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ORIENTIERUNGEN

Zeitschrift zur Kultur Asiens


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28 (2016)

Herausgegeben von
Berthold Damshäuser,
Ralph Kauz,
Li Xuetao,
Dorothee Schaab-Hanke

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ORIENTIERUNGEN
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Herausgegeben von
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Li Xuetao,
Dorothee Schaab-Hanke

28 (2016)

von Wolfgang Kubin

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ORIENTIERUNGEN: Zeitschrift zur Kultur Asiens

Herausgeber: Berthold Damshäuser, Ralph Kauz, Li Xuetao und Dorothee Schaab-Hanke

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Herstellung: Rosch-Buch, Scheßlitz


Inhalt
Dian Apsari DAMSHÄUSER und Berthold DAMSHÄUSER. 1
Javanische Weisheit: Pituduh und Wewaler (Leitsätze und Verbote)

Werner KRAUS. Rezeption und Transformation der Josefslegende 25


in der malaiischen Welt

Lauren DROVER. Animals and Animal-Human Hybrids 91


in the Nature / Culture Separation of Akha Worldview

Malihe KARBASSIAN. Prayer of the Moon According to Suhrawardī 103


and Āẕar Kaywānīs’ Translation

Nurlan KENZHEAKHMET. Two Chinese Maps 111


Datable to the Fifteenth Century:
A New Understanding of the Silk Road

Dilnoza DUTURAEVA. Between the Silk and Fur Roads: 173


The Qarakhanid Diplomacy and Trade

XU Meimei 許媚媚. Imperial China Officials and Early Cinema, 213


1896–1916

Ylva MONSCHEIN. Armed Struggle in the Mountain Areas 235


of South and Central Shandong:
Cultural Revolution Factions in Linyi Prefecture

ITŌ Mamoru 伊藤守. Die japanische Gesellschaft und Medienkultur 265


nach dem 11. März 2011 (aus dem Japanischen von Caroline Block)
6 Inhalt

Rezensionen
Christian Soffel und Tilman Schalmey (Hg.). Harmonie und Konflikt 279
in China (Wolfgang Kubin)

Yu Filipiak. Chen Yangs Darstellung der barbarischen Musikinstrumente 280


im Buch der Musik (Yueshu): Ein Beitrag zur Erforschung des Musiklebens
am Kaiserhof der Song-Dynastie (960–1279) (Heinrich Geiger)

Eva Lüdi Kong (Üs.). Die Reise in den Westen: Ein klassischer chinesischer 284
Roman. Mit 100 Holzschnitten nach alten Ausgaben (Roderich Ptak)

Christian Schwermann und Raji C. Steineck (Hg.). That Wonderful 290


Composite Called Author: Authorship in East Asian Literatures
from the Beginnings to the Seventeenth Century (Hans van Ess)

Karl-Heinz Golzio und Günther Distelrath (Hg.). Kissinger 294


und Südostasien (Gregor Koziol und Christoph Rieboldt)

Berthold Damshäuser und Michael Rottmann (Hg.). 298


Wege nach – und mit – Indonesien: 16 Berichte und Reflexionen
(Rodion Ebbighausen)

Daniel C. Lynch. China’s Futures: PRC Elites Debate Economics, 301


Politics and Foreign Policy (Josie-Marie Perkuhn)

Literaturstraße. Chinesisch-deutsches Jahrbuch für Sprache, Literatur 306


und Kultur 11 (2010) (Wolfgang Kubin)

K. Satchidanandan und O.N.V. Kurup: Zwei Generationen 309


und zwei Varianten engagierter indischer Dichtung (Andreas Weiland)

Marisa C. Gaspar. No Tempo do Bambu: Identidade e Ambivalência 316


entre Macaenses (Roderich Ptak)

Berthold Damshäuser (Üs.). Gestatten mein Name ist Trübsinn: 322


Gedichte von Agus R. Sarjono (Wolfgang Kubin)
Between the Silk and Fur Roads:
The Qarakhanid Diplomacy and Trade*
Dilnoza Duturaeva

Researchers claim that it was under Genghis Khan’s empire that the Eurasian
landmass began to intensify communication greatly and demonstrate the char-
acteristics of global exchange.1 However, by the time of the Mongol Empire,
China and Central Asia had been in intensive cultural and commercial contact
for more than a millennium, since the first official envoy from the Chinese
emperor reached Fergana valley in present Uzbekistan.2 Central Asians were
the main partners of China in international trade. The most famous contribu-
tors to the Silk Road trade were Sogdian merchants from Samarqand, a region
in present Uzbekistan. The Sogdians served as middlemen between the most
powerful empires of the Asian continent in the second half of the first millen-
nium CE: The Tang 唐 Empire in China (618–907) and the Abbasid Cali-
phate in the Middle East (750–1258).3
By the eleventh century, China and Central Asia had been controlled by
the nomadic powers: the sinicized Khitans, Jurchens and Tanguts in China,
and the islamized Turkic dynasties as the Qarakhanids, Ghaznavids and
Saljuqs in Central Asia. This was the beginning of “the age of transregional
nomadic empires”, as Jerry Bentley named the period in world history, from
1000 to 1500.4 The Mongol empire is the age in which the nomads reached
their height in terms of influence on the world history; no other nomad empire

* This paper was written within the framework of a project supported by the Alexander von
Humboldt Foundation. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the International
Research Colloquium of the Department of Islamic Studies, University of Bonn, organized
by Prof. Stephan Conermann in April, 2016. I would like to thank Prof. Elyor Karimov and
Prof. Ralph Kauz for their valuable comments on earlier drafts. Any errors are my own.
1 Allsen 1997, 4; Allsen 2001, 14; May 2012, 7–10:
2 Beckwith 2009, 86; Liu 2010, 6–10; Hansen 2012, 14. This is the first written information
on the official envoy sent from China to Central Asia. However, archeological materials of
the prehistoric period found in China, Central Asia, India and Southern Europe demon-
strate that China had already been connected with other parts of Eurasia much earlier. For a
discussion and periodization of prehistoric contacts between China and Central Asia see
Kozhin 2011, 180–196.
3 For the role of the Sogdian merchants see La Vaissière 2005.
4 Bentley 1996, 750.

ORIENTIERUNGEN 28 (2016)
174 Dilnoza Duturaeva

had succeeded in holding a huge Eurasian landmass stretching from Korea to


Hungary at the same time.5 This situation brought the two ends of the Eura-
sian landmass into sustained cultural and commercial contact.6 Diplomacy and
trade in the pre-Mongol era, especially the period of the Qarakhanids, is con-
sidered less documented, and for this reason, remains one of the understudied
stages of the Silk Road history.7
The Qarakhanids are considered to be the first Turkic dynasty in the Islam-
ic world; they ruled in Kashgaria, Semirechye, and Transoxiana, which were
known in medieval Islamic texts as al-Khāqāniya8 or Āl-i Āfrasiyāb9 and in
Chinese texts as Heihan 黑汗10 and Dashi 大食.11 The term Qarakhanids
originated from the supreme title of this dynasty “Qara Khan” (“Black
Khan”)12 and was initially introduced by Russian scholars.13
The Qarakhanid dynasty is one of the most difficult areas in the history of
Central Asia, both due to the lack of primary sources and the scarcity of litera-
ture about them, especially in English. This area of studies has been developed
by pioneer works of Vasily Bartold and Omeljan Pritsak, and their works have
still continued to be relevant in the field.14 Among later works, there are mono-
graphs in Turkish by Reşat Genç, in Russian by Omurkul Karaev and in Chi-

05 Morgan 2007, 1.
06 Wilkinson 2015, 775.
07 Paul 2012, 175; Biran 2015, 575.
08 al-Khāqāniya ‫“( الخاقانية‬The Khaqanian Dynasty”), named after the title of the Qarakhanid
rulers. See Dīwān lughāt al-Turk, 339, 908.
09 Āl-i Āfrasiyāb ‫“( آل افراسياب‬The House of Afrasiyab”), named after the legendary king of Turan
in Firdawsī’s Shāhnāma. The name of Āfrasiyāb, who had been a king of Turan in ancient
Iranian mythology, is closely associated with the Turks in the tenth to eleventh century Ara-
bic and Persian literature. Therefore, the Turks who came to power after the Samanid dynas-
ty in Central Asia were considered to be descendants of Āfrasiyāb. Āfrasiyāb was known
among the Turks as Tonga Alp Er (“The Man Brave as a Tiger”). See Qutadghu Bilig, 50;
Dīwān lughāt al-Turk, 851, 1014; Al-Kāmil fīl-Ta’rīkh, 246; Mulhaqāt al-ṣurāh, 101.
10 Heihan (“Qara Khan”), a term used for the Qarakhanids in Songshi. See Jiang 2001.
11 Dashi, a term used in Chinese sources from the eighth to the thirteenth century, originally for
Arabs and the Abbasid Caliphate, later for Muslims and Islamic states, as well as the Qara-
khanids. See Qian 2004.
12 In the Turkic world, the word qara (“Black”) had been also used in the political context,
meaning “Great” and “Powerful”. Pritsak 1953, 18.
13 Grigoryev 1874. For the first usage of the term see Pritsak 1953, 18; Bartold 1898/1963, 41.
14 Bartold 1900/1963; Pritsak 1953, 17–68.
Between the Silk and Fur Roads: The Qarakhanid Diplomacy and Trade 175

nese by Wei Liangtao 魏良弢.15 These publications have not included numer-
ous numismatic and archeological materials found afterwards. On the numis-
matic history of the Qarakhanids, there is a relatively recent book in Russian
published by late Boris Kochnev.16 Recent discoveries by the French-Uzbek
Archeological Mission of mural paintings of the Qarakhanid period in Samar-
qand are studied mainly by Yury Karev, who observed similarities between the
Qarakhanid painting in Samarqand and Chinese art in the Dunhuang grot-
toes.17 A summary of the 2011–2012 excavations of the joint UK-Kazakhstani
archeological team in the medieval citadel of Taraz (Talas) during the Qarakha-
nid period was recently published by Giles Dawkes and Gaygysyz Jorayev.18 A
new revision of a tomb inscription in the mausoleum known as “Daut-bek
Kesenesi” in present Kazakhstan city Taraz, which postpones the end of the
Qarakhanid dynasty from 1212 to 1262, was suggested by Darhan Kidirali and
Gaybullah Babayar.19 These materials will allow a deeper insight into Qarakha-
nid history supplementing information given in written sources.
All researchers who have ever studied the Qarakhanids equally claimed that
their history is less documented and very fragmentary. The majority of sources
are those written outside the Qarakhanid realm. These sources mostly consist
of information on the Qarakhanids’ relations with the neighboring Islamic and
Sinitic states. This also explains the variety of source languages, mainly Arabic,
Persian, and Chinese. However, in the Russian language academia, the Qarak-
hanid dynasty has always been a research subject of Turkologists. Chinese pri-
mary and secondary sources have scarcely been consulted. At the same time, the
Qarakhanids are included in the multi-volume publication Zhongguo lishi 中國
歷史 (History of China) as one of the Chinese dynasties,20 and Chinese schol-
ars are aware of multi-lingual sources and studies on the Qarakhanids, unlike
their non-Chinese colleagues.21
This paper concerns a problem of Sino-Islamic interactions in the pre-
Mongol period and the role of the Qarakhanid diplomacy and trade based on
Islamic and Chinese sources as well as new numismatic and archeological ma-

