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date: 24 June 2017

The Yuezhi

Abstract and Keywords

The Inner Eurasian nomadic confederation known in ancient Chinese sources as the Yuezhi were probably descended from Indo-European-speaking pastoral nomads who migrated eastward away from the original homeland of all Indo-European-speakers sometime during the Bronze Ages. The ancestors of the Yuezhi may have been members of the Afanasevo culture who eventually settled in the modern Chinese provinces of Xinjiang and Gansu, and spoke the Indo-European language branch of Tocharian. The ruling dynasty (the core Yuezhi) established a wealthy semi-sedentary pastoralist confederation, based on the export of jade and horses to Zhou dynasty China, and became powerful enough to treat their militarized nomadic neighbors the Wusun and Xiongnu with “contempt.” This remained the situation until the 2nd century bce, when, according to Han dynasty annals, the resurgent Xiongnu were able to defeat the Yuezhi and force them to migrate away from their homeland. Following a thirty-year migration, the Yuezhi resettled in northern Bactria and by a century or so later they had reinvented themselves as the embryonic Kushan empire.

These events were bound up with broader cultural and political developments in ancient Inner Eurasia that demonstrate the particular interconnectedness of historical processes in that region. The Yuezhi were well known to a range of contiguous peoples (generally by variants of the appellation “Tocharian”) and the events in which they found themselves involved, particularly during the 2nd century bce, were to have a profound effect on the subsequent political, military, and cultural development of much of Inner Eurasia. In particular, the “domino-effect” of their migration led to significant changes in the broader Eurasian polity, affecting the Han Chinese, Xiongnu, Wusun, Saka, Sogdians, and Bactrian Greeks. Because of these consequences, and their role in establishing the Kushan Empire, the great facilitators of Silk Roads trade and exchange, the Yuezhi must be regarded as one of the most significant of all Inner Eurasian pastoral nomadic confederations.

Keywords: pastoral nomads, Inner Eurasia, Yuezhi, Kushans, Xiongnu, Han dynasty, Greco-Bactria, Zhang Qian


The migration of the Yuezhi from western China to the northern border of present-day Afghanistan resulted ultimately in the formation of the Kushan empire, one of the most significant of all ancient Inner Eurasian political structures. The Yuezhi have long been recognized as the probable ancestors of the Kushans, and are often discussed as a prelude to the main subject of Kushan history, rather than as an important and influential “people” in their own right. Partly this has been because the evidence for them seems limited, composed of incidental references in Chinese Han dynasty texts and fragmentary Greco-Roman sources, and the tentative conclusions of archaeologists. Yet, cumulatively, this evidence is sufficient to present a brief history of the Yuezhi, touching upon their origins, their relationship with the Chinese, their defeat and expulsion from Gansu by the Xiongnu, their migration to northern Bactria, and their role in the conquest of the Greco-Bactrian state.

These events were bound up with broader developments in Inner Eurasia, emphasizing the extraordinary interconnectedness of historical processes in that world zone. The Yuezhi were known to and connected with various contiguous peoples, and the events in which they participated had a profound effect on the subsequent political, military, and cultural development of much of the region. The domino-effect of their migration impacted Han Chinese, Xiongnu, Wusun, Saka, Sogdians, and Bactrian Greeks, a further example of the critically important role played by pastoral nomadic peoples in Eurasian and world history.

The Yuezhi in Their Gansu Homeland

Both the Shiji ("The Scribe's Records") and the Han Shu ("Annals of the Early Han Dynasty") note that the Yuezhi had originally dwelt in the Hexi Corridor of the modern Chinese province of Gansu, with their capital named as Zhaowu, identifiable with modern Zhangye.1 The origins of the Yuezhi are not discussed by the Han chroniclers, although it can be inferred that they had dwelt in the region for a long time. Peoples listed with variations of the name “Yuezhi” also appear in two documents of the Zhou dynasty, the I Zhou Shu and the Guanzi, where they are noted as being among tribute-bearers and suppliers of jade and horses to the Zhou court early in the 1st millennium bce.2 In the 2nd century ce, the Greek geographer Ptolemy referred to a group of nomads dwelling in the Gansu whom he named the "Thagouroi", arguably a variation on "Tocharian", the Indo-European language probably spoken by the Yuezhi.3 Ptolemy’s reference to other nomadic groups with names similarly derived from the word Tocharian who later occupied various locations along the Yuezhi’s migration route to Bactria has long been used to offer incidental support of the Chinese evidence for that migration. However, Étienne de la Vaissière has argued that while some of Ptolemy’s Tocharian locations do appear accurate, others are highly implausible, including the Thagouroi of Gansu, a region that Ptolemy could not conceivably have acquired accurate information about.4

Various theories on the origins of the Yuezhi have been proposed, although the evidence for each is slight. B. A. Litvinsky argued that their ancestors were part of an eastward Indo-European migration in the late 3rd or early 2nd millennium bce. A subsequent migration of Indo-Iranian speaking peoples into the same region (including Saka and Sogdians, both of whom the Yuezhi would later interact with) then occurred in the late 2nd millennium bce, forcing the Indo-European Tocharians further east, where they re-established themselves in the Gansu region early in the 1st millennium bce.5 An earlier arrival in the region is also possible, given that archaeological research in China’s northern provinces has found a “remarkable degree” of ceramic continuity from c. 2500–500 bce in Gansu pottery in particular, allowing for the possibility of a Yuezhi occupation of more than two millennia.6

Since the 1980s, more than a hundred Caucasoid “mummies” (the remains of desiccated bodies) have been discovered by teams led by Victor Mair at various sites in Xinjiang.7 The bodies have been subjected to DNA and textile analysis, but the results have been inconclusive. While, as A. K. Narain suggested, it is very tempting to identify the “Urumqi mummies” as Yuezhi, there is insufficient evidence to do so.8 Yet radiometric dating of the mummies does provide indisputable evidence that groups of Indo-Europeans occupied the Tarim Basin from early in the 2nd millennium bce, which supports the possibility of a Yuezhi occupation of the region during that period.

Mair (in association with J. P. Mallory) proposed a tentative model linking the Indo-Europeans of the Tarim Basin with the Afanasevo culture, which probably migrated from the Caucasus to the Altai-Yenisei region of Siberia during the Middle Bronze Age. Sometime in the 2nd millennium bce the Afanasevo may have migrated again, this time south into the Gansu region and Xinjiang. The Tarim mummies might, therefore, be considered Afanasevan proto-Tocharians, and thus ancestors of the Yuezhi dynasty.9 This model provides a neat explanation for the existence in the region of the Indo-European-speaking Tocharians by early in the 2nd millennium bce.

