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Studia Manichaica

IV, Internationaler Kon


g
re zum Manichaismus,
Berlin, 14.-18. Juli 1997
Herausgegeben von Ronald E. Emmerick,
Werner Sundermann und Peter Zieme
Akademie Verla
g
Die Deutsche Bibliothek - CIP-Einheitsaufnahme
Studia Manichaica / IV. Internationaler KongreB zum Manichaismus,
Berlin, 14.-18. Juli 1997.
Hrsg. von Ronald E. Emmerick ... - Berlin: Akad. Verl., 2000
(Berichte und Abhandlungen / Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der
Wissenschaften : Sonderband , 4)
ISIJ-0-00JJJ0-+
" Akademie Verlag GmbH, Berlin 2000
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ibertragen oder ibersetzt werden.
Druckvorlage: Claudius Naumann
Druck und Bindung: Druckhaus "Thomas Mintzer", Bad Langensalza
Printed in the Federal Republic of Germany
Inhal tsverzeichnis
Vorwort . . . . . . . . . . . IX
Allgemeine Abkirzungen . XI
Kurt Rudolph
Berlin als Zentrum manichaischer Studien seit 2 50 Jahren. Worte des
Prasidenten der lAMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Jason David BeDuhn
Eucharist or Yasna? .
Walter Beltz
Zur religiosen Tiefenstruktur des mittelasiatischen oder
ostlichen Manichaismus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Franois de Blois
The Manichaean Daily Prayers
Giovanni Casadio
Abenteuer des Dualismus auf der SeidenstraBe.
Larry Clark
The Conversion of Bigi Khan to Manichaeism .
J. Kevin Coyle
The Idea of the 'Good' in Manichaeism . . . . . .
Franois Decret
La doctrine centrale du spiritalis salvator dans les sources
manicheennes africaines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Serena Demaria
Some Remarks on the Sea Giant in the Coptic Kephalaia .
Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst
Erfand Mani die manichaische Schrift? . . . . . . . . . . .
Erich Feldmann
Der Begrif der Augustinischen
"
ratio" im existentiellen Vollzug
3
7
4
9
5 5
1 24
1 54
1 61
innerhalb und auBerhalb des manichaischen Mythos . . . . . . . 1
7 9
Johan Ferreira
A Comparison of the Clothing Metaphor in the Hymn of the Pearl
and the Chinese Manichaean Hymnscroll . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207
Maj ella Franzmann
Jesus in the Manichaean Writings -Work in Progress . 220
VI
Inhaltsverzeichnis
lain Gardner
"He has gone to the monastery . . . " . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 247
Badri Gharib
New Light on Two Words in the Sogdian Version of the
" Light Paradise or the Realm of Light" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 5 8
Zsuzsanna Gulacsi
Rules of Page Arrangement in Manichaean Illuminated Book Fragments 270
Manfred Hutter
Manichaeism in Iran in the Fourth Century . . . . . . . . . . . . . 308
Julia Iwersen
Zur Frage manichaischer Einfisse in zwei Nag Hammadi-Texten
(NHC II, 5 und VII, I ) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 1 8
Ralph Kauz
Der
"
Mo-ni-gong" (JJ ') - ein zweite.r erhaltener
manichaischer Tempel in Fujian? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 3 4
Alexandr L. Khosroyev
Zu einer astronomischen Realie in den Kehalaia .
Hans-Joachim Klimkeit
Das Weiterleben manichaischer Erzahlstofe im Islam. . . . . . . . . . . 366
Sergej G. Klyashtornyj
Manichaean Monasteries in the Land of Arghu 3 74
Samuel N. C. Lieu
A New Figurative Representation of Mani?
Paul van Lindt
Studies on the Manichaean Myth . . . . . .
Enrico Morano
A Survey of the Extant Parthian Crucifxion Hymns . . . . . . . . . . 398
Moriyasu Takao
On the Uighur esapt ay and the Spreading of Manichaeism
into South China . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 430
Wolf B. Oerter
Zur Wirkungsgeschichte des Manichaismus in Bohmen . . . . . . . . . . 44
1
Johannes van Oort
Mani and Manichaeism in Augustine's De haeresibus . . . . . . . . . . . 4 5 1
Inhaltsverzeichnis
VII
Antonio Panaino
Manichaean Concepts in the Pahlavi Commentary
of Mah Nyayisn, par. 4? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Siegfried G. Richter
Ein manichaischer Sonnenhymnus
. . . . . . . 48 1
Klaus Rohrborn
Zum manichaischen EinfuB im alttirkischen Buddhismus . . . . . . . . 494
Hans-Martin Schenke
Randbemerkungen eines AuBenseiters zum Manichaismus .
Rij k Schipper
Manichaeans in Spain.
Hanns-Peter Schmidt
Vom awestischen Damon Azi zur manichaischen Az, der Mutter
aller Damonen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 1 7
Madeleine Scopello
Hegemonius, les Acta Archelai et l'histoire de la controverse
anti-manicheenne . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 28
Giulia Sfameni Gasparro
Addas-Adimantus unus ex discipulis Manichaei: for the History
of Manichaeism in the West . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 46
Nicholas Sims-Williams
Aurentes . . . . . . . . .
Eugenia Smagina
Die apokalyptische Vorlage in der manichaischen Kosmologie . . . . . . 564
Christel Stahl
Derdekeas in the Paraphrase of Shem, NHC VII,! and the
Manichaean Figure of Jesus, Two Interesting Parallels . . . . . . . . . . . 5 72
Michael Stausberg
Pierre Bayle ( 1647-1 706) und die Erfndung des europaischen
Neomanichaismus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 8 2
Gotthard Strohmaier
Ai-BIron! (973-1 048) tber Mani und Manichaer . 5 91
Guy G. Stroumsa
Isaac de Beausobre Revisited: The Birth of Manichaean Studies . . . . . 601
Alois van Tongerloo
Manichaeus Medicus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 1 3
VIII Inhaltsverzeichnis
Jirgen Tubach
Mani, der bibliophile Religionsstifter . . . . . . 622
Dieter Weber
Zur grammatisch-semantischen Bestimmung einiger Lemmata
des sogdischen Lexikons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 9
Gregor Wurst
Bemerkungen zum Glaubensbekenntnis des Faustus von Mileve
(Augustinus, Contra Faustum 20, 2) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 648
Johannes van Oort
Wirdigung Isaac de Beausobres ( 16 5 9-1
7 3 8) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 5 8
The Conversion of Bigi Khan to Manichaeism
Larry Clark, Bloomington
In the middle of the eighth century, the Manichaean church beyond Central
Asia consisted only of scattered communities stretching through the Tarim ba
sin and into northern China. The conversion of the Uygur ruler referred to as
Bigi Khan (759-779) dramatically changed the fortunes of this religion by
placing it under the protection of the powerful Uygur steppe empire of Inner
Asia (744-84)' Although the details of this event remain obscure, we must as
sume that soon after his conversion Bigi Khan promulgated his new faith as
the state religion, and at the same time gave his blessing to a massive missionary
efort that propagated Manichaeism among the peoples of his realm. With this,
Manichaeism entered one of its most promising phases as a world religion and
for the next 2 5 0 years, it continued to be associated with Uygur rulers until the
end of the tenth century when they began to transfer their sponsorship to Bud
dhism, after which Manichaeism started to fade away.
Prior to its introduction among the Uygurs, Manichaeism held a minor stat
ure among the religions east of the Pamirs. In fight from the Arab conquest of
Transoxania in the seventh century, Manichaeans, most if not all of whom were
Sogdians, began settling in cities south of the Tienshan mountains. From there,
groups of these eastern Manichaeans established themselves within the Sogdian
settlements in Ch'ang-an and Lo-yang, the capitals of the T'ang dynasty of
China, where they produced the classics of Chinese Manichaeism in the eighth
century The association between Manichaeism and Sogdians became so con
spicuous that a Chinese edict of 732 exempted Sogdians from a ban on practice
of the religion because it was regarded as their national religion. By the mid
eighth century, the Central Asian refugees and missionaries had established a
viable eastern branch of the Manichaean church within the "Land of the Four
Togri" which incorporated the centers from Kucha and Karashahr to Kocho
and Beshbalik,l and the spiritual jurisdiction of the Teacher (moiak) in Kocho
1 As the region which at the end of the seventh century frst aforded Manichaeism refge in
the east, the "Land of the Four Togri" resonated through Manichaean texts, including: the Sog
dian inscription at Karabalgasun, line 19 ctf'r twyr'k "(Land of) the Four Togri" (Hansen 1930,
20; Henning 1938,550); the Middle Persian hymn MIK III 8259 Mry Wh[mJn Xwrxsyd hmwc'g
[yJ hwr's 'n p'ygw[sJ n'mgyn s 'r'[r 'yJ ch'r twyrst'[nJ "Mar Vahman Khvarkhshed, Teacher of the
eastern diocese, renown leader of the Land of the Four Togri" (Henning 1938, 551; d. Sunder
mann 1984, 301); the Middle Persian benediction T II D 135, recto, i, 19 ch{ 'r twyryst'nJ "(Land of
the) Four (Togri)" (Muller 1912, 208-9); and the Uygur colophon MIK III 198 (T II D 171), verso
3-4 Mr Wxmn Xy'rzd tort togndakt ulug mozak "Mar Vahman Hiyaryazd, the master Teacher
in the (Land of the) Four Togri" (Le Coq 19II, 27; Henning 1938, 551-2). It is problematic
whether the same country could be referred to by the phrase tort Kusan "(Land of) the Four
Larry Clark
evidently extended over all of the Sogdian Manichaean communities in the cit
ies by the Tienshan mountains and in the Chinese capitals.
By the beginning of the ninth century, eastern Manichaeism became the
most vigorous center of what was left of world Manichaeism because it enj oyed
the protection of the Uygurs, the dominant power in East Asia until 840. Their
steppe empire was established by Kol Bag Bilga Khagan (744-747) on the Mon
golian plateau after an alliance of tribes brought down the Second Turk Empire
(692-742). The reign of his son, EI Etmish Bilga Khagan (748-75 8), w

marked
by the consolidation and western expansion of the empire. The third ruler of
the Uygur realm held an elaborate title, but could be referred to by the royal ep
ithet Bigi Khan ( 759-779). 2 This name contains a word bugu that may have
meant something like "mystic" or "wizard" in the older period and, in any case,
Kucha", which appears in the afirmation text U 72-U 73(T 276), line 14; cf. Bang/Gabain 1929,
414. Henning thou ght that the "Land of the Four Togri" lay between Beshbalik and Kucha, but
could not inclu de Kucha (1938, 560). However, the circumstance that Manichaean texts in the
Tokharian langu age of Kucha also exist in the Berlin Turfan collection make it most probable that
Ku cha was regarded by the Manichaeans as one of the four centers of this country.
2 Thu s he is called in the afirmation text U 72-U 73 (TM 276), lines 33, 52,62 Ta!i Elig Bugu
Xan "The Div ine King Bigi Khan", line 80 Bugu Xan (BangGabain 1929, 4II-ZZ); in the frag
ment U 3 I ( TM 159), recto I Bug[u XanJ (Le Coq 1922,36, Nr. 17); and in the Sogdian text of the
Karabalgasu n inscription, line I3pwkw y'y'n (Chav anneslPelliot 1913, 187-8, n. I; Hansen 1930,
18). Chinese sources also refer to him by the personal names /-ti-chien and Mou-u Xagan , the
former possibly a childhood name of uncertain identity (Hamilton 1955, 139; Kljashtornyj 1985,
14 5) and the latter a royal epithet representing Bigi Khagan (Chav annes/Pelliot 19 I 3, 187-8, n. I;
Hamilton 1955> 139). In the Chinese v ersion of the Karabalgasun inscription, his title is Kun
Ta!ita Kut Bulmts El Tutmt Al Kulug Bilga Xagan "The Courageous and Renown Wise
Khagan Who Receiv ed Charisma from the Sun God and Who Maintained the Realm" (Hamilton
1990,25-6, who read Baga Xagan "Div ine Khagan" in place of Bilga Xagan "Wise Khagan"). In
762, the T' ang court, following the Chinese conceit of "appointing" steppe rulers, cited this ruler's
title as Ta!i El Tutmti Al Kulug Ying-i Chien-kung Bilga Xagan "The Divine, Courageous, Re
nown, Ying-i Chien-kung ['Brav e, Righteous, Virtu ous'] Wi,se Khagan Who Maintained the
Realm" (Hamilton 1955, 139); for the v ariant appointment names, see MacKerras 1973, 192. B e
cause of their difering components, it remains u ncertain whether the abov e title of Bigi Khan
may be identifed with titles found in sev eral Iranian and Turkic texts, T II D 135, recto, i, 13-17
Ulug Elig, Tirita Kut Bulmts Ardi min El Tutmti Al Kutlug Kulug Bilga Uygur Xaran, Zahag i
Mani "The Great King, the Courageous, Blessed, Renown and Wise Uygur Khagan Who Re
ceiv ed Charisma from God and Who Maintained the Realm with Manly Valor, the Child of Mani"
(Miller 1912,208-9; identife d as Bigi Khan by Hamilton 1955, 139, Klj ashtornyj 1985> 146,
Zieme 1992, 326); PC 3049, lines 8' -1 I

Kun Tarrita Kut Bulmti Ardamin El Tutmts Al Kutlug


Ulug Bilga Uygur Tarri Uygur Xan "The Courageous, Blessed, Great, Wise and Div ine Uygur
Khan Who Receiv ed Charisma from the Sun God and Who Maintained the Realm with Manly
Valor" (Hamilton 1986,42-43, Nr. 5; identifed as Bigi Khan by Hamilton, but dou bted by
Zieme 1992, 324); and T 301, lines 3-5 Ay Ta!ita Kut Bulmt{ 0 0 oj Alpm Ardamin El Tu[tmts
o 0 .j Ulug Bilga T[a!i Uygur XanJ (Le Coq 1922, 43, Nr. 28; identifed as K61 Bilga Khagan
[I007-hoI9] by Zieme 1992, 325-6 with the restorationAy Ti ti Kut Bulmt{ Kut OranmtiJ
Alm Ardamin El Tu[tmts Al ArslanJ Ulug Bilga T[arri Uygur XanJ "The Courageous Lion and
Great, Wise and Div ine Uygur Khan Who Receiv ed Charisma from the Moon God, Who is Im
bu ed with Charisma, and Who Maintained the Realm
}
ith Manly Courage and Valor").
