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N.Ya.Bichurin
COLLECTION OF INFORMATION ON PEOPLES
IN CENTRAL ASIA IN ANCIENT TIMES

Printing house of military schools
Sankt Petersburg, 1851
Part 2 Division 5 Section 7
Shiwei

       

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Introduction

Shiwei 室韦 are central in tracing the history of the Tatar people, both in the contexts of the historical generic meanings of the term, and in its narrow modern usage.This posting presents extracts from the N.Ya.Bichurin work that mention Shiwei; they are very limited in scope, and that likely reflects the body of references to Shiwei in the Chinese annals. These limited descriptions dispel many misconceptions presented in the historical literature. Some of them are:

- There is little resemblance between the all-powerful image of Tatars, those powerful and skillful horseman who were equally adept in herding horse cattle and human masses, and the meekly Shiwei who were taiga foot hunters and who carried their petty birch bark yurts on their backs.
- Shiwei are not horsed nomadic pastoralists whose pasturing routs extend for thousands of kilometers.
- Shiwei can't sell, trade, or grant herds of thousands of horses; their horses are few. Shiwei market commodity was fir pelts.
- Shiwei were poly-ethnic, and poly-lingual. Shiwei can't be depicted as monolithic people speaking whatever eastern language is ascribed to them.
- While Chinese close neighbors are described in the annals, numerous remote Shiwei tribes are only mentioned. One of many meanings of the Chinese compound "Shiwei" is "dangerous tribe", a generic description that would fit any unknown people. Another prototype may be "Eleven tribes", in the homophonic form "Shiyi-wei", also a supra-ethnic term.
- Chinese application of a common term "Shiwei" to a group of diverse tribes, each one of which must have had its own tribal and super-tribal names, betrays a high probability that the Chinese term has nothing to do with the people to whom it was applied. For the lack of better terms, historical scholars do have to use this term, but only within its defined application range.

From the Chinese annals can be deduced that Shiwei could only lend to other tribes the territorial semantics of their exoethnonym, without any cultural and genetic descendency. The first Tatars, who appear immediately at the point where Chinese annals leave the subject of Shiwei, appear as full-fledged nomadic pastoralists who pasture herds of horses, and come with a load of religious and mythological traditions connected solely with etiology of nomadic Türkic tribes and with no resemblance of the taiga foot hunters.

On the other hand, Chinese annals do indicate that in calamitous times, the Türkic nomadic tribes were hiding in the "Shiwei" gorges of the Chinese lingo. Among these tribes were Seyanto, Ashina Türks "Dulga", and Uigur "Oihors". However, that does not justify linguistic or genetical attribution of the tribes that are known to reside or associate at some point of their history with Shiwei of the Chinese annals or their territory, like the nomadic Tatars or Kais. Even if the name like "Great Shiwei" is conjectured as applicable to some nomadic tribes, that appellation is utterly superficial, and based on general Chinese unfamiliarity about the "Great Shiwei" tribes.

* * *.

The posting's notes and explanations, added to the text of the author and not noted specially, are shown blue in parentheses (), grammatical clarifications in angular brackets <>. In the original publication the author's comments, in contrast with his direct translations, are implied by larger offset margins, not necessarily applied consistently; the author's explanations that are clear from the contents in the posting are enclosed in distinct boxes. The author's notes in the original publication are denoted by round parenthesis 1). Page numbers are shown at the beginning of the page in blue, with associated PDF file page number. To avoid font conflicts, the Russian original is presented in modern orthography. The dates highlighted by N.Bichurin are shown in front of the respective sentense. Additional subtitles are shown in blue. The copyright for the 1851 publication expired long ago, the publication is in the public domain.

N.Ya.Bichurin
COLLECTION OF INFORMATION ON PEOPLES
IN CENTRAL ASIA IN ANCIENT TIMES
Part 2 Division 5 Section 7
Shiwei

92 (106 PDF)

7. SHIVEI

Possession Shiwei lays 1,000 li north from Ugi, 6,000 li from Loyang. Shiwei is one tribe with Kidan (aka Kithai). 1) The tribes in the south are called Kidan, the tribes in the north are called Shiwei. The road goes from Ho-lun north for 1,000 li, and enters Kidan possessions. After ten days of travel north is a river Chjo-shui; further three days of travel north is a river Shan-shui; another three days of travel further north are Dulyao mountains. These mountains are high and huge; in circumference about 300 li.

