Tarkhan (Old Turkic Tarqan;<ref name="Turkic1">Şablon:Citation</ref> Mongolian: Darqan or Darkhan;<ref>Şablon:Citation</ref><ref name="Genghis Khan p.82">Şablon:Citation</ref> Şablon:Lang-fa; Şablon:Zh; Şablon:Lang-ar; alternative spellings Tarkan, Tarkhaan, Tarqan, Tarchan, Turxan, Tarcan, "Turpan aka Turfan" "Tárkány, Tarján, Torgyán or Turgan) is an ancient Central Asian title used by various Turkic peoples, Indo-Europeans (i.e. Iranian, Tokharian, Punjabi), and by the proto-Mongols, Hungarians and Mongols. Its use was common among the successors of the Mongol Empire.
The origin of the word is not known. Various historians identify the word as either East Iranian (Sogdian, or Khotanese Saka),<ref name="Qarib">Şablon:Citation</ref><ref>Şablon:Citation</ref><ref name="Ossetic">Şablon:Citation</ref> Turkic (incl. Hunnic and Xiongnu),<ref name="Turkic1" /><ref>Róna-Tas, András; "Hungarians and Europe in the early Middle Ages", Central European University Press, p 228, 1999, ISBN 9639116483</ref><ref name="Turkic2">Şablon:Citation</ref> or Mongolian.
Although Richard N. Frye reports that the word "was probably foreign to Sogdian", hence considered to be a loanword from Turkic, Gerhard Doerfer points out that even in Turkic languages, its plural is not Turkic (sing. tarxan --> plur. tarxat), suggesting a non-Turkic origin.<ref name="Doerfer">Şablon:Citation</ref> L. Ligeti comes to the same conclusion, saying that "tarxan and tegin [prince] form the wholly un-Turkish plurals tarxat and tegit" and that the word was unknown to medieval western Turkic languages, such as Bulgar.<ref>Şablon:Citation</ref> Taking this into consideration, the word seems to be derived from medieval Mongolian darqat (plural suffix -at), itself perhaps derived from the earlier Sogdian word *tarxant ("free of taxes").<ref name = "Doerfer" /> Contradicts this the fact that one of the Magyar (Hungarian) tribes was called Tarjan (Ταριάνου) according to Constantin VII's De Administrando Imperio, dated centuries earlier. Also this name is commonly used for settlements throughout Hungary, and used as a family name. A. Alemany gives the additional elaboration that the related East Iranian Scythian (and Alanic) word *tarxan still survives in Ossetic tærxon ("argument, trial") and tærxon kænyn ("to judge").<ref name="Ossetic" /> Harold Walter Bailey also proposes an Iranian (Khotanese Saka) root for the word,<ref>Şablon:Citation</ref> L. Rogers bears in mind that the word may have originated among the Xiongnu and Huns where it was associated with a title for nobility. Edwin G. Pulleyblank also suggests that both, Turkic tarqan and Mongolian darxan/daruyu, may preserve an original Hunnic word.<ref name="Universität Bonn.">Universität Bonn. Seminar für Sprach- und Kulturwissenschaft Zentralasiens: Zentralasiatische Studien, Vol. 24-26, p.21</ref>
Tarkhan was used among the various Iranian (Sogdian, Saka and Hephthalites), Turkic and proto-Mongol peoples of Central Asia and by other Eurasian nomads. It was a high rank in the army of Timur. Tarkhans commanded military contingents (roughly of regimental size under the Khazars) and were, roughly speaking, generals. They could also be assigned as military governors of conquered regions.
The Göktürks probably adopted the title darqan from the proto-Mongol Rourans or Avars.<ref>Şablon:Citation</ref> The Tarkhan were cited in the Orkhon inscription of Kul Tigin (d. c. 731 CE). They were given high honors such as entering the yurt of the khagan without any prior appointment and shown unusual ninefold pardon to the ninth generation from any crime they committed.<ref>Şablon:Citation</ref> Although the etymology of the word is unknown, it is attested under the Khitan people, whose Liao dynasty ruled most of Mongolia and North China from 916-1125.<ref>Şablon:Citation</ref>
Like many titles, Tarkhan also occurs as a personal name, independent of a person's rank, which makes some historical references confusing. For example, Arabic texts refer to a "Tarkhan, king of the Khazars" as reigning in the mid ninth century. Whether this is a confused reference to a military official or the name of an individual Khazar khagan remains unclear. The name is occasionally used today in Turkish and Arabic speaking countries. It is used as family name in Hungary today.
In the Mongol Empire, the darkhans were exempted from taxation, socage and requisitioning. Genghis Khan made those who helped his rise darkhans in 1206. The families of the darkhans played crucial roles later when the succession crisis occurred in Yuan dynasty and Ilkhanate. Abaqa Khan (1234–82) made an Indian Darkhan after he had led his mother and her team all the way from Central Asia to Persia safely. A wealthy merchant of Persia was made of Darkhan by Ghazan (1271–1304) for his service during the early defeat of the Ilkhan. In Russia, the Khans of the Golden Horde assigned important tasks to the Darkhan. A jarlig of Temür Qutlugh (ca. 1370–1399) authorized rights of the tarkhan of Crimea.<ref>http://reff.net.ua/26327-YArlyki_hanov_Zolotoiy_Ordy_kak_istochnik_prava_i_kak_istochnik_po_istorii_prava.html</ref>
After suppressing the rebellion of the right three tumens in Mongolia, Dayan Khan exempted his soldiers, who participated the battle of Dalan-Terqin, from imposts and made them Darkhan in 1513. Even after the collapse of Northern Yuan dynasty with the death of Ligdan Khan in 1635, the title of darkhan continued to be bestowed on religious dignitaries, sometimes on persons of low birth. For example, in 1665, Erinchin Lobsang Tayiji, the Altan Khan of the Khalkha, bestowed the title on a Russian interpreter and requested the Tsar of Russia to exempt the interpreter from all tax obligations.<ref name="Genghis Khan p.82" />
All craftsmen held the status of darkhan and were immune to occasional requisitions levied incessantly by passing imperial envoys.<ref>Şablon:Citation</ref> From then on, the word referred to craftsmen or blacksmiths<ref>Şablon:Citation</ref> in the Mongolian language now and is still used in Mongolia as privilege.<ref>Şablon:Citation</ref> People who served the Khagan's orda were granted the title of darkhan and their descendants are known as the darkhad in Ordos City, Inner Mongolia.
One of the seven Magyar (Hungarian) tribes was called Tarjan (Ταριάνου) according to Constantin VII's De Administrando Imperio, and it is a common geographical name used in many villages and city names.
- In C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia series of novels, the apparent spelling variation Tarkaan is the title of a Calormen nobleman, tarkheena that of a noble woman.
- In Age of Empires II: The Conquerors, the tarkan is the Huns' unique unit with the appearance of a horseman with a torch and scourge in place of sword. Their strength is destroying buildings.
- Tarkan in the comic Tarkan is a fictional Hun warrior created by Turkish cartoonist Sezgin Burak.