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12/05/2017 06:00 PM ISAW Lecture Hall

The History of Eighth-century Khotan as Seen from Khotanese Documents

Zhan Zhang

Khotan is an oasis on the southern rim of the Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang, China. Viewed as an entrepôt along the “Silk Road,” Khotan is famed as a source of high-quality jade (in China) and musk (in Iran). Apart from sporadic mentioning in Chinese historical sources, however, we know next to nothing about the history of Khotan in pre-Islamic times. Fortunately, explorations and excavations in Xinjiang in the late 19th and early 20th centuries yielded a large number of manuscripts written in Khotanese, an Eastern Iranian language akin to modern Pashto in Afghanistan. These manuscripts, many of which are administrative documents directly from the offices of Khotanese officials, open up for us a rare window into the everyday life in Khotan during the late eighth century, when Chinese, Arabs, Tibetans, and Turks were all vying for supremacy in Central Asia.
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