A report on TochariansYuezhi and Xinjiang

Circa 210 BC, the Yuezhi resided to the northwest of Qin China.
artifacts were sinicized
Dzungaria (Red) and the Tarim Basin or Altishahr (Blue)
The geographical spread of the Indo-European languages, with Tocharian in the east.
Figures in one of the embroidered carpets of the Xiongnu Noin-Ula burial site, a luxury item probably imported from Bactria. They are thought to represent Yuezhis. 1st century BC - 1st century AD.
Northern Xinjiang (Junggar Basin) (Yellow), Eastern Xinjiang- Turpan Depression (Turpan Prefecture and Hami Prefecture) (Red) and Altishahr/the Tarim Basin (Blue)
Female donor with label in Tocharian, Kizil Caves.
A later mural (c. 618–712 AD) from the Mogao Caves, depicting the Chinese mission of Zhang Qian to the Yuezhi in 126 BC.
Physical map showing the separation of Dzungaria and the Tarim Basin (Altishahr) by the Tien Shan Mountains
The Tocharian script is very similar to the Indian Brahmi script from the Kushan period, with only slight variations in calligraphy. Tocharian language inscription: Se pañäkte saṅketavattse ṣarsa papaiykau "This Buddha was painted by the hand of Sanketava", on a painting carbon dated to 245-340 AD.
Watershed of the Oxus River (modern Amu Darya)
Map of Han Dynasty in 2 CE. Light blue is the Tarim Basin protectorate.
Tocharian Prince mourning the Cremation of the Buddha, in [[:File:Maya Cave 224, mural 3.jpg|a mural]] from Maya Cave (224) in Kizil. He is cutting his forehead with a knife, a practice of self-mutilation also known among the Scythians.
A dagger excavated in Tillya Tepe.
Old Uyghur/Yugur art from the Bezeklik murals
Major oasis states of the ancient Tarim Basin
The first self-declared Kushan ruler Heraios (1–30 AD) in Greco-Bactrian style Obv: Bust of Heraios, with Greek royal headband. Rev: Horse-mounted King, crowned with a wreath by the Greek goddess of victory Nike. Greek legend: TVPANNOVOTOΣ HΛOV – ΣΛNΛB – KOÞÞANOY "The Tyrant Heraios, Sanav (meaning unknown), of the Kushans"
The Tarim Basin in the 3rd century AD
Tocharian kneeling devotees circa 300 AD, in the paintings of the Cave of the Hippocampi (Cave 118), Kizil Caves.
Possible Yuezhi king and attendants, Gandhara stone palette, 1st century AD
A Sogdian man on a Bactrian camel. Sancai ceramic statuette, Tang dynasty
The Buddhist Cave with the Ring-Bearing Doves (Cave 123) at the Kizil Caves near Kucha, built circa 430-530 CE.
Buddhist art c. 300 AD, depicting (left to right) a Kushan lay Buddhist, Maitreya, Buddha, Avalokitesvara, and a Kushan Buddhist monk.
Mongol states from the 14th to the 17th centuries: the Northern Yuan dynasty, Four Oirat, Moghulistan and Kara Del
Monks from the Cave of the Painters circa 500 AD, Kizil Caves.
Yuezhi horseman on the coinage of Heraios.
The Dzungar–Qing Wars, between the Qing Dynasty and the Dzungar Khanate
Ambassador from Kucha (龜茲國 Qiuci-guo), one of the main Tocharian cities, visiting the Chinese Southern Liang court in Jingzhou circa 516–520 AD at the time of Hephthalite domination over the region, with explanatory text. Portraits of Periodical Offering of Liang, 11th century Song copy.
