Khagan or Qaghan (Old Turkic: 𐰴𐰍𐰣 kaɣan; Mongolian:
хаан, khaan;) is a title of imperial rank in the Turkic and
Mongolian languages equal to the status of emperor and someone who
rules a khaganate (empire). The female equivalent is Khatun.
It may also be translated as Khan of Khans, equivalent to King of
Kings. In modern Turkic, 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.
Since the division 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 and Kaan are common
Turkish names in Turkey.
The common western rendering as Great Khan (or Grand Khan), notably in
the case of the Mongol Empire, is translation of Yekhe
Emperor or Их Хаан).
2 Mongol Khagans
3 Among Turkic peoples
4 Chinese Khagans
5 Among the Norsemen and Slavs
6 See also
The title was first seen in a speech between 283 and 289, when the
Tuyuhun tried to escape from his younger stepbrother
Murong Hui, and began his route from the
Liaodong Peninsula to the
areas of Ordos Desert. In the speech one of the Murong's general named
Yinalou addressed him as kehan (Chinese: 可寒, later Chinese:
可汗), some sources suggests that
Tuyuhun might also have used the
title after settling at
Qinghai Lake in the 3rd century.
Khaganate (330–555) was the first people to use the
Khagan and Khan for their emperors, replacing the
Chanyu of the
Xiongnu, whom Grousset and others assume to be Turkic. The Rouran
are assumed to be proto-Mongols.
Khaganate (567–804), who may have included Rouran elements
Göktürks crushed the Rouran ruling 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" (in Historia Francorum), "Cagan" (in the Annales Fuldenses),
or "Cacano" (in the Historia Langobardorum).
Main article: List of Mongol rulers
8 of 15 Khagans of the Mongol Empire
The Secret History of the Mongols, written for that very dynasty,
Khagan and Khan: only
Genghis Khan and his
ruling descendants are called Khagan, while other rulers are referred
to as Khan.
Khagan or Khaan refers to
Emperor or King in the Mongolian
language, however, Yekhe
Khagan means Great
Khagan or Grand Emperor.
Empire began to split politically with the Toluid Civil War
during 1260–1264 and the death of Kublai Khan in 1294, but the term
Khagan (Great Khan, or Emperor) was still used by the emperors of
Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), who assumed the role of
China, and after the fall of the Yuan in China (1368) it continued to
be used during the Northern
Yuan dynasty in Mongolia homeland.
Thus, the Yuan is sometimes referred to as the
Empire of the Great
Khan, coexisting with the independent Mongol khanates in the west,
Chagatai Khanate and Golden Horde. Only the Ilkhanate
truly recognized the Yuan's overlordship as allies (though it was
effectively autonomous). Because Kublai founded the Yuan, 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.
Later Yuan emperors[a] made peace with the three western khanates of
Empire and were considered as their nominal suzerain.
The nominal supremacy, while based on nothing like the same
foundations as that of the earlier Khagans (such as the continued
border clashes among them), did last for a few decades, until the Yuan
dynasty fell in China (1368).[b]
After the breakdown of Mongol
Empire and the fall of the Yuan dynasty
in the mid-14th century, the Mongols turned into a political turmoil.
Dayan Khan (1464–1517/1543) once revived Emperor's authority and
recovered its reputation in Mongolia, but with the distribution of his
empire among his sons and relatives as fiefs it again caused
decentralized rule. The last
Khagan of the Chahars, Ligdan Khan, died
in 1634 while fighting the
Qing dynasty founded by the Manchu people.
Mongolian language the words "Khaan" and "Khan" have
different meanings, while
English language usually does not
differentiate between them. The title is also used as a generic term
for a king or emperor (as эзэн хаан, ezen khaan), as in
"Испанийн хаан Хуан Карлос" (Ispaniin khaan
Khuan Karlos, "king/khaan of Spain Juan Carlos").
The early Khagans of the Mongol
Genghis Khan (1206–1227) (21 years)
Ögedei Khan (1229–1241) (12 years)
Güyük Khan (1246–1248) (2 years)
Möngke Khan (1251–1259) (8 years)
Among Turkic peoples
The title became associated with the Ashina ruling clan 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.
Khagan 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
vel-Bahreyn, were among the titles in the official full style of the
Great Sultan (and later Caliph) of the Ottoman Empire, reflecting the
historical legitimation of the dynasty's rule as political successor
to various conquered (often Islamised) states. (The title began:
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 specifically 'regional' titles, starting with Protector of
the Holy Cities of Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem.)
