Bilge Khan monument


The steles contained in the memorial complexes dedicated to Kul-Tegin and Bilge Khan, in the Orkhon Valley, are among the most significant monuments of the Central Asian Turkic Empire. The deciphering of their runic texts has permitted an important number of other inscriptions in the "Orkhon Script"to be translated. The translations below are drawn from Thomson's original French rendition (A. Heikel: Inscriptions de l'Orkhon recueillies par l'expedition finnoise, 1890. Helsingfors, 1892).



Eastern Face

I who resemble the sky and who was appointed by the sky, Bilge kagan of the the Turks, (here is) what I declare to you: [On the death of?] my father, Bilge kagan of the Turks, [. . . .] the valiant nobles and the people of the Nine-Ogouz . . [. . . . .] sky of the Turks [. . . . .] I became kagan of [. . . . . . . .]. On my arrival, the nobles and the people of the Turks, who were morose as though they were about to die, changed and rejoiced, and reassuredly(?) raised their eyes. After having myself risen to the throne, I gave so many important laws [. . . . . . among the peoples] of the four corners of the world.

(The text immediately following this section is identical to lines 1-20 of Monument I; see . and notes .concerning minor variations.)

In my twenty-seventh year, I made an expedition against the Tanguts. I devastated the Tangut people, and I took their sons, their men(?), their horses and their goods. In my twenty-eighth year, I made an expedition against the Alti-Tshoub (the Six-Tshoub) and the Sogdak, and I devastated the people. An army of fifty thousand (five divisions of) Ong-toutouk(?) Chinese came. I fought near the sacred mount(?), and I annihilated this army. In my twenty<-ninth> year, there was a people of my race with the sacred name of Basmil. As they were not sending any caravans (of tribute), I made an expedition [. . . . .] . . . I brought back [. . .]. In my thirty-second year, I made an exhibition against the Chinese. I fought there against Tshatsha-sengun and an army of eighty thousand (eight divisions); I killed his army there. In my thirty-sixth year, the Tshik people along with the Kirghiz became (our) enemies. Crossing the Kem (the Enissei) I made an expedition against the Tshik; I fought at Eurpen and I vanquished their army [and submitted the] small [people . . .]. In my thirty-seventh year, I made an expedition against the Kirghiz . Crossing snow as high as our lances, I marched in climbing the wooded mountains of the Keugmen and founded as victor over the Kirghiz people; I fought against their kagan in the forest beyond, and I killed their kagan and submitted their people. In the same year, I marched against the Turghes crossing the wooded mountains of Altoun and the Irtysh river. I founded [as victor over the Turghes people]. The army of the kagan of the Turghes came like fire and tempest, and we fought at Boltshou(?); there I killed their kagan, their yabgou and their shad, and I asserviated their people. In my thirtieth year, I made an expedition against Bishbalik. I fought six times [. . . .] I killed many of their troops. Saying to themselves: 'What people are there within?', [. . . .] was (were) lost [. . .] came to call(?) (them). Thanks to them, Bishbalik escaped. In my thirty-first year, the Karlouk people became a valliant enemy, living in freedom without worries. I fought near the sacred source(?) of the Tamag. I killed the Karlouk people and submitted them there. In my [. .] year(?) [. . .] the entire(?) Karlouk people [reunited . . . I] killed (them). The Nine-Ogouz were my own people. As there was bouleversement in the sky and on the earth and that jealousy had stirred up their bile, they became our enemies. In one year I fought four times. First I fought near the town of Togou . Having crossed by swimming the Togla (Tola) River, their army [. . . . . .]. The second time, I fought near Ourgou (? Or Andargou?) and vanquished their army. [. . . . . . . . The third time] I fought [near the source of the Tshoush(i?)]. The Turkic people was collapsing with fatigue and was losing morale. I therefore let their army go, which had pushed us back in dispersing (us); but many of them were joined in meeting their deaths. Coming to a hand battle during the funeral of Tonga-tegin, I cut down there a man of the Tongra race, named Yilpagou(?). The fourth time, I fought at Ezghendi kadaz. There I conquered and defeated their army. [. . . . . In my . . year] when I had spent the winter at Amghi kourgan, there was frost followed by famine. In the springtime, I began a campaign against the Ogouz. The first army had set off marching, the second(?) army was at home. Three Ogouz armies came to attack us. Saying: 'They have come without horses (literally on foot) and week', they came to take us. One of their invading armies went pillaging the houses and buildings; another(?) came fighting. We were few in number and we were week, but the enemy(?) og[ouz? . . . . . .] as [. . the sky] gave us