Y. A. Zadneprovsky has attempted to provide archaeological evidence of the Yuezhi’s residency in the Gansu region. Archaeologists have been able to identify Xiongnu burial and settlement sites in the region for over a century, but the attribution of Wusun and Yuezhi tombs has been more problematic. Zadneprovsky argued that a particular type of burial structure, the “podboy tomb,” should be attributed to the Yuezhi. Examples of these tomb types have been excavated at several sites thought to have been occupied by the Yuezhi during their migration to Bactria, as outlined in the Chinese annals. Podboy tombs have also been excavated by Chinese archaeologists at the Haladun site (near Minqin) in central Gansu, where podboys have been found at twelve of the eighteen gravesites uncovered. Zadneprovsky proposed that “Haladun might be regarded as the first monument discovered in the original lands of the Yuezhi,” although his conclusion has not been supported by Chinese archaeologists working in the region, who associate the tombs with the Xiongnu.10

Textual evidence for the lifeway of the Yuezhi indicates militaristic pastoral nomadism, although it is more likely that the core Yuezhi were at least semi-sedentary. When they first came to the notice of the Han late in the 3rd century bce, the Yuezhi were described as a nation of nomads, “moving round in company with their stock animals,” and their customs and way of life were similar to those of the Xiongnu. They co-existed in the region with the smaller nomadic state of the Wusun.11 The texts also note that the Yuezhi possessed 100,000 trained archer warriors. Whether one takes this figure literally or as an exaggeration, the Yuezhi were clearly very powerful. They disdained their neighbors, the Xiongnu, who, under the leadership of their ruler Shanyu Touman had been forced to migrate to the north in 220 bce after combined pressure from the “flourishing” Yuezhi, the “Eastern Barbarians,” and forces of the Chinese Qin.12 This suggests that the Yuezhi were the most powerful of the three major nomadic confederations along China’s northwestern frontier. That balance of power was, however, about to shift.

After the Xiongnu were forced to migrate to the north, and as part of a ploy to secure succession for a younger son from a favored consort, Xiongnu Shanyu Touman sent his eldest son, Modu, as a hostage to the Yuezhi, further evidence of the Yuezhi’s prestige. After Modu had arrived among them, Touman suddenly attacked the Yuezhi in the hope that they would kill Modu in retaliation, but Modu escaped before the Yuezhi could execute him by stealing one of their best horses and eventually making his way home. His father, impressed by his son’s bravery, put Modu in command of a force of 10,000 Xiongnu cavalry.13

By 209 bce, Modu was powerful enough to assassinate his father and establish himself as the new Shanyu of the Xiongnu. He immediately set about establishing Xiongnu dominance by inflicting a crushing defeat on the “Eastern Barbarians,” before also launching a raid on the Yuezhi. As Ban Gu put it, “then he returned and rode west, attacking and routing the Yuezhi.”14 Over the next decade Modu amassed a force of, according to the sources, over 300,000 mounted archers, and the Xiongnu were in the ascendancy, conquering tribes to the north and east and treating Chinese forces with disdain. Sima Qian states that “when Modu came to power … the Xiongnu reached the peak of their strength and size, subjugating all other barbarian tribes of the north and turning south to confront China as a rival nation.”15 For the next twenty years or so, the Xiongnu and the Chinese maintained an uneasy relationship, characterized by Xiongnu arrogance and Han indecision. Han Emperor Wen, despite sanctioning a campaign against the Xiongnu at Mayi, had no option other than to attempt to secure a peace treaty with Modu by 179 bce.

Although not discussed in the sources during the period between 207 and 176, the Yuezhi must have found themselves increasingly marginalized by the conflict between Modu and Wendi, and very much on the defensive in the face of Xiongnu aggression and a major disadvantage in forces. The Xiongnu were primarily focused on their relationship with the Han during this period, but the fact that Modu waited for three decades before launching a serious campaign against the Yuezhi might be further testament to the latter’s strength. It was not until 175 bce that Modu wrote to Wendi describing a significant campaign the previous year against the Yuezhi:

[I have sent] the ‘Wise King of the Right’ … to search out the Yuezhi people and attack them. Through the aid of Heaven, the excellence of his fighting men, and the strength of his horses, he has succeeded in wiping out the Yuezhi, slaughtering or forcing to submission every member of the tribe.16

Faced with this news, the Han again wavered. Han advisers argued that: “Since the Shanyu has just conquered the Yuezhi and is riding on a wave of victory, he cannot be attacked.”17 The Han Court was obviously impressed by the Xiongnu’s victory over the Yuezhi, further evidence of the reputation of the Yuezhi among the Chinese.

In 174 bce, Modu died and was succeeded by his elderly son, the “Old Shanyu” Jizhu, who might have been the Wise King of the Right responsible for the earlier successful attack on the Yuezhi. The Han marked the accession of Jizhu by agreeing to a further renewal of peace between the Chinese and the Xiongnu. The apparent destruction of the Yuezhi in 176 bce was not as great as Modu had boasted, however, and for the next decade the Yuezhi continued to occupy Gansu and co-exist with their powerful neighbors. But their long period of residency in the region was drawing to a close. In the year 166 bce, the Xiongnu renewed hostilities, firstly against the Chinese forces by invading Beidi, and then by turning against the Yuezhi. This time the Xiongnu inflicted a crushing defeat on the Yuezhi, killing the king and turning his skull into a drinking cup.18

According to the sources, the Xiongnu were not the only enemies of the Yuezhi in this regional contest, for prior to this defeat at the hands of the Xiongnu, the Yuezhi had in turn been treating with contempt their weaker Gansu neighbors, the Wusun. The Yuezhi had attacked and killed the Wusun Kunmo Nantoumi and seized his lands. This may have occurred during the uneasy hiatus between the Xiongnu raid on the Yuezhi in 176 bce and their crushing victory in 166bce . The fact that the Yuezhi were in any sort of position at all to harass the Wusun is further evidence that their 176 bce defeat by the Xiongnu had not been as costly as Modu had boasted. The Yuezhi forced the Wusun to flee to the Xiongnu for protection, where Shanyu Jizhu loved and reared the infant Wusun Kunmo. When he grew to manhood, the Shanyu “delivered to the Kunmo his father’s people; he had him lead troops, and on several occasions he did so meritoriously.”19 The attack on the Wusun by the Yuezhi thus gained them another powerful and well- trained enemy, Nantoumi’s son and successor as Kunmo, who would continue to bear a grudge, and would later harass the Yuezhi during their migration westward.20