1) I.e. the sovereign House of Shiwei comes from the tribe of Mongols (Shiwei are poly-ethnic, a part of Shiwei speaks a language distinct from Mongolian, but the language is not described)
93 (107 PDF)

Another 300 li to the north is a large river, called Kui-li; three days of further travel north is a river Jen-shui; another five days of travel lays possession Shi-wei . 1) In that possession is a large river running from the north. It is about four li wide, and is called Nai-shui (Angara). The soil ground is damp. Language is one with Kumohi, Kidan and Deuleu. Sow lot of millet, wheat, and polby. Live in cities in the summer, and in the winter move from place to place, looking for grass and water. Have a lot of sables. Men braid hair in plaits. Use horn shooting bow; 2) their arrows are very long. Women collect hair in a knot. In Shiwei possession thievery is rare. For stolen take double. For murder punish by three hundred. 3) Men and women wear short overcoat and trousers of white deer. <They have> fermented <?> of bread. Love red balls, ornament for women. Wear necklaces of them on necks, and the more <of them>, the hiegher honor. Maidens do not have this privelege before marriage. On death of parents men and women perform crying for three years. Corpses of diseased are laid in a forest on trees.

544 In the second year of of Wu-din rule, 544, in the fourth moon was sent an envoy Chjanu Deudaiya with others for to present local products. At the end of Wu-din rule, before 550, came envoys with daniju one after another. And when thr House of Tsi received a throne from eastern House of Wei in 550, also from time to time <they> came to the Court with gifts. Subsequently the Shiwei possession divided into five aimaks, independent one from another. These aimaks are:

Southern Shiwei,
Northern Shiwei,
Bo Shiwei,
Shen mohyn Shiwei,
Great Shiwei.

1) I.e. residence of ruler.
2) I.e. glued horn.
3) Apparently horses.
94 (108 PDF)

They had no sovereigns. People are poor and weak. Dulgases (Ashina Türks) ruled them through three Tutuns (Tutuk?). The southern Shiwei lays 3,000 li north from Kidans. The land there is low and wet. In the summer <they> leave to the north to Budaikyan opposite of two mountains. There it is plenty of trees and plants, abundance in birds and animals; a lot of mosquitoes. To avoid discomfort from them, people live on trees in tents. Later, Shiweians gradually divided into twenty five aimaks. Each aimak has Yuimofo Mandu. They are elders. On death of an elder his son or younger brother inherits his place. On termination of a clan line <they> elect elders by abilities and wealth. Their men normally wear hear loose, and women fold them on the head. <They> wear attire identical with Kidans. <They> harness oxen into wagons. Tents are built of a tall weeds, 1) like the felt of the Dulgases (Ashina Türks) carts. For river crossing, instead of rafts, <they> use sheafs of brushwood, or boats of skin. The horse cover <they> plait from grass; knit bridles from ropes. For prayers  <they> build small house from bent wood, and cover it with tall weeds. On the move <they> carry it. Rugs <they> make of pork leather; mats <they> plait of wood. Women and maidens sit embracing their knees. Atmosphere is mostly cold. Threshing of bread is very meager. Sheep are absent; horses are few. More  <they> breed pigs and cows. Customs are identical with Mohe (Tungus). Marriages ceremonies: when two houses conclude negotiations, first <they> steal the bride, and then for agreed upon gifts bring bulls and horses, and a groom moves into a house of a bride; after a birth of the first baby, husband with wife move to their house.

1) "Tall weeds" is used for unknown coarse grasses.
95 (109 PDF)

Women do not enter a second marriage; but because it is difficult for widow to conduct funerals of the husband, the tribe builds a large balagan (Tr. pavillion) with joined efforts. Every deceased is laid in the balagan. Mourning lasts for three years. Crying is performed four times in a year. 1) In that possession there is no iron, and it is received from Gaoli. A lot of sables.

Eleven days of travel from south Shiwei to the north is Northern Shiwei, consisting of nine tribes, and located around Tuge ridge. Tribal leaders have title Tsinn Mohedu. Every tribe has three Mohefo, occupying a secondary place. Atmosphere is extremely cold. Horses drown in depth of snows. In winter <they> leave to mountains, and live in earthen dugouts. Many cattle freezes. Many kabargas and deer. <They> subsist on hunting. <They> eat of animal meat, dress in their skins. Breaking ice, descend into water, and fish with nets. Falls a lot of snow. Minding of falling into animal pits, walk on ski, and if fall through,  <they> stop. <They> trap sables. Hats are worn of foxes and sables; dress from fish skin.

