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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)

Map of Tarim River

Kucha or Kuche was an ancient Buddhist kingdom located on the branch of the Silk Road that ran along the northern edge of the Taklamakan Desert in the Tarim Basin and south of the Muzat River.



The area lies in present day Aksu Prefecture, Xinjiang, China; Kuqa City itself is the county seat of that prefecture's Kuqa County. The kingdom bordered Aksu then Kashgar to the west, and Karasahr then Turpan to the east. Across the Taklamakan desert to the south was Khotan.

Etymology of Kucha

Chinese transcriptions of the Han or the Tang also infer an original form Küchï, but the form Guzan, representing [Küsan], is attested in seventh century Old Tibetan (in the Old Tibetan Annals, s.v. year 687).[1] Mongol Empire-period Uighur and Chinese transcriptions support the form Küsän/Güsän/Kuxian/Quxian rather than Küshän or Kushan (Yuanshi, chap. 12, fol 5a, 7a). (The form Kūsān is still attested in the early-modern work, Tarikh-i-Rashidi, Cf. ELIAS and ROSS, Tarikh-i-Rashidi, in the index, s. v. Kuchar and Kusan: “One MS. [of the Tarikh-i-Rashidi] reads Kus/Kusan. Both names were used for the same place, as also Kos, Kucha, Kujar, etc., and all appear to stand for the modern Kuchar of the Turki-speaking inhabitants, and Kuché of the Chinese. An earlier Chinese name, however, was Ku-sien.” Elias (1895), p. 124, n. 1.) However, transcriptions of the name 'Kushan' in Indic scripts from late Antiquity include the spelling Guṣân, and are apparently reflected in at least one Khotanese-Tibetan transcription.[2] The history of the toponyms corresponding to modern 'Kushan' and 'Kucha' remain somewhat problematic.[3]


For a long time Kucha was the most populous oasis in the Tarim Basin. As a Central Asian metropolitan center, Kucha was part of the Silk Road economy, and was in contact with the rest of Central Asia, including Sogdiana and Bactria, and thus eventually with the peripheral cultures of India, Persia, and China.[4]

The Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang visited Kucha in 630 AD and in the 630s described Kucha at some length.

The Kizil (Thousand Buddha) Caves lie about 70 km northwest of Kucha and were included within the rich fourth-century kingdom of Kucha. The caves claim origins from the royal family of ancient Kucha, specifically a local legend involving Princess Zaoerhan, the daughter of the King of Quici (Kucha).

Visit by Xuanzang in 630 AD

  • He subsequently travelled across the Gobi Desert to Kumul (modern Hami City), thence following the Tian Shan westward, arriving in Turpan in 630. Here he met the king of Turpan, a Buddhist who equipped him further for his travels with letters of introduction and valuables to serve as funds.
  • Moving further westward, Xuanzang escaped robbers to reach Karasahr, then toured the non-Mahayana monasteries of Kucha.

Jat History

Hukum Singh Panwar (Pauria)[6] writes that ....What is pertinent to our inquiry is the question of the identity of the foreigners for whom the Chinese use the term Yueh-Chih. Further, from where did these Yueh-Chich penetrate in to China? The term obviously would not indicate the nelghbouring people like the Mongols and the Turks. It is far more plausible to link this term With terms we have already explored at some length, i.e. the getae and with the Iatii of Ptolemy, the Jatii of Pliny and the Jats of Cunningham, who were natives at that period of the countries between the Sindh and Oxus valleys, and whom we have already identified With Sakas.

Some of these adventurous tribes of the Sakas from India at Buddha's time penetrated as far as Kucha, (Kusa in sanskrit[7]) or Lobnor, where, Chinese gave these aliens the name Yueh-Chih' which came nearest to their original name in sound . These tribes

The Jats:Their Origin, Antiquity and Migrations: End of page 346

derived or we are given a new name in their new home Kucha or (Kusha) and became famous in history as the Kushanas[8]. Consequently, it was but natural for later historians to regard the Kushanas as a branch the Yueh-Chih[9] There is still a tendency among historians to regard the Jats , as the descendants of the Yueh-Chih or to regard them as one of their branches, the Kushanas, but the truth is just the reverse. The names Yueh-Chih and Kushan are later names given to Jats or a branch of them who migrated to Central Asian regions from Sindh in ancient period. Our reading of historical facts pertaining to the tribal movements to and in the Central Asian countries, leads us to the firm conclusion that scholars like Cunningham and Tod, astute and honest though they were, have discovered the Jat horse as well as the Yueh-Chih cart, but have managed only to put the cart before the horse.

External links


  1. Beckwith 1987, p. 50.
  2. Beckwith 1987, p. 53.
  3. Beckwith 2009, p. 381, n=28.
  4. Beckwith 2009, p. xix ff.
  5. Note sur la chronologie du voyage de Xuanzang." Étienne de la Vaissière. Journal Asiatique, Vol. 298, 1. (2010), pp. 157-168.[1]
  6. The Jats:Their Origin, Antiquity and Migrations/Jat-Its variants,pp.346-347
  7. Bagchi, P.C; Ind. and Cen. Asia, Calcutta, 1955, p. 68. Mukherjee B.N., op., cit., pp. 6-7, 11-12, Sakas also were driven to that region from Ind.; Mukherjee B.N.; op.cit., pp. 26-27. For Indian rule and influence in Cen. Asia, Cf. Kalyanraman, Aryatarangini, vol. II, Bombay, 1970. p. 9, A Stein also sopports it.
  8. ibid, Bagchi holds that Kuci or Kuchi or Kusi is the archaic pronunciatio Kucinam of Kucina from which a genetive plural form would be Kusana. Most ancient name of Khotan was Godana (Ibid. p. 49) which proves the existence of Indians there in the remote past.
  9. Ogel, B.; in Central Asia in Kushan period-Dushanbe Report, vol. II, Moscow, 1975, p. 172. Ali Sami, in Ibid., p. 146, Y. Zuev, in Ibid., Vol. II, p. 277; Y. Zadneprovs],:y, in Ibid., p. 296. Bongard Levin and G. Kotovsky, A His. of Ind., Bk., I, Moscow, 1979, p. 117. K.V. Trever, q. by Gankovsky, op.cit., p. 86.

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