Mongol Invasions of China

By Bloodswan

Of all the operations undertaken by the Mongols it was China that can be looked at as the most significant. China with its huge fortified cities and massive population proved the first major challenge to the Mongols. Almost all other Mongol campaigns from Russia and Hungary to Persia and Syria to Japan and Korea, were carried out against the backdrop of the long struggle in China. What started first with Genghis Khan and his campaign against the Xi Xia ended over 70 years later with his grandson Khubilai, who became the first Yuan emperor of China. During this time we can see difference in Mongolian attitudes from nomadism to imperialism by comparing Genghis who lived in a portable felt ger to Khubilai who owned the palace now known in popular imagination as Xanadu.

China at the time of Genghis Khan

When Temujin became Genghis Khan in 1206 his strategic needs changed from unifying nomads to impressing them by demonstrating his power against the agriculture-based civilisations to the south. His obvious target would be China. China at this time was divided by two major powers, the Song and the Jin. The Jin who were the Northern power, were once nomads themselves. They were originally known as the Jurchen and had taken over the Liao dynasty. The Liao themselves were Khitans, another tribe of Manchurian nomads who had founded a Chinese style dynasty.

The Song dynasty held most of the land that we would recognise today as China and were ethnically Han Chinese. The population of the Song during the 12th century was over 100 million. During the Jurchen revolt against the Liao, the Song allied themselves with the Jurchen to destroy their supposed enemies. This however would prove to be an unwise decision. The Liao had abandoned their policies of expansion and could have provided the Song with a buffer state against nomads like the Jurchen.

In 1125 the Liao dynasty was destroyed and the Jurchen marched into Northern (Song) China. Their capital Kaifeng was captured and the Song fled southwards. They set up a new capital at Hangzhou. For this reason the history of the Song dynasty has been divided into two parts, the Northern dynasty which lasted from 960 - 1127 and the Southern dynasty which lasted until 1279. The Jurchen settled in the North and founded the Jin dynasty. The Song and Jin continued their wars right up until the Jin's destruction by the Mongols in 1234.

The Khitan remnants of the Liao fled westwards and founded the Kara-Khitai state. They drove the Seljuq sultanate out of Central Asia and continued to be an important player in Central Asia until their leader Kuchluk was defeated by Jebe Noyan and absorbed by the Mongols under Genghis Khan in 1218.

Besides the two major powers in China, a third power lay to the north-west. The Xi Xia. In 1044 they forced the Song to sign a treaty after a six year war and it is quite clear that they had enough power to resist being taken over by the Jin or Song. Besides the three powers in China, there were two more prominent regional powers, the Kara-Khitai and the Tibetans.

China in 1142 AD

The campaigns

The Tanguts

The Tangut were a tribe related to the Tibetans that migrated and settled in north-western China after being driven out by the Tibetans. Once settled the Tanguts underwent a process of adopting Chinese culture and in 982 founded a state under Li Deming. However, it would not be until 1038 that the Tangut chieftain Li Yuan Hao, Li Deming's son, named himself emperor of Xi Xia, and demanded that the Song emperor recognise him as an equal. This state was known in Chinese as the Xi Xia.

When Genghis decided to expand his lands after uniting the Mongol tribes he immediately looked to China. The Jin were too powerful at this time so attention was turned to the Xi Xia. Absorbing the Xi Xia would also ensure his flank was covered once the war with the Jin had commenced.

The Xi Xia and Mongols knew a great deal about each other. The Tanguts had close links with Genghis Khan's enemy Toghrul Khan of the Keraits and even raised his brother Jakha later making him a general. Jakha's daughter would eventually become one of Genghis's step daughters and the mother of Mongke, Khubilai, Arik Boke and Hulegu.

War with the Xi Xia

After several raids into Xi Xia territory a major campaign was planned with the objective of completely destroying them in 1209. The operation began with a 1,000 km march from Mongolian to Tangut lands. The Mongols successfully stormed the Xi Xia fortress of Wolohai and then planned an assault on the Xi Xia capital of Yinchuan.