Migration Stage One: From Gansu to the Ili

The defeated Yuezhi, under the successor of their dead king, now migrated away from Gansu. Ban Gu stated, “The Yuezhi had fled … furious … with the Xiongnu”. Sima Qian also put it, the “Yuezhi had fled and bore a constant grudge against the Xiongnu.”21 The decision to leave, despite still apparently possessing a substantial military force, indicates the severity of their defeat in 166 bce and the rampant strength of the Xiongnu under Modu and Jizhu during several decades of declining Yuezhi fortunes. The Yuezhi may have considered such a move several times during the decade between Modu’s attack in 176 bce and their ultimate defeat at the hands of Jizhu; certainly the first stage of the migration appears to have been conducted in an orderly fashion, more of a strategic relocation than a rout. The Yuezhi’s intention was to resettle in the valley of the Ili River, a region occupied by a Saka confederation, and possibly an area and people that the Yuezhi already had some knowledge of. They had no intention, nor indeed any idea, that this would be only the first stage of a migration that would ultimately take them a long way across Inner Eurasia to the banks of the Amu Darya.

The Yuezhi left their homeland in 166 or 165 bce and followed a northwesterly route some 1,200 miles long to the Ili plains. They settled somewhere to the north of Lake Issyk Kul in the general vicinity of modern Almaty in Kazakhstan. Incidental evidence of their new location was potentially provided by Ptolemy, who mentions a group called the Tagouraioi dwelling near Issyk Kul, although de la Vaissière also questions the accuracy of this location.22 Zadneprovsky has noted podboy tombs unearthed in the area. Other tombs attributed to the autonomous Saka occupants of the region, and to the Wusun, who would invade the Ili basin a quarter of a century after the arrival of the Yuezhi, have also been excavated. In fact, some 370 burial sites had been discovered in the region by 1960. Of these 80 percent were in pits, and attributed to the Saka, and 17% in podboys, which Zadneprovsky tentatively attributes to the Yuezhi.23

The Chinese sources note that the region was already populated by the Sai people, probably a group of Saka (Scythians). The Yuezhi, “attacked the king of the Sai. The king of the Sai moved a considerable distance to the south and the Yuezhi then occupied his lands.”24 This suggests that most of these displaced Saka were forced to undertake their own migration, possibly moving west and south around the western edge of the Tarim Basin, before crossing “over the Suspended Crossing” and settling in Kashmir.25 The Ili Saka should not be confused with another Saka group that would be displaced from the valleys north of the Amu Darya by the Yuezhi during the second stage of their migration farther to the west, and who, in turn, would be forced to move into, and eventually through, Bactria.

The Yuezhi occupied the former Saka lands in the hope of permanently resettling there, and remained in successful occupation of the region for almost three decades, presumably resuming their semi-nomadic, semi-sedentary lifestyle. But even as the decades passed, the Kunmo of the Wusun could not forget the ill treatment of his people at the hands of the Yuezhi in 173 bce, and now he sought permission from his Xiongnu overlord, the new Shanyu Junchen (successor to Jizhu who had died in 158), to pursue the Yuezhi into the Ili and “avenge his father’s wrongs.”26 Sometime in the mid-130s bce, the Kunmo led a force of Wusun horsemen into the region, which attacked and routed the Yuezhi, forcing them to uproot again and migrate farther to the west.

Not all of the Yuezhi were prepared to resume the journey, however; and this was not the first or the last time that a division of the confederation occurred. Following the Yuezhi’s devastating defeat by the Xiongnu in 166 bce, Sima Qian had noted that “a small number of [Yuezhi] who were unable to make the journey west sought refuge among the Qiang Barbarians in the Southern Mountains, where they are known as the Lesser (Xiao) Yuezhi,”27 a division also noted by the Han Shu.28 The Xiao Yuezhi may have represented a distinct tribal or ethnic subgroup within the Yuezhi confederacy, and they may even have shared a closer common ethnicity or cultural bond with the “Qiang Barbarians” than they did with the ruling dynasty of the Yuezhi, preferring assimilation with their fellow pastoralists in the valleys of the “Southern Mountains” to an uncertain future in the west.

Now again, following the Yuezhi’s expulsion from the Ili Valley at the hands of the Wusun, another group of the Yuezhi also apparently chose not to continue the migration. In fact, the Han Shu notes that groups of both Saka and Yuezhi remained in the Ili basin to be assimilated with the Wusun: “For this reason among the people of the Wusun there are [elements of] the Sai race and the Da Yuezhi race.”29 The Saka were remnants of the original occupants of the Ili valley who had been assimilated into the Yuezhi, and members of both the Saka and Yuezhi confederacies then similarly decided to remain in the region following the Wusun invasion. This decision reflects a familiar pattern in pastoral nomadic politics, where both the Yuezhi king and later the Wusun Kunmo were able to persuade elements of the resident peoples of the region to split from the ruling dynasty and support their occupations of the Ili valley, in return for the right to remain settled in the region.

Throughout the long history of Inner Eurasia, the ethnic makeup of many of the great tribal nomadic confederations was mixed and diverse. It is more accurate to consider that terms like Yuezhi and Wusun refer to dynasties ruling over confederations of pastoral nomads, including tribes of different ethnicities and even languages. As such, the tribal divisions that occurred within the confederations were by groups who had accepted Yuezhi suzerainty (and who, therefore, were “Yuezhi”), although they were not necessarily Yuezhi ethnically. When splits occurred they were essentially along these pre-existing tribal or ethnic fault lines.

This approach is more realistic than regarding the Yuezhi as a homogenous entity. As such it is not surprising that the Xiao Yuezhi may have shared a common ethnic bond with the “Qiang Barbarians,” or groups of the Da Yuezhi confederation with the Wusun, given the apparent absorption of Yuezhi elements into their midst. The entity that migrated to Bactria consisted of a ruling dynasty, along with the tribes that remained with them. The tradition of referring to a confederation of ethnically diverse people by the name of the ruling dynasty was well established in Inner Eurasia and would be continued in Bactria almost two centuries later when a new controlling dynasty that grew out of the, once again fragmented, Yuezhi (and which may have had little or nothing in common ethnically with the original Yuezhi dynasty) would assume power, reunite the “tribes,” and give its name to the subsequent empire of the Guishuang, or Kushans.

