Non-Western Titles

In the Muslim world the temporal successors of Muhammad received the title caliph (literally, "successor"). Later titles for Muslim rulers were emir and sultan. Other Muslim titles include sherif, a hereditary title; pasha and bey, originally military titles but later given as a civilian nonhereditary honor; and sheikh, a title of respect variously given to tribal chiefs, heads of religious orders and colleges, and town mayors.

Titles in India derive from three sources—Hindu, Muslim, and European—and illustrate the rather tumultuous history of the subcontinent. Raja (ruler or king; maharaja means "great king"), rani (queen), and rajput (king's son, or prince) are of Hindu origin. Nawab is a Muslim title of Hindustani derivation for a nobleman, while nizam is of Arabic origin.

Imperial China made use of over 600 titles beginning with Huang Ti (emperor), Huang How (empress), Huang T'ai How (dowager empress), and so on. Titles of the hereditary imperial nobility conferred on members of the imperial house were of 12 degrees, or lines of descent. These titles were also conferred on the princes and rulers of the Mongol tribes. They were hereditary for a period up to 26 generations. Lesser hereditary ranks of nobility and honorary titles were derived from the feudal order that existed in the 6th cent. B.C. Although they loosely resembled the European scheme— Kung, How, Peh, Tsze, and Nan, corresponding to duke, marquis, earl, viscount, and baron, they were not aristocratic titles in the European sense, as they were granted purely for military services. Titles of honor known as Feng Tseng were conferred as rewards for service or great merit.

The Japanese emperor is sometimes called the Mikado, but this is a term used exclusively by Europeans, except for its use in Japanese poetry. The Japanese have called him the Tenshi (Son of Heaven), Tenno (Heavenly King), Arehito Tenno (God Walking Among Men), Kamigoichinin (Upper Exalted Foremost Being), Aramikami (Incarnate God), and other titles that reflect the traditional belief in his divinity. Through much of Japanese history, the real power rested in the shogun, the commander of the imperial armies. The great feudal vassals were the daimyos, who led retinues of samurai, members of the knightly class. The shogunate came to an end in 1868, giving the real power to the emperor. In 1884, with the feudal order disbanded and all loyalty pledged to the emperor, the holders of ancient titles were given new designations based upon the European system of baron, count, marquess, and so on.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Heraldry, Knighthood, and Chivalry


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