Timeline of Central Asia During the Tang Dynasty
December 9, 2002
(Do not copy for your own site without first asking permission.)
Prelude to the Struggle
(all years are AD)
Mid-5th century: The A-zha
(Mongolic-speaking people also known as the T'u-yü-hun or
Togon in Tibetan or T'ui-hun or A'ch-ai in Chinese) conquer
southeast Tarim Basin including Koko Nor area and influence
Turks or T'u-chüeh drive out the Mongolic
and establish the two friendly khanates of the Eastern and
Western Turks. The eastern half has capital in Mongolia and
stretches from Manchuria and continues along the Great Wall all
the way to Hami while the western is from Hami to Lake Aral and
Persia, including Bactria and Sogdiana (after helping Persia
(the Sassanians) to defeat the Ephthalites between 565 and
568). The western half will have substantial dealings with the
Byzantine empire in the face of their common foe, Persia, and
later conflict in the Crimea over the Byzantines helping their
former foe, the Juan-juan. The western khanate traditionally
deferred to the eastern, but over time, internal squabbles within
each half as well as squabbles between the halves erode this. The
Sui Dynasty also plays a role in encouraging this and directly
benefits as Sui supported rivals in each half become dominant
and dependent on Chinese support.
Sui Dynasty Emperor Yang-Ti expresses desire to
control routes to the West.
Chinese minister P'ei Chü persuades T'ieh-le Turks to attack
the A-zha and during the 7th month of the year, the Turks do
inflict a severe defeat on them.
On July 5, Yang-Ti leads forces in battle to crush
the A-zha and capture
two of their cities. Most of them surrender, a small band
retreating with their leader the qaghan to the Great Snow
Mountains, finding refuge with the Tanguts. China and Tibet now
border one another directly.
· Chinese armies
crush the Mongolic Hsien-Pi of the T'u-yü-huen whose presence
in Kansu had troubled Chinese outposts for three centuries.
The Hsien-Pi are forced to flee to Tibet. (Perhaps this event
marks the start of Mongolian influence on Tibetan culture? as
well as Tibetan awakening to the outside world?) Tibet sends
first embassies to China, via Shu country.
Emperor Sui Yang-ti suffers disastrous losses
Korean kingdom of Koguryo.
Nine different rebellions break out throughout
Sui Yang-ti reduced to only controlling the southern area around
Yangzhou. The Tang take Chang-an and proclaim the 13-year old
heir as (puppet) emperor.
Heads of state of China and Tibet, Sui Yang-ti
and Gnam ri slon mtshan,
both die (the Chinese emperor killed by soldiers of his own
guard). A-zha regain much of their power. New Tibetan ruler,
Sron btsan sgampo, puts down rebellion, reduces opposition on
Tibetan plateau. Tibet subjugates the Sumpas in the northeast
and makes a marriage alliance with the Zan-zun which leads to
their destruction. Kucha pays homage to China.
Tang finish consolidating rule over China, in the
T'i-tsung winning an important and devastating victory over the
The Main Events
ascends the Chinese throne. A-zha
raid Chinese border towns during tumultuous transition in China.
Tang T'ai-tsung supports dissidents within the
in Tarbagatai (later to be called the Uighur) and near Kobdo.
Tang T'ai-tsung supports anti-khan T'u-li within
the Eastern Turks Chinese invade Eastern Turks
under command of Li Tsing and Li Shih-tsi.
A surprise attack takes the khan and the Eastern Turks will
be subject to China until 682. In this year also, the Chinese
pilgrim Hsüan-tsang will meet T'ung Shih-hu, khan of the
Western Turks, who at this time was treated by the Chinese as
an ally. A few months later, the Qarluqs rebel against T'ung
Shih-hu and put him to death. The khanate is split in two.
The king of Kucha avows himself a vassal of China.
The Lao rebel in southern Lingnan. An army is sent
to put them down. Karashar recognizes Chinese
Kashgar and Khotan pay homage as well.
T'ai-tsung organizes a punitive expedition against
using Chinese border troops, levies of Ch'i-pi Turks and Tanguts.
General Tuan Chih-hsüan's forces defeat the A-zha on
October 29 and pursue them for 800 li, capturing a great deal
of livestock. Tibet sends an embassy to China on December 11.
China replies by sending ambassador Feng Te-hsia. On December 28,
China organizes an expeditionary force under Li Ching to attack
Tanguts switch allegiance and join the A-zha.
Ch'iang tribes of T'ao chou rebel
against China – China suppresses. On May 29, the A-zha are
defeated at K'u Shan and several times thereafter, being totally
crushed. Chinese forces reach Tibetan borderlands. Sron btsan
sgampo sends another embassy with the returning Feng, proposing
marriage alliance, having learned that the A-zha and Turks had
received such. China demurs. Yarkand pays homage to China.
Tibet strengthens forces with Zan-zun troops and
led by their emperor,
defeats the A-zha, attacking from the south. Then they subjugate
the Tanguts (living between the A-zha and the Sumpa of Rgyaron and
the Po-lan who were living between the A-zha and Central Tibet).
Sassanid Empire of Persia loses important battle to Muslims
the Chinese border town of Sung chou on September 12, sending
the emperor a demand for a princess. A Chinese counterattack
by the local force commander is defeated and local Ch'iang
tribes are incited to rebel against China. Another Chinese
surprise counterattack on October 18 inflicts a minor defeat.
Tibetans retreat and send an embassy begging forgiveness and
renewing request for a marriage alliance, which is now granted.
The ruler of Indo-European Turfan rebels against Chinese
authority. Chinese General Heu Kiun-tsi is sent against them
and the ruler dies of shock. Turfan is annexed and make a seat
of a new prefecture. In response, Karashar allies with the
Western Turks. China sends General Kuo Hiao-k'o to retaliate
and captures the city in a surprise attack. A brother of the
deposed king is enthroned. An army from Canton puts down another
rebellion in Lingnan. On December 11, 640, Tibetan minister
Mgar Stori rtsan "the Conqueror" arrives at the Tang court with
5000 ounces of gold and agreement was reached.
On February 20, Mgar returned to the court and on
March 2, brought back
to Tibet the Princess Wen-ch'eng, initiating a period of peace
lasting throughout the lives of the emperors. Tibet consolidates
conquests, especially the Zan-zun. China subjugates T'ieh-le
turks and kingdom of Kucha.
The Western Turks, finally re-united, make an
attack on the
Chinese colonies near Hami. They are defeated by General Kuo
Hiao-k'o between Kucheng and Urumqi. The Tang support one Turk
faction against the other. Sassanid Empire of Persia loses
important battle to Muslims at Nehavend.
Kucha allies with the Western Turks, being opposed
Chinese subjugate Kucha under forces commanded by
A-shih-na Shö-eul. (The battle in the desert may be the
subject of the glorious Kizil frescoes.) A Kuchean noble returns
with reinforcements from the Western Turks and in surprise kills
the Chinese General Kuo Hiao-k'o. A-shih-na Shö-eul slays
11,000 people in reprisal. A new puppet ruler is placed on
the throne. The Indo-European society of Kucha and Kizil never
China invades the northernmost Korean kingdom,
Koguryu, Tang Taizong
leading the troops personally. He is an excellent commander
and very successful, but like Napoleon in Moscow, must retreat
when winter arrives. The main problem is that the fortress
of Ansisong proves just too difficult to take except by long
siege. Of course the Koreans have the advantages of defending
their own homeland. Raids into Koguryu by China continue over
the next few years. Some cities are taken. In Karashar, the
puppet king is deposed. China sends Turkish prince A-shih-na
Shö-eul to subdue the city. The usurper is beheaded
and the throne given to another member of the royal family.
Chinese authority extends to the Pamirs.
Tibet supports Tang ambassador Wang Hsüan-ts'e
in defeat and subjugation
of Indian kingdom of Tîrabhukti.
Tang Tai Zong dies, cancelling a planned enormous
New Chinese emperor: Kao-tsung. Tibetan emperor dies and is
succeeded by his grandson – real power is in the hands
of Mgar for two decades due to his control of the army and
Fighting half his khanate along with their Chinese
the Western khan is forced to flee to Bactria and disappears.
Muslims occupy Herat.
Muslims reach Balkh.
Chinese General Su Ting-fang with support of Uighur Turks pursue
the khan of the West Turks to Tashkent where the city turns
him over to Chinese forces. Two Turks friendly to China are
appointed the new khans of the divided (and thus weakened)
Western Turkish realm.
Tu-man, the irkin of the *Ärski tribe of
Western Turks, leads his army
plus contingents from Kashgar and two small western Tarim
principalities to capture Khotan. China sends Su Ting-fang to
punish them, forcing a surrender at the Jaxartes. Su presented
his prisoners at Loyang and was then re-assigned to Korea.