Nomadic figure, typically with a long nose, on a Bactrian camel. Southern Ningxia, 4th century BC.<ref>{{cite book |last1=Bunker |first1=Emma C. |title=Nomadic Art of the Eastern Eurasian Steppes: The Eugene V. Thaw and Other Notable New York Collections |date=2002 |publisher=Metropolitan Museum of Art |pages=120–121, item 92 |url=https://archive.org/details/NomadicArtoftheEasternEurasianSteppesTheEugeneVThawandOtherNotableNewYorkCollection/page/n133/mode/2up |language=English}}</ref>
The Battle of Oroi-Jalatu in 1756, between the Manchu and Oirat armies
King Suvarnapushpa of Kucha is historically known and ruled 600–625 AD. Cave 69, Kizil Caves.
Harness ornament in the shape of a coiled wolf, characteristic of nomadic artifacts of southern Ningxia and southeastern Gansu, 5th-4th century BC.<ref>{{cite book |last1=Bunker |first1=Emma C. |title=Nomadic Art of the Eastern Eurasian Steppes: The Eugene V. Thaw and Other Notable New York Collections |date=2002 |publisher=Metropolitan Museum of Art |page=45, item 7 |url=https://archive.org/details/NomadicArtoftheEasternEurasianSteppesTheEugeneVThawandOtherNotableNewYorkCollection/page/n59/mode/2up |language=English}}</ref>
The Qing Empire ca. 1820
Tocharian knights from Kizilgaha caves (Cave 30). Circa 600 CE
Belt plaque in the shape of a standing wolf, characteristic of nomadic artifacts of southern Ningxia and southeastern Gansu, and related to the Scythian styles of Pazyryk. 4th century BC.<ref>{{cite book |last1=Bunker |first1=Emma C. |title=Nomadic Art of the Eastern Eurasian Steppes: The Eugene V. Thaw and Other Notable New York Collections |date=2002 |publisher=Metropolitan Museum of Art |page=122, item 94 |url=https://archive.org/details/NomadicArtoftheEasternEurasianSteppesTheEugeneVThawandOtherNotableNewYorkCollection/page/n137/mode/2up |language=English}}</ref>
Scene from the 1828 Qing campaign against rebels in Altishahr
Emperor Taizong's campaign against the oasis states
Yakub Beg, ruler of Yettishar
Prince Tottika, Kizil Cave 205.
19th-century Khotan Uyghurs in Yettishar
Kuomintang in Xinjiang, 1942
Governor Sheng Shicai ruled from 1933 to 1944.
The Soviet-backed Second East Turkestan Republic encompassed Xinjiang's Ili, Tarbagatay and Altay districts.
Close to Karakoram Highway in Xinjiang.
Pamir Mountains and Muztagh Ata.
Taklamakan Desert
Tianchi Lake
Black Irtysh river in Burqin County is a famous spot for sightseeing.
Kanas Lake
Largest cities and towns of Xinjiang
Statue of Mao Zedong in Kashgar
Nur Bekri, Chairman of the Xinjiang Government between 2007 and 2015
The distribution map of Xinjiang's GDP per person (2011)
Ürümqi is a major industrial center within Xinjiang.
Wind farm in Xinjiang
Sunday market in Khotan
Ürümqi Diwopu International Airport
Karakorum highway
This flag (Kök Bayraq) has become a symbol of the East Turkestan independence movement.
"Heroic Gesture of Bodhisattvathe Bodhisattva", example of 6th-7th-century terracotta Greco-Buddhist art (local populations were Buddhist) from Tumxuk, Xinjiang
Sogdian donors to the Buddha, 8th century fresco (with detail), Bezeklik, Eastern Tarim Basin
A mosque in Ürümqi
People engaging in snow sports by a statue of bodhisattva Guanyin in Wujiaqu
Christian Church in Hami
Catholic Church in Urumqi
Temple of the Great Buddha in Midong, Ürümqi
Taoist Temple of Fortune and Longevity at the Heavenly Lake of Tianshan in Fukang, Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture
Emin Minaret
Id Kah mosque in Kashgar, largest mosque in China
Erkin Tuniyaz, the incumbent Chairman of the Xinjiang Government