1.000 li from them to the north live Bo Shiwei, located around Hubu ridge. Among them are a lot of northern Shiweians. How many tribes <they> are dividedinto is not known. Their huts are covered with birch bark. Everything else is like northern Shiweians.

1) Commemoration.
95 (109 PDF)

Four days of travel from Bo Shiwei toward southwest live Shenmohyn Shiweians - <they> received their name from the river. To caover from strong cold <they> live in earthen dugouts.

Another some thousands li northwest live Great Shiwei. The road there is difficult. Language is not understandable. Especially many sables and dark squirrels.

The Northern Shiweians sent envoys with gifts; and the other never came.

N.Ya.Bichurin
COLLECTION OF INFORMATION ON PEOPLES
IN CENTRAL ASIA IN ANCIENT TIMES
Volume 3 Appendix
GEOGRAPHICAL INDEX OF PLACES ON THE MAP

2 (480 PDF)

In old history of T'han dynasty, in the narration about Shivai (Shiwei), on northern side of large mountains is a tribe Great Shiwei. This tribe lives along the river Shihyan-he (Shilkar) (Kerulen?) that begins on northeatern Dulgas limits from the lake Gui-lun-bo (Hilar/Dalainor?), flows with a bend to the east (Argun?), passes through the lands of the western Shiwei; further east passes through the lands of Great Shiwei; to the east passes on northern side Mynvu-Shiwei tribe, and on southern side Lotszui-Shiwei tribe; further to the east, it merges with the rivers Ha-ho (Zeya?) and Hur-han-he (Bureya?); further to the east it pass on northern side of the southern Blak River Mohes, and on the southern side the northern Blak River Mohes, flows east and discharges into the sea.

N.Ya.Bichurin
COLLECTION OF INFORMATION ON PEOPLES
IN CENTRAL ASIA IN ANCIENT TIMES
Part 1 Division 7
Hoihu
(Tele Uigurs 250 BC - 540 AD)

381 (435 PDF)

After a new order about distribution of border troops, made in year 742 in China, were founded ten Tsze-du, border military commandieries, as follows:

7) P'hin-lu tsze-du, founded to contain Shiwei and Mohe, i.e. Tunguses. Command office located in In-chjeu.
383 (437 PDF)

Iologa is the name of the Oihor (Uigur) House. Among them are not listed Pugu, Hun, Baegu, Tunlo, Syge, Kibi. These six Houses were equal with the Oihor (Uigur). Subsequently, when Oihor (Uigur) subdued Basimi and Gagolu, with them were accounted eleven clans, which were transformed into eleven governorships under the name of eleven aimaks. 3)

3) In Chinese Shi-a-sin means eleven names or surnames; aimak in Chinese is Bu-lo and Bu.
383 (437 PDF)

715 Next year Peilo also attacked Dulga (Ashina Türks) Baimei-khan, and, having killed him, sent Duncholo Dagan to dedicate achievements to the emperor, for which he was honored with  a highest military grade. 1) PeIlo spread even more his possessions - to the east to Shiwei, to the west to Altai mountains, on the south to Great sandy steppe; i.e. has acquired all lands that previously belonged to Huns.
409 (464 PDF)

788 The next year, 788, khan sent top commander minister Gyade with others, total 1,000 people, and also sent his younger sister princess Gudulu Bigya with the spouses of the main elders 50 people to receive the princess and deliver matchmaking gifts. Gyade, on coming to Chjen-vu, was robbed by Shiweians. Many <people> were killed in fights.
420 (472 PDF)

Nagechjo, gathering up to 7,000 wagons of Chisi people, left to the east to Chjen-vu and Da-t'hun, and accross Black sands to Shi-wei extended his appetites to the south.
424 (476 PDF)

847 In the first summer of Da-chjun rule, 847, Chjun-vu crushed Hi. Oikhor (Uigurs) were almost destroyed. Eminent princes and highest officials remained up to 500 people, their only hope was Shiwei. Chjun-vu urged Shywei (Shiwei) to turn over the khan. Enyan became scared. It took his wife Gelu and son Dele Dusa, and at night with nine cavalry fled to the west. His relatives bitterly wept. Seven Shiwei clans divided Oihors (Uigurs) among themselves. Hyagas (Khakas), enraged with that, with his minister Abo and 70,000 army attacked Shiwei, and taking the other Oihors (Uigurs) came back to northern side of Sandy steppe.
428 (480 PDF)

