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The Uar, (also Var or War, Chinese: pinyin: Huá), were the largest of three ethnic components constituting the confederation known to the west as the Hephthalites and to the Chinese as Yanda (嚈噠) and the dominant ethnicity of Khwarezm. Peoples with similar names had been present along the Silk Road for centuries, and several Central European family names actually derive from the names of these tribes.

The Chinese classic Liang Zhigongtu describes them as originating in the Hua state. Theophylaktos Simokattes uses the name Uar, sometimes written as War or Var. According to the Chinese classic Liang chih-kung-t'u the name Huá was an endonym used by the Hephthalites themselves while 嚈噠 was an exonym derived from their ruling dynasty and applied to them by outsiders.


Origin and migration

According to Ferdowsi their legendary ancestor was Afrasiab. The sketch exhibited in the Portraits of Periodical Offering of Liang depicts the Uar envoy as East Asian and this along with J. Marquart's discovery of many similarities between the terms for the Hephthalites in India and words in the Mongolian language such as the term Khagan, have led scholars[1] to believe that at least a portion of their population was of proto-Mongolic origin, while some of their practices remind us of Khwarezmia. This implies a diverse range of peoples under the Hepthalite dynasty. Like Procopius, contemporary Chinese chroniclers had different theories about the origins of the Uar and the Hephthalites:

  • The Hepthalites were related in some way to the Indo-European Yuezhi. Based in Turpan and conquered by the Rouran, they originally came from Pingyang and Hua state and were important in the early Jade trade. Pingyang remains the centre of the Chinese Huá (滑) clan even today.
  • They were a branch of either the Kangju or the Tiele peoples, descending from the general Bahua, based in Turpan. They sided with the Southern Xiongnu of Pingyang against the Northern Xiongnu (hence the Huá clan's presence in Pingyang) but were later conquered by the Rouran.

Throughout the 5th century, it was the Uar who managed to succeed to the steppe heritage in a campaign which spread from the Tian Shan to the Carpathian Mountains. By around 460, the Uar had taken over much of Central Eurasia from Xinjiang to the Volga River, and founded a capital at the city of Badiyan or Panjakent, near what is now Khujand, though very little is known about the area from the late 5th to early 6th centuries.

Yanda and Uar

According to the Book of Liang, the Yanda were an offshoot of the Yuezhi. It mentions an envoy sent in 516 by their Yandaiyilituo/Hephthalite king to the court at Nanjing. Chinese chronicles define the Yanda as the name of a clan leading the Uar. In the Book of Wei they are supposed to be a variety of the Yuezhi, while the Uar, who are also described, are possibly an offshoot of the Tiele. The Book of Wei indicates, however, that the Yanda do not share a similar language with the (Tungusic) Rouran or (Turkic) Tiele. It is said that the Yanda language can be easily translated by the Tuyuhun, a group of peoples from the Koko Nor.

Kazuo Enoki believed the Yanda to be an Iranian group [2] like the Hazara, in which case they may have been related to the Tocharians.

Uar and Hunnoi

Asia in 400 AD, showing the Kidarite lands and their neighbors.

The Kidarite dynasty which ruled the Xionites came from the Uar. As a result, the Xionites have sometimes been called Uar-Hunnoi.

Uar and Hunnoi are the names associated with the two biggest tribes of Procopius's White Huns, commonly identified with the Sanskrit Sveta Huna but called Varkhon or Varkunites (OuarKhonitai) by Menander Protector. Procopius writes that these White Huns are white-skinned and have an organized kingship. According to him, their life is not wild or nomadic, and they live in cities.

The Uar and Hunnoi are supposed to have united around 460 under the rule of one of the five Yuezhi families, the Hephthal. Near the end of the 6th century they were joined by the Zabender, Tarnach and Kotzagerek Huns. They became known as the Onogurs, from whom the name Hungary derives. The Onogurs were composed of three groups, see also Avars and Kabars. Around 670 the Bulgars under Kouber and Asparukh, who were also part of their empire, revolted. The Kouber tribes moved south to Thessaly and Asparukh lead his people south of the Danube.

Uar and Avars

Simokattes mentions the Hunnoi as the other major component under the Hephthalite ruling elite. These are identified as the "true" Avars of the east, and the political force behind what Simokattes calls the "Pseudo-Avars" who eventually settled down in Pannonia. The Göktürks considered the Khwarezmian Uar as the true Avars and encouraged the Byzantines to regard the "Avars" (possibly associated with the Uyghurs) who entered Europe as Pseudo-Avars.

Around 630, Simokattes wrote that the European "Avars" were initially composed of two nations, the Uar and the Hunnoi tribes. He wrote that: "...the Barsilt, the Unogurs and the Sabirs were struck with horror... and honoured the newcomers with brilliant gifts..." [3] when the Avars first arrived in their lands in 555AD.


  1. ^ "Attila and the Nomad Hordes" David Nicolle. Osprey Publishing (September 27, 1990)
  2. ^ Enoki, K. "The Liang shih-kung-t'u on the origin and migration of the Huá or Ephthalites," Journal of the Oriental Society of Australia 7:1-2 (December 1970):37-45
  3. ^ Theophilactus Simocatta, Historiae, -Ed. C. deBoor. Lipsiae, 1887, ps.251, 258
Grignaschi 1980 = M. Grignaschi, 'La Chute De L'Empire Hephthalite Dans Les Sources Byzantines et Perses et Le Probleme Des Avar,' Acta Antiqua Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, Tomus XXVIII Akademiai Kiado, Budapest (1980)
Haussig, Hans Wilhelm, Die Geschichte Zentralasiens und der Seidenstraße in vorislamischer Zeit, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1983, ISBN 3-534-07869-1.
Schreiner, P. Theophylaktos Simokates, Geschichte.

See also

External links



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