His name literally means "wise chieftain". In 716, he assumed the leadership together with his brother Kul Tigin after a coup against the previous ruler, his cousin Inal Khan who was a weak leader. Bilge Khan and Kul Tigin took their place in history as the wisest and most heroic figures among Gokturk statesmen. They asserted that the state could not be ruled only by fighting and bravery and the Khanate should also require wisdom.
Bilge's empire spanned vast steppes from the Caspian Sea to Manchuria; he also invaded the western sections of the Chinese territories. After his death from poisoning, several stelae were erected in the capital area by the Orkhon River. These Orkhon inscriptions are the first known texts in the Old Turkic language.