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Nushibi (Nu-shibi, Chinese 弩失畢) was a Chinese collective name for five tribes of the right (western) wing [1] in the Western Turkic Kaganate, and members of On oq (Turkic ten arrows) confederation found in the literature about the Western Turkic Kaganate as Ten arrows (ten tribes) Türks. The references to Nushibi appeared in Chinese sources in 651 and disappeared after 766. The Nushibi tribes occupied the lands of the Western Turkic Kaganate west of the river Ili. The Chinese annals recorded that the first in the list of tribes of right wing was listed Ashtak tribe of Ulug-ok (Turkic Great tribe), a conjugal tribe of the Kagans from the Kaganate western branch, who belonged to the "celestial-blue" tribe Ashina. In the Kaganate, the position of Yabgu (Chinese Pinyin "Sihou"), and Katun (Kagan's wife) belonged to the members of the Ulug-ok tribe.[2] Two other members of the Nushibi wing were Turgesh tribes Alishi and Sakla-baga (Chinese Pinyin Soge Mohe), with a common appellation Halach (Kalach) for the two-tribe composition, known from the Chinese, Arabic, and Turkic sources.[3] Two more tribes were the descendents of the Eastern "weak Huns" (Ch. Yueban) - Chumuhun and Chuban.[4]

Etymology of the term Nushibi comes from the Turkic name for the "right wing" on shadapyt, "nushibi" is a colloquial pronunciation in modern Han dialect of the Chinese hieroglyphs for "right wing", modern Chinese Nu-shibi < 'nou siet - piet < Turkic ong shadapyt.[5]

Historical Outline

Western Turkic Kaganate

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After the split of the First Turkic Kaganate in 604, the Western Turkic Kaganate was initially reorganized as a "ten arrows" Onoq confederation with Nushibi 5-tribe right wing dominating over the left wing of the Dulu group of five tribes. Both Nushibi and Dulu (Dulo) belonged to the Turkic tribes of the Chuy group, and spoke close dialects.[6]

The transfer of supremacy from the Dulu group to Nushibi had outcome reverberating across Erasian continent. Nushibi controlled, and benefited, from the operation of their section of the transcontinental trade road (Silk Road), and were in alliance with Sogdiana, a chain of small oasis principalities who were also members of the Western Turkic Khaganate, and served as main operators of the Silk Road. Nushibi interest in the Silk Road operation brought them, in addition to the Sogdians, into a coalition with Byzantine and China, two other superpowers interested in the east-west trade. In the west, the coalition included Khazars in the N. Caucasus, and Bulgars in the N. Pontic steppes. This alignment was opposed a coalition of two other powers, Persia and Eastern Turkic Kaganate, which brought about the first world wars of the 7th century Early Middle Ages.[7][8]

Nushibi interests in the Western Turkic Kaganate were advanced by the Kagan Tun-djabgu-khan (Djabgu = dialect. Yabgu), known from the Armenian annals as "King of the North". The capital was located north of Chach (modern Tashkent) oasis. The period of Nushibi dominance was interrupted in 628 by a joined revolt of Karluks and Dulu tribes, and a consequent death of Tun-djabgu-kagan from the hands of his uncle. In the interregnum, led by his uncle with a title Külüg Sibir-Khan, the Dulu fraction restored its former dominating position. The coup brought a considerable upshot, in 630 Sibir-Khan had to grant Bulgarians their independence and allow them reorganize as what became known as Great Bulgaria.[9] Nushibi opposition to the usurper was headed by Nishu-Kana-shad, a ruler with a seat in Paykend (Paikent), who ruled Bukhara province. Sibir-Khan was killed in 631, and Nushibi installed their choice, son of Tun-djabgu-kagan with a title Irbis Bolun djabgu-khan, who received a derisive nickname Sydjabgu (Turkic treacherous), and was known to western contemporaries as Sinjibu and Silzibul [10] but soon had to replace him with Nishu-Kana-shad under a name Dulu-khan (632-634), probably to apease the northern Dulu tribes. The next succession followed the traditional lateral succession order, a younger brother of Nishu was enthroned with a title Yshbara Tolis-shad (634–639), he enacted a major reform by consenting to the Dulu and Nushibi wings' autonomy and native leadership, not drawn from the Ashina clan. The order, favorable to the Dulu and Nushibi, was hurtful to the Karluks, Yagma, Kipchaks, Basmals, and worse of all to the descendents of the Eastern Huns - Chuüe, Chumi and Shato, they were especially anguished because their kins Chumuhun and Chuban were in the privileged Nushibi wing.[9]