Migration Stage Two: From the Ili to the Amu Darya

As a result of their defeat by the Wusun, and sometime in the mid-130s bce, the Yuezhi resumed their migration westward. They are likely to have followed a route from Almaty to modern Biskek in Kyrgyzstan, before turning southwest through the Ferghana Valley in eastern Uzbekistan (called Dayuan in the Chinese sources) and finally due west to Sogdia (a region named Kangju in the sources). The Han Shu states: “The Yuezhi thereupon went far away, passing Dayuan and proceeding west.”30 Zadneprovsky noted that Soviet archaeologists discovered some 300 podboy tombs in the Ferghana Valley, mostly concentrated in southern Kyrgyzstan, which might be further evidence of the Yuezhi migration through Ferghana.31

The next stage of the journey took them into Sogdia/Kangju, which included the Zeravshan Valley. Ptolemy notes a group he calls the Tachoroi dwelling in Sogdiana/Bactria, information that is probably much more reliable than his easterly Tocharian locations.32 Archaeologists have unearthed more podboy tombs on the periphery of both the Bukharan and Samarkand oases, and in the valley of the Zeravshan, similar in design, funeral ceremony, and accompanying inventory to other possible Yuezhi podboy tombs found in northern Bactria.33

Although Sogdia/Kangju is described as a “small” country in the Chinese sources, its military strength was apparently substantial, with some 120,000 persons able to bear arms,34 of which 90,000 were skilled archers.35 Unlike Dayuan, Kangju is noted as being powerful enough to be “not easily defeated by Han forces,”36 but was nonetheless “constrained to serve the Xiongnu” in the east,37 and eventually acknowledged “nominal sovereignty” (or was “subservient to”) the Yuezhi in the south.38 The acceptance of both Xiongnu and Yuezhi suzerainty by Kangju is evidence of another familiar phenomenon in Inner Eurasia, a recognition of the greater military power of pastoral nomadic confederations over sedentary, irrigation-based city states, whatever the relative size of their forces.

The rulers of Kangju displayed obvious ability at interstate diplomacy: they recognized the nominal sovereignty over parts of their country by both the Xiongnu and the Yuezhi; they later provided assistance to Chinese envoy Zhang Qian and his successors; and eventually Kangju even sent a prince as envoy to the Han. Perhaps the rulers of Kangju agreed to give the Yuezhi safe passage through their territory, and accepted some form of subservient relationship to avoid military conflict. Kangju would be drawn further and further into the Yuezhi/Kushan field of influence over the following centuries until the southern portions of its territory were incorporated into the Kushan Empire. By 83 ce, the Kushans would further cement this relationship through an alliance based on a “bond of royal marriage” with the ruling family of Kangju.39 Even at this early stage it was an ideal buffer for the Yuezhi between their new homeland and the Wusun and Xiongnu to the north and east.

Yuezhi Settle North of the Amu Darya

During the decades following the departure of the Yuezhi from Gansu, relations between the Xiongnu and the Han had continued to be uneasy. Although, according to Sima Qian, by the time emperor Wudi came to the throne in 140 bce they had improved. Despite this it appears that in 138 bce, two years after his accession and in the midst of this period of relative peace, the seventeen-year-old emperor decided on a new strategy, which included the recruitment of an envoy who would travel to the Yuezhi and ask them to form an alliance with the Han against their “common enemy,” the Xiongnu.

Sima Qian implies that Wudi’s foreign policy actions were those of a warmonger intent on forcing a renewal of hostilities with the Xiongnu during a period of peace. Yet Wudi’s intention in sending envoy Zhang Qian on a mission to the Yuezhi was probably not intended to be the precursor to an imminent Chinese attack on the Xiongnu, particularly as the Han court between 140 and 134 bce was dominated by ministers and advisers who were strongly against war. Zhang Qian’s mission might better be viewed as part of a defensive strategy, the beginning of a tentative plan to use “barbarians against barbarians,” and also as a means of obtaining much needed intelligence about events beyond Han borders.

Indeed, the Han appear to have been astonishingly ignorant of events occurring beyond their western borders. The Han court did not find out about the crushing 166 bce Xiongnu defeat of the Yuezhi until a quarter of a century after the fact, when reports from Xiongnu deserters informed them that Jizhu had defeated the Yuezhi and turned the king’s skull into a drinking cup.40 When Wudi came to the throne, the Han believed that the Yuezhi were still resettled not that far away in the Ili region, and the emperor may have entertained serious hopes of enticing them back to the Gansu region to re-engage their common enemy, particularly as the Yuezhi were described as bearing “a constant grudge against”41 the Xiongnu. No one was to know that the Han envoy would be delayed for a decade on his mission, and that by the time he caught up with the Yuezhi they would be so far removed as to have no intention of returning.

Zhang Qian set out around 138 bce on an epic journey to find the Yuezhi, but he was almost immediately captured and kept prisoner for ten years by the Xiongnu. When he finally escaped he resumed his mission and pursued the Yuezhi through the Ferghana Valley and Sogdia, finally catching up with them at the “seat of the king of the Yuezhi’s government,” located “north of the Oxus River” at a place named Jianshi.42 The site of Khalchayan is the most likely candidate for identification with Jianshi.43 Located some 50 miles north of the Amu Darya, Khalchayan is the earliest specifically Kushan settlement so far identified, and stratigraphically the Yuezhi/Kushan material comes immediately after the Greco-Bactrian layers. Early Kushan coins discovered at Khalchayan include bronze imitations of Greco-Bactrian tetradrachms of Heliocles, arguably among the first issues of the Yuezhi in the region. Khalchayan has also yielded significant art treasures from the very early Kushan period.44

The Chinese sources offer ambiguous descriptions of the lifeway of the Yuezhi at Jianshi. Zhang Qian’s report describes the Yuezhi as still “a nation of nomads, moving from place to place with their herds, and their customs are like those of the Xiongnu.”45 But the Han Shu, incorporating later information, notes that although the Yuezhi were “originally” a nation of nomads, sometime after settling in the region they adopted a more urbanized and sedentary lifeway. Perhaps the Shiji (completed decades before the Han Shu) is describing the situation very soon after the Yuezhi had arrived in the region, while the Han Shu is discussing their way of life several decades later.

