QOPČUR (QUPČUR), capitation tax levied by the Mongols (Doerfer I, pp. 387-91).  Qopčur first surfaces (in its Mongolian guise of qubčiri) as a tax on the nomadic population, when Temüjin (ČENGIZ KHAN) levied it on his followers in order to assist his ally Toḡril, khan of the Kereit, who was in financial difficulties (Secret History, par. 151, tr. De Rachewiltz, I, p. 74; Rašid-al-Din, Jāmeʿ al-tawāriḵ I, p. 363).  At the quriltai (assembly) of 1235, Čengiz Khan’s son and successor Ögödei (Ukadāy) imposed a qopčur of one beast in every hundred for his own establishment and one for the relief of the poor (Secret History, par. 279, tr. De Rachewiltz, p. 214; Rašid-al-Din, Jāmeʿ al-tawāriḵ I, pp. 664-5).  In around 1252 the Great Khan Möngke (Mungga; Mangu) reissued the original edict, but decreed that anyone who owned fewer than a hundred animals within a particular category was absolved from payment (Jovayni, ed. Qazvini, III, p. 79; tr. Boyle, II, p. 600).  It is also under Möngke that the qopčur first appears as a poll tax on the sedentary population, and in this sense it frequently recurs in Persian sources.

In his edict, which was brought back to Iran by the civil governor, Arḡun Āqā, Möngke set graduated rates: a wealthy man was to pay ten dinārs per annum, and a poor man only one.  Jovayni’s phrasing (Qazvini, II, p. 254; tr. Boyle, II, p. 517) suggests that the figures were modeled on the system in Transoxiana, where the governor Masʿud Yalavač had already introduced the collection of qopčur (though whether this was a recent innovation or dated from the reign of Ögödei or Güyüg, is not specified); and we know from the report of the Chinese envoy Ch’ang Te, who passed through Transoxiana in 1259, that there the rich paid a higher poll-tax than the poor and that the maximum payable was ten gold coins (Bretschneider, I, p. 131).  On arriving back in Khorasan with Möngke’s edict, Arḡun Āqā consulted his officials and set the maximum annual rate at 70 dinārs for every ten persons.  Then in 656/1258, when the Great Khan’s brother Hülegü (HULĀGU KHAN) arrived in north-western Iran, Arḡun Āqā instituted a more far-reaching reform, whereby the richest paid 500 dinārs and the poorest one (Jovayni, ed. Qazvini, II, pp. 256, 261; tr. Boyle, II, pp. 519, 524). 

Whereas traditional Islamic taxation was based on the ownership and use of land, the basis of the qopčur, as demonstrated by the fact that it was invariably preceded by the census, was the individual male (whether the possessor of land or not).  Only those too old for physical labor were exempted, as were holy men—Muslim scholars, imams, shaykhs and sayyids, and Christian and Buddhist priests and monks.  There is evidence that in Armenia in 1254 the tax was also levied on women and children (Galstian, p. 26).  It could be that here the local unit of assessment was the household, as was in fact consistently the case in Mongol China, where the qaghans (Old Turkic ḵaḡan, qaḡan) retained the household as the traditional basis of taxation.  The qopčur was bitterly resented by the Muslim population, for whom it inevitably evoked memories of the jezya, the head-tax formerly levied by Muslim princes on the Peoples of the Book (ahl al-ketāb) or ḏemmis, i.e., Christians and Jews, but discontinued by the Mongol conquerors.  According to Ḥamd-Allāh Mostawfi Qazvini, the greater part of ʿErāq-e ʿAjam had been ruined by the qopčur and the inhabitants had abandoned their homes (Ḥamd-Allāh Mostawfi, pp. 603-4).  The poet Pur-e Bahā devoted an entire qaṣida to the oppressive character of the qopčur (Minorsky, pp. 299-305).

