Gongliu County

Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture

Yīlí hāsàkè Zìzhìzhōu
Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture
ىله قازاق اۆتونومىيالى وبلىسى
ئىلى قازاق ئاپتونوم ئوبلاست

Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture (Chinese: 伊犁哈萨克自治州, Pinyin: Yīlí Hāsàkè zìzhìzhōu, Kazakh: ىله قازاق اۆتونومىيالى وبلىسى, Іле Қазақ автономиялы облысы, İle Qazaq avtonomïyalı oblısı, Uyghur: ئىلى قازاق ئاپتونوم ۋىلايىتى, Ili Qazaq aptonom wilayiti, Ili Ķazaķ aptonom vilayiti), in northernmost Xinjiang, is the only Kazakh autonomous prefecture of the People's Republic of China.

Geography and coordinates

The Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture is west of Mongolia, south of Russia and east of Kazakhstan. Its foreign boundary is 2,000 km. Its 8 functioning ports of entry are:

  • Khorghas (霍尔果斯): under Ili; a primary Chinese "national" border crossing point or port of entry (国家一类口岸)
  • Dulat (都拉塔): under Ili
  • Muzart (木扎尔特): directly controlled by Ili; another primary point or port
  • Bakhtu (巴克图), 17 km from Tacheng; another primary point or port
  • Taskhin (塔克什肯) of Altay
  • Khiziltaw (红山嘴) of Altay
  • Aqimbek (阿黑木别克) of Altay
  • Jeminay (吉木乃) of Altay;another primary point or port (国家一类口岸)

The upper course of the Ili River and that of Irtysh (Ertix) flow throw the prefecture.


Ili's primary subdivisions include Tacheng (Qoqek, 塔城地区) and Altay (阿勒泰地区) Prefectures, both to the Northeast of the capital. Ili also directly controls 2 county-level cities, 7 counties, and 1 autonomous county. (see Political divisions of China#Levels).
Some official placenames below are not in Chinese.

Official name Hanzi Area Population Uyghur name Map link
Tacheng (Tarbagatay) Prefecture 塔城地区 98824 910,000 Tarbaƣatay Tacheng City only
Altay Prefecture 阿勒泰地区 118015 590,000 Altay Altay City only
Yining (Gulja) City 伊宁市 575 340,000 Ƣulja
Kuytun City 奎屯市 1036 270,000 Kuytun
Yining County 伊宁县 4684 390,000 Jililyüzi
Huocheng County 霍城县 5428 340,000 Ƣorƣas
Tokkuztara County 巩留县 4323 150,000 Toķķuztara
Künes County 新源县 6818 280,000 Künəs
Zhaosu County 昭苏县 11111 150,000 Mongƣulkürə
Tekes County 特克斯县 7772 150,000 Tekəs
Nilka County 尼勒克县 10145 150,000 Nilķa
Qapqal Xibe Autonomous County 察布查尔
4469 160,000 Qapqal

Geographically, Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture can be divided into two parts. Altay Prefecture and Tarbagatay Prefectures, together with the city of Kuitun, occupy most of the Dzungarian Basin in northern Xinjiang, north of the Borohoro Range. The rest of the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture is located entirely within the Ili River Basin, between Borohoro and the main range of Tian Shan. This latter region is exactly coterminous with the historical area that in the past was often called by Russians and Westerners as Kulja or Kuldja (see, e.g. 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica article on Kulja) or Ili.



Before the Qin Dynasty, Ili was occupied by the Ussuns, a tributary of the Hun. The Ussuns were driven away in the 6th century A.D. by the northern Xiongnu, who established Western Turk Khanate in 552. Later the Kulja territory became a dependency of Dzungaria. During the Tang Dynasty, the khanate was Anxi Daduhufu (安西大都护府) of the Tang Empire.

The Uyghurs, and in the 12th century the Kara-Khitai, took possession of it in turn. Genghis Khan conquered Kulja in the 13th century, and the Mongol Khans resided in the valley of the Ili. It is supposed that the Oirats conquered it at the end of the 16th or the beginning of the 17th century.

Qing Dynasty

The Oirats, or more precisely Dzungars, controlled both Dzungaria and the Ili Basin it until 1755 as Jagatai Khanate, when Qianlong's Manchus annexed it. Having defeated Dzungars in the Dzunagrian and Ili Basins, as well as the Ishāqī khojas in Kashgaria, the Manchu Qing Empire decided to make the Ili basin the main base of their control in Xinjiang.