"Khagan" is the second title of Safavid and Qajar shahs (kings) of
Iran. For example, Agha Muhammad Khan Qajar, Fath Ali Shah and other
Qajar shahs used this title. The nickname of Shah Ismail and other
Safavid shahs is Kagan-i Suleyman shan (
Khagan with the glory of
Main article: Tian Kehan
See also: List of emperors of the Tang dynasty, List of emperors of
the Yuan dynasty, and List of emperors of the Qing dynasty
Emperor Taizong of Tang was crowned Tian Kehan, or "heavenly Khagan"
after defeating the
Tujue (Göktürks). A later letter
sent by the Tang court to the
Yenisei Kirghiz Qaghan explained that
"the peoples of the northwest" had requested Tang Taizong to become
the "Heavenly Qaghan". 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
Among the Norsemen and Slavs
Main article: Rus' Khaganate
In the early 10th century, the
Rus' people employed the title of kagan
(or qaghan), reported by the Persian geographer Ahmad ibn Rustah, who
wrote between 903 and 913.
It is believed that the tradition endured in the eleventh century, as
the metropolitan bishop of
Kiev in the Kievan Rus', Hilarion of Kiev,
calls both grand prince Vladimir I of
Kiev (978–1015) and grand
Yaroslav the Wise
Yaroslav the Wise (1019–1054) by the title of kagan, while a
graffito on the walls of Saint Sophia's Cathedral gives the same title
to the son of Iaroslav, grand prince Sviatoslav II of Kiev
Hakan (for use as a given name), also spelled Khakhan or Khaqan
Ibn Khaqan (other)
^ Beginning in the last years (1304) of Temür Khan, grandson of
Kublai; 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
^ During this period the Mongol Emperors of the Yuan held the
(nominal) title of Great Khan of all Mongol Khanates (of the Mongol
Empire), of which the three western Mongol khanates still showed their
respect in several cases. For example, the Ilkhans' coins carried the
Khagan's name up until the early 14th century. It was also once said
Khagan is “the blessing of the creator” at the court of the
Golden Horde during the reign of
Ozbek Khan (1313–41).
^ Mongolian Script: ᠬᠠᠭᠠᠨ Qaγan; Chinese: 可汗; pinyin:
Kè hán or Chinese: 大汗; pinyin: Dà hán; Persian: خاقان
Khāqān, alternatively spelled Kağan, Kagan, Khaghan, Kha-khan,
Xagahn, Qaghan, Chagan, Қан, or Kha'an
^ Fairbank 1978, p. 367).
^ Zhou 1985, p. 3-6
^ Grousset (1970), pp. 61, 585, n. 92.
^ Art, Iranian-Bulletin of the Asia Institute, volume 17, p. 122
^ Nihon Gakushiin-Proceedings of the Japan Academy, volume 2, p. 241
^ Teikoku Gakushiin (Japan)-Proceedings of the Imperial Academy,
volume 2, p. 241
^ H. Howorth. History of The Mongols, Volume 1; Rene Grousset. The
Empire of Steppes; D. Pokotilov. History of the Eastern Mongols during
the Ming Dynasty from 1368 to 1631
^ Ed. Herbert Franke, Denis Twitchett, John King Fairbank. The
Cambridge History of China: Alien regimes and border states, 907-1368,
^ The Mongol
Empire and Its Legacy, p. 14.
^ Liu, 81-83
^ Kenneth Scott Latourette (1964). The Chinese, their history and
culture. 1–2 (4, reprint ed.). Macmillan. p. 144. Retrieved 8
February 2012. territories within his empire. He took the title
"Heavenly Khan," thus designating himself as their ruler. A little
later the Western Turks, although then at the height of their power,
were badly defeated, and the Uighurs, a Turkish tribe, were detached
from them and became sturdy supporters of the T'ang in the Gobi. The
Khitan, Mongols in Eastern Mongolia and Southern Manchuria, made their
submission (630). In the Tarim basin
^ Skaff 2012, pp. 120-121.
^ Michael Robert Drompp (2005). Tang China and the collapse of the
Uighur Empire: a documentary history. Brill's Inner Asian library. 13
(illustrated ed.). BRILL. p. 126. ISBN 90-04-14129-4.
Retrieved 8 February 2012. the successes of Tang Taizong and to his
taking the title of "Heavenly Qaghan" at the request of "the peoples
of the northwest" in 630/631. The letter goes on to describe how
Taizong's envoy was sent to pacify the Kirghiz in 632/633 and how in
647/648 a Kirghiz chieftain came to the Tang court where he was
granted titles, including commander-in-chief of the Kirghiz
(Jian-kun). All of this implied Kirghiz subordination to Tang
authority, at least in Chinese eyes. According to the letter, Kirghiz
tribute had come to the Tang court "uninterruptedly" until the end of
the Tianbao reign period (742-756) when Kirghiz contact with the Tang
state was cut off by the rise of Uighur power in Mongolia.
^ Bai, 230
^ Xue, 674-675
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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).
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