While gone, the *Köngül Turks of the Tien Shan
with the Yen-mien to their north and Tibetans to their south
united to capture Kashgar. Chinese General Cheng-Jen-t'ai
defeats the Ssu-chieh, Bayarqu, P'u-ku and Tongra tribes of
the T'ieh-le confederation which are further to the east of the
*Köngül. This prompts a major uprising of the related
tribes in the Tien Shan area.
China allies with Koguryo's Korean neighbor,
Shilla, this time to fight
the southernmost Korean kingdom, Paekche. 1900 ships are
constructed. 100,000 - 130,000 soldiers are used. Shilla adds
50,000. The invaders are completely victorious and China leaves
10,000 as a garrison.
In February, Tibet subjugates the kingdom of Wakhan.
Three Tang armies are formed to attack the Turkish rebels.
Commander-in-Chief against the T'ieh-le is Cheng Jen-t'ai.
Commander-in-Chief of the Hsien-o army is Hsiao Ssu-yeh.
Commander-in-Chief of the Ch'ang-ts'en army is the Turk
*Arsïla Chung. The first two armies defeat the Turks
somewhere in the Tien Shan during the spring and they surrender.
The *Köngül and Kashgar surrender without a fight.
Mgar gathers an army in Zan-zun and Tibet allies
*Köngül and Kashgar. Su returns and causes chaos among
Western Turks by killing *Arsïla Mi-she, theoretical ruler
of the eastern branch of the On oq. Su pacifies these tribes
and and then ran into the Tibetan-Turkish forces. Su buys
them off with military equipment, makes peace and withdraws.
Tukhâristân and Sigistân thrown into civil
war and the Western Turks are in virtual revolt against China.
A Chinese naval landing invests Koguryu, only being able to
cross the Yalu when it freezes. But the attack is called off due
to the above rebellion. The entrenched forces are successfully
counterattacked by Koguryu and once again forced by enemies and
conditions to retreat to China.
By now, Tibet in possession of the far northwest
Tibetan plateau where
the Karakorum range meets the Pamirs, the kingdom of Bolor, the
kingdom of Wakhan and an area around Kashgar. They are reaching
the Tarim basin via the high passes north of Gilgit. Tibet goes to
war with the A-zha and both sides appeal to China. China supports
the latter and sent General Cheng Jen-t'ai's force to save
them. An A-zha defector gives away the defense plans and Tibet
wins a crushing victory, the A-zha court fleeing to Liang chou.
Tibet controls the entire kingdom. In this year and the next,
Chinese and Shilla fight hard to put down rebellion in Paekche,
including destroying a Japanese fleet.
On January 26, Kao Hsien is appointed chief of a
new army to attack the
*Köngül, possibly the Tibetans, and save
Khotan. (Outcome is unknown.) Tibet consolidates A-zha conquest.
Tibetan embassy arrives in China on February 14
seeking to restore good
relations with the A-zha and to get the Ch'ih Shui region for
animal grazing. China demurs. At some time in the next 5 years,
Tibet will conquer Khotan (as well as the other three of the
Four Garrisons: Karashar, Kucha and Kashgar). Two groups of
Western Turks rebel against their appointed khans and regain
The strong chancellor of Koguryu dies and civil
war breaks out.
China marches in and finally conquers Koguryu. But then war
breaks out with Shilla since the Chinese aim is to incorporate
the entire peninsula.
Mgar dies. Western Turks are without a
qaghan and submit in unity to Tibet. Tibet
constructs fortifications near the Jima Gol River south of Koko Nor.
Tibet launches major offensive from Chinese-held
city of Aksu which is
part of Kucha. Kucha and Agni hold out. On May 3, Hseih
Jen-kuei is named to lead a new Chinese army which arrives at
Ta-fei Ch'uan in late summer to badly defeat the Tibetans at
the river's mouth, capturing over 10,000 cattle and sheep.
Proceeding to a rendezvous with his assistant at Wu Hai, he
is attacked by an enormous Tibetan army led by Mgar Khri`brin
and severely defeated. They abandon their supplies and thus
must hurry to their camp. There they are defeated again.
Virtually only the generals escape the slaughter. China prepares
to defend against Tibetan invasion and moves its An-shi general
back to Hsi chou in the Turfan Depression. (At this time Tibet
is probably sovereign over Khotan and Kashgar (two of what the
Chinese called the Four Garrisons) as well as Aksu and probably
the western branch of the On oq. Local dynasts are left in
control and Tibet merely exacts tribute. Thus the dynasts
behave fairly independently. By this time, the Muslims had
reached western Tukhâristân and Sigistân.)
Chinese try to re-establish control of the *Tardus
tribes of the Western Turks
by appointing *Arsïla Tu-chih as military general and
Governor-General over the Ch'u-muk-k'un, one of the five tribes
of On oq. (Outcome unknown.)
Chinese move T'u-yü-hun further into China,
away from Shan chou, because
fear of Tibetans making them restless. Shilla has a serious
defeat. It embarks on a defensive fortification strategy and then
defeats a Chinese army of 30,000. It gains control of Paekche.
Muslims, led by Ubaidallah b. Ziyad, Governor of
Khurasan, make first major raid
into Transoxiana. They reach Bukhara and after a short skirmish
are bought off by the khatun (queen) and return to Merv.
The kings of *Köngül and Kashgar visit
Ch'ang-An to "surrender",
i.e. probably as refugees. Chinese establish a Governor-General
Chinese name the former Khotan king, Fu-she Hsiung,
as Governor-General in Khotan. Tibetan Great Minister Mgar Btsan
sna ldombu musters Zan-Zun troops and leads them into Turkistan.
China opens negotiations with Shilla.
Tibetan Great Minister Mgar Btsan sna ldombu again
leads Zan-Zun troops
into Turkistan, this time with cooperation of *Arsïla Tu-chih
(qaghan of the Western Turks) and Li Che-fu. They campaign in the
area of the former Four Garrisons from west of Agni and as far
east as Dun Huang. The Chinese lose all of the Four Garrisons.
[Top of Page]
· Muslims repeat their raid of Bukhara under
the new Governor of Khurasan, Said b. Uthman. Peace is again
made with the khatun of Bukhara and Said went on to Samarkand,
but fails to take the town and returns to Medina with 50 Sogdian
hostages which he forces into slavery. The Sogdians prove to
love freedom more than life however as they kill Said and then
Early in the year, Khri man slon, Emperor of
the Zan-Zun revolt. Tibetans raid Chinese fortified prefectural
at Shan chou, K'uo chou and Ho chou. Tang government organizes
the T'ao chou tao and Liang chou tao Expeditionary Armies
to punish Tibet, but it never campaigns. Tibet controls the
entire Tarim basin and the mountainous lands to the southwest.
In Korea, China agrees that Shilla will take over most of the
Korean peninsula, under nominal Chinese overlordship.
On January 25, China authorizes a levy of men from
Chien-nan, Ho-pei and other prefectures. Li Ching-hsüan is
appointed Commander-in-Chief of the T'ao Ho tao Expeditionary
Army and Inspector of the Shan chou Military Governorship. They
are victorious over the Tibetans at Lung-chih (in Shan chou)
in the late summer. On October 3, they fight a great battle
across the Koko Nor with Tibetans commanded by Mgar Khri `brin
btsan brod and suffer a major defeat, two of their generals,
Liu-Shen-li and Wang Hsiao-chieh, being captured as well. Li
retreats to Ch'eng-feng Ling (in southwestern K'uo chou), but is
in a vulnerable position. He orders a Korean suicide squad under
Hei-ch'ih Ch'ang-chih to make a night attack and force the Tibetan
force to withdraw in order to be able to retreat to Shan chou.
P'ei Hsing-chien employs the refugee king of Persia
as a spy on the Western Turks. P'ei escorts him and under
the ruse of a hunting party, manages to capture *Arsïla
Tu-chih (qaghan of the Western Turks) and thus force Li Che-fu
to surrender. The commanders of the ten Turkic tribes are
captured as well as the city of Sûyâb (western
Central Asia). P'ei appoints Wang Fang-i in charge there, which
he is to fortify. P'ei returns to China with his prisoners.
Tibetans capture Tang fortress of An-jung City on Tibet's
eastern border. Tibet has secure control over all of China's
western frontier to the south of Qocho.
Serious rebellion of Eastern Turks against China
– P'ei appointed to supress it.
He is victorious.
· Muslims under Salm
b. Ziyad, Governor of Khurasan, raid Khwarizm, Khujand and
Samarkand. They are bought off and withdraw out of Transoxiana.
