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Wugu 烏古

Feb 9, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

The Wugu 烏古 were a people roaming the eastern region of modern Mongolia during the Liao 遼 (907-1125) and Jin 金 (1115-1234) periods. Chinese sources also used the transcriptions Wuguli 烏古里 or 烏骨里, Wuhuli 烏虎里, Yujue 于厥 or 羽厥, Yujueli 于厥里 or 尉厥里, Yuxieli 于諧里, Yuguli 于骨里, and Yujuelü 嫗厥律. The eastern neighbours of the Wugu were the Shiwei 室韋, the western neighbours the Dilie 敵烈, and in the southeast lived the Khitans 契丹, the founders of the Liao empire. The northern tribes of the Wugu were called Sanhe Wugu 三河烏古 "of the Three Rivers".

In 919 Emperor Taizu 遼太祖 (r. 907-927) of the Liao undertook a looting campaign against the Wugu and enslaved 120,000 people and plundered their cattle and living equipment. The remaining Wugu tribes regularly delivered tributes to the Liao court and became a vassal people of the Khitans. From 939 on various people were ordered to settle down on the fertile plains where the Wugu used to pasture their herds. Yet the Wugu continuously rebelled against their exploitation by the Khitans. Emperor Shengzong 遼聖宗 (r. 982-1030) therefore assembled the captured Wugu people as the so-called Wotuwan Wugu 斡突盌烏古 to have a better control over them.

In 994 his Empress and her relative Xiao Dalin 蕭達凜 were entrusted with the administrative control of the northwestern tribes, including the Wugu. In 1004 the Imperial Consort submitted a memorial in which she suggested the creation of defense commands in that region, particularly Zhenzhou 鎮州, Fangzhou 防州 and Weizhou 維州 (all near modern Hadasang 哈達桑, Inner Mongolia). From these garrisons the control of the Wugu and the Dada 韃靼 (Zubu 阻卜) would be somewhat easier. In 1068 the Wugu and Dilie became subject to an rmy command (dutong junsi 都統軍司) with the seat at Hedong 河董城 (near modern Bulgan, Mongolia).

Around 1090 the Zubu under Mogusi 磨古斯 rebelled against the Khitan, and their control over the steppe region became ever more difficult to exert. They therefore resettled the Wugu and Dilie to the region of River Uhe where they were out of the influence of the rebellious tribes of the steppe. When the Jurchens, founders of the Jin empire, took over the north of China, part of the Khitans migrated to the west, where they founded the Western Liao empire 西遼 (1124-1218). Some Wugu people accompanied the Khitans in their flight to the west. The maining tribes of the Wugu were settled down in Pangge 龐葛城 (modern Qiqihar 齊齊哈爾, Heilongjiang) and were force to become peasants instead of cattle breeders. They merged with the surrounding population during the 13th century.

Sources:
Gao Wende 高文德, ed. (1995). Zhongguo shaoshu minzu shi da cidian 中國少數民族史大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin jiaoyu chubanshe), 332
Zhang Zhengming 張正明 (1992). "Wugu 烏古", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu), Vol. 3, 1227-1228.