The Conversion of Bigi Khan to Manichaeism
surely refected the spiritual predilections of this individual. 3 When Sogdian
clergymen converted Bigi Khan to Manichaeism, they also secured his sup
port for the propagation of the religion among the peoples of the steppe as well
as in areas under Uygur hegemony.
The adoption of Manichaeism by elements of the Uygur leadership at the
same time increased the infuence of Sogdian clerics, advisers and fnanciers in
ruling circles. In 779, resentment of their power and prestige culminated in a
palace coup in which the anti-Manichaean and anti-Sogdian faction, led by
Bigi Khan's frst cousin Tun Bilga Tarkhan, who served as chief minister and
head of the inner ofcials, killed the Khan and some 2, 000 others, including two
of his sons, his closest advisers, numerous Sogdians and probably Manichaean
priests in the Khan's retinue. Tun Bilga Tarkhan became the next ruler under the
title Alp Kutlug Bilga Khagan (780-789), only to be murdered by his son Talas
(789-790), who reigned as Kilig Bilga Khagan. When Talas was poisoned by
the j unior queen, his younger brother seized the throne. However, state minis
ters quickly moved to kill this usurper and installed the sixteen-year old young
est son of Tal as entitled Kutlug Bilga Khaganl A-ch'o (790-795 ), which ended a
decade of instability in the Uygur realm. 4 Under unclear circumstances follow
ing the death of Kutlug Bilga Khagan, the Uygur leadership elevated his minis
ter Kutlug to the throne under the title Alp Kutlug Ulug Bilga Khagan/Huai
hsin (795-808), which transferred power from the Yaglakar charismatic clan of
the Uygur tribe to the leading clan of the Adiz tribe, both of whom were mem
bers of the "Nine Oguz" tribal confederation.5 Of equal importance was the re
turn of Manichaeism to some level of state tolerance or even sponsorship, a sta
tus underscored by their renewed status at the Uygur court and by the presence
3 The word occurs as bugu "sage", bugUug "wise", bugun- "to recognize, to perceiv e", and
bugus "wisdom" in Uygur literature, but also in Divan Lugat at-Turk 546 bugu "wise man", 2 1 6
bugu bilga "intelligent", 577 bilga bugu "learned" (Dankof 1982-85> I, 324; II, 269, 305). Many of
the occurrences of bugu support Clauson's su ggestion that the word connoted " mysteriou s spiri
tu al power" (1972, 324). The root v owel was -u- instead of -o-,if forms like bugu in the Codex
Cumanicus and buyu in modern Turkish are taken as a guide; see Clark 1982, 202. In his discus
sion of this word, Choi 1992 proposed that the root 'fbog- [better 'fbug-J was borrowed from An
cient Chinese puk "to div ine by tortoise shell, to div ine, to think".
4 For the history of these ev ents, see MacKerras 1973, 10,36-7,87-9,98-102, 105; Hamilton
1955,139-40; Ecsedy 1964, 98-9, n. 17; Kljashtornyj 1985, 147.
5 According to the rang dynastic chronicle, A-ch'o died withou t an heir (Abe 1954, 440;
MacKerras 1973, 107). Althou gh this would not hav e prev ented the Yaglakar nobles from shifting
succession to a collateral branch rather than lose power to an outside clan, it appears that a clan of
the Adiz tribe took adv antage of this circumstance in order to seize power. Nonetheless, Chinese
sources su ggest that Alp Kutlu g Ulu g Bilga Khagan was careful not to u surp the charismatic tradi
tion and instead remov ed the sons and grandsons of the Yaglakar ruler prior to A-ch'o to liv e as
hostages at the rang court (MacKerras 1973, 109; Yoshida 1990, II8), and scions of the A diz also
shored up their claims to legitimacy by marrying their dau ghters to Yaglakar princes (Hamilton
199

,24).
86
Larry Clark
of Manichaeans in the Uygur embassy to the T'ang court in 807. 6 From the
reign of Alp Bilga Khagan/Pao-i ( 808-8 2 1 ), Manichaeism maintained this sta
tus, possibly with a few interruptions, until the reign of Kol Bilga Khagan
(?J 0 A9-?J 03 A) in the later Tienshan realm of the Uygurs. Thus, despite periodic
turns in its fortunes, Manichaeism's longevity in the East owed a great deal to
the conversion of its frst Uygur adherent, Bigi Khan.
This paper sifts through a variety of sources regarding the chronology and
nature of Bigi Khan's conversion to Manichaeism, his promulgation of the re
ligion to ofcial status, and the propagation of this faith among the Uygurs.
The universally accepted date of 76213 for his conversion was formulated by
Chavannes and Pelliot in 1 91 AA3 on the basis of the Chinese text of the Kara
balgasun inscription and the annals of the T' ang dynasty. However, a neglected
Turkic text (U AII a) compels a re-examination of their case, since it contains a
date for the propagation of Manichaeism among the Uygurs that with little
chance of error can be interpreted as 76 I. Although that date appears to confict
with the sequence of events dated to the year 763 by the Karabalgasun inscrip
tion and T'ang annals, this paper attempts to reconcile the confict by arguing
that Bigi Khan's initial conversion occurred prior to his becoming Khan, pos
sibly in the year 75 5/6 while heading a military operation in the central
Tienshan-Tarim region; that his faith wavered in the following years, although
he permitted propagation of Manichaeism within the Uygur domains in the
year 761 ; that he afrmed his faith after returning with Manichaean clerics from
China in 763 ; and that he made an ofcial promulgation of the religion at that
time, which opened the way for meaningful proselytization in the steppe.
The Accepted Conversion Date of 762/3
We do not know a lot about the history of Manichaeism among the Uygurs, but
one thing we think we know with certainty is the date of the conversion of
Bigi Khan. Every publication that touches on eastern Manichaeism or on the
history of the Uygurs places that event in the winter months of the years
762-76 3, usually citing one or the other year. 7 This traditionally accepted date,
however, is not a fact stated in any source. Rather, it is the product of an argu
ment based on circumstantial evidence that was formulated in 1 91 1 -1 3 by the
French sinologists Edouard Chavannes and Paul Pelliot in their seminal publi
cation of sources on the history of Manichaeism in China. Its gist is that Bigi
6 See MacKerras 1973 , 109 , 168 , n. 232. The same year (807) saw T'ang concessions to other
Uygur demands regarding Manichaeism; cf. ChavanneslPelliot 1913 , 275-9; Lieu 1992, 236 .
7 For example, Chavannes/Pelliot 1913, 199; Puech 1949 ,9; MacKerras 1973,9; Klimkeit 1982,
21; Lieu 1992, 234 .
The Conversion of Bigi Khan to Manichaeism
Khan led an Uygur army into China in 762/3 to quell the " An Lu-shan Rebel
lion" against the T' ang dynasty and, while in the eastern capital of Lo-yang,
was converted to Manichaeism by Sogdian clergymen resident in that city.
Karabalgasun Inscription
Chinese dynastic histories, encyclopedias, and literary works are silent about
the introduction of Manichaeism among the Uygurs. However, Manichaeism is
touched on in a Chinese text that actually stems from the Uygur realm itself.
This text was found on an inscribed stone retrieved from the ruins of their im
perial capital of Ordubalik at a site called Karabalgasun in the Orkhon river val
ley of the Khangay mountains in Mongolia. The stone formed part of a burial
complex of a ninth century Uygur ruler who, in all likelihood, was Alp Bilga
Khagan (808-8 2 1 ),8 and was inscribed with texts in three languages: Turkic, of
which only fragmentary bits and pieces survive; Sogdian, of which substantial
although damaged sections survive; and Chinese, which constitutes the best
preserved of the three. 9
A key element in the formulation of Chavannes and Pelliot consists of the
sections in the frst part of the Chinese text of the Karabalgasun inscription that
are relevant to Manichaeism. These sections begin by recounting the history of
the preceding Second Turk Empire (692-74
2) and the restoration of the rightful
Uygur-Oguz hegemony on the steppe in 744, and briefy touch on the deeds of
the frst two rulers. The text then dwells upon the ruler it refers to as [KunJ
Tarita Kut BuZmzs EZ Tutmzs Al Kulug BiZga Xagan, that is, Bigi Khan. The
context of this section is the action taken by Bigi Khan in regard to the so-called
"An Lu-shan Rebellion" which was instigated in 75 5 by An Lu-shan, a son of
Turkic and Sogdian parents, and continued after his death by his son An Ch'ing
hsi, and by one of his generals Shih Ssu-ming and the latter's son Shih Ch' ao-i10:
( 6-10) Since now [he had put to fight emperor Hsian -tsung of the great T' ang dy
nasty,] Shih Ssu-ming's [son Shih Ch'ao-i] with rich gifts and sweet words re
quested an army [from the Uygurs] in order to annihilate the house of T'angwith
united strength. The Khagan was outraged by his ingratitude and that he would
, surreptitiously obtain such a holy thing [as rule]. He himself thus [assembled] his
entire army and went to the aid of the emperor's forces, and with united strength
he put him [i.e., Shih Ch' ao-i] to flight, and recaptured the capital of Lo-yang. The
8
See Chavannes/Pelliot 1913, 179 , 199, 282; Hamilton 1955, 141; MacKerras 1973 , 184-7 .
9 For the Turkic portion, see Radlof 1894 , 291-7; for the Chinese text, see Schlegel 1896 and
Chavannes/Pelliot 1913, 177-99, and Hamilton 1990 for interim notes on a new edition; for the
Sogdian text, see Hansen 1930 , and Yoshida 1990 for interim notes on a new edition.
10
An excellent brief account of this "rebellion" may be found in Pulleyblank 1976 , 41-7; for
An Lu-shan's parentage, see Beckwith 1987 , 142, n. 212.
8 8
Larry Clark
emperor [declared a union with the Uygurs and that henceforth] they would be
brother states and eternally [related kingdoms] . The Khagan thereupon moved his
camp to the eastern capital [i. e. , Lo-yang] .
There he saw that the practices [were depraved and his people] were unruly,l1
so he took away four Elects, among them Jui-hsi, and brought them to his king
dom. They developed and exalted the two sacrifces and penetrated profoundly
the three times. Moreover, the master of the law was marvelously learned in the
doctrine of the Light and understood perfectly the seven works. His abilities were
greater than the sea mountain; his eloquence was like a cascade. That is why he was
able to initiate the Uygurs into the true religion [ . . . ] (and) established the precept
and accomplished great accumulations of merit, truly great virtue.
Then the military governors (totok), the district magistrates (Cgsi), the internal
and external counselors and the [ . . . ] said: "Now we repent of our former faults
and we desire to s ere the true religion. " An edict [of Bigi Khan] announced the
following proclamation: "This religion is subtle and marvelous; it is difcult to re
ceive and obsere. Twice and thrice [I have studied it] with sincerity. In the past I
have been ignorant and called the demons 'Buddha'. Now I have comprehended
the truth and I can no longer serve [these false gods] . " (passage omitted)
The king of the religion (a-wang), having been apprized that [the Uygurs] had
accepted the true religion, strongly praised their respectful [ . . . ] (and) sent the Elect
brothers and sisters to enter into the kingdom in order to spread and exalt [the reli
gion] there. Then the throng of disciples of the Teacher (moiak) traversed the land
in all directions from east to west, and came and went, preaching the religion.
On one hand, the Chinese text at Karabalgasun provides valuable evidence re
garding Manichaeism and the Uygurs. It identifes the Uygur ruler Bigi Khan
as a self-professed Manichaean, places him in China and specifcally in the city
of Lo-yang, states that this ruler took Manichaean Elects from China to the
steppe, records his adoption and promulgation of the faith, and elaborates on
the introduction of missionaries who propagated the religion in the northern
steppe. On the other hand, it does not specify that Bigi Khan was converted in
Lo-yang and even states that he previously had studied the religion over a long
period, or "twice and thrice" . As importantly, the text does not contain a date
for his actual conversion. Nonetheless, the association of this description with
the campaign against Shih Ch'ao-i provided Chavannes and Pelliot with a basis
for arguing that date.
T' ang Dynastic Annals
According to T' ang dynastic annals,1
2
in September 762, Tai-tsung (762-779)
sent an ambassador named Ch'ing-t'an to Bigi Khan to announce his investi-
11
The preceding passages are translated from Schlegel's German version (1896, I28-9), while
the following passages are translated from Chavannes/Pelliot's French version (1913 ,190) .
