Ērān ud Anērān
Webfestschrift Marshak 2003


Sogdians and Imitations of Byzantine Gold Coin Unearthed in the Heartland of China

Lin Ying*


Most imitations of solidus unearthed in the heartland of China indicate a close relation with Sogdians. Some of them are directly from the Sogdians' tombs; others are excavated out of areas where saw flourishing Sogdian communities in the Tang period. This paper thus begins with two questions: for what reason did the Sogdians in China choose these solely decorative coins as funeral articles; why the appearance of these coins concentrated in early Tang, i.e. the 7th century. The paper suggests that Sogdians in their mercantile context treated coins in a way distinct from Chinese agricultural society. Therefore, the Sogdian descendants, though lived for generations in the heartland of China, still demanded western gold or silver coins rather than Chinese copper coin to express their own concept for a prosperous life. On the other side, the seventh century witnessed the zenith of Sogdian culture and increasing knowledge and admiration of Byzantium in Sogdiana. This could influence the Sogdian to reproduce solidus instead of Sasanid silver coin for decorative purpose and funeral offering. The paper demonstrates through iconographic analysis that imitations of solidus in the heartland of China have the same prototypes with their Sogdian counterpart. The paper thus suggests, after examining the related literal and archaeological documents, that Sogdians left not only the imitations of solidus in the heartland of China, but also their imaginative depiction of Roman Caesar in the Tang literature.


I wish to express my sincere thanks to Prof. Cai Hongsheng, my teacher at Zhongshan University for his inspirations and encouragement during the course of my work. Prof. Yu Taishan and Mr. Zhang Xiaogui gave me many helpful suggestions on an early draft. My special thanks go to Dr. Lester Ness who read my later draft and improved the English writing greatly.

I. Introduction

Between1982 and 1987, five tombs came to light in the southern part of Guyuan, Ningxia Province, which date to the time through 609 CE (the fifth year of Daye, Sui dynasty) to 678 CE (the third year of Yifeng, Tang dynasty). According to inscribed tomb tablets, the four occupants were members of Shi family, whose ancestors had immigrated to China from the kingdom of Shi, i.e., Kushana, in Sogdiana. These tombs are well-known as the only family graveyard of Sogdian descendants unearthed from China.1 It is notable that four imitations of western gold coins were found in these tombs, among which one is identified as the imitation of a Sasanian gold coin, while the others are imitations of Byzantine solidi. In 1995, a genuine solidus was also found in the same family graveyard, from the tomb of Shi Daluo (d. 658). These solidi and imitations were placed in the mouths of the deceased or near their heads. Moreover, each tomb contains only one gold coin, implying they were deliberately and regularly placed in the tombs.

Moreover, discoveries of imitation Byzantine gold coins come to light, not only in Guyuan, but also from other places of Northern China, such as Xi'an (Shanxi province), Luoyang (Henan province), and Chaoyang (Liaoning province). These imitations can be classified into two categories. The first group can be identified with their originals. They are also similar to genuine solidi in weight and diameter (the standard solidus has a weight of 4.4 grams and a diameter of 2 centimeters). The second group can hardly be traced to the original models. They are struck as bracteates on a very thin flan (unstamped metal disk) or with only one die. The weight is less than 2 grams and the diameter is that of a genuine solidus.

Notably, most imitations of Byzantine gold coins from the heartland of China show direct or indirect connections with Sogdian descendants. Besides the above-mentioned Shi family tombs, an imitation solidus was unearthed from the tomb of Anpu and his wife near Luoyang in 1981.2 Anpu's ancestor was a high official in the kingdom of An, i.e., Bokhara in southern Sogdiana. Anpu himself once assumed the office of Greater Head in the six-barbarians-counties (Liu hu zhou) which saw flourishing Sogdian communities before the mid Tang period.3 Chaoyang, Liaoning province, where another imitation was unearthed,4 was called Yingzhou during the Tang period and was the hometown of An Lushan and Shi Siming, the famous Sogdian leaders of the An Shi Revolt.5 Nevertheless, the imitation solidus from the Hejiacun treasure hoard unearthed in 1970 was found together with many foreign gold and silver coins in a pottery jar, whose owner may have been Li Xian, the Zhanghuai prince.6 However, neither genuine solidi nor imitations were found among the numerous gold and silver funeral articles from Li Xian's tomb (d. 709 CE),7 implying that Chinese aristocrats did not use the imitation of Byzantine gold coin as a burial offering next to a dead person's skin, although they did have the coins at hand. This inference is strengthened by looking at their locations in comparison with that of Sasanian silver coins from the tombs of Chinese elites and Sogdian descendants of the same period. In the tomb of Shi Wushe (d. 609 CE), a member of Shi family at Guyuan, a Sasanian drachm was found next to the head of the deceased, contrasting with the Sasanian drachm in the tomb of Li Jingxun (royal family member, d. 608) which was placed in a small copperware jar, together with some agate and amber jewelry.8 Also at Guyuan, we find the tomb of Liang Yuanzhen (d. 699 CE), located only 350 meters away from the graveyard of Shi family. Liang Yuanzhen, like the members of Shi family, came from a prestigious local family. The tomb of Liang, however, contained only one hundred and four specimens of Kaiyuan tongbao, i.e., the Chinese copper coins in circulation at that time. These coins were scattered on the bed of the coffin, upon which the dead man lay. This arrangement further shows that Chinese elites did not employ western gold and silver coins as a personal burial article. On the contrary, this custom is more likely to associate with Sogdian descendants in China.9

