In 741, the Uyghur tribe from the
Orhon and Selenge River valleys, who had been part if the Turkic Khanate
confederation, took over. Also Turks, they set up their capital at Har Balgas
or Ordu Baliq further up the Orhon Valley. They brought a period of peace by
actively allying themselves with the Chinese Tang Dynasty and contributed
further to the region’s cultural development by refining the Turko-Sogdian alphabet.
They translated numerous Chinese
texts and also created the first indigenous Mongolian literature. (The Uyghur
script was later adopted by Genghis Khan’s Empire and survives today as Old
Mongolian.) While Buddhism had already made strong inroads, Manichaeism a third century Gnostic religion positing that
Man is both good and evil- became the official state religion, introducing a
strong Persian element into the culture. The Uyghurs also staged a campaign of
lopping the heads off stone statues left behind by the Turks.
The Uyghur Khaganate controlled
roughly the territory as today’s Mongolia. But during this same period,
burgeoning Tibetan Empire, which already controlled much if southeastern China,
was pushing northwards and threatening China’s western flank, including control
of the Silk Road, its riches crucial to both the Chinese and Uyghurs who had
jointly established trading post along the route.
In an ironic turn of history – in
view of Mongolia’s later extremely close religious and political links with the
mountain kingdom – Uyghurs agreed early on to help the Chinese defeat and
Tibetans. They also put down several rebellions against the nascent Tang
Dynasty inside China. In return, the Chinese paid to the uyghurs, including the
gift of a princess to the ruling khan.
Emboldened, the Uyghurs then launched
a vicious military campaign against a rival steppe tribe in the Yenisei River
Basin to the northwest, the Kyrgyz. Through the late 700s and early 800s, the
Khahanate prospered and built its capital, today 46 kilometers (28, 5 miles) northwest
of Harhorin, into a mighty trading centre with a fortress surrounded by walls
and a canal. They also continued military campaigns against the Tibetans and
Kyrgyz. But in 840, the Kyrgyz wrought their revenge by invading with a force
of 80,000 horsemen, sacking and burning down the Uyghur capital and executing
the khan. Other cities were also destroyed.
The defeated Uyghurs fled into
Central Asia, including today’s Xinjiang region in western China – eventually
this area was given the name Turkestan. When Arab armies to the west defeated
the Tibetans, Islam became the new religion of the Uyghurs. With their strong
commercial and literary expertise, the Uyghurs would later become crucial to
the administration of the Mongol Empire, especially because of their written
Resource: Carl Robinson "Mongolia Nomad Empire of Eternal Blue Sky"