strength, I vanquished them and dispersed them. By the grace of the sky and as I was working, the Turkic people [also?] work(ed). If at the beginning I had not worked (executed) so much, in concert with my younger brother, the Turkic people would have been dead, would have been lost. O! nobles and Turkic people, think of it and know! The Ogouz people [. . . . . . .] So as not to send (? abandon?) [. . . .] I entered a campaign and devastated their houses and their buildings. The [Ogouz] people allied itself with the Nine-Tatars, and they came. Near Agou, I delivered two great battles; I devastated their army and submitted their people there. Having executed so much [. . . . . .] by the grace of the sky [. . . .] in my thirty-th[ird year . . . . . . .] the kagan who had taken up [. . .] the force . . . [. . .] fell in error. Neither the sky above nor the holy spirits of the earth and the water nor the happiness of [my uncle?] the kagan were of help to him. The Nine-Ogouz people abandoned its land and its water, and went towards China. Counting on rising them [. . . . . . . . . .] people [. . .] faillit [. . .] to the south, in China, their name and their reputation were lost, in this land they became my slaves. Because I myself had become kagan, I did not [. . . . .] the Turkic people; [that is how much] I executed to the profit of the institutions [. . . . .] reuniting [. . . . . . . . . .] there I fought and I vanquished their army. Some of them re-entered and re-became a people, others died. Then I marched en aval of the Selenge, and there I devastated their homes and their buildings in reprimanding their pillages(?). [. . . . .] escaped to the mountains. The Uighur Eltebers [fled?] by the hundreds towards the east [. . . . . . . . . .]. The Turkic people was hungry. I rose it up in taking these herds of horses. In my thirty-fourth year, the Ogouz fled and entered China. Angry, I set out marching [. . . . .]; there I took their sons and their men(?). Two Elteber peoples [. . . . . . . . . .]. The Tatabi people was submitted to the Chinese kagan. Seeing that no good news nor good requests(?) were coming from his missionaries, I made an expedition in the summer; I devastated the people and took their herds of horses [. . . . .] the army of [. . .] came, after having reassembled itself. They (we?) made halt in the forest of Kadirkan [. . . . . . . . . .] established in ther land and their water. In saying: 'March towards the south, against the Karlouk people', I sent Toudoun Yam(a) tar, and he went. [. . . . . . . . . .] the karlouk Eltebers were annihilated; his (their?) younger brother(s) [. . . . . . . . . . . .] their (his?) caravans did not hurry. Saying 'I want to reclaim them(?)', I set off marching. By fear he (they?) fled with (by?) two or three men(?). But the tiny people [exalted?], saying: 'My kagan has arrived'. [. . . . . . . . . .] I gave [. . .] horses(?). The small number of cavalry [. . . . . . . . . .].

South-Eastern Face

[. . . . .] marching with the army en amont I crossed, in seven days and nights, the arid desert, and having arrived at Tshorak . . . [. . . . . . . .] as far as [. .] Ketshin [. . . . . . . . . .].

Southern Face

[- -] the first day, I killed the chinese cavalry (which numbered) seventeen thousand men; the second day, I killed a large amount of their infantry. [- - - -] I made expeditions [. .] times. In my thirty-eighth year, in winter, I set out marching against the Kitai [- - in my thirty ninth] year, in spring, I set out marching against the Tatabi [- - -], I killed [- - and I took?] their sons, their men(?), their herds of horses, their goods [- - -] I annihilated their men(?) [- - - - - I] fought [- - - - -]. Having killed their brave men, I made their funeral ceremonies be held. In my fiftieth year, the Tatabi people [. . .] in Kitai [- - -] at the mountain of [- -] an army of forty thousand men, led by Kou-sengun, arrived. Near the mountain of Teunkes , I attacked them and I beat them. I [killed] thirty thousand men, t[en thousand men escaped? - - - - -] the Tatabi [- -] killed(?). My eldest son having died of illness, I conducted mourning(?) at Kou-sengun. For twenty-nine years I was shad, for twenty-nine(!) years I was kagan and I governed the empire. [For?] thirty-one [years . .] I brought so much benefit to my Turks, to my people. - Having done so much [my father the kagan] died in the year of the dog, in the tenth month, the thirty-sixth day. In the year of the pig, in the fifth month, the thirty-seventh day, I held the funeral ceremony. . . . [. . .] Lisun tai-sengun came to me at the head of five hundred men. They brought an infinity of perfumes, of [. . . . .], of gold and of silver. They brought musk(?) for the funeral and placed it, and they brought sandalwood . . [. . .]. All these peoples cut their hair and slit their ears [and their cheeks?]; they brought their good particular horses, their black zibelines and their blue squirrels without number, and deposited there a great quantity.

