World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0042600518
Reproduction Date:

Title: Altishahr  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: History of Xinjiang, East Turkestan independence movement, Ten Great Campaigns, Khoja (Turkestan), Migration to Xinjiang
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Altishahr is a historical name for the Tarim Basin region used in the 18th and 19th centuries. The term means the "six cities"[1] in Turkic languages and refers to oasis towns along the rim of the Tarim, in what is now southern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China.


Altishahr is derived from the Turkic words alti, which means six, and shahr, for cities.[2] The term was used by Turkic-speaking inhabitants of the Tarim Basin in the 18th and 19th century. Other local words for the region included Dorben Shahr, the "four cities" and Yeti Shahr, the "seven cities".[2][3]

Altishahr was adopted by some Western sources in the 19th century.[2] Another Western term for the same region is Kashgaria.[2] Qing sources refer to the region primarily as Nanlu or the Southern Circuit.[2] Other Qing terms for the region include Huijiang (the "Muslim Frontier"), Huibu (the "Muslim Tribal Area), and Bacheng (the "Eight Cities").[2]

Geography and relation to Xinjiang

Dzungaria (Red) and the Tarim Basin (Blue)
Physical map showing the separation of Dzungaria and the Tarim Basin (Taklamakan) by the Tien Shan Mountains

Altishahr refers to the Tarim Basin of southern Xinjiang, which was geographically, historically, and ethnically distinct from the Dzungarian Basin of northern Xinjiang. At the time of the Qing conquest in 1759, Dzungaria was inhabited by steppe dwelling, nomadic Dzungar people, Oirat Mongols who practiced Tibetan Buddhism. The Tarim Basin was inhabited by sedentary, oasis dwelling, Turkic speaking Muslim farmers, now known as the Uyghur people. The two regions were governed as separate circuits until Xinjiang was made into a single province in 1884.


In the 18th century, prior to the Qing conquest of Xinjiang in 1759, the oasis towns around the Tarim did not have a single political structure governing them, and Altishahr did not refer to specific cities but the region generally.[4] Foreign visitors to the region have tried to identify the cities and offered various lists.[4]

Albert von Le Coq's six cities were: (1) Kashgar, (2) Maralbexi (Maralbashi, Bachu), (3) Aksu (Aqsu), (4) Yengisar (Yengi Hisar), (5) Yarkant (Yarkand, Shache) and (6) Khotan, with Kargilik (Yecheng) as an alternative to Aksu.[4] W. Barthold replaced Yengisar with Kucha (Kuqa).[4]

The term Seven Cities may have been used after Yaqub Beg captured Turpan (Turfan) and referred to (1) Kashgar, (2) Yarkant, (3) Khotan, (4) Uqturpan (Uch Turfan), (5) Aksu, (6) Kucha, and (7) Turpan.[4]

The term Eight Cities (Şäkiz Şähār) may have been a Turkic translation of the Qing Chinese term Nanlu Bajiang, literally the "Eight Cities of the Southern Circuit", which referred to (1) Kashgar, (2) Yengisar (3) Yarkant and (4) Khotan in the west and (5) Uqturpan, (6) Aksu, (7) Karasahr (Qarashahr, Yanqi), and (8) Turpan in the east.[4]

According to Aurel Stein, in the early 20th century, Qing administrators used the term to describe the oasis towns around Khotan: (1) Khotan, (2) Yurungqash, (3) Karakax (Qaraqash, Moyu), (4) Qira (Chira, Cele), (5) Keriya (Yutian), and a sixth undocumented place.[4]


Until the 8th century AD, much of the Tarim Basin was inhabited by Tocharians who spoke an Indo-European language and built city states in the oases along the rim of the Taklamakhan desert. The collapse of the Uyghur Khanate in modern Mongolia and settlement of Uyghur diaspora in the Tarim led to the prevalence of the Turkic languages. During the reign of the Karakhanids much of the region converted to Islam. From the 13th to the 16th centuries, the western Tarim was part of the larger Muslim Turkic-Mongol Chaghatay, Timurid and Eastern Chagatai Empires. In the 17th century, the local Yarkent Khanate ruled Altishahr until its conquest by the Buddhist Dzungars from the Dzungarian Basin to the north. In the 1750s, the region was acquired by Qing China in its conquest of the Dzungar Khanate. The Qing initially administered the Dzungaria and Altishahar separately as respectively, the Northern and Southern Circuits of Tian Shan,[5][6][7][8] although both were under control of the General of Ili. The Southern Circuit (Tianshan Nanlu) was also known as Huibu (回部 Muslim Region), Huijiang (回疆 Muslim Frontier), Chinese Turkestan, Kashgaria, Little Bukharia, East Turkestan. After quelling the Dungan Revolt in the late 19th century, the Qing combined the two circuits into the newly-created Xinjiang Province in 1884. Xinjiang has since been used by the Republic of China and People's Republic of China and southern Xinjiang replaced Altishahr as place name for the region.


  1. ^ ed. Bellér-Hann 2007, p. 5.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Newby 2005: 4 n.10
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Bellér-Hann 2008: 39 nn.7 & 8
  5. ^ Michell 1870, p. 2.
  6. ^ Martin 1847, p. 21.
  7. ^ Fisher 1852, p. 554.
  8. ^ 1852The Encyclopaedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and General Literature, Volume 23, p. 681.

Sources cited

Further Reading

  • Modular History: Identity Maintenance before Uyghur Nationalism

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.