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Ancient uighur

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Shiwa Okar14op.jpg

The warrior armor and helmet that Shiwa Okar wears in the Shambhala Painting comes directly from the Uighur/Pamir region of the ancient Silk Road.........

Tien Shan Mountain Range..........The Chinese words "Tien Shan" are translated into English as the "Heaven's Mountians" or "Celestial Mountains." However, the original name for this mountain chain was "Tengri Tag," which means "mountains of the spirits" in the language of the nomadic peoples who currently live in these mountains, the Kazakh and the Kyrgyz.

"Uyghur religion has also played a major part in Uyghur culture and has has evolved through several transitions including Shamanism, Manachaeism, Buddhism and even Christianity before Islam became the predominate religion. The Uyghur language (defined by linguists as Altaic Turkic) has 13 dialects."

"The Tarim River in East Turkestan. Thus 'Shambhala' must be a special name for the Uighur Kingdom centered at Khocho that flourished circa 850-1250." (Newman...1985)

In the Bon myth, Olmolungring was northwest of My Kailas, twice as far from it as the peak is from Shigatse, a major town in central Tibet. (Newman, 1985)

"The Indian Kalachakra literature locates Shambhala in the region north of the Tian Shan. Sambhala first appears in the Mahabharata. In Hindu texts, the warrior Kalki will rid the earth of barbarians." (Cabezon: 486)....

"One travels north to the region of Khotan (Li Yul). Nearbye is the Tarim River (Shing rta---Sita) which flows from west to east. In this region live the Uighurs (Hor). North of the Tarim lie the Tian Shan mountains that make up the southern boundary of Shambhala." (Cabezon: 488)...

After the fall of the Uigur Kaganate, some Manichaean Uigurs emigrated to the west banks of the Yellow River in Kansu, a second group emigrated via Yetti Su to the southern part of Khan Tengri (Tian Shan in Chinese) in Eastern Turkestan, the third and the largest group of Uigurs emigrated to the northern part of Khan Tengri where their ancestors were still living. The Manichaean Uigurs who emigrated to the west banks of the Yellow river in Kansu established a kingdom in 850 known as the Kan-Chou Uigur Kingdom, later absorbed in 1228 by the Tankut state Western Hsia. These Uigurs still live in the Kansu area under the name Sarik Uigurs or Yellow Uigurs, preserving their old Uigur tongue. The Manichaean Uigurs who emigrated to the northern part of Khan Tengri in Eastern Turkestan established the second Uigur Kingdom in 846 known as Karakhoja Uigur Kingdom near the present day city of Turfan. The Manichaean Uigurs who settled in the southern part of Khan Tengri, established the Karakhanid Kingdom in 840 AD with the support of other Türks, the Karluks, Turgishes and Basmils, with Kashgar as their capital. In 934, during the rule of Satuk Bughra Khan, the Karakhanids embraced Islam. Thus, in the territory of Eastern Turkestan were two Uigur kingdoms: the Moslem Karakhanids, and Buddhist Karakhoja Uigurs.

The Islamic kingdom was overrun by the Karakhitays in 1124. The Karakhitays are also known as the Western Liao. They were a mixture of Mongol, Turkic and Tunguz people. Thus the Buddhist Uighur Kingdom became vassals of the Karakhitays. In 1218 the Buddhist Uighur Kingdom was voluntarily confederated with Chengiz Khan against their common enemy, the Karakhitays whom they defeated (22). The Uighur King Barchuk was accepted "graciously" by Chengiz Khan as his "fifth son (23). The Buddhist Uighurs maintained their sovereignty in the north and Mahmud Yalvach, a Muslim Uighur was appointed to the administration in the south (24). Chengiz Khan died in 1227, and his empire was divided among his four sons. Chagatay inherited Western and Eastern Turkestan. Like his father; he did not interfere with the internal affairs of Eastern Turkestan (25). After his death Turkestan was divided into two parts again by rival khans in a Power struggle to succeed Chagatay. After a bloody struggle Timur succeeded to the Chagatay's throne in Western Turkestan in 1368. The rule of the Muslim part of Eastern Turkestan passed into the hands of Khizir Khoja, who staged an invasion of the Buddhist Uighur Kingdom in the north in 1397 and brought them under his rule. After that the lslamic religion also spread among the Buddhist Uighurs (26). This Islamic Uighur Kingdom of Eastern Turkestan maintained its independence until 1759 (27).

