Dear Friends and Colleagues,
with 2011 CE this blog, devoted to historical research, now goes into its third year…
2010 went by much too quickly. Most of it I used up to reorganize my working conditions. The all-important source material, collected in the span of a decade by copying excerpts of what I had been reading mostly in the Berlin State Library, reached an extent where I rapidly lost track of it. The files, filling a dozen meters of shelf space, needed a more careful organization. To each copied journal or book text a tag had to be added to stick out so that I could find what I was looking for fairly quickly. As a matter of fact, a complete bibliography with a thousand titles was called for — but I have hardly begun the tedious task.
I am a private researcher. An amateur doing work for his own pleasure and in any case without remuneration. Under such circumstances, it is not altogether easy to secure the means for our basic needs: clothing, food, and shelter. However, I find this situation a healthy and challenging one and somehow manage to survive.
Last year, I celebrated my 70th birthday. At an age, where others are inclined to retire from a life-long occupation, I find that a huge amount of work is still left for me to do. I am trying my best to stay fit and healthy enough to go on for a few more years. At least as far as age and health are concerned, I hope to follow the example of Strabo of Amaseia who, two thousand years ago and at the age of over eighty, bequeathed to the world the manuscript of his monumental Geographika. In our context, his work is of crucial importance — it includes a sentence which has confused and mislead generations of scholars.
Late last year, I took up the topic once more I had started to investigate twelve months before: the unique and fateful migration of the greater part of the whole Yuezhi/Arsi people from their original seats between Anding and Dunhuang (or from the center of the Yellow River bend to the western end of the Hexi corridor) in East Asia, first to the Ili River, and from there into Sogdiana in Central Asia. Here, they founded a new kingdom and soon extended it into East Bactria or Daxia 大夏 — the land of the Tachar(ians) —, since the Ili River plains always chasing the Sakaraukai/Saiwang 塞王 or “King Sakas” before them.
For the year of this exodus/flight from one world into a completely different one, where the Easterners rather quickly rose to prominence under the guise of several Western names, various dates have been suggested, ranging from 176 to 157 BCE. By quoting and evaluating the well-known Chinese sources (and including the less-known notes of the ancient Chinese commentators as well) I hope to have shown convincingly that the great irruption of a huge Xiongnu army through the Xiao Guan 蕭關, or Northern Gate in the Great Wall of the Qin, into the territory of Anding, next to the Han Chinese border province of Beidi, “in the year fourteen of Han Emperor Wen, in the winter” 孝 文 帝 十 四 年 冬 (167/166 BCE), was thus directed against, not the Chinese, but their immediate Western neighbors, i.e. the Yuezhi/Arsi. This people, like the Xiongnu, shared a common border with Beidi province. Suffering a traumatic defeat at the hands of the proto-Huns, they decided to escape the prospect of subjugation and annihilation by moving far enough west to be out of reach for their arch enemy, the despised Xiongnu under their mighty Emperor (Chanyu) Lao Shang, or “The Venerable High” …
The year 166 BCE is thus a date in the history of Asia which stands out as the beginning of the movements/relocations of certain nomad peoples that reshaped the whole map of Central Asia in the following decades and centuries.
Berlin, January 17th, 2011 (revised April 9th, 2011)
Chris M. Dorn’eich