The path to Yinchuan lay over a high mountain range and it was here where the Xi Xia counter-attacked. The result was a stalemate which led to a two month standoff until the Xi Xia sent reinforcements. Before this time the Xi Xia had been camping in a fortified camp which the Mongols could not breach. The Mongols then used what was to become their trademark and feigned a retreat and left only a small contingent at the base camp. When the Xi Xia attacked the Mongols sprung out from the mountains and won a hard fought but decisive victory capturing the Xi Xia commander Weiming. The path to Yinchuan was now clear.

Up until this point the Mongol tactics of mobile cavalry and a lightning assault upon a town had been successful but Yinchuan was to present a new challenge for the armies of Genghis Khan. Yinchuan lay on the Yellow river and was heavily fortified. It forced the Mongol advance came to an abrupt halt. The Mongols were faced for the first time with having to conduct a long siege against a fortified town and had no siege machinery. The Mongol response however was a positive one and is an example of the extraordinary skill to learn and adapt that the Mongols would demonstrate throughout their campaigns.

Seeing that recent rainfall had caused the Yellow river to swell, Genghis Khan ordered the construction of a huge dyke. The river soon began to flood the city but unfortunately for the Mongols the dyke bust causing a catastrophic flood to sweep through the Mongol siege lines in January 1210. It is believed that the breach was made by the Xi Xia.

The end result however was a good one for the Mongols. Having seen the military the might the Mongols possessed, the Xi Xia ruler submitted to Genghis Khan and promised tribute. Genghis Khan was satisfied with this and withdrew having been successful in his first operation against a civilised state.

The Jin

When the Mongols besieged Yinchuan in 1209 the Xi Xia had requested help from the Jin. The Jin emperor refused and when the Mongols left in 1210 the Xi Xia made a raid into Jin territory, breaking a truce which had existed since 1165.

Soon after Genghis Khan returned from Yinchuan he was met by a vassal of the new Jin emperor. Instead of bowing to acknowledge the emperor he spat on the ground in a gesture of defiance. This act would inevitably lead to war.

The tide was already beginning to turn against the Jin. The Jin emperor ruled an insecure state which saw 3 million Jurchen rule over 40 million Chinese peasants. Sensing a shift in power several senior Jin officials and a Khitan vassal leader defected to the Mongols. On top of this the Ongut tribe which lay between the Jin and the Mongols had offered unimpeded passage to the Mongols.

The Mongols moved against the Jin in 1211. The size of the Mongol army would have been something like 100,000 warriors with 300,000 horses strung out into groups of 10,000 (called a tumen). The series of walls, ditches and fortifications we know today as the Great Wall of China proved hopelessly ineffective and soon the Mongols spilled into northern China with their eyes set on the Jin capital Zhongdu (present day Beijing).

The Mongol army was split into two with Genghis personally commanding the eastern army which headed for the strategic location of the Juyong pass which protected Zhongdu from the north. The famous Mongol general Jebe Noyan led the eastern army's vanguard. The Mongols soon approached the pass named Huan-erh-tsui meaning the "Badger's Mouth". The Jin army which is said to have numbered 500,000 were slowly moving towards the Mongols. The Jin commander Zhi Zhong had rejected advice to attack the Mongols with his Khitan cavalry whilst the Mongols were grazing their horses in favour of allowing his infantry to keep up.

Zhi Zhong sent an officer named Ming-an to the Mongols to discuss peace terms but Ming-an quickly defected and told the Mongols that the Jin cavalry were waiting at the far end of the pass. The Mongols surprised and overwhelmed the Jin cavalry (who were packed between the ridges) with a barrage of arrows. This was followed by an attack from the Mongol left wing. The Jin cavalry trampled their own infantry amongst the confusion and the bodies began piling along the pass. Jebe overcame any Jin resistance and after a few hours thousands of dead bodies littered the pass. It was said of this battle that the dead were "without number". Ten years later the bones of the deceased were still visible on the escarpments.