15 Genç 1981; Karaev 1983; Wei 1986.


16 Kochnev 2006.
17 Karev 2005, 75ff.
18 Dawkes and Jorayev 2015.
19 Kidirali and Babayar 2016.
20 Wei 2010.
21 Biran 2001, 81.
176 Dilnoza Duturaeva

terials. I argue that cross-cultural interactions had existed with a major scope in
the pre-Mongol period and that the Qarakhanid merchants played a signifi-
cant role in the Silk Road trade replacing Sogdians, who before the Qarakha-
nids had served as middlemen between China and the Islamic world. Moreo-
ver, the Qarakhanids’ trade network connected these two worlds with Europe,
and probably further beyond. Therefore, the main question of this paper is
how distant the Qarakhanid trade was. Before we proceed, however, an intro-
duction to the Qarakhanids and their world seems to be appropriate.

The Qarakhanid position in the Islamic and Sinitic Worlds22


The Qarakhanids were surrounded by the steppe empires that rose to power
after the collapse of Tang China, the fragmentation of the Abbasid Caliphate
and the fall of the Samanid Emirate (875–999) in Transoxiana and Khurasan.
Southern and western neighbors of the Qarakhanids were other Turko-Islamic
dynasties such as the Ghaznavids (977–1186), the Saljuqs (ca. 1040–1194)
and the Khwarazmshahs (ca. 1077–1231), while to the east they were bor-
dered by the Uyghur Idiquts (ca. 850–1250), who were the subjects of the
Khitans. The Khitans were steppe peoples from Manchuria and once a part of
the Turkic (552–740) and Uyghur (744–840) Khaganates. They established
the Liao 遼 Empire (907–1125) in present-day northern China, Mongolia and
part of Siberia and later the Qara Khitai dynasty (1124–1218) in Central Asia.
By the 11th century, the Liao Empire became very powerful in the region,
forcing the Han-Chinese Song 宋 dynasty (960–1227) to pay an annual trib-
ute. The Song dynasty succeeded an era of political upheaval, which started
with the fall of the Tang Empire in 907 and became known as the period of the
Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907–960).23 Song China passed through a
phase of economic growth that had not been recorded in any earlier period of

22 To define what we mean by the “Islamic” and “Sinitic worlds”, this study uses cultural and
geographic markers that reflect the two societies’ perceptions of each other. The “Islamic
world” refers to the Arabs and Arabian conquests as well as later islamized non-Arabian cul-
tures including the regions of modern-day North and East Africa, West and Central Asia.
The “Sinitic world” refers to Chinese as well as to the part of the world that used Chinese
script and classical language, including regions of modern-day Altaic speaking Korea and Ja-
pan, Sino-Tibetan speaking China and Austroasiatic speaking Vietnam.
23 The Five Dynasties were Later Liang 後梁 (907–923), Later Tang 後唐 (923–936), Later Jin
後晉 (936–947), Later Han 後漢 (947–951), Later Zhou 後周 (951–960). During this peri-
od more than ten kingdoms were established, mainly in south China.
Between the Silk and Fur Roads: The Qarakhanid Diplomacy and Trade 177

Chinese history. However, despite its political and economic strength the Song
dynasty could not dominate its northern neighbors militarily: first the Khitans
and later the Jurchens, who succeeded the Khitans founding the Jin 金 Empire
(1115–1234) and the Tanguts, who established the Western Xia 西夏 (1038–
1227) controlling the Hexi 河西 corridor, the most important route from
China to Central Asia.
Some scholars mark the beginning of the history of the Qarakhanids as
starting with the year 840, when a new confederation in Semirechye emerged
from the Qarluq, Chigil, Yaghma and other Turkic tribes after the fall of the
Uyghur Khaganate.24 Due to these multi-tribal components of the new con-
federation, the origin of the Qarakhanid ruling elite is considered to be debata-
ble.25 The most recent theory based on numismatic evidence has been suggest-
ed by Boris Kochnev, who claimed that the Qarakhanid origin related to the
Igdish (Idgish) clan of the Chigil tribe that was one of the components of the
Qarluq confederation.26
If we accept that the history of the Qarakhanids starts from 840, then we
have a period of around one hundred and fifty years that has almost not been
documented and has no numismatic materials.27 It should be mentioned here
that there are, in fact, some rare coins datable to the tenth century found in
Semirechye, which have the shape of Chinese coins with a square hole, but the
most interesting fact about them is that the words placed along the four sides of
the square hole are written in Kufi. Vladimir Nastich, who has studied these
specimens and suggested to term them “proto-Qarakhanid coins”, identified
the words malik, arām, yīnāl and jīg/chīg or chīh.28 However, Boris Kochnev
assumed that these materials are not sufficiently studied yet and can thus not
be used as a source for the history of the Qarakhanids.29 Nevertheless, these
specimens are unique and illustrate Islamic and Sinitic features of the Qarak-
hanids. Chinese style coins with local scripts had also widely been minted in

24 Pritsak 1953, 84; Wei 1986, 62; Golden 1990, 354–358; Li Shuhui (2004) begins the Qara-
khanid period from 820s.
25 For different theories of the Qarakhanid origin see Pritsak 1953, 21f; Kemaloğlu 2013, 414–
424.
26 Kochnev 2006, 148.
27 Paul 2012, 148.
28 Nastich 1987, 52f.
29 Kochnev 2006, 149.
178 Dilnoza Duturaeva

that region before the time of the Qarakhanids.30 However, the “proto-
Qarakhanid” coins are the only example of Chinese style coins with Arabic
inscriptions and belonged to the newly islamized transitional coinage of Cen-
tral Asia. These coins demonstrate that the new Islamic dynasty in the region
was allowed to use Arabic inscription via the familiar cash form before an en-
tirely new coinage would be introduced.
Muslim written sources on the “proto-Qarakhanids” or pre-Islamic Qarak-
hanids provide detailed information on flourishing trade roads and cities in
Semirechye that already connected the Islamic world with China.31 However,
close to the islamization period of the Qarakhanids, geographical information
in Islamic sources on Semirechye became very fragmentary.
More written sources, as well as numismatic materials, appeared starting
from the time of the islamization of the Qarakhanids. The tenth century
marked a turning point in the islamization of Turkic Central Asia, starting
from the Qarakhanid ruler Satūq Bughra Khan (d. 955 or 956), who probably
converted to Islam close to the middle of the tenth century or even earlier.
When the leader converted, his fellow tribesmen usually followed,32 and this
explains the mass conversions among the Turkic nomads in this period, depict-
ed in Islamic sources. What was the status of the Qarakhanids, a non-Arab
Muslim dynasty in the Islamic world? The Qarakhanid rulers had an image of
true and pious Muslims in Islamic sources.33 The first Islamic coinage of the
Qarakhanids appeared after the successful conquest of the Samanid territories
in Transoxiana, showing that a new Islamic power was established in this re-
gion. Newly islamized Qarakhanid rulers emphasized their status using the title
“Mawla Amīr al-Mu’minīn”, which could be understood as meaning “Agent of
the Caliph”.34 The mawla status was a very important one in early Islamic

30 Kamyshev 2009, 286f.


31 Ḥudūd al-ʿālam, 97ff; Kitāb al-masālik w’al- mamālik, 65f; Mulhaqāt al-ṣurāh 102.
32 Golden 2011 (1), 70.
33 According to the Arab historian Ibn al-Athīr, the Qarakhanid rulers were pure Muslims,
who drank no wine, fought for their religion and patronized science. Al-Kāmil fīl-Ta’rīkh,
157, 181, 184ff, 213; The Gaznavid historian Gardizī also noticed that the Qarakhanid ruler,
Yūsuf Qadir Khan (998–1026/1026–1032), drank no wine, “as it is not customary for the
kings of Mawarannahr, especially the Turkic kings”. Zayn al-akhbār, 83; Tabghach Khan Ib-
rāhīm (1040–1068) was called “Steadfast in Faith” (“Mutadāʿiyīn”), who acted according to
Islamic law. Talkhīṣ majmaʿ al-ādāb fi muʿjam al-alqāb, vol. 4, 650f.
34 Al-Kāmil fīl-Ta’rīkh, 157; Kochnev 2006, 132, 150.
Between the Silk and Fur Roads: The Qarakhanid Diplomacy and Trade 179