I who resembly the sky and who was instituted by the sky, Bilge kagan of the Turks, here is what I declare to you: On the arrival of my father Bilge kagan of the Turks, the illustrious nobles of the Turks, behind (from the west) the nobles of the Tardoush, preceeded by Kul-tshour, followed by the shapadit nobles, to the front (from the east) the nobles of the Teules, preceded by Apa-tarkan, followed by the shadapit nobles [. . . . . . . .] Taman-tarkan and Tonyokuk Bouilabaga-tarkan, followed by officers [. . . .] officers preceeded by Seveg-kul-irkiz, followed by officers, all these illustrious nombles [paid] homage(?) to my father the kagan [. . . . . . .] he . . . his nobles and his Turkic people . . [. . . .] nobles and Turkic peoples [. . . . .]. To myself as many [- - -].

Northern Face

(For the first eight lines of this inscription, see lines 1-11 of the Kul-Tegin Monument, Southern Face.)

As many peoples from the four corners of the world [my father] the kagan and my uncle he kagan after their arrival [had organised and constituted, as many] peoples [in the four corners of the world] I myself organised and constituted following my arrival by the grace of the sky . [. . . . . . .]. To the kagan of the Turghes I gave my daughter with great honours, and I gave to my son with great honours the daughter [of the kagan of the] Tur[ghes], and I gave with great [honours . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .]. I made them lower their heads and bend their knees. By the grace of the sky above and the land below [I led] my people, who had seen nothing of it with their eyes nor heard with their ears, to the front, towards the rising sun, to the right, [towards noon ,] behind [towards the setting sun, to the left, towards midnight - -]. I procured for my Turks, for my people [from the Chinese?] their [red gold?], their white silver, their pieces of silk(?), their isigti(?) grain, their special horses and stallions, their black zibelines and blue squirrels, and I arranged it. I rendered [my people?] without worry. The sky above(?) [. . . .] powerful [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] the nobles(?) and the people, [. .] bring them up, do not let them suffer, do not torment them [. . .] the Turkic nobles, my Turkic people [. . . . . . . . . .] on the part of(?) your kagan, these nobles [. . . . . . . . . .] Turkic people, [. .] you will see [. . .], you will [. .] to your home, you will be without worry [. . . . . .]. Then, from the kagan of the Chinese I sent for many sculptors. He did not reject my invitation, but sent interior sculptors (i.e., attached to his house). With their assistance I had erected separately the building (the temple), [I had cut] separately the sculptures in the interior and the exterior, [and I had the stone cut. The message which I have on my heart . . . . .] as far as your well-loved sons and your descendants(?), in seeing it, know this: the eternal stone [- - -].

Western Face 

[My father] Bilge kagan [who reigned] over [the Turks, having died?], I will cry for him [again?], when the summer returns, when the bridge (the vault) of the sky above is . . [. . .], and when the cerf flees[?] to the mountain. The stone of my father the kagan, it is myself the kagan who [- - - -].

South-Western Face

[- -] it is I Yolig-tegin who wrote the inscription of he kagan. All this, the building, the sculptures, the paintings [. . . . . . . .]. It is I, Yolig-tegin, cousin of the kagan, who, staying here for a month and four days, wrote and had sculpted [- - -].




毗伽可汗 Bilge Khan or Bilgä Khağan 빌게 칸  (683 or 684~734) mean by "wise chieftain"


call by "The Orkhon script", "Old Turkic script", "Göktürk script"

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