The Mongols had defeated a large Jin army and now the road to the Jin capital of Zhongdu was open. The Mongols would always remember the Battle of Huan-erh-tsui as one of their most important victories.

During the winter of 1211 the Mongols withdrew only to return the following year. This time Genghis Khan advanced against the western city of Datong. During the siege Genghis was severely wounded by an arrow. Genghis had brought with him a Chinese renegade named Liu Po-Lin, an expert in siege warfare but despite this advantage the Mongols could not take Datong by the time winter had come around so they withdrew once more. Despite failing to take Datong the presence of Liu Po-Lin is a clear of example of the Mongols' willingness to learn from their enemies.

In 1213 the Mongols once again headed for Juyong pass which had be reinforced by Jin's elite troops. Caltrops were strewn across the mountain passes and iron gates built. The Jin resistance and newly built fortifications almost forced the Mongols to find another passage through to Zhongdu. Subodai and Jebe led a successful attack on the southern fort which forced the northern fort to surrender.

Meanwhile, under the great Mongol general Mukhali a series of raids swept through the Jin empire. By 1214 most of the Jin's northern lands including all of Manchuria were in Mongol hands. Many cities were taken, partly due to their new knowledge of siege techniques but also due to intimidation. The Mongols brought with them thousands of captives which were forced to build siegeworks and then expected to lead the first assault as human shields. Many cities submited to rather than opposed their Mongol conquerors.

The city of Pei Ching fell in extraordinary fashion. A Kazakh Mongol officer named Yesen ambushed a Jin commander arriving to assume command of the city. Having taking his documents and speaking the local Turkish language he convinced the guards that he was infact the new commander and Mukhali entered the city with his army virtually unopposed.

The fall of Zhongdu

In 1214 with his empire in tatters the Jin emperor moved his court to the southern capital of Kaifeng. The general Zhi Zhong who had failed at Huan-erh-tsui staged a coup in Zhongdu, killing the 500 imperial guards of the Forbidden City. Two months after this the Mongols lay siege to the city to the city. Zhi Zhong sent out 6,000 troops to oppose them under Kao Chi. After initial success this force was defeated and fearing his own execution Kao Chi turned assassin and with a small group of men, cornered Zhi Zhong and beheaded him. Kao Chi was instantly made vice-emperor of the empire.

With word that the Jin emperor was planning a counter offensive the Mongols redoubled their efforts against Zhongdu. Even in China, a land of great cities, the walls of Zhongdu which stretched for 40 km and reached 12 metres in height were considered large. On top of this there were three lines of moats and 900 towers along the walls. Zhongdu with its' exceptional defences would prove a real challenge for the Mongols. Several Mongol assaults failed but with the nearby lands ravaged and the city blockaded Zhongdu would slowly die from the inside. By the summer of 1215 the local inhabitants had resorted to cannibalism. In June Kao Chi fled to join the emperor in Kaifend and the city surrendered. After its' surrender Zhongdu was sacked and burned.

The fall of Zhongdu marked the real beginning of the Mongol domination of China. By 1216 all of northern China was part of the Mongol empire. Mongol campaigning in China did ease for a while with Genghis Khan turning his attention to the Kara-Khitai and Khwarazm empires. China was left in the hands of Genghis's brother Kasar and general Mukhali.

The final campaign of Genghis Khan

During their Khwarazm campaigns the Mongols had asked the Xi Xia for military aid. Although the Xi Xia emperor Shenzong was willing, his court and in particular his general Asa-gambu recommended against it. When Genghis Khan returned from his campaign the new emperor Xianzong pled with him, but the general Asa-gambu challenged Genghis Khan. Genghis Khan was furious that the Xi Xia had not provided him with troops and launched a major campaign against them in 1225.

