Tardu or Tardush Yabghu was the second yabgu of the Western Turkic Khaganate (c. 575–603), and ninth Khagan of the First Turkic Khaganate (599–603). He was the son of Istämi.[1]

Tardu Khagan
Yabgu of the First Turkic Khaganate
Qaghan of the First Turkic Khaganate
PredecessorTulan Qaghan
SuccessorYami Qaghan (in East)
Niri Qaghan (in West)
IssueKülüg Sibir


The regnal name in Turkic was Tarduš (Old Turkic: 𐱃𐰺𐰑𐰆𐱁),[2] Medieval Greek: Ταρδου, 達頭可汗/达头可汗, Pinyin: dátóu kěhàn, Wade-Giles: ta-t'ou k'o-han, personal name: 阿史那玷厥, āshǐnà diànjué, a-shih-na tien-chüeh). According to Lev Gumilev his personal name was Kara-Churin-Turk (Кара Чурин Тюрк).[3][4] However, when he subjugated the eastern half after the death of Tulan Qaghan, he assumed the regnal name Bilge (Wise) Khagan.


The Turkic Khaganate was a vast khaganate (empire); from Manchuria and the Great Wall of China to the Black sea.[5] It was impossible to govern the whole khaganate from a certain capital. So while the eastern part was directly ruled by the khagan (emperor), the western part was governed by the yabgu (vassal) on behalf of the khagan. The capital of the west was Ordukent (Suyab) (present-day Kyrgyzstan). Istemi, who was the khagan's brother, was the first and Tardu (İstemi's son) was the second yabgu.

Years of civil warEdit

Tardu became the yabgu in c. 575. That year, he met the Byzantine ambassador Valentinius. Being a very ambitious yabgu, he was planning to seize power in the entire khaganate. He saw his chance in 581 when khagan Taspar died. Taspar had announced his preference for Talopien (son of Mukan Khagan) instead of his son Anluo. But Göktürk kurultai (council of tribal leaders), which was authorized to appoint the new khagan, refused to follow the former khagan's will and appointed the former khagan's son, who in turn acknowledged Ishbara Qaghan as the new khagan.[4] This gave Tardu the necessary cause to interfere. He sent an army to back Talopien. Ishbara applied to Sui China for protection and both sides were played off each other by China.

Later yearsEdit

While the east part of the khaganate suffered from civil war, Tardu was waiting for a suitable moment to realize his plans. After the Battle of Blarathon in 591 in Sassanid Persia, Bahram Chobin who was a short-term Sasanid emperor, sought asylum in Western Turks.[6]

In 599 Tardu declared himself to be khagan of the united khaganate (east and west)[7] But his new status was not recognised widely. Probably to persuade the kurultai, he began a campaign against China. But unlike the Turks of the eastern part, his target of the campaign was too far away and his army suffered intensely from the poisoned water wells during the long expedition through the steppe. Finally, he had to retreat without serious combat, but this defeat was disastrous for him. After a rebellion of his subjects, he disappeared (was likely killed) in 603 or 604.

He was succeeded in the west by Niri Qaghan, a son of Talopien.


He was father to Tulu (都六) and Külüg Sibir. Sheguy and Tong Yabghu were his grandsons through Tulu.


  1. ^ D. Sinor; S. G. Klyashtorny. The Türk Empire. p. 333.
  2. ^ Kultegin’s Memorial Complex, TÜRIK BITIG
  3. ^ Bobodzhan Gafurovich Gafurov, Central Asia: Pre-historic to Pre-modern Times, Volume 1, Shipra Publications, 2005, ISBN 978-81-7541-244-6, p. 328.
  4. ^ a b Lev Nikolayrviç Gumilev: Eski Türkler (trans. D.Ahsen Batur) Selenge yayınları, İstanbul, 2002 ISBN 975-7856-39-8 p. 140, 550
  5. ^ Jean Paul Roux: Türklerin Tarihi (Historie des Turcs), tr:Prof Dr Aykut Kazancıgil, Lale Arslan Özcan, Kabalcı yayınevi, İstanbul, 2007, p 101.
  6. ^ A page about Hormozd IV
  7. ^ Melek Tekin: Türk tarihi, p. 87, Milliyet yayınları, 1991
Preceded by Yabgu of the Western Turkic Khaganate
Succeeded by
Niri Qaghan (as khagan)
Preceded by Khagan of Turkic Khaganate
Succeeded by