Shiwa OkarDetail.jpg

The next major Turkic group to adopt Buddhism were the Old Turks who gave their name to the Turkic people. The Eastern Turk Empire ruled Mongolia from the end of the sixth to the mid-eighth century. Under its royal patronage, Indian, [[Wikipedia:Central Asian|Central Asian]] and Chinese masters translated many Buddhist scriptures into the Old Turk language. Several of the Old Turk technical Buddhist terms became standard in Central Asia and were later borrowed by the Uighurs and Mongols. The Old Turks blended into their form of Buddhism veneration of the traditional ancient Turkic gods or "tengri," as well as Zoroastrian gods with whom they were familiar from other [[Wikipedia:Central Asian|Central Asian]] peoples. This eclectic feature was inherited and continued by the Uighurs and Mongols. In the early eighth century, a princess from the Eastern Turk royal family married the emperor of Tibet and was responsible for the invitation to Tibet of many Buddhist monks from Khotan in southern East Turkistan.

The Western Turk Empire was also a great patron of Buddhism from the early seventh to the early eighth century. Its rulers built new monasteries in Uzbekistan. One branch of the Western Turks, the Turgish tribes, was responsible for the spread of Buddhism to Kyrghyzstan and southeastern Kazakhstan during the later part of the seventh and early eighth centuries. The Turgish were also allies of the Tibetan Empire.

The Turgish were replaced in Kyrghyzstan and Kazakhstan in the early eighth century by the Qarluq, an Eastern Turk tribe that also embraced Buddhism and also became an ally of the Tibetans. One branch of the Qarluqs, the Qarakhanids, established a kingdom in eastern Kyrghyzstan and the Kashgar region of southwestern East Turkistan in the mid-ninth century. For more than a century, the Qarakhanids followed a blend of Kashgari Buddhism and their native shamanism.

The Uighurs

The most prominent Turkic form of Buddhism, however, was with the Uighur people of East Turkistan. After migrating from Mongolia to the Turfan region of present-day northeastern Xinjiang in the ninth century, they adopted a form of Buddhism that was a blend of elements from the faiths of the Sogdian merchant community from present-day Uzbekistan, the native Tocharians of Turfan and the Chinese merchants of the region. It spread throughout the Uighur Qocho kingdom that spanned all of modern-day Xinjiang except the Kashgar and Khotan regions in the southwest.

The Uighurs, in turn, passed on their form of Buddhism, as well as their alphabet and administrative skills, to the Mongols in the early thirteenth century at the time of Chinggis Khan. In the later part of the thirteenth century, the Uighurs shifted the style of their practice and adopted the Tibetan form of Buddhism as did their Mongol allies. The Uighurs translated a vast number of Buddhist texts into their Turkic language from Sanskrit, Sogdian, Tocharian, Chinese and Tibetan sources, and were the pioneer translators of the Buddhist scriptures into Mongolian. Their translation style of retaining many Sanskrit technical terms was adopted by the Mongols. Buddhism continued among the Uighurs until approximately the seventeenth century.


Three other branches of the Uighurs have also been followers of Buddhism. One branch migrated from Mongolia in the mid-ninth century to the Chu River valley of northwestern Kyrghyzstan and followed the form of Buddhism practiced there under the patronage of the Qarluq and previously the Turgish Turks. Another group migrated at that time to the Kashgar region of East Turkistan and followed the Kashgari tradition of Buddhism that was also adopted by the Qarakhanid Turks who began to rule the area a century later. The third group are the Yellow Yugurs, who migrated also from Mongolia in the mid-ninth century to central present-day Gansu province of China, which was ruled at that time by the Tibetan Empire. Although small in number, the Yellow Yugurs still follow the Tibetan form of Buddhism today.