Despite being seventy two years of age Genghis insisted that he personally command the campaign. The emperor Xianzong died during the fighting and was succeeded by Modi (Li Xian). Although resistance was stubborn the Mongols captured town after town until in the spring of 1227 they reached the city of Ningxia. Genghis Khan died in his military camp on August 18th whilst the siege was taking place. Shortly after his death the city fell and all inhabitants butchered. The Xi Xia ceased to be and any remnants were quickly absorbed into the Mongol empire.

The great siege of Kaifeng and the fall of the Jin dynasty

In the great Kuriltai of 1227 Ogedei was elected Khan of the Mongols as Genghis had requested. The Jin were amongst the major priorities of the Mongol targets for conquest and in 1230 Ogedei began a major operation against them. Tolui, Genghis's youngest son led the main army against the Jin. In 1231 Hezhong was besieged. Despite defending themselves with iron bombs the city fell and the surviving Jin fled southward along the Yellow river. According to the Secret History of the Mongols, Tolui sacrificed himself in order to cure Ogedei from a very severe illness during the early stages of the campaign.

The Song had began raiding Jin territory when news of the Mongol invasion broke and they soon allied themselves with the Mongols. In hindsight this was a poor decision which would come back to bite them just as it had done when they allied themselves with the Jurchen against the Liao.

In 1232 the Mongols reached the Jin's southern and only remaining city of Kaifeng. The siege was under the command of Subodai. Kaifeng had been in a state of shock as the Mongols approached due to a series of defeats they had suffered in the mountains north of Kaifeng. To raise norale the Jin emperor made sure he was visable at all times and toured the walls of the city as the Mongol bombardment began.

During the early stages of the siege the Mongols flung massive rocks from their trebuchets as the Jin countered with their own artillery which included several types of exploding bombs and missles. Stone balls flew in like rainshowers and the crews of the city's own artillery were put into terrible confusion, many being crushed by the stones. The Jin did manage however to hit back and we are told that many of the northern Mongol army were burnt to cinders. Those who weren't burnt to death may have been scorched or injured by fragments of the bombs.

Faced with these devastating weapons, the Mongols were forced to adopt protective measures as they approached the city walls. They made cowhide shields to cover their trenches. To counter this the Jin lowered thunder crash bombs on iron chains and set them off once they had entered the Mongol dugouts. The end result was that both the cowhide and soldiers were blown to bits.

Another weapon used by the Jin was the fire lance. The fire lance consisted of a normal spear which had a tube attached to the end of it. Once lit the tube would burn for about five minutes and shot flames several metres away.When burned out it could be used as a regular spear. These fire weapons caused fear amongst the Mongols but inspite of their technical superiority the Jin's situation soon deteriorated.

Soon the situation became dire as the Mongol assaults intensified. The Jin emperor ordered all men including book students be conscripted for defence of the town walls. Even this could not prolong the inevitable and soon the Jin emperor fled as he had done at Zhongdu when a chance presented itself. This caused such a drop in morale that the officers surrendered not long after.

Subodai wrote to Ogedei promising to slaughter the two million inhabitants of Kaifeng but Ogedei having been listening to his advisors ordered Subodai to spare the Jin and treat them with respect.

The Mongols pursued the Jin emperor to Caizhou where he had taken refuge. The emperor commited suicide in 1234 and the Jin dynsty was ended. The Song welcomed their destruction. After all it was the Jin who had humiliated the Song so many years before but now a far greater foe lay at their doorstep and it wouldn't be long before the Song would face the might of the Mongol military machine.

Mongol campaigns against Song China

With the Jin conquered, the lands of the Song were now at the edge of the Mongol empire. However, during the next two decades and uneasy peace prevailed between the Mongols of and the Song. During this time Ogedei and his successor Guyuk had both passed away.

