The Aurignacian Blacks were a nomadic hunter population. This group occupied vast territories on the Eurasian grassland. They covered areas extending beyond the Ural mountains to Lake Baikal. By 6,000 BC the Aurignacian hunters had sufficiently differentiated into distinguishable white, yellow and black-skinned nomadic groups. This genesis of the ethnic categories on the Asian steppes is by no means a novel occurence. Various studies have demonstrated all racial groups developed from an aboriginal Black layer. Anne and Bernard Spitzer of the American Museum of Natural History writes:
- Modern humans living in northern Europe some 15,000 years ago almost certainly had fair skin, ...but they undoubtedly were descendants of Homo Sapiens with dark skin.
By the fifth century AD the Eurasian nomads had formed themselves into well organized horse-riding confederations. They had became the famed "Mongol hordes" of the steppes. The steppe regions offered a harsh level of existence for these peoples however. The grassland had little rainfall, making agricultural endeavers nearly impossible. The nomads were constantly on the move seeking greener pastures because the regions also offered few areas for grazing livestock. Hence, the reason many sustained themselves by hunting. The life of a steppe nomad was that of few material possessions, allowing for ease of movement and travel. Their lives were similar to the American cowboys of the Old West. A nomad had to be fearless, tough and capable of holding his own.
There was a marked demarcation between the steppe nomads and those occupying the settled agricultural communities though out Europe and Asia. This was a situation of the "haves and have nots". The riches contained in China, Rome and other well established settlements offered an enticing invitation for plunder and booty to the nomadic hordes. Hence, the reason the steppe horsemen were viewed as a constant threat and menance to the city dwellers.
The Mongolian horsemen entertained a much greater reliance on the hunt for their survival then those occupying the agricultural communities. This greater reliance triggered stronger social bonds between members of a nomadic group. It was absolutely crucial for the hunters to coordinate their attack with precision inorder to capture the prey which attempted to evade them during the hunt. This tightknit teamwork contributed to these people becoming formidable warriors on the battlefield. They became well organized strategic fighters capable of defeating armies twice their size. For example, when faced against the Persian forces in 1221 the Persian military proved to be no match against Mongols. The number of Persian casualties attest to the Mongols' iron-clad discipline and precise teamwork during these confrontations: in Nishipur, Persia 1.7 million Persian soldiers were killed, in Merv 1.3 million, in Rayy 1.6 million and in Merv Chahjan they suffered 1.3 million loses.
Mongolian calvary. These horsemen are known for traveling 90 miles a day on horseback.
The history of white and yellow skinned Mongolian horsemen has been the subject of much detailed studies by both western and Sino academia. However, these works do not provide the complete story behind the Mongols. The Asian steppes were also occupied by black Mongolian horsemen. And the history behind these black horsemen has been largely ignored by contemporary scholarship. James E. Brunson, in his reference to the black horsemen, stated:
- By A.D. 425, horse-riding marauders traveling as far as 90 miles a day descended from the Eurasian grasslands bringing with them a challenge for both Roman and Chinese empires. While this may take some readers by surprise or shock, the historicity of ferocious black nomadic warriors is an established fact; and the facts demonstrate that among the white and yellow-skinned horsemen were well-organized confederations of Blacks thundering out of the north Asian steppes.
One such group were the Black Bulgars. This nation occupied the area just north of the Black Sea around 660 AD. Another group, the Black Ugarians, occupied the Central Asian Ural steppe region from 457-600 AD.
Artist reproduction of a 14 century AD silk handscroll originally produced in ink and gold by Jen Po-wen.
This piece depicts black horsemen paying tribute to Kublai Khan.
Kara or Qara "black" was an integral part of the Mongol world. This term was used extensively by the Mongol nations. The Encyclopedia of Islam defined Kara as:
- The Turkish word for 'black' or 'dark colour' in general. In personal names, kara may refer to the black or dark brown colour of hair or to a dark comlexion. It has, however, at the same time the meaning 'strong, powerful'...
The Mongols, being a war-like people, apparently extolled Kara and perhaps other concepts denoting power and strength.
Kara was also prominently featured in the Karakhanid Dynasty. A black Turko-Islamic dynasty which ruled in Central Asia from 840 to 1212 AD. The name "Karakhanid" means The Black Khans or The Black Kings. The Dictionary of the Middle Ages defines the Karakhanids as:
- ...the ruling dynasty of a Turko-Islamic state in eastern and westen Turkestan. The term 'Qarakhanid' (from the Turkic qara 'black' symbolically 'the North' or 'great', and khan), which figures as the highest title in the state,...
Kara was an esteemed term. Hence, the reason the Karakhanid rulers had such names as Arslan Kara Khan "the Black Lion King" and Boghra Kara Khan "the Black Camel King". I found it an interesting coincidence that the black Islamic leaders of this dynasty had names sounding quite similar to Louis Farakhan. The modern black leader of the Nation of Islam.
The Karakhanids were eventually conquered by another black Mongolian group called Kara Khitai (the Black Khitans). The fact that both these groups were Black has been for many years either denied, ignored or down played by European writers. (One western writer had the racial arrogance to refer to Kara Khitai as "Negri Khitai"!) The Khitans initially occupied Manchuria. After solidifying their strength they began directing their ambitions towards China. The Khitans eventually conquered China and established the Liao Dynasty in the country. This dynasty lasted from 907 to 1125 AD. This information may take some readers by surprise yet these events are substantiated by the facts. The name Khitai (Khitans) literally means Black Iron. Hence, the reason the dynasty was often referred to as "the Iron Dynasty". During Khitan reign in China the Koreans were forced to make several concessions to them. The eunuchs in their courts were entirely Chinese. They also subjugated the Jurchens, another nomadic group. A Khitan court official is quoted for saying: "We have made the world tremble with our might".
