Open main menu

The Jié (Chinese: ; Wade–Giles: Chieh; Middle Chinese: [ki̯at][1]:246) were members of a Yeniseian tribe who invaded Northern China in the 4th century. During the period of the Sixteen Kingdoms, they were known by the Chinese as one of the Five Barbarians. Chinese sources state that the Jie originated among the Xiongnu. Under Shi Le, they established the Later Zhao state. The Jie were allegedly "completely exterminated" by Ran Min in the Wei–Jie war in AD 350 following the fall of the Later Zhao; however, Chinese historians continued to document Jie people and an account of their people's activities after the Wei-Jie war.

Name and originsEdit

The root may be transliterated as Jié- or Tsze2- and an older form, < kiat, may also be reconstructed. (; Jié is also a graphic pejorative, that means "wether" – a castrated male sheep.) According to the Book of Wei (6th century AD), the name Jie was derived from the Jiéshì area (羯室, modern Yushe County in Shanxi province), where the Jie resided.[2][3]:6,149

One theory claims that a surviving sentence of the Jie language appears to indicate that it was a Yeniseian language.[4] The reconstructed name Kiat (see above) may be cognate with the ethnonyms of Yeniseian-speaking peoples, such as the Ket and the Kott (who spoke the extinct Kott language); Pulleyblank (1962) connected the ethnonym to Proto-Yeniseian *qeˀt/s "stone". Vovin et al. (2016) also pointed to *keˀt "person, human being" as another possible source.[5]

Jie phraseEdit

The Jie are known for one phrase that reached us in their native language, uttered by the Kuchan Buddhist monk and missionary Fotudeng and recorded in the Book of Jin as 秀支 替戾剛 僕谷 劬禿當 in connection with Shi Le's fight against Liu Yao in 328.[6] The phrase was glossed with Chinese translation (Middle Chinese pronunciation provided below follows Pulleyblank[1]:264):

秀支 [si̯u-ci̯e] means 軍 “army”; 替戾剛 [tʰei-let/lei-kɑŋ] means 出 “go out”; 僕谷 [bok/buk-kuk/yok] is 劉曜胡位 “Liu Yao's barbarian title”; 劬禿當 [ɡi̯u̯o-tʰuk-tɑŋ] means 捉 “capture”.

This phrase has been analyzed in a number of publications. Shiratori (1900),[7] Ramstedt (1922),[8] Bazin (1948),[9] von Gabain (1950),[10] and Shervashidze (1986)[11] recognized Turkic lexicon, and gave their versions of the transcription and translation:

Ramstedt Bazin von Gabain Shervashidze
Sükä talıqın
bügüg tutun!
Süg tägti ıdqaŋ
boquγıγ tutqaŋ!
Särig tılıtqan
buγuγ kötürkän
Sükâ tol'iqtin
buγuγ qodigo(d)tin
Go with a war
[and] captured bügü!
Send the army to attack,
capture the commander!
You'd put forth the army,
you'd take the deer
You came to the army
Deposed buγuγ

Edwin G. Pulleyblank (1963) remarked that the Turkic interpretations cannot be considered very successful because they conflict with the phonetic values of the Chinese text and with the Chinese translation. Instead, he suggested a connection with the Yeniseian languages.[1]:264

Alexander Vovin (2000) gave the following translation based on Yeniseian.[12] Vovin (2000) suggests a connection with the Southern Yeniseian branch.

suke t-i-r-ek-ang bok-kok k-o-t-o-kt-ang
armies PV-CM-PERF-go out-3pp bok-kok PV-?-OBJ-CM-catch-3pp

(PV - preverb, CM - conjugation marker, OBJ - object marker, PERF - perfective)

Armies have gone out. [They] will catch Bokkok.


In 319, Jie general Shi Le established the state of Later Zhao in North China, which supplanted the Xiongnu-led Han Zhao (304-329) state. However, the Later Zhao state collapsed in 351. In the period between 350 and 352, during the Wei–Jie war, General Ran Min ordered the complete extermination of the Jie, "and their Europoid features" (high noses and full beards) according to author Otto J. Maenchen-Helfen, leading to large numbers being killed.[13] According to some sources[who?] more than 200,000 of them were slain.[14] Despite this, the Jie continue to appear occasionally in history over the next 200 years. Both Erzhu Rong and Hou Jing, two famous warlords of the Northern Dynasties, were identified as Qihu and Jiehu respectively and modern scholars have suggested that they could have been be related to the Jie.[15]

Cultural influencesEdit

Fang Xuanling recorded in the Book of Jin chronicle that at around 340 a Jie state Later Zhao's scholar Xie Fei serving as a Head of Healing (Medicinal) Department in the Later Zhao State Chancellery, was a mechanical engineer who built a south-pointing chariot (also called south-pointing carriage), a directional compass vehicle which apparently did not use magnetic principle, but was operated by use of differential gears (which apply an equal amount of torque to driving wheels rotating at different speeds), or a similar angular differential principle.[16]

For the great ingenuity shown in the construction of the device, the Later Zhao Emperor Shi Jilong granted Jie Fei the noble title of hou without land possessions and rewarded him generously.[3]:99[17]

Ethnic originsEdit

There are widely differing accounts of the origins of the Jie.