Mongke ascended the throne in 1251 and this was followed with plans for the invasion of Song China and Persia. Mongke's brothers would lead each campaign. Hulegu would lead the Persian campaign with Khubilai in command of the Chinese campaign.

Khubilai ordered first that his army outflank the main Song army by sweeping through Sichuan and Yunnan. In 1253 Subodai's son, Uriangkhadai led this successful campaign and destroyed the kingdom of Nanzhao. Uriangkhadai would later find himself leading a campaign into Vietnam in 1257.

Khubilai enjoyed great success in southern China and Mongke became so jealous of him that he was recalled to the Mongol capital of Karakorum in 1257. Khubilai wisely did everything his brother asked of him and soon took his command back in southern China. Direct action against the Song was not common however and the war proper actually began with the Song raiding Mongol territory.

In 1259, the Battle of Diaoyu (Fishing Town) resulted in the death of Mongke Khan by cannon shot, which forced the immediate withdrawal of Mongol troops from Europe and the Middle East and prevented the Mongolian Empire from expanding towards Africa. In the period from 1243 to 1279, Diaoyu experienced more than two hundred military confrontations in a miracle of "persistent resistance" that lasted for thirty-six years.

The Yuan dynasty

Khubilai is elected Great Khan

Upon Mongke Khan's death in 1259 Khubilai appeared his obvious successor until at the last moment his younger brother Arik Boka put himself forward as a candidate. Before Khubilai could make it to Karakorum, Arik Boke organised a Kuriltai and had himself elected Khan. When Khubilai had realised what his brother had done he called a Kuriltai of his own and was elected Khan. Neither brother would give way war soon broke out. Khubilai soon drove his brother out of Mongolia after the battle of Simultu in 1261 but it was now obvious that the Mongols were divided. Although Khubilai was recognised as the Great Khan he left the western part of the empire to his brothers and focused on China.

In 1265 the Mongols and Song clashed at Diaoyu once more. Although they didn't take the fortress, the Mongols won the battle and captured 146 ships. Khubilai appreciated the fact that the Mongols now needed a navy and these ships would form the basis of his new fleet. Although less comfortable on water than on horseback the speed at which the Mongols took to the sea is amazing.

Many Mongols objected to Khubilai's obsession with China and in 1267 Ogedei's grandson, Kaidu went to war with Khubilai which caused the effective breakup of Khubilai's realm. Khubilai wasn't dismayed by losing Mongolia however as he felt China was his home.

The siege of Xiangyang

The second part of the campaign against the Song was to take the city of Xiangyang. The operation took six years and resulted in one of the greatest sieges of all time. Xiangyang actually consisted of the twin cities of Xiangyang and Fancheng, which lay opposite each other across the Han river. They formed the northern outpost of the Song. The operation was to be carried out by Bayan, grandson of the legendary Subodai Bahadur.

The preparations for the siege began in 1267 with the city withstanding a sustained siege from Khubilai from 1268 - 71 while being supplied by river boats. During one encounter two heroic Song officers Zhang Shun and Zhang Gui took 100 paddle boats full of supplies to aid Xiangyang and Fancheng. The convoy waited until dark to enter the city but the Mongols burned bales of straw to illuminate the riverbank. The Song paddle ships took up a rectangular formation and attacked the Mongol vessels with fire lances, trebuchets and bombs. The Mongols fired iron bombs from catapults and trebuchets along the riverbank and soon the Song were “up to their ankles in blood”.

Attacks upon the city walls coincided with various encounters along the river. Even when a river blockade was finally built, the Mongol siege weapons of siege crossbows, traction trebuchets, catapults and bombs failed to cause any real damage to the twin cities and their walls. The Mongols needed something more powerful. This was supplied by Khubilai's nephew Abakha who sent him Muslim engineers from Persia. These engineers constructed counterweight trebuchets which were previously unknown in China. The counterweight trebuchet had a shooting range of 500 metres and could use projectiles over 300kg. On top of their power, these new trebuchet were much more accurate than the old ones.

