Mongolian ruler in China's Yuan Dynastyby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Kublai Khan, a Mongol dreamer, visionary, and ruler during the 13th century, desired to unite different religions, nationalities, and cultures together under the Yuan empire. While he was Mongolian by birth, he was a great sympathizer for the Chinese people. Even though he didn’t always trust them, he was fascinated with their culture, traditions, and art. He conformed to the Chinese ways so well that the conservative Mongolians were offended and repeatedly caused him problems. (“Kublai Khan.” Encyclopedia Americana)
Kublai was the grandson of the infamous Genghis (Chinggus) and the fourth son of Toluia and Sorghagtani. From his birth in 1215, he was raised by his mother, Sorghagtani, because his father was away on military campaigns. His mother’s one ambition for all of her sons, was to regain the throne, after it had been taken by her husband’s brother. Consequently, she groomed Kublai and his brothers, for the throne. Being a fervent Nestorian Christian, his mother saw that plundering a nation’s resources would soon backlash, and it would not be helpful to anyone. Thus, she obviously had a great effect on Kublai. (“Kublai Khan.” Encyclopedia Americana and http://campus.northpark.edu/history/WebChron/China/KublaiKhan.html)
Therefore, when Kublai Khan’s older brother, Mongke (Mangu) gained the throne, his mother’s life dream was fulfilled. However, she never lived to see Kublai become khan, because she died a year after his brother ascended to the throne. After Mongke became khan, Kublai, who was next in line for the throne, demonstrated his military brilliance in several battles, thus catching the attention of his older brother. As a consequence, Mongke recruited Kublai, and gave him a job in his empire. Some years later, Mongke died during a battle between the Buddhists and the Taoists. At that time, Kublai was out besieging a city for his brother. Once his younger brother (Arigboge) found out that their older brother had died, he made plans to have himself crowned. Understandably, Kublai wanted to become Khan first, and wanted to do it as soon as possible. Unfortunately, so did his younger brother. So, after making a peace treaty with the enemy he had been fighting, Kublai came home. Unfortunately, there was a bloody power struggle between Arigboge and Kublai for two years, until Arigboge was defeated in 1264. Consequently, Kublai became khan shortly thereafter. (“Kublai Khan.” http://www.barteleby.com/65/ku/KubliaKh.html)
During Kublai Khan’s reign, he did some amazing feats. For example, he extended the Grand Canal all the way to his new capital in Ta-tu, what is now modern day Beijing. Also, he repaired public granaries, extended highways, made paper currency, started aid agencies, postal stations and allowed religious freedom. Although Nestorians had been largely expelled from China in the 9th century, their return was encouraged by Kublai who enjoyed hearing debates among various religions. He gained loyalty from many of his Chinese subjects, because of the freedom he allowed, and the improvements he made.
However, he did have his share of problems. Kublai Khan conformed to the Chinese way in so many areas, that it insulted the conservative Mongols, to the point that they began to cause problems for the great khan. To appease the conservatives, Kublai Khan had to further push his kingdom into other lands by capturing the Sung dynasty of southern China. Soon, he was controlling all of China and he made many other countries pay tribute to him, as well. Still, even conquering other lands and dynasties was not enough for the agitated and aggravated Mongols. During this time, his reign was getting more and more troubled. The Golden Horde had allied with Egyptian Caliphate in 1262 to war against the Mongols in Middle East. In 1274 and 1281 the Mongols failed to take Japan. All the wars to subdue other countries, had caused enormous financial problems and inflation of the his paper currency in China. The financial problem came with tensions between the Chinese and the other ethnic groups. Additionally, hostilities occurred between other religious groups. In 1283 the Golden Horde converted to Islam.
Upon the death of both his favorite wife, Chabui, and his beloved son and successor, Chin-chin, Kublai Khan fell into a deep depression. Favoring Buddhism, Kublai had refused the gospel presented by his mother and other Nestorian Christians during his lifetime, resorting instead to food and alcohol for comfort. Kublai never joined the other Christian converts of his own court. Whatever his opposition to Christianity, around the time of Marco Polo's arrival in 1275, Kublai sent two Nestorian monks (one being Rabban Sauma) to Europe as envoys from the Mongols. In 1289 the Pope reciprocated with his own envoy to the Khan. In the last years, during the slow collapse of his dynasty, he became grotesquely obese and was often intoxicated. At his death in 1294, he was a miserable, disheartened elderly man. (“Kublai Khan.” Encyclopedia Americana, http://campus.northpark.edu/history/WebChron/China/KublaiKhan.html and “Kublai Khan.” http://www.barteleby.com/65/ku/KubliaKh.html)
In conclusion, Kublai Khan was a brilliant visionary in many ways, who dreamed of something more for China. He promoted the peaceful toleration between many different religions, cultures, and languages during his lifetime. He is remembered for all of his extraordinary works accomplished during the Yuan Dynasty. However, sadly his life ended in personal failure. (“Kublai Khan.” Encyclopedia Americana)
“Kublai Khan.” Encyclopedia Americana (C) 1995
“Kublai Khan – Historical Background.” Encyclopedia Britannica (C) 1994 -2002
Kris Duncan, Sarah Johnson, and Becky Wells http://campus.northpark.edu/history/WebChron/China/KublaiKhan.html “Kublai Khan Rules China” September 21, 1999
J. J. Saunders and M. Rossabi http://www.barteleby.com/65/ku/KubliaKh.html
“Kublai Khan” (C) 2003