Bilge Tonyukuk ben özüm Tabgaç ilinde kılındım.
lit. “Tonyukuk the Wise, I was born in the land of the Chinese myself.”
This sentence is from the Bain Tsokto Inscriptions, erected in ca. 715 CE (the exact date is debated) in honor of Tonyukuk the Wise, the vizier/counsellor in the Second Göktürk Empire.
You can see the stele on which Tonyukuk narrates his (and the Turks’) story in the picture above. These steles are located in the Tuul River Valley in Mongolia. Though they are customarily thought to be a part of the Orkhon Inscriptions (the oldest written “documents” in a Turkic language), the Bain Tsokto Inscriptions are actually 360 kilometres to the east of the Orkhon Inscriptions (which consist of the Bilge Kağan and Kül Tigin Inscriptions).
Since the Tonyukuk Inscription is slightly earlier than the Orkhon Inscriptions, its first sentence would accordingly be the very first “written” sentence in Turkish. (It is technically Göktürk-ish, if you like, but I find these inscriptions surprisingly easy to understand. Some words are of course unfamiliar to me, but once I look up their meanings, I can decipher the sentences, because it seems the syntax did not change enough to cause any comprehension difficulty. If you know Turkish, , and then check the translations to see how well you’ve performed.)
As you see, Tonyukuk starts his account by talking about his birth.
He was actually born among the Chinese. He first served the Tang Dynasty in China, but later joined the Turkic rebellion against the Chinese, and played a major role in the establishment of the Göktürk khanate.
As his epithet also suggests, he was renowned for his wisdom as a counselor.
I am glad that he thought of writing his accounts on a stone slab. It is very remarkable that such a thing happened at all, actually. Being a nomadic tribe with possibly no use of paper (and even if they knew about paper, with no libraries to store books) and with no incentive to keep living in the vicinity of a monument they had built, Göktürks have nevertheless erected these steles to record their history and to give advice to the posterity.
I am pretty certain this was the idea of Tonyukuk the Wise, who had the first inscription written. He truly earned his name.