P'ei is again victorious against Eastern Turks.
In the Spring, the Western Turks under *Arsïla
Ch'e-pu rebel. P'ei dies
before being able to respond. Wang Fang-i takes command,
attacking the Western Turks who have been besieging
*Köngül City and defeats them by the Ili River.
The Yen-mien Turks counterattack by the Issyk Kul, but are
repulsed by Wang and vanquished. Both Turkish leaders are
captured and the Chinese continue to dominate the Western Turks
north of Tien Shan. But at the end of the year, the remaining
Eastern Turks of the *Arsïla clan succeed in rebellion to
form the Second Eastern Turkic Empire under Elteris Qaghan. Their
opening move is to ravage Shansi.
The second Umayyad caliph, Yazîd
b. Mu`âwiya, dies and civil war
breaks out. Muslim conquests in Central Asia no longer under
central control. On December 27, Kao-Tsung, Emperor of China,
dies and his consort, Wu Chao comes to power, first under the
name Chung-tsung, then Jui-tsung. Eastern Turks raid the area
northwest of Peking.
Further raids by the Eastern Turks around Shansi.
Tibetan Prime Minister Mgar Btsan sna ldombu dies
`dus sron is confirmed as Emperor of Tibet. Mgar's brother, Mgar
Khri `brin btsan brod is appointed to replace him. On December
2, Wei Tai-chia is appointed commander-in-chief of an army to
attack Tibet by way of the Western Turks. But nothing happens.
Eastern Turks raid again, this time defeating a Chinese corps.
Mgar plans to lead an army into Turkistan but
In the autumn, China appoints Khusrau (known as the Pu-li sad)
as a general authorized to inherit the five Nu-shih-pi tribes
that his father (*Arsïla Pu-chen) had ruled.
Mgar invades the kingdom of Kucha. China is
appointed Wei Tai-chia as
commander-in-chief of An-hsi ("Parthia") Expeditionary Army, but
campaign is twice more cancelled due to criticism. Eastern Turks
raid northwest of Peking, and then suffer a reverse.
On May 28, Wei Tai-chia is appointed again and
*Köngül, north of Tien Shan where they are severely
defeated by Tibetans at the Yin-chih-chia River, southwest
of *Köngül. The army remnants retreat to Qocho.
Wei is demoted and his assistant decapitated. Tang Hsui-ching
becomes Governor-General of Qocho. Mgar and his army return to
Tibet. Tibetans control Tarim from *Köngül, to Kucha,
but Chinese presence in Suyâb and Qocho is threatening.
Tibet also have difficulty controlling their conquests because
mutinies prevent the standing army from standing vere long
and leaders must worry about losing influence at court if away
Wu Chao officially usurps Chinese throne and
changing the dynasty name to Chou. In Tibet, as the heir comes of
age, he begins removing members of the Mgar clan. Eastern Turks
repeatedly raid and rob the On oq.
leads 60-70,000 Western Turks into Chinese-controlled territory
and as a reward receives a new title from China
Umayyads re-establish control over most of the
China organizes an army to attack the Tibetan eastern flank
toward Wu-wei, but recalls it before it reaches that location.
Eastern Turks khan dies. Successor Mo-ch'o is arbiter of palace
dramas in the Tang Dynasty.
Local rebellions begin in Tibet. On February 25,
the Tanguts, former subjects
of Tibet, submit to the Chinese. Ho-su, a Tibetan leader,
attempts to defect with a large group of followers. He is
arrested, but another Tibetan leads 8,000 Ch'iang tribesmen to
join the Chinese army. Tang Hsiu-ching, Chinese Governor-General
of Qocho, urges Wu Chao to retake the Four Garrisons (at that
time, Kucha, Khotan, Kashgar and Suyâb). Wang hsiao-chieh
is appointed Commander-in-Chief of a Wu-Wei Expeditionary Army
and leads Tang Hsiu-ching and *Arsïla Chung-chieh against
the Tibetans. On December 9, they defeat the Tibetans and
recover the Four Garrisons. The Protector Generalship of the
Pacified West is moved back to Kucha from Qocho and an army
garrisoned there. China appoints Hsia, son of the former
king, as the new king of Khotan. The seven-year old will
later be called King Vijâya Sangrâma "the Lion".
Tibet's colonial domination of the Tarim apparently at an end
due to internal collapse (and also policy conflicts at court?).
(Mo-cho'o) Qapaghan Qaghan comes to power among the Eastern Turks.
In Tibet, Mgar family back in favor. In the winter,
Mgar Khri `brin
assembles an army in Greater Rtsan and moves into the A-zha
In the spring, Wang defeats the Tibetan governor
of Khotan at Leng-ch'üan
and the allied qaghan of the Western Turks, *Arsïla
T'ui-tzu who had attacked from the north in the Ta-ling Valley.
Each battle results in the loss of over 30,000 Tibetans and
Western Turks. In the far west, Han Ssu-chung in charge of the
Suyâb Chinese garrison, defeats the allied leader of the
fourth arrow of the western branch of the On oq, taking over
10,000 prisoners and capturing the Tibetan fortified cities of
*Bars and *Ärski. The Tibetan leader Mgar Staggu ri zum is
taken prisoner by the Sogdians. Thus, serious setbacks for Tibet
in Koko Nor, the Pamirs and southwestern Tien Shan. Heads roll
among the defeated generals. Eastern Turks raid Lingchow.
Mgar Khri `brin raids Lin-t'ao (T'ao chou). Chinese put Wang in charge of a Su-pien Expeditionary
reply. Mgar mobilizes an army among the A-zha. Tibetans win
a great victory on the borders of T'ao chou at a place known
to the Tibetans as "Tiger Pass Chinese Graveyard". Tibet sends
an embassy to China proposing political marriage hoping their
attempt will be encouraged by the fact of the recent resurgence
of the Eastern Turks under Qapaghan Qaghan, now regularly raiding
the Chinese border and even attacking the fortified city of Liang
chou and carrying off the Chinese Governor-General. China also
faces revolt in Khitan, further to the east. Kuo Yüan-chen
is sent as a diplomat. His advice to the Chinese court is to
not abandon the Four Garrisons as Tibet demands, but instead to
give up the five Nu-shih-pi tribes in exchange for the Koko Nor
lands and the T'u-yü-hun and to press for peace in hopes that
this would unseat Mgar and cause Tibet inner turmoil. If Tibet
refuses, he says, then the long, drawn out negotiations will
also cause domestic conflict in Tibet. The Emperor approves. To
reach peace with the Eastern Turks, a marriage alliance is
concluded. The Eastern Turks are also upset with Khitan who have
broken away from their alliance. Thus Chinese and Eastern Turks
ally together to defeat Khitan. Mgar loses ascendancy and the
Emperor of Tibet has over 2,000 members of the Mgar clan killed.
In Korea, a new revolt in the remaining Chinese territory in the
north creates a new independent kingdom as China is too occupied
to address the matter.
Mgar defeats and captures the Chinese general Thug
Pu-si in Tsonka.
Eastern Turks raid Weichow, west of Peking.
Showdown between Mgar and Tibetan Emperor results
in loss and suicide for
the former. His younger brother Tsan-p'o, a thousand followers,
Mgar's son and 7,000 A-zha families flee to China and are
enlisted there in the army. The house of Mgar will never
again be important in Tibet. Among the Western Turks, there
is considerable turmoil and the Türgis (Eastern Turks)
take over in a new confederation.
*Arsïla T'ui-tzu comes to Tibetan court and
is directed to Turkistan.
He leads a rebellion against the Chinese attempting to augment
control over the Western Turks via Khusrau where the Tibetan
local leader, Po-lu holes up in Suyâb, but loses the city
and his life to a Chinese-Turkish force. Tibet launches new
raids on Chinese territory, the emperor leading at least one of
them. Another general raids Liang chou and Ch'ang-sung hsien.
Tibetans and Eastern Turks successfully raid Liang
chou on a large scale, also
Sung chou and T'ao cho.
These raids are repeated. China appoints Kuo
Yüan-chen as Governor-General of Liang chou and Grand
Commissioner of the armies of Lung-yu, charging him to defend
the city. He will be successful for five years. Tibetans hold
a great levy of the Sumpas and raid Mao chou (Hsi chou), but
are driven off by Governor-General Ch'en Ta-tz'u.
Tibetan Emperor leads armies in a successful
campain to subdue `Jan on Tibet's
southeastern border. Western Turks reject the cruel
and vindictive Khusrau and turn to the Bagha Tarqan
*Ocïrlïq, a Türgis who had formerly submitted
to him. He gathers the tribes of the Western Turks around
Suyâb in defiance and finally captures it. Khusrau flees
to China. Many towns fell to rebellion in Lingnan. The rebellion
ended this time by treaty.
