as-Sikka السكة
The Online Journal of The Islamic Coins Group 
as-Sikka is a peer reviewed publication
ISSN 1496-4414 

Spring 2000AD / 1420AH  Vol. 2.1


Chaghatayid Coins From Sinkiang

First published in the Actes du XIe Congrès International de Numismatique, Belgium 1991.
By Dr. T.D. Yih, The Netherlands,

The pieces under study are tri-lingual in the sense that besides the main legends in Arabic, there are some types that apparently have on the obverse and sometimes also on the reverse a single-lined legend in a non-Arabic language.

The pieces are characterized by bearing on the obverse the name of Allah (see also later) in the center and on the reverse side the legends el urdu el a'zam wpe33.jpg (1061 bytes) (= the very mighty camp/city).

Table I summarizes the various expeditions during which the coins were collected or the present location of the pieces


Table I Summary on Xinjiang Expeditions And Collections 1
Source Expedition/Collection No. of Pieces Finding Place Attribution/ Date Reference
S1 Le Coq/ Berlin 1 Gift - Yaldiz
S2 Oldenburg (1909-10) 4 Kucha Genghizid (1263-1264 AD) Ivochkina
S3 Stein/ London 11 Kucha 14th Century Stein
S4 Mannerheim/ Helsinki 13 ldygotshahr Gengizid Varjola
S5 Album/ USA 3 - Alughu 662 AH Album
S6 China 11 Kucha - La route de la soie
S7 China 4 Kashgar/ Turfan Chaghatayid Wang Lin
S8 China 2 Almaligh? 1252-64 AH Jiang Qixiang
S9 Paris 3 - - Thierry
S10 China 19* Changji Chaghatayid Dong Qingxuan

Based on the obverse, two main types can be distinguished:
Type 1 Obv.: the name Allah above a single-lined legend.
Type 2 Obv.: the name Allah within a square, containing at the 4 sides the word Malik wpe34.jpg (772 bytes) (= king) or a stylized form of the word Li-'llah. wpe35.jpg (745 bytes) (= for God). Above the word Allah is a circle with a dot.

Type 2 is important since in contrast to type 1, the reverse contains also a stylized circular legend that consists in the letters for the date 662 AH. This is situated during the reign of Alughu (about 1261-1266 AD).
Three variants can be distinguished until now:
variant 2a: 3 dots below and one at the right side of Allah;
variant 2b: 3 dots below Allah only,
variant 2c: a semi-circle with a dot below and a dot at the right side of Allah.

Type 1 can be divided into 3 subtypes according to the single-lined legends below the name Allah:
subtype 1a: the single-lined legends in Arabic;
subtype 1b: the single lined legend in Uighur;
subtype 1c: the single-lined legends in Phagsba (Mongol square script)

Sometimes there is on the reverse of the type 1a a third line , possibly the word ghalb wpe36.jpg (806 bytes) (= triumphant) or adil wpe37.jpg (819 bytes) (= righteous), whereas on type 1b the Uighur word is repeated.

wpe3A.jpg (6041 bytes)
wpe3B.jpg (5429 bytes)
wpe3C.jpg (4618 bytes)
wpe3D.jpg (6902 bytes)
wpe3E.jpg (6129 bytes)
wpe3F.jpg (5326 bytes)
wpe40.jpg (6526 bytes)
wpe41.jpg (6201 bytes)

For type 1a also variants can be distinguished:
variant 1a - 1 no dot at the right side of Allah;
variant 1a - 2 a dot at the right side of Allah;
variant 1a - 3 a bar ( | ) at the right of Allah;
variant 1a - 4 a coil ( wpe38.jpg (686 bytes) ) at the right side of Allah.

Table II summarizes the number and quantity of the various types known until now. The majority of the sources, if there is any indication for the metal composition, consider them as silver pieces. Particularly, the British Museum mentions that 5 of the type 1 pieces belonging to the Stein collection are made of copper (porter, 1990).