Archeological evidence from the Sogdian territory also shows a similar funeral custom. A number of genuine and imitation solidi were found in tombs dating to the period between the sixth century and the eighth century CE. According to the catalogue prepared by Dr. A. Naymark, three specimens among a total of 41 genuine and imitation Byzantine coins can be defined as the burial articles next to skin. Two of them (no. 8, no. 14,) are found within or near the ossuaries, and the third (no. 16) was found under the arm of the dead person.10

Returning to finds in China, the time at which the imitation Byzantine coins appear is also worthy of notice. One Sasanian silver coin was unearthed from the tomb of Shi Shewu (d. 609 CE, the fifth year of Daye, Sui dynasty), the earliest among the five tombs of Shi family. Beginning with the tomb of Shi Suoyan (d. 658 CE, the third year of Xianqing, Tang dynasty), the tombs of Shi Kedan (d. 669 CE, the second year of Zongzhang, Tang dynasty), Shi Tiebang (d.666 CE, the first year of Qianfeng, Tang dynasty), and Shi Daode (678 CE, the third year of Yifeng, Tang dynasty) yielded four imitation gold coins. Except for the imitation Sasanian gold coin from the tomb of Shi Tiebang, the rest are all imitations of solidi.11 As for the relationships of the four tomb occupants, Shi Kedan and Shi Tiebang are the son and grandson of Shi Shewu, and Shi Dade is the nephew of Shi Suoyan. Judging from the official titles that they assumed, Shi Shewu and Shi Suoyan were both in the rank of the fourth class office. Starting from Shi Kedan, the official positions of the Shi family members gradually declined. We therefore have to face this question: the social and family statuses of Shi Shewu and Shi Suoyan are very close, why does the tomb of Shi Shewu, dating to the late Sui dynasty, have only Sasanian silver coins, while the tomb of Shi Suoyan buried half a century later yielded imitation solidi? The more reasonable answer seems to be that genuine solidi, precious diplomatic gifts from the steppe, could not reach the hands of middle-rank officials. Therefore, Shi Shewu had no choice but to employ Sasanian silver coin as funeral articles next to the skin.12 In the early Tang period, imitations of Byzantine gold coins started to come to Guyuan. Thus, in the tombs of Shi family, gold imitation coins replaced silver coins.

The dates of other tombs where imitation solidi are found show a similar time span, i.e., the seventh century or early Tang period. For instance, Anpu was buried in 709 CE (the third year of Jinglong); the tomb in Chaoyang, Liaoning province is dated to the time around 621 CE (the fourth year of Wude). The imitation solidus from Caojiabao, Xi'an was buried before 665 CE.13 The specimen from the Hejiacun hoard is dated earlier than the end of 8th century.14 Nevertheless, it quite possibly belonged to the coin collection of prince Zhanghuai and could reach the hand of prince Zhanghuai before he was exiled in 680 CE. The imitation solidus from Tumen, near Xi'an, also belongs to a tomb dated to the latter half of the seventh century CE.15 Therefore, two questions are raised by the above analysis: why did Sogdian descendants use western gold and silver coins as their personal burial articles? Why did imitations of Byzantine gold coins appear in the seventh century CE?