history, which had been previously used to mean freed slaves and non-Arabian
converts to Islam, but its meaning had shifted by the Abbasid period (750–
1258). The term “Mawla Amīr al-Mu’minīn” was used as a political honorary
title, which emerged during al-Mansur’s reign (754–775) and should not be
confused with the mawla term of earlier periods indicating a low social status.
The new title implied nothing about the social origin or the current status of
the owner.35
The Qarakhanid arrival to Transoxiana starting from the Bukhara con-
quest in 992, a capital of the Samanids, signaled a definitive shift from Iranian
to Turkic dominance in Central Asia. At the same time, through the Qarak-
hanids, the Tarim basin became closely linked to the Islamic world that started
the islamization process in present Xinjiang. The Qarakhanid conquest of
Khotan (1006) and Kucha (in the middle of the eleventh century) Buddhist
kingdoms, which were only non-Turkic states, survived between the Qarakha-
nids in the west and the Uyghur Idiquts of Turfan in the east, marked the end
of the Turkification process in the Tarim Basin which had been started by
mass nomad migrations touched off by the fall of the Uyghur Khaganate in
Mongolia. The shape of present Central Asia had indeed been formed during
the Qarakhanids; it became Turkic and Islamic.
Another title that appeared on early Islamic Qarakhanid coins – “Malik al-
Mashriq” (“King of the East”) – looks like a claim to sovereignty in Transoxiana
and Khurasan. However, these ambitions were stopped by the alliance between
the Qarakhanids and the Ghaznavids, another newly islamized Turkic dynasty
in Central Asia and former Samanid territories had been divided between the
Qarakhanids and the Ghaznavids indicating the Amu Darya as a border.
The Qarakhanids continued their Turkic political traditions, viewing the
state as the collective property of the royal clan and dividing the state in a west-
ern part with the capital in Samarqand and an eastern part with the centers in
Balasaghun and Kashgar around 1040. While Islamic sources of this period
have more detailed information on the western Qarakhanids, accounts in
Chinese sources are related to the eastern part of this state. Therefore, it is nec-
essary to combine information provided in these two types of sources.
By the end of the eleventh century, the Saljuqs, who defeated the
Ghaznavids in Dandanaqan battle in 1040 and established the Great Saljuq

35 For more information on the mawla institution see Pipes 2004.


180 Dilnoza Duturaeva

Empire in territories from Khurasan and Iran to Syria and Asia Minor, im-
posed their formal supremacy on the Qarakhanids. However, the Qarakhanids
continued to rule in the region and established close relations with the Saljuq
ruling family through marriage alliances. For instance, the first wife of the
Saljuq Sultan Malik Shāh I (1072–1092), who was known as Turkān Khatun
(“The Queen of the Turks”) and enjoyed great influence at court, was a Qa-
rakhanid princess, a daughter of the Tamghach Khan Ibrāhīm.36 His son,
Shams al-Mulk Naṣr ibn Ibrāhīm (1068–1080), “the lord of Samarqand, Bu-
khara and Mawarannahr”, also married Saljuq princesses.37
Islamic sources do not give much information on the Eastern Qarakhanids
under the Saljuqs. Ibn al-Athīr recorded that after the conquest of Samarqand
in 1089 the Saljuq Sultan Malik Shāh I reached Kashgar, and his ruler subject-
ed to the Saljuqs and agreed to mention the name of Malik Shāh I in khutba
and coinage.38 However, Eastern Qarakhanid coins with the names of the
Saljuq Sultans are not known. For this reason, Boris Kochnev assumed that the
Saljuqs did not control this territory or if they did that it was only for a short
period in time.39
The Saljuq dominance over the Qarakhanids continued until the battle in
Qatwan steppe in 1141, when the Khitan people, who had been defeated by
the Jurchens and migrated from China after the collapse of the Liao Empire
and established Xi Liao (Western Liao) or, as it was known in Islamic sources,
the Qara Khitai dynasty, defeated the Sultan of the Saljuq Empire Aḥmad
Sanjar (1118–1153) and gained supremacy over the region. However, the
Qarakhanids did not lose their territories; the Qara Khitai treated them as
their subject state collecting annual payment. Remarkably the Saljuqs shortly
reestablished their supremacy over the Qarakhanids, at least formally, as the
Qarakhanids mentioned the name of Sultan Sanjar in coinage.40 It may be
understood as a system of “dual vassalage”, because the Qarakhanids continued
to pay the annual tribute to the Qara Khitai.41 However, it seems that the Qa-
rakhanids themselves accepted mainly the Saljuq supremacy and that they did

36 Al-Kāmil fīl-ta’rīkh, 187f.


37 Mir’āt al-zamān fī tā’rīh al-ā’yān, 164.
38 Mir’āt al-zamān fī tā’rīh al-ā’yān, 225f.
39 Kochnev 2006, 215, 222.
40 Kochnev 2006, 225.
41 For the Qara Khitai political history see Biran 2005.
Between the Silk and Fur Roads: The Qarakhanid Diplomacy and Trade 181

not consider themselves a subject state of the Qara Khitai. The annual pay-
ment was understood as part of a peace treaty and taxes for trade.
The Qarakhanid coinage with the name of the Qara Khitai suzerains is
considered to be non-existent. At least written sources do not have infor-
mation on this issue. However, Boris Kochnev identified some Qarakhanid
coins with the title of the Qara Khitai rulers but immediately added that this
coinage is very rare and the Qara Khitai did not pay much attention to the
Islamic traditions of the coinage in the Qarakhanid realm.42
The Qarakhanid rulers, together with the Islamic honorary titles Malik al-
Mashriq wa al-Ṣīn “King of the East and China” and Sulṭān al-Sharq wa al-Ṣīn
“Sultan of the East and China”, used also a Turkic title, namely Tabgach Khan
“Khan of China”, meaning “Great Khan”.43 The Turkic name of China,
“Tabgach”, is considered to be derived from Tuoba 拓拔, the clan name of the
non-Chinese Northern Wei 北魏 (386–584) emperors.44
Why did the Qarakhanids refer to themselves as “Khans, Kings and Sultans
of China”? The Tang dynasty built an empire whose territory and protec-
torates extended to Turfan, Kashgaria, and even to Transoxiana and Khurasan.
These territories were not under Tang civil administration, but the Tang army
guaranteed that the local rulers accepted the Tang as their master and thus
supported the Tang interests in the Silk Road trade.45 Islamic sources of the
Qarakhanid period also recorded that these lands once belonged to China.46
Moreover, in the Qarakhanid world people believed that originally China had
been divided into three parts: Tawghāj (south China), Khiṭāy (north China)
and Barkhān (in Kashgar).47 This shows that people still remembered the glory
of Tang China and explains why the Qarakhanids – who ruled in Kashgaria

42 Kochnev 2006, 225f.


43 Dīwān lughāt al-Turk, 424.
44 However, some scholars link the word Tabgach with Tangjia 唐家 “The House of Tang”.
Yang Shao-yun (2014, 27f) claims that the Tangjia theory is more appropriate than the Tuo-
ba theory, relying on the eleventh century Chinese source Juanyou lu 倦遊録 (Records on
weary of traveling), some fragments of which survived in the encyclopedia Shishi leiyuan 事實
類苑 (Categorized garden of historical facts) from Southern Song period (1127–1279),
which states that “until today in Guangzhou foreigners (huren) refer to China as ‘The House
of Tang’ and to Chinese (Huayan) as ‘The language of Tang’ (Tang yan)” (至今廣州胡人,
呼中國為唐家,華言為唐言。).
45 Tanner 2009, 167, 174ff.
46 Ḥudūd al-ʿālam, 83–86; Ṭabāʼiʻ al-ḥayawān, 18.
47 Dīwān lughāt al-Turk, 424.
182 Dilnoza Duturaeva

and Transoxiana, which had once been a part of the Tang protectorate – used
the titles to indicate that these territories now belonged to them and this fact
gave them a sense of prestige and pride.
The end of the dynasty is connected with the Qarakhanid-Khwarazmshah
confrontation, which was finished with the victory of Muḥammad
Khwarazmshah (1200–1220) in 1212. Muḥammad Khwarazmshah gave the
order to kill not only his opponent ʿUthmān ibn Ibrāhīm (1203–1212), but
also other members of the Qarakhanid dynasty.48 However, some Qarakhanid
dynastic members continued to rule as Mongol governors. For instance, Dar-
han Kidirali and Gaybullah Babayar suggested that a tomb in the mausoleum
known as “Daut-bek Kesenesi” belongs to the one of the last Qarakhanids
Isfihsalār ibn Ilyās, who was a governor in Talas till 1262.49
The unique geographical and political position of the Qarakhanids demon-
strates on the one hand how closely they were connected to the Chinese world
by controlling the former “indirect” territories of China and later being under
the sinicized Qara Khitai supremacy, who had power not only over Transox-
iana, Semirechye and Kashgaria, but also established their domain in Turfan
being a suzerain of the Uyghur Idiquts and established trade networks of these
territories, making the process of trade less complicated. On the other hand,
the Qarakhanids also had direct access to the trade network of the Islamic
world through their relations with the Ghaznavids, the Saljuqs and the
Khwarazmshahs. Islamic sources recorded gifting and commodities exchange
between the Qarakhanids and other Turco-Islamic dynasties, which informs us
not only about luxury goods coming from other parts of the Islamic world to
the Qarakhanids, but also about Chinese commodities that reached the Islamic
world via the Qarakhanids, an information which cannot be obtained from
Chinese sources, since the latter only recorded goods coming to China from
the Qarakhanid realm. The list of these gifts not only gives us an idea of what
kinds of commodities a particular state was capable to send, but also conveys an
impression of what may have traveled with the merchants.
In order to illustrate the Qarakhanid position in international gifting and
trade commodities exchange I will provide a case of the Qarakhanids’ relations

48 Bartold 1900/1963, 430f.


49 Kidirali and Babayar 2016.
Between the Silk and Fur Roads: The Qarakhanid Diplomacy and Trade 183

with their nearest neighbors in the Islamic and Sinitic worlds: the Ghaznavid
Sultanate in Afghanistan and the Liao Empire in China.

