Opinions on the Turks' Turkic Translation Activities in the Period of Taspar Qagan

  • YILDIRIM, KURSAT (History Department, the Faculty of Letters at Istanbul University)
  • Published : 2018.12.15


There is a variety of opinions about the first translation activities within the Turkic Empire. It is widely believed that some Buddhist sutras were translated into the Turkic language in the period of Taspar Qagan (572-581). This theory is based on certain arguments: Some Turks practiced Buddhism, Buddhist monks translated sutras in the center of the Turkic Empire, Taspar brought sutras from China and had them translated, and the monarch of Northern Qi had a sutra translated and sent to Taspar. However, in my opinion, these arguments lack credibility. This article, which is based on primary Chinese sources, will question the likelihood of such translation activities having occurred. Some Chinese records for these claims exist: Da Tang Nei Dian Lu (大唐內典錄) and Xu Gao Seng Chuan (續高僧傳) by the Buddhist monk Jinagupta and the records of Hui Lin in Sui Shu (隋書) and Wen Xian Tong Kao (文獻通考). These are known as "primary sources." Secondary sources, namely contemporary history and language studies, such as those in books and articles, must be based on primary sources. It can be seen that claims relating to the first Turkic translation activities at the time of Taspar are mainly derived from secondary sources, and that the arguments in these secondary sources vary. Sometimes researchers make suppositions on the existence of information that is not referred to in primary sources. However, this is not normal practice. If a researcher relies on unknowns for the evidence of information existing, it can cause false information, ideas and anachronisms to be created. It is important that primary sources, such as the Chinese sources mentioned above, be translated correctly in language and history studies. If only a word is mistranslated, very different results may occur. Mistranslating or misinterpreting a primary source allows conclusions to be reached that are not supported by dissemination of information from primary sources. This can mislead experts and result in information that is not correct being considered as being true. As well as helping to prevent such misinterpretations occurring, another aim of this paper is to question the interpretations of the first Turkic translations in contemporary studies on history and language. The origin of such assessments will be explored and the validity of that information will be examined.


Supported by : Istanbul University


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