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Chinese 沙陀
Shatuo Turks
Chinese 沙陀突厥

The Shatuo (also transcribed as Sha-t'o, Sanskrit Sart [1] ) were a Turkic tribe that heavily influenced northern Chinese politics from the late ninth century through the tenth century. They are noted for founding three, Later Tang, Later Jin, and Later Han, of the five dynasties and one, Northern Han, of the ten kingdoms during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. The short lived kingdoms founded by Shatuo Turks would later be conquered by the Song dynasty. After the Han Chinese conquest of Shatuo Turks, they mostly disappeared as an ethnic group.



The Shatuo tribe descended mainly from Western Turkic Chuyue tribe, [2] [3] [4] who in turn belonged to a group of four Chuy tribes, collectively known as Yueban. [1] The Yueban state had survived to the end of 480s, until its independence was destroyed by the Tiele. After the fall of the state, the Yuebans formed four tribes - Chuyue, Chumi, Chumuhun and Chuban. These tribes became major players in the later First Turkic Khaganate and thereafter. [5] Chuyue and Chumi did not belong to the dominant Onoq (Ten Arrows) Union, while Chumukun and Chuban. [6]

Other sources derived the Shatuo origins from the Tiele. The epitaph of Shatuo Li Keyong, a late-Tang military commissioner (jiedushi), states that his clan's progenitor was "Yidu, Lord of the Xueyantuo state, an unrivaled general" (益度、薛延陀國君、無敵將軍). [7] However, other Chinese chroniclers traced the Shatuo's origins to a Tiele chief named *Bayar (拔也 Baye) [8] ~ *Bayïrku (拔也古 Bayegu) [9] [3] [10] Nevertheless, Song historian Ouyang Xiu rejected the Bayïrku origin of Shatuo; he pointed out that the Bayïrku were contemporaries, not primordial ancestors, of the Shatuo's reigning clan Zhuxie, and that this Western Turkic kingroup adopted Shatuo as tribal name and Zhuxie as surname after their chief Jinzhong (盡忠; lit. "Loyal to the Utmost") had moved into Beiting Protectorate, in Tang Dezong's time (r. 780 - 804). [3]


The Chuyue tribe members who remained in the Western Turkic Kaganate, under On-Ok (Ten Tribes) union's leadership, occupied territory east of the lake Barkul, and were called, in Chinese, Shatuo (literally "sandy slope", i.e. desert). Shatuo consisted of three sub-tribes: Chuyue (處月), Suoge (娑葛), [11] and Anqing (安慶), the last of whom were of Sogdian origins. [3] Shatuo participated in suppressing many uprisings on behalf of China, and for that the Chinese emperors granted their leaders various titles and rewards. After a defeat of Chuy by Tibetans in 808, Chuy Shatuo branch asked China for protection, and moved into Inner China. After suppressing the Huang Chao uprising in 875–883, and establishing three out of five short-lived dynasties during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (907-960), their number in China fell down to between 50-100 thousand, ruling a Chinese population of about 50 million people.

A detailed analysis of the term Shatuo (Sanskrit Sart) is given by Chjan Si-man. [12] Their social and economic life was studied by W. Eberhard. [13] In "Tanghuyao" the Shato tamga is depicted as ShatoTamgaZuev.gif [14]

The Shatuo Turks were gradually Sinicized themselves, yet steadfastly held onto their power base in Shanxi (central region of modern-day China). They gained in strength through the 910s until finally in 923, they were able to overcome the Later Liang with Khitan assistance to found the Later Tang.

Shatuo nobles established the Later Tang dynasty of China (923-956). [15] During the Mongol period the Shatuo fell under the Chagatai Khanate, and after its demise remained in its remnant in Zhetysu and northern Tian Shan.

The Shatuo received tribute from the Tatar people from north of the Ordos in 966, while they were vassals of the Khitan Emperor. [16]

In later history the Shatuo, together with the Tian Shan Kirgyz, fell under domination of the Mongol Oirats, later known as Kalmyks. With the expansion of the Khanate of Kokand, the Tian Shan and Zhetysu Shatuo were in its protectorate.[ citation needed ]

Shatuo and the Tang Dynasty

Lineage of the Shatuo Turks Turks.png
Lineage of the Shatuo Türks

To the Tang Dynasty, the Shatuo served a purpose. Some claim that they were a part of the Tang dynasty's foreign policy to control and manage other 'border' peoples identified as a threat. Some argue that a divide and conquer policy was applied against those identified as a threat, specifically the Tibetans and Turkic tribes in Central Asia. The Tang Chinese continued this long policy and in other epochs this became an institutionalised tradition[ original research? ].

Emerging Shatuo

At the beginning of the 8th century, the Shatuo were subject to the Tang Empire. They provided significant aid to Emperor Suzong of Tang, alongside the Uyghur Khanate, during the An Shi Rebellion in the 750s. Indeed, Yao Runeng (姚如能) mentioned, in the 9th-century "Deeds of An Lushan", two separate tribes Shatuo 沙陀 and Zhuye (朱耶) ~ Zhuxie 朱邪, among the non-Chinese tribes in the He and Long regions under Turko-Khotanese loyalist superintendent Geshu Han (哥舒翰, d. 757). [17] Shatuo would designate geographical origin and Zhuye would become the ruling house's surname or appellation, both associated with "one single kinship group". Shatuo chieftain Zhuye Guduozhi was conferred the title of tejin (governor) and xiaowei shang-jiangjun (colonel high general).