Gifting between the Qarakhanid and Islamic states:


The Ghaznavid case
The Qarakhanids had established diplomatic relations with most of the neigh-
boring Islamic states, namely the Ghaznavids, the Saljuqs and the Khwaraz-
mashahs strengthened by marriage alliances. The Qarakhanids also frequently
sent official envoys (ilchi)50 to the Abbasid Caliphs in Baghdad. Ibn al-Fuwatī
(1244–1326), in his biographical dictionary, using contemporary sources that
have not survived, recorded that the Qarakhanid ruler Ibrāhīm ibn Naṣr, who
was known as “Tafghach al-Turkistānī” sent envoys to the court of Caliph al-
Qā’im (1031–1075) annually.51 Moreover, some representatives of the Qarak-
hanid ruling elite also personally visited the court of the Caliph.52 Ibn al-Fuwatī
did not provide information on gift exchange during these visits. The Arabs in
the Land of the Turks used luxurious robes (robes of honor), veils, pepper,
millet, bread, raisins and walnuts as diplomatic gifts that had been highly prized
by the Turks and they even did not allow to cross their lands without these
gifts.53 What could the Qarakhanids present to the Caliph or other Islamic
states? They sent indigenous products as well as trade commodities coming
from other places. The Qarakhanid poet Yūsuf Khāṣṣ Ḥājib from Balasaghun
recorded that they obtained from merchants all the worlds’ rarities including
sable fur, silk from Khitay (Khitan) and pearls.54
The Qarakhanids had been involved in the international trade network,
which had already been rather complex before the Mongol globalization. For
instance, the Qarakhanids had an access to trade networks and commodities of

50 The Qarakhanids trained very well-qualified envoys. According to the Qarakhanid mirror
for princes, Qutadghu Bilig (“Wisdom of Royal Glory”) the envoy must be a good interpreter
of words, handsome and well educated, versed in foreign languages, poetry and science, ar-
chery and hunting, chess and sport games, and never drink wine. Qutadghu Bilig, 210–214.
51 Talkhīṣ majmaʿ al-ādāb fi muʿjam al-alqāb, 650f; for the Qarakhanid envoys to the Caliphs
also see Kāmil fīl-Ta’rīkh, 187, 189.
52 For instance, in 1044, the Qarakhanid ruler of Khujand, Usrushana and Fergana ʿAyn al-
Dawla Muḥammad (ca. 1042–1052), “the ṣāḥib and amīr of Mawarannahr” came with an
official visit to the court of Caliph al-Qā’im. Kāmil fīl-Ta’rīkh, 1141.
53 Risāla / Ibn Fadlān, 14, 17, 19, 21.
54 Qutadghu Bilig, 338.
184 Dilnoza Duturaeva

India through the Ghaznavids, Iran and Asia Minor through the Saljuqs, the
Slavic and Bulgar worlds through Khwarazm. The latter had been involved in
trade with the Vikings, who sailed from Northern Europe to Iceland and
Greenland, reaching North America around the year 1000.55 The Vikings
actively traded in the Slavic and newly islamized Bulgar worlds.56 They shipped
various goods from their realm to obtain commodities from the Islamic world,
including woven silk, produced in Central Asia.57 The importance of Volga
Bulgaria in the Qarakhanid world is confirmed by its inclusion on a map of the
Turks and their neighbors that appeared in Dīwān lughāt al-Turk written by
the Qarakhanid scholar Maḥmūd al-Kāshgharī in 1074.58 Bulgar merchants
sailed in Khwarazm bringing commodities from the Vikings’ world. From
Khwarazm these items were transported to the Qarakhanid realm. The Qa-
rakhanids shipped these items to China connecting the complex network trade
between Scandinavia, the Islamic world and China. However, Bulgar mer-
chants could also pass further to the east. Maḥmūd al-Kāshgharī recorded some
descriptions of merchants from Sūwār, a city in Volga Bulgaria.59
What did the Qarakhanids import to the Islamic world? Diplomatic gifts
sent from the Qarakhanids serve as a fine illustration of goods that were prized
outside of the Qarakhanid realm and could also be involved in trade. The Qa-
rakhanid diplomatic gifts sent to the Saljuq Sultans mainly consisted of horses,
garments and spices.60 Among the typical nomadic products, the Qarakhanids
presented commodities obtained from other places. Chinese textile was highly
prized in the Islamic world, and the Qarakhanids exported silk and various
kind of fine fabric obtained from China further to the west. Since the pre-
Islamic period, the Qarakhanids had sought to get various kinds of rarities and
spices from the sedentary societies. For instance, Ughūljāq (Oghulchak) Qadir
Khan61 personally liked brocade, sugar and sweets that had been introduced by

55 For the archeological expeditions in North America and discovery of a group of house-sites
of Norse origin see Ingstad, Helge / Ingstad, Anne Stine 2001.
56 Risāla / Ibn Fadlān, 45ff.
57 For the Scandinavian silk items from the Vikings’ burials and its Central Asian origin see
Vedeler 2014.
58 See the map in Auezova 2005, 1289f.
59 Dīwān lughāt al-Turk, 316, 2529.
60 Mir’āt al-zamān fī tā’rīh al-ā’yān, 172.
61 Ughūljāq Qadir Khan ruled by the end of the 9th and beginning of the 10th centuries.
During his rule, in 893, the Samanids conquered Talas. Al-Kāmil fīl-Ta’rīkh, 79.
Between the Silk and Fur Roads: The Qarakhanid Diplomacy and Trade 185

the Samanid merchants.62 In the later period, the Qarakhanids also had an
access to spice trade network of China and India via well-established relations
with the Liao dynasty in China and the Ghaznavids in Khurasan and al-Hind.
Relations between the Qarakhanids and the Ghaznavids are very well doc-
umented, with detailed information on diplomatic protocol, ceremonial recep-
tion, gift exchange with comprehensive lists of commodities presented between
the monarchs. I will discuss this case in more detail to demonstrate the com-
plexity of trade in the Qarakhanids’ world.
The political alliance with the Ghaznavids opened for the Qarakhanids an
access to the Indian trade network and luxury goods. Sultan Maḥmūd of
Ghazni (1002–1030, in 998–1002 ruled as Emir), who intended to strengthen
his northern borders, sent an embassy to the Qarakhanid court in 1001 to
establish a peace treaty through a marriage alliance. The Ghaznavid historian
al-‘Utbī, who served as a secretary at the court of Sultan Maḥmūd, recorded
luxury goods coming from the Ghaznavid to the Qarakhanid realm.
Curious valuables of pieces of pure gold with jacinths and rubies;
Chains of great and small pearls;
Gifts of robes;
Eggs of amber;
Vessels of gold and silver full of perfumes of camphor and other productions of the
provinces of India made from frankincense-bearing trees;
Damascus scimitars;
War elephants adorned with many colored trappings and jeweled bits;
Celebrated horses with ornaments and head-trappings of gold.63
In the long list of the gifts, only horses belonged to the indigenous products of
the Nomads in the Ghaznavid land. Chinese sources also confirm a great deal
of horse- as well as camel-breeding in the Ghaznavid realm.64 The majority of
items in this list came from India, such as various precious stones, pearls, per-
fumery and elephants. However, some of these goods were not produced in
India. Camphor, for instance, came from Southeast Asia via India to the land
of the Ghaznavids. The main exporter of camphor was the city-state Sanfoqi
三佛齊 (Srivijaya),65 which also controlled passages from Arabia to China.66

62 Mulhaqāt al-ṣurāh, 102.


63 Kitāb al-Yamīnī, 316.
64 Zhufan zhi, 138.
65 Sanfoqi or Srivijaya was a city-state located in the island of Sumatra, Indonesia.
66 Zhufan zhi, 60ff, 193f.
186 Dilnoza Duturaeva

Another interesting gift mentioned in this list is frankincense, which was one
of the treasured drugs and aromatics in international trade and highly prized in
Song China. Frankincense was mainly produced in South Arabia and trans-
ported to Song China via Southeast Asia in a major scope by maritime road.67
However, in the list of the Ghaznavid goods, we can see how this item from
South Arabia arrived via Ghazna to the Qarakhanids, who then transported it
to China via land road.
The Qarakhanids had also been interested in having an agreement with the
Ghaznavids and sent a Qarakhanid princess to marry Sultan Maḥmūd provid-
ing luxurious goods from their realm.
The unequaled pearl found in Turkistan;
Valuable specimens of the purchased articles of Turkistan;
Pure gold and silver;
Sweet musk;
High-bred horses;
Moon-faced slaves;
Well-featured girls;
White falcons;
Packets of peacock-feathers;
Ermines;
Tawny skins;
Exquisite China vessels;
Beautiful fabrics.68
The Qarakhanids exported not only local production but also commodities
coming from China. For instance, Chinese porcelain became highly developed
during the Song dynasty. Moreover, Chinese blue and white porcelain, which
was a highly prized commodity of the medieval world, had been one of the
greatest inventions of Song China69 and it was shipped to the West not only by
maritime roads but also via the Tanguts and Uyghurs territories by the Qarak-
hanids. Recent discoveries of the c. 50,000 pottery sherds in the medieval cita-
del of Taraz, both of local manufacture and imported indicate the role of the
Qarakhanids in ceramic trade.70

67 Schottenhammer 2010, 130.


68 Kitāb al-Yamīnī, 178. This marriage alliance was also mentioned by Ibn al-Athīr and al-
Qarshī. Al-Kāmil fīl-Ta’rīkh, 178; Mulhaqāt al-ṣurāh, 105ff.
69 Kessler 2012, 1–9.
70 Dawkes and Jorayev 2015, 23.
Between the Silk and Fur Roads: The Qarakhanid Diplomacy and Trade 187

