Military Wiki
Died 1757 (aged 33–34)
Nationality Khoit-Oirat
Occupation Khan
Known for Alliance with and revolt against Qing China

Amursana (Chinese: 阿睦尔撒纳; pinyin: Ā'mù'ěrsānà; Mongolian ᠠᠮᠤᠷᠰᠠᠨᠠᠭ᠎ᠠ; Russian: Амyрсана; 1723 – 21 September 1757) was a 17th-century taishi (太师; 太師) or prince of the Khoit-Oirat tribe who occupied parts of Dzungaria and Altishahr until their extermination by the Chinese Qing dynasty in the late 1750s.


He was a son of Boitalak (博託洛克), daughter of Tsewang Rabtan who had who married Danjung (丹衷), the eldest son of Lha-bzang Khan. After Danjung died in c. 1717, allegedly at the hands of his father in law, Boitalak married a taisha of the Khoit clan and later gave birth to Amursana.[1]

Alliance and split with Dawachi

The Khoits ranked lower amongst the Oirats — their taishi answered to the Dorbet Oirats — and by the time Amursana became khan, the power of the Dzungars was on the wane. After Galdan Tseren died in 1745 a fierce internecine struggle followed within the Dzungar hierarchy following the succession of Tsewang Dorji Namjal – a heavy drinker with a penchant for killing dogs.[2] Dorji Namjal was subsequently blinded and imprisoned in Aksu by his elder brother Lama Dorji (喇嘛達爾札; d. 1752), who then usurped the khanship.[1] Although a Khoit, Lama Dorji's only opposition came from the Dzungar Khan, Dawachi, who was the grandson of Khong Tayiji Tsewang Rabtan's cousin Tsering Dhondup (大策凌敦多布). Lama Dorji subsequently defeated Dawachi in 1751 and was forced to flee across the border into Kazakh Khanate territory with about a dozen men.[1] Amursana was one of Dawachi's few followers who returned to Tarbagatai to join up with his Khoit clansmen. With a thousand of his men, he then marched to Ili where according to Hummel they surprised Lama Dorji and killed him on 13 January 1752. However, Perdue claims that Lama Dorji was killed by his own troops in December 1752.[2] Whichever account is correct, Dawachi thereafter became taisha of the Dzungars and richly rewarded Amursana for his efforts.[1] As a lowly Khoit, Amursana did not rank as part of the Dzungar Khanate's hierarchy and relied on Dawachi for influence among the various Oirat clans. Nevertheless, marriage to the daughter of Ablai Khan, leader of the neighbouring Kazakh Khanate and negotiations enabled him to build up support to the point where could suggest to Dawachi that they divide the Khanate's lands between them. Dawachi instead attacked his former ally, forcing him to flee east to Khovd.[2] Here, Amursana swore allegiance to the Qing Qianlong Emperor, bringing with him 5,000 soldiers and 20,000 women and children.[1] He then demanded permission to travel to Beijing and seek the emperor's assistance in defeating Dawachi and retaking Ili and neighbouring Kashgar. Amursana's persuasive manner and Qianlongs's ambition and love for military renown meant that in the end he agreed,[3] throwing in a princedom of the first degree (雙親王; 双亲王), which entitled Amursana to double stipends and privileges, as a bonus.[1]

Meanwhile, most of the Oirat Khoshut had also gone over to the Qing side by this point leaving Dawachi—reportedly a "drunken and incompetent" ruler—with only the Dzungars under his control.[1]

Capture of Ili

Qing troops enter Ili

Late in 1754, in an attempt to definitively settle the 60-year-old Dzungaria problem, Qianlong gave orders for a final advance on Ili. Amursana was made Border Pacification Vice-general of the Left (zh) of the Northern Route Army. General Ban Di (zh) took command of the army, which set out from Uliasutai in March 1755 and linked up with the Western Route Army under Yong Chang (zh) and Salar (薩喇勒) three months later.[1] Each man in the 25,000 strong armies carried two day's rations with their ultimate destination Bortala,[2] which they reached in June 1755.[2]

Ili was taken without a fight and Dawachi withdrew south west to the Gedeng Mountains (now within Zhaosu County, Xinjiang)[4] where he made a last stand with his 10,000 men. His army was routed and he was captured and sent to the capital. Amursana now saw the opportunity to usurp Dawachi's position at the head of the Dzungars but Qianlong had already pre-empted such a move. The emperor knew that Amursana had long had his sights set on Dzungaria but "had not dared to do anything rash."[A][5] As a result, before the expedition to Ili had set out and fearing the rise of a new Mongolian empire, Qialong had proclaimed that the four Oirat clans of Dzungaria would be resettled in their own territory each with their own Khan appointed directly by Beijing. Amursana spurned the offer of khanship over the Khoits and told Ban Di to inform the Emperor that he wanted control of all the Oirats. Amursana received orders to return to Beijing but sensing that if he left Ili he might never be able to return, he escaped from his escort en route to the Qing imperial resort of Chengde on 24 September 1755.[1]

Revolt against the Qing

Qing general Zhao Hui attacks Amursana's forces in a night battle in present day Wusu, Xinjiang

Amursana now rallied the majority of the remaining Oirats and began his pre-meditated rebellion. The Chinese armies had by now withdrawn leaving behind only a skeleton force. Ban Di, helpless and unable to do anything, committed suicide on 4 October 1755.[1] For the following eight months, Amursana was sole leader of the Oirats and the de facto Dzungar Khan.