The Chinese sources go on to suggest that upon the Yuezhi’s arrival north of the Oxus they had defeated and evicted another resident group of Saka, who were forced south across the river and into Bactria proper. Some decades later, when the Yuezhi also crossed the river and completed their conquest and subjugation of Bactria, the Saka were pushed farther south into Gandhara and west toward Seistan (or “Sakastan”). This suggests that two distinct groups of militarized nomads—first the Saka, and later the Yuezhi—were responsible for the defeat and subjugation of the formerly powerful Greco-Bactrian realm, which had controlled the region for the preceding century. The fighting prowess of the Bactrians is dealt with dismissively by the Chinese texts, but few sedentary kingdoms would have been able to withstand the sequential invasions of two powerful nomadic confederations.46

Several fragmentary Greco-Roman sources offer supporting evidence for this scenario, and clearly identify the Saka and the Yuezhi as key participants. Strabo notes a people he variously calls the Sacarauloi or the Sakai, as well as the Tocharoi as being among the invaders of Bactria.47 Pompeius Trogus mentions both the Sacaraucae and the “kings of the Tochari” as participants in the event,48 and Ptolemy also mentions a group he calls the Tocharoi living in Bactria.49

The Han Shu notes that at some unspecified date after their arrival at Jianshi, the Yuezhi crossed the Amu Darya and attacked and defeated Bactria in some form of military campaign.50 Narain has argued that, given the fact that the earlier Shiji does not mention this conquest of Bactria by the time of Zhang Qian’s visit, the Yuezhi probably did not launch their invasion until sometime between c. 100 and 80 bce, following perhaps a half-century residency north of the Amu Darya.51 As Tarn noted in the 1930s, whatever date military action may have occurred, at most one or two campaigns fought on either side of the Amu Darya may have been all that was required to defeat firstly the Saka, and later the Greco-Bactrians.52 More probably, however, the mere appearance of a hundred thousand archer warriors on the northern borders of the country was sufficient to achieve success.

The Yuezhi conquest of Bactria is a classic example of the conquest and control of a large sedentary agrarian society by a militarized pastoralist society. Once conquered the Bactrians were permitted to retain local rulers for their cities and towns: pastoralists generally preferred to rule their territories through subordinate chiefs who belonged to the dynasties they had just conquered. Indeed, numismatic evidence shows that four Greco-Bactrian kings continued to rule some parts of the region into the 1st century bce, presumably as local rulers who acknowledged the Yuezhi as symbolic overlords. Local communities were also allowed to continue conducting their lucrative markets, particularly in the capital of Bactra, by a conquering dynasty that clearly recognized the value of trade. This Yuezhi appreciation of commerce had been fostered centuries earlier through their commercial interactions with the Chinese Zhou dynasty, and probably reinforced during their migration along major trade routes through the Ferghana and Zerafshan Valleys. The example of the urbanized lifeway of the Bactrians, and of their flourishing mercantile activity, might have also influenced the Yuezhi to abandon their semi-nomadic lifeway and adopt the more settled lifeway suggested in the Han Shu.

But this was still in the future when Han envoy Zhang Qian finally caught up with the Yuezhi in c. 128 bce. He found the Yuezhi in their most comfortable position for decades. Far from their enemies, the Xiongnu and Wusun, they had established themselves in a strongly fortified position near the Amu Darya, and had subdued the extensive state of Bactria to the south, where “the land was fertile with few brigands” and “seldom troubled by invaders.”53 They were also protected by an important buffer state to the north in Kangju/Sogdia, which acknowledged nominal sovereignty to the Yuezhi. Little wonder then that, according to the Han sources, the Yuezhi had “set their minds on [a life of] peace and contentment,” and, “being removed afar, they wished to keep their distance from the Han, and had no intention at all of taking revenge on [the Xiongnu].”54 Drawing a clear distinction between the conquering Yuezhi north of the Oxus and the Bactrians to the south, Zhang Qian then spent a year in the Bactrian capital before returning to the Yuezhi court at Jianshi, only to have his original assessment of the situation confirmed. As Sima Qian put it:

the (Yuezhi) king thought only of his own enjoyment. He considered the Han too far away to bother with and had no particular intention of avenging his father’s death by attacking the Xiongnu … in the end he was never able to interest the Yuezhi in his proposals.55

Zhang Qian returned to China (not without further misadventure), and despite his inability to secure an alliance with the Yuezhi, he was nonetheless rewarded by Wudi with “honor and position” for “opening up communications with the lands of the west.”56 The Yuezhi were left to consolidate their position north of the Oxus, and exploit the resources of the fertile river valleys of the region.

The Five-Yabghu Period

A textual curtain then drops on the Da Yuezhi from the last decades of the 2nd century bce until it is lifted briefly again to reveal the situation between c. 50 and 25 bce. In an apparent revision of parts of the text, information on the division of the Yuezhi into five yabghu (or xihou), two Chinese words that essentially mean “princedoms,” and on their diffusion to locations throughout the region, is included in the Han Shu, presumably provided by the new Office of the Protector General of the Western Regions established under Zheng Zhi in 59 bce, and possibly even as late as 75 ce by Ban Chao. Sometime between the early and mid-1st century bce, the Yuezhi made a decision to split and occupy in five yabghu divisions various parts of their realm.

The original ruler of the Yuezhi (the heir of the “drinking cup skull king”) had kept the Yuezhi unified and resilient enough to survive a thirty-year migration through hostile country, before overseeing their re-establishment near one of the most important rivers of Central Asia. Possibly the death of this ruler, or of a successor, led to the re-emergence of older tribal, ethnic, or political divisions. Whatever the causes of this fragmentation it lasted for well over a century, until the ruler of one of the yabghu, Kujula Kadphises of the Guishuang, was able to successfully reunify the yabghu under his leadership in the fifth decade of the first century ce. Throughout subsequent Kushan history, there would be no obvious evidence of any further political fragmentation.

As the Chinese textual curtain closed around 25 bce, the Yuezhi were living in apparently peaceful coexistence in five yabghu scattered about Bactria. The exact location of the fortified “capital” city of each of these tribal territories has long been a matter of speculation, and there remains significant disagreement between specialists. The first yabghu of the Xuimi may have been located in the Upper Wakhan Darya valley; and the second yabghu of Shuangmi may have been located north of Khalchayan in the upper Surkhan Darya valley. The location of the third yabghu, that of the Guishuang (which would give its name to the Kushan empire) may have been at Waksh; the fourth yabghu of Xitun was perhaps located between Hutsao and Gaofu; and the fifth yabghu seems to have derived its name from its location in Gaofu or Kabul, although the status of Kabul as one of the yabghu is disputed in the Annals of the Later Han, the Hou Han Shu.57

Wherever these princedoms were located, collectively the Yuezhi were the masters of Bactria. Whatever the cause of the division, the five yabghu are simply noted and described as being well established and defensible (with “walled cities”).58 The Yuezhi played no apparent part in Han foreign affairs during this period and may have been too weak (as a result of division) or too uninterested to become actively involved in interstate relations with their closer neighbors, although they were probably aware of developments and events in these states. According to the Han sources, they had adopted a semi-sedentary, urbanized lifeway and were also issuing coinage in imitation of existing issues. It would not be until well into the next century that the Chinese chroniclers would once again take notice of the Yuezhi, this time as a reunited and once more powerful confederation under the leadership of a single king of the “Guishuang” dynasty.