The Conversion of Bigi Khan to Manichaeism
ture as the new T'ang emperor and to plead for Uygur military intervention to
reinstall the T' ang dynastic family which had been driven from its capitals and
for all practical purposes no longer ruled. Even before that ambassador could
reach the Uygurs, however, Shih Ch'ao-i had persuaded Bigi Khan that the
disintegrated T'ang empire was his for the taking, with the consequence that
the Uygur ruler had set out for China in August 762. Bigi Khan received
Ch'ing-t' an at his encampment by the Ordos curve of the Yellow river and
treated him with contempt, prompting the ambassador to dispatch a message
that an Uygur force of 1 00,000 men was poised to invade. Tai-tsung hurriedly
sent a second ambassador named Yao Tzu-ang to greet the Uygurs, and this
man made a careful counting of the Uygur force, revealing that it consisted of
4,000 warriors, 1 0,000 children, old people and wives, 40,000 war horses, and a
great number of cattle and sheep. 1 3 Thus, far from leading an expeditionary
force whose goal was to rescue T' ang, Bigi Khan, together with his senior wife
Bilga Khatun, truly rode at the head of an occupation army. As it transpired,
the queen' s father P'u-ku Huai-en, a member of the Bukut tribe of the Oguz
confederation to which the Uygurs belonged, at that time served as leader of
the dwindled military force of the T' ang, and it was he who met with Bigi
Khan in mid-October and convinced him to abandon his original goal. Uygur
military strength then turned on the rebels and drove them from both capitals
by the end of November 762. Together with Oguz troops in T'ang service,
Uygur detachments pursued the rebels westward for months and in early 763
returned with the head of Shih Ch'ao-i as proof that the rebellion was crushed.
Meanwhile, Bigi Khan had encamped at Ho-pei j ust across the YeHow river
from the eastern capital of Lo-yang. For three months, December through Feb
ruary, he gave his troops free rein to enter Lo-yag and to plunder the city and
surrounding district, always with the full compliance and participation of T'ang
units. 14 Bigi Khan's force depared from China in late March or early April 76 3 .
Chavannes and Pelliot connected this campaign with the details provided in
the Chinese text of the Karabalgasun inscription and inferred that since Bigi
Khan was in China during the period from November 762 until March or April
76 3 , some of that time encamped near Lo-yang, the ruler there contacted
1
2
This account of events is based on MacKerras 1973 ,23-26 ,68-77; d. Hamilton 1955 , 5-6 ,
139-40;
Peterson 1979,483-4 .
13 MacKerras 1973,70-1 .
14 Uygur actions such a the following produced bitter memories for the Chinese: "The men
and women were frightened of them and they all went up into the two towers of the Sheng-shan
and Po-ra Temples in order to escape from them. The Uighurs wantonly set fre to and bu rned
the two towers. The injured and dead numbered 10,000 "; "Everybody was redu ced to u sing paper
for clothing, and there w ere even some who u sed the Classics for clothes"; see MacKerras 1973,
76; Pulleyblank 1976 , 46 . Following the collapse of the Uygur steppe empire in 840 , Tang
wreaked bloody vengeance upon the Uygurs and Manichaeans in China; see Chavannes/Pelliot
1913 ,295-303; Drompp 1986 ,48-9 ,237-48; Lieu 1980 ,75 ,1992,237-9 .
Larry Clark
Manichaean Elects who converted him. Consequently, the ruler took four of
those Elects back to his steppe capital, where he issued an edict promulgating
Manichaeism as the state religion, an act that opened the steppe to propagation
of the doctrine. That is sound historical scholarship by two of the greatest au
thorities on Inner Asia in the early Middle Ages, and it is not surprising that
their reasoning has been accepted universally.
Evidence for a Conversion Date Earlier Than 762/3
As a preliminary framework for our understanding of the conversion process
which resulted in the adoption of Manichaeism by elements of the Uygur lead
ership, we may view this process as comprising three successive components,
essentially those documented in the Chinese inscription at Karabalgasun: the
conversion of Bigi Khan, his promulgation of Manichaeism as state religion,
and the subsequent propagation of the faith in the steppe. From this perspec
tive, a modest and hitherto neglected Turkic Manichaean text (U I I I a) recov
ered from the ruins of Kocho shakes the foundations of Chavannes and
Pelliot's argument. With a high degree of probability, U I I I a assigns the propa
gation of Manichaeism among the Uygurs to the year 761 , while an Iranian
Manichaean text (M r) also appears to support a missionary efort in that year.
According to the preliminary framework, then, conversion and promulgation
had to occur prior to this date. Moreover, it is unimaginable that Sogdian clergy
and missionaries would have ventured into the distant steppe and preached the
true religion without the blessing of the Uygur ruler Bigi Khan, and that he
would have granted his approval of this enterprise unless he already had
adopted and approved the practice of Manichaeism prior to 76 I. In support of
this conclusion, a Chinese source (Li Te-yi's memorial) suggests the existence
of Manichaean activities among the Uygurs from the mid-750S.
However, this simple scheme of conversion-promulgation-propagation is
complicated by the actual course of events that comprised the conversion pro
cess. As we shall see, this process included a phase in which Bigi Khan re
lapsed from his initial conviction, but subsequently afrmed his faith. This
phase is documented in a Turkic Manichaean text (U 72-U 73), but also in the
Chinese text of the Karabalgasun inscription. Resolution of these seemingly
conficting sources will be attempted following an examination of the evidence.
Manuscript U rIIa (T II D 1 80)
The manuscript fragments UrI I a-b, which bear the signature T II D 1 8 o, be
long to a codex book written in Manichaean script of large format with two
The Conversion o f Bigi Khan to Manichaeism
ruled columns of writing per page (H: 23 . 2 cm, W: 22 cm) . 1 5 Although the two
fragments dearly belong to the same manuscript and probably to the same
page, a clear textual connection cannot be established between the large frag
ment (U AI Aa) and the little scrap (U AA A b). The sequence of the two sides of
U I I Aa also cannot be determined with certainty. However, the presence of the
original upper and outer edges of the folio page, as well as the long edge of the
fold of the original bifolio which has a slightly rounded corner on the inner
margin, suggests that recto could be the side with the long edge of the fold of
the original bifolio on the right. No clue survives regarding the sequence of
sides of U AA Ab. It is glassed at the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der
Wissenschaften as though it belongs to the left column of recto, but if so then its
four black lines would have had to come from the eight lines (six of which are
missing) below the three red lines in Parthian.
The folio U A AAa derives from a manuscript book to which one and possibly
other pieces of the Berlin Turfan collection belonged. One of these was a ser
mon on the efects of greed and anger which includes several Parthian passages
and bore the signature T II D 1 78 b. In their edition of T II DI78 b and a line
from U AAAa (T II D 1 80), W. Bang and A. von Gabain made it very clear that
the to pages belonged together, but unfortunately T II D 1 78 b has disap
peared from the Berlin collection. 1 6 Thus, the pieces which survive or are
known to have survived from this book are the following:
A. a portion of an ecclesiastical text in Uygur from this book (U AAAa: edited
below);
B. a piece in Uygur that probably belongs to the same page as "A" ( U I AIb); 1 7
C. a portion of a sermon dealing with greed and anger in Uygur (T II D 1 78 b:
lost); 1 8
D. an unidentifed page i n Iranian (T II D 1 78 a: 10st) . 1 9
15 Becau se the connected piece T I I D 178 b (see below) contained 21 lines i n three of its four
colu mns, and 22 lines in the fourth, we could surmise that U I I I a- b originally had 21 lines and
that the page size was approximately 3 I e m (H) by 22 cm (W).
16
The reason for the diferent numbers (D 178 and D ISO ) cannot be fathomed at this remove
from the expeditions. Moreover, T II D I78 a- b (and consequ ently T II D 180) came from a
diferent manuscript than other Turkic pieces of the Berlin Turfan collection with the signature T
II D 178 (hymns edited by Le Coq 19 I9 , 12-13, 1922,29-30; Xu astuanift L edited by Le Coq
1910,8-13 ,22-26; Zieme 1966, 351), which belong to a book with Iranian pieces carrying the same
signature in the series 6220 s-6260s (Boyce 1960, I20-12I).
17 U I I I b, recto( ?) II IC/ . . . ,2 Iyy : m. , . , 3 bwls' r . . . ,4 , , " verso( ?) I . . .lk . , ,,2 . , .lk 'wrw/,
3 ' , ./'yy,4 . , . Recognizable words and endings of this piece are r3 bolsar "if it be" , V2 oru[nJ
"place" , [ , ,Jgay yo[ngayJ "he will . . , and he will go."
1
8
Edited by Bang/Gabain 1929 ,422-429 ,
19 Cited by Bang/Gabain 1929 , 422; d. Boyce 1960, 121 . An u npublished piece U I55 [a- b]
(withou t signature) [fg. 3-4] has a similar paper qu ality and large ductus as U I I I a- b, but lacks
Larry Clark
U I AI a Transliteration (fg. 1-2)
Recto(?), right
I typ yrly'tyy : :
2 m'nyng 'mtyy
3 frnybr'n bwIxlw
4
'wydwm kwynwm
5 y'xwty : (R) pydr pydr
6 (R) m'/h'g frznd'n2 O
7 i'ng [9J
8
,
wqs[9J
9 l'ryn [9J
1 0 q' 'dk[9J
I I bwlm[9J
1 2 mwx:9]
1 3 'wI[lo]
1
4
nY[ I IJ
1 5
Verso(?), right
I b'stynkyy yrwq
2 y'llk '/xwlltyyn
3 [5]m[4Jk/g
4 [ 6]'sr[ 5J
Recto(?), left
I y'r'tyx kylyngllr
2 typ 'yky yllmy
3 mwz[ Io]
4
[6]
t
yp [4J
Verso(?), left
I
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
1 0
I I
1 2
1 3
I 4
1 5
'wIwy b'sl'y
"dyy yyInyng
'ykyntyy yylynt'
nwmyy dyny y'dyl
myst' : t'vx'C
'ylyntyn . y'n'
[I I]' h
[I I ]WZ
[II JC
(R) [9J'ndrz
(R) [9]gnw'g
(R) [I OJWJg
[I 2Jy
conclusive indications of belonging to the same book: U I 5 5 [a], recto( ?) I . . .I' g/ . . . , 2 . , .fp/, , "
verso( ?) I . , .InC' ty/ . . . , 2 . . . ; U I5 5 [b], recto(?) I . . . ' rdy . . . ,2 . . .ltyy . k'jwrm/, .. , . . .l1' ryg
'w/ . . .,(. . verso(?) I , . .I'tyy . . ,k.,., 2 . , yyrq' h ml" " . . .ltyl "/y/, ." (. . . The individual
words and endings which may be recognized suggest a sermon: U I 5 5 [ a] v I bnca te[p J "saying
thus"; U 15 5 [b] n ardi "was ", 2 [yarltkaJtt. kalirm[anjhe deigned (to say), I will come , . , ," V I
[yarltkJatt "he deigned (to say)", 2 yerka "to the land", ar[diJ "was",
The Conversion of Bigi Khan to Manichaeism
Recto(?), right
A tep yarhkatl : :
2 manil amtl
3 farm bran bolguluk
4 odim kinim
5 yagutl : pydr pydr
6 m'[n]h'g frznd'n
7 kal [kaI] . . .
8 oxs[a-] . . .
9 -lann . . .
1 0 -ka adg[i] . . .
AA bolma-. . .
1 2 mwx[SJ21 . . .
1 3 01 ...
1 4 -nl . . .
1 5
Verso(?), right
A bastmkI yaruk
2 . . . -tm
3
4
U A A Aa Transcription
Recto(?), left
A yarattg kllll [la Jr
2 tep eki y[ egir ]mi
3 moz[ak] . . .
4 . . . tep . . .
Verso(?), left
A ulug baslag
2 athg Yllml
3 ekinti Yllmta
4 nom1 dini yadtl-
5 mlsta : tavgac
6 elintin . yana
7
8
9
1 0 'ndrz
AA Ignw'g
1 2 [m]wJg
1 3
14
15
9
3
20
The reading and interpretation of what remains of the Parthian lines in red (R) here and on
verso( ?) are due to Professor Werner Sundermann, whose help with this and other Iranian ques
tions I gratefully acknowledge.
21
Parthian mwx[s] "salvation", according to Professor Sundermann.
94
Larry Clark
U AAAa Translation
(Recto[?], right) [Mani] deigned to say "My time and my day for achiev
ingparinirvara now draws near. " [Parthian: The children who are like
the Father (of Greatness).22 [Uygur transltion:) [The children who] are
like the Father (of Greatness). [ . . . ] to [ . . . ] not to be [ . . . ] salvation [ . . . ]
that [ . . . ] the [ . . . ]
(Recto(?), left) [ . . . ] "Be of moral character", he said. "The twelve
Teachers [ . . . ] ", he said [ . . . ]
(Verso(?), right) The frst light [ . . . ] from the [ . . . ]
(Verso(?), left) When his doctrine and religion were propagated in the
second year of the year named "Great Beginning", [ . . . ] from China
again [or: returning from China] [ . . . ] [Parthian:} [ . . . ] commandment
[ . . . ] Teacher [ . . . ] [Uygur translation:} [ . . . ]
Due to its highly fragmentary state, it is impossible to identify the purpose or
genre of this piece, although recto(?) refers to Mani's passion and the church hi
erarchy, and verso(?) to Manichaeism in the East, giving the whole the character
of an abbreviated, local history of the church. In any case, verso(?) contains the
all-important phrase ulug bas lag atlzg yzlnz1 ekinti yzlz "second year of the year
named 'Great Beginning"', which expresses a date using a Chinese nien hao or
period name. That this date refers to a moment in the propagation of Mani
chaeism in the East is confrmed by use of the verb yadzl- "to be spread, dissem
inated, published abroad, propagated" in the phrase nomz dini yadzlmzsta
"when his [i. e. , Mani's] doctrine and religion were propagated" in the year in
question. 23 Otherwise, the passage does not contain any clear indication of
where or among whom the religion was propagated. The words tabgac elintin
yana [ . . J belong to the main clause of the sentence whose dependent clause
ends in yadzlmzsta, and could be translated either as "from the Chinese realm
again [ . . . ]" or as "returning from the Chinese realm [ . . . ] ", the latter more sug
gestive than the former. In either case, even speculation cannot restore the ac
tion that transpired in the remainder of this sentence.