The Tocharians, or Tokharians ( US : or ; UK : ), were speakers of Tocharian languages, Indo-European languages known from around 7600 documents from around 400 to 1200 AD, found on the northern edge of the Tarim Basin (modern Xinjiang, China).

- Tocharians

The Greater Yuezhi have consequently often been identified with peoples mentioned in classical European sources as having overrun the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, like the Tókharioi (Greek Τοχάριοι; Sanskrit Tukhāra) and Asii (or Asioi).

- Yuezhi

The Tókharoi are often identified by modern scholars with the Yuezhi of Chinese historical accounts, who founded the Kushan Empire.

- Tocharians

They have thus placed the original homeland of the Yuezhi 1,000 km further northwest in the grasslands to the north of the Tian Shan (in the northern part of modern Xinjiang).

- Yuezhi

Nomadic tribes such as the Yuezhi, Saka, and Wusun were probably part of the migration of Indo-European speakers who had settled in western Central Asia long before the Xiongnu and Han Chinese.

- Xinjiang

141–87 BC) wrested the western Tarim Basin away from its previous overlords (the Xiongnu), it was inhabited by various peoples who included the Indo-European speaking Tocharians in Turfan and Kucha, the Saka peoples centered in the Shule Kingdom and the Kingdom of Khotan, the various Tibeto-Burmese groups (especially people related to the Qiang) as well as the Han Chinese people.

- Xinjiang

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Overall

The Tarim Basin is the oval-shaped desert in Central Asia.

Tarim Basin

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Endorheic basin in Northwest China occupying an area of about 888,000 km2 and one of the largest basins in Northwest China.

Endorheic basin in Northwest China occupying an area of about 888,000 km2 and one of the largest basins in Northwest China.

The Tarim Basin is the oval-shaped desert in Central Asia.
Physical map showing the separation of Dzungaria and the Tarim Basin (Taklamakan) by the Tien Shan Mountains
Tarim basin ancient boats; they were used for burials
NASA landsat photo of the Tarim Basin
The Tarim Basin, 2008
Tarim Basin in the 3rd century
Tarim mummies, found in westernmost Xinjiang, within the Tarim Basin.
Fragmentary painting on silk of a woman playing the go boardgame, from the Astana Cemetery, Gaochang, c. 744 AD, during the late period of Tang Chinese rule (just before the An Lushan Rebellion)
Map of Taizong's campaigns against the Tarim Basin oasis states, allies of the Western Turks.
A document from Khotan written in Khotanese Saka, part of the Eastern Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages, listing the animals of the Chinese zodiac in the cycle of predictions for people born in that year; ink on paper, early 9th century
Uyghur princes from the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves near Turpan, Kingdom of Qocho, 8th-9th centuries
An Islamic cemetery outside the Afaq Khoja Mausoleum in Kashgar
Subashi Buddhist temple ruins
Northern Xinjiang (Dzungar Basin) (yellow), Eastern Xinjiang - Turpan Depression (Turpan Prefecture and Hami Prefecture) (red), and the Tarim Basin (blue)
Uyghurs in Khotan
Fresco, with Hellenistic influences, from a stupa shrine, Miran
Painting of a Christian woman, Khocho (Gaochang), early period of Chinese Tang rule, 602–654 AD

Located in China's Xinjiang region, it is sometimes used synonymously to refer to the southern half of the province, or Nanjiang, as opposed to the northern half of the province known as Dzungaria or Beijiang.

These mummies have been previously suggested to be of Tocharian origin, but recent evidence suggest that the mummies belonged to a distinct population unrelated to Indo-European pastoralists, such as Afanasievo.

According to the Sima Qian's Shiji, the nomadic Indo-European Yuezhi originally lived between Tengri Tagh (Tian Shan) and Dunhuang of Gansu, China.

The "Xiaohe Mummy", exhibited in Xinjiang Museum, is one of the oldest Tarim mummies, dating more than 3800 years ago. The "Princess of Xiaohe" see below

Tarim mummies

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The "Xiaohe Mummy", exhibited in Xinjiang Museum, is one of the oldest Tarim mummies, dating more than 3800 years ago. The "Princess of Xiaohe" see below
Taklamakan Desert in the Tarim Basin.
Satellite image of the Taklamakan Desert
Sir Aurel Stein in the Tarim Basin, 1910
The Taklamakan Desert is very dry, which helped considerably in the preservation of the mummies.
Caucasoid mask from Lop Nur, China, 2000–1000 BCE
The Xiaohe mummy (not Princess of Xiaohe) exhibited in Xinjiang Museum - full view
"Tocharian donors", with light hair and light eye color, 7th century CE fresco, Qizil, Tarim Basin, Xinjiang, China.
Map of Eurasia showing the location of the Xiaohe cemetery, the Tarim Basin and the areas occupied by cultures associated with the settlement of the Tarim Basin.
Wooden tablet with an inscription showing Tocharian B in its Brahmic form. Kucha, China, 5th-8th century (Tokyo National Museum)
The Beauty of Loulan - closeup

The Tarim mummies are a series of mummies discovered in the Tarim Basin in present-day Xinjiang, China, which date from 1800 BC to the first centuries BC, with a new group of individuals recently dated to between c. 2100 and 1700 BC. The mummies, particularly the early ones, are frequently associated with the presence of the Indo-European Tocharian languages in the Tarim Basin, although the evidence is not totally conclusive and many centuries separate these mummies from the first attestation of the Tocharian languages in writing.