China appoints Khusrau's son to recapture the
The Tibetan Army spends summer on the Yoti River in Rmagrom and
in the winter campaigns against the Mywa in Nan-chao, the emperor
dying in the campaign. He is succeeded by his son Lha, who is
quickly dethroned by the dowager empress Khri ma lod in favor
of the infant Rgyal Gtsug ru. Revolts and executions follow.
Tibet and Western Turks cooperate in Tirmidh (strategic city on
the Oxus controlling the routes south to Balkh and north to the
Iron Gate, the mountain pass to Sogdiana), then under control of
Mûsâ in open rebellion against the Muslims. Tibetans
and Turks make allied assaults on this town, under the probable
leadership of *Arsïla T'ui-tzu. Tibet, having lost the
Tarim to China, is attempting to keep open the trade route via
the Pamirs and Tokharistan, part of which included Tirmidh. But
the assaults fail. Later in the year, the new Muslim governor
al-Mufaddal b. al-Muhallab, sends an expedition which along with
local allies defeats and kills the rebel.
On February 23, the former Tang emperor Chung-tsung
is restored and
on March 3, the dynastic name is changed back to Tang.
Like Tibet, China is consumed by internal power struggles. The
general Kuo Ch'ien-kuan and a Western Turkic general, *Arsïla
Kül Cur Chung-chieh, join forces to invade Ferghana, with
the apparent intention of of raising troops for an attack on
*Saqal in order to restore a pro-Tang *Arsïla Turk to power
over the On Oq. This fails, but the people of Ferghana call on
Tibetans and *Arsïla T'ui-tzu to rid them of the invaders.
They win a complete victory and chase the invaders into the Tarim,
presumably via the passes above Kashgar.
Al-Muhallab b. Abi Sufra, Governor of Khurasan, leads raids
into Transoxiana, but they are inconsequential. The Umayyad
Dynasty decides to appoint Qutaiba b. Muslim al-Bâhilî
Governor of Khurasan, who decides to exploit the internal quarrels
of Central Asia. He joins forces with the rulers of Balkh and
Chaganiyan to fight their neighbors and learns much about the
inner workings of Central Asia.
Qutaiba encounters stubborn resistance in the town of Paikent near
the Oxus River. The Muslims are forced to take it twice, killing
all the defenders and razing the town. Nîzak, prince
of Bâdghîs, submits to Qutaiba, who also captures
Baykand, international trade center in Sogdiana. Qutaiba captures
the Bukhara towns of Nûmuskath and Râmîthan.
· Kuo talks *Ocïrlïq to death, giving
the Eastern Turk leader Qapaghan Qaghan the chance to invade
the Türgis again, but he is unsuccessful. Eastern Turks
raid and cut up the forces of Chinese General Sha-ch'a.
*Arsïla T'ui-tzu presumably dies, is succeeded
by *Saqal as the
Turkic protector of Ferghana. The Tibetan emperor, Lha, is
deposed. China decides to conclude a new marriage peace with
Tibet and makes new plans to invade Ferghana.
On the way to besieging Bukhara, Qutaiba's supply lines are
cut by a combined army of Türks, Sogdians and Ferghanians.
He escapes back to Merv.
*Saqal discovers the plan and sends twenty thousand
riders to the Tarim
to attack the Chinese, smashing Chinese forces, trapping Kuo in
a palisade outside Kashgar and capturing *Arsïla Kül
Cur Chung-chieh alive. *Saqal declares himself Qaghan and has
his brother raid the Tang borderlands. The Tang army is lost
and the road to the Four Garrisons cut. Tang recognize *Saqal
as Qaghan of the Fourteen Surnames and the Türgis leave
the Tarim to the Chinese.
· Qutaiba tries
once again to take Bukhara, but is again defeated.
The Türgis are weakened because of conflict
between *Saqal and his
· Qutaiba makes peace with the
Sogdian king, Tarkhun, and drives a wedge between the allied
forces against him. This enables Muslim conquest of Bukhara. He
also suppresses a rebellion in Tukhâristan.
Qutaiba takes Shuman, Kish and Nakhshab. Samarkand makes
peace with him in exchange for tribute and hostages. Sogdians,
displeased with Tarkhun, despose him and elect Ghurak. Khurrazad,
younger brother of the ruler of Khwarizmia, raises a revolt
and becomes de facto ruler, using his power to rob the local
nobles. However, his brother sends secret requests of assistance
to Qutaiba in exchange for promises of tribute, giving him a
pretext for operations against Khwarizm.
A Tibetan royal, the retired Lha, marries a Chinese princess,
but the Chinese general Chang Hsüan-piao invades and
plunders northern Tibet. Tibetans are indignant, but do not
retaliate, possibly because of internal turmoil. They demand and
receive reparations – the "Nine Bends" land west of the
Yellow River. Over the next four years the Tibetans will build
fortresses, build a bridge over the Yellow River and station
two armies in the area.
· The Eastern Turks,
led by Kü Tegin (son of Elteris), invade the lands of the
Türgis, with the help of *Saqal's brother, Che-nu. They are
successful and *Saqal and his brother are executed. The invaders
remain in the west for several years to keep the Western Turks
Qutaiba sends his brother, Abd al-Rahman b. Muslim against
Khurrazad. The former wins and the latter is killed. 4,000
prisoners are publicly executed.
Qutaiba finishes taking Khwarizmia and then marches
on Samarkand, assisted
by Bukharan and Khwarizmian troops. The Sogdians give battle
at Arbinjan, but fail. In Samarkand, the ruler is overthrown
by his own people and Qutayba begins a month-long siege. Its
prince requests help from the king of Tashkent. A response
comes from the king's new overlord, the Qapaghan Qaghan of the
Eastern Turks, who sends Kü Tegin with an Eastern Turkic
army composed of men of Tashkent and Ferghana, who are however,
defeated by the besieging Muslims. Finally Samarkand surrenders
and Qutaiba establishes a garrison there. Meanwhile two serious
rebellions break out in Khwarizmia and have to be suppressed.
· In Tibet, the eight-year old Mes ag tshoms
accedes to the throne in an apparent coup.
In China, Jui-tsung's son Hsüan-tsung ascends the throne
on September 8. He is better known as Ming Huang (Brilliant
Emperor), the patron of the militaristic, empire-building faction.
Qutaiba gathers a sizeable army, mostly of
Transoxanians, and sends most of
it to capture Tashkent, which is successful. Among the
Türgis, the executions end central authority and a revolt
Qutaiba leads forces against Khuganda and Kâsân,
the two cities of Ferghana, but has no luck with either,
retreating to Merv.
· The rebel leader,
Tu-tan captures Sûyâb. Qapaghan Qaghan and Kü
Tegin reply, and also send an army to attack Pei-t'ing in Chinese
territory, which is crushed by Kuo. The Tashkent governor decides
to submit to the Tang. The Chinese governor follows up by seizing
Sûyâb, capturing Tu-tan and forcing thousands of Turks
to submit. Chinese power is re-established among the Western
Turks. Qapaghan Qaghan renews the attack on the Eastern Turks,
but Chinese defending armies turn them back. The Eastern Turks
retreat to the homes leaving the Türgis to re-organize
under new kaghan, Sulu (Abû Muzâhim). Muslim power
is reaching its zenith.
· Tibetans, led by
their Great Minister Khri gzigs, and their A-zha vassals raid
across the Yellow River, plundering from Lin-t'ao and Lan chou to
Wei-yüan (the region around the source of the Wei River).
Tang holding actions soften the blows. Tibet sends a mission to
propose a peace settlement, which is rebuffed. Henceforth the
Tibetans will raid the border annually.
The Tibetans enter into a brief alliance with them. Together
they defeat the local potentate and install Alutâr as the
new king. The deposed flees to seek help from Chinese forces
north of the Tien shan. Muslims pursue to just outside Kashgar.
· In Baghdad, Sulaiman (715-717) succeeds to
the Caliphate. On the outs with the new regime, Qutaiba moves to
Ferghana – is it an invasion or an escape? Certainly it is
a rebellion. But his army turns on him and he is killed, ending
Muslim conquests in Central Asia for quite some time. The only
other activity before 720 was a raid on Kashgar and conquest
of Dihistan on the Caspian Sea. Instead they consolidate their
· China musters an army of
10,000 under General Chang Hiao-sung – levies of Central
Asians – and force marches from Kucha to Ferghana. In
December, they attack Alutâr who is defeated and flees,
ending Muslim-Tibetan rule in Ferghana. For the first time,
the three Empires converge. Sulu sends an embassy to the Chinese
and receives two titles in return.