In 647 the Western Turkic Kaganate was split into two independent states as a result of Ili River treaty. The independence period lasted until the rise of the Second Turkic Kaganate. In 667 the Nushibi wing of the On oq allied with Tibet.[11] At about 720, a campaign led by Kul Tegin defeated the forces of the Nushibi tribal union led by the Ezgil (Izgil) tribe, and subjugated the former "eastern wing", which from that time disappeared from the literature. The episode of the military campaign is mentioned in the Bilge Kagan inscription in the Orkhon written monuments.[12]

Nushibi Tribal Leaders

Reconstructed partial list of tribal leaders of the on shadapyt right wing, recorded in the Chinese sources:

  1. Ezgil Kül-erkin;
  2. Kashu Kül-erkin;;
  3. Barskhan Tun-ashpa [ra]-erkin;;
  4. Ezgil Nizuk-erkin;;
  5. Kashu Chopan-erkin.

The first word of the title is the name of the Nushibi tribe. Ezgil/Ezgel tribe was a "strongest" of them, its leader in the 563 sent ambassadors to the distant Constantinople.[13]

Ethnic and linguistic affiliation

The difference between Nushibi and Dulu groups was solely economical, a consequence of their relative geographical location. Dulu occupied northern portion of the Middle Asia steppes, away from the main artery of the Silk Road, and were little affected by the intracontinental trade. The main source of Dulu trade income came from Turfan of the Turfan basin. Nushibi occupied lands south of Dulu, controlled a major stretch of the caravan road artery and numerous branches, and were profoundly affected by its operation. The constellation of oasis city-states with a common name Sogdiana, whose merchants were the main trade operators, spoke a Turkic language, and established a symbiotic relationship with their Nushibi nomadic sponsors. Lev Gumilev noted that Dulu and Nushibi language was a "djo"-type dialect (djabgu), as opposed to the "yo"-type dialect (yabgu).[14] The "djo"-type dialect belongs to the Ogur (Karluk) branch of the Turkic language family.

See also

Chuy (tribes)


  1. Yu. Zuev, "The Strongest tribe - Izgil"//Historical And Cultural Relations Between Iran And Dasht-i Kipchak in the 13th through 18th Centuries, Materials of International Round Table, Almaty, 2004, p. 53, ISBN 9965-699-14-3
  2. Yu. Zuev, "Early Türks: Sketches of history and ideology", Almaty, Daik-Press, 2002, p. 33, Template:Listed Invalid ISBN
  3. Yu. Zuev, "Early Türks: Sketches of history and ideology", p. 144
  4. Gumilev L.N., "Ancient Türks", Moscow, 'Science', 1967, Ch.16, (In Russian)
  5. Yu. Zuev, "The Strongest tribe - Izgil", p. 53, ISBN 9965-699-14-3
  6. Chavannes, Édouard. Documents sur les Tou-kiue (Turcs) occidentaux. 1900. Paris, Librairie d’Amérique et d’Orient. Reprint: SPb, 1903, p. 47.
  7. Gumilev L.N., "Ancient Türks", Moscow, 'Science', 1967, Ch.12, (In Russian)
  8. Gumilev L.N., "Ancient Türks", Moscow, 'Science', 1967, Ch.15 World War of the 7th century, (In Russian)
  9. 9.0 9.1 Gumilev L.N., "Ancient Türks", Moscow, 'Science', 1967, Ch.16
  10. Sinjibu, or Silzibul (Turkish leader) - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  11. Beckwith, Christopher I. The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia. (1987), pp. 32–33. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-02469-3.
  12. Yu. Zuev, "The Strongest tribe - Izgil", p. 58,
  13. Yu. Zuev, "The Strongest tribe - Izgil", p. 53
  14. Gumilev L.N., "Ancient Türks", Moscow, 'Science', 1967, p.150, note 3

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