 Patrons of the Dunhuang caves among the local elite were very conscious of the need to honor those to whom they owed political allegiance. From 781 to 848 the town was under the control of Tibet, which managed for a time to dominate all the major Inner Asian [[Routes of The Silk Road]]. Since the Tibetans were Buddhists, this period was one where the monasteries of Dunhuang could flourish even if the local population chafed under some of the fiscal exactions and requirements concerning matters such as wearing Tibetan dress. This period saw the carving of some of the most striking of the Dunhuang caves--for example, cave 158 with its magnificent statue of The Buddha in Parinirvana and dramatic depictions of mourners (*). In this cave and others, we find images of the King of Tibet (*), the example here being in an illustration of the Vimalakirti Sutra. Tibetan Esoteric Buddhism would continue to be important later under the Western Xia and under the Mongols. For Buddhist culture at Dunhuang, it was probably fortunate that Tibetan control extended as long as it did, for in the early 840s central China was experiencing a period of severe persecution of religions perceived as "foreign"; Buddhism was one of them.

That persecution was directed, among others, against the Uighurs and their religion, Manichaeism. A faith which combined elements of Semitic and Iranian beliefs as well as aspects of Buddhism, Manichaeism emphasized the cosmic duality of forces of good and evil and the role of an elect priesthood. Manichaeism spread eastwards thanks in part to its adherents among the Soghdian merchants of Central Asia who were so important on [[The Silk Road]] all the way into China. Given their importance in the economic life of the empire, their religion was at least tolerated at the T'ang capital, which was briefly occupied by the Uighurs in the middle of the eighth century.

(*) The Uighurs had come from their home in the steppes north of China not as conquerors but as saviors for the Tang dynasty, which had been threatened by a major rebellion. Even though they returned home, the Uighurs continued to exercise considerable influence in China. They forced the T'ang to pay them lavish subsidies--according to an Arab account written in 821, as much as 500,000 pieces of silk annually. This same Arab traveler, Tamim ibn Bahr, reported that the Uighur capital, Karabalghasun, was a "great town, rich in agriculture...The town has twelve iron gates of huge size...[and] is populous and thickly crowded and has markets with various trades" [Gibb trans.]. We should note here that Karabalghasun was located on the Orhon River in Mongolia. The Orhon was later to be the home territory of none other than Chingis Khan. Ibn Bahr also records that the official religion of the Uighurs was Manichaeism, to which the ruler had converted apparently under the influence of the Soghdians he had met while in China.

Here then is an example of a Turkic steppe kingdom awash in Chinese silk, whose main advisers were the chief international merchant group on [[The Silk Road]], and whose religion was one that had originated in the Middle East. Their fate was to be that of so many of the states which emerged in Mongolia, for their Power lasted less than a century and they were driven west by the next nomadic federation to emerge. One can imagine how the T'ang were more than pleased to seize the moment of their dissolution in the early 840s to attack their Soghdian Manichaean allies, who had helped the Uighurs put the squeeze on the T'ang treasury.


Radha Banerjee When was Manichaeism introduced to Central Asia is still a subject of speculation. While we concede Central Asia as the necessary conduit for Manichaean religion and culture to reach Chinese soil, there is also evidence of this religio-cultural movement retracing its footsteps to arrive at Xinjiang from the hinterland of China. In 755 there occurred the An Lushan rebellion against Emperor Xuanzong (reigning from 712 to 755) who fled from the capitals of Changan and Luoyang. The Tang government asked Uighur for help in quelling the rebels. The Uighur troops liberated luoyang and Changan in 757 but did not withdraw until the following year. During his stay in Luoyang the Uighur ruler Mou Yu made the acquaintance of Manichaean monks probably of sogdian origin. They must have made some impression on him, because when he vacated the city he took four monks with him. Shortly after this the Khaghan declared Manichaeism as the state religion of the Uighur empire. The whole story is narrated in the famous trilingual inscription of Karabalghasun. This is the first and only time in the history of Manichaeism that it reached such a high status of a state religion. Most of the Uighur nobles became converts to manichaeism. Archaeological discoveries and systematic studies on the Cave Temples in Eastern Turkistan throw considerable light on the manichaean religious and cultural activities in this region. Many Manichaean manuscripts were recovered from Turfan. They show that Manifhaeism was widespread in Turfan during the 7th to 10th centuries. This is supported by the statement of the Arabic geographer, Tarim ibn BahralMutawadi who came to Central Asia some time between 8th and 9th centuries. He has observed that there were many followers of Manichaeism in Northern and Eastern Xinjiang. Another geographer Jahiz (9th century) has recorded that nine Uighur tribes were converted into manichaeism by the eighth century.

