Central Asia in the Early Middle Ages,
Introduction to the history of the regions

8. Upper Tokharistan (Pamir)

(p. 144, 150 of Chapter 8, "Verkhnij Tokharistan", M. Bubnova)

Three possessions were situated on the territory of the Western Pamir according to the written sources - Wakhan, Shugnan, and Rushan. Wakhan occupied the valley of Wakhan-darja and the both banks of the river Panj from the confluence of the rivers Wakhan-darja and Pamir down to Ishkashim in the west. Shugnan was in the valley of the river Gunt and its left tributary Shakhadara. Rushan was in the valley of the river Bartang [Mandel’shtam, 1957. p. 96, 101, 122-123; Grjunberg, Steblin-Kamenskij, 1976. p. 9].

The information of the ancient authors about Pamir is short and fragmentary. They consist mostly of reports of Chinese travellers and Buddhist pilgrims. There are indications that the possession of Czabej with a capital Hemo, reported in "Bejshu", must be sought on the territory of Wakhan [Bichurin, 1950.V. II. p. 264; Mandel'shtam, 1957. p. 96]. That part of "Bejshu" which dates to the beginning of the VI c. contains a short description of the possession Boho-Wakhan. There was cold climate and big snowy mountains. Its inhabitants lived in dugouts together with the livestock. Their clothes were made of felts and skins. The main food were baked bread and baked grains. Two roads were leading from there. One of them to the west, in the possessions of Eda (the Hephthalites), the other one - to the south-west in Udjan, a vassal to the Hephthalites possession [Bichurin, 1950. v. II. p. 270; Mandel'shtam, 1957. p. 101].

Map 8. Upper Tokharistan

a - settlements; b - castles and fortresses; c - mounds; d - cult sites; e - modern settlements; f - port

1. Fire temple of Kafirkala, 2. settlement of Parkhur, 3. fortress of Dzhumangaz, 4. port, Karavansaraj Dorkysht, 5. fortress of Rin, 6. fortress of Kaakhka, 7. mound of Muzildigar, 8. mound of Zmugd I, 9. mound of Zmugd II, 10. fortress of Jamchun, 11, 12. mounds of Tin (Namudlig), 13. Buddhist monastery of Vrang, 14. Fire temple of Zong, 15. fortress of Ratm, 16, 21-26 - fortresses along the river of Shakhdara, 17, 18, 19, 20 - fortresses along the river of Gunt, 27, 28 - settlements

Sjuan Czjan mentions the possession Damositedi, described as a narrow and long valley, to the east of which was the valley of the river Pamir [Mandel'shtam, 1957. p. 119]. Henning and Marquart identified Damositedi as the Wakhan. Marquart thought that Damositedi was the Chinese transcriptions of the Sanskrit name of Wakhan [Mandel'shtam, 1957. p. 119].

At the beginning of the VIII c. Hoj Chao returned to China via Tokharistan, Pamir and Eastern Turkestan. His notes have a separate chapter about the possession Humi-Wakhan.

The Chinese chronicles record one more possession to the north of Wakhan. Sjuan Czjan called it Shicini, and Hoj Chao - Shini. It corresponds to Shugnan [Mandel'shtam, 1957, p. 119]. Hoj Chao described it in details. Humi-Wakhan had a colder that the neighbouring regions climate. The settlements were small. The people were poor, having cattle and sheep. The food consisted of baked and boiled products of flour. Their clothes were made of felts and skins and the rulers used cotton and wool. The men kept their hair and beards cut, the women had long hair. Their capital was 20 days of travel away from Eastern Turkestan. The ruler had a small army and that is why he had to submit to the Arabs and to pay them an annual tribute in wool. There were Buddhist monasteries and Buddhist monks in the possession. The women were pious followers of the Buddhism and its Hinayana school. There were no heretics and representatives of other religions [Mandel'shtam, 1957. p. 122].

Shini-Shugnan had an extremely cold climate. This region consisted of nine possessions. Each ruler had its own army. The possessions were independent, save for one ruler who obeyed Wakhan. The clothes were the same as in Wakhan. [Shini-Shugnan] had a specific language differing from the languages of the other possessions. Buddhism was not spread [Mandel'shtam, 1957. pp. 122-123].

Burial customs

Early medieval burial grounds are known only at the territory of Wakhan. The burials are marked on the surface by quadrangular, square or round stone fences. In some places (Zmudg) the fences were adjacent to big stones, rocks. The author of the excavations in Wakhan A.D. Babaev concluded that the burials combine Zoroastrian and ancient local traditions [Babaev, 1989. p. 26-28].

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