II. The Sogdians' ideas about coins

Employing coins as the personal burial articles can be seen around Eurasia, in various historical periods. This custom is referred to as obulus by archaeologists, originating from the ancient Greek habit of laying a small silver coin (obol) in the mouth of the deceased as the ferry charge to Charon, the god who transports the dead to the nether world.16 Noticeably, many excavations show that obulus was an enduring burial custom in Sogdiana.17 That coins not only circulated in the economic field, but also were widely distributed in the tombs, leads us to consider the significance of coin in Sogdian thinking. The Sogdians were skillful merchants, playing an important intermediary role along the "Silk Road" in the Middle Ages. As the Chinese sources report, "wealth being highly valued" had all along been a telling feature of Sogdian culture. The high social position of wealthy merchants is shown in Sogdian paintings of the time. As B. I. Marshak concluded, " 'Royal life' in Sogdiana was not an expression of official grandeur but a reflection of the luxurious life of affluent men."18

The worship of wealth in the Sogdian community is also recorded in Chinese sources. An Lushan shiji (a biography of An Lushan, written by Yao Runeng, Tang dynasty) says:

(An Lushan) traded secretly with the Hu merchants from several prefectures (dao). A million of precious exotics were conveyed to his seat each year. When the merchants arrived, Lushan took on his barbarian dress and sat in a well-decorated barbarian chair. He burned the joss sticks and displayed the treasures, commanding a hundred barbarians to stand on his left and right sides. The crowd of barbarian people prostrated themselves at the feet of him, praying to (their) god for happiness. Lushan then set out numerous sacrificial animals. The witches and wizards beat their drums, danced and sang. The ceremony did not end till the sunset.

The simultaneous display of treasures and joss sticks during this religious occasion reflects the importance of treasures in the mind of Sogdian people. Treasure stands for wealth, the reward of commercial activities. It might be on the basis of this idea that treasures become an indispensable tribute to gods in the Sogdian sacrificial inventory. Noticeably, excavations conducted in Sogdiana demonstrate that offerings to shrines included a great number of coins. In the site of Takht-I Sangin (the Temple of Oxus, Graeco-Bactrian period), for instance, over 370 coins has been unearthed, including specimens dating from the Seleucid dynasty, the Graeco-Bactrian Kingdom, and the Kushan Empire. The majority of these monetary tributes are copper and silver coins, currency for daily purpose. Noticeably, the coins offered in the earlier times were carefully packed and buried underground when the temple was rebuilt in the following Kushan Empire, indicating a continuation of their role as religious offerings.19

The significant role of coins in Sogdian culture may account for the prevalence of obolus in this area. Nevertheless, when Sogdian people immigrated into the heartland of China, they had to confront a very different cultural setting. China had been an agricultural society since ancient times, and merchants were traditionally looked down upon. Accordingly, coins, though connecting with wealth, had nothing to do with social position. In the encyclopedias compiled during the Tang and Song periods, the records about coins are organized in an independent chapter, separate from the parts on treasure.20 A comparison of the funeral customs of Tang tombs at Turfan, Xinjiang province, where the culture of Central Asia had a long and profound influence, with that of Xi'an, the Tang capital, located at the heartland of China, reveals that the majority of coins from the Xi'an graves are Kaiyuan tongbao, i.e., contemporary Chinese copper coins. They were scattered on the bottom of coffin or placed in the container. On the other hand, the Turfan tombs dating to Tang period, contained not only Chinese copper coins, but also an number of Persian silver coins and Byzantine gold coins.21 These western coins are often found in the month of the deceased. Clearly, it is the different perceptions of money in Sogdiana and China that resulted in the end of obolus in the core land of China.

Inscriptions on the tomb tablets show that Shi family at Guyuan included two offshoots, that is, Shi Shewu's family and Shi Suoyan's family. The ancestors of Shi Shewu immigrated into Yuanzhou, i.e., modern Guyuan, during the late Northern Wei dynasty (Northern Wei, 386-534 CE). The ancestors of Shi Suoyan moved to Yuanzhou from Jiankang (nowadays Zhangye, Gansu province) in 439 CE (the fifth year of Taiyan, Northern Wei dynasty). Down to the generation of Shi Tiebang and Shi Daode, Shi family settled down in Guyuan for over two centuries. The family members participated in the war of reunification started by the founders of Tang Dynasty, then became local officials in the succeeding time of peace. Their activities seem not to be very different from those of the local Chinese gentry. In addition, Guyuan did not have an active Sogdian community. Therefore, the migration of the Shi family could not have proceeded from the collective eastward movement of Sogdian merchant groups. We therefore may conclude that the Shi family at Guyuan, among the Sogdian descendants in the heartland of China, had no close relations with larger Sogdian communities, and was influenced more directly by the local Chinese culture. Nevertheless, the locations of the western and Chinese coins in the family graves indicate that Sogdian tradition still occupied an important role in their minds. Nine current Chinese copper coins (Kaiyuan tongbao) were found on the north side of the coffin of Shi Kedan, while six Kaiyuan tongbao were found in the east side of the tomb chamber of Shi Tiebang. Five Kaiyuan tongbao were also unearthed from the tomb west of that of Shi Daode (No. 82M2; it has been severely damaged. Judging from the Kaiyuan tongbao coins, this tomb dates to the same period of the tomb of Shi Daode, and possibly belongs to the Shi family). Clearly, the Shi family had accepted the local funeral custom of spreading Chinese coins in the coffin and grave chamber, as the family of Liang Yuanzhen had. Nevertheless, the locations of these copper coins reveal that members from Shi family did not select Chinese coins as obolus, because Kaiyuan .tongbao can not be the articles of treasure in Sogdian thinking. Therefore, the presence of imitations of Byzantine gold coins in the seventh century CE is most likely a choice made after deliberate consideration, and an expression of the Sogdian tradition.