Table II, Summary Of The Coin Types Available
Type S1 S2 S3 S4 S5 S6 S7 S8 S9 S10 Total
1a Arabic 1   4 4   4 2   2 2 19
1b Uighur     3 3     1   1 2 10
1c Phagsba           1 1 1   1 4
Unknown *       6             6
Total 1   7 13   5 4 1 3 5 39
2   4 4   3 6   1   1 19
3     8**             13*** 13

Translation proposals:
Subtype 1c
Until now I only succeeded in translating the subtype 1c legends. The occurrence of the Phagspa legends has been confirmed by Mr. Yao Shuomin, a Phagsba expert from Beijing (1986). The Phagsba word consists of the two letters <B> ( wpe39.jpg (721 bytes) ) and <W> ( wpe3A.jpg (722 bytes) ) which corresponds with the Chinese word bao meaning currency or treasure. The Mongol word is usually written vertically, but on the coins the accompanying Arabic inscriptions make it necessary to write it horizontally from right to left in the Arabic way.

For comparison, see the Mongol (Yuan) dynasty coin inscribed Ta Yuan tong bao (1310 AD) that at the right side also shows the Phagsba word (coin 1f). One would expect the single-lined legends in the subtypes 1a and 1b would have similar meaning.

Subtype 1a

The single-lined legends in the subtype 1a consists of several isolated Arabic letters. The first letter might be either wpeE.jpg (697 bytes) (= U or W);  wpeF.jpg (699 bytes) (= F) or wpe10.jpg (700 bytes) (= Q), since on coins often dots belonging to letters are omitted. The second letter might be either wpe19.jpg (714 bytes) (= H), wpe1B.jpg (728 bytes) (= J), wpe1C.jpg (699 bytes) (= KH) or wpe23.jpg (700 bytes) (= CH). The last letter(s) are less clear and vary in the several specimen available (wpe28.jpg (725 bytes) or wpe29.jpg (728 bytes)).

Until now, for the Arabic version, different suggestions have been made, ranging from only letters without meaning to a corrupt version of wahdahu wpe2A.jpg (785 bytes) (= Alone).

Subtype 1b

The second letter is certainly the letter wpe2F.jpg (714 bytes) (= O or U), whereas the first letter might be wpe30.jpg (681 bytes) ( = N) or combined with the second an initial wpe31.jpg (722 bytes) (= U); the letter(s) thereafter has a hook pointing downwards. Hence these might be the letter wpe32.jpg (696 bytes) (= M) or wpe33.jpg (695 bytes) (= L), the last letter might be a final wpe34.jpg (716 bytes) (= N or A)

Some specimens from the British Museum have two hooks pointing downwards. The translation of the Uighur legends of the subtype 1b is also not completely known. In any case, it does not resemble the Uighur word deledkeguluksen (= coinage). Proposals for translation vary from the words KWCYN, KWS or KWSL. The latter should be the Uighur name of the Yuan emperor Ming Tsung (1329). Another suggestion is the word NOYAN or NOYON a special title of honor or governor. Also the name of the city KUCHA, one of the finding places, has been considered.

After the submission of the abstract, the author came into the possession of illustrations of a third type of silver Chaghatayid coins bearing on the obverse center the word wpe35.jpg (806 bytes) (= Almaligh). This resulted in the inclusion of a rather provoking section into the poster entitled Allah versus Almaligh. Almaligh, near present Yi-ning in the upper Ili valley, is the name of the eastern capital of the Chaghatayid realm.

Based on the translation of the Phagsba legends, the complete translation of the type 1c reverse legends should be Coinage of Allah.

Once should take into account that at the end of the 13th century, the Mongols were not yet converted and especially in the eastern part were hostile to Islam. Apart from the short-reigning prince Mubarak Shah (1266-1277 AD) Tarmashirin (1326-1334 AD) was the first Muslim Chaghatayid Khan. The wars between the Shi'ite Muslim Chaghatayids from the south with the eastern Chaghatayids ended with the separation of the south (transoxania) in 1346-1347. Hence the afore-mentioned translation is not satisfying. Moreover, there is no precedent known of such legends as Coinage of Allah in Islamic numismatics.

wpe3B.jpg (5216 bytes)
wpe36.jpg (7161 bytes)
wpe39.jpg (4459 bytes)
wpe37.jpg (5300 bytes)
wpe42.jpg (6113 bytes)
wpe43.jpg (7350 bytes)

Above are illustrations of various styles and corruption of  writing the name of the city Almaligh. The piece shown as 2b (Yesun Timur 1339-1342 AD) and the type 3 pieces clearly indicate that the letter M of Almaligh can be pointing downwards or upwards, whereas the tail of the Q can be long and situated below the name (2c and 2d) or remain curled at the left side of Almaligh.