Tibet continues to raid China's eastern border. (Mo-cho'o)
Qapaghan Qaghan's reign ends after he leads the Eastern Turks
north to devastate the Bayarqu tribes. Although completely
victorious, he is ambushed and killed by Bayarqu on his return
journey. This prompts the T'ieh-le tribes of Bayarqu, Uighur,
Hsi and P'u-ku to surrender to China. Kü Tegin kill's the
Qaghan's son and then places his older brother on the throne,
Bilgä Qaghan. The Eastern Turks request peace with China.
Sulu and the Türgis gain strength and he declares himself
The Türgis regain much of their strength. They
continue to send tribute
to China, but also are spying on China. Chinese refuse a request
from the On Oq Qaghan for permission to attack Sulu. China
also refuses to accept gifts from Sulu's envoys, a diplomatic
rebuff. On July 10, China recognized the "King of Bolor" making
it clear that it intended to replace Tibet as dominant power
in Karakorum, Pamir and the Hindu Kush. Among the Muslims, the
new caliph extends offers of equality to the Transoxanian kings
– which is generally accepted. A Tibetan delegation visits
the new governor of Kurasan. On August 15, a Türgis-led
army of Tibetans, Muslims and Türgis lay siege to Aksu
and Üc-Turfan and harass the Four Garrisons. The Chinese
order *Arsïla Hsien, the Western Turkic qaghan, to lead the
Qarluqs in an attack on them. The attack succeeds, the Muslims
escaping back to Islamic territory and then to Tashkent. The
Tibetan army is defeated at the "Bends of the Yellow River"
by Kuo-Chih-Yün, military governor of Lung-yu.
Over the next three years, China employs
diplomacy. Various peoples from
Khurasan request help against the Muslims, including Maimargh
and Samarkand. The Chinese grant an official title to Sulu.
Tibetans pass through Little Bolor and Wakhan to raid the Four
Kumidh, Samarkand, Bukhara, the Yabghu of
Tukharistan and the king of
Kapisia request help. Sulu responds with a tribute mission.
The Türgis nevertheless take Suyab from China and pose as
protectors of Khurasan from the Muslims.
Wakhan, Udyana, Khuttal, Chitral, Kashmir,
Zabulistan and South Hindustan
send missions to the Chinese court. China bestows titles on
Udyana, Khuttal and Chitral. The king of South Hindustan wishes
to be ordered to attack the Muslims and Tibetans. An envoy of
Bilga Qaghan arrives at the Tibetan court. The Eastern Turks
foil a Tang-inspired plot to overthrow their qaghan. They besiege
Pei-t'ing and enslave the Basmil Turks. The then go on to raid Kan
chou and Liang chou, defeating the military governor of Ho-hsi and
robbing the Ch'i-pi Turkic tribes who live there. Tibetans capture
a "Chinese fort" called Sog-son. Stalemate ensues between the
China and the Eastern Turks.
· Muslims impose a
poll tax (jizya) on all nonbelievers. From 717, the more stringent
application of this law (circumcision and quizzes on the Koran)
by Abdallah al-Hakami, Governor of Khurasan, gives rise to a
large-scale anti-Umayyad movement in Samarkand. With the aid
of the Türks, they expel their rulers and all attempts by
the new Governor, Said b. Abd al-Aziz b. al-Hakam fail.
A new, expansionist caliph takes the throne and a new governor
of Khurasan, Said b. Amr al-Harashi, is appointed. A Turgis
army led by Kul Cur enters Sogdiana to support a rebellion of
nobles who renounce Islam. But then, the wished-for leader of
the rebels, Ghurak, decides to support Said. Thus weakened, the
rebels send envoys to the king of Ferghana, at-Tar, who agrees
to help them. The rebels flee to Ferghana.
Bilga Qaghan sends an envoy to China. There is no treaty, but a
tacit peace ensues.
· Kuo dies and is succeeded
by Wang Chun-cho, who proceeds to antagonize the Uighur, Chi-pi,
Ssu-chieh and Hun tribes living between Kan chou and Liang chou.
In Ferghana At-Tar imprisons the Samarkand rebels and informs
Said who sends a large detachment to kill them. Having destroyed
one group, they encounter Sogdians led by Divashtich at the
fort of Abargar (aka "the castle on Mt. Mug) on the left
bank of the Zerafshan. Fighting in a gorge, the Muslims win
a sortie and lay siege. The Sogdians are forced to surrender.
Then the Turks advance as far as Qasr al-Bahili on the road to
Samarkand when Said leads an army to victory against them. But
Said does not follow up and is defeated. He is forced to hold
Samarkand. Damascus sends a new governor, the military leader,
Mugassir b. Muzahim al-Sulami.
· Tibet occupies
Little Bolor. Its king escapes to China. China marches into
Bolor with an army of 4,000 Chinese and foreign troops under
Chang Ssu-li of Kashgar. On October 29, they rout the Tibetan
army and capture thousands. Tibet is set back in the West for
several years. Great rebellion in Annan (the south) is assisted
by Cham and Khmer. It is put down by China.
A Turgis army pushes the Muslims back across the Oxus in a major
defeat for the latter.
Muslims are moderately successful. Said leads
into Ferghana and devastates the country. The approach of a
Turgis army causes them to flee. They are caught by forces of
Tashkent and Ferghana before them. Only some manage to escape.
· Tu Hsien is appointed military governor
by the Chinese in the east. He accuses the king of Khotan of
plotting rebellion, captures and decapitates him.
Tu imprisons a Turgis envoy and allows 1000 of their horses
to die. He then goes to Loyang.
raids the Chinese Ta-Tou Valley, attacks Kan chou, burning
villages and retreating. Wang advances with an army in pursuit.
Tibetan army withdraws to the Ta-fei River (Jima Gol). A heavy
snowfall claims many Tibetans. Chinese pursue to Koko Nor where
Chinese had already burned the grasses, causing deaths of many
Tibetan horses. Just as the Tibetans had crossed the river,
they are attacked. Wang captures the supply train including
10,000 sheep and horses. The Lao rebel in the south and are
put down after a year.
On September 27, Tibetans and the A-zha attack and capture
the Chinese fortified city of Kua chou, capturing a great deal
of silk. Tibetans then atttack the Yu-men chun (Jade Gate),
capturing and releasing many monks. Another group of Tibetans
besiege Ch'ang-lo hsien in Kua chou, but fail to capture it.
Then the two Tibetan forces combine to attack Kucha where with
Turgis help they raided throughout the region and besiege the
city. China's one attempt to attack is rebuffed. Kucha city held
although there was much damage elsewhere. The siege is ended
after 80 days by winter. The Eastern Turks refuse to join in
these Tibetan adventures. Uighurs murder Wang and flee to Tibet.
On January 26, Chinese forces repulse Tibetan
The Lao rebel in the south and are put down after a year.
In the autumn, Tibetans raid Kua chou, but are driven off, then
attacked and pursued to Ta-mo-men where the Chinese capture 100
prisoners and much else. China forces burn the Camel Bridge and
return completely victorious. In the next month, Tibetans are
again defeated while on a raid at Chi-lien City (near Kan chou).
· Al-Sulami, Governor of Khurasan, tries to
reduce discontent by relaxing the poll tax. But this backfires and
revenues become too low, so the policy is reversed. This leads
to a major rebellion centered in Bukhara for a year with help
of Türks. The Muslims retain only Samarkand and Dabusiyya.
In April, Tibet loses 2 battles to China in the
northeast, the Chinese
capturing Shih-pao City and establishing a garrison there.
In summer, the Tibetans win a victory at Mu le cu le, killing many
Chinese. A Tang envoy does obeisance at the Tibetan central court.
· The Tibetan main army is in Sogdiana where
with the Turgis and Sogdians, they drive the Muslims almost
completely out of Sogdiana except for Samarkand, al-Dabusiyya
and Kamarga. These would have been lost as well but for the
indecisiveness of Ghurak. After a summer of hard fighting,
al-Sulami recaptures Bukhara.
· Sulu fails
to take the fortified Kamarga, despite Tibetan help.
A Tibetan envoy arrives at China to request
peace. China agrees and it
is settled by the end of the year. The Turgis send an envoy as
well and they also conclude peace with China. Tibetan armies
try to re-assert control over the Pamirs. They cross some of the
highest passes in the world to enter both Khurasan and the Chinese
Four Garrisons. By the end of the year the king of Wakhan had fled
· Samarkand rebels against Muslims,
with Turgis aid. A new governor is appointed for Khurasan, Junaid
b. Abd al-Rahman al-Murri. With al-Sulami they fight through
to Samarkand, but it will not be fully reconquered until 737-8.
