Alternate Name of Tutung River?

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Stephen_Rynerson
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Alternate Name of Tutung River?

Post by Stephen_Rynerson » 19 Jan 2014 05:00

During the 1934 Soviet intervention in Xinjiang, a battle was reportedly fought between Soviet forces and the KMT 36th Division along the frozen "Tutung River." This name is used by several different contemporary sources (including Wu Ai-Chen, who would presumably use the correct name for such a geographic feature). Most of the sources simply describe the river as being "west" of Urumqi, but Peter Fleming specifically places it 30 miles west. Looking at GoogleMaps, however, there is no "Tutung River" anywhere close to Urumqi. There are two rivers roughly 30 miles west of Urumqi -- the Hutubi River and the Santun River -- but I can't find any English sources that identify either the Hutubi River or the Santun River as being an alternate name of the Tutung River. My questions then are whether the "Tutung River" is either the Hutubi River or the Santun River and, if it is neither of those two rivers, where did the battle actually take place?

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Re: Alternate Name of Tutung River?

Post by YC Chen » 19 Jan 2014 10:35

Hello,
I don't have info on this in hand, but perhaps I can help work out this question when I'm free. However, I'm very interested in where you got the Soviet report on the intervention in Xinjiang? I'm really interested in it.

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Re: Alternate Name of Tutung River?

Post by Stephen_Rynerson » 20 Jan 2014 05:04

Sorry, it's not a Soviet report, rather this information comes from several different English-language sources. The most comprehensive one is Andrew D.W. Forbes' Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia: A Political History of Republican Sinkiang 1911-1949 (2d ed. 2010). For the Tutung River battle in particular, Forbes cites an anonymous German monograph, "Durchdringungspolitik in Zentralasien" (roughly "Penetrative Politics in Central Asia") from Berichte des Asiens Arbeitkresis, Vol. I (February 1939), pp. 5-30, which Forbes believes was written by Georg Vasel. (Vasel authored a book that was translated into English as My Russian Jailers in China (1937) that also dealt extensively with the Soviet intervention from a firsthand perspective, but which does not mention the Tutung River battle.) Other contemporary English-language sources that mention that particular battle are Turkistan Tumult (1940) by Wu Ai-Chen (credited as "Aitchen K. Wu") and News from Tartary (1936 (but reprinted several times more recently)) by Peter Fleming. Neither Wu nor Fleming have any significant detail about the battle though.

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Re: Alternate Name of Tutung River?

Post by YC Chen » 20 Jan 2014 14:54

Many thanks for introducing such an interesting book!! Perhaps I'll buy it next time.

I'm sure I can find some interesting things for you from Chinese sources. I took many notes in my computer on battles in Xinjiang a few years ago when I was interested in the motorized forces and armored vehicles of Jin Shuren and Sheng Shicai, but these have all been lost because of a computer failure in October last year. Hope it won't take a lot of time finding these things again, who knows... :?

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Re: Alternate Name of Tutung River?

Post by Stephen_Rynerson » 22 Jan 2014 06:16

Thank you, YC Chen. I would likewise be happy to share any of my research with you, although I suspect yours far surpasses my own since I'm limited to English language resources. Maybe we should start a separate broader Xinjiang thread just in case anyone else wants to weigh in? They might overlook this thread given the title of it.

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Re: Alternate Name of Tutung River?

Post by L1E1 » 22 Jan 2014 15:07

Please use the Chinese name of Tutung Rivr "头屯河" to search. You will find it. The two rivers you mentioned are more far away.

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Re: Alternate Name of Tutung River?

Post by Stephen_Rynerson » 25 Jan 2014 14:48

Great, thank you very much, L1E1! With that information I was able to find it -- the name is apparently being transliterated into the Latin alphabet these days as "Toutunhe" and the river is located substantially closer to Urumqi than what the accounts from the 1930s suggest. Of those sources that mention the location of the river, they uniformly describe it as "30 miles" (approximately 50 kilometers) west of Urumqi. The Toutunhe River though is only about 20 kilometers west of Urumqi, which explains why I was unable to find it. I had foolishly presumed the sources had the correct location for the river and it was merely an issue of the transliteration of the name having changed, not that both pieces of information were incorrect!

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Re: Alternate Name of Tutung River?

Post by sarhang » 26 Jan 2014 06:43

Stephen_Rynerson wrote: Of those sources that mention the location of the river, they uniformly describe it as "30 miles" (approximately 50 kilometers) west of Urumqi. The Toutunhe River though is only about 20 kilometers west of Urumqi, which explains why I was unable to find it. I had foolishly presumed the sources had the correct location for the river and it was merely an issue of the transliteration of the name having changed, not that both pieces of information were incorrect!
Perhaps both pieces were correct, as East Turkistan is (or was, at least) a land of wandering rivers. Namely, the wanderings of the Tarim river led to the changes in the location of the Lop Nur lake.

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Re: Alternate Name of Tutung River?

Post by L1E1 » 26 Jan 2014 11:18

Stephen,

I have an idea. The Urumqi city is a point and The Tutung River is a line. The shortest distance between them is 14.4 KM but that doesn't mean the battle took place at that point. The battle could took place at a point in the Tutung River that is 30 miles away from the Urumqi.

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Re: Alternate Name of Tutung River?

Post by Stephen_Rynerson » 26 Jan 2014 23:05

L1E1, an excellent point and, double-checking my sources about the timing of the battle, that actually makes a good bit of sense. Since the battle at the river took place in January 1934, elements of the 36th Division would have been retreating from Qoqek (Chuguchak), which the Soviets captured in late December 1933. Wujiaqu is on the Toutunhe River and almost exactly 30 miles north-north-west from Urumqi, so perhaps the retreating elements of 36th Division stopped their retreat there to try to hold back the Soviets, which would fit the geography in the accounts. Of course, that still raises the question of why the 36th Division troops were retreating through Wujiaqu (or thereabouts), when the roads that lead through Chiangji or Sangongzhen look like more natural paths to cross the river toward Urumqi (maybe to avoid Sheng Shicai's provincial forces?) , but in any event it appears that the accounts of the battle can indeed be reconciled with the geography, which is the important point for my work. Thank you again for your help.

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Re: Alternate Name of Tutung River?

Post by L1E1 » 27 Jan 2014 13:22

Stephen,

I came across a Chinese source "红军狼狈败退返回昌吉城内". The Red Army defeated awkward back to the town "昌吉".

The source mentioned the Red Army captured the town "昌吉" and started to attcked the 36th Divison , along the frozen "Tutung River."

Please search "昌吉头屯河", you will find the town.

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Re: Alternate Name of Tutung River?

Post by Stephen_Rynerson » 28 Jan 2014 05:00

L1E1, thank you again. GoogleMaps shows that location is indeed Changji (which I misspelled as "Chiangji" in my previous post), so I was apparently correct that Changji was a more logical crossing point on the Toutunhe River than Wujiaqu. That of course returns us to the previous problem of the "30 miles" distance in the Western accounts, since the crossing for the Toutunhe River at Changji is much less than 30 miles. Reflecting on that problem, I started to wonder if the distance was actually 30 li (I think "里" is the right character). Checking, 30 li would be 15 kilometers using "modern" li of 500 meters per li, which would be a very good fit with the distance of 14.4 kilometers that you gave above. Also, may I ask what book you quoted from?

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