How to identify the rulers on Ilkhanid coins

The Ilkhanids are founded by Hulagu Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan and the brother of Mongke Khan and Kubilai Khan. He is dispatched to control over the Middle East. Even this very short introduction help us to understand the underlying reasons of the usage of various scripts on their coins.

Since Ilkhanids are descendents of Mongols, Mongolian with Uyghur and Phags-Pa script can be seen on most of the Ilkhanid coins. It reflects loyalty to their ancestors. However, the dynasty is established in the Middle East where the Arabic is the daily language. The use of Arabic is a need to communicate with the society.

Arabic is written horizontally from right to left and both Uyghur and Phags-Pa scripts written vertically from top to bottom. Excluding the Mongolian sources, coins are displayed in a way that Mongolian scripts rotated by 90 degree clockwise (i.e. Mongol script placed horizontally from right to left).

Starting from Genghis Khan, Mongolian Empire used the Uyghur script which in fact is not suitable for the sound of neither Mongolian nor the other common language Chinese. To solve the problem, upon the order of Khubilai Khan, Phags-Pa script is developed by a Tibetian Monk Phags-Pa Lama. However, Phags-Pa script was not widely accepted and used only to a limited extent in the Yuan-Dynasty. Phags-Pa is still used to a limited extent as a decorative script for writing Tibetian.

You can see the ruler names in Mongolian and/or Arabic.

In the following table you can find the Ilkhanid Khans` names in Arabic.


One of the most typical script you can see on a Ilkhanid coin is
which means, (This coin) has been struck in the name of Qaghan [Khans Name]
Arghun description Khans

“By the Power of Heaven”

Mongols worship the heaven. The heaven is a God for Mongols. Thus, they assimilate both the heaven and God into one and pray to “God and Heaven of mine”. Especially in 18th century Mongols had a strong belief in powers of Heaven, as well as acted in conformity with powers of Heaven and according to decree of Heaven. As for Genghis Khan the Heaven was a God, he conquered countries and states and established his own state wit a power of Heaven. His decree starts with the words “by the eternal power of Heaven…”.

The phrase “bi kuvvet-i huda” or “by the power of heaven”, inscribed on coins during the reign of Ghazan Khan (694-703 AH /1295-1304 AD) of Ilkhanids, is paraphrased as a Mongol phrase.



It is an interesting fact of Mongolian history that the phrase “under the power of heaven” is inscribed in Persian and Mongol script on coins of some khans of Mongol Empire during 13th-14th century.

How to read dates on Ilkhanid coins

In contrast to the modern coins, Ilkhanids do not use numerals to write dates, but uses the words. That is why the study of islamic coins, particularly Ilkhanid coins, are harder for non-arabic speakers.

The date, along with the mint is generally located on the margins.

Arghun description Dates

Along with the dates, month names can also be seen.

Month Names

Ilkhanid Mints designed an outstanding map of Mongol Empire mints. You can download it by clicking on the image.

 Author: Nyamaa Badarch

Consultants: Batsaikhan Tsend (Mongolia) Haroon Tareen (Pakistan)

Design: Amirdash Hasbold

Printed in Mongolia.

Ulaanbaatar. 2006.

Phags-Pa script on Ilkhanid coins

According to Stenley Lane Pool, “although I. J. Schmidt implied these are Tibetian letters”, in fact these are not Tibetian letters, but shortened version of Ghazan Mahmud’s name in Mongol Phagspa script [S. Lane. Poole. “Coins of Mongols in the British Museum”, Classes XVIII-XXIII. London. 1881, page xlix, 289]

Furthermore, it should be noted that on photographs of coins, the writings in Mongol script are placed to be in a horizontal position although the mongolian read vertically. In order to read Phagspa script on these coins, Arab letters should be in horizontal position. Thus Phags-pa letters will be located vertically.

It is very difficult to read these three letters. R. Otgonbayar, a scientist studying ancient scripts, has tried diligently to read these three letters and, as a result of comparing the photographs of coins, he discovered that there are following letters (the third letter is considered as doubtful). This interpretation is very similar to Lane Pool’s that says the letters are acronym of the word M. Ghazan.

According to generally approved explanation, they are Phags-Pa characters, “Cha”, “Sa” and “Ka” and can be read as “Chasag-a”, which means “in the reign”. Some writers read it as “Cha-kra-ra” to give the meaning of “Shah Jihan”. This is the title of Khubilai Khan and also used by his successors. Another different reading, by trying to find resemblances to Sans-krit letters, is “Cha”, “Kra”, “Warti”, which means “emperor”. Maybe none of these, instead it may stand just for Ghazan’s name. As far as I know, these characters are seen only on Ghazan’s coins.


The Tamgha Coins of Hulagü

The tamghas, which we claim belong to clans or our ancestry, are originated from the clan structure and primitive society. Since the time when the ancients, including Mongol nations, have developed into relative groups, origins and ethnic groups, the symbol and belief of a clan have emerged, and the custom to distinguish their origins and relatives have been established. Consequently, when labor distributions within clans began to develop and people started manage an economy, various tamghas, drawings, notes and earmarks have been used as an identification sign for labor instruments and utilities as well as in domestication of animals.

Everytime the clan branched off due to internal clashes, the number of derivative tamghas, which branched off from common tamgha has increased, and thus tamghas been gradually developed into personal, family, lineage, khans and state tamghas.


The Möngke Khagan “…thought and sent Hulagü Khan to western provinces of Iran, Syria, Merv (Egypt), Rum (Little Asia) and Armenia” by ordering him to govern the suburbs of the State. According to this decree Hulagü Khan went for the war to the west in 1253-1254 and established the Ilkhanids, which covered the vast territories of Persia, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkistan and Georgia.


During the reign for nine years Hulagü Khan issued coins immortalising his own and Möngke Khagan’s fame. The coins have inscription of “seree” tamgha, which dominate amongst Tului’s descendents.