Some fragments of a Manichaean book written in Turkish mention that in 803 the Khan of kingdom went to Turfan and sent three Manichaean Magistrates to pay respects to a senior Manichaean cleric in Mobei. A Manifhaean hymn of the 8th century from Turfan written in Middle Persian mentions that most of the Khan's kinsmen were devoted to manichaean faith. The Manichaean manuscripts found in Turfan were written in three different Iranian scripts, viz. Middle Persian, Parthian and Sogdian script. These documents prove that Sogdia was a very important centre of Manichaeism during the early medieval period and it was perhaps the Sogdian merchants who brought the religion to Central Asia and China.

During the early 10th century Uighur emerged a very powerful empire under the influence of Buddhism with some Manichaean shrines converted into Buddhist temples. However, there was no denying the historical fact that the Uighurs were worshippers of Mani. The Arabian historian Al-Nadim informs us that the Uighur khan did his best to project Manichaeism in the [[Wikipedia:Central Asian|Central Asian]] kingdom (of Saman). Chinese documents record that the Uighur Manichaean temples in Gaochang. It appears that the popularity of Manichaeism slowly declined after 10th century in Central Asia.

Manichaean art is religious in nature, and devoted to the propagation of manichaean doctrines. Mani, as it attested to by all oriental sources, was an accomplished artist, who utilized his artistic talent in decorating his canonical works using art for the popularization of his religious ideas. He despatched scribes and illuminators along with his missionaries to strengthen evangelism. According to his own testimony: the pictures illustrating his writings were to complete the educated people's instruction, whilst rendering the message easier to understand for others. It is generally held that in the matter of illustrating his instructional treatises he adhered to the tradition which was already evolved in the Gnostic circles. There were a good many rich Jews in Mesopotamia, thus, it is quite possible that they encouraged the production of costly manuscripts, and Mani made use of them to prepare his own illustrated sermons. Being an Iranian, Mani must have been influenced by the Parthian-Syrian art idioms of Dura-Europos in the execution of his art works.

Though Manichaeism spread in many countries, the majority of Manichaean art examples have survived only in Eastern Tukistan while the folowers of this religion received a wide support from the Uighur royal families during the 8th-9th centuries. Of all the sites in Eastern Turkistan, Kharakoja seems to have been the most important centre of Manichaean activities. Manichaean art of the sites in Eastern Turkistan, Kharakoja seems to have been the most important centre of Manichaean activities. Manichaean art of the region can be divided into two broad categories, viz. the wall paintings and miniatures. Their existence and importance have hardly attracted scholarly attention. We are much indebted to the arduous efforts on the part of German explorers, A von Lecoq and his colleagues. It is from an old temple complex that A von Lecoq (a well known Turkoligist from Germany) discovered first in 1904-5 water-colour painting of a Manichaean high priest surrounded by a number of his clergy all clad in white Sacerdotal clothes characteristic of the Manichaean monastic order. The portrait of the high priest in shown in his monastic robe with a rectangular piece of embroidery covering a part of his bosom. His tall white cap is also embroidered with gold. His face is oval, nose acquiline, but eyes small and rather slanting, typical of the manner in which Chinese artists depict a Westerner. The nimbus of the figure contains the crescent and sun disc symbols. This extraordinary nimbus and the impressive costume create the impression that the figure is very important and perhaps a portrayal of the prophet Mani. As I have alluded to earlier sun and moon symbols occupy an important place in Manichaean cosmology. The discovery of this picture disproves the old theory that the Manichaeans had no churches and shrines embellished with paintings.

