Yedivar (Hephthalites)

The history of the Yedivar (Chinese: 嚈噠, 乙咥, 厭帶夷栗陀; Bactrian: ηβοδαλο), a Turkic tribe that originally inhabited the southern side of the Altay Mountains prior to the 5th century C.E. From the 5th to 8th century C.E., they inhabited Central Asia, ruling for a time as its Yabğus.


The Yedivar, or Hephthalites, were one of the many Turkic tribes that took up the tribal name of Avar, a powerful Mongolic tribe in Inner-Asia. They were simultaneously, perhaps originally, known as the "White Huns." The name Hephthalite comes from Middle Persian *haft āl "the seven Al," with *āl being a corruption of ār < avar. It is ultimately a translation of Turkic Yedivar < Yedi Avar "seven Avars." Some of the Chinese transcriptions of their name appear to preserve the original Turkic:

― 乙咥 LH *ʔi-det MC *ʔjet-diet - The Book of Sui 84​

​― 嚈噠 LH *ʔen-tʰɑp MC *ʔien-tʰâp - The Book of Zhou 50

― 囐噠 LH *dzət-tʰɑp MC *dzət-tʰâp - The Book of Zhou 50

― 厭帶夷栗陀 LH *ʔiam-tɑs-ji-lit-dɑi MC *ʔjiäm-tâi-ji-ljet-dâ - The History of the South 79

Early History

The Book of Wei records that the Yedivar were a division of the Tägäräk, residing beyond the wall, south of the Altay Mountains (金山) and to the west of Qotan (于闐). The Book of Sui also lists them as a division of the Tägäräk, recording them west of Yi-wu (伊吾) and north of Arşi (焉耆), on the side of Aqtağ Mountain (白山), near the Avars (烏讙) and Savars (蘇婆).

Like most of the Turkic tribes under the Tägäräk, the Book of Wei records that their customs were similar to those of the Kök Türük (突厥). Like the Quŋa and Kök Türük, they were described as migrating in search of water and grass, furnishing their dwellings with felt, moving to cooler lands during the summer, and moving in search of warmer lands during the winter. Their early marital customs decreed that each wife would be given land, two to three hundred Li apart from one another, to govern in the name of their husband and king. Their king was said to visit these territories once a month; however, he would not do so during the third month of winter.

Keeping to early Hunnic tradition, the position of king was not necessarily passed on to the child. Rather, both the child and the younger brother were eligible to rule upon the death of the king. Oddly, they were said to have no carts or carriages, but many camels and horses. Also in accordance with early Hunnic tradition, they practiced a legal system that dealt heavy, often brutal, punishments. Regardless of how much of something was stolen, the punishment was always decapitation at the waist. Moreover, it was said that stealing one put you in debt for ten.

As for their funerary customs, the rich were buried in a pile of stones, while the poor were required to dig and bury their dead. Their dead carried many things with them, that were all placed in their tomb. It is recorded that their people were fierce and brave, being capable warriors in an army.