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Title: Khereid  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: History of Mongolia, Mongols, Khanate, List of Mongol states, Mongol Empire
Collection: History of Mongolia, Medieval Mongolia, Mongol Peoples, Nestorianism
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10th century–1203
Khereid and their neighbours.
Capital centered on the site of nowadays city Ulan Bator in during Tooril Khan
Religion Church of the East
Government Monarchy
 •  11th century Markus Buyruk Khan
 •  12th century Saryk Khan (2nd)
 •  12th century Kurchakus Buyruk Khan (3rd)
 •  12th century-1203 Tooril Khan (last)
Historical era High Middle Ages
 •  Established 10th century
 •  Markus Khan was first recorded khan. 11th century.
 •  Genghis Khan unified the Khereid and then established the Mongol Empire. 1203
Today part of  Mongolia

The Khereid (Mongolian: Хэрэйд/Khereid) was one of the most dominant five Mongol tribal confederations (khanates) in the Mongolian plateau during the 12th century. As allies of Genghis Khan, the Khereid were influential in the rise of the Mongol Empire. In the 11th century, they converted to the Church of the East and were a key example of prominent Christians among the Mongols.

The Khereid were located between the mountain ranges of Khangai and Khentii Mountains. They were centered on the site of the present day city of Ulan Bator and in the willow groves of the Tuul River to the west of the Khamag Mongol and to the east of the Naimans.

The last ruler, Kublai Khan and Möngke Khan, became prominent leaders of the empire.


  • Organization 1
  • Name 2
  • Before Wang Khan 3
  • Wang Khan and Khereids in Mongol Empire 4
  • Ethnicity 5
  • Nestorianism 6
  • Descendants in modern times 7
  • See also 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10


At the height of its power, the Khereid people was organized along the same lines as the Naimans and other powerful steppe tribes of the day. The people was divided into a "central" faction and an "outer" faction. The central faction served as the Khan's personal army and was composed of warriors from many different tribes with no loyalties to anyone but the Khan. This made the central faction more of a quasi-feudal state than a genuine tribe. The "outer" faction was composed of tribes that pledged obedience to the Khan, but lived on their own tribal pastures and functioned semi-autonomously. The "capital" of the Khereid Khanate was a place called Orta Balagasun, which was probably located in an old Uyghur or Khitan fortress.


According to Mongol legend there was once an ancient Khan who had seven sons. These seven sons had unusually dark faces. That is why the tribal confederation they founded was called Khereed or 'Crows'.[1] Kheree' means 'crow' in Mongolian.[1] Others claim that the Khereids were named so because they originally lived at a place called 'Khereet' meaning 'crow-with' or 'place with crows'. Yet another theory maintains that the name 'Khereed' derives from the Mongolian word 'Kherees' meaning 'cross' and is connected to their Christian religion.

Before Wang Khan

The Khereids first enter into history as the ruling faction of the Zubu confederacy, a large alliance of tribes that dominated Mongolia during the 11th and 12th centuries and often fought with the Liao Dynasty of northern China, which controlled much of Mongolia at the time. After the Zubu confederacy broke up, the Khereid retained their dominance on the steppe right up until they were absorbed into Genghis Khan's Mongolian state.

Markus Buyruk Khan, was a Khereid leader who also led the Zubu confederacy. In 1100, he was killed by the Liao Dynasty. Kurchakus Buyruk Khan was a son and successor of Bayruk Markus, among whose wives was Toreqaimish Khatun, daughter of Korchi Buiruk Khan of the Naiman. Kurchakus's younger brother was Gur Khan. Kurchakus Buyruk Khan had many sons. Notable sons was Toghrul, Yula-Mangus, Tai-Timur, Bukha-Timur.

After Kurchakus Buyruk Khan died, Ilma's servant — Eljidai from Tatar — became the de facto regent. This upset Toghrul who had his younger brothers killed and then claimed the throne. After this, Gur Khan raided Toghrul. Yesugei Baghatur helped Toghrul.

Khereids who joined western khanates became more Turkicized forming Tatars, Kazakhs and Khirgizs while there currently exists Khereid clan of Mongols in present-day Mongolia.

Wang Khan and Khereids in Mongol Empire

Depiction of Wang Khan as "Prester John" in Le Livre des Merveilles, 15th century.

Tooril, who was the son of Kurchakus by Ilma Khatun, reigned from 1160s to 1204. His palace was located at present-day Ulan Bator and he became blood-brother to Yesugei. Genghis Khan called him khan etseg ('khan father').