With elimination of Heli-khan (Aru-kagan), the borders became empty. Inan with his tribe shifted somewhat to the east, and settled at Duyuigyan mountains, on the northern bank of the river Dulo 2) a little more then 3,000 li  from the capital. In east <was> Shiwei, in the west Altai mountains, in the south Dulga (Ashina Türks) 3) in the north Baikal: 4)

2) In Urga or near that gorge: for there are expansive pastures.
3) These are Dulgasans who submitted to China and occupied lands west of Kalgan, from Ordos north to Sandy steppe.
4) Baikal.

N.Ya.Bichurin
COLLECTION OF INFORMATION ON PEOPLES
IN CENTRAL ASIA IN ANCIENT TIMES
Part 1 Division 8
Kidan

458 (510PDF)

233 - 237 The House of Kidan is a branch of House of Dun-hu (Tunguses, Western Hu). Its ancestors, stricken by Huns, settled near Syanbi mountains. During the rule of Tsin-lun, 233 - 237, Binyn, a head of the tribe, was killed by the province Yu-chjeu governor Wan Hyun. e that people weakened, and left to the southern side of Sharamuren, north of Huan-lun. During the dynasty Yuan-weij it took a name Kidan. This possession lays 5,000 li directly northeast from capital; in the east it reached Gao-li, in the west <it reached> Hi, on the south <it reached> In-chjeu, in the north <it reached> Mohe and Shiwei.
469 (521PDF)

885-887 On death of Sierchjy his relative Kinde inherited (Kidan). During the rule of  Guan-ki, 885-887, in celestial (kingdom) arose inner troubles. On northern border were many concerns. (Kidan) plundered 1) Hi'ans, Shiweians. Minor tribes are subjugated: therefore attacked Yu-chjeu and Tsi-chjeu.

1) Kidanians at that time subdued different adjacent  Tunguz and Mongol tribes.
471 (523PDF)

1) In the history of T'han dynasty, Hi, Kidan and Shiwei, by the origin their rulers, belonged to the Mongolian stock: but probably their subjects, by close proximity with Tunguzes (Tunguses) on the east and north, intermixed long ago with that (Tungus) people and adopted many customs from its life: therefore the same history of T'han dynasty included mentioned three peoples among Tunguz (Tungus) tribes, only do not sstae that they by origin also belonged to Tunguz (Tungus) stock.
475 (527PDF)

756-788 During the reign of  emperor only eight times (Kidan) came to the Court to present gifts; in the duration of Chji-de and Da-li rule, 756-780, <they came> twelve times; in the fourth year of Chjen-yuan rule, 788, together with Shiweians they attacked on Chjen-vu.

806 In the first year of Yuan-ho rule, 806, Gunmei Loshen came to the Court, received the highest civil rank and princely eminence; 1) the elders Sodi and Mujugu also received military ranks, 2) and both were bestowed with a name Li. With all that, they joined a secret alliance with Oikhors (Uigurs) and Shiweians, and together with them attacked Chjen-vu.
480 (532PDF)

"Second year of Tszin rule. Nine Tatan (Tatar) tribes presented tribute to the House of Kidan. "

The second year of Tszin-de rule corresponds to 1005 after Christ. House of Kidan from 915 possessed all Mongolia under a Chinese name Liao: hence the Tatan (Tatar) trabes were under its dependence. This place (citation) discloses that aiman Tatan (Tatar aimak), that originally consisted of particular clans, on passing of two hundred years from its migration to southern Mongolia, multiplied to a such degree that it was in a position to sequentially divide into nine aimans; but it was yet not so strong to not recognize the supreme overlordship of the Kidans. A propos, should still be noted that Tatans (Tatars) during all that time still lived on the northern slope of In-shan ridge; because the Khalkha in the first half of the nineth century was under Oihors (Uigurs), excluding the eastern part occupied by Shiweians; after the fall of Oikhors (Uigurs) Yuygulyui and Shiwei tribes remained in Khalkha, both in the Kidan dependence.

 
       
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