Rašid-al-Din, eager to highlight the Il-khan Ḡāzān’s (and his own) reforming endeavors and to emphasize the burdens previously borne by the Mongols’ subjects, possibly exaggerates when he claims that in some localities the qopčur had been levied twenty or thirty times a year (Rašid-al-Din, II, p. 1415).  He tells us that as a result of the reforms the tax was collected only twice yearly from the peasants and once a year from the nomads (Rašid-al-Din, II, p. 1438). Ḡāzān’s edict allocating eqṭā‛s to the Mongol soldiery stipulated that the peasants should henceforth pay the qopčur to the eqṭāʿ-holder (Rašid-al-Din, II, pp. 1481-82; Lambton, 1988, pp. 199-202).  It is noteworthy that Rašid-al-Din does not refer to earlier attempts to mitigate the effects of the tax, as when his predecessor, the vizier Ṣadr-al-Din Aḥmad Ḵāledi Zanjāni, had relieved the towns of ʿErāq-e ʿAjam of the obligation to pay the qopčur and had substituted the tamḡa, a tax on commercial transactions (Ḥamd-Allāh Mostawfi, p. 604).

The evidence indicates that qopčur continued to be levied in the post-Il-khanid period. Āmoli (Nafāʾes al-fonūn, I, p. 327) speaks of qopčur-e har nāḥeyati and qopčur-e moḥtarefa, of which the latter was clearly a head-tax on artisans and doubtless levied at a special rate.  It has been proposed that under the Jalayerids and other post-Mongol dynasties the qopčur appears in the guise of the pasturage tax (marāʿi).


Šams-al-Din Moḥammad b. Maḥmud Āmoli, Nafāʾes al-fonun, ed. Mirzā Abu’l-Ḥasan Šaʿrāni and Sayyed Ebrāhim Meyānaji, Tehran, 1377-9/1958-60.

E. Bretschneider, Mediaeval Researches from Eastern Asiatic Sources. Fragments Towards the Knowledge of the Geography and History of Central and Western Asia from the 13th to the 17th century, London, 1910.

G. Doerfer, Türkische und mongolische Elemente im Neupersischen, Band I: Mongolische Elemente in Neupersischen, Wiesbaden, 1963.

A. G. Galstian, Armyanskie istochniki o mongolakh, Moscow, 1962.

ʿAlāʾ-al-Din ʿAṭā-Malek Jovayni, Tāriḵ-e jahāngošāy, ed. Moḥammad Qazvini, 3 vols., E.J.W. Gibb Memorial Series 16/1-3, London and Leiden, 1912-37; tr. John A. Boyle as The History of the World Conqueror, 2 vols., Manchester, 1958, repr. as Genghis Khan: The History of the World Conqueror, Manchester, 1997.

Ḥamd-Allāh Mostawfi Qazvini Tāriḵ-e gozida, ed. ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn Navāʾi, Tehran, 1983.

Ann K. S. Lambton, “Mongol Fiscal Administration in Persia” [Part I], Studia Islamica 64, 1986, pp. 79-99.

Eadem, Continuity and Change in Medieval Persia: Aspects of Administrative, Economic, and Social History, 11th-14th Century, Albany, 1988.

John Masson Smith, Jr., “Mongol and Nomadic Taxation,”Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies [HJAS] 30, 1970, pp. 46-85.

Vladimir Minorsky, “Pūr-i Bahā and his Poems,” in Iranica: Twenty Articles, Tehran, 1964, pp. 292-305.

David O. Morgan, “Ḳūbčūr,” in EI2 V, 1986, pp. 299-300.

Rašid-al-Din, Jāmeʿ al-tawāriḵ, ed. Moḥammad Rowšan and Moṣṭafā Musawi, Tehran, 1373/1994.

The Secret History of the Mongols: A Mongolian Epic Chronicle of the Thirteenth Century, tr. I. de Rachewiltz, Leiden, 2004.

(Peter Jackson)

Originally Published: November 9, 2016

Last Updated: November 9, 2016

Cite this entry:

Peter Jackson, “QOPČUR,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2016, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/qopcur-tax (accessed on 09 November 2016).