Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture

Ili Prefecture
伊犁州ىله وبلىسىئىلى ئوبلاستى
(Chinese) • (Uyghur) • (Kazakh)
Sub-Provincial Autonomous Prefecture
Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture
ئىلى قازاق ئاپتونوم ئوبلاستى
ىله قازاق اۆتونومىيالى وبلىسى

Gulja seat of Ili

Ili Prefecture (red) in Xinjiang (orange)
Country People's Republic of China
Region Xinjiang
Prefecture seat Yining (Gulja)
  Land 56,381.52 km2 (21,769.03 sq mi)
  including Altay & Tarbagatay 268,778.71 km2 (103,776.04 sq mi)
Population (2010)
  Total 2,482,627
  including Altay & Tarbagatay 4,228,819
Time zone China Standard (UTC+8)
Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture
Chinese name
Simplified Chinese 伊犁哈萨克自治州
Traditional Chinese 伊犁哈薩克自治州
Uyghur name
ئىلى قازاق ئاپتونوم ئوبلاستى
Kazakh name
Kazakh ىله قازاق اۆتونومىيالى وبلىسى
Іле Қазақ аутономиялық облысы
İle Qazaq awtonomïyalıq oblısı

Ili or Yili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture (Chinese: 伊犁哈萨克自治州 pinyin: Yīlí Hāsàkè Zìzhìzhōu; Kazakh: ىله قازاق اۆتونوميالى وبلىسى / Іле Қазақ аутономиялық облысы / İle Qazaq awtonomïyalıq oblısı; Uyghur: ئىلى قازاق ئاپتونوم ئوبلاستى/ Ili Qazaq aptonom wilayiti / Или Қазақ аптоном вилайити; Dungan: Йили Хасакə Зыҗыҗу, Jili Hasakə Zьⱬьⱬu, اِلِ هَاصَاكْ ذِجِجِوْ) in northernmost Xinjiang is the only Kazakh autonomous prefecture in 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 (1,200 mi). (The Bortala Mongol Autonomous Prefecture interrupts the border with Kazakhstan for several km.)

The prefecture-level city of Karamay is completely surrounded and divided by the Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture but is not part of it.

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


As a Sub-provincial Autonomous Prefecture, Ili's primary subdivisions include Tacheng and Altay prefectures, both to the northeast of the capital. Ili also directly controls 3 county-level cities, 7 counties, and 1 autonomous county. (see Administrative divisions of the People's Republic of China#Levels).

# Name Chinese Hanyu Pinyin Uyghur (UEY) Uyghur Latin (ULY) Kazakh (Arabic script) Kazakh Latin transcription Population (2010 Census) Area (km²) Density (/km²)
* Altay Prefecture 阿勒泰地区 Ālètài Dìqū ئالتاي ۋىلايىتى Altay Wilayiti التاي ايماعى Altay aymağı 603,283 117,800 5.12
* Tacheng [Tarbagatay] Prefecture 塔城地区 Tǎchéng Dìqū تارباغاتاي ۋىلايىتى Tarbaghatay Wilayiti تارباعاتاي ايماعى Tarbağatay aymağı 1,219,369 104,546 11.66
1 Yining [Gulja] 伊宁市 Yīníng Shì غۇلجا شەھىرى Ghulja Shehiri قۇلجا قالاسى Qulja qalası 515,082 629 818.89
2 Kuytun 奎屯市 Kuítún Shì كۈيتۇن شەھىرى Küytun Shehiri كۇيتۇن قالاسى Küytün qalası 166,261 1,171 141.98
24 Korgas [Huocheng] 霍尔果斯市 Huò'ěrguǒsī Shì قورغاس شەھىرى Qorghas Shehiri قالاسى قورعاس Qorğas qalası 85,000(?) 1,900 44.73
3 Yining [Gulja] County 伊宁县 Yīníng Xiàn غۇلجا ناھىيىسى Ghulja Nahiyisi قۇلجا اۋدانى Qulja awdanı 372,590 4,486 83.05
4 Huocheng County 霍城县 Huòchéng Xiàn قورغاس ناھىيىسى Qorghas Nahiyisi قورعاس اۋدانى Qorğas awdanı 352,689 5,466 64.52
5 Gongliu [Tokkuztara] County 巩留县 Gǒngliú Xiàn توققۇزتارا ناھىيىسى Toqquztara Nahiyisi توعىزتاراۋ اۋدانى Toğıztaraw awdanı 164,860 4,124 39.97
6 Xinyuan [Künes] County 新源县 Xīnyuán Xiàn كۈنەس ناھىيىسى Künes Nahiyisi كۇنەس اۋدانى Künes awdanı 282,718 7,583 37.28
7 Zhaosu [Mongolküre] County 昭苏县 Zhāosū Xiàn موڭغۇلكۈرە ناھىيىسى Mongghulküre Nahiyisi موڭعۇلكۇرە اۋدانى Moñğulküre awdanı 148,187 10,465 14.16
8 Tekes County 特克斯县 Tèkèsī Xiàn تېكەس ناھىيىسى Tëkes Nahiyisi تەكەس اۋدانى Tekes awdanı 142,713 8,080 17.66
9 Nilka County 尼勒克县 Nílèkè Xiàn نىلقا ناھىيىسى Nilqa Nahiyisi نىلقى اۋدانى Nılqı awdanı 157,743 10,130 15.57
10 Qapqal Xibe Autonomous County 察布查尔锡伯自治县 Chábùchá'ěr Xībó Zìzhìxiàn چاپچال شىبە ئاپتونوم ناھىيىسى Chapchal Shibe Aptonom Nahiyisi شاپشال سىبە اۆتونوميالى اۋدانى Şapşal Sibe avtonomyalı awdanı 179,744 4,489 40.04
Scene from Ili valley

