Tägäräk (Tiele)

The history of the Tägäräk (Chinese: 丁零, 鐵勒, 高車 "High Carts"), an ancient Turkic tribal confederation that inhabited the area west of Lake Bayqal. They ruled as a dominant power in the Steppe for centuries before they were absorbed into the Quŋa. Following the collapse of the Quŋa, they reasserted themselves on the Steppe. Even after their dissolution, the individual tribes under their confederation would leave a lasting impact on the Asian continent.

Etymology

The Tägäräk are transcribed variously as:

釘靈 LH *teŋ-leŋ < OC *têŋ-rêŋ - Classic of Mountains and Seas 18
丁靈 LH *teŋ-leŋ < OC *têŋ-rêŋ - Scribe's Records 110
丁零 LH *teŋ-leŋ < OC *têŋ-rêŋ - Scribe's Records 110
赤勒 LH *tśʰak-lək - Book of Jin 97
鐵勒 LH *tʰet-lək - Book of Wei 101
狄歷 LH *dek-lek - Book of Wei 103
勑勒 LH *ṭʰɨk-lək - Book of Wei 103
高車 "High Carts" - Book of Wei 103

Their name was probably, originally, *Täŋäräk, from Turkic *[d]äŋ “round, cyclical.” Via regular sound change: ŋ > g, they became the Tägäräk, a word that may have meant "cart," "wheel," "chariot," and/or "nomad;" hence, the Chinese gloss is 高車 "High Carts." Ultimately, cyclicality is a rather important concept among migrating Steppe people; so, it is not irregular that their earliest self-identifications were based on the concept of it. The term is also found as a semi-early loan in proto-Mongolic as *tögerig "circle or sphere; round, circular, spherical" (Nugteren's (2011) reconstruction).

Cart and Arrow Symbol: Featured in both Altaic petroglyphs and in ancient glyphs, these symbols may have represented the Tägäräk.
Cart and Arrow Symbol: Featured in both Altaic petroglyphs and in ancient glyphs, these symbols may have represented the Tägäräk.

Early History


The Tägäräk are mentioned as early as the 4th-century B.C.E. in the Shan Hai Jing "Classic of Mountains and Seas" :

有釘靈之國,其民從膝已下有毛,馬蹄善走。


"There exists the nation of the Tägäräk, where the people have straight hair that stops below the knee. (Their) horse hooves (allow them to) move gracefully."

Some centuries later, they are conquered, alongside other Turkic tribes such as the Qırgır (鬲昆) and the Sır (薪犁), by the Quŋa emperor Bağatur Darğa. Although they were largely assimilated under the Quŋa, they were able to retain enough of their identity to reemerge upon the Quŋa's collapse.


Notes