Khagan: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Khagan or Qaghan (Old Turkic kagan, kaɣan [1]; Mongolian: хаган; Chinese: 可汗pinyin: kèhán; Persian: خاقان; alternatively spelled Chagan, Khaghan, Khakhan, Kagan, Kağan, Qagan) is a title of imperial rank in the Mongolian and Turkic languages equal to the status of emperor and someone who rules a Khaganate (empire, greater than an ordinary Khanate, but often referred to as such in western languages).

It may also be translated as Khan of Khans, equivalent to King of Kings. In modern Mongolian, the title became Khaan with the 'g' sound becoming almost silent or non-existent (i.e., a very light voiceless velar fricative); the ğ in modern Turkish Kağan is also silent. This is probably[citation needed] partly because "khagan" is a political term used to refer to an emperor. Since the civil war of the Mongol Empire, Emperors of the Yuan Dynasty held the title of Khagan and their successors in Mongolia continued to have the title. Kağan is a common Turkish name in Turkey

The common western rendering as Great Khan or Grand Khan, notably in the case of the Mongol Empire, is translation of Yekhe Khagan (Great Emperor or Их Хаан).



The title was first seen in a speech between 283 and 289, when the Xianbei chief Murong Tuyuhun tried to escape from his younger stepbrother Murong Hui, and began his route from Liaodong to the areas of Ordos Desert. In the speech one of the Murong's general named Yinalou addressed him as kehan (可寒, later as 可汗), some sources suggests that Tuyuhun might also have used the title after settling at Koko Nor in the 3rd century.[2]

The Rourans were the first people who used the titles Khagan and Khan for their emperors (which are, therefore, assumed to be Mongolic in origin), replacing the Chanyu of the Xiongnu, whom Grousset and others assume to be Turkic.[3] However, many scholars believe the Rouran were proto-Mongols.[4][5][6]

The Avars, who may have included Juan Juan elements after the Göktürks crushed the Juan Juan who ruled Mongolia, also used this title. The Avars invaded Europe, and for over a century ruled the Carpathian region. Westerners Latinized the title "Khagan" into "Gaganus" or Cagan et Iugurro principibus Hunorum.

Mongol Khagans

Eight of 15 Great Khagans of the Mongolian Empire.

The Secret History of the Mongols, written for that very dynasty, clearly distinguishes Khagan and Khan: only Genghis and his ruling descendants are called Khagan, while other rulers are referred to as Khan. The g sound in "Khagan" later weakened and disappeared becoming Khaan in modern Mongolian. Khagan or Khaan refers Emperor or King in Mongolian language, however, Yekhe Khagan means Great Khagan or Grand Emperor.

The Mongol Empire began to politically split with the civil war in 1260-1264 and the death of Kublai Khan in 1294, but the term Ikh Khagan (Great Khan, or Emperor) was still used by the Chingisid rulers of the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), who assumed the role of Chinese emperors, and after 1368 it continued to be used in Post-imperial Mongolia.[7] Thus, the Yuan is usually referred to as the Empire of the Great Khan, coexisting with the de facto independent Mongol khanates in the west, including the Chagatai Khanate and Golden Horde. Only the Ilkhanate truly recognized the Yuan's overlordship as allies. Because Kublai founded the Yuan Dynasty, the members of the other branches of the Borjigin could take part in the election of a new Khagan as the supporters of one or other of the contestants, but they could not enter the contest as candidates themselves.[8] In 1304 Temur Khan (r. 1294-1307),[9] the grandson of Kublai, made peace with the three western khanates of the Mongol Empire and was recognized as suzerain of the Empire.[10] The tradition that western khans presented tributes to Khagans lasted until the end of the Yuan's regime in China. Thus, Mongol Emperors of the Yuan held the title of Great Khan of all Mongol Khanates (of the Mongol Empire). Mongolian last Khagan Ligdan of Chahar died in 1634 while fighting the Qing Dynasty founded by the Manchus.