The Mongols started the next stage of the siege with Fancheng in early 1273. Song soldiers in Xiangyang watched in horror as giant rock fall flew right over the gigantic walls of Fancheng, and hit the houses inside. The walls, with netting on them, crippled as if the walls were made of sand. And as soon as the walls fell, Mongolian cavalry stormed the fortress. Fancheng, after holdingout for five years, suddenly fell within a few days.

The Mongols then turned their attention to Xiangyang. However, the Song commander Lu Wenhuan did not give up. He sent a messenger to the Song emperior, to request immediate reinforcements. But upon hearing the power of these new trebuchets, the emperior considered Xiangyang lost and did not send reinforcements. Several massive stones were soon sent flying into Xiangyang as test shots. One single shot brought down the drum tower in Xiangyang with a noise like thunder. Another was said to have sunk four feet into solid ground. Massive chaos accured right after the testing shots. Many soldiers and civilians tried to open the gate and escape. The Mongols told Lu Wenhuan that if Song did not surrender everyone inside, including all civilians would be slaughtered. Lu Wenhuan, with no chance of defending the fortress any longer and no reinforcements in sight, surrendered his forces, ending the five year long siege.

The proclamation of the Yuan dynasty

In 1271 Khubilai had proclaimed himself emperor of the Yuan dynasty of China. He treated the Chinese well and this policy payed off with Khubilai being popular amongst his Chinese subjects.

Khubilai was clearly influenced by Chinese culture and became a Buddhist. He made Peking his new capital and indulged in the luxuries that were expected of a Chinese emperor. He did however try to hold on to some of his Mongol heritage and would often take his sons to the Royal Park where he planted steppe grass.

The Battle of Yamen and the fall of the Song

After the fall of Xiangyang, Khubilai wasted no time in sending his new counter weight trebuchets to the Song capital of Lin'an. Bayan, much like his grandfather was one of the most gifted of all Mongol generals. He led the march to the Lin'an (Hangzhou) and in 1275 crossed the Yangtze river and defeated the Song is a series of battles. Bayan went on to take Yangzhou and occupied one town after another until Lin'an fell in 1276.

After losing Lin'an, the Song imperial court fled the mainland and took refuge on several offshore islands where Emperor Zhao Shi eventually died. He was succeeded by his younger sibling, Zhao Bing, who was only seven. The Song general Zhang Shijie brought the new Emperor Bing to Yamen and prepared the defense against Yuan there.

In 1278, Wen Tianxiang, who had fought against the Mongols in Guangdong and Jiangxi, was captured by Wang Weiyi in Haifeng, eliminating all the Song land forces nearby.

In 1279, Zhang Hongfan attacked the Song navy at Yamen. Li Heng, who previously had captured Guangzhou, reinforced Zhang Hongfan. Some within the Song forces suggested that the navy should first claim the mouth of the bay, so as to secure their line of retreat to the west. Zhang Shijie turned this suggestion down in order to prevent his soldiers from fleeing the battle. He then ordered the burning of all palaces, houses, and forts on land for the same reason.

Zhang ordered about a thousand warships to be chained together, forming a long string within the bay, and placed Emperor Bing's boat in the center of his fleet. The Yuan forces steered fire ships into the Song formation, but the Song ships were prepared for such an attack with all Song ships being painted with fire-resistant mud. The Mongol navy then blockaded the bay, while their army cut off the Song's fresh water and wood sources on land. The Song soldiers were forced to eat dry foods and drink sea water causing much sickness. Zhang Hongfan even kidnapped Zhang Shijie's nephew, asking Zhang Shijie to surrender on three occasions, to no avail.

In the afternoon of March 18, Zhang Hongfan prepared for a massive assault. The employment of cannons was turned down because Hongfan felt that cannons could break the chains of the formation too effectively, making it easy for the Song ships to retreat. The next day, Zhang Hongfan split his naval forces into four parts. One part on each of the Song's east, north, and south sides, while Hongfan led the remaining force.

