Central Asia - East
Xinjiang, Tibet, and Kashmir

The region of highest altitude in the world, with the balance being immense semi-arid plateaus, also at very high altitude. This region, one of the least accessible on Earth, features a crazy-quilt of cultures, as various language groups, ethnic tribes, and religious persuasions have carved out homelands in the isolated vales.

Currently I have: Aqsu, Baltistan, Chü Shih, Gu-Ge, Gun-Than, Jammu, Kan-Chou, Kashgar, Kashgaria, Kashmir, Khotan, Kidara Confederation, Kucha, Ladakh, Lijien, Mogulistan (Eastern Chagataiids), Qara Khodjo, Qarashahr, Qomul, Ssu-Chou, Su-Lih, Tibet, the Tocharians, Tu-Chueh, Turfan, Uighuristan, and Xinjiang.

AQSU (Aksu, Akesu, Akshu, Bharuka, Po-lu-chia) A town in western Xinjiang about 240 miles (385 km.) northeast of Kashgar and roughly 60 miles (96 km.) southeast of the eastern Kyrgyzstan frontier. The center of an oasis at the foot of the Tien Shan (Tengri Tagh) Mountains, it was a caravan hub on the Silk Road. Industries include textile and carpet manufacturing, jade carving, tanning, and metal working. Iron ore deposits are in the area. Aqsu has ancient Buddhist statues and caves, but most are in poor condition.

BALTISTAN (Baltiyul, Nang-mgon, Palolo) A kingdom in the Karakoram mountains lying athwart the Line of Demarcation between India and Pakistan in northern Kashmir. The chief town is Skardu, 95 miles (153 km.) north-northeast of Srinagar (the capital of Kashmir), and 191 miles (307 km.) northeast of Islamabad (the capital of Pakistan). The terrain is rugged in the extreme - K2 (Chogo-ri), the world's second highest mountain, sits just along the northern perimeter of Balti territory. The place is ancient; Claudius Ptolemy refers to it (as Byaltae) in his Geographos, written in the 2nd century CE.

GU-GE A city-state in far southwestern Tibet. The exact chronology and even the order of rulers is uncertain.

GUN-THAN A local Tibetan state in the highlands astride the Nepalese frontier, north of Katmandu.

KASHGAR A major city in far western Xinjiang, being an important crossroad nexus between the Great Silk Road and the Turfan-Kashmir caravan routes.

KASHMIR See Controversy file. The high mountainous region situated at the angle between Afghanistan, Tibet, and Greater India. In modern times, the region comprises two districts - to the south is the Vale of Kashmir itself, the rugged north being Jammu; notes on Jammu follow the Kashmir list below.

KHOTAN (Ho-Tien) An oasis and city in southwestern Xinjiang, southeast of Kashgar on the edge of the Takla Makan wastes. The area is well-known as a major source of jade, and there are thriving industries in metallurgy, jewellry, and textiles (mainly carpets). Marco Polo is alleged to have visited the place in 1278.

KUCHA A city-state about halfway between Turfan and Kashgar, in Xinjiang.

LADAKH At the extreme northern terminus of India, adjacent to the Karakoram Range in the Himalayas. To the north is Xinjiang, to the east is Tibet; west and south is Kashmir. To this day, the area is a hinterland whose frontiers are in dispute between China, India, and Pakistan. Politically, the place has been a sizable Tibetan principality, almost to modern times.

