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The Western Regions (西域, Mandarin: Xīyù) historically referred to the Central Asian lands in the northwest frontier of China.[1] It primarily encompasses the Tarim Basin,[1] but its boundaries has extended at least as far west as past the Tian Shan at various points in history.[2] Under the Tang dynasty, it was officially organized as the Grand Protectorate to Pacify the West (安西大都護府, Ānxī Dàdūhù Fǔ) or Anxi for short.[2]

History

During the Han dynasty, the Western Regions was the gateway into China, being the eastern section of the Silk Road. It was through this region that Buddhism was transmitted into China from India and with it, the Isu relics known as the śarīra.[3]

By the 8th century, the Hidden Ones had established a presence in the area, and their activities were known to the locals. The legendary poet Li Bai, who was born in the city of Suyab situated in the region, grew up hearing stories about them and dreamed of becoming a xiake in his youth.[4] On the other hand, the Western Regions was also thought by the legendary swordsman Pei Min to be a possible origin of the Golden Turtles after he was ambushed by a group of them led by An Lushan while he was investigating their activities in Youzhou.[5]

As a borderland, the area was hotly contested between empires throughout the ages. In 751, it was the site of the Battle of Talas between the Tang and the Abbasid Caliphate when the two clashed in their expansion trajectories. At the time, Gao Xianzhi was serving as jiedushi of Anxi. Owing to the betrayal of the Karluk mercenaries, the Tang suffered a decisive defeat, and most of their 30,000 strong army was annihilated.[6] Despite this, the rescue of a Tang soldier named Li E by a group of Hidden Ones led by Alianna would prove pivotal to the survival of the Tang several years later as Li E would go on to play a vital role in the An Lushan Rebellion.[7][8]

Appearances

References

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