Silver coin of Khunak the Bukhar Khuda

This silver coin is one of a coin series minted from the fifth to the twelfth century, reproducing one of the drachms first minted by Varahran V (420-438 C.E.) (Naymark 2010, 7). The Bukhar Khuda drachms have been studied since 1819. There are four types of coins in the Bukhar Khuda series: (1) Bukhār Khudāt drachms minted in Bukhara; (2) Bukhār Khudāt type drachms minted in Samarkand on the pattern of (1); (3) Arabo-Sogdian drachms minted by the Arabs in Central Asia on the patterns of (1) and (2); and (4) Bukhār Khudāt type or Black dirhams minted by the Samanids on the pattern of (3) (Fedorov 2007, 153). Specimen of this type of coin were among two hoards found in Paykand. The larger of these two hoards was hidden before the destruction and burning of the Paykand citadel, associated with an Arab attack on the city in 706 C.E.. The coins of Khunak were the youngest coins in the hoard (Naymark 2010, 10-11).

This coin features what scholars have called an “extended” Sogdian legend. The full inscription of the coin is pwx’r xr’’n xwβ xwnk. The first and third words of the inscription, pwx’r and xwβ, form the title of “Bukharan King” on the other more common coin with the short legend. The second word of the inscription continues to be questioned by scholars. When a well preserved specimen was found, the fourth word was able to be determined as possibly the name of the king, Khnk, with the full inscription reading pwx’r xr’’n xwβ xw/nn/wk.The person of this same name appears in early Islamic authors’ accounts of the conquest of Bukhara in 706-709 C.E.. The Ta’rīkh-i Bukhārā  calls this person Khnk Khūda, while Ya’qūbī uses Khnk Abū Shūkr Bukār Khūda. These written sources are supported by the the date of larger hoard (Naymark 2010, 9-11). 

Before these specimen were found, scholars could not read the last word with certainty. The die sinker had to squeeze the word into a tighter space and thus the proportions of some of the letters were distorted. The middle letters of this final word can be read in Sogdian different ways, however in Arabic the word is only three letters: kh-n-k, limiting the Sogdian possibilities to nw or wn. Some scholars believe the xwnk interpretation for a few reasons: (1) a rock inscription of a Sogdian name xwn’kk in Dadam Das on Upper Indus; (2) Chach coins from a series minted in the late seventh to the early eighth century with a legend reading xwn’kk c’cynk xwβw (“Chachian Ruler Hunak”); (3) the name likely has roots akin xwn, a Sogdian name from “Hun” (Naymark 2010, 11).

Khunak was a ruler of Vardāna who usurped the throne of Bukhara in the early 690s and ruled until his death in about 709 C.E.. Before Khunak was ruler, the name Kana appeared in the legend on coins even after Kana’s death. After Khunak’s death, Toghshada, the lawful heir to the Bukharan throne returned to the use of Kana on the coin despite it being the name of a long dead king. The changing of the name to Khunak and the lack of ruler’s names on Bukharan copper coins makes this Bukharan coin unusal (Naymark 2010, 8 and 12). Khunak may have also been the one to build the Varakhsha Palace (Naymark 2003, 20).

On the obverse side of this silver coin, a man’s face is facing the right side of the coin, with character inscriptions along the outer edge of the circular coin. The face is a side portrait and the figure appears to be wearing a hat, possibly even a crown. The reverse side of the coin has some kind of inscription. However, wear and tear is obvious; the middle has been rubbed-off, possibly from use in circulation. Characters are also imprinted around the outer edges on the reverse side as well.

The Bukhar Khuda coins were based on a Sassanid coin, Vahram V, and came from the Bukhara oasis. This series of coins was made up of four different coins including the Bukhar Khudat minted in Bukhara, the Bukhar Khudat minted in Samarkand, the Arabo-Sogdian, and the Bukhar Khudat also known as the black dirhams. There is debate as to when these coins were minted; some argue they were minted at end of the 5th century while others date these coins to have been minted in the 6th century. Regardless, these coins were used until the 13th century. This coin series is important in that it shows that the widespread influence was not military nature but rather from an economic vantage. the production of local coinage was halted in order to align with the Iranian and Chinese systems (de la Vaissiere 2005, 171-172).

Coins similar to this coin illustrate that the princes and other local rulers did not have sole claim over the minting of coins. As a result, coins with varying faces and inscriptions were made. For example, there was a coin minted in Panjikent after the goddess Nana, which is believed to have been minted by the local temple of that city (de la Vaissiere 2005, 172).

Local coins were not as widely accepted and often did not circulate outside the local border. In the seventh century, the Bukhar Khudar coins had lost between 20 and 30 percent of their silver content and continued to decline thereafter.

It is interesting to note that the Sogdians were aware of the necessity to have a seemingly worthless currency or coin, so that the coins would less likely be taken beyond the country’s borders by the traveling merchants. At the same time, the Sogdians were still be able to trade among themselves with this currency (de la Vaissiere 2005, 172-173). In this manner, the Sogdians were able to retain their precious metals in their country, despite the perceived lesser value.



Fedorov, Michael. 2007. “On the Portraits of the Sogdian Kings (Ikhshīds) of Samarqand.” Iran 45: 153-160.

Naymark, Aleksandr. 2010. “Drachms of Bukhar Khuda Khunak.” Journal of Inner Asian Art and Archaeology 5 (1): 7-32. (AC)

Naymark, Aleksandr. 2003. “Returning to Varakhsha.” The Silk Road 1 (2): 9-22. (AC)


de la Vaissiere, Etienne. 2005. Sogdian Traders: A History. Translated by James Ward. Leiden: Brill. (AC)






Additional Research Metadata



“Silver coin of Khunak the Bukhar Khuda,” Telling the Sogdian Story , accessed April 1, 2020,