Kublai Khan 忽必烈

The founding emperor of the Yuan Dynasty


Chinese Name: 忽必烈

English Name: Kublai Khan, Hu Bi Lie

Other Names: Emperor Shizu of Yuan元世祖(Yuan Shi Zu), Xue Chanhan薛禅汗

Born: March 21, 927

Died: November 14, 976


Establish the Yuan Dynasty建立元朝

Complete the great reunification of the whole country完成全国大统一

Dig the Grand Canal开凿大运河

Kublai Khan 忽必烈
Kublai Khan忽必烈

Brief Biography of Kublai Khan

Kublai Khan was the fifth khagan-emperor of the Mongol Empire, reigning from 1260 to 1294, although after the division of the empire this was a nominal position. He also founded the Yuan dynasty of China in 1271, and ruled as the first Yuan emperor until his death in 1294.

Kublai was the fourth son of Tolui (his second son with Sorghaghtani Beki) and a grandson of Genghis Khan. He was almost 12 years of age when Genghis Khan died and had succeeded his older brother Möngke as Khagan in 1260, but had to defeat his younger brother Ariq Böke in the Toluid Civil War lasting until 1264. This episode marked the beginning of the fragmentation of the empire.Kublai’s real power was limited to the Yuan Empire, even though as Khagan he still had influence in the Ilkhanate and, to a significantly lesser degree, in the Golden Horde.If one considers the Mongol Empire at that time as a whole, his realm reached from the Pacific Ocean to the Black Sea, from Siberia to what is now Afghanistan.

In 1271, Kublai established the Yuan dynasty, which ruled over present-day China, Mongolia, Korea, and some adjacent areas; he also amassed influence in the Middle East and Europe as a Khagan. He assumed the role of Emperor of China. By 1279, the Mongol conquest of the Song dynasty was completed and Kublai became the first non-Han emperor to unite all of China proper.

The imperial portrait of Kublai was part of an album of the portraits of Yuan emperors and empresses, now in the collection of the National Palace Museum in Taipei. White, the color of the imperial costume of Kublai, was the imperial color of the Yuan dynasty.

Ascended the throne and built the Yuan Dynasty

Kublai received a message from his wife that his younger brother Ariq Böke had been raising troops, so he returned north to the Mongolian plains.Before he reached Mongolia, he learned that Ariq Böke had held a kurultai (Mongol great council) at the capital Karakorum, which had named him Great Khan with the support of most of Genghis Khan’s descendants. Kublai and the fourth brother, the Il-Khan Hulagu, opposed this. Kublai’s Chinese staff encouraged Kublai to ascend the throne, and almost all the senior princes in North China and Manchuria supported his candidacy. Upon returning to his own territories, Kublai summoned his own kurultai. Fewer members of the royal family supported Kublai’s claims to the title, though the small number of attendees included representatives of all the Borjigin lines except that of Jochi. This kurultai proclaimed Kublai Great Khan, on April 15, 1260, despite Ariq Böke’s apparently legal claim to become khan.

This led to warfare between Kublai and Ariq Böke, which resulted in the destruction of the Mongolian capital at Karakorum. In Shaanxi and Sichuan, Möngke’s army supported Ariq Böke. Kublai dispatched Lian Xixian to Shaanxi and Sichuan, where they executed Ariq Böke’s civil administrator Liu Taiping and won over several wavering generals.To secure the southern front, Kublai attempted a diplomatic resolution and sent envoys to Hangzhou, but Jia broke his promise and arrested them.Kublai sent Abishqa as new khan to the Chagatai Khanate. Ariq Böke captured Abishqa, two other princes, and 100 men, and he had his own man, Alghu, crowned khan of Chagatai’s territory. In the first armed clash between Ariq Böke and Kublai, Ariq Böke lost and his commander Alamdar was killed at the battle. In revenge, Ariq Böke had Abishqa executed. Kublai cut off supplies of food to Karakorum with the support of his cousin Kadan, son of Ögedei Khan. Karakorum quickly fell to Kublai’s large army, but following Kublai’s departure it was temporarily re-taken by Ariq Böke in 1261. Yizhou governor Li Tan revolted against Mongol rule in February 1262, and Kublai ordered his Chancellor Shi Tianze and Shi Shu to attack Li Tan. The two armies crushed Li Tan’s revolt in just a few months and Li Tan was executed. These armies also executed Wang Wentong, Li Tan’s father-in-law, who had been appointed the Chief Administrator of the Central Secretariat (Zhongshu Sheng) early in Kublai’s reign and became one of Kublai’s most trusted Han Chinese officials. The incident instilled in Kublai a distrust of ethnic Hans. After becoming emperor, Kublai banned granting the titles of and tithes to Han Chinese warlords.[citation needed.

Kublai Khan 忽必烈

Chagatayid Khan Alghu, who had been appointed by Ariq Böke, declared his allegiance to Kublai and defeated a punitive expedition sent by Ariq Böke in 1262. The Ilkhan Hulagu also sided with Kublai and criticized Ariq Böke. Ariq Böke surrendered to Kublai at Xanadu on August 21, 1264. The rulers of the western khanates acknowledged Kublai’s victory and rule in Mongolia.When Kublai summoned them to a new kurultai, Alghu Khan demanded recognition of his illegal position from Kublai in return. Despite tensions between them, both Hulagu and Berke, khan of the Golden Horde, at first accepted Kublai’s invitation.However, they soon declined to attend the kurultai. Kublai pardoned Ariq Böke, although he executed Ariq Böke’s chief supporters.

On December 18, 1271, Kublai Khan changed his country name from “great Mongolia” to “Dayuan”, from the emperor of great Mongolia to the emperor of Dayuan, and the country name “Dayuan” officially appeared. Kublai Khan became the first emperor of the Yuan Dynasty.

In 1273, Dadu (now Beijing) was the capital, and Dadu became the political center of the multi-ethnic country of the Yuan Dynasty. Since then, Beijing has been the capital of the country in the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

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