈利失乙毘可汗, son of Sha-bo-luo Die-li-shi, 639–640
usurper Yi-pi-sha-bo-luo Ye-hu 乙毗沙鉢羅葉護, personal name Bo-bu Te-qin 薄布特勒, son of Jie-li Qaghan from the Eastern Turks, 639–641
|Yi-pi-she-gui (Irbis Seguy) 乙毗射匱, grandson of Sha-bo-luo Die-li-shi||642–653|
|Sha-bo-luo Qaghan 沙鉢羅可汗, personal name He-lu 賀魯, great-grandson of Da-tou||650–658|
|Line of Xing-xi-wang 興昔亡|
|Xing-xi-wang Qaghan 興昔亡可汗, personal name Mishe 彌射||657–662|
|On Oq Qaghan (Shixing Kehan 十姓可汗), personal name Du-zhi 都支||671–679|
|Ashina Yuanqing 阿史那元慶, son of Mi-she||685–692|
|Ashina Tuizi 阿史那俀子, son of Yuanqing||693–694|
|Ashina Xian 阿史那獻, son of Yuanqing||708–717|
|Ashina Zhen 阿史那震, son of Xian||735–736|
|Line of Ji-wang-jue 繼往絕|
|Ji-wang-jue Qaghan 繼往絕可汗, personal name Bu-zhen 步真||657–667|
|Jiezhong Shizhu Qaghan 竭忠事主可汗, personal name Huseluo 斛瑟羅, son of Bu-zhen||685–703|
|Ashina Huaidao 阿史那懷道, son of Hu-se-luo||704–708|
|Ashina Xin 阿史那昕, son of Huaidao||740–742|
|Er-duo Qaghan 爾咄可汗, personal name Lei-che-fu Tai-yi-fu 雷扯匐太伊弗, from the Adalet tribe||754-?|
The empire of the Eastern Türks was refounded by Jie-die-li-shi Qaghan 頡跌利施可汗 (r. 682–694, also called Gu-duo-lu 骨咄祿), who rebelled in 680 against the Tang government. It is also known as the Khanate of the Later Turks (Hou Tujue 後突厥). General Pei Xingjian 裴行儉 (619-682), sent out to punish the rebel A-shi-na Fu-nian 阿史那伏念, was not able to prevent the foundation of a new Türkish federation. With the advice of A-shi-de Yuan-zhu 阿史德元珍, the new khan plundered the northern Tang prefectures.
Jie-die-li-shi's successor Mo-chuo Qaghan 默啜可汗 (694–716) initiated large military expeditions towards the southeast and brought the the Tölöš (Tiele), Uyghurs (Huihe), Kirgiz (Xiajiasi 黠戛斯), Türgiš (Tuqishi 突騎施), and the Tuyuhun 吐谷渾 into submission. In the eastern steppe region, he defeated the Xi and the Kitans and so achieved the greatest expansion the Türkish empire ever had. Much to the chagrin of the Tang, he concluded an alliance with the kingdom of Tubo 吐蕃 (Tibet).
During the reign of Empress Wu Zetian 武則天 (r. 690-704), the Türks asked for economic support because they suffered from famine. This was not just due to the harsh winters in the steppe climate, but also because their economy had changed from a pure nomadic lifestyle to agriculture with the cultivation of different field crops like wheat and millet. Wu Zetian agreed and presented the Türks with 40,000 dou 斛 of grain (see weights and measures), 50,000 bolts of fabric, 30,000 farming tools, and 40,000 jin 斤 of iron.
The Tang court tried to separate the peaceful accord between the Türks and Tibet because both did not only control the Western Territories, formerly occupied by the Tang, but also threatened to block the Silkroad. The Tang established a stronger military structure in the Western Territories, the four defense commands in the Pacified West (Anxi sizhen 安西四鎮), namely Qiuci, Yanqi, Yutian 于闐, and Shule 疏勒, and administered the northern part of the region by the Protectorate of Beiting (Beiting duhufu 北庭都護府).
After the death of Mo-chuo Qaghan during his return from a campaign against the Bayegu 拔野古, a Tölöš tribe, the power of the A-shi-na clan declined. With Pi-jia Qaghan 毗伽可汗 (r. 716–734), who was enthroned by his powerful brother Que Te-qin 闕特勤 (685-731), a son of Guo-duo-lu, the Türks adopted a less belligerent policy towards the Tang, not least following the advice of Dun-yu-gu 暾欲谷. Pi-jia Qaghan was murdered by Mei-lu-chuo 梅錄啜, who in turn enthroned two young boys. The unity of the Second Eastern Türkish Khanate vanished, and various members of the A-shi-na family fought for supremacy. In 744, the Uyghur chieftain Gu-li-pei-luo 骨力裴羅 killed the the last Eastern Türk qaghan and adopted the title qaghan himself.
|Jie-die-li (Ilteriš) Qaghan 頡跌利可汗, personal name Guo-duo-lu 骨咄祿||682–694|
|Qian-shan (Qapaghan) Qaghan 遷善可汗, personal name Mo-chuo 默啜, brother of Jie-die-li||694–716|
|Tuo-xi (Inel) Qaghan 拓西可汗, personal name Fu-ju 匐俱, son of Qian-shan||716|
|Pi-jia (Bilge) Qaghan 毗伽可汗, personal name Mo-ji-lian 默棘連, son of Jie-die-li||716–734|
|Yi-ran (Yollïg) Qaghan 伊然可汗, son of Pi-jia||734|
|Deng-li (Tengri) Qaghan 登利可汗, son of Pi-jia||734–741|
|Guo-duo 骨咄, son of Jie-die-li||741–742|
|Jie-die-yi-shi Qaghan 頡跌伊施可汗, from the Bašmyl (Baximi 拔悉蜜)||742–744|
|Wu-su-mi-shi (Özmiš) Qaghan 烏蘇米施可汗, from the Uyghurs||742–744|
|Bai-mei Qaghan 白眉可汗, personal name Hu-long-fu 鶻隴匐, from the Uyghurs||744–745|
Today the Türkish population of China is mainly located in Xinjiang province where we find the groups of Ainu (not related to the Japanese aboriginal population), Ili Türks, Uyghurs, Yugurs, and Salar.
The name Tujue still existed in the tenth century, and the two khanates - long vanished at that time - were mentioned in Wang Yande's 王延德 (939-1006) travel report Gaochang xingji 高昌行紀.