Te problem, then, is the correlation of the Turkic phrase ulug baslg "Great
Beginning" with a known Chinese period name, a priori, one belonging to a rler
of the T'ang dynasty. To date, Turkologists have proposed only a single identifca
tion of this nien hao, namely, the shang yuan "Superior Origin" period, where
shang refers to "upper, superior" and yuan to "(cosmic) orgin, begng", both
22 T
e reason for the duplication in the Parthian pydr pydr and Turkic kat kat "Father Father"
is unknown.
2
3 Bang and von Gabain translated "verbreitet hatte" (1929 , 425 ), while Clauson translated
somewhat loosely "since the (Man. ) doctrine and religion were preached" (1972, 890) .
The Conversion of Bigi Khan to Manichaeism 9
5
terms frequent in Chinese period names. Bang and von Gabain, frst editors of the
passage, identifed Turkic ulug baslg as an imperfect translation of Chinese shang
yuan "Upper Beginning" ("oberer Anfang"), a period name for the years 674-76
of the emperor Kao-tsung (64
9
-68 3), and suggested that Turkic ustunki bas lg
would have been a preferable translation.24 Rachmati departed from their interpre
tation only in the point that the shang yuan period translated by ulug bas lg be
longed to the reign of Su-tsung (756-762), whose second year was 761 .25 Bazin
agreed wt Rachmati and wrote that ulug bas lg
"est une traduction turque assez libre du chinois Chang-yuan ' Origine Supe
rieure', devise de regne de l'Empereur Tang Sou-tsong de 760 0761. Lannee en
question est done la 2e annee chang-yuan, qui, ayant ete ecourtee par la decision
ephemere de l'Empereur de commencer I, annee suivante pres du Solstice d'Hiver,
a dure du 10 jvrier 761 au Ier decembre 761.
"26
Thus, scholars concurred in the identifcation of Turkic ulug baslag with Chi
nese shang yuan, and the maj ority concluded that this nien hao belonged to the
Tang emperor Su-tsung, whose second shang yuan year was 761 . Although a
few Turkologists noted the discrepancy,27 they did not seek to resolve the obvi
ous contradiction between the propagation of Manichaeism among the Uygurs
in 761 , as entailed by this identifcation, and the assumed conversion of Bigi
Khan to Manichaeism in 762/3 , as argued by Chavannes and Pelliot. 28 In view
of its relevance to this issue, the elements of this nien hao date in U AAAa merit
further examination.
There are no serious obstacles to the identifcation of ulug baslag with shang
yuan. Turkic ulug may refer to "superior, high" in position, and even to "a su
perior, a master, a noble" (in the same way as English "superior" and "a supe
rior"). These meanings are found in the Tonyukuk inscription, line 56 ozum
kart boltum, ulug boltum "I have become an elder, I have become a noble", line
5 yati yuz kisig uduzugma ulugz sad arti "the noble who led the 700 people was
a Shad; "29 in the Manichaean text T II D 1 73 a2, verso 1 7 otukantaki nom ulugz
"the master of the doctrine in the Otikan; "30 and in the Divan Lugat at-Turk
2
4 Bang/Gabain 1929,426 (with a printing error of 664-676 for 674-676) . Their identifcation
was accepted by Maenchen-Helfen 195 1 ,323 .
2
5 Rachmati 1937 , 54; also accepted by von Gabain 1955 , 194 , 1964, 190; Clark 1982, 159 .
26
Bazin 199 1 , 246 .
2
7 For example, von Gabain 1955 , 194 ("Die Diferenz ur ein Jahr bleibt allerdings ein Pro
blem. "); Clark 1982, 159.
28
Bazin thought that the date 76 1 referred to an initial propagation in China which was followed
several years later by the great success of converting BigiKhan to Manichaeism ( 199 1 , 246). How
ever, all sources agree that the propagation of Manichaeism mChina itself occurred many decades ear
lier, so that if this date is 76 1 it cannot refer to that propagation, but only to the one among the Uygurs.
2
9 Aalto 1958 , 3 1 ,47 .
30 Le Coq 19 I I , 12 ("Prince of the Law"); d. Clauson 1972,777 ("chief exponent of the doc
trine( ?)"); Moriyasu 198 1 , 197-8 ("Master of the Doctrine"); Bazin 199 1 ,247 ("the Superior of the
Larry Clark
1 5 2 ulug ta!ri agtrladz " God Most High honored him", 1 63 manig kurum ulug
"my rank is high", 1 8 5 ulug birla kartsttm "I fought with a great hero [i. e. a su
perior one or a master] . "31 The nuance of "upper, higher, superior" may be
sensed
i n all these occurrences, such that the equivalency of ulug and shang i s
not strained nor i n any way improbable.
Turkic baslag certainly corresponds well to Chinese yuan " (cosmic) origin,
beginning", as is shown by an Uygur calendar fragment T Il D 5 22, line A sagun
tegma bas baslag icinda "in the (period of) 'Upper Origin' called shang yuan",
which is equivalent to the year 1 3 68. 32 Although this text strengthens the trans
lation of yuan by baslag, at the same time it ofers bas "head, chief" in place of
ulug for shang, and therefore appears to weaken the latter correlation. How
ever, the Chinese dating device in T II D 5 22 is not a nien haa, but instead desig
nates the frst 60-year component of a 1 80-year cycle, which was divided into
"upper", "middle" and "lower" components, so that bas is to be understood as
"frst" or "upper" in relation to the other two components and not as the con
cept expressed by ulug in the nien haa. The decisive argument in favor of this
identifcation is that shang yuan is the only viable equivalent for ulug bas lg
among all the period names used by T' ang emperors. 33
Although the equivalency of ulug bas lag and shang yuan may be regarded as
frm, the same cannot be said for the correlation of the shang yuan period cited
in U AAAa, for the simple reason that this nien haa was used by two diferent
T' ang emperors: Kao-tsung (649-68 3 ) whose second shang yuan year was 675
( r February 675-20 January 676), and Su-tsung ( 756-762) whose second shang
yuan year was 761 ( 1 0 February 761-1 December 761 ) .
I n considering the frst possibility (675 ), i t should be recognized that expres
sion of a date by means of a Chinese regnal device in U A A1 a is odd in itself,
since nowhere else in the earliest Turkic writings is there a date using such a de-
Doctrine"). In his lecture at the Berlin conference ("On the Uighur cxsapt ay and the Spreading of
Manichaeism into South China"), Professor Moriyasu also argued convincingly that the religious
master named Hu-lu who f led to Fukien to escape religious persecution in 84 1-846 represents
Turkic ulug "great", that is, "(religious) master"; d. Pelliot 1923,205; Lieu 1992,264,280 .
31 Dankof 1982-85> I, 246 , 259 , 283 .
3
2
Rachmati 1937 ,9 ,54 ,84 (remarks of W. Eberhard); d. Clauson 1972,38 1 (where shang kuan
is a printing error for shang yuan ). The date is taken up again in Bazin 199 1 , 324-329 .
33 If the "normal" Chinese correspondence for Turkic ulug is taken to be t'ai "grand" or ta
"great", then the following nien hao are relevant: t'ai chi "Grand Ultimate" of Jui-tsung (7 1 2; no
second year); ta Ii "Great Succession (in time)" of Tai-tsung (766-779) and Te-tsung (779; no sec
ond year); ta chung "Great Centrality" of Hsian-tsung (847-859); and ta shun "Great Compli
ance" of Chao-tsung (890892) . The following T' ang period names contain the element yuan: k' ai
yuan" Opening Origin" of Hsian-tsung (7 1 3-74 1 ); ch'ien yuan" Creativity's Origin" of Su-tsung
(758-760 ); hsing yuan "Arisen Origin" of Te-tsung (783/4; no second year); and chen yuan
"Steadfast Origin" of Te-tsung (785-805 ). I wish to record my gratitude to Professor Robert Eno
of Indiana University for working through these possibilities with me. For T'ang dynasty nien
hao , see Twitchett (ed. ) 1979, xviii-xix; Kroll 1987,99- 100 .
The Conversion of Bigi Khan to Manichaeism
97
vice. This circumstance alone leads one to suspect that the author of the piece
was a Sogdian Manichaean who possessed more than a passing familiarity with
the Chinese calendar, and more importantly that he might have used a Chinese
source for the date of this event. These inferences suggest by themselves that
the propagation referred to in U A AAa was in China rather than among the
Uygurs in the steppe, an event otherwise recorded only in the Chinese text of
the Karabalgasun inscription.
The " mainstream" tradition regarding the introduction of Manichaeism into
China dates that event to the year 694
, when a "Persian" !u-to-tan (Sogdian
'ft'8'n = avtadan "Bishop") named Mihr Ormuzd appeared at the court of Em
press Wu (684-704) and presented to her a copy of the "Scripture of Two Prin
ciples ". 3 4 Subsequent to this frst contact, Chinese sources record that in the
year 71 9 King Tesh of Tokharistan sent a mu-che (Sogdian mwz"k' = moiak
"Teacher") who was versed in astronomy as an envoy to the court of the T' ang
emperor Hsian- tsung (71 2-756), a mission that was accompanied by a request
to build a Manichaean temple. 35 In the coming years, Sogdian Manichaeans en
j oyed some success in proselytizing among the Chinese populace, as seen by
the imperial request for a summary of Manichaeism in 731 (the " Compen
dium") and by the imperial edict banning the practice of the religion except by
Sogdians in 732. 36 If the mainstream tradition is correct, then the year 675 can
not be considered as an alternative for the date expressed in U A AAa.
However, there is a "sidestream" tradition that would attribute the frst ap
pearance of Manichaeism in China to the reign of Kao-tsung (649-683). This
tradition stems from the Manichaeans in southern China and appears in the
Min-shu, a description of Fukien province written by the Ming scholar Ho
Ch'iao-yian (alive 1 586). According to this tradition, Lao-tzu had traveled to
the West where, in AO 208, he was reincarnated as Mani who united in his teach
ings the Buddhist and Taoist doctrines:
He propagated [his religion] in the countries of the Arabs, the Roman Empire,
Tokharestan, and Persia. In the year Ping-ssu of the T'ai-shih period of emperor
Wu of the Chin (AD 266) he died in Persia. He entrusted his doctrine to a chief
mu-che (moiak). The mu-che in the reign of Kao-tsung of T' ang (649-683) propa
gated his religion in the Middle Kingdom. Then, in the time of Wu Tse-t'ien
(684-704) an eminent disciple of the mu-che, the Ju-to-tan Mi-wu-mo-ssu
(avtadan Mihr Ormuzd) came in turn to the court. (passage omitted) In the period
K'ai-yian (713-741) a Ta-yin-kuang-ming-ssu (Temple of the Light of the Great
Clouds) was established for the worship [of ManiJ.37
34 Chavannes/Pelliot 1913,150-1; Henning 1936 , I I13; Bryder 1985 , I;Lieu 1992,230.
35 Chavannes/Pelliot 1913 , 151-3; Henning 1936 , 13; Bryder 1985 , 2; Lieu 1992,229-30.
36 Chavannes/Pelliot 1913 , 154-5; Henning 1936 , 13; Haloun/Henning 1952, 188; Bryder 1985,
4, 42-4; Lieu 1992, 23 I.
37 Translation of Lieu 1980, 87; see Pelliot 1923, 203-4; Lieu 1992, 230,1997 ,296-7.
Larry Clark
If this account is correct, then the year in which the moiak propagated Mani's
religion during the reign of Kao-tsung could be identifed with the date in
U AA1 a as the year 675, which was the second shang yuan year of that emperor.
Pelliot, who frst brought this text to light, was convinced that Ho Ch'iao-yian
had recorded a confused tradition in which the moiak sent by King Tesh of
Tokharistan to the court of Hsian-tsung in 71 9 had been transposed to the
court of Kao-tsung, since no other Chinese text recorded an embassy to the
earlier emperor. 38 Maenchen-Helfen, on the other hand, considered the ac
count unimpeachable on the grounds that it alone preserved the name Mihr
Ormuzd for the !u-to-tan (avtadan) who came to the court of the Empress Wu
in 694, and concluded that U AAAa confrmed a date of 675 for the earlier mis
sion to Kao-tsung. 39
An important consideration in support of Pelliot's sense that the earlier mis
sion is spurious is that the dates for the birth (208) and death (266) of Mani
which are found in Ho Ch'iao-yian's account are seriously in error, indicating
that the southern tradition recorded by this scholar adopted this chronological
faw from Tang period sources. 40 If so, then the southern tradition surely also
had access to writings that documented both the 694 mission of the avtadan
and the 71 9 mission of the moiak to Tang courts, an assumption supported by
the fact that the name of the avtadan Mihr Ormuzd is a detail which could have
derived only from more or less contemporary writings. Yet, Ho Ch'iao-yian
mentioned the 694 mission of this avtadan, skipped over the 71 9 mission of the
moiak to Hsian-tsung, and then nonetheless cited the building of a Mani
chaean temple which that mission had requested. Viewed from this perspective,
it certainly appears that Ho Ch'iao-yian or his sources lifted the 71 9 mission of
the moiak from its historical context and transposed it to an earlier period for
reasons that we cannot reconstruct but whose origins might be sought in the
mixture of Taoist, Buddhist and Manichaean traditions in China. 41
In summary, a Manichaean mission to China prior to the appearance of the
Bishop Mihr Ormuzd at the court of Empress Wu in 69
4
cannot be established
with any measure of reliability.42 Consequently, identifcation of the second
shang yuan year recorded in U IAAa with the year 675 of the emperor Kao-
3
8
Pelliot 1923, 203, n. 5 .
