Genghis Khan The Mongol Conquests

Genghis Khan The Mongol Conquests

(Parte 1 de 6)

Essential Histories

Genghis Khan & the

Mongol Conquests


Essential Histories

Genghis Khan & the

Mongol Conquests


First published in Great Britain in 2003 by Osprey Publishing. Elms Court, Chapel Way. Botley. Oxford OX2 9LP Email:

© 2003 Osprey Publishing Ltd.

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ISBN I 84176 523 6

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Dedication To my daughter Kate, for her 21 st birthday.


This book provides a concise and reliable account of the vast military enterprise known as the Mongol conquests from the time of the unification of the Mongol tnbes under Genghis Khan to the death of his grandson, Khubilai Khan, a process that encompassed almost exactly the entire 13th century of the Christian en. A concluding section deals briefly with the consequences arising out of the disintegration of the Mongol Empire during the 14th century.

As the Mongol conquests were so far-ranging, descriptions of their operations involve a considerable overlap of time. For this reason I have organised 'The fighting' according to the particular 'theatre of war' where the Mongols were engaged.The reader is referred to the chronology to see which parallel events were taking place.

n very fortunate in that my travels over the past 30 flowed me to visit many of the places where the psts took place, and have been even more e friends who have visited other corners of the Empire. Several of their excellent photographs this book. They include David Nicolle (Central hardson (Syna). David Lambert and David Sneath

William Lindesay (China). Peter Danford (Cambodia)

(Poland). Till Weber kindly supplied me with his translation of the diary of a Jin official at the siege of Kaifeng

I also thank everyone else who has helped me to gain such a profound feeling for the sheer size of the Mongol endeavours, an impression that I hope to convey to the reader in the pages that follow. My wife, as usual, provided the administrative back-up for the project m



Introduction 7

Chronology 1

Background to war The rise of the Mongols 12

Warring sides The Mongol army 17

Outbreak of war Beyond the steppes 20

The fighting Building an empire 28

Portrait of a soldier Subadai Ba'adur (c I 176-1248) 73

The world around war Terror and reality 76

Portrait of a civilian The sage Changchun I 148-1227 80

How the war ended The jungle frontiers 82

Conclusion and consequences The Mongol legacy 90

Further reading 93 Index 94


During the 13th century a military phenomenon arose in central Asia and provided the first instance in history of what was virtually a world war. From one side of the Euro/Asiatic land mass to the other, the fury of the Mongols exploded on to unsuspecting societies, most of which had previously been totally ignorant of the very existence of their new tormentors.

Among the few contemporary works of art that have survived to convey an impression of the appearance of these strange invaders are two objects that proclaim through very different cultural norms very similar images of the Mongol conquerors. At almost the

The Mongol warrior lies beneath the feet of Henry the Pious, killed at the battle of Leignitz. 1241. (Author's collection) furthest point west reached by the Mongols lies Breslau (now Wroclaw in Poland) where lies buried Henry the Pious, Duke of Silesia, killed in battle with the Mongols at nearby Leignitz (Legnica) in 1241. Henry's tomb is now in the National Museum in Wroclaw, and beneath his feet lies a small carving of a Mongol warrior wearing the characteristic headgear.

Thirty years later and half a world away at the most easterly point of the Mongol conquests, an almost identical representation of Mongol warriors was being created. This time the image was not carved in stone but instead appeared on paper in a Japanese emakimono (horizontal picture scroll painting). The Moko Shurai Ekotoba (Mongol Invasion Scroll) was created not to remember a defeat, but to celebrate a victory, and in particular to press the claims for reward of the hero depicted therein: a leader of samurai called Takezaki Suenaga.

Neither Henry the Pious nor Takezaki

Suenaga had the slightest idea that the other even existed, let alone that the two of them had fought a common enemy, but that was the nature of the Mongol Empire. Within the interval of time and space that lay between Leignitz and Hakata, the Mongols had fought battles in the deserts of Syria, skirmishes in the mountain passes of Afghanistan, sieges on the snowy plains of Russia and sea fights off the coast of Vietnam. Like a monstrous spider's web, the Mongol conquests affected the lives and livelihoods of countless peasants and kings.

