Read CHAPTER II of The Life of Yakoob Beg Athalik Ghazi‚ and Badaulet Ameer of Kashgar, free online book, by Demetrius Boulger, on


In the extensive region stretching from the Caspian and Black Seas to the Kizil Yart and Pamir plateaus, and from the Persian Gulf to Siberia, the two great families, the Aryan and the Turanian, have in past centuries striven for supremacy. The latter, embracing in its bosom in this part of the world the more turbulent and warlike tribes, succeeded in subjecting those who claimed the same parent stock as European nations. The Tajik or Persian is the chief representative in this region of the Aryan family, and he has now for many centuries been the subject of the Turk rulers of the various divisions of Western Turkestan. These latter are the personifiers of Turanian traditions. The Tajik appears to have been subdued, not so much by the superiority of his conqueror in the art of war, as by his own inclination to lead a peaceful and harmless life. The pure Tajik, hardly to be met with now anywhere in Asia, except in the mountainous districts of the Hindoo Koosh, is represented to us to have been of an imposing presence, with a long flowing beard, aquiline nose, and large eyes. He is generally tall and graceful; yet in Khokand and Bokhara the Tajik is at present viewed much as the Saxons were by the Normans. In those states, too, a man is spoken of by his race. He is an Usbeg, a Kipchak, a Kirghiz, or a Tajik, as the case may be, and by this means the rivalry of past ages is to some extent preserved down to the present time. It is the dissension spread, or rather the destruction of any sympathy between the various races caused, by these outward tokens of diversity in origin, that has made Western Turkestan the familiar home of intestine disturbance, which has in its turn led up to the easy dismemberment of the various Khanates by Russian intrigue and by Russian force. In Eastern Turkestan the rivalry of races has become less bitter, and in nothing is this better manifested than in the fact that there a man is described by his native town. He may be a Tajik, or an Usbeg, or a Kirghiz, or a Kipchak, too, but he is only known as a Yarkandi, or a Kashgari. And while we are at once struck by this broad and salient difference in popular custom, and consequently in popular sentiment also, between the Western and Eastern divisions of Turkestan, a slight inquiry is sufficient to show that the antipathies of the various races towards each other have become much more a thing of the past in Kashgaria than they have in the Khanates of Khokand and its neighbours. At all events, the antipathies that still prevail in that state are clearly traceable to other causes than Aryan-Turanian hostility, and are undoubtedly produced either by religious fanaticism, motives of personal ambition, or the hatred roused by Chinese pretensions on the one hand, and Khokandian on the other, to the supreme control of Kashgaria. Bearing these facts clearly in mind, it is evident that ethnographical descriptions will not make the political relations of the peoples of the state more easily intelligible; yet, as matter of historical import, these cannot be altogether passed over in silence.

The inhabitants of the little known regions now variously known as Jungaria and Eastern Turkestan were, until recent years, considered to be of pure Tartar origin, and consequently members of the Turanian family. There are some still who believe that this definition is the most accurate. Others dispute it on various grounds, and with much plausibility. There is no question that the original inhabitants, historically speaking, were the Oigurs, or Uigurs, and these people were certainly Tartars. But frequently the Tajik merchants who traded with Kashgar in the earlier centuries of the Middle Ages, took up their abode in the country, and by degrees a large colony of Tajik immigrants was formed on the foundation of the original Oigur stock. These Tajiks gradually became Tartarised, but they still retained the unmistakable characteristics of the Aryan family. The two brothers Schlagintweit, and Mr. Shaw following in their footsteps, were the first to maintain this view, which is becoming generally accepted. We have, therefore, in Kashgar the strange spectacle of a Tajik people becoming not only unidentifiable from the Turanian stock with which it has been intermingled; but we have also a race tolerance that is unknown in any other portion of Asia. Undoubtedly the hostility of the settled and peaceful Andijani immigrant and Kashgari resident to the irreclaimable Kirghiz is deep-rooted, and, so long as the latter continues a source of danger to all peaceful communities, abiding; but even this sentiment, and the religious hatred that has at various epochs marked the political intercourse of Buddhist and Mahomedan, are probably less durable, and susceptible of greater improvement in the future, than the race antipathies that seem perennially vital among the tribes of Western Asia. The vast majority of the inhabitants of Alty Shahr are of Tajik descent. In the course of centuries the purity of their lineage has been leavened by much intermingling with Tartar blood, both at the time of the Mongol subjection and of the Chinese. In addition to these two great divisions, there are many Afghan and Badakshi settlers, who have flocked to Kashgar whenever the progress of events seemed to justify the expectation that military service in that state would prove a remunerative engagement. Many of these remained, and they have also left a clear impression on the features of the inhabitants. It is, however, to pre-historic times, or certainly to a period lost in the mist of history, that we must refer for that general exodus of the Aryan family from the Hindoo Koosh and the plains of Western Asia into the more secluded prairies of Kashgar, which took place when the Turanian nations first spread like destroying locusts over the face of that continent. It was at this period that Khoten, which in its name shows its Aryan origin, was founded.

