Why were the successor fragments of the Mongol empire named after colors after the death of Genghis Khan?

For example, blue horde, golden horde and white horde.

  • Some discussion here (esp. p. 4): ia800306.us.archive.org/1/items/TheNameOfTheBlackSea2007/…
    – fdb
    Mar 23, 2019 at 17:58
  • 2
    Welcome to HistorySE, What has your research shown you so far? Where have you already searched? Please help us to help you. You might find it helpful to review the site tour and help center. You may improve your question to comply with site guidelines with an edit and the help of How to Ask. Is there any evidence that these terms were used?Is there a citation for these?
    – MCW
    Mar 24, 2019 at 17:23
  • Amazing. Are Kara Koyunlu and Aq Koyunlu other examples of color-named hordes? Or just somebody liked black or while sheep more?
    – Luiz
    Mar 24, 2019 at 17:55

3 Answers 3


Colours are used in many cultures to denote directions. Chinese and Turkish colour/directions systems are very similar, which is probably not a co-incidence.

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This picture from a linguistics blog compares them, and notes that the Red Sea and the Black Sea are named for their directions from Turkey. Comments on this question suggest that Belarus (White Russia) is western (old) Russia, and that there is a Red Russia also, to the south. They also provide a Wiki link for "Northern Eurasia"'s system.

This would lead to the conclusion that the blue horde was from/in the east, the golden horde the centre, and the white horde the west.

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    Were the hordes in fact located according to the Chinese scheme? Mar 24, 2019 at 15:29
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    But there is a White Sea to the north, and a Yellow Sea to the east....
    – jamesqf
    Mar 24, 2019 at 16:28
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    @jamesqf Doesn't the White Sea freeze during the Winter? Ice is often white-ish. Mar 24, 2019 at 16:33
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    Image is bogus and needs to be removed. The Red Sea wasn't named by the Turks, Black Sea, perhaps. This bogus viewpoint and seems to have made it into wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Sea#Historical_names_and_etymology
    – John Dee
    Mar 24, 2019 at 17:49
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    Is it, perhaps, worth noting that the Wikipedia page on the Golden Horde offers several different sources for the origins of the names (with citations)? Mar 24, 2019 at 17:51

Your talking about the Golden horde, or the Ulus of Jochi. It was divided between Jochi's sons, but it remained united. It stretched from Central Asia to Eastern Europe. These were the western Mongolian domains, minus the troubled Ilkhanate of Persia.

The Ulus of Jochi was its Mongolian name. The "Golden Horde" is what the Russians called it, but it was never the actual name of the horde. This was probably derived from the name for the camp of the great Khan, the alta ordos, or "golden camp". There was a persistent legend about the large golden tent of Bhatu Khan.

The Ulus of Jochi was divided into two "wings", each ruled by a son of Bhatu. The white horde was in the west and the blue horde was in the east. It's traditionally thought that these colors symbolized the left and right flanks of Bhatu Khan if he was facing south. It also coincides with the Chinese color-direction schemes, but we're not sure if this is the reason for it. There are some discrepancies to this, as well as alternate color schemes.

Mongols used Turkic terminology when they designated the white and blue divisions of the horde. This was because it was the successor of the Cuman-Kipchack confederation, and contained mostly Turkic peoples. Turkic remained the language of the horde.

Colors were important to Tengrism, Turkic shamanism. They had a variety of symbolic and supernatural aspects. Blue was an especially sacred color that represented heaven and the sky. Gokturks meant "blue turks". The central Asian Kara Khanids and Kara Khitans meant "black...". The sacral and auspicious meanings were attached to concepts of nobility and rulership.

When the Ulus Jochi divided, the blue horde ceased to exist. The white horde continued to exist, and continued to be called the Golden Horde by Russians.

Source: Color Symbolism in the Turko Mongolian World. pp. 84-88

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    On Batu, the "princes of the left hand", and white horde vs blue horde confusion: 1) Batu is grandson of Genghis Khan, via the latter's eldest son, Jochi. Batu is the second eldest son of Jochi. 2) The Blue Horde had four Mongol princes. Rest of the Batid princes were under the west wing (right hand). 3) On the some discrepancies, Blue Horde (east wing, left hand) is also sometimes known as "White Horde" in Timurid (Tamerlane) sources . Hence the confusion with terminology (depends on whom you ask). Hope this helps.
    – J Asia
    Mar 25, 2019 at 10:01

On cardinal directions, seasons, creatures and colors:

In ancient China the four cardinal directions were equated with the four seasons, and to each of these directions was assigned a 'supernatural' or 'spiritually endowed' creature. The rising sun of the east was equated with spring, and symbolized by a blue or azure dragon. The midday sun of the south was equated with summer, and symbolized by the phoenix or 'red bird of the sun'. The setting sun of the west was equated with autumn, and symbolized by a white tiger. The sunless regions of the north were equated with winter, and symbolized by a serpent-entwined tortoise or 'black warrior'.

Source: Robert Beer, The Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols, Serindia, 2003.

On the Golden Horde:

Some scholars have suggested that the significance of the golden color was derived from the symbolism the Chinese place on specific colors. The ancient Chinese identified the cardinal points of the compass with certain colors. Black was symbolic of north, red was the color of the south, the east was blue, and white was the color to indicate the west. Yellow was known as an imperial color, the symbolic shade that represented the center of all things.

Source: Tim McNeese, The Volga River, Infobase Publishing, 2004.

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