Victor H. Mair's team concluded that the mummies are Caucasoid, likely speakers of Indo-European languages such as the Tocharians.

Reference to the Yuezhi name was possibly made around 7th century BCE by the Chinese philosopher Guan Zhong, though his book is generally considered to be a later forgery.

Hotan

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Kanishka's Empire (2nd century AD) including Khotan
Bronze coin of Kujula Kadphises found in Khotan.
Khotan Melikawat ruins
Khotan in the Tibetan Empire
Map of Central Asia (1878) showing Khotan (near top right corner) and the Sanju Pass, Hindutash, and Ilchi passes through the Kunlun Mountains to Leh, Ladakh. The previous border of the British Indian Empire is shown in the two-toned purple and pink band.
A mosque in Hotan
Amban Ch´ê Ta-jên's guests festing on a terrace in Nar-Bagh, 1912
Chinese troops at Khotan, 1915
Collecting jade in the White Jade River near Hotan in 2011
Map of Hotan (labeled as HO-TIEN (HO-T'IEN) (KHOTAN)) and surrounding region from the International Map of the World (USATC, 1971)
Locals at a busy Hotan market
Light coloured or "Mutton fat" jade for sale at Hotan Jade Market
Silk weaving in Hotan
Khotanese silks on display in shop.
Entrance to the Khotan Jade Market Center
Market in Hotan
Uyghur people at Sunday market
Carpet weaving in Hotan
Silk weaving in Hotan
Entrance to the Hotan Cultural Museum
Local jade displayed in the Hotan Cultural Museum lobby.
Map of the region including Khotan (Ilchi) (1893)
Map including Hotan (Ho-t'ien, Khotan) (DMA, 1983)
Ambassador from Khotan (于闐國 Yutian) to the Tang dynasty, in Wanghuitu (王會圖) circa 650 CE.

Hotan (also known as Gosthana, Gaustana, Godana, Godaniya, Khotan, Hetian, Hotien) is a major oasis town in southwestern Xinjiang, an autonomous region in Western China.

Tocharians lived in this region over 2000 years ago.

For several hundred years, until they were defeated by the Xiongnu in 176 BCE, the trade of Khotanese jade into China was controlled by the nomadic Yuezhi.

Uyghurs

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The Uyghurs ( or ), alternatively spelled Uighurs, Uygurs or Uigurs, are a Turkic ethnic group originating from and culturally affiliated with the general region of Central and East Asia.

The Uyghurs ( or ), alternatively spelled Uighurs, Uygurs or Uigurs, are a Turkic ethnic group originating from and culturally affiliated with the general region of Central and East Asia.

A Uyghur girde naan baker
Uyghur man in traditional clothing, playing a tambur, a traditional Uyghur instrument.
A possible Tocharian or Sogdian monk (left) with an East Asian Buddhist monk (right). A fresco from the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves, dated to the 9th or 10th century (Kara-Khoja Kingdom).
Uyghur hunter in Kashgar
Uyghur schoolchildren in Kashgar (2011)
Uyghur princes from Cave 9 of the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves, Xinjiang, China, 8th–9th century AD, wall painting
An 8th-century Uyghur Khagan
Uyghur Khaganate in geopolitical context c. 820 AD
Chagatai Khanate (Moghulistan) in 1490
Ethnolinguistic map of Xinjiang in 1967
Map showing the distribution of ethnicities in Xinjiang according to census figures from 2000, the prefectures with Uyghur majorities are in blue.
Protesters Amsterdam with the Flag of East Turkestan
A Uyghur mosque in Khotan
Map of language families in Xinjiang
Leaf from an Uyghur-Manichaean version of the ‘‘Arzhang’’.
Uyghur Meshrep musicians in Yarkand
Wall painting at Bezeklik caves in Flaming Mountains, Turpan Depression.
Xinjiang carpet factory
Uyghur polu (پولۇ, полу)
Doppa Maker, traditional Uyghur hats, Kashgar
A Uyghur man having his head shaved in a bazaar. Shaving of head is now seen mostly among the older generation.
Uyghur girl in clothing made of fabric with design distinctive to the Uyghurs
Uyghur women on their way to work, Kashgar. 2011

The Uyghurs are recognized as native to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwest China.

These people may have been of Tocharian origin, and some have suggested them to be the Yuezhi mentioned in ancient Chinese texts.

Zhang Qian taking leave from emperor Han Wudi, for his expedition to Central Asia from 138 to 126 BC, Mogao Caves mural, 618 – 712...