Envoys from both the Turgis and the Muslims arrive
at the Tibetan court,
coming through the Pamirs via Wakhan and Bolor. Tibet has
neutralized Chinese influence in these regions.
Drought in Transoxania and Khurasan.
Famine in Transoxania and Khurasan caused by the drought of
the previous year. An anti-government movement led by Harith
b. Suraij breaks out in Khurasan, but is rapidly put down by new
governor, Asad b. Abdallah.
· Tibet and Turgis
conclude a marriage alliance.
· The king of
Kashmir sends an envoy to China claiming that the king of Central
Hindustan has defeated the Tibetans and blocked the five great
Tibetan roads. He offers to supply any Chinese army willing to
come to Bolor. China suspects Tibetan activities in the West.
China captures a Turgis mission to Tibet crossing the Pamirs
and discovers the closeness of the Turgis-Tibetan alliance.
Turgis raid Chinese western holdings in retaliation for the
execution of their envoy. Turgis besiege Kasghar, Qocho and
possibly Aksu, but without success. Wang and the general of
the Muslim east, Amir of Khurasan, conclude an informal alliance
which is approved by the Chinese court. The objective is joint
attack of the Turgis. The Khan of the Eastern Turks dies of
poisoning by one of his ministers.
Turgis mount major assaults against fortifid
Pei-t'ing and Aksu.
The siege of Pei-t'ing is defeated and Chinese General Kai
Kia-yun, governor of Pei-t'ing, inflicts a crushing defeat on
Sulu and the Turgis. Sulu calls for peace following the death
of his important general. China finally accepts on September 16.
· Later, the Tibetans march into Turkistan via
· Asad transfers his capital
from Merv to Balkh. Tibetans join the Turgis army and small
Central Asian states to make war on the Muslims.
China's reaction is to break the seven-year old
treaty and invade
northeastern Tibet. China gets surprise and enjoys victory after
victory. Tibetans send a peace envoy to China, but hostilities
continue. The Tibetans capture the pro-Tang king of Little
Bolor, securing routes through the Pamirs to the west. Tibetans
capture all of Little Bolor; tribute ceases to arrive in China.
· Asad launches invasion of Khuttal. Its
lord requests Turgis help. Assistance has also come from Sughd
and Tashkent. Sulu marches from Su-yab in 17 days to find the
Muslims already fleeing. The Turks attack them crossing the
Oxus and inflict serious losses. They capture a supply train.
The Muslims retreat to Balkh and de-mobilize for winter. The
Turgis remain in the field, gather troops from around Sogdiana,
split into small detachments and raid Khurasan. In early
December they attack Khulm, but are driven off by the garrison.
They bypass Balkh and take the capital city of Guzgan. Sulu with
a small force of 4000 is then surprised by a reconstituted Muslim
army at Kharistan – the Turgis are devastated. Almost all
their armies are lost. Some Sogdians flee to Tashkent. Three
different leaders proclaim themselves Qaghan.
Nasr b. Sayyar is appointed new governor of Khurasan and holds
the job for 10 years, consolidating the Muslim position on
Transoxania. Having served under Qutaiba, he understands the
situation well and tries a pacification policy by establishing
close relations with local elites, even marrying one of them. But
discontent simmers among the masses.
raids Ho-hsi, but are driven off. China then takes "New City" from
Tibet, establishing a garrison there. In the summer, 3 Chinese
armies invade Tibet from 3 directions, taking the Yellow River
bridge and building a city on the right bank. Chinese forces
successfully withstand Tibetan counterattack. On the eastern
front, Tibet is successful in defeating a large force trying
to recapture An-jung, the most important fortress on Tibet's
eastern frontier. Tibetan attempts to follow-up go nowhere.
Sulu is assassinated as the Chinese assist one of
the Turgis pretenders,
Baga-tarkhan, to eliminate his two rivals. Turgis submit to
China on November 4.
China takes An-jung by treachery in the
spring. Tibet at a new low.
China appoints a controversial qaghan of the On Oq to
keep the Turgis confederation divided. The Turgis respond by
rebelling. Chinese relent. The Turgis once again submit to China.
· The Muslim governor of Khurasan leads a major
campaign against Tashkent, now held by Sogdian rebels. He twice
fails, but gets minor concessions and then goes to Ferghana,
not encountering any Turks.
· In the Pamirs,
Tibetans conclude marriage alliance with Little Bolor and solidify
control of Wakhan and Chieh-shih. Tibetans send an envoy to
Chang-an to report their mourning for the death of the Chinese
princess and request peace, but are refused. In the 740's the
Ghwang clan of Annan wage private wars in the area.
Muslims again raid Ferghana. They regain Tashkent
by treaty, allowing the
Sogdian nobles to depart peaceably. The Muslims send a
formal embassy to China. Ferghana and Tashkent are still
nominally part of China and their rulers often try to get
Chinese assistance. The Muslims become too preoccupied with
the collapse of the Umayyad dynasty to do very much in Central
· In the summer the Tibetans assault
Ch'eng-feng Fort, survive a counterattack and turn west to attack
the Ch'ang-ning Bridge and the An-jen Armym, but are repulsed
by the Chinese garrison. At the end of the year, Meg leads a
campaign against the Tang, destroying the fortified city of Ta-hua
hsien, killing the inhabitants as retaliation for the massacre of
An-Jung. They also take the strategic fortress of Shih-pao City.
The khan of the Eastern Turks is murdered by an officer and
three vassal states rebel: Qarluqs, Basmil and Uighurs.
China again attempts to install a new qaghan of
the On Oq who is immediately
killed. China installs a new pretender among the Turgis.
Revolt among the Eastern Turks begin to tear apart their empire.
China raids northeastern Tibet, capturing 5000 out of a 30000
man Tibetan army. Tibet has another army defeated by the military
governor of Ho-hsi..
In the spring, Huang-fu leads a major expedition
into Tibet all the way to Hung-chi City which he takes.
China under General Fu-mung Ling-cha campaigns
against the Turgis qaghan and kills him. A Turgis envoy appears
at the Tibetan court. The Eastern Turkish empire is succeeded
by a Uighur and a Qarluq state. By 751 the Qarluqs will dominate.
In the autumn, Huang-fu attacks Shih-Pao and is
severely beaten by a combined
Huang-fu is replaced by Wang Chung-ssu. Tibet
seems to control the areas during
the winter while Chinese armies were immobilized. When the
grain is ripe, Tibetans would raid and collect it. The Tang are
powerless to prevent this.
By now China has failed three times to retake
Little Bolor from Tibet.
A Korean, Kao Hsien-chih, is appointed to govern the Chinese west.
Kao sets out with 10000 mounted warriors, Chinese and non-Chinese,
marching from Kucha to Aksu, to Gustik, to Kashgar, to Ts'ung-ling
in the Pamirs, to the Pamir Valley, to the T'e-le-man Valley where
the army is split into three parts and ordered to rendezvous
at the Tibetan fortress of Lien-yun in the So-le Valley. After
an all day battle, the Tang are victorious and 5000 Tibetans
perish. A thousand men, a thousand horses and many supplies are
captured. Kao leaves a garrison of 3000 and invades Little Bolor,
capturing the capital A-nu-yueh without a fight. He destroys the
suspension bridge leading to the east, preventing the Tibetan
army from coming to the rescue. He leaves a garrison of 2000
and returns to Lien-yun. In November he reaches the Pamirs and
then returns to Chang-an. On December 25, Qosu Khan appointed
military governor of Lung-yu. The military governor of Ho-hsi
is An Ssu-shun, cousin of An Lu-shan.
Abbasids, descendants of Abbas, the uncle of Muhammad, begin
a secret propaganda campaign agains the Umayyads. They send
Abu Muslim to Khurasan and Transoxania for this purpose. As a
result, rebels seize Merv and then all of Khurasan. The Umayyads
eventually collapse and the Abassids begin a new Arab dynasty.
In January, Qosu reports that he has constructed
a fortification on the shores
of Koko Nor, but later in this year he is attacked and
defeated there. He then builds a fortress named Ying-lung
City on the island in the Koko Nor. Tibet now avoids the
area. In the midsummer, Qosu leads an army of 63,000 agains
Shih-pao City. After several days battle, Chinese take the
fortress, but at the cost of tens of thousands. Qosu then
sends troops to dominate the west of C'ih-ling to establish
military-agricultural colonies. He also garrisons the island
fortress with 2000 convicts. On July 21, Shih-pao is renamed
Shen-wu. In the autumn, Lo Chen-t'an, king of Wakhan, travels
to the Chinese court and asks for permission to stay. Probably
Wakhan has become a Chinese vassal. An envoy from the Yabghu
of Tukharistan presented a petition concerning the Tibetans in
the Pamirs because it had been necessary to import supplies from
Kashmir through Chieh-shih because the Little Bolor garrison could
not be supported by the limited local agriculture. But the king
of Chieh-shih had taken Tibetan bribes and allowed them to build
one or more fortresses in his country with the intent of seizing
the main road to Little Bolor. In addition, Chieh-shih and Tibet
had been raiding Tukharistan. China approves sending an army to
Little and Great Bolor. Probably the Chinese had been raiding
in Chieh-shih giving the king no option but to ally with Tibet.