LIJIEN ("Alexandria Colonia" ?) A small town, military outpost really, in northern Chinese Turkestan. The term "Lijien" is a Chinese transcription of "Alexandria" and was the usual word they used in reference to the Roman Empire, with which the ancient Chinese had some very tenuous commercial contacts (mainly through Sri Lanka) - the city of Alexandria, Egypt, was the trade port they were aware of, and they referred to the uttermost West by the same term. In the first century BCE, the Han dynasty expanded through Gansu into Xinjiang, and established bases there. In the course of a campaign against Farghana, Chinese troops assaulted a minor Hunnic Khanate in the hinterland between Chinese territory on the one hand and the far northeastern corner of the Parthian Empire. They encountered a detachment of Roman legionaries, soldiers of Crassus' army that had attacked Parthia in 54 BCE. These had been captured by Parthia and sent to garrison the far opposite frontier, at Margiana (Merv) - they deserted and fled into the desert, selling their services to the Khan, Jsh Jsh. Now prisoners of the Chinese, they quickly adapted and volunteered to form a Chinese frontier garrison inasmuch as return to Parthia would be a death sentence. The Chinese called the place after their name for the Roman Empire, and it is probable that their new Roman citizens would have utilized an equivalent form if they understood the derivation. It is not clear what happened to this outpost. Indications are that the Romans persisted there, and influenced the local culture, but that traces of their presence gradually merged with the Central Asian population until little or nothing out of the ordinary remained in this dusty and isolated desert fort. The Chinese were not able to hold onto the Takla Makan desert past the late 2nd century CE, when the Han Empire devolved into the Three Kingdoms Era. When Chinese Imperial troops again advanced into the region in the 7th century CE, the town apparently still existed, but it was sacked for good during the Tibetan invasion of the mid 8th Cent., and disappears permanently thereafter.

QARASHAHR A city-state slightly to the west of Turfan in Xinjiang.

QOMUL (Hami) A Uighur Khanate in eastern Xinjiang, based at Hami - the frontier with Mongolia. is 125 miles (200 km.) to the northeast. The Khans, direct descendants of Chagatai, were given the title of Tsing Wang (Prince of the First Rank), by the Qing empire. They were more-or-less autonomous, with the exception of  capital crimes - the Chinese official posted to Hami had to approve executions.

TIBET See Controversy file. A Chinese dependency 1724-1912, Tibet once again fell under Chinese rule in 1951, and since the forced exile of the current Dalai Lama, its culture has been systematically dismantled by Chinese authorities. The Panchen Lamas  The Panchen Lama is the second highest ranking lama after the Dalai Lama in the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, the sect which historically controlled Tibet since the 11th century CE when it was founded by Atisha as the Kadampa sect. The Panchen Lama bears part of the responsibility for finding the incarnation of the Dalai Lama and vice versa. The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, named Gedhun Choekyi Nyima the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama on May 14, 1995 but this was not officially recognised by the People's Republic of China. The government of the People's Republic of China named another child, Gyancain Norbu. As such, the whereabouts of the initial Panchen Lama are unknown, with differing claims from both sides.

The TOCHARIANS The Tocharians, (also spelled Tokharians) were nomads who lived in today's Xinjiang who spoke Tocharian - one of the most obscure branches of the Aryan language group. Although nomadic for much of their history, at times many of the great metropoli of the Silk Road, such as Turfan, were intermittently under the rule of Tocharian dynasties. The Kushan dynasty that dominated much of Afghanistan and the northern part of the Indian sub-continent may have been Tocharian in origin, though this is contested by scholars hypothesizing an Iranic/Scythian origin. They were known by the Chinese as the Daxia or Yueh-chi, by the Greeks as Tocharoi, and by the Turks as Twghry. Distinct Tocharian groups survived until the end of the first millenium CE, when they were absorbed by Turkic groups such as the Uighurs.

TSANG A Principality in central Tibet.

TURFAN A district located in northern Xinjiang, ruled by Sinicized Turks. Later a Uighur successor kingdom.

The TURGESH (T'U-CHUEH) A Gök Turkish khanate emerging in western Xinjiang, Semirechie, and southeastern Kazakhstan after the collapse of the Turkuit Khaganate c. 700 CE

UIGHURISTAN The Uighur Khans governed portions of Central Asia in the centuries immediately following the Muslim expansion, and then fade from view. It is not entirely clear that the Turkic people called Uighurs who now dwell mostly in Western China are the same folk; the name is the same, but it could have been adopted by later-arriving tribes. Note also the following Uighur successor states in northern China (Kansu Province)...

XINJIANG A vast, arid plateau in far western China, situated between Mongolia to the northeast, Tibet to the south, and Khazakhstan to the west.