In the middle of Kublai Khan’s 1271 conquest of the Southern Song Dynasty, his adviser Liu Bingzhong suggested a name for the Mongol Dynasty that ruled Northern China. He suggested the name “Yuan” which he took from the classical Chinese text I Ching. It meant “origin” or “primal force.” It pleased the Great Khan, so he adopted it in the same year. When Kublai Khan died in 1294, his grandson Temur inherited a vast and prosperous empire. The Mongol Yuan Dynasty continued to rule China until they were overthrown by the Ming Dynasty in 1368. The Mongol Yuan Dynasty is located on the Biblical Timeline Poster with World History between 1234 – 1305.
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The Death of Prince Zhenjin and Kublai Khan
During the 1280s, fate dealt Kublai Khan some heavy personal blows. His beloved wife Chabi died in 1281 and was followed by the death of his successor Zhenjin in 1286. Kublai Khan started to withdraw from his court, and he turned to food and alcohol. This made the gout that plagued him begin to worsen. Kublai Khan died in 1294, but not before announcing that his grandson Temur (Zhenjin’s son) would succeed him.
Kublai Khan’s Successors
Temur’s rise as Yuan Khan in 1294 was supported by his mother Kokejin (Bairam Egechi) of the Khongirad tribe and the general Bayan. He continued his grandfather’s policies, and conquered kingdoms continued to pay tribute to him. He died without an heir in 1307, so the Mongol heirs fought for succession.
Temur’s nephew Kulug eventually became the Emperor Wuzong four months later. Kulug was also known as Haishan or Khayishan, and the Mongols also named his brother Ayurbarwada as his heir. Kulug Khan’s reign (1307-1311) was marked by economic challenges because of his policies.
When he died in 1311, his brother and heir Ayurbarwada (1311-1320) immediately overturned his decrees. Ayurbarwada was a supporter of Confucianism and he reintroduced the civil service exams for government officials. He died in 1320 and was succeeded by his son Shidibala who became Gegeen Khan in 1321. His reign was short as he was assassinated by the Alan Guards (Ossetians) in 1323 at Nanpo.
Shidibala did not have an heir, so the Yuan crown passed to the Kublai Khan’s great-grandson and Zhenjin’s grandson Yesun Temur. He left the administration of the empire to his trusted Muslim ministers. He also cut off spending and denounced luxuries in his court. He died in Shangdu in 1328, and his son, Ragibagh, succeeded him. He ruled briefly from October of 1328 up to November of the same year until Kulug Khan’s son Tugh Temur became emperor after a coup. He was supported by the Kipchak general El Temur and the Merkid general Bayan.
Tugh Temur adopted the name Jayaatu Khan. His reign marked the start of the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty in China. His brother, Khutughtu Khan Kusala, ruled in August 1329. However, Tugh Temur came back to reign after his brother was assassinated in September of the same year. Tugh Temur died three years later, and he was succeeded briefly by his nephew, the young Richinbal. Tugh Temur’s widow. Bayan of the Merkid supported Richinbal’s as king. The two, however, only used him so they could rule China.
Richinbal died in 1332, and he was succeeded by his brother, Toghon Temur. Bayan of the Merkids, Budashiri, and El Tegus still dominated the court but Toghon had them successfully banished through a coup. Unfortunately, Toghon Temur’s reign was marked by the Red Turban rebellion and his own son Ayushiridara’s revolt.
The Yuan Dynasty collapsed during the last years of his reign and was helpless against the rise of the Ming Dynasty. Toghon fled Dadu for Shangdu in 1368 when Ming armies advanced to the capital. He tried to regain Dadu but was unsuccessful. Toghon died in Yingchang in 1370 and with him, the Mongol Yuan Dynasty.
Atwood, Christopher Pratt. Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire. New York, NY: Facts On File, 2004.
Buell, Paul D. Historical Dictionary of the Mongol World Empire. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2003.
Fairbank, John King, and Merle Goldman. China: A New History. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard U Press, 2006. Print.
Hsiao, Chiching. The Cambridge History of China. Vol. 6: Alien Regimes and Border States, 907-1368. Edited by Herbert Franke and Denis Twitchett. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
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