III. Why Sogdians chose imitation solidi as the obolus in the seventh century

The seventh century CE is a unique era in the history of Sogdiana. The archaeological finds dating from this period demonstrate that Sogdian culture reached its zenith at this time. Noticeably, the imitations of Byzantine gold coins have been unearthed from the graves, temples and even houses of wealthy citizens, implying that Byzantine coins found favor in the eyes of contemporary Sogdians. From the sixth to the eighth centuries, Sasanian silver coins and local copper coins were the major currencies in this region.22 The gold coins which occasionally appeared included Byzantine solidi and five types of Sasanian commemorative gold coins that were all minted in Merv during the reign of Shapur II. In contrast to the large amount of Sasanian silver coins that played an active role in the local economy, the monetary function of Byzantine gold coins in the region is uncertain. Dr. A. Naymark examines two terms which possibly refer to solidi in the Sogdian vocabulary. The first word is qysr'n, originating from qysr, namely, Caesar, the title of Roman emperor.23 The second word is st'yr, referring to the stater, a weight unit for gold. Nevertheless, the received Sogdian sources on gold coins are too few and vague to provide us with enough evidence for further analysis.24 In general, Dr. Naymark believes that Byzantine gold coins may not have been employed in the local market, but rather, they were stored as ingots by the Sogdian merchants.

The catalogue of Byzantine gold coins and their imitations compiled by Dr. Naymark include twenty-two imitations of solidi and one imitation of a Byzantine copper coin, amounting to half of the total of forty finds. Most imitations are of 1 millimeter in thickness and less than 1 gram in weight. Moreover, this figure may increase, because that some specimens that were taken as real solidi are most likely to be well-produced imitations, misidentified due to the result lack expertise in Byzantine numismatics. These imitations are no doubt of indigenous provenance. Judging from their size and weight, they could not be easily used as coins or ingots for economic purposes. We therefore face the question: why did the Sogdian people imitate Byzantine gold coins?

Although Sogdian sources on solidi are limited, a record preserved in Tang literature provides us with a trace of how gold coins were used in this area. Xifan ji taken from Tongdian, juan 193 says:

People in the Kingdom of Kang [i.e., modern Samarkand] take the first day of June as New Year's Day. When this day comes, the king and ordinary people all take on their new clothing and cut their hair and beards. In the woods east of their capital, they hold celebrations, including horse-riding and arrow-shooting, for seven days. On the last day, a gold coin is placed on the card. Whoever can shoot the coin will be granted the throne for a day.

