Ērān ud Anērān
Webfestschrift Marshak 2003


Aspects of the relationship between the ancient Turks and Sogdians -Based on a stone statue with Sogdian inscription in Xinjiang-

Takashi Ôsawa*


This paper will discuss on the historical and cultural problem of the stone statue with Sogdian inscription which discovered in the Yili steppes of Xinjiang in China by the philological and archaeological method. Nowdays this is one of the most famous stone statues of Xinjiang since the discovery of 1953, however, it has not been studied well from the viewpoint of the ancient Turkish history. Especially it seems undouted that this has a remarkable feature in the respect of having Sogdian text, which consisted of ca. 21st lines written in Sogdian letter and Sogdian language. But such condition of reserches on this has been exchanged after the reseches of the joint exproration between reseachers of the Archaeological Institute of Xinjiang region and Japanese reseachers of some Universities and the National Museum in 1990's. I will clarify the historical significance of this stone statue according to Japanese Iranist Prof. Y. YOSHIDA's preliminary reports of 1991 and his reconsideration of 1992 as follows: First, this stone statue can been belonged to the Western Turkish Qaghanate according to this location and the contents of the first half lines of this text. Moreover Sogdian text was inscribed for the grandson of Muqan Qaghan, ... Pay Niri Qaghan who we can identify as the son of Yang-su Tigin, Ni-li Qaghan based on the Chinese records such as SS, TT etc. And we can mention that Ni-li Qaghan was nephew of Da-luo-bian, later Apa Qaghan who was son of Muqan Qaghan. In this way, we can propose new genealogy of the Western Turkish Qaghans of Muqan Qaghan except the Geneaology of Istemi and Da-tou Qaghans.

Secondly as to the period of this text, it seems probable that it was inscribed in his second funereal ceremoney which held about 3-6 months later than the death of Ni-li Qaghan according to the traditional Turkish customs described in ZS50. Of course this was also regarded as the period of his successor, the son of Ni-li Qaghan, Chu-luo Qaghan. As to the period and the reason Ni-li's death, how ever, since it is very problematic, I reconsidered from the viewpoints such that his Chinese Hatun, Xiang-shi had marraged again with the little brother, Bo-shi Tigin, and they made sent as ambassadors to the Sui dynasty, however they could not coma back to the court in the Yildiz steppe in Spring 600 because of the rebellion risen by Da-tou (grec. Tardu) Qaghan. As a result, it seems evidient that Ni-li Qaghan had died in 599. Therefore we can conclude that this text was inscribed in 599. And as to who ordered inscribe, it seems undoubted that it can not be not others except a person who can be in the position of holding the funereal ceremony of Ni-li Qaghan. In other words, he must have been his son and next successor Da-man, Chu-luo Qaghan and he ordered his secretary of Sogdian or Turkish who know Sogdian language well inscribe this text for his showing that he himself was the son of Ni-li Qaghan who the grandson of Muqan Qaghan and he belonged to the respectful genealogy of the Turkish royal family, Ashinas clan of the Turkish Qaghanate to the Turkish peoples and other Turkish nomad peoples.

Thirdly, as to the political system under the reign of Ni-li Qaghan, it has been unclear until noydays. However according to both the phrase of 6-7th and 21th lines of this text and fragments of Chinese documents unearthed from Astana of Turfan basin, it seems that the Western Turkish Qaghanate has been ruled by two littele Qaghans under the supervision of a great Qaghan as well as the reign of Apa and Chu-luo Qaghans. And they were many Sogdian merchants and officials around the court of Qaghanates and they have been playing important role in the court of the Western Turkish Qaghante in those days, benifiting from the Sogdian commercial network even passing through the Yili steppes.

Fourthly it can be conclude that this stone statue was made in the same time of this text because this text was inscribed as if it escaped from the details of the upper parts of the body. Therfore it is obvoius that it was made in 599, and we can identify it as the stone statue of Ni-li Qaghan. As to purpose of this establishing in the tomb of Ni-li Qaghan, ie seems probable that Chu-luo Qaghan would like to show that he himself belonged to the son of his father, Nili Qaghan and the royal family of Ashinas of Muqan Qaghan in order to organize the Turkish peoples and maintain his political authority and power.

As mentined above, this stone statue has of great importnace in the field of the cultural and historical studies of the Western Turkish Qaghnate. In this relation, we can mention that Sogdian letter and Sogdian language can be regarded as one of the formal letter and language as well as in the Eastern Turkish Qaghanate as clarified by Bugut inscription of Mongolia. And now we can recognize that the Sogdian peoples have a remakable functions and their closed cultural relation with the Turkish peoples.

The study of stone statues and the stone enclosures associated with them of the ancient Turkish culture has special meaning as well as other monuments of that period which includes the mounds, rock paintings, graffiti and runic inscriptions, settlements and objects of black metallurgy, the remains of furnaces etc., since they are important sources which can concretely clarify the typical features of the ancient Turkish period. As long as I know, there are more than a thousand stone statues of the epoch in the Eurasian Steppe, which includes ca.260 in Russian Altai, ca.110 in Tuba and Hakassia, ca.330 in Mongolia, ca.17 in Inner Mongolia of China, ca.150 in Semirechiye which in included in the south-eastern Kazakhstan and Kirgizistan, ca.200 in Xinjiang Uyghur province of China etc. And many scholars have been arguing on the origin, chronology, function and historical significance for a long time from the archeological, historical, artistic and folkloric points of view. But except a little part of stone statues which have been found with runic inscriptions or to which Chinese records of the same period had refer such as ones of Köl Tigin and Bilge Qaghan of the 2nd Turkish Qaghanate, there is very few which we can clarify the an absolute period, historical background of the election etc.

In that respect, it seems undoubted that a stone statue with Sogdian inscription of the Tekes steppe in the north side of the Tian-shan Mountains is noteworthy for clarifying formal language, chronology, purpose and historical background in the early periods of the ancient Turkish Qaghanate. It had discovered along Tekes river, which is a tributary of Yili river, of Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous province of China about fifty years ago. As to this stone statue, I have mentioned and clarified concretely the aspects of the historical and archaeological function and significance from the historical point of the early ancient West Turkish Qaghanate (OSAWA 1999; OSAWA 2002). However it seems that there is lack of consideration on the establishing purpose and historical function of this statue from the viewpoint of Sogdian peoples whom have been taken in and stayed as a group of composed members of the Western Turkish Qaghanate, which have been merchants, political counselors, soldiers etc. in the last periods of the 6th century. So especially this paper will discuss on the significance of the historical and cultural influences of Sogdians into the ancient Turkish funeral customs and believes associated with the establishment of stone statues in their tombs.

* Associate Professor of Osaka University of Foreign Studies, Japan

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Actualizado el 24/07/2004

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