The Tatars rebelled against the Jin dynasty (1115–1234) in 1195. The Jin commander sent an emissary to Temujin. A fight with the Tatars broke out and the Khereid-Mongol alliance defeated them. In 1196, the Jin Dynasty awarded Tooril the title of "Wang" (king). After this, Tooril was recorded under the title "Wang Khan".

In 1203, Temüjin defeated the Khereid, who were distracted by the collapse of their own coalition. Tooril tried to escape to the Naimans, but was killed by a Naiman warrior who did not recognize him. The remaining Khereid submitted to Temüjin's rule, but out of distrust, Temüjin dispersed them among the other Mongol tribes.

Tooril's younger brother was Jakha Khambu, a lifelong ally of Genghis Khan, and the father of Sorghaghtani Beki. Toghrul's son was Nilkha Sengum. Sorghaghtani Beki, daughter of Jakha Khambu, became Tolui's khatun. She was mother of the khagans Kublai, Möngke and the Ilkhanate-founder Hulagu Khan.[2] Rinchin protected Christians when Ghazan began to persecute them but he was executed by Abu Sa'id Bahadur Khan when fighting against his custodian, Chupan of the Taichiud in 1319.


They consisted of eight tribes, including the Khereid, Jirkhin, Khonkhoid, Sukhait, Albat, Tumaut, Dunghaid and the Khirkh.

The Khereid tribe is considered both Mongolian and Turkic by different accounts.

Rashid-al-Din Hamadani (1247–1318) says in the Jami' al-tawarikh (Section Three, Khereid Tribe):

At that time they had more power and strength than other tribes. The call of Jesus - peace be upon him - reached them and they entered his faith. They belong to the Mongol ethnicity. They reside along the Onon and Kerulen rivers, the land of the Mongols. That land is close to the country of the Khitai.[3]

Most scholars suggested that names and titles of Khereid rulers were Turkic.[2][4][5][6][7][8][9]


The Khereid were converted to Nestorianism, a sect of Christianity, early in the 11th century.[2][10][11] Other tribes evangelized entirely or to a great extent during the 10th and 11th centuries were the Naiman and the Ongud but still not found enough archaeological evidences to prove it.[12]

An account of the conversion of the Khereid is given by the 13th-century Jacobite historian Gregory Bar Hebraeus and also in Mari ibn Suleiman's "Book of the Tower" (Kitab al-Majdal) written in 1145–1150. According to Bar Hebraeus and Mari ibn Suleiman, in 1007 or 1012, a Khereid king lost his way during a snowstorm while hunting in the high mountains of his land. When he had abandoned all hope, a saint (Mar Sergius or Saint Sergius) appeared in a vision and said, "If you will believe in Christ, I will lead you lest you perish." The king promised to "become a lamb in the Christian sheepfold" (join the Church). The saint told him to close his eyes and he found himself back home (Bar Hebraeus' version says the saint led him to the open valley where his home was). When he met Christian merchants, he remembered the vision and asked them about the Christian religion, prayer and the book of canon laws. They taught him "the Lord's Prayer, Lakhu Mara, and Qadisha Alaha." The Lakhu Mara is the Syriac of the hymn Te deum, and the Qadisha Alaha is the Trisagion. At their suggestion, he sent a message to Abdisho, the Metropolitan of Merv, for priests and deacons to baptize him and his tribe. Abdisho (whose name means Servant or Abd of Jesus) sent a letter to Yohannan VI, the Catholicos or Patriarch of the Church of the East in Baghdad (63rd Patriarch after Saint Thomas). Abdisho informed Yohannan VI that the Khereid Khan asked him about fasting, whether they could be exempted from the usual Christian way of fasting, since their diet was mainly meat and milk. Abdisho also related that the Khereid Khan had already "set up a pavilion to take the place of an altar, in which was a cross and a Gospel, and named it after Mar Sergius, and he tethered a mare there and he takes her milk and lays it on the Gospel and the cross, and recites over it the prayers which he has learned, and makes the sign of the cross over it, and he and his people after him take a draft from it." Yohannan (John) replied to Abdisho telling him one presbyter (priest) and one deacon was to be sent with altar paraments to baptize the king and his people. Yohannan also approved the exemption of the Khereid from strict church law, stating that while they had to abstain from meat during the annual Lenten fast like other Christians, they could still drink milk during that period, although they should switch from "sour milk" (fermented mare's milk) to "sweet milk" (normal milk) to remember the suffering of Christ during the Lenten fast. The Catholicos also told Abdisho to endeavor to find wheat and wine for them, so they can celebrate the Paschal Eucharist. As a result of the mission that followed, the king and 200,000 of his people were baptized (both Bar Hebraeus and Mari ibn Suleiman give the same number).[5][13] Rashid al-Din, the official historian of the Mongol court in Persia, says in the Jami al-Tawarikh that the Khereid were Christians. William of Rubruck, who encountered many Nestorians during his stay at Mongke Khan's court and at Karakorum in 1254–1255, notes that Nestorianism in Mongolia was tainted by shamanism and Manicheism and very confused in terms of liturgy, not following the usual norms of Christian churches elsewhere in the world. He attributes this to the lack of teachers of the faith, power struggles among the clergy and a willingness to make doctrinal concessions in order to win the favour of the Khans. Contact with the Catholicos was lost after the Turco-Mongol ruler Timur (reigned 1370–1405) effectively destroyed the Church of the East (leaving only a small remnant) in a violent Islamic jihad. The Nestorian Church in Karakorum was destroyed by the invading Ming dynasty army in 1380.