The Qarakhanids presented musk, which was a class of aromatic substances


commonly used as base notes in perfumery and highly prized in the Islamic
world. It was very much a standard component of descriptions of paradise and
celebrated in Islamic poetry.71 An interesting fact is that musk was not pro-
duced in central parts of the Islamic world but was imported from Central Asia.
There were several types of musk based on its geographical origin, the best one
of which, according to the Ghaznavid scholar al-Bīrūnī, was Khitan (Qitāy)
musk.72 Tibet had been also one of the main exporters of musk to the Islamic
world since the eighth century. Tibetan musk first arrived in Sogdiana and
India, and then passed further to the Islamic world by land and maritime roads
respectively.73 The Qarakhanids continued to obtain musk from Tibet and like
Sogdian merchants shipped it to other Islamic states.74
It seems that in the slave trade the Qarakhanids also replaced the Samanids,
who were one of the main suppliers of slaves in the Islamic world. By the ninth
century, the Samanids had developed a rapid trade in slaves coming from the
steppe zones, the main source of which were Turkic nomads captured in war-
fare.75 The Samanids turned this not only into a highly profitable business but
also used slaves as a portion of tax and gifts. Turkish military slaves, as well as
slave girls from Bukhara and concubines from Samarqand, had been described
as one of the wonders of the world in Islamic sources.76
Not only official envoys but also meetings between monarchs had been or-
ganized. Conflicts between two newly islamized Turkic states were surpassed
by friendly contacts, and frequently, marriage alliances. Gardizī recorded an
official meeting in 1025 between Sultan Maḥmūd of Ghazna and the Qarak-
hanid ruler Yūsuf Qadir Khan in Samarqand. Yūsuf Qadir Khan who was “the
leader in all Turkistan and the Great Khan”77 arrived from Kashgar to person-
ally meet Maḥmūd of Ghazna.
By diplomatic protocol, both sides exchanged luxury gifts. The Ghaznavids
presented highly prized commodities from Khurasan, India, West Asia, and

71 For the value and descriptions of musk in Arabic sources see Akasoy and Yoeli-Tlalim 2007;
King 2008.
72 Kitāb al-ṣaydana fī al-ṭībb, 810.
73 King 2011, 148.
74 See description on Tibetan musk dears in Dīwān lughāt al-Turk, 339.
75 Golden 2011 (1), 64ff.
76 Laṭāʾif al-maʿārif, 145f.
77 Zayn al-akhbār, 82.
188 Dilnoza Duturaeva

Transcaucasia, demonstrating that the Ghaznavids had been also actively in-
volved in the maritime trade:
Gold and silver vessels;
Precious stones;
Rarities from Baghdad;
Fine fabrics;
Priceless weapons;
Costly horses with gold bridles and goads studded with jewels;
Ten female elephants with gold bridles and goads studded with jewels;
Camels from Bardaʿa78 with gold trappings;
Litters for camels with gold and silver sticks, belts and bells;
Litters with embroidered brocade and woven patterns;
Precious carpets from Armenia, uwaysi and multicolored rugs;
Pieces of embroidered cloth;
Rose-colored stuff from Tabaristan with decoration;
Indian swords;
Qamari aloes;79
Maqasiri sandalwood;80
Grey amber;
Female asses;
Skins of Barbary81 panthers;
Hunting dogs;
Falcons and eagles trained to hunt cranes;
Gazelles and other game animals.82

78 Bardaʿa or Bardhaʿa – the chief city of the Islamic province Arrān (in eastern Transcaucasia)
until the 10th century; present Barda city in Azerbaijan. At this time Bardaʿa, like Arrān in
general, retained a substantial proportion of Christians and hardly counted among the lands
of Islam. The Caliphs appointed governors periodically and Muslims had settled in this re-
gion, but the majority of the population remained to be Christian until Timur (1370–1405)
invaded this region in the end of the 14th century, when this land came to be Turkic and Is-
lamic, forming present Azerbaijan. Le Strange 1905, 176–179; Bosworth 1988, 779f.
79 ʽūd-i Qamārī – an incense widely used in the Islamic world for religious and special occasions.
In Arabic it was understood to mean “the wood of the moon”. However, this is a corruption
from the ʽūd-i Qimārī, which means “Khmer aloe”. Qimār is an Arabic name of the Khmer
Empire (9th–13th centuries) in Southeast Asia (present Cambodia). Glasske 2002, 47.
80 Sandal-i maqāṣirī – tawny, fawn-colored white sandal wood is a medical treasury traded in
the Islamic world. Karoly 2015, 312.
81 Barbary is a historic name for a region of North Africa extending from Egypt to the Atlantic
Ocean.
82 Zayn al-akhbār, 83f.
Between the Silk and Fur Roads: The Qarakhanid Diplomacy and Trade 189

Among the list of gifts that had been ordered to give by the Qarakhanid ruler
to Sultan Maḥmūd of Ghazna are commodities from Turkistan, Song and Liao
China:
Fine horses with gold trappings,
Turkic slaves (ghulāmān-i Turk) with gold belts and quivers,
Falcons and hawks,
Sable, squirrel, ermine and fox furs,
Vessels made from leather skins,
Khutū83 horns,
Rare cloth and Chinese brocade,
Chinese dārkhāshāk84 and suchlike.85
The Qarakhanids provided indigenous products of the nomads, as well as
Chinese fabric. Maḥmūd al-Kāshgharī listed some Chinese textile circulated in
the Qarakhanid realm juz (Chinese blanket from red gilded brocade), kaz,
zunkum, qajaj, jīt and lukhtāy (types of Chinese brocade), shalāshū (a type of
Chinese cloth), kanzī (Chinese cloth in red, yellow and green colors), jinakhsī,
takhjak and khuling (Chinese silk).86 Among the Qarakhanid gifts was also a
highly prized commodity in the Islamic world: khutū, i. e. walrus and narwhal
ivory from the Khitan realm. It was used to make hilts for swords and knives
and was prized in the Islamic world due to its ability to indicate a poison pres-
ence.87 The word khutū, which most likely is a Khitan loanword in Arabic
language, first appeared in Islamic sources starting from the tenth century
when the Khitans founded Liao Empire in China and was closely associated
with the commodity imported from China (al-Ṣīn) and the land of the
Turks.88 Due to the steppe origin of the Khitans and their sinicized culture,

83 Khutū, walrus or narwhal horn, was a commodity from the Khitan realm highly prized in the
Islamic world.
84 The term dārkhāshāk is unclear. Bartold also could not identify this word. See Bartold
1900/1963, 346, n. 2. It could be a combination of the words dārū (medicine, drug) and
khāshāk (leaves, sprigs). The term could be used for some Chinese medicine as well as for
Chinese tea.
85 Zayn al-akhbār, 84.
86 Dīwān lughāt al-Turk, 319, 320, 397, 418, 442, 448, 451, 679, 829, 921, 1017.
87 Dīwān lughāt al-Turk, 905. The word khutū is written as jutuq (chutuq) in Dīwān lughāt al-
Turk, which is the result of scribe’s miscopying the correct khutū. Dankoff 1973, 542f.
88 For the usage of the word khutū and its association with the Khitans in Muslim sources see
King 2013.
190 Dilnoza Duturaeva

they had been considered Turkic by one group of Muslim authors,89 and Chi-
nese according to another group of scholars.90 That explains the contradiction
in the geographical origin of the khutū ivory provided in Islamic sources, and
since this Khitan product was transported to the Islamic world via the Qarak-
hanids, the Land of Turks could also indicate the Qarakhanid realm.
The Ghaznavids seems to have sought good relations with the Qarakhanids
despite frequent territorial disputes and conflicts, through having frequent
marriage alliances and organizing grand reception ceremonies for Qarakhanid
ambassadors.91 The Ghaznavids were keen to keep peace relations with the
Qarakhanids in order to have an access to the slave trade and commodities
coming from China. It is probably from the Qarakhanids that Liao Emperor
Shengzong 聖宗 (982–1031) had obtained information about the Ghaznavids
and their power in Khurasan and India, and decided to establish close relations
with them, sending an envoy passing the Qarakhanid territory, which will be
discussed below.

Gifting between the Qarakhanids and Sinitic states:


The Liao case
The Qarakhanid territory was the closest Islamic state to China that was not
directly involved in the rapidly developing global maritime trade. Therefore,
they had been interested in having greater contacts with China via overland
passages in order to have an access to beautiful Chinese fabrics, porcelain, tea
and other luxurious commodities. How distant and intensive was the Qarak-
hanid trade in China? According to Jürgen Paul, this question is one of the less-
studied topics of international relations in the pre-Mongol period.92 The
Qarakanids’ predecessors in Transoxiana, the Samanids, did not trade in re-
mote territories of China and much less is known about their diplomatic rela-
tions. Liaoshi recorded an envoy sent to the Liao court from Bosi 波斯 (Persia)
in 923.93 Scholars assumed that the Samanids could send this envoy.94 Howev-

89 Dhayl tā’rīkh Dimashq, 275; Al-Kāmil fīl-ta’rīkh, 183, 213; Akhbār al-dawla al-Saljūkiyya,
91.
90 Jahān nāmah, 39; Ṭabaqāt-i Nāṣirī, vol. 2, 900; Al-Kāmil fīl-Ta’rīkh, 183f.
91 Kitāb al-Yamīnī, 373ff; Zayn al-akhbār, 406–410.
92 Paul 2012, 175.
93 Liaoshi, ch 2, 20.
94 Allsen 2001, 9; Hansen 2013, 288; Biran 2013, 229.
Between the Silk and Fur Roads: The Qarakhanid Diplomacy and Trade 191

er, the Samanids in order to get the Liao court should pass the territories of the
Qarakhanids. It seems to be unreliable due to the military confrontation be-
tween the Samanids and the Qarakhanid ruler of Kashgar Ughūljāq Qadir
Khan in this period.95 The envoy from the so-called Bosi state should be sent
from the Qarakhanid trade city Artūj, which was governed according to al-
Qarshī by one of the Samanid princes, who escaped from the Samanid realm
due to the struggle among the members of the dynasty and hosted by the Qa-
rakhanid ruler Ughūljāq Qadir Khan. He granted to the Samanid prince some
land, materials to built a mosque and trading rights in the region.96 This Sa-
manid dynastic member, who probably was interested in trade with China,
could send the envoy to the Liao.
The same doubt applies to the journey of the Arab traveler Abū Dulaf to
“China” in 941–943, who accompanied the ambassador of Qālīn b. al-Shakhīr
“the King of China”, sent to the Samanid court of Naṣr ibn Aḥmad (d. 943).97
Abū Dulaf claims that he traveled from the Samanid capital Bukhara to the
capital of “China” Sandābil. Sandābil was identified with the capital of the
Uyghur Khaganate of Ganzhou 甘州 in present Gansu 甘肅 province of Chi-
na.98 The reason for this travel was a possible marriage alliance between two
courts. “The King of China” requested a Samanid princess. However, Naṣr ibn
Aḥmad refused this request due to the religion interdict. Instead, he suggested a
marriage between one of his sons and a “Chinese” princess.99 Abū Dulaf left
two Risālas on his travels. His first Risāla, which recounted the journey to the
land of Turks, China and India consists of series of fanciful descriptions and
unidentified geographical places. For this reason, scholars assumed that Abū
Dulaf never traveled to Ganzhou and obtained his information from other
sources of that period.100 The embassy from “the King of China” itself could be
also an alleged story.101 Therefore, two existed accounts on possible relations of