3 9 Maenchen-Helfen 19 51 ,322-323 . This scholar's argument can be turned o n its tail simply by
noting that either Ho Ch'iao-yian himself or the sources used by him neglected to mention the
embassy of 719, thereby impeaching the accuracy of the Min-shu .
40 Pelliot 1923, 207-8 . The same false dates are cited in the "Compendium", for which see
Haloun/Henning 19 52, 197-8 .
41 For the "Taocisation" of Mani in China, see Pelliot 1903; Chavannes/Pelliot 1913, 120-6;
Bryder 198 5 ,21- 5; Lieu 1977 ,410-16 ,198 5 ,413-14,1992,257-61 .
4
2
This conclusion does not exclude an earlier knowledge of Manichaeism in China. Liu
Ts'un-yan (1976 ) considered indirect evidence, primarily from a ffth century Taoist source, for
this possibility, but his arguments were severely criticized by Fukui 1981; cf. Lieu 198 5 , 4 I I-13 .
The Conversion of BigiKhan to Manichaeism 99
tsung also is a risky enterprise, one supported only by the possibility itself and
by the fact that U AA Aa contains a nien haa date, implying familiarity with
T' ang Chinese historical sources.
On the face of it, identifcation of the date in U A AAa with the year 76 A of the
emperor Su-tsung also is supported only by circumstantial evidence. First, re
gardless of who was literate enough to read it, U AAAa is a Turkic text and there
fore intended for a Turkic-speaking audience. Uygurs would not have been
much interested in the propagation of Manichaeism in China -after all, their
limited interests in that nation had not moved far beyond the economic and po
litical spheres. Also, apart from a few hagiographical pieces, the Turkic Mani
chaean corpus lacks the genre of church history per se. The Uygurs, on the
other hand, were very much absorbed by their own history and by the history
of peoples of the steppe, as is shown by earlier inscriptions in Runic script (see
below), by U A (with a capsule history of the Turks and Uygurs), by U 72-U 73
(afrmation of Bigi Khan), and by the Karabalgasun inscription which, even
in its Chinese version, reviews the history of the Turks and Uygurs. 43
Based on this understanding, it would not be unreasonable to conclude, at
least for the sake of argument, that U A AAa documents a propagation of Mani
chaeism in the East in the year 761 , and that this propagation could have oc
curred only among the Uygurs of the steppe, and certainly not in China or in
the Tarim basin, where Manichaeism had penetrated much earlier.
Manuscript M A (Mabrnimag)
Whether or not the book from which U AA1 a derives was part of an initial prop
agation in 761 , we should keep in mind that undertaking a steppe mission
would have requited the preparation of manuals and service books, and that
such books could have been compiled and translated only by the clergy in the
Tienshan centers of eastern Manichaeism, especially in Kocho where nearly all
of the Manichaean literature was found. That task, of course, would have fallen
to the Sogdians bilingual in Turkic,44 great numbers of whom were in the ser
vice of the Uygurs and could travel easily through their commercial network
between the steppe and the Tienshan-Tarim region.
Viewed in this light, another Manichaean book tends to confrm the idea that
a maj or missionary efort was initiated in the year 761 . This work is the famous
Mabrnimag or "Hymn-Book", which probably was the eastern counterpart to
43 See Clark 1997 , 100-3 .
44 The book to which U 1 IIa-b and the lost T II D 178 b belonged bears witness to a Sogdian
hand; for example, the Sogdian orthography of kr'gk "necessary" instead of the expected Uygur
krg'k - k'rg'k (T II D 178 b, lines 2y , 38 ) .
rCOLC) 11AD()

1 00
Larry Clark
the western "Psalm-Book" in Coptic. Only the colophon and the index to the
hundreds of hymns in the book survive. In this colophon, the scribe prays for
the health and protection of the Uygur ruler Alp Bilga Khagan (808-8 2 1 ), and
of the entire family and body of ofcials of the Uygur steppe realm. The bene
diction continues for the lords and Manichaean communities of Beshbalik,
Kocho and other localities in the Tienshan-Tarim region, which had been in
corporated into the Uygur domain as early as 754-75 6 (see below). Then, the
scribe recounts the history of the compilation:
( 1 60-I 97) In the year 546 after the birth of the Light-Apostle, (that is) now in the
year [blank space] after he ascended in the fullness of strength, and in the year 162
after the ascension of Mar Shad Ormizd, the wise, was it that this Hymn-Book,
which is full of living words and lovely songs, was begun.
The scribe who began to write it at the command of the spiritual leader was not
able to write it to the end. (passage omitted) Unfnished, it remained lying and pre
served many long years in its place in the Manistan of Ark [i. e. , KarashahrJ .
Thereupon, I, Yazdamad the Preacher, when I saw this Hymn-Book thus
unfnished, uselessly lying there, have again commanded my child, the beloved,
my son, the precious Nikhwarig Roshan, to fnish it. 45
This colophon provides three dates, one of which is left blank, but two of
which permit us to date the original compilation precisely. The frst date refers
to the beginning of the book 546 years after the birth of Mani in 2 1 6, and the
third date refers to the beginning of the book 1 62 years after the death of Mar
Shad Ormizd in 600. Although simple math appears to produce a date of 762,
we should bear in mind that the year 546 must be interpreted as the year equiva
lent to the year falling between 5 45 to 546 and the year 1 62 to that between 1 6 1
to 1 62. 4
6
Thus, the compilation of the Mabrnamag was initiated in 761 in a
Manistan in Karashahr, set aside for a number of years, and taken up again until
its completion during the reign of Alp Bilga Khagan, the same rler for whom
the Karabalgasun inscription was erected.
The fact that the date in U 1 AAa and the date for the undertaking of M A are
the same may be viewed as no more than a coincidence, or as a refection of an
important propagation efort undertaken in 76 A. Since propagation among the
Uygurs required a vigorous translation proj ect, the compilation of an Iranian
hymn-book would have been especially appropriate as a foundation for that
proj ect. That this compilation was abandoned for as many as ffty years could
be due to several factors, including the difculty of such an undertaking, uncer
tain conditions surrounding the introduction of Manichaeism among the Oguz
45 See Miller 191 3 , 15-r6. For the date of completion of this book, see Henning 19 3 8, 566 ;
Hamilton 1955 , 141 ; MacKerras 197 3, 16 8, n. 22, Moriyasu 19 81 , 19 8.
46 l owe this insight to Dr. Jason BeDuhn.
The Conversion of Bigi Khan to Manichaeism
1 01
tribes i n the steppe, the wavering commitment of Bigi Khan t o the faith (see
below), or the persecution of this faith by his successors.
Li Te-yi's Memorial
Although Chinese sources are silent about the introduction of Manichaeism
among the Uygurs, at least one source implants a suspicion that Uygurs prac
tised this religion prior to the probable propagation date of 761 . In a memorial
to the T' ang court concerning policy toward the Uygurs in 842, a frontier
ofcial named Li Te-yi wrote the following:
The Manichaean religion was forbidden in China prior to the t'ien pao reign pe
riod [742-75 6. After that, subsequent emperors allowed it to be propagated be
cause of the Uygurs' devout faith, and it was ordered that the religion be taught in
all the several garrisons of Chiang[-hsi] and Huai[-nan] . 47
To be sure, the general nature of this statement could be interpreted as referring
to a period after 762/3 , but then it must be asked why Li Te-yi cited the t 'ien
pao reign period of Hsian-tsung (71 2-756) and not a period of one of his suc
cessors Su-tsung (756-762) or Tai-tsung (762-769). After all, the 73 2 decree
banning practice of Manichaeism was in efect until the reign of Tai-tsung, who
yielded to Uygur pressure to authorize the construction of Manichaean tem
ples for the Uygurs in the two T'ang capitals in 768 . 48 If taken at his word, Li
Te-yi establishes that at least some Uygurs or some peoples within the Uygur
realm began to practice Manichaeism toward the end of the t 'ien pao reign of
Hsian-tsung, that is, in the mid-750S.
Manuscript U 72-U 73 (TM 276a-b)
As stated above, several sources suggest that Bigi Khan's conversion was not a
smooth afair, and that following his initial conversion he drifted away from the
faith, evidently to Buddhism, and subsequently was re-indoctrinated by Mani
chaean Elects. The Chinese text of the Karabalgasun inscription refers to his
worship of "the Buddha" as well as to his attempts to study Manichaeism
"twice and thrice", which took place prior to his promulgation of the faith. A
Turkic document of considerable fame confrms this sequence of events.
The manuscript U 72-U 73 (TM 276a-b) comprises two large folios written
in Sogdian-Uygur script whose text must have begun and ended on other folios
47 Drompp 1986 , 120, 187; cf. Chavannes/Pelliot 191 3,29 3-5; Lieu 1992,237-8 .
4
8
ChavanneslPelliot 191 3 , 261-3; MacKerras 197 3 ,42- 3; Lieu 1992,235.
I 02
Larry Clark
of a book. Its editors Bang and von Gabain surmised that the text represents a
Turkic translation of a letter written by an eye-witness to events connected
with the conversion of Bigi Khan.49 Moreover, they inferred that "the Uygur
Khagan decided to convert only after a severe inner confict, or rather that he
relapsed after a frst conversion, committed some sort of (anti-Manichaean?)
'deed', which was regarded as a great sin by the Elect (lines 8-9, 3 1-3 2, 45 -46)
and that he then repented". 50
Bang and von Gabain's interpretation of the contents of this letter retains its
validity in the all-important respect that it documents Bigi Khan's relapse
from an initial support of Manichaeism and, following an agonizing struggle
with Elects for dominion over his soul, his afrmation and promulgation of the
faith. As a means of understanding the events described in this document, sev
eral key passages will be cited, beginning with the speech of the Elects who
warn of the disastrous results for Sogdian clerics and merchants should he not
afrm his faith:
(8-27) Ta!rim siz torusuzun odsuzka kantu [ozu!uz] yazmsar siz . otru kamag
eli!iz bulgang[ay] bo kamag Turk bodun ta!rika y[azuk?] ktltab bol[gay]lar .
kaiuta dmdarlang [bulsar] basmgay olu[r]gaylr : yema bo t[ort bulu!takt ?]
dmdarlar kim [Ta]vgac yerinta a[zu yema (6+ letters)] Tort Kusanta kiru kuz
il[garu bergaru alku]ka ulug ada tymc basmc bolgay ka[iuta] mgosaklang
sartlang bulsar alkum olurgay bir tirig tdmagaylar : yema bo sizi! eli!izta sizi!
y[arlzgm ulug adgu ktlmclr ktlmts bolur yema [4+ letters]u [Tar]xan kalginca
sizi! eli!izta ktlmts [boltt ye]ma Ta!rim birok kantu ozu!uz ketarsar( ?) [iz] adgu
toru adgu ktlmc alku ktlgay yema [(5+ letters) T]arxan bo montag turlug kzz ada
[ymc basmc?] amg ktlmc kdmts bolgay sizi! [eli!iz artagay ta!ri ye]ringaru bargu
yolu!uz [antt]n o!i bolgay : yema bo savtg aytg antra ken] ta!ri moiak asidgay na
taplamagay y[ema sav]magay :
"0, Maj esty [i. e. , Bigi Khan], if you yourself lawlessly sin against the Time
less One [i. e. , Zurvan], then your whole realm will be in turmoil. This whole
49 Bang and von Gabain thought that the original letter was written in either Sogdian or Chi
nese (1929, 411), although the latter is a priori implausible. Asmussen argued that the unique use
of Sogdianyw'n "sin" instead of Turkic yazuk in line 51 is a clear proof of the Sogdian origin of the
document (1965 , 147), a j udgment with which I agree.
50 Bang/von Gabain 1929,412; see Klimkeit 1982,22. Their interpretation apparently was rein
forced by their reading of lines 84-85 as ikilayi yangirti' tngri o(?)//// iz-a amranti kirtginti-lar
"For the second time and anew they loved God with . . . and believed in him"; see Bang/von Gabain
1929,418-19; Klimkeit 1982,23; Lieu 1992,235 . An improved reading of this passage removes it
from such consideration: lines 79-85 01 odin [kaltt} Bigu Xan t!kin bo yarhg yarlkatukt [oti}
ukus kuvrag kara bodun t! eligka yukunu [otu}ntilr yemi ayklrttlr . yema bizi!a [dmdrlr}ka
yukuntilr savinc otuntilr . kamag [10+ letters} oguncu boltt : ekilayu ya!trtt Ta!ri . . . O[tuki}n izi
amrantt kertgintilr : "Then, when the devout Bigi Khan had issued this decree, the massive gath
ering and the common people ventured to bow to the divine king. And they applauded him. And
they bowed and they expressed their love for us, [the Elects). All [ . . . ) became rejoiceful. Twice and
anew they bestowed their love and faith upon Tangri and the [Otikan). "
The Conversion of Bugu Khan to Manichaeism
1 03
Turk people will become [sinners ?] against God. Wherever they fnd the
Elects, they will oppress and kill them. And these Elects [in the four direc
tions ?] who are west, north, east and south of China [ or even] of the land of
the [ . . . ] Four Kusan, there will be great danger and oppression for [all of
them] . Wherever they fnd Auditors or merchants, they will kill them all.