Meanwhile, as he had promised, Qianlong appointed Khans for each of the four Oirat clans in a move designed to prevent them joining the rebellion. Qing troops were once more dispatched in late March, 1756 retook Ili. Amursana once more escaped and fled into the Kazakh Khanate where his father-in-law, Ablai Khan, refused to hand him over, despite the threat of a Qing raid on his territory.[1]

Qianlong railed at his generals for their failure to capture the fugitive, saying they were a waste of time and money. He dismissed them and ordered the withdrawal of all troops then appointed Zhao Hui (zh) commander of a small expeditionary force that was sent to garrison Ili.

Amursana returned to Ili to rally the insurgents and almost annihilated Zhao Hui's forces. The hopelessly outnumbered Chinese general, despite putting up a spirited defence, was forced to retreat with 500 soldiers.[1] The rebels cut the post routes to the capital but Zhao Hui managed to fight his way back to Barkul, where he memorialised the Emperor pleading for drastic measure to be taken against the rebels.[1]

During the revolt, Qing attention became temporarily focused on the Khalka prince Chingünjav, a descendant of Genghis Khan, who between the summer of 1756 and January 1757 mounted the most serious Khalka Mongol rebellion against the Qing until its demise in 1911. Before dealing with Amursana, the majority of Qianlong's forces were reassigned to ensure stability in Khalka until Chingünjav's army was crushed by the Qing in a ferocius battle in January 1757.[2] Thereafter, Qialong dispatched further forces to Ili and they quickly routed the rebels. Amursana escaped for a third time to the Kazakh Khanate, but not long afterwards Ablai Khan pledged tributary status to the Chinese, which meant Amursana was no longer safe.[1]

Death and aftermath

Amursana fled west to Siberia and sought asylum from the Russians at their fortress in Semipalatinsk (now Semey in East Kazakhstan). He was then taken to Tobolsk where he died of smallpox on 21 September 1757, aged 35.[2] Although the Chinese demanded the return of the fugitive and his followers under the terms of Article X to the Treaty of Kiakhta, the Russians hid the facts behind his flight and death hoping to gain leverage through the possession of his body. After Qing envoys were told that Amursana had died crossing the Irtysh River, they spent the next month dredging it but found nothing.[2]

After a long period of wrangling, the Russians finally agreed to ship Amursana's frozen body from Tobolsk to Kiakhta for viewing but refused a request that it be handed over for "posthumous punishment"; they instead buried it.[6] Qianlong's insistence that "The state only needs to capture Amursana. When he has died, and his body is retrieved, the entire [D]zungar affair can be called a success", failed to convince the Russians to return the body.[2] Repeated Qing requests to St. Petersburg for the return of Amursana's corpse were rebutted by the Russians on the grounds that their amicable relations should not be upset by "a few rotten bones".[2] Qianlong piled on the pressure: he placed Russian Orthodox monks in Beijing under house arrest and threatened to cut off trade altogether. On 18 October 1768, both parties signed an amendment to Article X of the Treaty of Kiakhta in the Russian, Manchu and Mongol languages prescribing punishments that would apply to future criminals, including defectors.[6] However, as the border with Dzungaria had not been defined at the time of the original 1727 treaty, Amursana and his compatriots did not qualify.[2]

In the end Amurasana's body was not returned. Perdue believes that Qianlong's obsession with the matter stemmed from his grandfather Kangxi's treatment of the body of his arch-enemy Galdan Boshugtu Khan, who's head was placed on public display and his ashes crushed on the military parade ground in the Chinese capital.[2] Hummel claims that Amursana had an infant son who was imprisoned by the Russians and died in captivity in 1804 or 1805.[1]


Ja Lama who claimed to be the reincarnation of Amursana

Amursana's revolt and the subsequent subjugation of the Oirats led to the Revolt of the Altishahr Khojas south of the Tian Shan range and the final Qing conquest of the Tarim Basin. His abortive rebellion also dealt the death blow to Dzungaria and the Dzungar people.

Ja Lama (1862–1922), who fought successive campaigns against Chinese rule in western Mongolia between 1890-1922, at first claimed to be the grandson and later the reincarnation of Amursana.[7] He was also the inspiration behind the Ak Jang new religious movement.[7]

See also

  • Dzungaria
  • Dzungar people


  1. ^ Original Chinese: 料伊亦不敢遽爾妄行


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 Hummel 1944, p. 10. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "FOOTNOTEHummel1944" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "FOOTNOTEHummel1944" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "FOOTNOTEHummel1944" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "FOOTNOTEHummel1944" defined multiple times with different content
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 Perdue 2009, p. 270. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "FOOTNOTEPerdue2009" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "FOOTNOTEPerdue2009" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "FOOTNOTEPerdue2009" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "FOOTNOTEPerdue2009" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "FOOTNOTEPerdue2009" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "FOOTNOTEPerdue2009" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "FOOTNOTEPerdue2009" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "FOOTNOTEPerdue2009" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "FOOTNOTEPerdue2009" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "FOOTNOTEPerdue2009" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "FOOTNOTEPerdue2009" defined multiple times with different content
  3. Alikuzai 2013, p. 302.
  4. Dani & Masson 2003, p. 201.
  5. 《高宗實錄》. 卷四百八十九 (Scroll 489).  (Chinese)
  6. 6.0 6.1 March 1996, p. 116.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Andrei A. Znamenski. "Power for the Powerless : Oirot/Amursana Prophecy in Altai and Western Mongolia, 1890s-1920s". Millénarismes et innovation rituelle en Asie du Nord. Retrieved 19 August 2014. 

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