Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mongolia | Chingis Rides West | Jurchens | Jin Dynasty | Part II

During Chingis Khan’s rise to power he had sought of patronage of Tooril, the powerful ruler of the Kerait Tribe who was headquartered in the valley of the Tuul River not far from current-day Ulaanbaatar. Tooril had recognized the nominal suzerainty of the Jin and apparently paid tribute to to them. In return he was awarded the title of Wang (or Ong) Khan. As one of Tooril’s vassals Temûchin also received a minor title from Jin Dynasty and may have also paid tribute. There are also hints that Temüchin sought refuge among the Jurchen during the low points in his early career when he was being hounded by more powerful Mongol tribes. 

Chingis Khan and the Wang Khan would later fall out and the Keraits would be defeated, calling into question the Jin title Temüchin had received as one of the Kerait ruler’s vassals. The Jin, for their part, still believed that Chingis Khan owed loyalty and tribute to them, even after he had been confirmed as leader of all the Mongols at the 1206 convocation on the Onon River. The Jurchens were no doubt aware that having became the most powerful ruler on the Mongolian Plateau Chingis now posed a direct threat to themselves, but at the time they were embroiled in war with the Song Dynasty in the south of China and could not confront Chingis directly. 

In 1208 the Jin Dynasty finally sought to clarify their relationship with Chingis Khan. The Jin emperor Zhangzong sent his uncle Wanyan Yunji, the Prince of Wei, north to reaffirm their suzerainty and receive tribute from Chingis. 

The Mongol Khan met with the prince but refused to make the proper signs of obeisance. It soon became clear the Chingis no longer recognized the Jin as his overlords. No mention was made of tribute. The infuriated Prince returned to China and began mobilizing troops to attack the Mongols. In late 1208 Emperor Zhangzong died and Wanyan Yunji became the new ruler of the Jin Dynasty. The attack was postponed, and instead Wanyan Yunji sent ambassador to Chingis with the news that he was now the Altan Khan (Golden Khan), as the the Mongols called the Jin Emperor, and that Chingis should declare his loyalty to him. Chingis, however, apparently had not been to impressed by Wanyan Yunji at their previous meeting. According to one account, when Chingis was asked by the ambassador to make obeisance to the new emperor he “flew into a rage” and stormed: “‘Is an imbecile like [Wanyan Yunjii] worthy of the throne and am I to humble myself before him?‘” He answered his own question by turning to the south and spitting in the direction of China. The ambassador was dismissed and Chingis rode away to the north. The import of these actions was clear to the Jin Emperor; Chingis Khan had declared war on the Jin Dynasty . . . Continued.