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Shatuo Turks

The Shatuo (also transcribed as Shato, 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 of the five dynasties and one of the kingdoms during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period and later Song Dynasty.


The Shatuo tribes descended from the Chigil tribes, belonging to a group of six Chu tribes collectively known as Yueban.[1]

The Yueban state survived to the end of 480s, until its independence was destroyed by the Teleuts. After the fall of the state, the Yuebans formed four tribes - Chuyue, Chumi, Chumuhun and Chuban. These tribes became major players in the later Turkic Khaganate and thereafter.[2]

Altai Chumuhuns

An 8th-century Tibetan geographer mentioned Chumuhuns in Altai and south of it as the Ibilkur, and associated them with Külüg-Külchur. They were the only Chuy tribe that in the middle of the 8th century preserved their independence, in spite of being sandwiched between Karluks and Turgesh. Their possessions were on the west side of the Tarbagatai range.[3]

Chuy Shatuo

The branch of the Chuy tribes that remained in the Western Turkic Kaganate as part of On-Ok (Ten Tribes) union occupied territory east of the lake Barkul, called in Chinese Shatuo (literally "sandy rough terrain", i.e. desert), formed of three sub-tribes. 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 for protection from China, and moved into Inner China. It is known that after suppression of Huang-Chao uprising in 875-883, and establishing three out of five dynasties during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (907-960), their number in China fell down to between 50-100,000, which ruled a Chinese population of about 50 million people.

Some argue that early Chinese sources identify them as the Xueyantuo. Others even claim they emerged as part of the Üç-Oğuz confederation of Oghuz Turks.[4]

A detailed analysis of the term Shatuo (Sanskrit Sart) is given by Chjan Si-man.[5] Their social and economic life was studied by W. Eberhard.[6] In "Tanghuyao" the Shato tamga is depicted as ShatoTamgaZuev.gif [7]

The Shatuo Turks were gradually assimilated, and 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).[8] 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 Tata people from norther of the Ordos in 966, while they were vassals of the Khitan Emperor.[9]

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 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?].

Xueyantuo (Seyanto)

Seyanto were a member of the Tele union who, after being assaulted by the Western Türkic Chora-Kagan in 605 (Ch. Chulo), seceded from the Western Türkic Kaganate, established their own Kaganate under a leadership of Kibir tribe's Baga-Kagan Yagmurchyn, retaining the control and income from the Turfan segment of the Silk Road. A head of Seyanto tribe, Yshbara, was installed as a lesser Kagan Yetir (yeti er "seven tribes"). In the 610, when on the Western Türkic Kaganate throne was raised Yakui-Kagan (Ch. Egui, r. 610-617), both rulers renounced their Kagan ranks and rejoined the Western Türkic Kaganate. But when the next Western Türkic Tong-Yabgu-Kagan (r. 617-630) annexed all seven tribes of the Seyanto-headed Tele confederation, which also included Uighurs, Bayarku, Edizes, Tongra, Bokuts and Baisi tribes, the Seyanto leader led in 627 his tribes into the territory of the Eastern Türkic Kaganate, defeated the main force of the Kaganate led by the son of the reigning Kagan El-Kagan, Yukuk-Shad (Ch. Yuigu-she), and settled in the valley of r. Tola in the Northern Mongolia. After the victory, Uighur leader Pusa assumed a title kat-elteber (Ch. go-selifa) and split from the confederation, and in 629 the Seyanto Ynan-erkin declared himself a Jenchu Bilge-Kagan of a new Seyanto Kaganate. The Kaganate was quickly recognized by the Tang Empire, as a counterweight against its enemy Eastern Türkic Kaganate.[10] "Raising Ynan on Kagan throne was done under pressure from the Tang court interested in stripping El-kagan of the rights to the supreme power in the huge region, and also in final dismemberment of the Türkic state, a source of many conflicts on their northern borders." [11] Seyanto provided military service by assisting the Tang Empire against the Tatars in the 630s. The Seyanto built a vast state spanning from the Altai Mountains to the Gobi desert. In a few years, mindful of a new powerful state on their northern border, the Tang empire switched their allegiance to independent Uighurs, who defeated Seyanto in 641, when under Jenchu Bilge-Kagan they threatened to attack other Chinese-aligned tribes. Five years later the short-lived empire was all but destroyed by a Tang-Uighur alliance. The remnants of the Seyanto fled west to Dzungaria and the Semirechye area.