Geographically, Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture can be divided into two parts. Altay Prefecture and Tacheng 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 Encyclopædia Britannica article on Kulja) or Ili.


The map of the Ili region, ca. 1809. It's "upside down", i.e. the south is on top, and the west, on the right. The nine fortified towns are shown as double squares

Early history

Before the advent of the Qin dynasty (221 BC  206 BC), Ili was occupied by the Ussuns, a tributary tribe of the Huns. The Ussuns were driven away in the 6th century AD by the northern Xiongnu, who established the Turkic Khaganate in 552. Later this Khulja territory became a dependency of Dzungaria. During the Tang dynasty (618907), the khanate became the Protectorate General to Pacify the West of the Tang Empire.

The Uyghur Khaganate, and in the 12th century the Kara-Khitai, took possession of the area 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 until 1755 as the Dzungar Khanate, when it was annexed by the Manchu-run Qing dynasty under the Qianlong Emperor. Having defeated the Dzungars in the Dzungarian and Ili Basins, as well as the Afaqi Khojas in Kashgaria, the Qing court 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 Chinese Turki (Uyghur) name[1] Modern name of the location[2] Notes
Huiyuan Cheng 惠远城 Kürä Shahr Huiyuan town (惠远镇) Was the residence of the General of Ili until 1866, and also known as New Kulja, Manchu Kulja, or Ili at the time.
Ningyuan Cheng 宁远城 Kulja (Ghulja) Yining City 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[3] to 18[4] km to the west of the Yining center city
Taleqi Cheng 塔勒奇城 Tarchi Within Huocheng County
Zhande Cheng 瞻德城 Chaghan Usu Qingshuihe Town (清水河镇) in Huocheng County, some 60–70 km (37–43 mi) 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 (25 mi) NW of Yining. Renamed Shuiding Town (水定镇) in 1965 General of Ili's residence 18831912, when it became known as New/Manchu/Chinese Kulja

Huiyuan Cheng, as the seat of the General of Ili, the chief commander of the Qing troops in Xinjiang, became the administrative capital of the region. It was provided with a large penal establishment and a 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 General of Ili was Ming Rui. The Qing tradition, unbroken until the days of Zuo Zongtang in the 1870s, was to only appoint Manchus as officials in Xinjiang.

Tacheng (Chuguchak) was among the towns that suffered grievously during the fighting in 1865

During the insurrection of 1864 the Dungans and Taranchis of the area formed 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) 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 as the city of Suiding (now known as Shuiding), some 8 km (5.0 mi) north of the old Huiyuan site.

On January 7, 1912, Yang Cuanxu of Ili occupied Huiyuan Town and shot the last Qing General of Ili, Zhi Rui.

The 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.

The People's Republic of China

In 1949, Ili was made a special area (专区) of Xinjiang, with one city and nine 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 one city and nine counties are now under the direct control of the autonomous prefecture.



Border crossings

Ili Kazak's 8 functioning ports of entry are:

See also



  1. As per Kim (2004), pp. 54, 229
  2. Info from Chinese Wikipedia and Yining County Historical Development
  3. Direct distance from modern maps
  4. Road distance from Lansdell (1885), p. 190


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Coordinates: 44°26′59″N 84°59′09″E / 44.44972°N 84.98583°E / 44.44972; 84.98583

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