They will not leave one alive. Or, by your decree, great good deeds could be
done i n this realm of yours. And [they were] done i n your realm until [ . . . ] u
Tarkhan came. However, Maj esty, i f you yourself remove( ?) him, then all
good laws and good deeds will be done. Otherwise, [ . . . J Tarkhan will create
so many kinds of scarcity, danger, [oppression?] and evil deeds, and your
[realm will go bad] . Your path leading to the land of [God] will lead else
where. And, after that, the divine Teacher will hear these reports and will not
be pleased at all, and he will not [love you] . "51
Although the text is damaged j ust in those spots that concern the fgure of the
"Tarkhan",52 it nonetheless leaves two strong impressions: the frst that the
Elects held Bigu Khan responsible for the danger posed by that Tarkhan and
evidently sought his removal; and the second that they had placed their trust in
Bigi Khan's faith and protection prior to the coming of that Tarkhan. The sec
ond impression is reinforced in a later passage when, following two days and
nights of argument with the Elects, Bigi Khan became overwhelmed with fear
for the fate of his soul and came to the Elects to beg for absolution (krmswxn)
of his sins:
( 3 7-39) [uzun odtaJbaru sizni am[gat[tiJm aea suvsamakm [kattglnttmJ
mea sakmttm . bo montag kattglnmakm [(5+ letters) kattJglanttm siz meni
yarlkagay nomka tutgay dmdar ktlgay siz .
"I have caused you pain for [a long time]. [I have struggled] with being hun
gry and thirsty. 1 have thought thus: 'I have struggled with this much strug
gling and [ . . . ] You will command me, you will hold me to the doctrine, you
will make me an Elect."'53
51 Bang/von Gabain 1929, 414-19 . It is a pleasure to thank my longtime friend Dr. Peter Zieme,
who generously placed at my disposal his own reading of U 72-U 73 , and thereby permitted me to
make a number of important corrections and restorations to the text ofered by Bang and von
Gabain.
5
2
Lieu speculated that this "Tarkhan" could have been the same Tun Bilga Tarkhan who over
threw Bigt Khan and installed himself as ruler in 779 (1992, 235 , with printing error of 799 for
779). However, the fragmentary line 19 shows [ . . Ju [tarJxan indicating a name ending in -u/u
(there does not seem to be sufcient space for the tail of -p instead of -u , i. e. [ . . alJp [tarJxan) . In
addition, it should be recalled that there were several Tarkhans within the realm, and that Bigt
Khagan himself had been called Bilga Kutlug Tarkhan prior to his enthronement in 759 (see the
discussion of the Terkh inscription below).
53 Bang/von Gabain 1929 , 416-17 . The words read by these scholars as lines 37 aca suvsamaka
and 39 kattglanmaka , that is, with crasis of the dative +ka , should be read as aca suvsamak(t)n and
1 04
Larry Clark
This passage also testifes that Bigi Khan had entered into close contact with
Manichaean Elects prior (uzun odtijbiru "since/for [a long timer') to the
events recorded in U 72-U 73 . Following this afrmation of his faith, the
realm's ofcials and throngs of people accompanied the Khan on his ride from
the Sogdian Elect's residence, where the three-day interrogation had occurred,
to the gate of the royal residence in the steppe capital of the Uygurs. At this
point, the document presents a transcript of a decree (yarlzg) promulgating
Manichaeism as state religion:
(66-79) ol odun ta!ri elig [toykaj kirip didimin basz!a urtz kantu al [tonmj kadip
altunlug orgin uza olurtt : yema [ok bagkja kara bodunka adgu yarltg yarltkatt
mea [tep tetij amtt sizlar yema kamag uzaki yaruk [ta!rilari ?jn ayu!fz amtt ?j
artokrak dmdarlar [(20+ letters) manji! kO!U!umun amzrtgurup meni yana sizi!a
tutuz[urlarj yema man kaltim oruma olurtum [sizlrkaj yarlkayur man
dmdarlar sizlarka rna sozljsar yema ozut astgz!a tavratsar siz[larka dinjka
tavratsar otlasar sizlar olar savm[ea ojtinea yon!lar yema amranmak biligin
[dmdarhjg agzrl! aya! tapz! :
Then the divine king entered [the royal residence] and placed the diadem on
his head. He put on the scarlet [robe] and sat upon the gilded throne. And
then he issued a good decree to the [lords] and common people. (This decree)
[said] the following: "Now you also call upon( ?) all the [Gods ?] of Light on
high! [Now?], the Elects, [ . . . ] and having calmed my heart considerably, en
trust me to you again. And so I have come. I have taken my seat (on the
throne). I command [you]: [Whatever] the Elects [preach] to you, whether
they urge you to (work for) the beneft of the soul, or whether they urge and
advise you to (work for) [the religion], you will act according to their in
struction and advice. And honor, respect and serve the [Elects] with a loving
disposition. "54
The manuscript U 72-U 73 clearly establishes the sequence of a previous con
version of Bigi Khan, a relapse and afrmation of faith, and a subsequent pro
mulgation of Manichaeism as state religion, presumably followed by its propa
gation. It remains to examine how this sequence fts together with our
preliminary framework and with the data in the Karabalgasun inscription.
Karabalgasun Inscription Revisited
Nothing stated in the Chinese text of the Karabalgasun inscription or in other
Chinese sources prevents accepting the date 761 as the initial propagation of
kattglanmak(t)n , that is, with the clipped spelling of the instrumental +m. Not only does the full
form of the dative appear in line 89 ktlmakka , but the clipped spelling of the instrumental also ap
pears in the "Wind God" fragment, line 8 ilgunmak(i)n (Bang/von Gabain 19 28 , 249)'
54 Bang/von Gabain I9 29, 4 I6-I9 .
The Conversion of Bigi Khan to Manichaeisr
Manichaeism among the Uygurs, or of placing the initial conversion of Bigi
Khan in or prior to that year. First of all, the relevant passages in this inscription
neither state nor imply that the Uygur ruler was converted during his stay in
Lo-yang in 762/3 . Instead, the Chinese text says that he was troubled by condi
tions in that city and removed four Manichaean Elects, perhaps for their own
protection. From this passage alone we could infer that he already had some
close connection to Manichaeism, or else he would not have acted on their be
half. Second, that text stops j ust short of stating that Bigi Khan had previously
converted through the words: "This religion is subtle and marvelous; it is
difcult to receive and observe. Twice and thrice [I have studied it] with sincer
ity. In the past I have been ignorant and called the demons 'Buddha' . Now I
have comprehended the truth and I can no longer serve [these false gods] . " The
reference here to previous studies of Manichaeism also implies conversion
prior to 762/3 . Thus, these passages, which have been regarded as evidence for
conversion at the time of Bigi Khan's stay in Lo-yang in 762/3 , actually
should be understood as evidence for his earlier conversion.
Nonetheless, the Chinese version of the Karabalgasun iscrption asserts that,
subsequent to his removal to the steppe capital in 763, the "master of the law"
named Jui-hsi and fellow clerics proselytized successflly to the point that Bigi
Khan repented of his prevous wavering and issued a decree promulgating Man
chaeism as state religion, following which a maj or missionary activity occurred. In
essential respects, this account accords wit that in U 72-U 73 which also docu
ments relapse, followed by afrmation and a promulgation of the faith. One meas
of reconciling these and other sources is to accept them all at face value, and
thereby to reconstruct the followig understanding of the conversion process.
Bigi Kan intially was converted to Manchaeism probably some years before
761 , perhaps i the mid-750s (Li Te-yi), but became disenchanted with its exacting
demands on Elects and gravitated toward Buddhism (Karabalgasun, U 72-U 73),
with the result that the church and its clergy evidently sufered at the hands of
Uygur ofcials following his accession to the Uygur throne in 759 (U 72-U 73) .
Nonetheless, he felt sufcient sympathy with Manichaeism to give ofcial permis
sion for its propagation or practice within Uygur domains i 76 A (U A A Aa, M A).
While in Lo-yang in 762/3 (Karabalgasun, T'ang annals), he contacted Manichaean
clergymen again and took them back to hs capital (Karabalgasun). There, in 763,
these clergymen succeeded in bringing Bigi Khan back to the faith by means of
threats that his soul would never be freed from the cycle of births and rebirths in
various forms, an unimaginable condition in the context of Bigi Kan's culture,
so that he afrmed and ofcially promulgated Manichaeism as state religion
(U 72-U 73, Karabagasun). The missionar activity that followed was a concerted
efort aimed at proselytization in the steppe itself (Karabalgasun), rather than a
refection of the earlier permission to propagate within the realm (U A A Aa).
A second means of reconciling the sources consists of viewing the se
quence conversion-relapse-afrmation-promulgation as occurring prior to 761
1 06
Larry Clark
and propagation itself in 761 , and of regarding that part of this sequence (re
lapse-afrmation-promulgation-propagation) recorded in the Chinese text of
Karabalgasun as a confation with the events of 762/3 which possessed far
greater relevance to the Chinese. Certainly nothing we know about the vagaries
of Chinese sources argues against this second possibility, but confation is an
ad hoc explanation and therefore less plausible than the frst explanation
considered.
Taken as a whole, acceptance of the date 76 I in the manuscript U I I I a, along
with corroborative evidence from MI , Li Te-yi's memorial, U 72-U 73, and
even the Karabalgasun inscription itself, compel us to set aside the traditional
date of 762/3 for the initial conversion of Bigi Khan to Manichaeism, and with
it our previous assumption that this occurred in Lo-yang. However, the argu
ments based on these sources cannot take us far unless we can show that there
was a historical opportunity for the conversion of the Uygur ruler prior to the
year 76 I . As we shall see, Uygur sources provide evidence that the future Bigi
Khan enj oyed such an opportunity due to his participation in an Uygur cam
paign in the central Tienshan-Tarim region in 75 4-75 6. 55
The Possible Conversion Date of 75 5/6
In 742, the Uygurs allied with the more dominant Basmil and Karluk peoples to
bring down the Second Turk Empire (692-742), following which they turned
on their allies and drove their forces westward into the Jungar basin by 744. Af
ter years of instability due to continued battles with their former allies as well as
to succession struggles, the Uygurs under El Etmish Bilga Khagan (748-75 8 )
gained frm control of the steppe, along with adj oining territories t o the East
and North, and could devote their attention to the West. There, Beshba
liklPei-t'ing was the gateway city on the northern circuit of the trade route
through the Jungar basin north of the Tienshan by which caravans traveled in
and out of Central Asia and Tun-huang, as well as a terminal for the south Sibe
rian trade. 56 Steppe empires had devoted their resources to capturing this city
and other points along this trade circuit for centuries,57 and of course the
55 Strictly speaking, another opportunity could have occurred in 757 when an Uygur army un
der the leadership of heir-apparent Kutlug Bilga Yabgu took the feld against Ch'ing-hsi, son of
An Lu-shan. Combined Uygur and T'ang forces routed Ch'ing-hsi and s ecured the easter capi
tal at Lo-yang in December of that year, upon which the Uygur troops plundered Lo-yang; see
MacKerras 1973, 17-23, 54-6 I; Kljashtornyj I985 , 144. Whether the future Bigi Khan took part
in these operations and, if so, whether he entered Lo-yang during the three days of pillaging and,
if so, whether he contacted Manichaean Elects amid the chaos, are unknowns.
56 Ecsedy 1964 , 93 , n. 5; Matsuda I981, 25
57 Matsuda 1981, 5-9 , 19-2I .
The Conversion of Bigi Khan to Manichaeism
Uygurs also realized the critical importance of this city to the economic health
of their empire. In 75 4, El Etmish Bilga Khagan mounted a campaign in the
Jungar basin which also happened to be the center of the Basmils and Karluks.
This campaign succeeded in several respects, including the incorporation of at
least the area around Beshbalik into the Uygur empire until 789 when Tibetans,
with Karluk and other allies, attacked the city and forced its people and Uygur
garrison to surrender in 790. After several unsuccessful attempts, the Uygurs
succeeded in regaining control of the city in 792, and continued to hold it until
the end of their empire in 840, when it became one of the destinations of the
Uygurs and other Oguz peoples migrating out of the Mongolian plateau. 58
Our only source of information on the 75 4-75 6 western campaign consists
of several Turkic inscriptions in Runic script that were erected around the tra
ditional Uygur pastures in the Selenga river valley of the Mongolian plateau
and that document the early period of the steppe empire. 59 References to this
campaign occur in two of the three inscriptions which were erected in honor or
memory of EI Etmish Bilga Khagan (748-75 8) . The largest of these is the
"Shine-usu inscription", carved on a stone found at El Etmish Bilga Khagan's
burial complex located by Shine-usu lake south of the Selenga river in the west
ern Khangay mountains of the Mongolia plateau. Since it presents a retrospec
tive of this ruler's accomplishments in the frst person, it may be characterized
as the memorial erected for EI Etmish Bilga Khagan, probably in the frst year
of Bigi Khan's reign (75 9-779).
A second and severely damaged inscribed stone was found without archaeo
logical context in the western Khangay mountains at the headwaters of the Tes
river which fows into Ubsa-nur lake. One passage of the "Tes Inscription"
states that "EI Etmish Khan" has died and that the latter's son, "the Yabgu", has
taken the throne. 6o Providing that "El Etmish Khan" and EI Etmish Bilga
Khagan are one and the same person, this "Yabgu" had to be his oldest son
Kutlug Bilga Yabgu who commanded the Uygur troops at Lo-yang in 75 7.
6
1
5
8
For the Uygur-Tibetan struggle for contr91 of Beshbalik in 789-792, see Ecsedy 1964; Mori
yasu 1981; Takeuchi 1986 .
59 Editions of the three inscriptions were made by Ramstedt 1913 and Kljashtornyj 1982, 1985 ,
and notes have been added by Bazin 1981-82, 1982, Klj ashtornyj 1988 , Roux 1982 and Tekin
1982, 1989 .
