Friday, June 3, 2011

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

The invasion began in May of 1211. This was no small move on Chingis’s part. The Jin Dynasty, despite the symptoms of dynastic decay which had been reported to Chingis by his various spies, was still one of the five or six great sedentary states of Eurasia. The Jin state had a population of perhaps 40,000,000, although only around 3,000,000 of the populace were Jurchens, descendants of the original Jurchen tribesmen from Manchuria, the rest being Han Chinese and other indigenous peoples. The Jin state could muster 150,000 or so cavalrymen, most of the Jurchens, and 300,000 to 400,000 infantrymen, most of them Chinese. The loyalty of these Chinese infantry was, of course, in question. Still, according to one modern historian, “the Jin army retained a reputation as the most powerful military state in the known world.” 

Chingis had under his overall commanded one army of perhaps 50,000 cavalry led by himself, and another army of 50,000 cavalrymen led by three of his sons. His ranks would soon be swollen with discontented tribesmen and deserters from the Jin. 

The Mongols first confronted the Onggut, a tribe of nomads which guarded the southern rim of the Mongolian Plateau on behalf of the Jin Dynasty. Their leader Alakush quickly defected to Chingis along with many of his troops, demonstrating just how tenuous a hold the Jurchens had over many of their subject peoples. Loyalists along the Onggut reacted by assassinating Alakush, but at the urging of his nephew and heir the rest of the Ongguts soon fell in line and joined the Chingis’s forces. Several towns near present day Zhangjiakhou (earlier known as Kalgan) on the very edge of the Mongolian Plateau, quickly fell to advancing nomads, and more border troops deserted. Liu Bailin, the Jin commander of the town of Weining defected, and would go on to play a leading role in the defeat the the dynasty. 

WIth the Mongols, their ranks now swelled with former Jin auxiliary troops, poised on the very edge of the great ramparts overlooking the farm lands northern China and within a couple days ride of the Central Capital of Zhongdu (Beijing), the Jurchen court panicked and put out peace feelers, apparently thinking that this was just a another Mongol raid in search of quick loot and that Chingis could be bought off with some suitable bribes. When this initial overture was rejected, an senior envoy, a Khitan man by the name of Shimo Mingan who knew the Mongolian language and had earlier met with Chingis in Mongolia, was sent north with more serious peace proposals. Shimo Mingan promptly defected to the Mongols and was made a commander of both Mongol detachments and of native Chinese troops who had now turned on the Jurchens  . . . Continued.