By the end of the eighth century, the Shatuo had fallen out with the Tang Empire. They joined with other Turkic tribes in Tibet to form an alliance with the Tibetans as they felt oppressed by the Uyghurs. Though the Shatuo fought alongside Tibetan armies for more than a decade against the Tang, the Tibetans were concerned about their loyalty. When, in 808, the Shatuo decided to leave, the Tibetans pursued them, fighting battles along the way. They made it to Lingzhou Prefecture in the Gansu corridor, where Tang general Fan Xichao granted them asylum. A source quotes them as committing mass suicide in 832 while fighting for an Uyghur ruler, but this seems to refer to a related tribe who had settled farther west, into the Fergana valley. The Shatuo who had escaped Tibetan rage managed to maintain a power base in northern China around modern-day Shanxi from the late ninth century into the tenth century.

In the middle of the ninth century, it may be said that the Shatuo rewarded the generosity of the Tang by fighting alongside them against the invading Tibetans, playing a prominent role in numerous victories. They also helped quell the Pang Xun Rebellion and the Wang Xianzhi Rebellion.

Li Keyong

The Shatuo Li Keyong was conferred the post of cishi for Dai County. He hired more than ten thousand Tatar nomads to bring back to Daizhou, but was denied admittance to the Shiling Pass. In 882, Su You and Helian Duo joined to prepare for an attack on Li. However, he launched a pre-emptive on Su's stronghold at Weizhou Island. The Tang emperor would soon offer amnesty to assist against Huang Chao, who led a fierce rebellion against the Tang. Li Keyong was named the Prince of Jin in 895 for his loyalty to the Tang.

Five Dynasties

The Tang Dynasty fell in 907 and was replaced by the Later Liang. The Shatuo had their own principality Jin (Later Tang precursor) under the Tang dynasty, in the area now known as Shanxi, which was granted to them as a fief in 883 by the Tang emperors, and survived the fall of the Tang dynasty in 907. The Tang dynasty emperor's had granted the Shatuo Zhuye chieftain Li Keyong the imperial surname of Li and title Prince of Jin, adopting him into the imperial family. They had tense relations with the Later Liang, and cultivated good relations with the emerging Khitan power to the north.

Later Tang

The son of Li Keyong, Li Cunxu, succeeded in destroying the Later Liang in 923, declaring himself the emperor of the “Restored Tang”, officially known as the Later Tang, using the fact that his family was granted the imperial Li surname of the Tang dynasty and a princely title to declare themselves legitimate Tang dynasty emperors. In line with claims of restoring the Tang, Li moved the capital from Kaifeng back to Luoyang, where it had been during the Tang Dynasty. The Later Tang controlled more territory than the Later Liang, including the Beijing area, the surrounding Sixteen Prefectures , Shanxi and Shaanxi Province.

This was the first of three short-lived Shatuo dynasties. The last Later Tang Emperor was a Han Chinese, Li Congke, originally surnamed Wang, who was adopted by the Shatuo Later Tang Emperor Li Siyuan, granted the imperial surname Li and made the Prince of Lu.

Later Jin

The Later Tang was brought to an end in 936 when Shi Jingtang (posthumously known as Gaozu of Later Jin), also a S hihatuo, successfully rebelled against the Han Chinese [ Later Tang]] emperor Li Congke and established the Later Jin Dynasty. Shi moved the capital back to Kaifeng, then called Bian. The Later Jin controlled essentially the same territory as the Later Tang except the strategic Sixteen Prefectures area, which had been ceded to the expanding Liao Empire established by the Khitans.

Later historians would denigrate the Later Jin as a puppet regime of the powerful Liao to the north. When Shi's successor did defy the Liao, a Khitan invasion resulted in the end of the dynasty in 946.

Later Han and Northern Han

The death of the Khitan emperor on his return from the raid on the Later Jin left a power vacuum that was filled by Liu Zhiyuan, another Shatuo who founded the Later Han in 947. The capital was at Bian (Kaifeng) and the state held the same territories as its predecessor. Liu died after a single year of reign and was succeeded by his teenage son, in turn unable to reign for more than two years, when this very short-lived dynasty was ended by the Later Zhou. The remnants of the Later Han returned to the traditional Shatuo Turk stronghold of Shanxi and established the Northern Han Kingdom. The Last Northern Han Emperor, Liu Jiyuan was originally surnamed He but was adopted by his maternal grandfather, the Northern Han Emperor Liu Chong and granted the Imperial surname Liu. Liu Jiyuan granted the imperial surname to the Han Chinese general Yang Ye and adopted him as a brother. Under the protection of the Khitan Liao Dynasty, the tiny kingdom survived until 979 when it was finally incorporated into the Song Dynasty.

Song Dynasty

By 960, most of the ethnic-Shatuo members had assimilated with Han Chinese. Shatuo Turks that remained on the steppes were eventually absorbed into various Mongolic or Turkic tribes. From the 10th to 13th centuries, Shatuo remnants possibly joined Mongolic-speaking Tatar confederation in the territory of the modern Mongolia, and became known as Ongud or White Tatars branch of the Tatars. [18] [19]

Surnames of Shatuo

See also


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Li Cunxin (李存信) (862–902), originally Zhang Wuluo (張污落), was a military general in imperial China's Tang Dynasty, serving the Shatuo military leader Li Keyong, who adopted him as a son.

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