60
Tes, West 5-6 [E]l Etmis Xamm yast tagip ucdt . oglt yabgum xagan boltt . [ . . o]lurtt . ogh
Tardus yabgu Talis cad olurtt . Xamm el tutm{s] "My EI Etmish Khan expired and (his soul) few
away. His son, my Yabgu, became Khagan. [ . . . J reigned. His sons reigned as Yabgu of the Tardush
and Shad of the Tolish. My Khan [ . . . J who held the realm. "
61
T'ang dynastic annals identify Kutlug Bilga Yabgu as " eldest son" and BigiKhan as "youn
ger son" of EI Etmish Bilga Khagan (MacKerras 1973, 66 , 69), although a later report mistakes
Kutlug Bilga Yabgu as "uncle of Mou-yi [Bigi]" (MacKerras 1973, 95 ) . Line East 7 of the
Shine-usu inscription identifes the to sons according to their position in the realm: eki ogltma
yabgu sad at bertim, Tardus Tlis bodunka bertim "I gave my two sons the titles Yabgu and
Shad. I gave them to the Tardush and Tolish peoples" (Ramstedt 19 I 3 , 21); also d. Tes, West 6 og/
1 08
Larry Clark
However, Chinese sources state that the T' ang court learned of EI Etmish Bilga
Khagan's death in Summer of 75 9 and that his oldest son, the "Yeh-hu (yabgu),
the heir apparent, had died before this, following a crime he had committed. "6
2
Since the Uygur source takes precedence over the Chinese, the Tes inscription
documents that, following the death of EI Etmish Bilga Khagan, the oldest son
Kutlug Bilga Yabgu briefy held the throne in 75 8 or 759, and that the oldest
son was assassinated with or without the participation of Bigi Khan who came
to power in 75 9. The T' ang annals essentially confated the three events on the
basis of typically delayed reports. 63 On this reading, then, the Tes inscription
ought to have been erected in 75 8 or 75 9, shortly before the accession of
Bigi Khan.
A third inscribed stone was found in the valley of the Terkh river which
fows into the Terkh-Tsagan lake in the northwestern Khangay mountains. The
"Terkh inscription" was made on a stone that was found sticking out of the
ground without archeological context, but it does not appear to have formed
part of a burial complex and thus was not a memorial. The fact that its narrative
frequently proceeds in the voice of EI Etmish Bilga Khagan's younger son Bilga
Kutlug Tarkhan (the future Bigi Khan), who places his name before that of the
oldest son and heir-apparent Kutlug Bilga Yabgu (line North 3 ), suggests that
this inscription may have been intended to propagandize Bilga Kutlug
Tarkhan's qualifcations for rule. Since its author refers to the western cam
paign (ended in 75 6?) and to EI Etmish Bilga Khagan as though he was still alive
(died in 75 8), the inscription may be dated to the years 75 6-75 8, and conceiv
ably to 75 7 or 75 8, when the oldest son Kutlug Bilga Yabgu was campaigning in
China or possibly fallen from favor (see below). 64 None of the three inscrip
tions refers to Manichaeism.65
Tardus yabgu TliS cad olurtt "His sons reigned as Yabgu of the Tardush and Shad of the Tolish"
(Klj ashtornyj I985 , I52-3). Line North 3 of the Terkh inscription identifes them as follows:
Tarrim Xamm ogl Bilga Tarxan Kutlug Bilga Yabgu "The sons of His Maj esty, My Khan, (are)
Bilga Tarkhan and Kutlug Bilga Yabgu". In these inscriptions, the name of the fture Bigi Khan
consistently contains the title tarxan "Tarkhan", with the exception of Tes, line West 6 , and
Terkh, line North 4 , where the form cad "Shad" appears (with c- in cad probably refecting the di
alect of the mason in whose language s- did not exist).
62 MacKerras I973 , 66 , 69; cf. Klj ashtornyj I985 , I45.
63 The confusion of T'ang annals in regard to the reigns of the frst two Uygur rulers is
well-documented; cf. MacKerras I973, I36, n68.
64 Tekin ( I982, 45) argued that the Terkh inscription is the monument erected by El Etmish
Bilga Khagan in 752 and referred to in Shine-usu, lines East 8- IOtabJsgan yd besinc ayka tegi [2 0+
runes}. lulu yz/}ka ... G[tukan ortu}smta [S}uruz Baf[kan}ta duk bas kidinta Yabaf Tukus baltir
inta anta yayladJm. orgin anta yaratJtdm. at anta tokltdm. br yZ/lk tuman kunlik bitigimin
balgumin anta yas taska yaratttdm "In the ffth month of the Hare year [=751] [ . . . ]. [In the
Dragon year =752], I spent summer pasture there, in the middle of the [ . . . ] Otikan, west of the
sacred source at Singiz Bashkan, at the junction of the Yabash and Tukush rivers. There I had the
throne created. There I had a stockade driven into the ground. There I had my inscription and sign
carved on a smooth stone (to last) for a thousand years and ten thousand days"; cf. Ramstedt I9 I3,
The Conversion of Bigi Khan to Manichaeism
The Shine-usu Inscription
The maj or thrust of the Uygurs' western campaign is mentioned in lines West
1-3 of the Shine-usu inscription, which refect battles waged by El Etmish Bilga
Khagan against the Basmils and the Karluks:
(WI-3) [55+ runes] [Kar]/uk tirigi barz Tirgiska[kalti?]yana tiip onuncay [eki?]
ya'ka bar[dtm (10+ runes)]a temisi i[c Karluk? (100+ runes)] tidim anta [1-2
runes]kgaru Basmtl Karluk y[ok boltt] kon ytlka [(7+ runes) yay]ladtm
All of the suriving Karluks [came to submit ?] to the Turgish. Withdrawing,
I left on the [second?] day of the tenth month. Those who said [ . . . ] the Three
[Karluk tribes ?] [ . . . J I withdrew [ . . . J. From then to [ . . . ], the Basmils and
the Karluks [ceased to exist] [ . . . ]. In the Sheep year, I spent [summer pasture]
in [ . . . ] . 66
Even in its severely damaged state, this passage contains references to battles
between the Uygurs and the Basmils and Karluks that ended in a maj or Uygur
victory. At that time, the Basmils inhabited the environs of Beshbalik in the
eastern Tienshan, as they had since the seventh century,67 while the Karluks
were settled west of the Basmils and south of the Altay, bordering on the terri
tory of the Yagma people. 68 As a result of their defeat, a large number of the
Karluks moved out of the Jungar basin into the areas of Suyab and Talas within
the territory of the Turgish centered in the Semirechye region around Lake
Balkash, and in the following years overthrew the Turgish. 69 Since a Sheep year
22-3 , and the corrections made by Kljashtornyj 1982,339-40 . In support of his idea, Tekin cited
an exactly parallel passage in the Terkh inscription, lines West 2-3; see the reading of Klj ashtornyj
1982,341-4 . However, that Terkh passage refers to one of several inscriptions (another is cited in
line West 1 ) erected by El Etmish Bilga Khagan in the years before his death, but certainly not to
the Terkh inscription itself. In addition, Terkh preserves a stated date (line West 1 : Serpent year =
753 ) and an event (lines North 5-6 : western campaign of 754-756 - see below) that are later than
752 and therefore render Tekin's hypothesis untenable.
65 There may be hints of a Manichaean terminology in the use of the term Ta1rim "My Divine
(One)" = "His Maj esty" in Terkh, lines North 1 ,3 , and of yaruk "light" in Shine-usu, line East 1 .
These terms otherwise occur only in Manichaean texts of this period (see Clauson 1972,524 ,962),
although that may be an accident of the surviving record of early Turkic.
66 Ramstedt 1913 , 3 2-3 .
67 Chavannes 1903 ,28 , n4 , 29 , n3, 305; Minorsky 1970, 272; Shimazaki 1974, 109 .
6
8
See Minorsky 197,286-7; Ecsedy 1980,26-9; Czegledy 1973, 264-6 .
69 The Hsin T 'ang-shu contains two contradictory reports, one dating the Karluk conquest of
Suyab and Talas to the period after 756-75 8 , and a second dating it to the period after 766-780; cf.
Ecsedy 1964 ,96 n. 13 , 1980,29 , The earlier date is supported by the Shine-usu inscription, and by
the fact that Chinese sources often dated events outside of the heartland of China to the time that
news of these events reached the court, not to mention that T' ang had grave troubles of its own in
these years and consequently paid even less attention to distant events. Beckwith argued that the
Karluks had become the dominant military power in the Semirechye by 75 Ias they were the de
cisive factor in the battle of Talas (1987, 126 , n. 114). Even so, the Shine-usu inscription establishes
AAO
Larry Clark
corresponds only to the year 75 5 /6 ( 1 6 February 75 5-4 February 75 6) within
the reign of El Etmish Bilga Khagan, the Shine-usu inscription establishes that
his destruction of the Basmils and Karluks occurred during a western campaign
whose initial phase took place in 75
4
or early 75 5 , and that the westward migra
tion of the Karluks to Turgish country occurred in the years immediately fol
lowing this date.
The Terkh Inscription
Although their laconic character leaves many questions unanswered, lines
North 5-6 of the Terkh inscription provide an account of another military op
eration that arguably formed a second goal of the western campaign of
75 4-75 6.
(N 5-6) bunt yarat(t)tg(g)a Bilga Kutlug Taran Sa!un bunca bodumg attn yoltn
Yagma Lum
C
isi eki yorttdt. Kutlug Bilga Sa!un Urusu Kutlug Tarxan Sa!un ol
eki yor yarlkadt. Bayarku Tardus Bilga Tarxan Kutlug Yagma Tabgac Sogdk bast
Bilga Sa!un Ozti
O
! Erkin f70+ runes]
He [i. e. , El Etmish Bilga Khagan] had the one who created this (stone), Gen
eral Bilga Kutlug Tarkhan, march (against ?) so many peoples with fame and
glory, (including) both the Yagmas and the Lum Chishi. He [i. e. , El Etmish
Bilga Khagan] ordered General Kutlug Bilga and General Urushu Kutlug
Tarkhan, these two, to march. Bilga Tarkhan and Kutlug [ ?defeated] the lead
ers of the Yagmas, the Chinese and the Sogdians, (namely) General Bilga,
Prince Ozil, and Lord [ . . va
Problems of discourse and grammar abound in the reading of this passage, not
least of which is the identifcation of the subj ects and obj ects of the frst two
sentences. Because the inscription presents the deeds and commands of El
that El Etmish Bilga Khagan's decisive victory, at least over those Karluks in the lungar basin, oc
curred in 754/5 .
70 Nearly all of the runes of the frst fragment and most of those of the second fragment of this
stone are illegible in the photographs which accompany Kljashtornyj's 1982 publication. My
reading of the legible runes in the third fragment (passages at the end of North 5-6 ) matches that
of this scholar, who translated the whole passage as follows: "He who made this (monument),
Bilga Qudu-tarqan-siin, (has defeated) so many peoples with glory. He sent two (people
against) the Yayma and Lum-cisi. To Quduy Bilga-saIin and Urusu Quduy-tarqan-saIin, these
two (persons) he ordered: Go! The Tardus Bilga-tarqan and Quduy (both from the people)
Bayarqu, the heads of the Yayma, the Chinese, and the Sogdians, Bilga-saIin, OzlI OI-erkin . . . "
( 1988 ,277; d. 1982,345 ) . Although my translation difers in many respects from his, the central
fact of the future Bigi Khan's presence in the Tienshan-Tarim region is not afected. For a totally
diferent interpretation of essentially the same reading of the runes (except yarattgma instead of
Kljashtornyj's yarattga ), see Tekin 1982,48 , 52,60- 1 .
The Conversion of Bigi Khan to Manichaeism
AAA
Etmish Bilga Khagan, I assume that he is the subj ect of the verb yorzt-dz "he
caused (someone) to march" in the frst sentence, and that bum yarat-(t)zg-(g)a
"(to) the one who created this [stone] ", with General Bilga Kutlug Tarkhan in
apposition, is its obj ect. In the same way, El Etmish Bilga Khagan must be the
subj ect of the honorifc verb yarltka-dz "he ordered" in the second sentence,
and the names of the two generals must be its obj ect.
The identities of the generals in this passage may be established with refer
ence to Terkh, line North 3 TIrim Xamm oglt Bilga Tarxan Kutlug Bilga
Yabgu "The sons of His Maj esty, My Khan, (are) Bilga Tarkhan and Kutlug
Bilga Yabgu", where Bilga Tarxan is an abbreviation of the BiZga Kutlug Tarxan
Salun of line North 5 , who is the author or "creator" of this inscription. There
can be no question that in line North 3 Bilga Tarkhan placed his name before
that of Kutlug Bilga Yabgu who, as the oldest son of El Etmish Bilga Khagan,
was the true heir to the throne, either as a form of self-promotion or as a
refection of Kutlug Bilga Yabgu's demotion (see above). In either case, Bilga
Tarkhan, the other son of El Etmish Bilga Khagan in line North 3, may be
identifed as the future Bigi Khan. In lines North 5-6, he is called both BiZga
Kutlug Tarxan Salun and Bilga Tarxan, whereas his older brother is called
Kutlug BiZga Salun and simply Kutlug, each time without the high title yabgu.
According to the above interpretation of this difcult passage, the Uygur
ruler El Etmish Bilga Khagan ordered his younger son (Bilga Tarkhan = Gen
eral Bilga Kutlug Tarkhan = the future Bigi Khan) and his older son (General
Kutlug Bilga = Kutlug = the heir-apparent Kutlug Bilga Yabgu), along with
General Urushu Kutlug Tarkhan, to conduct a campaign against three people:
(A) General Bilga, leader of the Yagmas; (2) Prince (oI = Chinese wang) Ozil,71
leader of the Chinese and prefect (CJi = Chinese tzu-shih) of Lum; and ( 3) Lord
. . . (erkin . . . ), leader of the Sogdians.