The archeological evidence shows that solidi were the major gold coins in Sogdiana from the sixth to the eighth centuries CE. The "gold coin" in this record may thus be considered as a solidus or an imitation. It is the role that gold coins played at this New Year's celebration which deserves our further consideration. The bowman who could hit the gold coin would assume the throne for a day. Gold coins are thus associated with the throne in this game. Solidi are called qysr'n, i.e., "Caesars" by Sogdians, indicating the very connection between gold coins and the respected title of Roman emperor. It is most likely derived from the portraiture of Byzantine emperor on the obverse of solidi. Nevertheless, we should pay more attention to the political meaning of this name. Coinage was not only currency for circulation but also symbolic of imperial authority in Byzantine Empire. The strict prohibition on imitating solidi in the Byzantine Empire came from both economic demands and political considerations. For instance, making coins for jewelry was prosecuted as high treason: counterfeiting coin always constituted a major offense, and in Late Antiquity it became a sacrilege. The unauthorized issue of coins was looked upon as a threat to the ruler and an attempt to usurp the ruler's authority. The consequent punishment was execution by decapitation. Valerianus Paetus, for example, "...lost his life because he had stamped some likenesses of himself and plated them with gold to serve as ornaments for his mistresses."25 His method of producing these tokens was the same as the official method of minting under Caracalla, during whose reign he lived. Valerianus's case is significant because it shows that such tokens, although produced solely to be worn as jewelry, were viewed by the authorities as competing with legal currency. On the other hand, numismatic jewelry was used both in public life and private sphere. It is clear that such ornaments had undeniable amuletic functions, based on the power of the imperial image and certain decorative forms. Obviously, the portrait of emperor on solidi and numismatic jewelry always embodies the imperial power. Sogdians thereby connected Byzantine gold coins with the title of Roman emperor.

In addition to the use of gold coins in the Sogdian New Year festival, another question is worth more attention: why did Sogdian people, so far from Constantinople, choose to counterfeit solidi instead of Sasanian drachms, coins that were more familiar to them and easier to obtain? The Byzantine coins and their imitations from Sogdiana date mostly on the fifth and sixth centuries CE, the very time that Sogdians were most actively engaged in economical and political activities in inner Eurasia. In 568 CE, the famous delegation from the Western Turk Qaghanate to Constantinople was led by Maniakh, a Sogdian confidant of the Qaghan.26 In Perm region of Russia, Byzantine silverware with Sogdian inscriptions excavated from the tombs of nomadic people show that some Byzantine products are transmitted north by the Sogdian trading network.27 Some archaeological evidence hints at the existence of admiration for Byzantine commodity in Sogdiana. For example, there is an imitation Byzantine stamp on silverware of local provenance. This trend is also reflected in contemporary Chinese sources. According to Cefu yuangui, (an encyclopedia compiled in the eleventh century CE) Dusaboti, king of Bokhara (the kingdom of An), presented a carpet embroidered in Byzantium (Fulin xiu) in 719 CE (the seventh year of Kaiyuan during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong). His tribute inventory preserved in the same volume says:

"Now I make the tribute of two Persian ? ...one carpet embroidered in Byzantium, thirty jin (0.5 kilogram) of tulip incense, one hundred jin of raw stone honey ... in addition, my wife, Kadun, presents two big Tabi (woolen) carpets, one embroidered carpet, to the Emperess."

Clearly, the fact that the carpet was the king's tribute particularly emphasizes its Byzantine provenance. In comparison to the indigenous carpets from the queen, the textile from Constantinople was ranked as higher class. Nevertheless, the Sogdian connoisseur of Byzantium is not confined to material culture, and they clearly acknowledged the political importance of the Byzantine Empire in Eurasia. In juan 221 of Xin tangshu (the new standard history of the Tang dynasty, compiled in the eleventh century CE), we find the following note:

The kingdom of He (Kushana), is called qushuangnijia or guishuanni. It was once ruled by the sub-king of Kangju Kingdom, i.e., the fumi city recorded in Han shu ( the standard history of Han Dynasty, compiled by Ban Gu in the first century). At the left side of city, there stands a magnificent building. On the northern wall is painted the portrait of an ancient Chinese emperor. The images of Turkic and Brahman (Indian) kings are on the eastern wall. The western wall depicts the kings of Persia and Fulin (Byzantium). Every morning the king of Kushana prostrates himself before these murals and leaves.

The murals in Kushana is most likely a Sogdian expression of the well-known story of four sons of heaven,28 namely the ruler of the country of human beings (the Chinese emperor), the ruler of the elephant country (the Indian king), the ruler of the treasure country (the Persian or Byzantine emperor), as well as the ruler of the horse country (the Qaghan of the Turkish Empire). They ruled the four directions of the world. Presumably it is based on the admiration of Byzantine achievements, cultural and political, that Sogdians chose to imitate the gold coins from Constantinople.