095 Al-Kāmil fīl-Ta’rīkh, 79; Pritsak 1953, 24f; Golden 1990, 357.
096 Mulhaqāt al-ṣurāh, 102.
097 Risāla /Abū Dulaf, 17.
098 Marquart 1903, 84–90.
099 Risāla /Abū Dulaf, 17.
100 Risāla /Abū Dulaf, 74–83; Bulliet 1983, 271f; Kozhin 2011, 310f.
101 For another alleged embassy from “the Emperor of China” to the Samanid court in 939 see
Biran 2013, 230.
192 Dilnoza Duturaeva

the Samanids with the Sinitic world or at least with the Uyghurs are considered
to be unreliable and need further studies.
The Qarakhanid position in the Sinitic world is distinctive. Chinese
sources have information on the Qarakhanid envoys coming to the courts of
the Later Tang, the Later Jin, the Liao and the Northern Song, but not to the
Jin China, which was established by the Jurchens in the former territory of the
Khitans and the northern part of the Song. Therefore, there is no information
on the Qarakhanid envoys in the Southern Song. In this period, the Qarakha-
nids became a subject of the Qara Khitai, which had a confrontation with the
Jin.102 This explains the lack of information on the Qarakhanids in Jinshi 金史.
However, in this period, they continued to obtain Chinese goods from the
Uyghurs. The Qarakhanids, as well as the Uyghur Idiquts of Turfan were sub-
jects of the Qara Khitai and the Qarakhanid merchants could easily trade at
least till Turfan, and get Chinese goods from the Uyghurs. In this period, the
Tanguts, who had frequent wars with the Liao Empire, strengthened their
position and played a key role in the trade between China and Central Asia. It
seems that after the collapse of the Liao Empire the Qarakhanids lost their
access to direct trade with China, which flourished during the Khitans.
The Liao dynasty became the main trade partner of the Qarakhanids in the
Sinitic world. The Qarakhanids rulers sometimes personally organized trade
caravans to Liao China.103 The Liao had been also interested in contacts with
the Turkic world and even more than its contemporaries Song, Jin and Xi
Xia.104 The Khitans established diplomatic contacts with the Qarakhanids,
which had been strengthened by marriage alliances. Moreover, they sought to
have relations with more remote Turko-Islamic states and sent an ambassador
to Ghazna.105
Islamic sources have general information on Sino-Turkic relations in the
pre-Mongol period without indicating any details.

102 For an alliance between the Qara Khiati and the Song dynasty against the Jin see Jinshi,
ch. 31, 1114; For an alliance between the Qara Khitai and the Tanguts against the Jin see
Jinshi, ch. 74, 1698; for the execution of the Jin ambassador by the Qara Khitai ruler see
Jinshi, ch. 121, 2636ff.
103 Qutadghu Bilig, 35.
104 Huang 2011a, 16.
105 Ṭabāʼiʻ al-ḥayawān,15, 19ff; Liaoshi, ch.16, 188f.
Between the Silk and Fur Roads: The Qarakhanid Diplomacy and Trade 193

People of al-Ṣīn do not mix with the Turks and they differ from them in most things…
But people of Qitāy and Yughur mix with the Turks and have relations with them.
They have relations and correspondence with the kings of Transoxiana, whereas the
People of al-Ṣīn are different and do not allow strangers to enter their country and stay
among them.106
This passage from the Marwazī’s account on China gives a general view of
Sino-Turkic relations in the eleventh century. The Saljuq scholar Marwazī
divided China into three parts al-Ṣīn – Song China, Qitāy – Liao China and
Yughur – Uyghur Idiquts.107 He indicates close relations of the Khitans with
the Qarakhanids (kings of Transoxiana) and demonstrates its position in the
Liao and Song realms. While the Liao Empire established diplomatic relations
with the Qarakhanids, the Song Empire applied the traditional Chinese for-
eign policy, when China and her neighbors had been divided into two worlds:
the “civilized” center which was surrounded by the uncivilized world of “bar-
barians”. Chinese sources support this statement adding more details and in-
formation on the Qarakkhanid envoys sent to Liao and Song China. Moreover,
these sources provide an interesting list of commodities coming from the Qara-
khanid realm to China, which cannot be obtained from Islamic sources.
One of the main difficulties of Chinese sources is to determine how the
Qarakhanids were called in Chinese. Central Asia and its peoples had been
known to China since Zhang Qian 張騫 (d. 113), the first official diplomat of
Emperor Wu of Han 漢武帝 (r. 141–87 BCE), who traveled to Central Asia
and brought reliable information about Western regions to the Chinese impe-
rial court. Since then, the Chinese had used different names to Central Asian
peoples and countries, which could be generally divided to autonyms, the
names by which a people identified itself and exonyms, the names which Chi-
nese gave for foreigners. General exonyms used by Chinese for foreigners often
could have negatives such as Rong 戎, Hu 胡, Fan 番, generally translated as
barbarians or foreigners, as well as neutral meanings such as Xiyu 西域 (West-
ern region) and Waiguo 外國 (Outside country). Some names could also be
used for peoples other than those to whom it had been applied before. For
instance, the term Fulin 拂菻, which applied for Byzantium during the Tang

106 Ṭabāʼiʻ al-ḥayawān, 15. I slightly changed the translation by Minorsky, for the Arabic text
see *3.
107 Ṭabāʼiʻ al-ḥayawān,14.
194 Dilnoza Duturaeva

period, was used for the Saljuqs of Rum (1081–1308) in Song China.108 The
founders of the Qarakhanid dynasty were Turkic people who had been known
to China by the autonym Tujue 突厥, which is derived from the Turkic word
“Türk” (“Türküt”)109 and was used during the Sui-Tang period for the nomad-
ic people, who in the 6th century founded an empire stretching from present
Mongolia to the Black Sea. Liao and Song sources use two names for the Qa-
rakhanids: Dashi and Heihan.110
The term Dashi first appeared during the Tang dynasty and was used to
name the Abbasid Caliphate, which is often translated into western languages
as the Arabs and Arabia. The first Chinese account, which uses the term Dashi,
and is considered to be the earliest description of the Islamic world in China
dates to the mid-eighth century. It was written by the official and scholar Du
You 杜佑 (735–812) in his Tongdian 通典 (Encyclopedic History of Institu-
tions), who himself never visited the Islamic world, which was ruled at that
time by the Abbasids. He obtained information on this region from his relative
Du Huan 杜環, who was a Chinese soldier captured by the Muslims at the
Battle of Talas in 751 and taken to the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate. Du
Huan was held as a prisoner of war in Kufa for ten years, after which he re-
turned to China and described life in early Islamic society, which Du You used
in writing his chapter of Dashi, one of the sixty states in Xiyu 西域 (Western
Region).111
The Chinese name for Muslims Dashi was derived from the Persian word
Tāzī (Tājik), which was used during the Sassanids (224–651) for Arabs, and
originated from the Arabian tribe name Ṭayy. The Sassanids first frequent
contacts with the Arabic world happened via representatives of this tribe and
during the early Islamic period in Iran and Central Asia, its name came to be
applied in a general way by the locals to Arabs, and later, to all Muslims.112
Therefore, the Chinese term Dashi does not refer specifically to Arabs and
Arabia, but to Islam and the Islamic world as a whole, including the Arabian

108 For the term Fulin see Hirth 1909. For a recent overview of the issue see Xu 2009.
109 Golden 2011 (2), 20f.
110 For the name of the Qarakhanids in Liao and Song sources see Huang 2011a; Jiang 2001.
111 Tongdian; also see Li and Yu 2009. For Du You and his chapter of Dashi in Tongdian see
Lin and Yu 2012, 313ff; Park 2012, 20–29.
112 Park 2012, 203. Later this term was refined and limited to the Persian element and came to
refer to the Iranian-speaking population in Central Asia. Biran 2013, 223.
Between the Silk and Fur Roads: The Qarakhanid Diplomacy and Trade 195

conquests. It matters specifically when, after the 9th century, the Abbasid Ca-
liphate started to lose its former conquered territories and new Islamic states
appeared, headed by local dynasties. Liao and Song sources continued to use
the term Dashi, referring to these non-Arabic Islamic states, which had been
also independent from the Abbasid Caliphate. Zhao Rugua 趙汝适, a Song
official, who served as a supervisor of maritime trade shibosi 市舶司
in Quanzhou and wrote a two-volume book on foreign countries and trade,
recorded twenty-four states of Dashi, including the state of Bukhara (Puhualuo
蒲花羅, most likely the western Qarakhanids), the state of Khwarazm
(Luoshimei 囉施美, the Khwarazmshahs) and the state of Ghazna (Jicini 吉慈
尼, the Ghaznavids).113 The official history of the Song Dynasty Songshi 宋史,
also provided an explanation of this term:
The subordinates of this state [Dashi] are varied in name. There are Wuxun [Me-
zoen],114 Tuopoli [Tabrīz],115 Yuluhedi [al-Khaṭṭ],116 Maluoba [Mirbāṭ]117 and other
states and they are all called Dashi.118