The Khagans of the Mongol Empire were:

The Mongol Empire and gray areas are Mongol vassals except for Central Europe

Following Khagans had the title of Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty along with their original office of the Great Khan of the Mongols:

Among Turkic peoples

The title became associated with the Ashina rulers of the Göktürks and their dynastic successors among such peoples as the Khazars (cf. the compound military title Khagan Bek). Minor rulers were rather relegated to the lower title of Khan.

Interestingly, both Khakhan as such and the Turkish form Hakan, with the specification in Arabic al-Barrayn wa al-Bahrayn (meaning literally "of both lands and both seas"), or rather fully in Ottoman Turkish Hakan ül-Berreyn vel-Bahreyn, were among the titles in the official full style of the Great Sultan (and later Caliph) of the Ottoman Empire (Sultan Hân N.N., Padishah, Hünkar, Sovereign of the House of Osman, Sultan of Sultans, Khan of Khans, Commander of the Faithful and Successor of the Prophet of the Lord of the Universe; next followed a series of specifical 'regional' titles, starting with Protector of the Holy Cities of Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem), reflecting the historical legitimation of the dynasty's rule as political successor to various conquered (often Islamised) states.

Chinese Khagans

Emperor Taizong of Tang was crowned Tian Kehan, or "heavenly Khagan" after defeating the Tujue (Göktürks).[11] The Tang Dynasty Chinese Emperors were recognized as Khagans of the Turks from 665-705. However, we have two appeal letters from the Turkic hybrid rulers, Ashina Qutluγ Ton Tardu in 727, the Yabgu of Tokharistan, and Yina Tudun Qule in 741, the king of Tashkent, addressing Emperor Xuanzong of Tang as Tian Kehan during the Umayyad expansion.[12][13]

Among the Norsemen and Slavs

In the early 10th century, the Rus' people employed the title of kagan (or qaghan), reported by the Arab geographer Ibn Rusta writing between 903 and 913. This tradition endured in the eleventh century, as the metropolitan of Ukraine-Rus Hilarion calls both grand prince Vladimir (978–1015) and grand prince Iaroslav (1019–1054) by the title of kagan, while a graffito on the walls of the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kiev gives the same title to the son of Iaroslav, grand prince Sviatoslav II (1073–1076).

See also


  1. ^ Fairbank 1978, p. 367
  2. ^ Zhou 1985, p. 3-6
  3. ^ Grousset (1970), pp. 61, 585, n. 92.
  4. ^ Art, Iranian-Bulletin of the Asia Institute, Volume 17, p.122
  5. ^ Nihon Gakushiin-Proceedings of the Japan Academy, Volume 2, p.241
  6. ^ Teikoku Gakushiin (Japan)-Proceedings of the Imperial Academy, Volume 2, p.241
  7. ^ H.Howorth - History of The Mongols - vol:1, Rene Grousset - The Empire of Steppes, D.Pokotilov-History of the Eastern Mongols during the Ming Dynasty from 1368 to 1631
  8. ^ Ed. Herbert Franke, Denis Twitchett, John King Fairbank-The Cambridge History of China: Alien regimes and border states, 907-1368 p.493
  9. ^ Most medieval historians such as Rashid al-Din and Alugh Beg Mirza described him as Grand khaan, see: Universal history and The Shajrat ul Atrak
  10. ^ The Mongol Empire and Its Legacy, p14
  11. ^ Liu, 81-83
  12. ^ Bai, 230
  13. ^ Xue, 674-675

Sources and references

  • Fairbank, John King. The Cambridge History of China . Cambridge University Press, 1978. web page
  • Grousset, René. (1970). The Empire of the Steppes: a History of Central Asia. Translated by Naomi Walford. Rutgers University Press. New Brunswick, New Jersey, U.S.A.Third Paperback printing, 1991. ISBN 0-8135-0627-1 (casebound); ISBN 0-8135-1304-9 (pbk).
  • Whittow, Mark. The Making of Byzantium, 600–1025, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, 1996.
  • Zhou, Weizhou [1985] (2006). A History of Tuyuhun. Guilin: Guangxi Normal University Press. ISBN 7-5633-6044-1.


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