Featured A lost silk road civilisation - The Yuezhi and their relationships with China

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Loong Siew, Jan 9, 2019.

  1. Loong Siew

    Loong Siew Well-Known Member

    Yuezhi. Arseiles. Late 1st century BC. AR Hemidrachm. Very rare.

    The design of this coin imitates the design of the Indo-Greek hemidrachms but with the name of a very rare Yuezhi chief and a stylized lion of Babylonian tradition in the reverse

    Ancient confederation of the silk road west of China. The Yuezhi 月氏 was a nomadic power that dominated much of the silk road west of China before being invaded by the Xiongnu and scattered out of the area which is now Xinjiang and central Asia. They eventually migrated west, invaded the Indo-Bactria kingdoms of Northern India and established the powerful Kushan Dynasty.
    Source: Wikipedia.

    The Yuezhi civilisation featured heavily in ancient a Chinese historical accounts. In particular during the Han Dynasty, the famous ambassador Zhang Qian made a historic diplomatic mission under the order of Han Wudi to forge an alliance against their common enemy, the Xiongnu. His accounts described the Yuezhi with distinct Greco Asiatic features such as deep set eyes and thick beards. There were also circumstantial association of the Tarim or Tocharian Mummies of Xinjiang China being the ancestors of the Yuezhi. These Tocharian Mummies were fascinating as they had distinct European features in what is in Western China. tarim-1024x865.jpg
    Source: Historicmysteries.com

    The migration of the Yuezhi from Northwest China to modern Transoxania eventually led to their conquest of the Greco-Bactrian Empires descended from Alexander. Amongst them, a factional tribe known as the Kushanas consolidated power and conquered large swathes of land from Northern India, thus establishing the great Kushan Empire that dominated much of India after the Mauryan Empire of Ashoka.

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  3. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Loong Siew, Nice score on the Yuezhi coin & fascinating write-up! When the Han Dynasty expanded westward they disrupted all the cultures they encountered, with many of those people paying tribute to the Chinese to keep the peace. I have no ancient coinage from that area but at one time had a number of ancient Chinese jades. Attached below are photos of a Han Dynasty jade bi disc I had Freeman's in Philadelphia auction for me. The jade is about the same age as your coin, measured 10.4 cm in diameter & was carved with a grain pattern on both sides.
    100_1312.JPG 100_1316.JPG
  4. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    Super coin! These don't come cheap.

    I have one "obol" of Heraios, sometime between the Yuezhi migrations into India and the unification of the tribes under Kujula Kadphises (Heraios may have been an early name or title of Kujula)

    Kushan heraios obol.jpg
    TJC, Bayern, kaparthy and 7 others like this.
  5. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Cogito Ergo Sum

    Great write-up - thank you. The Pazyryk people (600 B.C.E - 300 B.C.E), though somewhat earlier than the group you mention, also had European features but lived in Siberia and on the borders of northwestern China. They are known for carpets in a Persian style, Aecheminid symbols, tattooed bodies, and the Ice Princess who was discovered mummified in the permafrost.
    Loong Siew likes this.
  6. Ken Dorney

    Ken Dorney Yea, I'm Cool That Way...

    I have not kept up on this lately, but last I knew those mummies were possibly Scythians or derivatives. Are they the same people? Fascinating topic.
    Loong Siew likes this.
  7. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Cogito Ergo Sum

    Related to the Scythians I'm pretty sure but a bit earlier...
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  8. Loong Siew

    Loong Siew Well-Known Member

    Wow!! Fantastic artifact you have there.. This is a precious jade disc .
  9. Loong Siew

    Loong Siew Well-Known Member

    Actually the only culture that was displaced and driven out by the Han was the Xiongnu. The Han was more interested in letting them babes long as they paid allegiance to the Emperor and resources sought (e.g. heavenly horses). Even the Xiongnu themselves inadvertently brought upon their own downfall due to the recurring border skirmishes and tributary system they forced on the Han
  10. Loong Siew

    Loong Siew Well-Known Member

    Awesome piece! The Eurasian features are very prominent on the portrait.. Also not easy to come by this piece..
  11. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Loong Siew, You're right about the "heavenly horses". The Chinese valued highly the beautiful & swift horses they got from the tribes of the Western regions. Unlike the Mongolian horses that had short legs & were much slower. About 45 years ago I went to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto for a special exhibition of Chinese artifacts & saw the famous bronze "Flying Horse of Kansu". It was much smaller than I thought but a masterpiece of bronze art. I liked the way the artist set one leg on the back of a bird to show the horse was flying. :D
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  12. Loong Siew

    Loong Siew Well-Known Member

    @Al Kowsky .. It is believed that these heavenly horses are the ancestors of the Alka tepe horses of modern Tajikistan. Recorded to even sweat blood. But if you seen photos of these magnificent Alka tepe horses, you too would probably wage a war to own them. :cat:

    Regardless I recommend reading up about the Dayuan community and the War of the heavenly horses fought by the Han. An interesting event from a historical and cultural perspective.
    Bayern likes this.
  13. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    Nice Han jade bi. I missed my chance to buy a similar one in HK 8-10 years ago. Hard to find authentic ones nowadays. Even the antique store owner I frequented retired. :(
    Loong Siew likes this.
  14. Loong Siew

    Loong Siew Well-Known Member

    Thank you very much for featuring..:)
  15. BoonTheGoon

    BoonTheGoon Grade A mad lad

    I just love learning about the Helinic influence on india and central asia. Especailly that in china. It is always so interesting how far the greeks culture really travaled.
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  16. Loong Siew

    Loong Siew Well-Known Member

    Hellenistic influences are stronger in the gandharan region of India than China. The furthest the influence arrived is probably the region known as Dayuan, in modern Tajikistan. it was also known as Alexandria Eschate. Hellenistic influences evident in China would best be represented in Buddhist iconography due to missionaries from Gandhara.
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  17. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Loong Siew, The oldest images of Buddha came from Gandharan Region as seen in the photo below. This example is in the Tokyo National Museum, 1st-2nd century CE. The treatment of the clothing is Greco-Roman & the face looks more European than Asian.
  18. Loong Siew

    Loong Siew Well-Known Member

    @Al Kowsky Yes. you're right.. earliest Buddhist depictions were symbolic as the Buddha forbade images of himself. The Greeks were the first to depict him
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  19. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    I thought the Kushans, (Yuezhi was name of the people, Kushan was the name of one family in the Yuezhi who came to dominate the group), depicted Buddha on two coins. Surely that was around the time this statue was made.

    However, it is correct the earliest Buddhists did not depict him. I believe one of the earliest symbols of Buddhism was an elephant, like a fish for Christians.
    Loong Siew likes this.
  20. Loong Siew

    Loong Siew Well-Known Member

    Yes.. The first depictions of the Buddha and Maitreya on coins was during the reign of Kanishka. Those are very rare and were probably commemorative. Prior to that, the historical Buddha was depicted in many forms such as the wheel of the Dharma, a bodhi tree and more..
  21. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    Yes sir, they may have been commemorative. Also, they were struck right at the end of his reign, so maybe they simply did not have much time to strike them before he died. That ruler struck coins with huge amounts of different gods.
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