Capital Not specified
Government Not specified
Historical era 1st millennium
   Established 160
   Disestablished 490
Today part of  Kazakhstan

Yueban (Chinese: 悅般), also written Üeban, Urpen literally: "Weak Xiongnu") was the name used by Chinese historians for remnants of the Xiongnu in Zhetysu, now part of modern-day Kazakhstan. In Chinese literature they commonly called Yueban. The Yuebans gained their own visibility after disintegration of the Eastern Xiongnu state, because unlike the main body of the Northern Xiongnu, who escaped from the Chinese sphere of knowledge, the Yueban tribes remained closer to China.

The Yueban emerged after the disintegration of the Xiongnu confederation. They underwent a strong influence of the Sogdian culture.[1]

Their name was later applied to the Chuy tribes of Chuyue, Chumi, Chumuhun, and Chuban. The Chuy tribes were also collectively named Chuyue (处月; 處月; "Abode of the Moon [god]"). The present endoethnonym of the Chuy descendants is Chuy Kiji, Turkic for "Chuy People".[2]

The Yuebans later intermixing with Turkic peoples, formed the Shatuo of the Western Göktürk Khaganate.[3]

The Yueban-descended Shato played an important role in Chinese dynastic history. In the 10th century the remaining Shato branch of the Chuy tribe possibly joined Mongolic-speaking Tatar confederation in the territory of the modern Mongolia, and became known as Ongud or White Tatars [4] branch of the Tatars.

Another Chuy-descendent tribe, the Kimek was one of the Turkic tribes known from Arab and Persian Middle Age writers as one of the seven tribes in the Kimek Kaganate in the period of 743-1050 AD. The other six constituent tribes of the Kimek Kaganate according to Abu Said Gardizi (d. 1061) were the Kipchaks, Imi, Tatars, Bayandur, Lanikaz, and Ajlad.


Rouran Khaganate and Yueban
Asia in 400 AD, showing the Yueban Khanate and its neighbors.

Between 155 and 166 a former vassal tribe Syanbi (Ch. pinyin Xianbei, Wade–Giles Hsien-pi, Hsien-pei) of the Huns (Ch. Xiongnu), known collectively as Xiongnu, united under Tian-Shih-huai conducted a series of campaigns against Northern Xiongnu, eventually defeating them and forcing them to flee west, which started a series of the Xiongnu's westward migrations (93-c. 380) to the S. Siberia and Middle Asia [5][6]

The defeat ended the prominence of the Eastern Huns (Ch. Xiongnu) as a major power in inner Asia. Tian-Shih-huai expelled the Xiongnu from Dzungaria to beyond the Tarbagatai Mountains, and pushed the Dingling beyond the Sayan mountains. The defeat had cost the Xiongnu their revenue from the Silk Road in the agricultural dependencies in the Tarim Basin ("Western Territories", Xiyu or Xinjian of the Chinese annals), forcing them to find new dependencies, and the Xiongnu split again.

The Yueban tribes, or "Weak Xiongnu", took advantage of Uar (Hephthalites) weakness and conquered Zhetysu, where they established the principality of Yueban, which existed until the 480s AD. Later, some Uar returned to Zhetysu, and in cooperation with the Mukrins, a Xianbei tribe, occupied the Tianshan slopes in the 2nd century AD, retaining their independence for some time as the Western Xianbei Horde.[7]

The "Strong Xiongnu" (Huns) migrated westward, conquering the Iranian Alans and Germanic Goths, and later attacking the Roman Empire. This Hunnic invasion of Europe led to severe upheavals among European peoples, giving the Huns a reputation in Europe as bandits and robbers, while the Chinese authors characterized them as the most cultured of all "barbarians".[8]

In literature, the Yuebans of the Late Antique period are also called by the generic appellation Central Asian Huns.

In the 5th century the Yueban were conquered by the Gaoche and split into four tribes: Chuyue, Chumi, Chumuhun, and Chuban.[9] The Chuyue branch, intermixing with Turkuts, formed the Shato tribe in Southern Dzungaria, west of Lake Barkol.[10]

Zhetysu was also populated by the Tukhsi and Azi. The Azi lived between Suyab and Uzket. The Tukhsi and Azi are sometimes linked to the Tukhara and AsiiIndo-European peoples who had conquered Bactria (Tukhara) six centuries earlier. However, the pioneering medieval linguist Mahmud Kashgari listed the Tukhsi, as a male dynastic tribe with a Turkic language.[11] This may suggest that language replacement, in the form of "Turkification", had occurred.

In 448 the Emperor Taiwu of Northern Wei received an envoy from the Yueban to negotiate a war with the Rouran. If the Yuebans would pressure them from the west, the Rourans would lose any freedom to maneuver. Though no direct records exist about the war in Dzungaria, by the course of the events, there was no peace, and the nomadic empire of Rouran began to decline.[12]

Based on his reconstructions of the events of Yueban history, Lev Gumilev argued against a widespread view that the Rouran were the "Abars" who attacked the Sabirs, starting a "Great Migration of people", because the Chuban state separated the Rouran Empire from the Sabirs.[13]

By the 6th century AD the Yuebans, Uar Hephthalites, and Mukrin tribes merged to form the Turgesh people.