Between them then, corroborated and supported by a handful of classical references and by tentative archaeological discoveries, the Han sources provide invaluable evidence for the compelling events that occurred in Inner Eurasia between 220 and c. 25 bce, centered upon the activities of the Yuezhi confederation. It is these texts that make possible this tentative narrative history of the Yuezhi, a nomadic dynasty whose migration from the Gansu region to the Oxus was ultimately responsible for the establishment of one of the most important civilizations of ancient Inner Eurasia, that of the Kushans.

Primary Sources

Although the history of the pastoral nomadic confederations of ancient Central Asia is often characterized by a lack of textual evidence, for a few key periods in Yuezhi and early Kushan history, textual material is available. Most of this is contained in three Chinese Han dynasty texts—the Shiji, the Han Shu, and the Hou Han Shu—which provide the most important evidence for the Yuezhi.

The early Chinese dynastic histories were primarily compiled by government employees using official records, usually under the direct supervision of the government. This tended to restrict the focus of the works, which mostly describe only those events in Inner Eurasia that took place during periods of Chinese hegemony. The “Memoirs on the Western Regions” in both the Han Shu and the later Hou Han Shu are basically reviews of Chinese administration in the region; the same holds true, although to a lesser extent, of the Shiji, which particularly in Chapter 123 is concerned with the diplomatic mission undertaken by Zhang Qian, and with the effect his report on the states of the Western Regions had on Han imperial foreign policy. Yet, despite their restricted focus, because the histories are compiled largely from official reports, they are particularly valuable to historians as the most accurate (if frustratingly incomplete) “snapshots” available of the region during specific periods of Han engagement.

The Shiji was started by Sima Tan and completed by his son Sima Qian between c. 110 and c. 90 bce. The work was framed as a general history of China from remote antiquity until the lifetime of the author. The important overlap with the Han Shu covers the period 210–90 bce. Sima Qian (c. 145–90 bce), who like his father held the position of “Grand Astrologer,” was in an excellent position to gather material for his history. Most chapters in the second volume of his work deal with the reign of the Emperor Wudi, the period of Sima Qian’s own lifetime.

The Han Shu ("Annals of the Early Han Dynasty") was compiled by historian Ban Gu and Ban Zhao between c. 36 and 121 ce. It is based in part on the work of Ban Gu’s father, Ban Biao (3–54 ce), and drew on material collected and prepared up to two centuries earlier. The information contained in chapters 61 and 96, which refers specifically to the states of the Western Regions including that of the Yuezhi, could only have been derived from official reports submitted to the Central Han Government in Changan by the Office of the Protector General, established in 59 bce, although some revised material appears to have been added later, extending coverage into the early 1st century ce. Much of the information provided by the colonial administrative office was also retrospective and concerned the earlier histories of the states, so that in the case of the Yuezhi in particular both the Han Shu and the Shiji also shed considerable light on the changing nature of the relationship between the Yuezhi, the Xiongnu, and the Wusun at the beginning of the 2nd century bce, eighty years before Zhang Qian’s mission.

The Hou Han Shu was compiled centuries after the collapse of the later Han dynasty by Fan Ye (398–446 ce) and provides important updates on some of the information in the Han Shu, along with later commentaries. It contains additional information about the Yuezhi after their division into five yabghu, and also about the Kushans. Between them, these three Chinese texts constitute the key textual evidence for the Yuezhi during critical periods in their history, including the last half century of their residency in the Gansu, their migration to the west, and their arrival in, and subjugation of, Bactria.

Historians also have available fragmentary Western sources that touch upon the overthrown of the Greco-Bactrian state, and the role played in this by the Yuezhi. Both Strabo and the anonymous prologues of Pompeius Trogus include minimal information on the destruction of the last substantial vestiges of Greek power in Central Asia, and of the nomads responsible for it. Attempts to positively identify these named nomadic groups have occupied scholars since the 18th century, but today most specialists agree with the identification of the Sacaraucae/Sacarauloi as the Saka/Scythians, and the Tochari as the Tocharian-speaking Yuezhi.

Finally, the 2nd century ce Greek geographer Ptolemy also included in his Geography references to various peoples dwelling at locations along the probable migration route of the Yuezhi, with names that appear to be derived from the word Tocharian, the Indo-European variant language probably spoken by the Yuezhi. These references have long been used to offer incidental support of the Chinese evidence for that migration. However, Étienne de la Vaissière has recently argued that while some of Ptolemy’s more westerly Tocharian locations do appear accurate, others that are farther east are highly implausible, including a reference to the Thagouroi of Gansu, a region that Ptolemy could not conceivably have acquired accurate information about.59

Discussion of the Literature

The Yuezhi have been of interest to Sinologists, numismatists, archaeologists, and historians for more than a century, although the translations, findings, and theories proposed by various specialists in these fields have been almost exclusively published in discipline-specific journals, and in a range of languages. To date, the only readily accessible, English-language monograph focused on the Yuezhi, which synthesizes the work of many of these disciplinary specialists, is that written by Craig Benjamin.60

The bibliography of the Benjamin monograph lists some 450 individual sources, including the handful of primary sources discussed; numerous articles from philological, numismatic, and archaeology journals; and those books that touch upon the history of the Yuezhi in some capacity, without making them the central focus of the monograph. Many of these sources are extremely difficult to access, but the materials listed in Further Reading are generally more readily available.

The key differences of opinion between specialists are also highly disciplinary specific, pertaining to translations of individual Chinese characters or sentences, attributions of specific tomb types to different nomadic confederations, the interpretation of images and artifacts found in potential Yuezhi settlements north of the Amu Darya, and the dates and types of the earliest coins issued by the Yuezhi in Bactria. The main topics of Yuezhi history that these differences of opinion are concerned with are the origin of the proto-Yuezhi, the location of their homeland in Gansu, the details and dates of their interactions with Chinese dynasties and their militarized nomadic neighbors, the precise route followed during their migration, the location of their principal settlement north of the Amu Darya, and the location of the five yabghu following the division of the Yuezhi in the 1st century bce.