The conquering Mongols were most feared by their victims as 'the devil's horsemen' who carried everything before them and left nothing behind. The devastation they caused will be noted frequently in the pages that follow, but one other feature that will be illustrated

8 Essential Histories • Genghis Khan & the Mongol Conquests1190-1400

Half a world away from Poland, Mongol warriors were depicted on a Japanese emakimono.Tbe Moko Shurai Ekotoba was created byTakezaki Suenaga to press his claims for reward after the war. (Author's collection) throughout this work is the Mongols' amazing capacity to adapt to changed conditions and to learn new military techniques. This achievement is every bit as impressive as their traditional skills of mounted warfare.

We will also note that this achievement was not so evident during the early years of their conquests. The well-known comment that the Mongol Empire had been won on horseback but could not be governed from horseback referred to the administration of the conquered territories, but on several occasions it looked as though the Mongols could operate in no other way. Take away that vital element of mounted warfare and huge problems developed.

The greatest challenges to the apparently superhuman Mongols arose when they

Introduction 9

started campaigning outside the areas of steppe. The cultivated grain crops grown by sedentary societies were a good substitute for steppe grass for feeding their horses, but their exploitation required a different approach and needed considerable planning and forethought. Campaigns in unfamiliar temperatures and humidity or amid strange environments of swamp, jungle and wide rivers also provided battlegrounds that were very different from the familiar territory of the north. New military technologies therefore had to be learned and relearned. For example, when the Mongols marched against the Song in southern China from 1254 onwards they found that Song cities were both massive and very heavily defended. At Xiangyang in 1272 Khubilai Khan was forced to send to his kinsmen in the west for counterweight trebuchets, the latest thing in siege catapults, to breach its walls. The Mongols had this extraordinary ability to adapt and survive.

10 Essential Histories • Genghis Khan & the Mongol Conquests 1190-1400 The Mongol Empire, 1190-1400


1126 Jin dynasty captures Kaifeng from the

Song dynasty 1167 Probable birth date of Temuchin

(Genghis Khan) 1206 Temuchin is proclaimed universal Khan of all the Mongol tribes 1206 Mongol raids are conducted against the


1209 Xixia campaign begins; capture of Wolohai

1210 Surrender of Yinchuan 1211 Invasion of the Jin Empire by Genghis

Khan 1212 Siege of Datong; Genghis Khan is wounded by an arrow

1213 Mongol attack on the Juyong Pass 1214 Siege of Ningjiang in Manchuria 1215 Capture of Zhongdu (Beijing) 1216 Mongols drive the Khitans into Korea 1218 Fall of Kashgar; Mongols defeat the Kara-Khitai

1219 Invasion of the Khwarazm Empire and the siege of Otrar; capture of Bukhara

1220 Capture of Samarkand 1221 Death of Shah Muhammad of

Khwarazm; Genghis Khan's Afghan campaign begins; capture of Tirmiz, Balkh and Merv; capture of Nishapur

1222 Visit of the sage Changchun to Genghis Khan

1223 Battle of the Kalka river 1227 Second Xixia campaign begins; siege of

Ningxia; death of Genghis Khan; death of Jochi

1231 Death of Jalal-al-Din; siege of Hezhong; siege of Kuju begins

1232 Siege of Kaifeng begins; Korean court moves to Kanghwa Island; Sartaq is killed at the siege of Ch'oin

1234 Suicide of the last Jin emperor 1235 The Great Kuriltai is held 1237 Invasion of northern Russian principalities begins; siege of Riazan

1238 Siege of Vladimir; battle of the Sit river 1239 Defeat of the Polovtsians (Cumans)

1240 Siege of Kiev (Kyiv) 1241 Battles of Cmielnik, Leignitz, Sajo river

(Mohi); death of Ogodei Khan; Siege of Gran 1242 King Bela of Hungary flees to Croatia; Mongols leave Europe

1243 Submission of Prince Iaroslav Vsevolodich to the Golden Horde 1248 Death of Kuyuk Khan 1251 Carving of the Tripitaka Koreana completed; Mongke Khan launches the

Persian campaign 1253 Siege of Ch'ungju; destruction of the

Nanzhao kingdom at Dali 1254 Final Mongol invasion of Korea begins 1255 Death of Batu, khan of the Golden Horde 1256 Hulegu defeats the Ismailis (Assassins) 1257 Invasion of Annam 1258 Hulegu captures Baghdad 1259 Siege of Aleppo; death of Mongke Khan