Kao again defeats the Tibetans in the Pamirs. In
April, a new king of
Chieh-shih is appointed. In Koko Nor, the Chinese attack Tibet's
Five Bridges and capture Shu-tun City. Nan-chao, a kingdom in
Yunnan, voluntarily submits to Tibet. This is the acme of
Chinese power in Central Asia, including direct rule of the
Tarim Basin states, Jungaria, Pamirian vassals of Little Bolor,
Chieh-shih and Wakhan, and a firm allince with Ferghana. The
Turgis are under heavy Chinese influence and the Tibetans in the
west only control Great Bolor. Tibetan power is at its nadir. The
Qarluqs were struggling with the weak Turgis for control of the
· A rebellion of the masses
erupts in Bukhara against both the Arabs and the local elites.
It is led by Sharik b. Shaikh. Abu Muslim sends a force of
10,000 against them, led by Ziyad b. Salih, but in 37 days
the rebels win every battle. Then, Qutaiba, ruler of Bukhara,
brings another 10,000 forces to the struggle and the rebels are
defeated, their leader killed. A similar rebellion in Samarkand
is also suppressed. Eastern Tukharistan and Khuttal maintain
virtual independence. Tashkent pretends submission to China,
but is autonomous.
· In the early part of
the year, the kings of Ferghana and Tashkent open hostilities
against each other. This prompts the Turgis to revolt and
side with Tashkent. Ferghana probably has the assistance of
Khuttal, recently fled from the Muslims, and also asks China for
help. China sends 100,000 warriors to besiege Tashkent, which
submits. Tashkent is plundered and the Turgis qaghan captured,
as well as some Tibetan chiefs. The son of the Tashkent ruler
escapes to the Muslims at Samarkand whose ruler appeals to the
governor of Khurasan.
Muslim reinforcements arrive in Samarkand in
May. Kao hears rumors that Muslims
and Central Asians intend to attack the Four Garrisons.
He gathers his army and marches west, including Qarluq and
Ferghana forces. In July, the two forces meet at Talas (Taraz).
The fierce battle lasted 5 days until the Qarluqs switched sides.
The Tang forces are routed, the escape route blocked by Ferghanian
troops, camels and horses. Some cut their way through, others
were captured and taken back to Samarkand. Some of the captives
teach the Muslims the art of papermaking. This is the only major
military confrontation between the Muslims and the Chinese.
Qosu captures the Tibetan cities of Hung-chi and
Ta-mo-men and gathers all
the tribes of the Nine Bends area. New armies are set up to
hold the territories. The new military governor of the Chinese
West, Feng Ch'ang-ch'ing invades Great Bolor. His forces reach
P'u-sa-lao, defeats the city defenders and receive submission. The
Tibetans are entirely rooted out of the Pamirs.
Chinese become aware of major internal problems
in Tibet. A prince of the Sumpa
surrenders to China. The emperor is murdered in a revolt by the
ministers On December 16, the Turco-Sogdian military governor,
An Lu-shan rebels against China, causing extreme disruption.
· The Abassid rulers in Baghdad do not trust
Abu Muslim and have him killed. This gives rise to a number
of rebellions since Abu had once promised to improve the lot
of the common man. The rebels, led by Sumbad, began in Nishapur
and spread throughout Khurasan and Tabaristan. The rebellion was
brutally suppressed, but sowed the seeds for further outbreaks
in Transoxania in the 770's.
The emperor's attempts to
put down the rebellion fails and both Feng Ch'ang-ch'ing and Kao
Hsien-chih are executed. Qosu is recalled and ordered to station
his army at the strategic T'ung Pass east of Chang-an and then
attack, only to be totally crushed and Qosu captured. The rebels
pour through the pass to Chang-an and the court flees. On the
second night, the party encounters a Tibetan embassy at Ma-wei
Station and slaughters them. The emperor's consort and rumored
lover of An Lu-shan, Yang Kuei-fei is strangled by demand of
the army. The emperor flees to Szechuan while the heir apparent
goes with a small force to Ling-wu (in the northwest) to organize
resistance. Once there, the heir usurps the throne and Hsuan-tsung
surrenders the regalia. Envoys from the western regions of Black
*Ganjak, Wakhan and Shugh nan pay homage at the Tibetan court.
With the Chinese garrisons in northeastern Tibet and Central
Asia gone, Tibet re-expands its frontiers. First to fall was Sui
chou on Tibet's eastern border, next a number of Chinese forts
in northeastern Tibet including Wei-jung, Shen-wei, Ting-jung,
Hsuan-wei, Chih-sheng, Chin-t'ien and T'ien-ch'eng as well as the
fortified cities of Pai-ku, Tiao-ko and Shih-pao. Then T'ao chou.
Troops are pulled out of Annan to fight An Lu Shan and the Ghwang
allegedly raised 200,000 troops in rebellion.
Tibetans capture the eastern part of Lung-yu tao.
Uighurs, former allies of the Qarluqs, destroy an
army of some 50,000 Kirghiz,
occupy some of the territory and cut off their communiction with
China. The Kirghiz move away and come to agreements with the
Qarluqs, Tibetans and Muslims. These are mostly concerning safe
passage for traders, which the Uighurs do not provide. Uighurs
are raiding/controlling the trade route between the Muslim
Empire and the Tibetan holdings. Tibet does not control the
Jungarian Basin, the Qarluqs do. Ghwang leader is captured,
but military conditions will persist in Annan to 771.
Tibet re-takes Chang-an from new emperor Tang
Tai-tsung (also areas north
and west of it) and install a Chinese emperor. From this point,
China is almost completely cut off from Central Asia, although
small garrisons are maintained in the Tarim Basin. China no
longer a major factor in Central Asian history.
Tibet takes Liang chou which they have been raiding
between 758-60. Kan chou and Su chou fall to Tibet.
Tibetans take Kua chou.
· Hashim b. Hakim, nicknamed al-Muqanna,
former Muslim commander under Abu Muslim, leads the people in
open revolt in Transoxania. He receives support from 60 towns
in the Zerafshan Valley and Kashka Darya. Then Kish falls to
the rebels dressed all in white to contrast with the black of
the Abassids. The caliph al-Mahdi (775-785) sends a large force
under Jibra'il b. Yahya to crush them. They attack Narshakh near
Bukhara, but take it only after a four-month siege. They also
defeat a reinforcing army.
Rebels in Transoxiana take over the entire Zerafshan Valley,
almost all of the Kashka Darya Valley and areas south of
Termez. Sughd becomes the rebellion's center. Jibra'il is dealt
a severe defeat near Samarkand.
A new governor of Khurasan, Muaz b. Muslim, advances with a
large force. Rebels gather at a mountain fortress, Sanam,
near Kish, and put up a stubborn resistance. A long siege begins.
Rebels at Sanam finally surrender, al-Muqanna committing suicide.
The ideas and spirit of the "people of the white clothes" will
survive to the 12th century.
Tibetans take the town and county of Shou-ch'ang (150 li
south of Tun-Huang). They are unsuccessful in their siege of
Tun-Huang. They also take Hami.
Treaty of Ch'ing Shui in 783 brings peace between
Tibet and China.
A Chinese rebel, Chu Tz'u, is aided by the Uighurs, but a Tibetan
force led by a Chinese general crushes Chu's army and turns
the tide in favor of the Tang. The Tang refuse to honor their
treaty obligations to hand over the military governships of the
west, angering the Tibetans. They consider the treaty broken.
Tibetans resume raiding.
Tibetans threaten Chang-an. On December 10, they
occupy Yen chou in the
southern Ordos, just north of the Great Wall. They also raid
and occupy Hsia chou, Lin chou and Yin chou, all located further
east along the Great Wall. This encirclement cause the Tang to
again sue for peace.
The treaty of P'ing-liang is abortive. Tibetans
therefore kidnap many
of the officials and withdraw their garrisons at Yen chou and
Hsia chou because they are too distant to easily supply, burning
them before departure. The Chinese minister Li Mi develops his
"Grand Alliance" strategy of containment: make peace with the
Uighurs (in the north), come to terms with Nan-chao (in the south)
and unite with the Muslims and Hindustan (in the west). All of
this is meant to cause trouble for Tibet and gain more horses.