Another mural fragment from Khoco portrays three Manichaean women on a blueblack ground which is also a piece of fine artistic work. These three women closely resemble each other. Their hair is parted in the middle and falls over the back and shoulders. Their headgear consists of a roll of white cloth tied in a bow behind the ears. The fragmentary condition of the partings makes it difficult to ascertain whether they represent lay women or deities.

Karakhoja' (Khoco) fragments have yielded many illustrated Manichaean manuscripts distinctive by their contents as well as their artistic qualities. We may first take up here for discussion the Manichaean leaf, bearing the Berlin Museum No. Mik III, 4979. One side of it depicts a church ceremony, with a high ranking Manichaean priest in full vestments (but the picture of his head is lost). A red embroidered stole is wrapped around his neck and shoulders. The stole bears a pattern of red lozenges on white background. The priest kneels down with his right leg before a man in full armour who is probably a Uighur king with three attendants. To the priest's left two Manichaean elects stand behind in white garments along with a layman, probably an auditor.

In the foreground of the picture there is Ganesha along with the Hindu trinity consisting of Visnu in Varaha incarnation, Brahma, bearded and pot bellied, and the three-eyed Siva. Facing them on the left are seated two Iranian Manichaean gods. Below these deities the leaf is damaged but paintings of flowers and ducks can still be made out. The artist who has drawn this picture, it seems, is equally conversant with the Hindu and Manichaean pantheons. The Hindu deities depicted here correspond to their descriptions given in the Indian Shilpasastra. The scene perhaps tries to suggest that Mani had been in India and borrowed Indian religious ideas to enrich the Manichaean pantheon which is hinted by the Manichaean tradition. Even if he was never in India, his having come into close contact with Indian culture (including Hindu deities) is beyond doubt.

The miniature on the other side of the leaf depicts a religious celebration, the famous feast of Bema commemorating the martyrdom of Mani. This celebration took place every year in the Spring, for, according to St. Augustine, Mani died in March. In the centre of the picture, there is a red dias standing on a blue carpet. In front of the dias is a three-leged golden bowl containing melons, grapes, etc. as offering. Further forward stands a table bearing loaves of wheat bread in the shape of the sun disc and crescent. Again the miniature depicts several rows of different ranks of the elect many of whom have their names written on their white robes. The auditors (the hearers or lay worshippers) by their side can be distinguished by their high conical black hats.

Equally interesting is another Manichaen leaf (bearing No. MIK III 6368) in the Berlin collection. On one side of the leaf there is a two part picture vertically by a narrow band of writing in the middle. The picture shows priests arranged in two rows, one above the other. They wear black hair and tall hats. Each priest kneels at a low desk and each has a sheet of white paper in front of him. In the background are two flowering trees, one on either side. On one of the trees sits a golden bird. The other side of the leaf shows two splendid creepers, with inscriptions in black and red ink. The top of the leaf originally contained many musicians of whom only one vina player is extant. The floral designs and beautiful colours of this fragment are worth noticing.

In addition to the above there are several other fragments from a Manichaen book in the Berlin Museum collection. One of them contains the head of a woman with a beautiful face and a white hat. While another fragment shows the head of a man with usual white hat and sharp feature of a Uighur Turk. He has a well groomed moustache and beard. This type of face occurs later in Persian miniatures too.

These mural fragments and miniatures illustrate various episodes and ceremonies pertaining to the Manichaen faith. They throw abundant light on the rites, ritualsa and constumes of the Manichaean priests and lay worshippers. Since the Manichaean religion is now extinct these murals and miniatures constitute a valuable source for the study of Manichaean religious life and art styles which are predominantly Iranian in character.