Of particular interest to the field is the forthcoming publication of Proceedings of the Symposium on the History of the Kushans on the Basis of Literary Evidence, Seminaris Conference Center, Berlin, December 2013, edited by Harry Falk and others. The somewhat depressing premise behind the convening of this symposium (which the author of this article was fortunate enough to attend), was that, with the closing of many ancient language departments at universities around the world, the ability to read many of the key primary sources on the Yuezhi and Kushans might well be lost in the future. With this in mind, some forty-five specialists from many different countries spent three days reviewing, discussing, and assessing the merits of every single primary source reference to the Yuezhi/Kushans, in the hope of leaving a reliable legacy for future scholars on the relative merits of each reference. The appearance of this volume in late 2016 will arguably be the single most important publication ever in the fields of Yuezhi and Kushan studies.61

Further Reading

Abdullaev, K. “Nomadic Migration in Central Asia.” Proceedings of the British Academy 133 (2007): 73–98.Find this resource:

Adams, D. Q. “The Position of Tocharian among the Other Indo-European Languages.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 104 (1984): 395–402.Find this resource:

Benjamin, C. “The Yuezhi and Their Neighbours: Evidence for the Yuezhi in the Chinese Sources c. 220–c. 25 bce.” In Realms of the Silk Roads: Ancient and Modern. Edited by D. Christian and C. Benjamin, 105 and following. Silk Roads Studies 4. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2000.Find this resource:

Benjamin, C. “A Nation of Nomads? The Lifeway of the Yuezhi in the Gansu and Bactria.” In Toronto Studies in Central and Inner Asia. Vol. 7. Edited by M. Gervers and G. Long, 93–112. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005.Find this resource:

Benjamin, C. “Hungry for Han Goods? Zhang Qian and the Origins of the Silk Roads.” In Toronto Studies in Central and Inner Asia. Vol. 8. Edited by M. Gervers and G. Long, 3–30. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Benjamin, C.The Yuezhi: Origin, Migration and the Conquest of Northern Bactria. Silk Roads Studies Series 14. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2007.Find this resource:

de la Vaissière, É. “The Triple System of Orography in Ptolemy’s Xinjiang.” In Exegisti Monumenta: Festschrift in Honour of Nicholas Sims-Williams. Edited by W. Sundermann, A. Hintze, and F. de Blois, 527–537. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2009.Find this resource:

di Cosmo, N.Ancient China and its Enemies: The Rise of Nomad Power in East Asian History. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2002.Find this resource:

Falk, H., ed., Proceedings of the Symposium on the History of the Kushans on the Basis of Literary Evidence, Seminaris Conference Center, Berlin, December 2013. Mainz: Mainz Academy of Literature and Culture, 2017.Find this resource:

Hill, J.Through the Jade Gate to Rome: A Study of the Silk Roads during the Later Han Dynasty, 1st to 2nd Centuries CE. Charleston, SC: BookSurge, 2009.Find this resource:

Hulsewé, A. F. P., and Loewe, M. A. N.China in Central Asia: The Early Stage, 125 B.C.–A.D. 23: An Annotated Translation of Chapters 61 and 96 of The History of the Former Han Dynasty. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1979.Find this resource:

Litvinsky, B. A., and Altman-Bromberg, C. “The Archaeology and Art of Central Asia: Studies from the Former Soviet Union.” Bulletin of the Asia Institute 8 (1996): 47 ff.Find this resource:

Liu, X., “Migration and Settlement of the Yuezhi–Kushan: Interaction and Interdependence of Nomadic and Sedentary Societies.” Journal of World History 12 (Fall 2001): 261 and following.Find this resource:

Mallory, J. P., and Mair, V. H.The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West. London: Thames and Hudson, 2000.Find this resource:

Pulleyblank, E. G. “The Wu-sun and Sakas and the Yueh-chih Migration.” Bulletin of the School of African and Oriental Studies 22 (1970): 154–160.Find this resource:

Sima Qian. Shi Ji, Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian—Han Dynasty II. Rev ed. Translated by B. Watson. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.Find this resource:

Sinor, D., ed. The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Reprinted 1994.Find this resource:

Zadneprovsky, Y. A. “Migration Paths of the Yueh-chih based on Archaeological Evidence.” Circle of Inner Asian Art Newsletter 9 (April 1999): 3 and following.Find this resource:


(1.) B. Watson, trans., Records of the Grand Historian: Han Dynasty by Sima Qian, rev. ed. (Hong Kong and New York: Renditions-Columbia University Press, 1993), 234 [subsequent references to the Shiji are indicated SJ, followed by the chapter number; if a page number is given, this is to Watson, Records]; A. F. P. Hulsewé and M. A. N. Loewe, China in Central Asia: The Early Stage, 125 B.C.–A.D. 23: An Annotated Translation of Chapters 61 and 96 of The History of the Former Han Dynasty (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1979) [subsequent references to the Han Shu are indicated HS followed by the chapter number, the part as a capital letter, followed by the paragraph number] HS 96A, 15A; SJ 123.

(2.) Tsai Fa Cheng, I Zhou Shu, The Tokharians, trans. A. K. Narain (Shillong, India: North-Eastern Hill University Publications, 2000), chapter 59 (Wang Hui) and appendix to chapter 59 (Shangsh); Guan Zhong, Guanzi Jinzhu Jinyi, 2 vols., (Taipei: Taiwan Commercial Press, 1988) [the references are to chapters followed by line numbers], 73/476, 77/503, 78/507,512, 80/531. See E. G. Pulleyblank, “Chinese and Indo-Europeans,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1966): 19; and A. K. Narain, The Tokharians (Shillong, India: North-Eastern Hill University Publications, 2000), 45 and following.

(3.) Ptolemy, The Geography of Claudius Ptolemy, trans. and ed. E. L. Stevenson (New York: Loeb Classical Library, 1932), vol. 6, chapter 18, pp. 5, 8.

(4.) É. de la Vaissière, “The Triple System of Orography in Ptolemy’s Xinjiang,” in Exegisti Monumenta: Festschrift in Honour of Nicholas Sims-Williams, eds. W. Sundermann, A. Hintze, and F. de Blois (Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2009), 527–537.

(5.) B. A. Litvinsky, “Problems of History and Culture of Eastern Turkestan (Xinjiang) in Antiquity,” CIAA Newsletter 4 (December 1996): 14.