In the 1760s, the Qing built nine fortified towns (九城) in the Ili Basin:

Original Chinese name Hanzi Turkic (Uyghur) name Modern name of the location Notes
Huiyuan Cheng 惠远城 Kürä Shahr Huiyuan town (惠远镇) Was the residence of the Ili Governor General until 1866, and also known as New Kulja, Manchu Kulja, or Ili at the time.
Ningyuan Cheng 宁远城 Kulja (Ghulja) Yining City(伊宁) Also was known as Old Kulja or Taranchi Kulja
Huining Cheng 惠宁城 Bayandai Bayandai township (巴彦岱镇) within Yining City, some 10 to 18 km to the west of the Yining center city
Taleqi Cheng 塔勒奇城 Tarchi Within Huocheng County(霍城县)
Zhande Cheng 瞻德城 Chaghan Usu Qingshuihe town (清水河镇) in Huocheng County, some 60-70 km NW of Yining
Guangren Cheng 广仁城 Ukurborosuk Lucaogou town (芦草沟镇) in Huocheng County, NE of Qingshuihe
Gongchen Cheng 拱宸城 Khorgos In Huocheng County; was county seat of Huocheng County until 1966
Xichun Cheng 熙春城 Khara Bulaq Area commonly referred to as Chengpanzi (城盘子) in the Hanbin village (汉宾乡) within Yining City, a few km west of the city center
Suiding Cheng 绥定城 Ukharliq County seat of Huocheng County since 1966, some 40 km NW of Yining. Renamed Shuiding town (水定镇) in 1965 Governor's residence 1883-1912, when it became known as New/Manchu/Chinese Kulja

Huiyuan Cheng, as the seat of the Ili Governor General, who was the chief commander of the Qing troops in entire Xinjiang, became the administrative capital of the region. It was provided with a large penal establishment and strong garrison. This city was called New Kulja, Manhcu Kulja, Chinese Kulja, or Ili by the Russians and Westerners, to distinguish it from Nigyuan/Yining, known as Old Kulja or Taranchi Kulja.

The first Ili Governor General was Ming Rui (明瑞). The Qing tradition, not broken until the days of Zuo Zongtang in the 1870s, was to only appoint Manchus as officials in Xinjiang.

During the insurrection of 1864 the Dungans and the Taranchis formed here the Taranchi Sultanate. Huiyuan (Manchu Kulja) was the last Qing fortress in the Ili Valley to fall to the rebels. The insurgent Dungans massacred most of Manchu Kulja's inhabitants; Governor General Mingsioi (Ming Xü) (明绪) assembled his family and staff in his mansion, and blew it up, dying under its ruins.

The sultanate led to the occupation of the Ili basin (Kulja, in contemporary Western terms) by the Russians in 1871. Ten years later the territory was restored to China, and its boundary with Russia was assigned in accordance to the Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1881).

After Chinese authority was restored, the "Manchu Kuldja" was rebuilt, now as the city of Suiding (today's' Shuiding), some 8 km north of the old Huiyuan site.

On January 7, 1912, Yang Cuanxu (杨缵绪) of Ili occupied Huiyuan (惠远城) and shot the last Qing Governor General of Ili, Zhi Rui (志锐).

Republic of China

In July 1945, Chingil, Bole and Quanxi (精河、博乐、温泉) of Ili were made into a new autonomous prefecture now not part of Ili: Bortala.

People's Republic

In 1949, Ili was made a special area (专区) of Xinjiang, with one city and 9 counties, and was upgraded to a city in 1952. On November 27, 1954, the Ili Autonomous Prefecture was established to include the prefectures of Ili, Altay, and Tacheng. The Ili Prefecture was abolished in 1955. Its 1 city and 9 counties are now under the direct control of the autonomous prefecture.


See also: Xabib Yunic


  • Henry Lansdell, "Russian Central Asia: Including Kuldja, Bokhara, Khiva and Merv". Full text available at Google Books; there is also a 2001 facsimile reprint of the 1885 edition, ISBN 1402177623. (Chapters XIV-XVI describe Lansdell visit to the area in the early 1880s, soon after the Russian withdrawal).

External links

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