Zhang Qian

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Chinese official and diplomat who served as an imperial envoy to the world outside of China in the late 2nd century BC during the Han dynasty.

Chinese official and diplomat who served as an imperial envoy to the world outside of China in the late 2nd century BC during the Han dynasty.

Zhang Qian taking leave from emperor Han Wudi, for his expedition to Central Asia from 138 to 126 BC, Mogao Caves mural, 618 – 712...
Statue of Zhang Qian in Shaanxi History Museum, Xi'an
Zhang Qian's travels to the west
Countries described in Zhang Qian's report. Visited countries are highlighted in blue.
Mogao Caves 8th-century mural depicting the pseudohistorical legend of Emperor Wu of Han worshipping "golden man" Buddha statues captured in 121 BC.

He played an important pioneering role for the future Chinese conquest of lands west of Xinjiang, including swaths of Central Asia and even lands south of the Hindu Kush (see Protectorate of the Western Regions).

The Han court dispatched Zhang Qian, a military officer who was familiar with the Xiongnu, to the Western Regions in 138 BC with a group of ninety-nine members to make contact and build an alliance with the Yuezhi against the Xiongnu.

(The question of links between the Yuezhi and the Tocharians of the Tarim is still debatable.)

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Saka

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The Saka (Old Persian: Sakā; Kharoṣṭhī: 𐨯𐨐 Saka; Ancient Egyptian: sk, sꜣg;, old *Sək, mod. Sè, Sāi), Shaka (Sanskrit (Brāhmī): , , Śaka; Sanskrit (Devanāgarī): शक Śaka, शाक Śāka), or Sacae (Ancient Greek: Sákai; Latin: ) were a group of nomadic Iranian peoples who historically inhabited the northern and eastern Eurasian Steppe and the Tarim Basin.

The Saka (Old Persian: Sakā; Kharoṣṭhī: 𐨯𐨐 Saka; Ancient Egyptian: sk, sꜣg;, old *Sək, mod. Sè, Sāi), Shaka (Sanskrit (Brāhmī): , , Śaka; Sanskrit (Devanāgarī): शक Śaka, शाक Śāka), or Sacae (Ancient Greek: Sákai; Latin: ) were a group of nomadic Iranian peoples who historically inhabited the northern and eastern Eurasian Steppe and the Tarim Basin.

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For the Achaemenids, there were three types of Sakas: the Sakā tayai paradraya ("beyond the sea", presumably between the Greeks and the Thracians on the Western side of the Black Sea), the Sakā tigraxaudā ("with pointed caps"), the Sakā haumavargā ("Hauma drinkers", furthest East). Soldiers of the Achaemenid army, Xerxes I tomb detail, circa 480 BC.
Head of a Saka warrior, as a defeated enemy of the Yuezhi, from Khalchayan, northern Bactria, 1st century BCE.
A document from Khotan written in Khotanese Saka, part of the Eastern Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages, listing the animals of the Chinese zodiac in the cycle of predictions for people born in that year; ink on paper, early 9th century
Scythia and the Parthian Empire in about 170 BC (before the Yuezhi invaded Bactria).
Silver coin of the Indo-Scythian King Azes II (ruled c. 35–12 BC). Note the royal tamga on the coin.
Simplified admixture analysis of ancient steppe populations, including the Pazyryk culture.
A Pazyryk horseman in a felt painting from a burial around 300 BC. The Pazyryks appear to be closely related to the Scythians.
Pazyryk Carpet
Artifacts found the tombs 2 and 4 of Tillya Tepe and reconstitution of their use on the man and woman found in these tombs
Battle scenes on the Orlat plaques. 1st century CE.
Statuette from the Saka culture in Xinjiang, from a 3rd-century BC burial site north of the Tian Shan, Xinjiang Region Museum, Ürümqi.

In the 2nd century BC, many Sakas were driven by the Yuezhi from the steppe into Sogdia and Bactria and then to the northwest of the Indian subcontinent, where they were known as the Indo-Scythians.

Some other Saka groups lived to the east of the Pamir Mountains and to the north of the Iaxartes river, as well as in the regions corresponding to modern-day Qirghizia, Tian Shan, Altai, Tuva, Mongolia, Xinjiang, and Kazakhstan.

In Natural History, the 1st century AD Roman author Pliny the Elder characterises the Seres, sometimes identified as Saka or Tocharians, as red-haired and blue-eyed.