Hist 487_16 The Beginning of Mongol rule in China
The largest empire the world has ever seen was created by the Mongols. During their rule communication and trade throughout the Eurasian continent was greatly enhanced. "Eurasian history begins with the Mongols" and indirectly led to the European Age of Exploration"(Rossabi, p. 1-2). Yet the diversity of peoples and cultures as well as the size of the empire made it difficult to stay in power and control over a long period.
Extension of the Mongol empire:
The succession of rulers in the four Mongol territories after Chinggis Khan's death was the result of a power struggle between Sorghaghtani Beki (Tolui Khan's wife and Khubilai Khan's mother; Nestorian Christian) who supported Batu Khan and Güyüg Khan (son of Ögödei and Töregene) who died during his attack against Batu.
First generation of Mongol rulers after the conquest led by Chenggis:
Khaghan: Ögödei (d. 1241; Chinggis Khan's third son); he
defeated the Jin Dynasty and occupied north China
Batu Khan (Chinggis Khan's grandson) ruled over the Golden Horde
Chaghadai (second son of Chinggis Khan) ruled over Central Asia
Tolui (Chinggis Khan's youngest son; father of Khubilai Khan) ruled over north China and Mongolia
The next generation of rulers owed much to the initiative of their
mother, Sorghaghtani Beki, Tolui's wife, for their political positions:
1. Möngke became Khaghan
2. Khubilai became Khaghan and ruler over China
3. Hülegü became ruler over Persia (after having destroyed Baghdad)
4. Arigh Böke ruled over the Mongol homeland
Location of the Mongol capital Khara Khorum and the capital of the Great Khanate, Dadu
Karakorum received a city wall and permanent buildings under the rule of Ögödei (r. 1229-1241)
-1206 Temüjin (1167-1227) becomes Chinggis Khan, supreme ruler:
- first attack of China: 1211
- Yelü Chucai (1189-1243); astrologer and advisor of first Chinggis and then Ögödei
- of royal Liao origin; mediator between the Mongol rulers and the Chinese populatio
- created a tax system administered by ten official tax bureaus staffed with civil officials in 1229
- saved northern China from being transformed into pasture
- conducted a census;
- advised Ögödei to build a capital which was constructed in Mongolia and named Khara Khorum
- could NOT change the division of China into loosely controlled military commands (which were later transformed into provinces)
- tried to revive the civil service examinations
- against his advice tax collection was laid in the hand of non-Chinese bidders who exploited the population
The Rule of Khubilai Khan (1215-1294; r. 1260-1294)
- 1252: before Khubilai became the ruler of China he was sent to pacify the southwest (Vietnam and Yunnan)
- intended to establish military farms: soldiers would be self-sufficient and serve as surveillance force
- installed a 'Pacification Bureau' with military and police functions, the license to print paper money to promote trade;
- the regent of the kingdom of Dali (predominantly inhabited by the Bai minority) excuted three Mongol envoys who were sent in succession in order to move the ruler to surrender
- finally Dali surrendered and Khubilai executed only the officials who had ordered his envoys to be killed; the ruling Tuan family continued to co-rule with an appointed Pacification Commissioner
The famous Three Pagodas of Dali
- the submission of Vietnam proved to be more cumbersome: Vietnamese resistance movement drove out the Mongols twice
- Khubilai had Confucian scholars registered in order to prevent Mongol nobles from abusing them as slaves.
- He employed Chinese scholars as advisers in order to gain the trust of his Chinese subjects; he followed most of their proposals:
-1258: Möngke also used his brothers shrewdness in the conquest of southern China. In 1258 Khubilai conquered Sichuan but due to Möngke's death one year later, the military expansion to the south came to a halt, after the Mongol army was able to create a stronghold on the southern bank of the Yangzi River.
- 1260: A khuriltai quickly set up in Kaiping elects Khubilai as the Great Khan, a position challenged by Arigh Böke who dies shortly after.
Khubilai's rule over China as Great Khan
Portrait of Khubilai Khan
Portrait of Chabi, Khubilai's second wife
When setting up the new administration for China, Khubilai again followed many ideas of his Chinese advisers:
- the tax burden for the peasants should be minimal
- paper money should be used as currency
- the state monopolies should be kept
- a successor should be named
The only advice Khubilai did not follow was the restauration of the civil service administration because he did not want to become too dependant on Chinese officials.
Two Prime Ministers and Central Secretariat
Six Ministeries (Personnel; Revenue [census, tax collection, tribute]; Rites [ceremonies, music, foreign envoys, sacrifices]; War [military; postal stations]; Justice; Public Works
Religion under the Yuan
- Tolerance towards Daoism, Tibetan Buddhism (Lamaism: synthesis
of Buddhism and Tibetan Bon religion; magic practices); Nestorian Christians,
Muslims [exempt from regular taxation], Catholics, Jews; tax exemption for
- Tibetan abbot ruled Tibet after its submission on behalf of the Mongol ruler
- Khubilai became identified as Boddhisattva Manjusri, the boddhisattva of Wisdom; he was portrayed as the Cakravartin = Universal emperor
The Economy under the Yuan
- The South remained the main economic region: Cotton; silk; porcelain
-Encouragement of agriculture [Office for the Stimulation of Agriculture established]; relief measures [tax remissions; granaries for the storage of surplus grain]
- organization of rural households: units of 50 households under the direction of a village leader
- establishing of charity granaries
- regular system of taxation
- support for merchants and merchant organizations
- paper money became the sole legal currency which was backed by either silk or silver
- improved transportation and postal system: ca. 1,400 postal stations with about 50,000 horses, 8,400 oxen, 6,700 mules, 4,000 carts, about 6,000 boats
- emphasis on medicine (physicians exempted from corvee labor and other fiscal duties)
- state monopoly on bamboo for military purposes
- monetary compensations for punishment [new law code installed; based on Song law]
Yuan silver ingot
- The patronage of cultural projects could be used for a twofold purpose:
a. Khubilai could portrait himself as propagating Chinese culture and the Chinese arts
b. As the ruler over the entire Mongol domain he sponsored cultural projects that were of specificMongol interest
For the growing bureaucracy and the administration of the Mongol empire it was essential to develop a Mongol script instead of 'loaning' the Chinese or Uighur scripts for documentation; the Tibetan lama and adviser of Khubilai developed a new, vertically written script out of the Tibetan alphabet that was used for the Mongol language. It was more precise than the Uighur script and was adopted as the 'State Script'. Nevertheless in practice it never completely replaced the use of Chinese and Uighur.
The Yuan dynasty became the essential period for Chinese theater. 160 palys are extant from the time, more than 500 were written and performed, but have not been preserved. Composing drama became an intellectual endeavor for many literati who were deprived of a carreer in the civil service. They often wrote in a colloquial style, not without using the medium to bring forward political criticism. Plays circulated just as novels since cheap serial produced prints became available.
Khubilai succeeded in employing several Chinese connoisseurs of painting to create a catalogue of the Imperial Painting Collection of the Song which he had brought to the capital Dadu (Beijing). Intellectuals in general and among them especially painters were divided in their approach to Yuan rule. While many retired to a life in seclusion, some followed the call of the Khan and worked for him at court. The most prominent among them Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322), a descendant of the royal clan of the Song, and therefore of special support for Khubilai. He eventually was appointed as the President of the Hanlin Academy, the most important cultural institution associated with the government.
Golden cup with 'thumb plate'
Mongol silk robe
Central Asian decor of a Mongol silk robe