Emerging Shatuo

At the beginning of the 8th century, the Shauto were subject to the Tang Empire. They provided significant aid to Emperor Suzong of Tang, alongside the Uyghurs, during the An Shi Rebellion in the 750s. Consequently, their 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 far 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 as a fief in 883 by the Tang emperors in 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 was during the Tang Dynasty. The Later Tang controlled more territory than the Later Liang, including the Beijing area, the surrounding Sixteen Prefectures 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 Shatuo, successfully rebelled against the Han Chinese Later Tang emperor Li Congke and established the Later Jin Dynasty. Shi moved back the capital 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 Kingdom

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 as one of the bloodlines founded the Song Dynasty, example such as Emperor Taizu of Song and his second wife, [Empress Song (Song dynasty)|Empress Xiaozhang] both had Shatuo ancestries. citation and sources needed for Emperor Taizu While others that stays in the Steppe will be incorporated into Mongol Empire army.

Surnames of Shatuo

  • Li (李)
  • Zhu-Ye (朱耶)
  • Zhu (朱)
  • Sha-Jin (沙金)
  • Sha (沙)*
  • Liu (刘)*

Surnames of Xueyantuo

See also


  • Chavannes, Édouard (1900), Documents sur les Tou-kiue (Turcs) occidentaux. Paris, Librairie d’Amérique et d’Orient. Reprint: Taipei. Cheng Wen Publishing Co. 1969.
  • Findley, Carter Vaughn, The Turks in World History. Oxford University Press, (2005). ISBN 0-19-516770-8; 0-19-517726-6 (pbk.)
  • Mote, F.W.: Imperial China: 900–1800, Harvard University Press, 1999
  • Zuev Yu.A., "Se-Yanto Kaganate And Kimeks (Türkic ethnogeography of the Central Asia in the middle of 7th century)", Shygys, 2004, No 1, pp. 11–21, No 2, pp. 3–26, Oriental Studies Institute, Almaty (In Russian)
  • Chinaknowledge: 5 DYNASTIES & 10 STATES
  • Shatuo


  1. ^ a b Zuev Yu.A., "Horse Tamgas from Vassal Princedoms (Translation of Chinese composition "Tanghuyao" of 8-10th centuries)", Kazakh SSR Academy of Sciences, Alma-Ata, I960, p. 127 (In Russian)
  2. ^ Gumilev L.N., "Hunnu in China", Moscow, 'Science', 1974, Ch. 9, (In Russian)
  3. ^ Bacot J. "Reconnaissance en Haute Asie Seplentrionale par cinq envoyes ouigours au VIII siecle" // JA, Vol. 254, No 2,. 1956, p.147, in Gumilev L.N., "Ancient Türks", Moscow, 'Science', 1967, Ch.27 (In Russian)
  4. ^ Biologie.De - Deutsche Zentrale fur Biologische Information Seyanto
  5. ^ prof. Chjan Si-man: "New research about historical tribes of the Western Territory"
  6. ^ W. Eberhard: "Some Cultural Traits of the Shato-Türks. "Oriental Art", vol. 1 (1948), No 2, p. 50-55
  7. ^ Zuev Yu.A., "Horse Tamgas from Vassal Princedoms (Translation of Chinese composition "Tanghuyao" of 8-10th centuries)", Kazakh SSR Academy of Sciences, Alma-Ata, I960, p. 127, 132 (In Russian)
  8. ^ Yu. Zuev, "Early Türks: Sketches of history and ideology", Almaty, Daik-Press, 2002, p. 8, ISBN 9985-4-4152-9
  9. ^ Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. China Branch (1897). Journal of the China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society for the year ..., Volumes 30-31. SHANGHAI: The Branch. p. 23. Retrieved 2011-06-28.
  10. ^ Zuev Yu.A., "Se-Yanto Kaganate And Kimeks (Türkic ethnogeography of the Central Asia in the middle of 7th century), Shygys, 2004, No 1, pp. 11-21, No 2, pp. 3-26, Oriental Studies Institute, Almaty, pp. 1-14, 1-15
  11. ^ Zuev (2004), p. 1-19
  •  This article incorporates text from Journal of the China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society for the year ..., Volumes 30-31, by Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. China Branch, a publication from 1897 now in the public domain in the United States.
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