The great nomadic tribe of the Kirghiz, or Kara Kirghiz, as the Russians call them, to distinguish them from the Kirghiz of the various hordes who, by the way, are not true Kirghiz at all, has at all times played a fitful, yet important part in the histories of Khokand, Jungaria, and Eastern Turkestan. Preserving their independence in the inaccessible region lying west of Lake Issik Kul, and along the Kizil Yart plateau and range, this tribe has always been a source of trouble to its neighbours, whosoever they might be. On various occasions, too, they have joined the career of conquest to their usual avocation of plunder, and under the few great leaders that have arisen amongst them they have appeared as conquerors, both of Eastern and Western Turkestan. But their achievements have never been of a permanent nature. Like the irregular undisciplined mass of horsemen which constitute their fighting force, their chief strength lay in a sharp and decisive attack. They had not the organization or the resources necessary for the accomplishment of any conquest of a permanent kind. Their incursions, even when most formidable and most sweeping, were essentially mere marauding onslaughts. Their object was plunder, not empire; and having secured the former, they recked little of the value of the latter. At one time they were able to carry their raids in almost any direction with perfect impunity; but as settled governments arose around their fastnesses, and curtailed their field of operations, what had been a life of adventure through simple love of excitement, became a struggle for sheer existence. The region where they dwelt was far too barren to support throughout the year even the limited numbers of the Kirghiz, and yearly they had to issue forth against prepared and disciplined enemies in search of the sustenance that, to preserve their existence, had to be obtained. But for the intestine quarrels that were sapping the life strength of the Asiatic states slowly away, there is no doubt that the Kirghiz would have been gradually exterminated. Soon, however, they had the skill to avail themselves of these disagreements to sell their services as soldiers to the highest bidders; and although they were not equal to the Kipchak tribes in valour, their alliance was considered of importance, and on many a dubious occasion sufficed to turn the fortune of the day. By such measures of policy their existence has been preserved, and at the present time they perform much the same functions, and are regarded in much the same manner by their neighbours, as in the past.

The Kipchaks, another great tribe, who however are scarcely represented at all in Kashgaria, pride themselves on being the most select of all the Usbegs, but their day of power has passed by, for the present at all events. Thirty years ago they were at the height of their success, but they incurred the jealousy of other Usbeg tribes and of the Kirghiz. Owing to the abilities of their great chief, Mussulman Kuli, they succeeded in erecting in Khokand a powerful state, which was able to restrain the encroachments of Bokhara, at that time the great enemy of the former Khanate. But the plots that broke out against them in 1853, in conjunction with the advance of Russia on the Syr Darya, were crowned with success, and with the execution of Mussulman Kuli the Kipchak power was completely broken. Since that date, however, several of the more distinguished leaders who have appeared on the scene, such as Alim Kuli and Abdurrahman Aftobatcha, have been members of this clan. The eastern portion of the dominion of Yakoob Beg is almost exclusively inhabited by Calmucks, or tribes of Calmuck descent. The great majority of the inhabitants of Manchuria and Jungaria are of Calmuck descent, and even in Russia in Europe there are many settlements of this tribe along the Volga and the Don. None of these, however, possess any political importance except those who inhabit the country north of Gobi and between Eastern Turkestan and China, and the chief of these are the Khalkas. The Calmucks are attached by old associations to the Government of Pekin; and, although they have sometimes revolted against, and often caused trouble to, the Central Government, they have generally acknowledged their culpability and submitted to the Chinese authorities. In the revolt of the Tungani the Calmucks remained true to China, and performed very opportune service on various occasions. The Chinese army in Eastern Turkestan was mainly recruited from among these tribes, who became distinguished from the Tungani by their religion and fidelity.

The origin of the Tungani, or Dungans, as the Russians call them, is much in dispute; and as they played so important a part in the loss of Kashgar and Ili by China, as well as in the history of the rule of Yakoob Beg, it may be as well to put the facts as they stand at some length before the reader. There is no question, we believe, that the Chinese in applying the term Tungani attach the meaning thereto of Mahomedan. There is equal reason for supposing that the term Khitay, literally meaning simply Chinese, has been applied to the Buddhists by general usage. If we acknowledge the validity of these two assumptions and, so far as we have been able to ascertain, the best authorities have adopted them there would be little difficulty in explaining who the Tungani were. Granting these, they would simply be the Mahomedan subjects in the eastern portions of China. But others believe that the Tungani are a distinct race, presenting peculiar ethnological features. According to this version, the tribe of the Tungani can be traced back as a distinct community to the fifth and sixth centuries, when they were seated along the Tian Shan range, with their capital at Karashar. The most recent investigations, under Colonel Prjevalsky, are believed to show no signs of there having been any important cities in this quarter. It may be convenient to mention here, that at that time they were Buddhists; but when Islamism broke over Asia in the eighth century, they were among the first to adopt the new tenets. This defection from the religion of China brought them into collision with the Emperors of Pekin, and many of these Tungani were deported into Kansuh and Shensi, where we are to suppose they continued a race apart, with their own religion and their own code of morality, for more than ten centuries. Even granting the possibility of such a consistency to a new religion, which history informs us was thrust upon them at the point of the sword, it seems scarcely credible that we should not hear more of this troublesome tribe in Chinese history. Frequent allusions are made in imperial edicts and other official proclamations to the Tungani, but always in reference to their religion, and not in any way as if they were any other but heretic Chinamen. Besides, even in this way little is heard of the Tungani until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when very sharp measures were taken against them by the emperors, solely because religious propagandists from their ranks were appearing as enemies of a Buddhist Government. The theory that the Tungani were a people and not a sect is new, but it is possible that it may be a true discovery. On the other hand, it is far more probable that it is only an ingenious attempt at elucidating what appears on the face of it to be a simple matter enough. The reader must decide for himself between the two versions. If the Tungani are to be considered a distinct race, then the majority of the inhabitants of Eastern Turkestan are not Calmucks, but Tungani; if the view taken here is adopted, then they are Calmucks who have at various times adopted Mahomedanism. These are the chief tribes of this portion of Central Asia; and in the following pages it may be as well to bear in mind that Khitay is applied exclusively to the Buddhist or governing class, and Tungani to the Mahomedan or subject race in Kansuh and its outlying dependencies. As race antipathies have not entered during recent times so much into the contests of the people of the regions immediately under consideration as religions, the difference as to the true significance of the term Tungani does not materially affect one’s view of the general question.