The most supported theory suggests that the Jie were of Yeniseian origin. Several historians conjecture that the Jie were a medieval tribe related to the Ket people, living between the Ob and Yenisey rivers—the character 羯 (jié) is pronounced kit in Cantonese, ket or kiet in Hakka and katsu or ketsu in Japanese, implying that the ancient pronunciation might have been fairly close to Ket.[note 1] Many ancient samples of the Later Zhou dynasty had the yDNA haplogroup Q-M242. This haplogroup is very common in Yeniseian people and modern Kets.[18]

Other theories:

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Western Washington University historical linguist Edward Vajda spent a year in Siberia studying the Ket people and their language and his findings helped substantiate such conjecture into the origins of the Ket people, where DNA claims show genetic affinities with people of Tibetan, Burmese, and other origins [1]. He further proposes a relationship of the Ket language to the Na-Dene languages indigenous to Canada and western United States, and even suggests the tonal system of the Ket language is closer to that of Vietnamese than any of the native Siberian languages [2]. His (2004) monograph Ket is the first modern scholarly grammar of the Ket language in English (Lueders 2008).



  1. ^ a b c d Pulleyblank, Edwin George (1963). "The consonantal system of Old Chinese. Part II" (PDF). Asia Major. 9: 206–265. Retrieved 2011-02-06.
  2. ^ Wei, Shou (554). 魏書 [Book of Wei]., Vol. 95.
  3. ^ a b Taskin, V. S. (1990). Цзе [Jie]. Материалы по истории кочевых народов в Китае III-V вв. [Materials on the history of nomadic peoples in China. 3rd–5th cc. AD] (in Russian). 2. Moskow: Nauka. ISBN 5-02-016543-3.
  4. ^ Vovin, Alexander. "Did the Xiongnu speak a Yeniseian language?". Central Asiatic Journal 44/1 (2000), pp. 87–104.
  5. ^ Vovin et al. "Who were the *Kjet" (羯) and what language did they speak?" Journal Asiatique 304.1 (2016): 125-144. p. 126–127
  6. ^ Fang Xuanling, Book of Jin, ibid., Vol. 95, pp. 12b-13a
  7. ^ Shiratori, Kurakichi, Uber die Sprache des Hiung-nu Stammes und der Tung-hu-Stdmme, Tokyo, 1900
  8. ^ Ramstedt G.J., "Zur Frage nach der Stellung des Tschuwassischen" (On the question of the position of the Chuvash), Journal de la Société finno-ougrienne 38, 1922, pp. 1–34
  9. ^ Bazin, Louis (1948). "Un texte proto-turc du IVe siècle: le distique hiong-nou du "Tsin-chou"". Oriens. 1 (2): 208–219. JSTOR 1578997.
  10. ^ von Gabain, Annemarie (1950). "Louis Bazin: Un texte proto-turc du IVe siècle: le distique hiong-nou du "Tsin-chou" (Besprechung)". Der Islam. 29: 244–246.
  11. ^ Shervashidze I.N. "Verb forms in the language of the Turkic runiform inscriptions", Tbilisi, 1986, pp. 3–9
  12. ^ Vovin, Alexander. "Did the Xiongnu speak a Yeniseian language?". Central Asiatic Journal 44/1 (2000), pp. 87-104.
  13. ^ Maenchen-Helfen, Otto J. (1973). The World of the Huns: Studies in Their History and Culture. University of California Press. p. 372. ISBN 0520015967. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
  14. ^ The Buddhist Conquest of China, Erik Zürcher, page 111,
  15. ^ Medieval Chinese Warfare 300-900, David Graff,
  16. ^ J.Needham (1986), "Science and Civilization in China", Taipei, Caves Books, Ltd, Volume 4, Part 2, Part 2, pp. 40 and 287, ISBN 978-0-521-05803-2
  17. ^ Fang Xuanling, Book of Jin, supra, Vol. 106
  18. ^ T. M. Karafet, 'High Levels of Y-Chromosome Differentiation among Native Siberian Populations and the Genetic Signature of a Boreal Hunter-Gatherer Way of Life', Human Biology, December 2002, v. 74, no. 6, pp. 761–789
  19. ^ Fang, Xuanling (1958). 晉書 [Book of Jin] (in Chinese). Beijing: Commercial Press. Vol. 104
  20. ^ Haw 2006, p. 201
  21. ^ The Connection between Later Zhao and the West Archived 2006-04-10 at the Wayback Machine (in Chinese)


External linksEdit