Black noble man in 14th century China.
After much secret planning the Jurchens eventually rebelled against Khitan oppression and upsurped Liao power. This turn of events did not signal the end of Khitan power in Asia however. When the last Khitan emperor was dethroned in 1124 AD, Yeh-lu Ta-shih, a member of the imperial clan, managed to escape the onslaught and accompanied by about two thousand followers fled to Central Asia.
This move was a major event in Khitan history. It marked the end of their "Chinese" empire and laid the foundations for another. Upon arriving in their new territory in Central Asia, Yeh-lu Ta-shih gathered the remnants of his people and uttered:
- "Our great Liao dynasty rose under difficult circumstances, and it was due to the merits and great works of our ancestors. But their successors were addicted to pleasure and corruption and neglected the government of their people. As a result riots broke out and our empire was destroyed. Now I wish to lead you back to the desert and re-establish our ancient splendour."
Upon delivering that address Yeh-lu Ta-shih then went about establishing the new Kara Khitai state.
Concerning this pivotal event, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of China stated:
- A remnant of the Khitan aristocracy and army fled westward and successfully established a state in Central Asia (Qara or Black Khitai).
The Encyclopaedia Sinica states:
- When their power was broken after two centuries of rule, they went west to Kashgaria, and there founded the new dynasty called Western Liao or Kara K'itai (Karakhitai) (q.v.) black K'itans.
Denis Sinor in Inner Asia, A syllabus writes:
- ... Yeh-lu Ta-shih's people called itself Karakhitai, i.e. the Black Khitans.
It should be noted, the Chinese were aware that the Khitans were black men. The San-ts'ai T'u-hui is a Chinese painting which dates back to the Ming dynasty. Preserved in this painting is a depiction of a black skinned Khitan horsemen. This painting is usually omitted from contemporary studies on the Khitans' racial identity.
The Khitans left many significant influences in Asia. Many have survived to this very day. For example, the early Europeans pronounced Khitai as Cathay. Due to the Khitans' rule of China there was a period when Cathay became the European term for all of China. Harold Lamb in March of the Barbarians states:
- They were the Khitans, Cathayans. And their conquest became Ta Khitai or Great Cathay...A remnant of the Cathayans fled headlong into mid-Asia to set up an empire among the mountains - Kara Khitai, Black Cathay.
Today the term Cathay is very much featured in the commercial industry in Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China. For example, the largest grossing airline company in Hong Kong today is Cathay Pacific Airline. The term Cathay is also extensively used in the Chinese restaurant and hotel industries. (However, I seriously doubt the management of these establishments are aware of the term's origins).
Map displaying the locations of the Khitans' Liao and Kara Khitai nations.
While in exile in Central Asia, the Khitans uprooted and assimilated the Karakhanids. Its more then mere coincidence that both these peoples made use of the term Kara in the naming of their state. When we turn our attention to the early usages of Kara studies appear to link it to a somewhat legendary figure. Karl A. Wittfogel in History of Chinese Society Liao writes:
- In some contexts, 'qara' has also acquired an honorific connotation. Marvazi, who completed his work in 1120, believes that it was first used in this way by a somewhat legendary Ethiopian slave; 'He assumed the title of QARA-KHAN, which no one had held before him, for it means 'Black Khaqan'. His dignity was great, so whenever the Turks after him wished to honor a king they would address him as 'Qara-khan'.
In present day Siberia many indigenous groups view the mythical Kara Khan figure as the first being in the universe. However, there is evidence that Kara Khan was more than a mere myth. As all myths are usually rooted in facts. There exist French tales about the heroic deeds and exploits of a historical Kara Khan figure. In all likeliwood the Karakhanids and the Kara Khitans assumed the title Kara as a means of honoring and imitating the greatness of a black ancestral figure.
In both Chinese and steppe cultures the north was regarded as the home of a great black warrior. Kwan Lau in Feng Shui Today stated: "North, this is the home of the Dark Warrior, Zhen Wu, who wears a dark purple robe and has long flowing, jet-black hair..." African centered art historian James E. Brunson has argued against the assertions that this figure was purely mythological:
- ... Chinese tradition regulated the northern quarter of the globe to the color black, calling it the realm of the 'Black Warrior'. Western and eastern scholars have postulated that this was merely symbolic, a theory that cannot be accepted. It is my opinion that the reference applies to a remote tradition of Blacks occupying northeastern Asia so much so that the color was used to indicate superior descent among the people of that region.
1280 AD handscroll painting of a Karait nobleman (Yuan dynasty)
The facts confirms Brunson's position. Residing off the southern tip of Siberia's Lake Baikal were a group of black Mongols. This group occupied an area directly north of China. They called themselves Karaits. Karaits literally means "black Mongols". The Karaits appears to have been a special lot. They were the premier Mongolian group in Asia. They held a social status above all other horsemen. The Karaits were the power brokers of the Mongol world. Genkhis Khan, himself, was required to submit to them during his early years. However, after consolidating enough power for himself, Genkhis Khan later turned against the Karaits.
Due to the Karaits' superior status, there were many making false claims of being a Karait. For example, inspite of their obvious yellow complexion, Genkhis Khan, along with his generals and ministers, would refer to themselves as "black Mongols".
I have given a general overview of the black Mongolian horsemen. Much has been omitted from this article. The history of the black nomads is indeed a vast topic which could easily fill volumes. For a more detailed analysis of this history please consult my ebook They Came Before Marco Polo.