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This article is from the Wikipedia Khotan entry.

Khotan or Hotan is an oasis town in the Khotan Prefecture, which is in the Taklamakan desert, part of the southern silk road. Two strong rivers provided the water that made this town inhabitable in the midst of the world's second largest desert. Presently located in the southern Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China, this ancient city has a rich history. It was once famous for its silk, jade and pottery.

Today, however, this dusty Uighur town is off the beaten path. No longer the great trading city of the past, this town is now a large, if out of the way agricultural town. The population in 1999 was 86,019.

The town lies just west of the White Jade River, named for the white jade that was recovered from its alluvial deposits. Most of the jade is now gone, but an occasional piece may still be found. The river still provides water and irrigation for the town though.

Khotan is now famous for the discovery of caucasoid mummies, and are evidence of long term inhabitation of the area by the Tocharians. The desert atmosphere has preserved perishable items such as wood and fabric, attracting archaeologists. The area is rich in archaeological sites that are buried beneath the desert sand.


  • Airport Code - HTN
  • Culture - Uighur
  • Population - 1.4 Million (Town & Region)
  • Religion - Muslim


Early History

The oasis of Khotan is strategically located at the junction of the southern (and most ancient) branch of the famous “Silk Route” joining China and the West with one of the main routes from India and Tibet to Central Asia and China. It provided a convenient meeting place where not only goods, but technologies, philosophies, and religions were transmitted from one culture to another.

Khotan, from the traditional time of its founding during the reign of the great Indian emperor Aśoka Maurya (c. 269 to 231 B.C.) until the Muslim conquest c. 1006 A.D., had a tempestuous history and suffered many invasions. For much of this period it was a key entry point for Indian trade and culture into the Tarim basin and became an important and influential centre of Buddhist learning and culture in its own right.

Khotan was also the source of most of the early (nephrite) jade used in China. For several hundred years, until they were defeated by the Xiongnu in 176 BCE, the trade of Khotanese jade into China was controlled by the nomadic Yuezhi.

The early history and long lost language of the ancient kingdom of Khotan have been gradually pieced together by the diligent efforts of a remarkable assembly of adventurers and scholars from many countries.

We are fortunate in now having a relative abundance of information on Khotan readily available for study. The main historical sources are to be found in the Chinese histories (particularly detailed during the Han and early Tang dynasties), the accounts of several Chinese pilgrim monks, a few Buddhist histories of Khotan that have survived in Tibetan, and a large number of documents in Khotanese and other languages discovered, for the most part, early this century at various sites in the Tarim basin and from the hidden library at the “Caves of the Thousand Buddhas” near Dunhuang.


  • Bailey, H. W. 1958. “Languages of the Saka.” Handbuch der Orientalistik, I. Abt., 4. Bd., I. Absch., Leiden-Köln. 1958.
  • Bailey, H. W. 1985. Indo-Scythian Studies being Khotanese Texts Volume VII. Cambridge University Press. 1985.
  • Baumer, Christoph. 2000. Southern Silk Road: In the Footsteps of Sir Aurel Stein and Sven Hedin. White Orchid Books. Bangkok.
  • Beal, Samuel 1884. Si-Yu-Ki: Buddhist Records of the Western World, by Hiuen Tsiang. 2 vols. Trans. by Samuel Beal. London. 1884. Reprint: Delhi. Oriental Books Reprint Corporation. 1969.
  • Beal, Samuel 1911. The Life of Hiuen-Tsiang. Translated from the Chinese of Shaman Hwui Li by Samuel Beal. London. 1911. Reprint Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi. 1973.
  • Bonavia, Judy 2004. The Silk Road From Xi’an to Kashgar. Judy Bonavia – revised by Chrisoph Baumer. 2004. Odyssey Publications.
  • Emmerick, R. E. 1967. Tibetan Texts Concerning Khotan. London. Oxford University Press. 1967.
  • Hill, John E. 1988. “Notes on the Dating of Khotanese History.” Indo-Iranian Journal 31 (1988), pp. 179-190.
  • Hill, John E. 2003. "Annotated Translation of the Chapter on the Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu." 2nd Draft Edition. [1]
  • Hill, John E. 2004. The Peoples of the West from the Weilue 魏略 by Yu Huan 魚豢: A Third Century Chinese Account Composed between 239 and 265 CE. Draft annotated English translation. [2]
  • Hulsewé, A. F. P. and Loewe, M. A. N. 1979. China in Central Asia: The Early Stage 125 BC – AD 23: an annotated translation of chapters 61 and 96 of the History of the Former Han Dynasty. E. J. Brill, Leiden.
  • Legge, James 1886. A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms: Being an account by the Chinese Monk Fa-Hien of his travels in India and Ceylon (A.D. 399-414) in search of the Buddhist Books of Discipline. Oxford, Clarendon Press. Reprint: New York, Paragon Book Reprint Corp. 1965.
  • Mallory, J. P. and Mair, Victor H. 2000. The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West. Thames & Hudson. London. 2000.
  • Montell, Gösta, Sven Hedin’s Archaeological Collections from Khotan: Terra-cottas from Yotkan and Dandan-Uiliq, The Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities 7 (1936), pp. 145-221.
  • Montell, Gösta, Sven Hedin’s Archaeological Collections from Khotan II (appendix by Helmer Smith (pp. 101-102)), The Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities 10 (1938), pp. 83-113.
  • Puri, B. N. Buddhism in Central Asia, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited, Delhi, 1987. (2000 reprint).
  • Stein, Aurel M. 1907. Ancient Khotan: Detailed report of archaeological explorations in Chinese Turkestan, 2 vols. Clarendon Press. Oxford. [3]
  • Stein, Aurel M. 1921. Serindia: Detailed report of explorations in Central Asia and westernmost China, 5 vols. London & Oxford. Clarendon Press. Reprint: Delhi. Motilal Banarsidass. 1980. [4]
  • Watters, Thomas 1904-1905. On Yuan Chwang’s Travels in India. London. Royal Asiatic Society. Reprint: Delhi. Mushiram Manoharlal. 1973.
  • Yu, Taishan. 2004. A History of the Relationships between the Western and Eastern Han, Wei, Jin, Northern and Southern Dynasties and the Western Regions. Sino-Platonic Papers No. 131 March, 2004. Dept. of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Pennsylvania.

Additional links


  • Silk Road Seattle (The Silk Road Seattle website contains many useful resources including a number of full-text historical works)
  • [5] (A site devoted to the Buddhism of Khotan with a copy of Sir Aurel Stein's map of the Tarim Basin and Khotan region)es:Khotan

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