IV. The headdress of Caesar: from Sogdiana to China

Using the iconographic features on the obverse of the imitation coins, the Chinese specimens can be divided into three categories, resembling in this their Sogdian counterparts. The catalog compiled by Dr. A. Naymark includes 34 specimens of genuine solidi and imitations that can be traced to the originals (28 specimens of gold coins and 6 specimens of copper coins). Among the gold coins, the imitations amount to 22 specimens, of which 14 specimens show the emperor in military dress. The rest are of two types: Phocas (re. 602-610 CE) or Heraclius (re. 610-641 CE) and the co-emperors, Heraclius and Constantine (re. 641 CE). Identically, among the total 10 specimens unearthed from the heartland of China, five coins belong to the military dress type, two imitations was attributed to the form of Phocas or Heraclius, and the others are of the type of co-emperor Heraclius and Constantine.29

Furthermore, four specimens in the military dress type (totaling five) come from the gravesite of the Shi family, Guyuan, reflecting their close relation with Sogdiana. On the other hand, the chronology of Sogdian imitations and bracteates extends from the fourth to the eighth century CE. Their counterparts in the central area of China are all dated to the latter half of the seventh century CE, also within the same time span. In general, the imitation coins with the type of military dress are the most numerous and have the longest presence, from Sogdiana to China.

In Byzantine, portraits of emperor on solidi fairly consistently showed military dress from the fourth to the early seventh century CE. In the seventh century, it became less common, and under the Isaurians, military types disappeared completely. The military types can be classified into two groups: the first shows a three-quarter facing bust, the emperor was represented in military garb, holding a spear and shield. Under his helmet with plume, the emperor wears a simple diadem, usually shown as a band with two lines of pearls, pendilia hanging down on each side. The second is similar to the first type in the emperor's costume. The difference lies in the globus cruciger (globe and cross) hold by emperor's right hand.30

The helmet with plume represented on the obverse of solidi reminds us of the description of the crown of the Fulin king, i.e., the Byzantine emperor, in Xin Tangshu, juan 198:

His crown looks like the raising wing of bird. His crown and lace are all set in precious stones. He wears an embroidered brocade costume, which is not cut open (like Chinese garment). He sits on a throne decorated with gold flowers.

This record cannot be seen in the earlier Chinese sources. Du Huan, the first Chinese to personally travel around Western Asia in the Tang period, made no mention of the costume of Byzantine emperor in his Jingxing ji. It seems impossible, on the other hand, that this account had a Byzantine origin. In the same period, the Byzantine crown was usually shown as a band with two lines of pearls, which is called diadema or stephanos in Greek sources, denoting victory and kingship. An elaborate diadema with pendilia hanging down on each side first appears on coins of Tiberius II (re. 578-582 CE).31 The helmet represented on the obverse of solidi is called toupha, tiara or touga, exclusively associated with military triumphs. It is distinguished from the "diadema" before the seventh century, a plain, low cylindrical band with no superstructure.32 Nevertheless, facing the bust of Caesar on solidi, people who were not familiar with the inner structures of these headdresses may easily blend the helmet and diadema together. The crown thus consists of two parts, the feature-decorated upper part and lower part with inlaid precious stone and hanging-down lace. Indeed, it now "looks like the raising wing of bird. His crown and lace are all set in precious stones."

As mentioned above, the image of the Byzantine Caesar appeared in the murals of Kushana. How did the Sogdians depict the Byzantine emperor and what could this representation be? It is noticeable that the contemporary Chinese sources on Sogdiana mention many details of the throne and dress of Sogdian kings. The chapter of Xiyu (western region) in Sui shu (the standard history of Sui, compiled in the early seventh century CE) notes:

The kingdom of Kang (Samarkand)...the king plaits his hair, and his crown is the gold flower inlaid with seven treasures. He wears the dress of satin silk, brocade, and white cotton.

The kingdom An (Bokhara) ...the king sits on the throne decorated gold camel, seven to eight chi (each chi equals to 33 centimeters) in height.

The kingdom of Bohan (Farghana) ... the king sits on the chair decorated with gold goat. His wife wears the gold flower.

The kingdom of He (Kushana) ...the king's family name is Zhaowu, and he is also the offspring of Kang kingdom...the king sits on the throne decorated with gold goat.

Such descriptions continued till Tang period. Xin Tangshu (new standard history of Tang, compile in the eleventh century) juan 221, chapter on Xiyu, begins with the account of the royal headdress of Samarkand's king (kingdom of Kang):

The king (of Kang) wears a woolen headgear with the ornaments of assorted gold jewelry.

In comparison with other sources written in the same time, the above mentions of the Sogdian royal dress are convincing. From the late reign of Empress Wu to the first year of Kaiyuan (713), Chang'an and Luoyang, the two capitals of Tang Dynasty, saw the prevalence of a Sogdian festival that was called "splashing cold barbarian game" or "splashing barbarian king for rich coldness".33 The biography of Emperor Zhongzong (re. 705-710 CE) in Jiu Tangshu (the old standard history of Tang, compiled in the tenth century CE) records that the festival was celebrated by Emperor Zhongzong and his ministers:

In November of the first year of Shenlong (705 CE), his majesty arrived at the south gate of Luoyang city to see the splashing cold barbarian game.