First, the north flank engaged the Song forces but were repulsed. The Mongols then began playing festive music, leading the Song to think that the Mongol forces were having a banquet and lowering their guard. At noon, Zhang Hongfan attacked from the front, hiding additional soldiers under large pieces of cloth. Once Zhang Hongfan's boats neared the Song fleet, the Mongols sounded the horn of battle, revealing soldiers under the fabric. Caught off guard, the Song fleet lost several ships. Seeing that the battle was lost, Zhang Shijie picked out his finest soldiers and cut about a dozen ships from the formation in an attempted breakout to save the emperor.

The Mongol forces advanced to the centre and to Emperor Bing. Minister Lu Xiufu saw no hope of breaking free, and jumped into the sea with the boy emperor, killing them both. Many officials and concubines followed suit. The last remnants of the Song had been eliminated and Khubilai Khan now ruled over all of China.

Mongol against Mongol

In 1287 Kaidu allied himself with a Mongol prince named Nayan who was a direct descendant of Kasar, Genghis Khan's younger brother. Nayan was a Nestorian Christian and carried the cross on his standards. Together the two declared war on Khubilai and began marching into Yuan lands.

Fortunately for Khubilai the two armies were a great distance apart. Khubilai acted quickly so that the two armies could not join and sent one army under Bayan to Karakorum to stop Kaidu. Khubilai himself marched north into Manchuria with an army of 460,000 to halt Nayan. A huge Yuan fleet supplied the army at the mouth of the river Liao.

Khubilai was now seventy-two years of age and suffered from rheumatism but still maintained his presence on the battlefield. The Venitian merchant Marco Polo described how Khubilai went to battle on top of a wooden tower supported by four elephants. The elephants wore cloths overlaid with silk and gold. It mush have been an impressive sight.

Nayan had gathered an army of around 300,000 and the two armies faced of near the Liao river. At first Nayan's forces seemed to be getting the better of the Yuan troops with many from both sides falling under a storm of arrows. After furious fighting the tide began to turn and soon Nayan's army gave way to the Yuan forces. Nayan retreated and was killed. Marco Polo commented that this one of the hardest fought battles the Mongols had ever fought.

Kaidu was driven back into Turkestan by Bayan but would outlast Khubilai, eventually dying whilst retreating from a battle in Korea in 1301.

The death of Khubilai Khan

The battle of the Liao river may have been Khubilai's hardest fought battle but it would also be one of his last. Khubilai Khan died in 1294. Of Khubilai's twelve legitimate sons, Chingkim, the favourite and designated successor, died in 1284. Temur, the son of Chingkim, took his place. Temur's reign lasted until 1307. After Temur's death there were fierce succession disputes and many of the Mongolian nobles looked down upon the Chinese, something Khubilai never did. Khubilai had embraced Chinese civilisation as a means of enriching Mongol culture, politics and military, but his descendants succumbed to all of its vices. A series of Chinese rebellions arose and in 1356 a rebel leader named Zhu Yuanzhang seized Nanjing from the Yuan and made it his capital. The last Yuan emperor died in 1370.

Ironically the biggest impact the Mongols had on China was unifying the China and re-establishing the idea of one China. By eliminating the rival Jin and Song dynasties the Mongols brought China under one common rule, that of the Yuan dynasty. Under the Yuan dynasty trade flourished and China opened up to the world more than it had ever done before. The Mongols brought the world to China and China to the world.


Genghis Khan and the Mongol conquests by Stephen Turnbull
Imperial Chinese armies (2) by C J Peers
Medieval Chinese armies by C J Peers
Battle by R G Grant
The Mongols by Stephen Turnbull
Fighting ships of the Far East (1) by Stephen Turnbull
Genghis Khan and the Mongols by Michael Gibson
Genghis Khan – Life, death and resurrection by John Man
Various internet sources