As Sergej Klj ashtornyj has demonstrated, the geographical co-location of
these three peoples can only apply to the central Tienshan region between the
Jungar and Tarim basins. 72 The Yagmas, formerly one of the Nine Oguz peo
ples, were settled in the central and western Tienshan in the region of Kucha
and Karashahr and at this time bordered on the Karluk tribes. l3
The words Lum
C
iJi include an Uygur rendering of Chinese tz'u shih "pre
feet", indicating that the word Lum was the name of the prefecture headed by
this ofciaF4 Because the text mentions frst the Yagma and Lum tz'u-shih, and
71 Despite the title, this man's name is not Chinese. However, non-Chinese commanders and
troops abounded in the An-hsi and Pei-t'ing districts at this time; d. Pulleyblank 1955,95 , 1976 ,
40 , and footnote 83 below.
7
2
Klj ashtornyj 1988 .
73 Minorsky 1970, 277-81; Czegledy 1973 ,263-4; Klj ashtornyj 1988 ,277-8 .
74 Klj ashtornyj 1988 , 278-9 . The Chinese rank tz'u-shih "prefect" was held by governors of
prefectures (chou) under T'ang provincial administration; see MacKerras 1972, 196; Wechsler
1 1 2
Larry Clark
then in correspondence the leaders of the Yagmas, Chinese and Sogdians, it is
probable that Ozil wang, the leader of the Chinese, was this same Lum tz'u
shih, who had the responsibility of administering and protecting both T' ang
commercial interests and local Chinese communities i the Lum region. Klj ash
toryj proposed that the word Lum designated the name of the local T okharian
dynasty of Karashahr, and it is true that two Karashahr kings had the names
Lung T'u-ch'i-chih (reigning 632, 644) and Lung Lan-t 'u (d. 71 9), where the
frst element Lung might be equivalent to Lum.75 A more plausible identifca
tion of Lum is with the element Lun in the name of a military post called
Lun-ch'uan located between Karashahr and Kucha,76 and of a sub-prefecture
of Pei-t'inglBeshbalik called Lun-t 'ai located on the east side of what is now
U rumchi -indeed, even that modern name appears to continue its older desig
nation (Urum Lum).77 Provisionally, then, the word Lum was the local, pos
sibly Tokharian name of an adminstrative unit that included the central
Tienshan area around Urumchi and probably also the area around Karashahr
up to Kucha located across the pass through the Tienshan in the Tarim basin.
Given the location of the frst two leaders, the leader referred to as Erkin
[ . . J " Lord [ . . . J" of the Sogdians,78 therefore, tentatively could be identifed as
head of the local Sogdian communities in the northern Tarim cities, including
Karashahr and possibly those of Kocho to the east of Karashahr. 79
While the location of this campaign in which the future Bigi Khan took
part is assured, the question of its date remains unsettled. Since the Terkh in
scription contains a prior date of 75 3 (line West A) and mentions Kutlug Bilga
Yabgu, the heir-apparent who led the Uygur troops into China in 75 7, the
Uygur expedition in the Tienshan-Tarim region can be dated between 75 3 and
75 7. It is extremely unlikely that the Uygurs would have mounted two maj or
western expeditions against peoples in the Tienshan peoples separated by only
a year, that is, one campaign led by EI Etmish Bilga Khagan against the Basmils
1979 ,174; Twitchett 1979 , 351-353; Kroll 1987, 102. In Khotanese Saka, the Chinese term was
written tctf; cf. Vorob' eva-Desj atovskaj a 1992, 54.
75 Chavannes 1903 , I I I , 113; cf. Kljashtornyj 1988 ,278-9.
76 Chavannes 1903 ,7,272. This site should be the same as that called Lun-t'ai in the Han pe
riod, which was located at later Bigir between Karashahr and Kucha; cf. Chavannes 19 3 ,345;
Minorsk 1970, 274
77 Chavannes 1903 , 12,68 note, I I4, 272; Hamilton 1955 , 14; Minorsky 197 ,265 , n. I; Shima
zaki 1974, 100.
7
8
Neither the meaning nor the origin of the title Erkin - Irkin is known, but it appears to have
designated a lower-ranking chief of peoples, including Sogdians, primarily of the Tienshan
Semirechye region; cf. Pelliot 1929, 226-9; Bombaci 1970, 20-1 , 44-6 , 52-4 , 57-8 , 62; Clauson
1972,225.
79 It should not escape notice that the region that encompassed Beshbalik, Karashahr and
Kocho, and probably Kucha, coincides with the "Land of the Four Togri" whose Manichaean
communities fell under the jurisdiction of the Teacher in Kocho and whose name was cited in the
Sogdian version of the Karabalgasun inscription (see footnote I above) .
The Conversion of BigiKhan to Manichaeism
1 1 3
and Karluks in 754/5 , and a second one led by his sons Bilga Kutlug Tarkhan
and Kutlug Bilga Yabgu against the Yagma people and cities in the Tarim basin
either i 75 3/4 or in 75 617. The expedition in the central Tienshan-Tarim basin,
then, must have been a subsidiary operation of the western campaign which be
gan in 754/5. Moreover, this operation in the central Tienshan must have oc
curred in 75 5/6, that is, after El Etmish Bilga Khagan subjugated the Basmils
and cleared the Karluks from the Jungar basin before returning to summer pas
ture in 75 5 . Only the removal of this threat in the eastern Tienshan would have
made it possible for his two sons to campaign farther in the central Tienshan
and Tarim basin.
As pointed out above, a western campaign was a normal undertaking of
steppe empires, whose control of trade through the Jungar basin was vital to
their survival. Although scholars previously have suspected that this region, in
cluding Beshbalik/Pei-t'ing, had become part of the Uygur empire prior to the
brief Tibetan occupation of Beshbalik in 789-792 , they could not support their
suspicions on the basis of Chinese sources. 80 To be sure, there are clues in the
form of coincidences in these sources. One coincidence is that the Chinese mili
tary governor and several generals of the garrisons in An-hsi and Pei-t'ing re
turned in 7 5 5 to take command of T'ang units defending the approaches to
Ch'ang-an against An Lu-shan's troops. 81 A second coincidence concerns a
provincial administrative change in regard to the An-hsi district that comprised
Kocho, Karashahr and Kucha. In 75 6, the name An-hsi was changed to Chen
hsi-tu-hu-fu, and the district was subordinated to the Lung-yu district until its
restoration in 780. 8
2
Both of these developments may have refected the new
political situation in the region, which now was incorporated in the Uygur
realm after its armies fought and undoubtedly defeated local T' ang garrisons in
754-75 6. 83
80 For example, Abe 1954 ,439 ("Bishbalik, although nominally under T'ang rule, was appar
ently under the actual control of the Uighurs [after 747]"); Minorsky 1970, 272 ("toward the mid
dle of the eighth century the Uighurs already had Bishbaliq under their sway"); Ecsedy 1964, 86
(" on the north-west frontiers, in the region of Pei-t'ing, Uigurs took a frm stand since the middle
of the eighth century"), 95 , n. II ("in that time the Uigurs were at home both in Pei-t'ing and in
the region of Pei-t'ing, not only as China's allies but a the efective possessors of this territory");
Hamilton 1986 : x ("under the reign of the second Uygur khagan Kutlug (747-759) of the dy
nasty stemming from the Yaglakar clan, the Uygurs extended their dominion toward the south
west over the former territory of the Basmils in the environs of Beshbalik (Pei-t'ing) and over the
former territory of the Karluks in the environs of the Irtish and the Tarbagatay mountains be
tween the Altay and the Tienshan").
8
1 For Ch' eng Ch'ien-li, military governor of Pei-t'ing after 753 , and the generals Kao Hsien
chih and Feng Ch'ang-ch'ing, in charge of An-hsi, see Pulleyblank 1955 , 155 , n. 6; des Rotours
1962,127 , n. 1 ,194-5 , n. 4 ,196-7 , n. 4; Twitchett 1979,455.
82
Ecsedy 1964,93, n. 6; Klj ashtornyj 1988 ,279.
8
3 Twitchett thought that An-hsi was overrun by Tibetans while T'ang troops were elsewhere
preoccupied with An Lu-shan (1979, 444, 457; cf. Ecsedy 1964, 89,94-5 0 n. 8 ). However, Tibetan
1 1 4
Larry Clark
The broader ramifcation of this campaign was that, with the loss of its north
western outposts and a maj or source of revenue, the military and fnancial crisis
of the T' ang government, seriously in j eopardy since the debacle at Talas in 75 I ,
weakened even frther. This, combined with the establishment of Uygur impe
rial power over the northwest, may have served as the true catalyst of the " An
Lu-shan rebellion", whose causes nearly always are examined solely in terms of
internal Chinese politics rather than in their proper international context. 84
A narrower but nonetheless signifcant consequence of this campaign was
that it brought the future Bigi Khan into an area where he could have had the
opportunity to contact Sogdian Manichaean clergymen and to begin his spiri
tual struggle with their religion. To be sure, the Uygur inscriptions only place
him in the proximity of Kocho, headquarters of the eastern church, but not in
Kocho itself. Further exploration of this possibility would require an examina
tion of the famous passage in the Uygur text U I (T II D 1 73), leaf IVI , lines 1-7:
[gap] Tarrikan Uygur Pwxwx Xan Kocogaru kalian koym ytlka uc magiitak
olurmak ucun mozakka kerati "The devout Uygur Pwxwx Khan came to
Kocho and, in the Sheep year, met with the Teacher for the purpose of installing
three Bishops. " If the Pwxwx X'n of this text could be identifed with Bigi
Xan (Pwykw X'n), then the Sheep year in question would be the same Sheep
year cited in the Shine-usu inscription which correlates to 75 5/6 ( 1 6 February
75 5-4 February 75 6) and, by itself, would lend credence to the conversion of
Bigi Khan to Manichaeism during the western campaign of 75
4
-75 6. 85 How
ever, since its proposal by Abe Takeo, another theory has begun to claim the
feld, namely, that the word Pwxwx represents Bokuk, presumed to be the
given name of the Uygur ruler Alp Kutlug Ulug Bilga KhaganiHuai-hsin
(795-808), so that the Sheep year in question would correlate to 803/4 (27 Janu
ary 8 03-1 4 February 80
4
). 86 As evidence cited in support of this theory ranges
from numismatics to sources written in a variety of languages, a fair hearing
would overstep the confnes of this paper.
advances from 75 5 to 763 were confned to diplomatic relations with Pamir states and to the grad
ual conquest of the Lung-yu district; see Beckwith 1987 , 145-6 .
8
4 The Chinese bias in scholarship on this "rebellion" essentially mirrors the sources them
selves; for example, the detailed biography entitled An Lu-shan Shih-chi by Yao Ju-neng men
tions the Uygurs only twice, once to cite their victory over the Kitan in 753 , and a second time
to state, and no more, that Uygur troops departed Lo-yang in December 757 (des Rotours 196 .,
I25 ,30 0).
8
5 Due to their divergent spellings, Le Coq's initial identifcation of the two names (19 I, 149),
although accepted by a few scholars (Bang/von Gabain 1929 ,413 ; Clark 198 ., 159 , n. 31), was
held suspect by most (Chavannes/Pelliot 1913, 196-7, n. 1; Henning 1936 , 15-16 , n . 2,
Sundermann 1984 ,301) .
86
See Abe 1954,440- .; Moriyasu 1981 , 198 ; Geng/Hamilton 1981 , 3 H Hamilton 1986 , X,
Thierry 1997 .
The Conversion of Btgi Khan to Manichaeism
1 1 5
Even when the potentially decisive witness of U 1 is set in abeyance, the Uygur
inscriptions provide sufcient testimony to establish that the future BigiKhan
was in the central Tienshan-Tarim basin region in the year 75 5/6. His role as
commander of an Uygur expeditionary force in this region may have brought
him into frst contact with Manichaean clerics, possibly in Karashahr and not
necessarily in Kocho, a contact that might have resulted in his initial conversion
to this religion. Whether or not Bigi Khan's conversion occurred prior to his
becoming Khan, or whether it occurred in the distant Tienshan-Tarim region or
closer to home, he issued an ofcial permission for the practice of Manichaeism
throughout his realm after he was enthroned in 759, an act that was memorialized
by the Manichaean church as the propagation of 761 . Even so, his attachment to
this religion did not translate into frm sponsorship or protection until an
afrmation of faith was wrested from his adventurous spirit by Manichaean cler
ics brought back to the steppe from China in 763 .
Although the preceding reconstruction of the conversion process at times
has relied upon reasoned choices made between alternative interpretations and
upon obscure passages of sources, it has the advantage of integrating these
sources and, in a revised form, even the fndings of Chavannes and Pelliot. Fu
ture research surely will produce further modifcations before a secure under
standing of Bigi Khan's conversion to Manichaeism can be gained. 87
Aalto 1 958
Abe 1954
Asmuss en 1 965
Bang/von Gabain 1 928
Bang/von Gabain 1 929
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8
7 I would like to take this opportunity to credit Professors Marcel Erdal and James Hamilton
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1 2 1
Fig. r : U r I I a-b, recto( ?).
1 22 Larry Clark
Fig. 2: U I I I a-b, verso(?}.
The Conversion of Bigi Khan to Manichaeism
1 2 3
Fig. . U 1 5 P-b, recto( ?).
Fig. (. U 1 5 5 a-b, verso(?).