The emperor is first opposed to any accommodation with the hated
Uighurs, but finally agrees. War breaks out between the Muslims
and Tibet. The Uighurs take the Chinese Central Asia garrisons
before a peace is concluded. Tibet takes Tun-Huang and are poised
to invade Lop Nor and the area of the Two Garrisons, Pei-t'ing and
Kucha. Khotan is still nominally governed by a Chinese resident
and the native king. Kashgar is probably already dominated by
the Qarluqs. Uighurs are harassing the people of Pei-t'ing and
some neighboring Qarluqs, both expanding their areas as well
as exorting exorbitant fees to passing traders. These peoples
secretly submit to the Tibetans.
Together they and the Tibetans attack Pei-t'ing
at the end of the year. The Uighurs attack the
besiegers, but are defeated. The city surrenders, the
Chinese governor fleeing with 2000 to Hsi chou. Due to this
defeat and political turmoil in their capital at Ordubaliq,
the Uighurs withdraw. They return in the autumn with a large
force along with the Chinese governor. Tibetans kill half the
force in the battle and the governor is killed by the Uighur
general. Kucha, the one remaining Chinese garrison, is now
completely cut off. The Qarluqs follow up by taking the Fu-t'u
Valley from the Uighurs, who retreat to their capital.
China loses Qocho to Tibet. Tibetans attack Ling
chou, but are driven off
by the Uighurs, who present the prisoners to China. Tibetans
and Qarluqs suffer a major defeat when the Uighurs retake part
of Pei-t'ing. The siege of the city continues.
Tibet takes Khotan.
Uighurs retake Pei-t'ing with many casualties on the losing side.
Uighurs also take Qocho and attack the Tibetan army besieging
Kucha. Tibetans are forced to retreat to Yu-shu, a fortified
town (560 li east of Kucha and 70 li west of Agni) where they
are besieged by Uighurs and destroyed.
As a result of Tibetan defeats, it requests soldiers
from Nan Chao, which
refuses and defects back to China. This weakens Tibet on its
southeastern border. Tibet settles down to a war of attrition
with the Uighurs around Qocho, eventually to be won by the
Uighurs. Tibet is involved in protracted war with the Muslims
and expands unassisted into the Hindu Kush via the Pamirs.
There is another rebellion in Annan which is put down.
Tibetans are defeated in a battle with China and
Nan chao. Fighting with the
Tibetans were Samarkandi and Abbasid Muslim troops, perhaps
those previously captured in battle.
A major uprising breaks out in Sughd, led by Rafi b. Laith, as a
continuation of the rising of the "people in white clothes". It
has repercussions in Nasaf, Tashkent, Ferghana, Khujand,
Ustrushana, Bukhara and elsewhere.
Samarkand rebels against the Muslims. Tibetans
Uighurs take Liang chou from Tibet. Tibet try to move the Sha-t'o
tribes away from the area, but they resist and flee down the
Yellow River to the north while fighting off the Tibetans. A
remaining 1300 surrender to China in Ling chou.
Chinese move the Sha-t'o east of the Yellow River.
Tibet's northern military governor leads a raid agasint the
Uighurs. 50000 cavalry ride via P'i-t'i Springs (300 li north
of Hsi Shou-hsiang City) to the Great Stone Valley and plunder
a Uighur embassy returning from China. The Muslim caliph Harun
al-Rashid himself sets out for Khurasan to deal with this problem
but dies en route. His two sons divided the empire and are soon
at civil war.
The Qarluqs throw off Muslim subjugation and the
king of Kabul raids Khurasan.
· Rafi is treacherous and the caliphate is
thus able to put down the rebellion.
The son who has inherited the eastern Muslim empire
is victorious. He wins another victory and changes
the Muslim capital to Merv. He now encourages
a jihad against the Central Asian nations with which he had made
peace, in particular, Kabul, the kingdom of the Utrarbandah,
the Qarluqs and Tibet. Kabul submits, the king becoming
Muslim. He had previously been a Tibetan vassal. The Muslim
commander Al-Fadl next triumphs in Wakhan and Bolor, then Utrar
(Qarluqs). He also captures Kasan and other citadels in Ferghana.
Tibet recovers somewhat and holds onto some of their positions in
the Pamirs until later in the century. Tibetans complete a bridge
across the Yellow River at Wu-lan and increase their raiding. A
Uighur army crosses the Gobi Desert to the south and attacks
the Tibetans west of Liu Ku (near Hsi Shou-hsiang City). Several
thousand Uighur cavalry ride to P'i-t'i Springs. Tibetans continue
to raid the area northeast of Lan chou up to the Gobi.
A Tibetan thrust penetrates to
within 2-3 days of the Uighur capital.
Uighur empire at its greatest extent. A Uighur
force appears in Usrusana
after attacking at Tibetan-Qarluq force to their west and chasing
them across the Jaxartes into Ferghana. Uighurs control the lands
near Talas, the Issyk Kul and Jungaria. Muslim envoy visits the
Uighur capital. Kirghiz war with Uighurs constantly. Tibetans in
Hami and Lop Nor keep the Uighurs out of the southern Tarim and
Kansu while Tibetans in Ho-hsi threaten the only Uighur direct
route to China (via P'i-t'i Springs). Landmark Sino-Tibetan
Treaty ends hostilities, but Uighurs are to receive a Chinese
princess in marriage alliance. Tibet feels slighted and raids
Ch'ing-sai Fort. A counterattack out of Yen chou forces them
to withdraw. Treaty is finally signed November 8.
Tibet makes peace with the Uighurs and also with
Nan chao. The last Sino-Tibetan treaty, carefully
treating the two countries as equals,
is signed. Both sides observe its stipulations to the letter
and peace lasts over twenty years.
A Uighur general defects to the Kirghiz and with
Kirghiz cavalry attacks the
Uighur cities, killing the qaghan and setting fire to the
capital. Uighurs flee in all directions. The breakup of the
Uighur empire is destabilizing
The Emperor of Tibet is assassinated by a Buddhist
hermit. In the succession
dispute, central authority disappears. Two generals fight
One general inflicts a serious defeat on the other
at the Yellow River Bridge.
Many Tibetan holdings in the Ho-hsi area surrender or fall
One of the generals marches into the pastures
Kan chou, perhaps to attack the Uighurs (moving into the area via
Etsin Gol). His rival tries to pursue with 5000 cavalry, but gave
up and then plunders Shan, K'uo, Kua, Su, Hami, Qocho and others.
Tibetan prefect of Tun-Huang defects to China. He
then leads a campaign
which takes Kua, Kan, Su, Lan, Shan, Ho, Mink, K'uo, Hami and
Qocho from the Tibetans. China appoints him military governor,
although he is quite independent. Khotan regains its independence
in the same year.
The military governor takes Liang chou from
Tibet. Little remains of Tibet's
A new upheaval shakes the Uighur state in the
Tibet has retaken K'uo and the rival general loses a battle
and his life. His head is sent to Chang-an. His followers flee
to China. Tibet only retains Lop Nor, Liang chou and parts of
[Top of Page]
- Beckwith, Christopher I.,
The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia: A History of the
Struggle for Great Power Among Tibetans, Turks, Arabs, and
Chinese During the Early Middle Ages
- Grousset, Rene, 1885-1952,
The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia
[Original French title: Empire des steppes]
History of the Civilizations of Central Asia, Volume III:
The crossroads of civilizations: A.D. 250 to 750
- "The Western Regions (Hsi-yü)
under the Tang Empire and the kingdom of Tibet" by Mu Shun-ying
and Wang Mao
- "Khwarizm" by E.E. Nerazik and P.G. Bulgakov
- "The Arab Conquest" by B.A. Litvinsky, A.H. Jalilov and
The Army of Tang China (Stockport, UK: Montvert
- A source not consulted is the diary of Du Huan, a Chinese soldier
captured at the Battle of Talas in 751 who spent a decade in
Baghdad as captive of the Abbasid Dynasy. His Jingxing ji survives
in part in the Tongdian of his cousin Du You. These passages
were gathered together by Wang Guowei and are included in Wang's
collected works. They have possibly not been translated from
Chinese as a whole.
Also ... [Top of Page]
The struggles of the
Tang Dynasty of China, the Muslim Empire and the Tibetan Empire over
Central Asia during the 7th through 9th centuries would seem to make
an interesting subject for a conflict simulation, although none exist
to my knowledge. It would probably be a three-player game with the
Eastern and Western Turkish states acting as neutrals. Since the
campaign was so long, probably a point-to-point system à la that
of We, the People would be the best approach.