The legend of Prester John, otherwise set in India or Ethiopia, was also brought in connection with the Nestorian rulers of the Khereid. In some versions of the legend, Prester John was explicitly identified with Toghrul.[2] But Mongolian sources say nothing about his religion.[14] The Chinese series "Genghis Khan" depicts Wang Khan Toghrul as a devout Christian, with a cross mounted on top of his royal yurt which has a Christian altar inside and shows him regularly making the sign of the cross. A scene of this critically acclaimed Chinese "Genghis Khan" series on YouTube shows Genghis Khan presenting a gift to Wang Khan (his father's sworn brother) and asking for military assistance (starting from 09:08)[3]). The Japanese-Mongolian film "Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea" also depicts Wang Khan Toghrul of the Khereid as Christian, with a church bell behind his royal yurt and Christian cross signs on his flag, his throne as well as covering his yurt. This can be seen starting from "3:00" minutes on this YouTube video of the film (dubbed Thai) which shows a young Genghis Khan presenting a gift to Wang Khan Toghrul ([4][dead link]).

Descendants in modern times

People with clan name Khereid (also spelled Khereid) are still found among the Mongolia.

Some descendants of Khereids may have been a part of the Middle Juz of the Kazakhs.

See also


  1. ^ a b Rashid-al-Din Hamadani "Jami' al-tawarikh"
  2. ^ a b c d Li, Tang (2006). "Sorkaktani Beki: A prominent Nestorian woman at the Mongol Court". In Malek, Roman; Hofrichter, Peter. Jingjiao: the Church of the East in China and Central Asia.  
  3. ^ Compendium , Paris, 1866, p.362
  4. ^ The Mongol Century, Department of Asian Pacific Studies, San Diego State University.
  5. ^ a b R. Grousset, The Empire of the Steppes, New Brunswick, New Jersey, Rutgers University Press, 1970, p191.
  6. ^ Khereid, Files about origins of Kirgiz-Kaisak(Kazak) people, Muhamedzhan Tynyshbaev.
  7. ^ Khereid, Genealogy of türks, kirgizes, kazakhs and ruling dynasties, Shakarim Qudayberdy-uly
  8. ^ Eds.C.E., Bosworth (2002). History of Civilizations of Central Asia. p. 74. 
  9. ^ Unesco. History of Civilizations of Central Asia, Volym 4. p. 74. 
  10. ^ Erica C. D. Hunter, “The Conversion of the Khereid to Christianity in A.D. 1007”, Zentralasiatische Studien, 22 (1989–1991), pp.143-163.
  11. ^  
  12. ^ "Tooril", Mongolian documentary film
  13. ^ Moffett, A History of Christianity in Asia pp. 400-401.
  14. ^ Atwood, Christopher P. Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire.  


  • Khoyt S.K. Khereid in enthnogenesis of peoples of Euroasia: historigraphia of the problem. Elista, 2008. 82 p.  ISBN 978-5-91458-044-2 in Russian
  • Хойт С. К. Кереиты в этногенезе народов Евразии: историография проблемы. Элиста, 2008. 82 с. ISBN 978-5-91458-044-2
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