The obverse of a similar piece has been illustrated with a clear first digit without further translation of the legends in a Chinese paper on excavations in the ruins of Almaligh (Huang, 1979). The obverse legends reads sikkah Almaligh and is dated 740 AH.

For coin 2c, the letter M pointing upwards has even become isolated. Also some corruption can be seen. For coins 2e and 2f the M has been shifted to the left and the letter Q is closed, respectively.

The type 1a piece from Berlin illustrated above, 2a clearly shows a short hook at the left side possibly a relict of a Q.

The central reverse legends of the type 3 Almaligh la el a'zam wpeE.jpg (1280 bytes) (= there is no mightier than Almaligh) shows the Q attached to the L with the tail at the left pointing upwards (2d). In addition, the circular reverse legends
wpeF.jpg (861 bytes)wpe10.jpg (1626 bytes) (=Zuriba haza [ed dirham?] Almaligh sanat ihda wa themanin sitt miat = 682 AH) shows at the 10-11 o'clock the name of Almaligh in various states of corruption.

During the Brussels congress I received on behalf of the Chinese numismatic society from Mr. Yao Shuomin the book entitled Xinjiang Numismatics (XN). Surprisingly, in the chapter devoted to the Chaghatayids also a large number of silver Chaghatayid pieces (type 1, 2 and especially type 3) were illustrated. Most interestingly, there was a type 1b specimen with at the obverse two large dots after the L and there was also a type 3 with two dots between L and A of the central Almaligh. The type 3 obverse has an outer circular stylized legends that read wpe19.jpg (1052 bytes)wpe1B.jpg (881 bytes) (=...haza ed dirham sikkah Almaligh sanat etc). Remarkable is the very stylized form ( wpe1C.jpg (792 bytes)) of Almaligh.

The inner circular legends read: wpe23.jpg (1470 bytes) (= la ilah illa Allah Mohammed rasul Allah...). Possibly it is followed by the sentence wpe28.jpg (1022 bytes) (= el Nasir li-din Allah) a reference to the Caliph al-Nasir (575-622 AH) whose name is mentioned on many Chaghatayid pieces until about 700 AH.

In the book Xinjiang Numismatics, for the central 2-lined reverse legends the reading wpe29.jpg (1017 bytes) (= el adil el a'-zam) has been suggested. In view of the fact that the central letter on the coins is not triangular (wpe2A.jpg (691 bytes)) but round (wpe2F.jpg (711 bytes)) and the last letter is not a decorated L (wpe30.jpg (712 bytes)), but at least on the majority of the coins consist of two separated letters (wpe31.jpg (707 bytes)), I prefer the translation mentioned earlier. Table III summarizes the style and corruption of the name Almaligh observed thusfar:

Table III Summary Of Corruption/Variations Of The Name Of Almaligh

wpe32.jpg (12050 bytes)


Based on the afore-mentioned data it is concluded that the word in the obverse center of type 1 and type 2 does not represent the name Allah, but is a stylized or corrupted form of the name of the city Almaligh. The circle between in the word is not part of the decoration, but is the isolated letter M. In type 2, this letter has been placed on top of the name.

The translation of type 1 and 2 pieces is most likely Coinage of Almaligh instead of Coinage of Allah. At least there is an intended confounding of Allah with Almaligh. A similar ambiguity might be the case with the central reverse legends of type 3 confounding el adil with Almaligh.

The author looks forward with most interest  to comments, criticism and suggestions on this paper.


Author's note:
It should be noted that since the appearance of this paper a large number of Almaligh coins have been discovered, especially type 2c-f.


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