113 Zhufan zhi, 116f. However, the author included a chapter only on the Ghaznavids. Zhao
Rugua had never visited the countries that he described in his book and obtained all infor-
mation from merchants who traveled to China by the maritime road. He provided very de-
tailed information on the Ghaznavids, including geographical location, climate, people and
commodities imported from their realm. At the same time, he only mentioned “the Bu-
khara state” and “the Khwarazm state” in the list of the Dashi states. It seems that the au-
thor had an opportunity to meet merchants from the Ghaznavid realm in China, which
explains the details on Ghazna in his book. It also serves as evidence that the Ghaznavids
had been involved in maritime trade with China.
114 Wuxun 勿巡 [Mezoen] is modern Sohar in Oman that was one of the important trade
ports located on the maritime road between the Islamic world and China. Li 2006, 44;
Park 2012, 33.
115 Tuopoli 陁婆離 [Tabrīz] is a city in Iranian Azerbaijan, which was a center of the Islamic
Rawadid dynasty (981–1054). In 1054 Tabriz had been conquered by Ṭughril (1037–
1063) and included in the Great Saljuq Empire. Boyle 1968, 32, 44.
116 Yuluhedi 俞盧和地 [al-Khaṭṭ] is present al-Qaṭīf located in Eastern Arabia and for many
centuries served as one of the important trade ports in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.
During the Song dynasty it was a capital of the Uyunids (1071–1253), which took the
power in the region with the military assistance of the Great Saljuq Empire. Bosworth 1996,
94f.
117 Maluoba 麻囉跋 [Mirbāṭ], located in present Oman, had been one of the important trade
centers since the 10th century. It was famous in Song China for its frankincense (ruxiang
乳香). Zhufan zhi, 195; Schottenhammer 2010, 130.
118 Songshi, ch. 490, 14121.
196 Dilnoza Duturaeva

The official history of the Liao dynasty Liaoshi 遼史 recorded three envoys
from the Dashi state. The first envoy was sent to the court of Taizu 太祖 Em-
peror (907–926) in 924, and the other two envoys during the reign of Shen-
zong 聖宗 Emperor (982–1031) in 1020 and 1021.

Table 1: Missions from the Dashi state to the Liao court


Date Dashi gifts Chinese gifts Purpose
October 28, 924 (LS 2, 20) unspecified unspecified submit a tribute
November 12, 1020 (LS 16, 189) ivory, local products unspecified marriage alliance
May, 1021 (LS 16, 189) unspecified unspecified marriage alliance
It is not clear which Islamic state sent the first envoy to the Liao court in the
late autumn of 924. Scholars generally assume that this envoy could be from
the Abbasids of Baghdad or the Samanids, who ruled in Transoxiana and
Khurasan, the former eastern territories of the Abbasid Caliphate.119 What if
the Qarakhanids sent this envoy? Islamic sources recorded mass conversion
among the Turks in the mid-tenth century,120 during the rule, or shortly after
the death of the Qarakhanid ruler Satūq Bughra Khan (d. 955), who was
mentioned as “the first Turkic Khaqan converted to Islam in Kashgar and
Fergana” by al-Qārshī.121 However, the conditions of conversion and its exact
date are not clear. These mass conversions can be a culminating point of the
islamization process in the Turkic lands, which had been started much earli-
er.122 For instance, Abū Dulaf mentioned Turkic tribes al-Khargāh and al-
Baghrāj that had been already converted to Islam by 941.123 Khargāh was
identified with the Qarakhanid region Kashgar and Baghrāj with the people
of the Qarakhanid Satūq Bughra Khan.124 Satūq Bughra Khan centered in
Balasaghun, while his uncle Ughūljāq Qadir Khan was a co-Qaghan in Kash-

119 Allsen 2001, 9; Hansen 2013, 288; Biran 2013, 229.


120 Al-Kāmil fīl-ta’rīkh, 138. For the islamization of the Qarakhanids also see Bartold
1900/1963, 315ff; Golden 1990; Hua 1993; Tor 2009, 287–296.
121 Mulhaqāt al-ṣurāh, 101. Also see Al-Kāmil fīl-Ta’rīkh, 246.
122 Michal Biran assumes that migration of the remaining Turkic population in Mongolia
forced by the Liao expansion brought the Turks deeper into the Islamic world and proba-
bly contributed to the mass conversion in the mid-tenth century. Biran 2013, 226.
123 Risāla /Abū Dulaf, 18–21.
124 Marquart 1903, 75ff; Risāla /Abū Dulaf, 49, n. 281.
Between the Silk and Fur Roads: The Qarakhanid Diplomacy and Trade 197

gar.125 Ughūljāq Qadir Khan hosted the Samanid prince in his realm that
forced Muslim settlement in the region and conversion process.126 However,
the islamization of the region should be started even earlier. According to the
lost 11th century source “Tārikh-i Kāshgār”, some parts of which had been
cited in a later work by al-Qārshī, the first Turks who converted to Islam
were “people of Shāsh” and it happened during the reign of Satūq Bughra
Khan’s grandfather.127 From the end of the 9th century, the Qarakhanids’
Islamic neighbors – the Samanids – had been militarily very active in the
steppe cities.128 However, the close location of flourishing Islamic cultural
and trade centers to the Turkic world played a more significant role in the
islamization of this region than the victories of the Samanid army. Peter
Golden believes that Islam came to the region in a pacific way through the
Muslim merchants, dwellers and settlers.129 When one of the Islamic states of
the Western Region sent an embassy to China in 924, the influence of Islam
among the Qarakhanids had already been very strong. Chinese style coins
with Arabic inscriptions in Semirechye that have been discussed below also
demonstrate the islamization among the Turkic ruling elites in the steppe
region by the 10th century. Moreover, an Arab traveler and a member of an
embassy of the Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad to the king of the Volga Bulgars,
who passed through the Land of the Turks in 922, recorded islamization
process among the Oghuz Turks, the western neighbors of the Qarakha-
nids.130 The New History of the Five Dynasties Xin wudai shi 新五代
史,written by the Song official, recorded three envoys to the court of the
Later Tang in 925, 927, 931 and one envoy to the court of the Later Jin in
941 from the Turks (Tujue 突厥), “that sent no envoy afterwards”.131 The
first envoy from the Turks to the court of the Later Tang could be the same
envoy from the Dashi that came to the Liao court in the late autumn of 924

125 The early Qarakhanids divided their realm into eastern and western parts. The eastern part
with the center in Balasaghun was ruled by the main Qaghan and the western part first cen-
tered in Talas and later in Kashgar by the co-Qaghan. Pritsak, 1953, 23f.
126 Mulhaqāt al-ṣurāh, 102.
127 Mulhaqāt al-ṣurāh, 101.
128 Murūj al-dhahab wa ma’ādin al-jawhar, vol 8, 144f.
129 Golden 1990, 353.
130 Risāla / Ibn Fadlān, 16f.
131 Xin wudai shi, ch. 74, 913.
198 Dilnoza Duturaeva

and then passed further. Therefore, the envoy that arrived at the Liao court
in 924 was most likely sent by the Qarakhanids.
Liaoshi recorded that on September 11th, 1006, the Uyghurs of Shazhou
沙州 (Dunhuang 敦煌) offered jade and horses of the Dashi state to the Liao
emperor.132 That should be the Qarakhanids’ horses and jade from Khotan
which had been recently conquered by the Qarakhanids. Khotan played a
significant role in the Qarakhanid-Chinese relations serving as a departure
point for envoys sent to Liao and Song China. The Khotan envoy in 1015 to
the Liao court would have also been sent by the Qarakhanids.133 Songshi rec-
orded frequent envoys sent from Khotan to the Northern Song after the Qa-
rakhanid conquest.134 The title of the Khotan ruler “Yutian guo Hei Han” 于
闐國黑汗 (Qara Khan of the Khotan state) mentioned in the embassy sent on
July 24th, 1089, also demonstrates that envoys from Khotan were initiated by
the Qarakhanid rulers.135
The last two envoys from Dashi state in 1020 and 1021 to the Liao court
had been obviously sent by the Qarakhanids. Marwazī recorded a marriage
between a Liao noblewoman and the Qarakhanid prince Chaghri Tegin.136
Huang Shijian claimed that Cege 冊割 and Chaghri Tegin, mentioned in the
Chinese and Islamic sources are the same person, who was from the ruling elite
of the Qarakhanids.137
In this period, the Qarakhanid ruler ʿAlī ibn Ḥasan (1020–1034), also
known as ʿAlī Tegin, residing in Samarqand became a powerful and influen-
tial figure in Central Asia.138 However, this caused a conflict with his brother
Yūsuf Qadir Khan who had controlled the Kashgar and Khotan territories
regularly minting coins with his name and title “Malik al-Mashriq” (“King of
the East”) and sought to become a head of the Qarakhanids.139 It seems that
Yūsuf Qadir Khan sent an envoy to the Liao Emperor in order to strength
his position in the region, as he allied with the Ghaznavid Sultan Maḥmūd in

132 Liaoshi, ch. 14, 162.


133 Liaoshi, ch. 15, 176; also see Biran 2013, 230f.
134 Songshi, ch. 490, 14106–14109.
135 Songshi, ch. 17, 329.
136 Ṭabāʼiʻ al-ḥayawān, 19f.
137 Huang 2011, 23f. For the origin of this delegation also see Wittfogel and Feng 1949, 317f;
Biran 2013, 232.
138 Bosworth 1985, 887f; Kochnev 2006, 135.
139 Davidovich 1992, 130, 132.
Between the Silk and Fur Roads: The Qarakhanid Diplomacy and Trade 199