1260 Accession of Khubilai Khan; Mongols defeated by Mamluks at Ain Jalut

1265 Battle of Daioyu. Mongols acquire a fleet; death of Hulegu, Ilkhan of Persia 1268 Siege of Xiangyang begins

1273 Peace settlement with Korea 1274 First invasion of Japan 1275 Bayan crosses the Yangtze 1277 Battle of Ngasaungyyan

1278 King of Champa pays homage to the

Mongols 1279 Fall of the Southern Song

1281 Second invasion of Japan; Chains repudiate homage; invasion of Champa 1282 Mongol treaty of amity with Siam 1285 Battle of Siming

1287 Capture of Pagan; Capture of Hanoi 1288 Battle of the Bach Dang river 1293 Mongols land in Java 1294 Death of Khubilai Khan 1296 Mongol embassy to Cambodia 1301 Mongol attack on Lan Na; death of Kaidu 1356 Ming capture Nanjing 1368 Ming dynasty supplants the Yuan dynasty 1370 Death of the last Yuan emperor 1380 Battle of Kulikovo

Background to war The rise of the Mongols

The Mongols entered history as just one among a number of nomad tribes on the steppes of central Asia. As Juvaini puts it:

Before the appearance of Genghis Khan they had no chief or ruler. Each tribe or two tribes lived separately; they were not united with one another, and there was constant fighting and hostility between them. Some of them regarded robbery and violence, immorality and debauchery as deeds of manliness and excellence. The Khan of Khitai used to demand and seize goods from them. Their clothing was of the skins of dogs and mice, and their food was the flesh of those animals and other dead things. Their wine was mare's milk.

The rise of the Mongols and the beginnings of the Mongol conquests arose out of a dramatic shift from such disunity to unity, and it was achieved through the personality and military skills of one man. In all probability he was born in 1167. He was given the name of Temuchin.

The nomad world he entered was a fierce and unforgiving one of rivalry and survival skills. Like all Mongol children, Temuchin learned to ride with great skill and to handle a bow and arrows. After an eventful younger life his thoughts turned towards the

OPPOSITE Genghis Khan, who unified the Mongol tribes and created a world empire. (Author's collection)

BELOW The steppes of central Asia. (David Lambert)

Background to war 13 Background to war 13

14 Essential Histories • Genghis Khan & the Mongol Conquests 1190-1400 opportunity of defeating his rivals and taking control of the unified Mongol tribes. Many years of warfare followed, the decisive victory being Temuchin's defeat of the Naimans. In 1206 a grand assembly was called at the source of the Onon river. A white standard symbolising the protective spirit of the Mongols was raised. Its nine points represented the newly unified Mongol tribes. The gathering then proclaimed Temuchin as Genghis Khan ('Universal Ruler').

The Xixia campaign 1205-10

When Temuchin accepted the title of Genghis Khan in 1206, his strategic needs changed - from unifying fiercely independent nomads to impressing them by demonstrating his power against the agriculture-based civilisations that bordered their lands. The first of these enemies lay nearby in China and, at that time, China was split under a number of different rulers whose distrust of one another made the prospect of their conquest look that much easier.

The two major power blocs in China at the beginning of the 13th century were the rival dynasties of the Jin and the Song. The Jin Empire lay to the north of the Yangtze river with its northern capital at Zhongdu, the site of present-day Beijing, while its southern capital was Kaifeng. The Jin were Jurchens, the same tribal peoples from Manchuria who would re-emerge centuries later as the Qing dynasty of China. During the 12th century the Jin had fought a long war against the Song dynasty, and in 1126 they had captured Kaifeng from the Song. From this time on, Song hegemony was confined to the area south of the Yangtze river, so that the dynasty became known as Southern Song. For a while they continued to fight back against the Jin and conducted operations from their new capital of Hangzhou from 1135 onwards.

In the north-west of China, however, there was another state called Xixia. They were Tangut people, and Genghis Khan appreciated that the Xixia had to be his first objective because they could threaten his flank when he moved against the Jin. After a few exploratory raids in 1205 and 1206 Genghis Khan launched a major initiative in 1209 with the aim of completely destroying them. The operation began with a march of about 650 miles (1,000km), more than 200 miles (300km) of which was through the sandy wastes of the Gobi desert, and the Mongol army successfully stormed the Xixia fortress of Wolohai. The road ahead to the Xixia capital of Yinchuan lay over a high mountain range, and here the Xixia hit back. The result was a stalemate, but when further Tangut reinforcements arrived the Mongols deployed the tactic of a false withdrawal, a ruse that was to become a Mongol speciality, and succeeded in luring their opponents out of their fortified camp. A fierce battle ensued, during which the Xixia commander Weiming was captured.

(Parte 1 de 6)