In December of the third year of Jinglong (709 CE), his majesty commanded the senior officials of all ministries to go to the Liquan Lane to watch the game of splashing barbarian king for rich coldness.

According to the chapter of Xiyu in Jiu Tangshu, the festival came from Samarkand, the kingdom of Kang in Sogdiana:

In November, (the local people) beat drums and dance, praying for coldness. They splash water for each other. The scene is very joyful.

The hero in this festival ceremony is a barbarian king, i.e., a king from Samarkand. What is then the dress of this Sogdian king? Right after Emperor Zhongzong watched the ceremony in 709 CE, Zhang Shui, the official of Grand Secretary, pleaded with Emperor Zhongzong not to allow the celebration of this festival. In his poem entitled Yi suile he described the grand scene of this festival in Chang'an. The second part of Yi suile tells us the very dress of the barbarian king:

Embroidered dress, silk kerchief, and flower crown inlaid treasures

The barbarian songs and the horse-dances are performed before people

Water splashed (by these barbarians) is forming cold air now

How do they really concern the coldness of coming year

Clearly, the dress of Sogdian king in this game is identical with the account of Suishu, namely, "his crown is gold flowers inlaid with seven treasures".

On the other hand, the pictures on the funerary couch from Anjia's tomb, which is excavated at Xi'an, Shanxi province, in 2000 provide us more iconographical testimonies for our present argument.34 Anjia (?-579 CE) was a Sogdian descendant from Bukhara, who took the office of Tongzhou (nowadays Dali county, Shanxi province) Sabao, i.e., the head of Sogdian community, in the Northern Zhou period. Prof. Rong Xinjiang has pointed out that the figure wearing a woolen hat on the panel pictures should be Anjia himself, furthermore, the frequent appearance of such portraiture in the Sogdian funerary couch unearthed from the heartland of China indicates that it is a typical depiction of Sabao, the leader of Sogdian immigrants.35 Noticeably, the most telling feature of this figure is the woolen hat on his head. It is this headgear which identifies Sabao and distinguishes him from the attendants who wear the same kind of Sogdian clothing. Clearly, the hat that Sabao wears is the expression of his status as leader. It is can also be witnessed by a record in juan 403 of Taiping guangji:

The custom of the barbarian (Hu ke) people, they hold an annual meeting with their townsmen. All of them will display the treasures that they bring. The person whose treasures are of greatest number will wear a hat and sit on a chair. The others are ranked in turn according to the quantity of their treasures.

The headdress of king is also of detailed depiction in the Sogdian paintings dated to the seventh and eighth centuries CE. The mural from the palace of Devashtich at Penjikent, for instance, made fine paintings of two rulers' diadems and tall caps.36 Likewise, the image of Varkhuman, the king of Samarkand, from the Afrasiab murals, provides a carefully depicted crown before us.37 Clearly, from Central Asia to China, the literary and iconographical evidences both indicate the Sogdian representation of ruler: their headdress needed to be carefully depicted because that the crowns symbolized their status and authority. Presumably, beginning with their own idea of royal dress, the Sogdian people completed the imaginary representation of Byzantine Emperor with the help of the portraiture on the obverse of solidi. When the Sogdian imitation solidi found their way in China in the seventh century CE, the Sogdian image of Roman Caesar also assisted the Chinese to create a new description of the legendary ruler of the treasure country.


Azarpay, Guitty, Sogdian Painting, University of California Press, 1981.

Blockley, R.C., The History of Menander the Guardsman, Liverpool, 1985, ARCA 17.

Bruhn, Jutta-Annette, Coins and Costume in Late Antiquity, Washington, Dumbarton Oaks, 1993.

Cai Hongsheng, Tangdai Jiuxinghu yu Tujue wenhua, Zhonghua shuju, 1998.

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* Zhongshan University, China

1 See Luo Feng, (1996).

2 Luoyang wenwu gongzuodui, Luoyang Longmen Tang Anpu fufu mu (The tomb of Apu and his wife in Longmen, Luoyang), Zhongyuan wenwu, March, 1982, p. 21-26.

3 About the inscription of Anpu tomb and discussions on the Six-barbarian-counties, see Rong Xinjiang (2001), p.92, n. 2.