1025. Yūsuf Qadir Khan formally achieved his ambitions, after the Sultan
Maḥmūd’s routes. Ali Tegin even abandoned Samarqand and Bukhara.140
This political situation opened a road for the Liao ambassador to Ghazna.
Yūsuf Qadir Khan, who had alliances with Liao Emperor Shenzong and
Ghaznavid Sultan Maḥmūd, allowed to pass his territories. The ambassador
was sent in 1024 and reached the court together with the envoy from the
Turfan Uyghur Idiquts in either 1026 or 1027.141 Chinese sources did not
record this embassy, the reason could be that Sultan Maḥmūd rejected a re-
quest of the Liao Emperor and was not interested in establishing diplomatic
relations with the Khitans due to the long distance between the countries
and different religion beliefs.142 A list of gifts sent by the Liao Emperor also
gives general information on what could be imported from Liao China to the
Turco-Islamic world: different types of fine Chinese fabric, sable and squirrel
furs, musk, and 1 bow with 10 arrows.143
This list demonstrates that the Khitans were aware of what had been val-
ued in the Islamic world, bringing a variety of Chinese textile and especially
highly prized musk and fur produced by nomads. In the list of the Qarakha-
nid’s gifts to the Ghaznavids, we can observe identical commodities,144 which
demonstrate that the Qarakhanids could get similar products from the Liao
realm. Chinese sources do not mention what had been presented back to the
Qarakhanid ambassadors, who visited the Liao court. Ye Longli 葉隆禮, the
author of the unofficial history of the Liao dynasty Qidan guozhi 契丹國志,
compiled in the Southern Song, reports that the Qarakhanids (Dashi) –
together with other “small countries” as Turfan Uyghur Idiguts (Gaochang
高昌), Kucha (Qiuci 龜茲), Khotan (Yutian 于闐), Hami (Xiaoshi 小食國),
the Ganzhou Uyghurs (Ganzhou), the Dunhuang Uyghurs (Shazhou) and
Liangzhou 涼州145– sent a delegation of four hundred people every three

140 Davidovich 1992, 133.


141 Zayn al-akhbār 87; Ṭabāʼiʻ al-ḥayawān, 19.
142 Zayn al-akhbār 87. Ṭabāʼiʻ al-ḥayawān, 21.
143 Ṭabāʼiʻ al-ḥayawān, 20. The last gift seems to be symbolic, which had been presented by
diplomatic protocol of Liao to foreign ambassadors. For more about these envoys see King
2013, 255–258.
144 Kitāb al-Yamīnī, 317; Zayn al-akhbār, 83f.
145 When the Uyghur Khaganate disintegrated, some Uyghur tribes migrated to the Gansu
region and settled down in the prefectures of Qinzhou 秦州, Liangzhou, Ganzhou, Suzhou
200 Dilnoza Duturaeva

years and, as a rule, received a payment in the amount of no less than four
hundred thousand strings of coins for their gifts:
Jade, pearls, horn, frankincense, amber, agate vessels, wrought iron weapons, treated
hides, heheisi 褐黑絲, mendeisi 門得絲, palihe 怕里呵, ammonium chloride, helisi 褐裏
絲. The last are names of woven fine fur, each suit of two zhang.146

Jade is a culturally rich object that, more than anything else, holds the deep
feeling and profound thinking of the Chinese people. It is a famous product of
Khotan, which had been imported to China since ancient times. Jade was also
prized at the court of the sinicized Khitans. Another typical Silk Road good
transported from Central Asia to China was ammonium used in metallurgy
and textile dying.147 Pearls were imported from India by the Ghaznavids, and
via the Qarakhanids, arrived in China. Zhao Rugua recorded that the best
pearls came to China from the Islamic countries.148
Amber is the most common imported commodity of all items found in
Liao-period tombs and was used for beads, earrings, headdress, pendants, me-
dallions, amulets and knife handles.149 No other Chinese dynasty had prized
amber as the Liao. Valerie Hansen notifies that infrared spectroscopy testing of
two Liao beads has demonstrated that these were made of amber from the
Baltic region or Northern Europe.150 According to Marwazī, the Chinese
prized amber, because they believed that it is helpful against the evil eye, and
they preferred to import Slavic amber due to its better quality than the local
ones. He claimed that Chinese local amber is blackish and there is no demand
for it.151 How did amber from the Slavic and Vikings’ worlds come to China?
Amber was among gifts presented by the Qarakhanids to Liao China.152 This
item was one of the most desired diplomatic gifts in the Qarakhanid realm.153

肅州, Guazhou 瓜州 and Shazhou (Dunhuang). Some of them also founded Khaganates as
Uyghurs of Ganzhou and Uyghurs of Shazhou.
146 Qidan guozhi, ch.21, 205. Zhang 丈 is a unit of length equal 3.3 meters. Ye Longli wrongly
concluded that the last commodities are fabrics from woven fur, at least three of these piec-
es should be silk, as the last character si 絲 (silk) clearly points to its origin.
147 Hansen 2012, 5, 122.
148 Zhufan zhi, 229.
149 Shen 2006, 110f, 152f, 166–173, 182f, 186f.
150 Hansen 2013, 298.
151 Ṭabāʼiʻ al-ḥayawān, 16f.
152 Qidan guozhi, 21, 205.
153 Qutadghu Bilig, 37.
Between the Silk and Fur Roads: The Qarakhanid Diplomacy and Trade 201

The Qarakhanids had to obtain Baltic amber from Khwarazm. Al-Muqaddasī,


an Arab geographer and traveler of the 10th century, whose nisba indicates that
he was from Jerusalem, provides a list of goods imported from Khwarazm, and
amber is among these items:
“Sables, squirrels, ermines, fennecs, martens, foxes, beaver hides, colorful rabbits, goat
hides, wax, arrows, wood bats, caps (qalānis), fish glue, fish teeth,154 castoreum, amber,
raw hides (kaimukht), honey, hazelnuts, falcons, swords, armor, birch wood (khalanj),
Slavonic slaves (al-raqīq min al-Ṣaqāliba), sheep and cattle – all these are from Bulgar.155
Among the imported goods from Khwarazm into the Islamic world as well as
into the Qarakhanids, should be items not only from the Bulgars but also
from the Vikings, who actively traded in Bulgar markets,156 and the Qarak-
hanids transported these commodities further to China. That is not some-
thing extraordinary. Central Asia had already been connected to the trade
with Northern Europe before the Qarakhanids. Approximately half of the
Islamic dirhams found in Northern Europe belong to the Samanids, the
predecessors of the Qarakhanids, demonstrating the best evidence of the
complex trade in the pre-Mongol period, which connected China to the
Islamic world and beyond, to Europe.157 Ibrāhīm ibn Yaʿqūb from Tortosa, a
Spanish-Jewish merchant who traveled through Europe in 965, mentioned
the circulation of Samanid dirhams struck in Samarqand in the years 914 and
915 in the German region, namely in Mainz (Maghānja) on the river Rhine
(Rīn).158 Furs, as well as slaves, were the main commodities from the North
exported for dirhams and other luxurious items from the Islamic world, India,

154 Fish teeth should be walrus tusk.


155 Kitāb aḥsān al-taqāsīm fī ma’rifat al-aqālīm, 324f. Also compare with the English transla-
tion by Collins 1994, 286. The Khwarazm region was also famous for local fruits. Abū
Hāmid Al-Gharnātī, an Arab traveler from al-Andalus, who visited Khwarazm in 1154–
1155 during the reign of Atsiz Khwarazmshah (1127–1156), wrote that he had never seen
any of these fruits in any other countries before. He mentioned Khwarazmian watermelon,
which was “sweeter and more delicious than sugar with honey”, red and white grapes “as
large as dates”, apples, pears and pomegranates. Al-Mu’rib ʿan baʿd ʿajā’ib al-Maghrib, 45.
156 Risāla / Ibn Fadlān, 45ff.
157 For the trade between the Samanids and the Vikings see Mitchiner 1987; Michailidis, 2013.
158 Jacob 1927, 31. By the end of the Samanid period, the dirham circulation in Europe de-
clined, mainly due to the silver crisis in that period. Written sources recorded that in
Khwarazm, the dirham was converted into four separate parts in order to prevent mer-
chants from taking it away, and any silver that was brought to the region was not allowed
out. Kitāb aḥsān al-taqāsīm fī ma’rifat al-aqālīm / Collins, 235.
202 Dilnoza Duturaeva

and China. Jürgen Paul, a prominent scholar on the history of Central Asia,
claims that this flourishing trade road that mainly functioned in the North-
South direction and that was known as “Fur Road” was much wider than the
“Silk Road”.159 The Qarakhanids were located in the center of both the “Fur
Road” and the “Silk Road”.

Conclusion
The Qarakhanids’ predecessors in international trade, the Sogdians, centered
in Samarqand and the Samanids centered in Bukhara played a significant role
connecting different parts of the world: the Sogdians served as middlemen
mainly between China and West Asia, the Samanids between Europe and the
Islamic world. The Qarakhanid merchants managed to trade in all directions
between the Silk and Fur Roads.
How distant was the Qarakhanid trade? Valerie Hansen claims that the
most distant place from which the Khitans imported goods could be the Vi-
kings’ world. She puts a question: What if the Vikings brought different com-
modities, which were highly prized in the Islamic world and in China, such as
the walrus tusk, via the trade routes they used to transport amber?160 Primary
sources clearly demonstrate how amber reached China from the Vikings’
world, transported first to Volga Bulgaria and Khwarazm and further via the
Qarakhanids to Liao China. Among the goods coming from Khwarazm, Is-
lamic sources listed “fish teeth”, which is walrus tusk, and it could be imported
from Scandinavia to Khwarazm and further via the Qarakhanids to China.
The Vikings shipped various goods including walrus tusk not only from
Northern Europe but also from the Americas, which theoretically could also
reach China connecting East Asia with the Americas by the 11th century. The
Vikings had their own interest in trade with Central Asia. They imported silver
during the Samanids and later Central Asian textile during the Qarakhanids.
The movement of goods and commodities across such distant territories clearly
demonstrates how the trade along the Silk and Fur Roads flourished, and even
broadened, during the tenth-twelfth centuries, and how the Qarakhanids were
located at the center of this network.

159 Paul 2012, 175.


160 Hansen 2013, 302.
Between the Silk and Fur Roads: The Qarakhanid Diplomacy and Trade 203

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