Anatolian coins > Ilkhanids > hpags-pa script

Some hints to be learned about Ilkhanid coinage

        In legends of Ilkhanid coins, other than Arabic, there are also Mongolian lines written with two different scripts, Uighur and hP'ags-pa.  Although both of these scripts are written  vertically from top to bottom and from left to right, just for the sake of harmony with Arabic lines, in the following pages, Mongolian legends also have been placed horizontally, from right to left.  I think, the engravers have thought the same way, because the original lines on the coins also are horizontal and from right to left, except hP'ags-pa.  Uighur lines are just rotated forms of the original script, 90o clockwise.  The coins already are round objects, so it does not matter too much.  

Uighur Script

        Mongolian alphabet for Uighur script have 23 basic letters ( 7 vowels and 16 consonants) plus some other letters to stand for foreign words.  By order of Genghis Khan (Chinggis Khaan), this writing system for the Mongol tongue was instituted in 1204.  Mongols adopted it from Uighur Turks and Uighurs from Sogdians.  Uighur Script, also known as Old Script, Mongol Script, Script Mongolian, or Classical Mongolian, is an alphabetic script written vertically from top to bottom with lines progressing from left to right (All other vertical writing systems are written from right to left.).  In Uighur Script, the pen should write a continuous line, for the most part, from the beginning to the end of the word.  A continuous baseline runs vertically with the majority of lines and loops sticking out to the left as the word progresses downward.  This alphabet is reasonably accurate with respect to the representation of consonants, but fails to distinguish several vowels. It has survived numerous attempts at replacement and is still used in Mongolia, as well as Mongol inhabited territories controlled by China and Russia, today. Among Inner Mongolians in China, old Uighur script remains the actual writing system, while Mongolians from other regions primarily use Cyrillic letters but often learn this script as part of their cultural heritage.

Let's take these coins for examples:

Let's look at the coins #1 and #2.  These are the reverse sides.  They bear five lines of Uighur inscription.  All lines are the same except the middle one.  This line is spared for the ruler's name.  #1 is of Abaqa and #2 belongs to Ahmad Teguder.  Let us take the second one.  Mongolian legends written with Uighur script, line by line, from top to bottom, read:

qaghanu  nreber  amad-un  deledkegülüg  sen

As a whole:

It means "(this coin) has been struck in the name of qaghan Ahmad".

On some coins, the ruler's name has been written with Arabic characters too, in addition to Uighur.  Look at the #3.  Here, as the fifth line at the bottom, we read " ﻥﻮﻏﺭﺍ " "Argun" in addition to "" "Argun-un" in the middle line. 

When we look at #4 below, we meet a different example.  This is one of Ghazan Mahmud's coins. Let's put aside the legends at the edges left and right for now.  At the third line we read his name with Arabic characters "Ghazan Mahmud".  The different aspect in this legend is at the first and second lines.  They read " tengriyin " and " kuchundur ", which means "by the power of God".  The forth line is " Ghazanu ", Ghazan's name in Mongolian.  Alltogether:


Tengri-yin Küchündür Ghazan Mahmud Ghasanu Deledkegülügsen

If we take the Arabic line out, it reads so:

It means, "By the power (strength) of God (Heaven) (This coin) has been struck for Ghazan" 

In some gold coins we meet the word "" "arighu" which means "pure".  Sometimes on some coins of Taghay Timur and Sulayman Khan, we see the words " " "sultan adil", which means "the just sultan".

On some coins " " has been written as "" and "" as "".

The names of different rulers in Uighur script.

The syllables at the end of some names like "u, un, yin" are genitive case markers for the meaning "of".

English Mongolian in Uighur script Transliteration to English
Abaqa Abaqa-yin
Ahmad Tekudar Amad-un
Arghun Argun-un, Argun-u


Irinchin Turchi-yin

Baydu Baydu-yin
Ghazan Mahmud Ghazan-u

Oljaytu Sultan

Abu Sa'id

Taghay Timur Taghai Timur
Sulayman Khan Sulayman Khan
Anushirawan  Anushirwan, Nushirwan


hP'ags-pa script (Phagspa, Pasepa, Basepa)

        During the reign of Khubilai Khan (1260-1294) the old Uighur-based script was used throughout the Mongolian empire for some sixty years since Genghis Khan time.  The Uighur script was not much suitable to represent the sounds of neither Mongolian nor the other languages spoken in the empire, like Chinese.  Khubilai Khan hoped that a new script would overcome the problems associated with the old script.  So, in 1269, hP'ags-pa script was created by the Tibetan Monk hP'ags-pa Lama, at the Khubilai Khan’s order.  In spite of all efforts of Khubilai Khan, the new alphabet could not receive wide acceptance.  Mongolian and Chinese officials proved reluctant to learn and use the new script.  hP'ags-pa script was used only to a limited extent during Yuan dynasty. Khubilai Khan's dream of a single unified national script used throughout his empire by all peoples simply refused to come true.  After the collapse of the Yuan dynasty in 1368, the Chinese abandoned the foreign script, whilst the Mongolians competely reverted to the earlier Uighur-based scripthP'ags-pa script is still used to a limited extent as a decorative script for writing Tibetan.

        hP'ags-pa script comprises 41 basic letters. A number of other hP'ags-pa letters are used for writing Tibetan or for transliterating Sanskrit. This syllabic alphabet is written in vertical columns, from top to bottom, laid out left to right across the writing surface.

        Now look at the picture above #5.  Here in the red circle, you see where the hP'ags-pa characters have been placed.  These characters are puzzling the coin collectors for years.  We do not surely know  what they are.  Are they really hP'ags-pa characters as mostly accepted among numismatists, or the characters belonging to an other alphabet used by Mongolian people of that time (say Sanskrit), or just a "damga" or royal stamp which we don't know the meaning of. According to generally approved explanation, they are hP'ags-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 Sanskrit 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.

In the picture below you see different examples of this script:

Ilkhani dates

        The zero point of ilkhani calendar is Rajab 01, 701 AH (according to another reference Rajab 13, 701 AH).  This date is in the reign of Ghazan Mahmud. But, however it is, we see ilkhani dates only on some Abu Said coins as 33 and 34 ilkhani.  The year ilkhani  33 corresponds to 734/735 and 34 to 735/736 AH. 

It is a pleasure for me to thank to Emyr R. E. Pugh, from "Linguamongolia", for his valuable help and contribution in the preparation of this page.  If you want to learn more about ancient Mongolian scripts you may have a look at LINGUAMONGOLIA 

Anatolian coins > Ilkhanids > hpags-pa script