The Earliest States of Eastern Europe
DG-2021, 337-367

On the Date of the Death of Ton Yabghu / Jabghu Qaghan (According to Chinese Sources)

V. V. Tishin

Institute for Mongolian, Buddhist and Tibetan Studies of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences


Financing: project of the Russian Foundation for Basic Research No. 20-09-00095 A “Socio-political history of Afghanistan and Punjab: from the middle of the 1st millennium AD till the start of the Mongol invasion".


For citation: Tishin, Vladimir V. On the Date of the Death of Ton Yabghu / Jabghu Qaghan (According to Chinese Sources) // Drevneishie gosudarstva Vostochnoi Evropy (The Earliest States of Eastern Europe). 2021: Eastern Europe and the World of Islam. In honor of Tatjana M. Kalinina. Editors of the volume B.E. Rashkovskiy, E.V. Litovskikh, E.A. Melnikova. Moscow: Dmitry Pozharsky University, 2021. S. 337–367.


DOI: 10.32608/1560-1382-2021-42-337-367


Abstract: In the paper it is offered an overview of Chinese sources related to direct or indirect data on the death of Ton Yabghu / Jabghu Qaghan (= Ton Jabγu Qaγan). As it is known, there are two dates mentioned directly being in 628 and 630 A.D. Each of them has its supporters among scholars. It is also the tradition related to the biography of the Buddhist pilgrim Xuánzàng 玄奘, that added some contradictions to discussion. Discrepancies of the date of the beginning of his journey, found in the sources, and small number of other dates related to the initial stages of the journey make it difficult to reconstruct the chronology of the entire trip. Another difficulty is the ability to correlate the data of Chinese sources with the information of the Byzantine and Armenian sources containig parts that tell about the participation of the Western Türks as allies of the Byzantine emperor Heraclius in the campaign in the Caucasus in 626–628 A.D. against the Sassanian Empire.

Now, the question of identification the identification of the actors by the Türks can considered to be resolved, because, despite the discussions, the points of view, other than those involving the comparison of the commander of the Türkic forces during this campaign with the Ton Yabghu / Jabghu Qaghan, are much more based on assumptions. Such decisions, rather, contribute to the emergence of new issues than finding a compromise between the whole complex of sources.

The author of the article proposes a variant to reconcile the data of two sources chronologically closest to the described events are the narrative in Armenian source “History (of the country) Ałuank‘” by Movsēs Dasxuranc‘i and information of the Biography of Xuánzàng 玄奘. In the latter case, one should take into account a possible adjustment to the data of the beginning of his journey to be not in 8th month of the 3rd year of Zhēnguàn 貞觀 era (08.24–21.09.629 A.D.), but in the 4th month (29.04–27.05.629 A.D.). As a result, it is possible to assume the death of Ton Yabghu/Jabghu Qaghan in the period between second half of autumn and early winter 629 A.D.

This assumption is based on the correlation of the estimated time of the journey of a Chinese pilgrim from the capital of Tang Empire to the headquarters of the Western Türkic ruler, which is about 6 months, as well as both the information of Movsēs Dasxuranc‘i about the he invasion of the avant-garde of Türks in Persian Armenia a little later than 06.17.629 and the data of “Breviarium” by Nicephorus about sending the daughter of the Emperor Heraclius to the Türks.

Other Chinese sources, represented by official Histories of Dynasties and encyclopedic texts, although they were compiled on the basis of earlier materials, in each case provide secondary data inscribed in the context of certain events whose chronological localization varies with the full coverage of sources. The contradictions sometimes noted by researchers in particular details do not so much affect the overall reconstructed picture and can be overcome depending on various interpretations.

Western Türkic Qaghanate, Ton Yabghu / Jabghu Qaghan, Xuanzang, Sassanids, Chinese sources, diplomacy

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