"Tocharian donors", 6th-century AD fresco from the Kizil Caves
Regions with significant populations
Tarim Basin in 1st millennium AD
(modern Xinjiang, China)
Tocharian languages
Buddhism and Manichaeism
Related ethnic groups
Indo-Iranians, Afanasievo, BMAC culture
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Museum für Indische Kunst Dahlem Berlin Mai 2006 063.jpg

The Tocharians or Tokharians (z/ or z/) were Indo-European peoples who inhabited the medieval oasis city-states on the northern edge of the Tarim Basin (modern Xinjiang, China) in ancient times.

The Tocharian languages, a branch of the Indo-European family, are known from manuscripts from the 6th to 8th centuries AD. The name "Tocharian" was given to them by modern scholars, who identified their speakers with a people who inhabited Bactria from the 2nd century BC, and were known in ancient Greek sources as the Tókharoi (Latin Tochari). This identification is generally considered erroneous, but the name "Tocharian" remains the most common term for the languages and their speakers.

Agricultural communities first appeared in the oases of the northern Tarim circa 2000 BC. (The earliest Tarim mummies, which may not be connected to the Tocharians, date from c. 1800 BC.) Some scholars have linked these communities to the Afanasievo culture found earlier (c. 3500–2500 BC) in Siberia, north of the Tarim or Central Asian BMAC culture.

By the 2nd century BC, these settlements had developed into city states, overshadowed by nomadic peoples to the north and Chinese empires to the east. These cities, the largest of which was Kucha, also served as way stations on the branch of the Silk Road that ran along the northern edge of the Taklamakan desert.

From the 8th century AD, the Uyghurs – speakers of a Turkic language from the Kingdom of Qocho – settled in the region. The peoples of the Tarim city states intermixed with the Uyghurs, whose Old Uyghur language spread through the region. The Tocharian languages are believed to have become extinct during the 9th century.


Around the beginning of the 20th century, archaeologists recovered a number of manuscripts from oases in the Tarim Basin written in two closely related but previously unknown Indo-European languages. Another text recovered from the same area, a Buddhist work in Old Turkic, included a colophon stating that the text had been translated from Sanskrit via a toxrï language, which Friedrich W. K. Müller guessed was one of the newly discovered languages.[1]

Müller called the languages "Tocharian" (German Tocharisch), linking this toxrï with the ethnonym Tókharoi (Ancient Greek: Τόχαροι, Ptolemy VI, 11, 6, 2nd century AD) applied by Strabo to one of the Scythian tribes that overran the Greco-Bactrian kingdom (present day Afghanistan-Pakistan) in the second half of the 2nd century BC.[a] This term was itself derived from Indo-Iranian (cf. Old Persian tuxāri-, Khotanese ttahvāra, and Sanskrit tukhāra), the source of the term "Tokharistan" usually referring to 1st millennium Bactria, as well as the Takhar province of Afghanistan. The Tókharoi are often identified by modern scholars with the Yuezhi of Chinese historical accounts, who founded the Kushan Empire.[2][3] These people are now known to have spoken Bactrian, an Eastern Iranian language that is quite distinct from the Tocharian languages, and Müller's identification is now a minority position among scholars. Nevertheless, "Tocharian" remains the standard term for the languages of the Tarim Basin manuscripts and for the people who produced them.[1][4]

The name of Kucha in Tocharian B was Kuśi, with adjectival form kuśiññe. The word may be derived from Proto-Indo-European *keuk "shining, white".[5] The Tocharian B word akeññe may have referred to people of Agni, with a derivation meaning "borderers, marchers".[6] One of the Tocharian A texts has ārśi-käntwā as a name for their own language, so that ārśi may have meant "Agnean", though "monk" is also possible.[7]

Other Languages
العربية: تخاريون
asturianu: Tocarios
azərbaycanca: Toxarlar
تۆرکجه: توخار‌لار
беларуская: Тахары
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Тахары
български: Тохари
català: Tocaris
čeština: Tocharové
dansk: Tokharere
Deutsch: Tocharer
Ελληνικά: Τόχαροι
español: Tocarios
euskara: Tokario
فارسی: تخارها
français: Tokhariens
한국어: 토하라인
हिन्दी: तुषारी लोग
hrvatski: Toharci
Bahasa Indonesia: Orang Tokharia
íslenska: Tokkarar
italiano: Tocari
עברית: טוכארים
қазақша: Тохалар
lietuvių: Tocharai
Nederlands: Tocharen
日本語: トハラ人
norsk: Tokharere
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Toxarlar
پنجابی: تخاری لوک
polski: Tocharowie
português: Tocarianos
română: Toharieni
русский: Тохары
Simple English: Tocharians
slovenčina: Tochari
српски / srpski: Тохарци
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Tohari
suomi: Tokaarit
svenska: Tokharer
українська: Тохари
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: توخارلار
Tiếng Việt: Người Tochari
中文: 吐火罗人