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The Yuezhi or Rouzhi (Chinese: 月支, pinyin: yuè zhī or ròu zhī; also 月氏, pinyin: yuè shì or ròu shì), also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi (Chinese: 大月支, dà yuè zhī or dà ròu zhī, "Great Yuezhi"), were an ancient Central Asian people.

They are believed by most scholars to have been an Indo-European people,[5] and may have been the same as or closely related to the Tocharians (Τοχάριοι) of Classical sources.[6] They were originally settled in the arid grasslands of the eastern Tarim Basin area, in what is today Xinjiang and western Gansu, in China, before they migrated to Transoxiana, Bactria and then northern South Asia, where they formed the Kushan Empire.Contents [hide]
1 Name
2 Origins
3 The Yuezhi exodus
4 Settlement in Transoxiana
5 Invasion of Bactria
6 Expansion into the Hindu-Kush
7 Foundation of the Kushan empire
8 Presumed Yuezhi rulers
9 See also
10 Notes
11 References

12 links


[edit]
Name

Since the character yuè (月) can stand for the character ròu (肉) in pictograms, it may not mean "moon" here. The character seems to have derived originally from ròu, "meat", as a character component.[7] However, if the form Yuezhi (月氏) is accepted, the name translates literally as "moon clan", from yuè (月), "moon" and shì (氏), "clan" or "race".

There are numerous theories about the derivation of the name Yuezhi and none has yet found general acceptance.[8][9] According to Zhang Guang-da the name Yuezhi is a transliteration of their own name for themselves, the Visha ("the tribes"), being called the Vijaya in Tibetan.[10].

[edit]
Origins

The first known reference to the Yuezhi was made in 645 BCE by the Chinese Guan Zhong in his Guanzi 管子(Guanzi Essays: 73: 78: 80: 81). The dates of this book are disputed however, and it may date to as late as 1st century BCE.[11] The book described the Yuzhi 禺氏, or Niuzhi 牛氏, as a people from the north-west who supplied jade to the Chinese from the nearby mountains of Yuzhi 禺氏 at Gansu.[12] The supply of jade from the Tarim Basin from ancient times is indeed well documented archaeologically: "It is well known that ancient Chinese rulers had a strong attachment to jade. All of the jade items excavated from the tomb of Fuhao 妇好 of the Shang dynasty, more than 750 pieces, were from Khotan in modern Xinjiang. As early as the mid-first millennium BCE the Yuezhi engaged in the jade trade, of which the major consumers were the rulers of agricultural China." (Liu (2001), pp. 267-268). The suffix "Di" or "Zhi" (Chinese:氐) was generally used to describe the Di people, "Western barbarians", in Chinese annals.

Rouzhi/Yuezhi (lit. "Rou(maybe Meat, but not Moon) People")[citation needed] was the name used continuously by ancient Chinese historians to designate the tribe throughout its migrations, from the time it was in the eastern Tarim Basin area (7th to 2nd century BCE[citation needed]) to the time it ruled the Kushan Empire in India (1st-3th century CE). Note that this was not the Old Chinese pronounciation used at the time, but Mandarin.

According to former USSR scholar Zuev, there was a Queen among the large Yuezhi confederation who added to her possessions the lands of the Tochar (Pinyin: Daxia) on the headwaters of the Huanghe circa 3rd century BCE. According him, the Chinese chronicles began referring to the queen's tribe as the Great Yuezhi (Da Yuezhi), and to call the Daxia/Tochars the Lesser Yuezhi (Pinyin: Xiao Yuezhi). Together, they were simply called Yuezhi. In the 5th century CE, a scholar and translator monk Kumarajiva, while translating texts into Chinese, used the name "Yuezhi" to translate "Tochar". In the middle of the 2nd century BCE the Yuezhi conquered Bactria, and the Ancient Greek authors inform us that the conquerors of Bactria were the Asii and Tochari tribes. Bactria then in the Chinese chronicles began to be called the country of Daxia, i.e. Tocharistan and the language of Bactria/Tocharistan began to be called "Tocharian"." [13]

The Yuezhi are also documented in detail in Chinese historical accounts, in particular the 2nd-1st century BCE "Records of the Great Historian", or Shiji, by Sima Qian. According to these accounts:
"The Yuezhi originally lived in the area between the Qilian or Heavenly Mountains (Tian Shan) and Dunhuang, but after they were defeated by the Xiongnu they moved far away to the west, beyond Dayuan, where they attacked and conquered the people of Daxia and set up the court of their king on the northern bank of the Gui [= Oxus] River. A small number of their people 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 Yuezhi.",[14]

The Qilian and Dunhuang original homeland of the Yuezhi have recently been argued not to refer to the current locations in Gansu, but to the Tian Shan range and the Turfan region, 1,000 km to the west, Dunhuang identified with a mountain named Dunhong listed in the Shanhaijing.[15]

The Yuezhi may have been a Caucasoid people, as indicated by the portraits of their kings on the coins they struck following their exodus to Transoxiana (2nd-1st century BCE), and especially the coins they struck in India as Kushans (1st-3rd century CE). However, no direct records for the name of Yuezhi rulers are known to exist (only Chinese accounts mention the name), and some doubt on the accuracy of their first coins.[16]

Ancient Chinese sources do describe the existence of "white people with long hair" (The Bai people of the Shan Hai Jing) beyond their northwestern border, and the very well preserved Tarim mummies with Caucasian features found at the ancient oasis on the Silk Road, Niya, often with reddish or blond hair, today displayed at the Ürümqi Museum and dated to the 3rd century BCE, have been found in precisely the same area of the Tarim Basin.[17]

The Indo-European Tocharian languages also have been attested in the same geographical area, and although the first known epigraphic evidence dates to the 6th century CE, the degree of differentiation between Tocharian A and Tocharian B, and the absence of Tocharian language remains beyond that area, tends to indicate that a common Tocharian language existed in the same area of Yuezhi settlement during the second half of the 1st millennium BCE.

According to one theory, the Yuezhi were probably part of the large migration of Indo-European speaking peoples who were settled in eastern Central Asia (possibly as far as Gansu) at that time. The nomadic Ordos culture, who lived in northern China east of the Yuezhi, are another example. Also the Caucasian mummies of Pazyryk, probably Scythian in origin, are located around 1,500 kilometers north-west of the Yuezhi, and dated also to around the 3rd century BCE.[citation needed]

According to Han accounts, the Yuezhi "were flourishing" during the time of the first great Chinese Qin emperor, but were regularly in conflict with the neighbouring tribe of the Xiongnu to the northeast.
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