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Gaoche 高車

Dec 9, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

The Gaoche 高車 "High Carts" were a Turkic people living in the Mongolian steppe. They were the descendants of the Dingling 丁零 or Chile 敕勒 and relatives to the Tölöš (Chinese name Tiele 鐵勒), one of the first Turkic peoples before the rise of the empires of the Turks and the Uyghurs 回鶻.

The name is derived from a certain group of the Dingling that used high-wheeled carts, the so-called Gaoche Dingling 高車丁零. This tribe was divided into two groups when the Rouran 柔然 dominated the steppe. The eastern group remained in the steppe. The western part followed the Rouran in their battles against the Wusun 烏孫 and the Tokharians (Chinese name Yuezhi 月氏) and settled down near Yanqi 焉耆 in the Tarim Basin. The most powerful family group were the Fufuluo 副伏羅.

In 487 the chieftain A-fu-zhi-luo 阿伏至羅 (487-503?) rebelled against the Rouran and founded in the region of Fore Cheshi 車師前國 (near modern Turfan, Xinijang) the kingdom of the houloufule 侯婁匐勒 (something like "great leader"). The kingdom was ruled by a dual head, A-fu-zhi-luo being the greater leader over the northern tribes, and his younger brother Qiong-qi 窮奇 the "lesser leader" (houbei 侯倍 in the native language) over the southern tribes. The latter resided south of the Tianshan Range 天山.

The kingdom of Gaoche wielded great power, withstood the Rouran, controlled most of the city-states of the Tarim Basin and conquered the kingdom of Gaochang 高昌 in 491. The ruler of the Gaoche enthroned Zhang Mengming 張孟明 (r. 491-496) as the new ruler of Gaochang. In 497 the Hephthalites (Chinese name Yeda 嚈噠) attacked the kingdom of the Gaoche, killed Qiong-qi and captured his sons Mi-etu 彌俄突 and Yi-fu 伊匐. In 501 Afuzhiluo killed his oldest son and was by himself killed by tribesmen of the Gaoche. His relative Ba-li-yan 跋利延 (503-505) was made the new ruler of the Gaoche.

Baliyan revived the good relationships with the Rouran but was replaced soon by Mi-e-tu (505-516) who returned with the support of the Yeda. Mi-e-tu broke again with the Rouran. He was followed by his brother Yi-fu (518-524). Yi-fu in 522 sent tributes to the court of the Northern Wei dynasty 北魏 (386-534) and was awarded the title of General Pacifying the West (zhenxi jiangjun 鎮西將軍) and enfeoffed with the title of Dynasty-Founding Duke of Xihai Commandery (Xihai jun kaiguo gong 西海郡開國公). The youngest of the brothers, Yueju 越居, killed Yi-fu in 524 and usurped the throne. After a defeat against the Rouran, Yue-ju was replaced by Yi-fu's son Bi-shi 比適 (536-540). In 542 the Rouran extinguished the kingdom of the Gaoche.

Table 1. Rulers of the Gaoche Dingling 高車丁零
A-fu-zhi-luo 阿伏至羅 (487-503?)
Ba-li-yan 跋利延 (503-505)
Mi-e-tu 彌俄突 (505-516)
Yi-fu 伊匐 (518-524)
Yue-ju 越居 (524-536)
Bi-shi 比適 (536-540)
Qu-bin 去賓 (540-541)
Sources:
Gao Wende 高文德, ed. (1995). Zhongguo shaoshu minzu shi da cidian 中國少數民族史大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin jiaoyu chubanshe), 1910.
Pulleyblank, E. G. (1990). "The 'High Carts': A Turkish-Speaking People before the Türks", in Asia Maior III: 21-26.
Qian Boquan 錢伯泉 (1994). "Dingling 丁零", "Xi Dingling 西丁零", in Zhongguo sichou zhi lu cidian 中國絲綢之路辭典 (Ürümqi: Xinjiang renmin chubanshe), 277.
Xinjiang baike quanshu bianzuan weiyuanhui 《新疆百科全書》編纂委員會, ed. (2002). Xinjiang baike quanshu 新疆百科全書 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), 55.
Zhou Yiliang 周一良 (1992). "Gaoche 高車", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 245.