(6.) J. G. Andersson, Researches into the Pre-History of the Chinese, Stockholm: Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities 15 (1943). The early research of Andersson has been seriously questioned and revised by more recent Chinese archaeologists. See, for example, C. Tu-kun, New Light on Prehistoric China (Cambridge, U.K.: W. Heffer, 1966); K. C. Chang, The Archaeology of Ancient China, 4th ed. (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1986); and C. Debaine-Francfort, The Search for Ancient China (London: Thames & Hudson, 1999).

(7.) V. H. Mair, “Mummies of the Tarim Basin,” Archaeology 48.2 (1995): 28–48.

(8.) Narain, Tokharians, 2; and V. H. Mair, “Prehistoric Caucasoid Corpses of the Tarim Basin,” Journal of Indo-European Studies 23.3 & 4 (1995): 281–307.

(9.) J. P. Mallory and V. H. Mair, The Tarim Mummies (London: Thames & Hudson, 2000), 296, 3143–3118.

(10.) Y. Y. A. Zadneprovsky, ‘The Nomads of Northerm Central Asia after the invasion of Alexander’, in History of Civilizations of Central Asia Vol II, eds. J. Harmatta, B. N. Puri and G. F. Etemadi (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1999) pp. 457 ff. For a counter argument see E. Lu, “The Podboy Burials Found in Xinjiang and the Remains of the Yuezhi,” CIAA Newsletter 15 (2002): 21–22.

(11.) HS 96B 1B.

(12.) SJ 123; Watson, Records, 234. SJ 110, 134.

(14.) SJ 110, Watson, Records, 135.

(15.) Ibid., 136.

(16.) Ibid., 140.

(17.) Ibid., 141.

(18.) Ibid., 231, 234; HS 96 A 15A; HS 61 2A.

(19.) HS 61 4B.

(20.) HS 61 4B; SJ 123, Watson, Records, 238 (See Hulsewé and Loewe, China in Central Asia, p. 214, note 803 for a discussion of the apparent contradiction in the accounts of this episode between the Shiji and the Han Shu).

(21.) HS 61 1B; SJ 123, Watson, Records, 231.

(22.) Ptolemy, vol. 6, chap. 14, pp. 7–14; and de la Vaissière, “Triple System.”

(23.) Zadneprovsky, “Migration Paths,” 45–. See also Mallory & Mair, Tarim Mummies, 156, 158.

(24.) HS 61 4B.

(25.) On the Hanging Pass see HS 96A 12A/12B; HS 96B 1B.

(26.) HS 61 4B

(27.) SJ 123, Watson, Records, 234.

(28.) HS 96A 14B.

(29.) HS 96B 1B.

(30.) HS 61 1A.

(31.) Zadneprovsky, “Migration Paths,” 5.

(32.) Ptolemy, vol. 6, chap. 2, p. 6.

(33.) Zadneprovsky, “Migration Paths,” 5; see also K. Abdullaev, “Nomadic Migration in Central Asia,” Proceedings of the British Academy 133 (2007): 73–98 for an excellent discussion of the podboy tomb question and the tombs’ possible attribution to the Yuezhi.

(34.) HS 96A 15B.

(35.) SJ 123, Watson, Records, 234.

(36.) HS 61 3A.

(37.) HS 96A 15B.

(38.) HS 96A 15B; and E. Zürcher, “The Yueh-chih and Kaniska in the Chinese Sources,” in Papers on the Date of Kanishka, April 20–22, 1960, London, ed. A. L. Basham (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1968), 360.

(39.) HHS 77.4a. References to the Hou Han Shu are taken from Zürcher, “The Yueh-chih,” and E. G. Pulleyblank, “Chinese Evidence for the Date of Kaniska,” in Papers on the Date of Kanishka, April 20–22, 1960, London, ed. A. L. Basham (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1968). [Subsequent references to the Hou Han Shu are indicated HHS followed by chapter and chapter subdivision and paragraph].

(40.) Ibid., 231, 234; HS 96 A 15A; HS 61 2A.

(41.) SJ 123; Watson, p. 231.

(42.) HS 96A 14B.

(43.) For a general introduction to Khalchayan see J. Harmatta, “Languages and Literature in the Kushan Empire,” in History of Civilizations of Central Asia. Vol. 2, The Development of Sedentary and Nomadic Civilizations: 700 B.C. to A.D. 250, ed. J. Harmatta (Paris: Unesco, 1994), 417 passim; and Pugachenkova et al., “Kushan Art,” in History of Civilizations.

(44.) C. Benjamin “The Location of Jianshi,” in Transoxiana: Festschrift Presented to Edward Rtveladze, ed. J. Ilyasov (Tashkent, Uzbekistan: Transoxiana Festschrift Series, 2005), 109–117.

(45.) 50 SJ 123, Watson, Records, 234; and 51 HS 96A 14B.

(46.) HS 96A 15A; SJ 123; Watson, Records, 235.

(47.) Strabo, The Geography of Strabo, 8 vols., trans. and ed. H. L. Jones (London: The Loeb Classical Library), vol. 11, chap. 8, line 2 and line 4; see also J. Gardiner-Garden, Apollodoros of Artemita and the Central Asian Skythians, Papers on Inner Asia 3 (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1987), 128–129.

(48.) For Pompeius Trogus, Prologues, chaps. xli and xlii; see Narain, 1957, 129, notes 3, 4; A. K. Narain, The Indo-Greeks (Oxford: Oxford University Press) 1957 (Reprinted 1980), p. 129, notes 3, 4; and Gardiner-Garden, Apollodoros, 128–129.

(49.) Ptolemy, vol. 6, chap. 2, p. 6. See also J. W. McCrindle, Ancient India as Described by Ptolemy (London: Trübner, 1885), 268.

(50.) SJ 123, See Zürcher, “The Yueh-chih,” 361; HS 96A 15A.

(51.) Narain, Tokharians, 39.

(52.) W. W. Tarn, The Greeks in Bactria and India, rev. ed. (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1951), 2833 and following.

(53.) SJ 123, Watson, Records, 232.

(56.) SJ 123, Watson, Records, 241

(57.) HHS 118.0905. I.

(58.) HS 96A 15A, 15B, 14B.

(59.) de la Vaissière, “Triple System.”

(60.) C. Benjamin, The Yuezhi: Origin, Migration and the Conquest of Northern Bactria, Silk Roads Studies Series 14 (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2007).

(61.) H. Falk, ed., Proceedings of the Symposium on the History of the Kushans on the Basis of Literary Evidence, Seminaris Conference Center, Berlin, December 2013 (Mainz: Mainz Academy of Literature and Culture, 2017).