Believe it or not, China once had a very complicated feeling for what was foreign for them. Anyone living beyond the Great Wall was foreigners. And the Chinese viewed them dangers. But nothing is impossible as there was only one exception for the invaders beyond the Wall. This means there was one time that the Chinese welcomed the invader into their family. The name of that figure was Kublai Khan.
Kublai Khan was the grandson of Genghis Khan who was the founder of the Great Khan of Mongol Empire. So it means Kublai Khan was from the third generation. The Chinese at that time viewed the Mongol as the barbarians and themselves as the center of civilization. This makes the journey to reign of Kublai Khan an exciting read.
Family background and Early life of Kublai Khan
Being born in the royal family, Kublai Khan of course experienced things that the normal people didn’t have. Though he lived with wealth and comfort, he also faced many burdens that any prince had to face.
Kublai Khan was the son of Tolui, forth son of Genghis Khan, and Sorghaghtani Beki. He had siblings some of whom later became the opponents of Kublai Khan in the frontline.
As mentioned, being a prince was nothing easy. All people see is that Kublai Khan was living with fortune and power. But the desire to excel and the ambition to overshadow his fathers motivated Kublai Khan to train himself as much as possible. From the young age, Kublai Khan became so attached to the warfare and surrounded himself with tactics and skills on the battle. His effort finally paid off. He became a skilled warrior and a great hunter and horseman which was very favored by the Mongols. The scholars believed that during this early phase of his life, Kublai was exposed to the Chinese culture and philosophy which affected his later decision a lot.
When the older brother of Kublai, Mongke Khan, owned the throne, Kublai was appointed to be the Mongolian governor of the territories in Northern China. At that time the southern of China was under the control of Song Dynasty. The exceptional bonding between a Mongolian leader and the Chinese behind the Wall was fostered during this time. Kublai practiced many Chinese cultures and tradition from the people of the South. Moreover, Kublai asked some of the Chinese advisors to help him with reforms. It was very hard to tell that it was Kublai Khan that won the belief of the Chinese or it was the Chinese that won the heart of Kublai Khan.
Civil War broke out between the Brothers
In 1259, Mongke Khan fell in a military campaign against the Chinese. The brothers from the royal quickly grabbed this golden opportunity. And a civil war was unavoidable. The civil war broke out between Kublai Khan and his youngest brother, Ariq Boke.
Boke made use of the time when his brother was away from the capital of Mongol. He claimed himself the throne. In 1260, Kublai returned to the capital and the war finally broke out. With the strong support from the Chinese, Kublai managed to proclaim himself the Emperor of the Mongol Empire. But it was not until 1264 that the civil war finally came to an end.
The Mongol Leader Reigned the Land of China
Following the footstep of his fathers, after taking over the throne, Kublai Khan finally focused much of his power to conquest the south which was the land of Song Dynasty. It was a long journey from a Mongolian prince to the Emperor of Yuan Dynasty. This campaign was much more difficult than the journey to gain the throne of Kublain. Because his elite warriors encountered the weather hardships in the south. The terrain and the climate from the south of China neutralized the great power of the warriors.
Thereby, a quick change in the tactics was obvious. For instance, Kublai applied the siege technology from the western people that his troops encountered. Moreover, he built up a strong navy to attack Chinese from their coast. The new tactics that Kublai applied helped him break down the gate of Chinese fort as well as attack the Chinese from the coast which ensured them a victory.
The success in overthrowing Song Dynasty was the greatest achievement of Kublai Khan during his reign. This made Kublai the first non-native emperor of China. However, there were also times that the invasions of Kublai turned out be a mess, for example, in Japan and Vietnam.
Kublai Khan rested in peace in 1294 and Temur Khan was the successor of his throne. The Yuan Dynasty finally came to an end approximately one hundred years after Kublai’s death.