4 Liaoning wenwu kaogu yanjiusuo, Chaoyang shuangtaqu Tangmu, Wenwu, November, 1997, p.51-56.

5 Rong Xinjiang (2001), p. 106.

6 Chen Zunxiang, Xi'an Hejiacun Tangdai jiaocang qianbi de yanjiu, Zhongguo qianbi, March, 1984, p. 30-32.

7 Shanxisheng bowuguan, Tang Zhanghuai taizi mu fajue jianbao, Wenwu, July, 1972, p. 13-19.

8 Xia Nai, Zongsu Zhongguo chutu de Bosi Sashan yinbi, Kaogu xuebao, January, 1974, Table 1, 14.

9 In the earlier periods, like Northern Zhou and Sui, some relatives of the Royal family and high officials employed Byzantine gold coins as funeral articles, however, this group is of exclusively genuine solidi and absence of Sasanian silver coins. See Lin Ying, The gold coins of Kaghan: Western Turks and the Eastwards Diffusion of Solidus, Transoxiana 6, http://www.transoxiana.org/0106/index06.html, June, 2003.

10 A. Naymark (2001), p. 99-125.

11 Luo Feng (1996), 152-158.

12 See Lin Ying, n.7.

13 Zhang Haiyun and others, Xi'an shi xijiao Caojiabao Tangmu qingli jianbao, Kaogu yu Wenwu, February, 1986, p. 22-26.

14 Shanxisheng bowuguan, Xi'an nanjiao Hejiacun faxian Tangdai jiaocang wenwu, Wenwu, January, 1972, p. 30-42.

15 Xia Nai, Xi'an Tumencun chutu de Baizhanting jinbi, Kaogu, August, 1961, p. 446-447.

16 Luo Feng (1996), p. 159.

17 Otani Nakao (Wang Weishen, Liu Yong tr.), "Guangyu sizhe kouzhong hanbi de xisu", Renwen zazhi, May, 1991, pp. 80-86; January, 1993, pp. 81-87.

18 Guitty Azarpay, (1981), p. 27.

19 E.V. Zeymal, Coins from the Excavations of Takht-I Sangin (1976-1991), Studies in Silk Road Coins and Culture: Papers in Honour of Professor Ikuo Hirayama on His 65th Birthday, The Institute of Silk Road Studies, 1997, p. 89-111.

20 Huang Xiaodong, Tantan leishu zhong de qianbi shiliao, Zhongguo qianbi, February, 1990, p. 73-77.

21 Chen Anli, Xi'an Turfan Tangmu muzang zhidu bijiao, Wenbo, January, 1991, p. 60-66.

22 E. Vaissière, 2002, p. 167-171.

23 A. Naymark, p. 136.

24 A. Naymark, p. 138.

25 Jutta-Annette Bruhn, 1993, p.1-2.

26 R. C. Blockley, 1985, p. 111-123.

27 Th. S. Noonan, Russia, The Near East, And The Steppe In The Early Medieval Period: An Examination Of The Sasanian And Byzantine Finds From The Kama-Yraks Area, Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi, Wiesbaden, 1982, v. 2, p. 289-290.

28 Cai Hongsheng, 1998, p. 70, n. 54.

29 See, Francois Thierry et Cecile Morrisson, Sur les monnaies Byzantines trouvées en Chine, Revue numismatique, 1994, 6 série, XXXVI, p. 109-145; Luo Feng, Guanyu Xi'an suochu Dongluoma jinbi fangzhipin de taolun, Zhongguo qianbi, April, 1993; Kang Liusuo, Zhongguo jingnei chutu faxian de baizhanting jinbi zongshu, Zhongguo qianbi, April, 2001, p. 3-9.

30 P. Grierson, 1999, p. 25.

31 Rolf Hurschmann (1997) Diadema, in Der Neue Pauly.Enzyklopaedie der Antike. Herausgegeben von Hubert Cancik und Helmuth Schneider. Altertum. Bd. III. ClEpi. Stuttgart & Weimar: Verlag J. B. Metzler. 1997. p. 498-499.

32 Elizabeth Piltz, 1977.

33 Xiang Da, 1999, p. 73-77.

34 Shanxisheng kaogu yanjiusuo, Xi'an faxian de Beizhou Anjia mu, Wenwu, January, 2001, p. 4-26.

35 Rong Xinjiang, p. 126.

36 Guitty Azarpay, p. 64-65, fig. 30.

37 See www.afrasiab.org, reconstruction of the southern wall painting.

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