The Yueban state survived to the end of 480s, until its independence was destroyed by the Teleuts, who had split from the Rouran in 487. But the Teleuts' dominance was short-lived, first the Hephthalite conquered them in 495-496, then Rouran crushed them, and finally in 547, the Turkut Uyghur people conquered the Teleuts. But the Yueban lived on, forming four tribes - Chuyue, Chumi, Chumuhun and Chuban. These tribes became major players in the later Turkic Khaganate and thereafter[14]

Theism, spirits, and magic

No records address the Yueban religion, though Chinese annals depict some manifestations of religious rites and magic. A narration about the Yuebans tells about sorcerers, able to cause frost and rainstorm. During a war with the Rouran, Chuban sorcerers incited a snowstorm against them, making the Rouran so frostbitten they had to stop their campaign and retreat. A similar legend is later told about the Eurasian Avars sorcerers in their war with the Francs, and Naiman sorcerers against Chingis-Khan.[15]

The reigning clan of the western Turkic, initially Manichaean Chigil (Persian cihil "forty") tribe was Shato (Persian Sada "Hundred"), which later founded the Chinese state Hou-Tang (Later Tang, 923-936) in Northern China, and adopted a Chinese surname Li. The Shato had a predominant Dragon cult. Later Tang's founder Li Keiun also came from the Dragon tribe. The annals even noted that the Shato were praying "old services following the custom of the North" at the Thunder-mountain, at the Gates of Dragon.[16] Within China, Chuy Shato became active adherents and protectors of Buddhism and Taoism, and initiated construction of many Buddhist temples. Subsequent to Shato, most of these temples were demolished.[17]

See also


  1. Gumilev L.N., "History of Hun People", Moscow, 'Science', Ch.15 http://gumilevica.kulichki.net/HPH/hph15.htm (In Russian)
  2. Gumilev L.N., "Ancient Türks", Moscow, 'Science', 1967, Ch.20 http://gumilevica.kulichki.net/OT/ot20.htm (In Russian)
  3. C. P. Atwood, Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire, p.424
  4. Ozkan Izgi, "The ancient cultures of Central Asia and the relations with the Chinese civilization"//The Turks, Ankara, 2002, p. 98, ISBN 975-6782-56-0
  5. L.T. Yablonsky "Stock-Breeders of the Ancient Khоrezm", Russian Academy Of Sciences Institute Of Archaeology, Bulletin of Russian Humanities Foundation, 1999, Issues 1-2, Page 198
  6. E.A.Tsvetsinskaya "Integrated assessment of landscape evolution in the Amudarya Prisarykamysh delta, 2001
  7. Gumilev L.N., "Hunnu in China", Moscow, 'Science', 1974, Ch. 9, http://gumilevica.kulichki.com/HIC/hic09.htm (In Russian)
  8. Gumilev L.N., "History of Hun People", Moscow, 'Science', Ch.15, http://gumilevica.kulichki.net/HPH/hph15.htm (In Russian)
  9. Gumilev L.N., "History of Hun People", Moscow, 'Science', Ch.16, http://gumilevica.kulichki.net/HPH/hph16.htm (In Russian)
  10. Gumilev L.N., "Ancient Türks", Moscow, 'Science', 1967, Ch.20 http://gumilevica.kulichki.net/OT/ot20.htm (In Russian)
  11. Yu. Zuev, "Early Türks: Sketches of history and ideology", Almaty, Daik-Press, 2002, p. 152-153, ISBN 9985-4-4152-9
  12. Gumilev L.N., "Hunnu in China", Moscow, 'Science', 1974, Ch. 9, http://gumilevica.kulichki.com/HIC/hic09.htm (In Russian)
  13. Gumilev L.N., "Hunnu in China", Moscow, 'Science', 1974, Ch. 9 Note 26, http://gumilevica.kulichki.com/HIC/hic09.htm (In Russian)
  14. Gumilev L.N., "Hunnu in China", Moscow, 'Science', 1974, Ch. 9, http://gumilevica.kulichki.com/HIC/hic09.htm (In Russian)
  15. Gumilev L.N., "Ancient Türks", Moscow, 'Science', 1967, Ch.7 http://gumilevica.kulichki.com/OT/ot07.htm (In Russian)
  16. Yu. Zuev, "Early Türks: Sketches of history and ideology", Almaty, Daik-Press, 2002, p. 145, ISBN 9985-4-4152-9
  17. Ozkan Izgi, "The ancient cultures of Central Asia and the relations with the Chinese civilization"//The Turks, Ankara, 2002, p. 100
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