Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mongolia | Chingis Rides West | Death of Khüchüleg

Juvaini believed that the arrival of the Jebe and his Mongols in the realm of the Khara Khitai was an act of Divine Providence: 
God Almighty, in order to remove the evilness of Küchlüg [Khüchüleg], in a short space dispatched the Mongol army against him; and already in this world he tasted the punishment of his foul and wicked deeds and his ill-omened life; and in the hereafter the torments of hellfire. Ill be his rest! 
Chingis Khan may have been acting out of more down-to-earth considerations. Khüchüleg had earlier escaped from the Mongols at both the battles at Tuleet Uul and on the Upper Irtysh and this must have rankled. Then he had gathered under his own banner all the disaffected tribesmen who had fled the Mongolian Plateau, thus posing a threat to the Uighurs and others at the western end of Chingis’s own domains. Perhaps the Naiman adventurer even had his sights set on some day leading his assembled forces back to Mongolia and challenging Chingis Khan on his home turf. And by 1216 Chingis, as we have seen, was already making overtures to the Khwarezmshah about trade relations between the Mongols and Khwarezmia. Now Khüchüleg, essentially a free-booting marauder, sat astride the great trade routes linking the two realms, ready to swoop down on any trade caravans which might pass through the territories over which he now ruled rough-shod. There is also the school of thought, promoted by various modern historians, that Chingis even at this stage of his career entertained some overarching vision of world conquest and considered Khüchlüg simply as one more obstacle which had to be overcome on the inevitable march west, perhaps even to the Atlantic Ocean. 

Whatever his motivations, in 1216, after he had defeated the Jin in northern China, Chingis sent his general Jebe west to at long last deal with the Naiman upstart Khüchüleg. Jebe was a member of the Taichuud tribe, once one of the young Chingis Khan’s many enemies. As a young man Temüjin, the future Chingis Khan, had been captured by the Taichuud and held prisoner. He later made a daring escape with the help of a man named Sorkhon who had divined a great future ahead for the young Temüjin and who would eventually become one of his followers. The Taichuud were just one of the many tribes Chingis would defeat in his rise to power. In the decisive battle against the Taichuud someone shot an arrow which according to the Secret History hit Chingis’s yellow war horse in the neck. It may have been Chingis himself who was wounded in the neck, but apparently he did not want to reveal this. Anyhow, after the battle the Taichuud who were taken prisoner were interrogated to find out who had shot the arrow at Chingis. “Who shot that arrow from the mountaintop,” Chingis demanded. A man named Zurgadai replied : 
I shot that arrow from the mountain top. If I am put to death by the Qahan (Chingis), then I shall be left to rot on a piece of ground the size of the palm of the hand. But I am granted mercy, then shall I go ahead on behalf of the Qahan .
I wlll attack for you:
I will slash the deep waters
and erode the shining stone.
At your word, I will go forwards
and smash the blue stones.
If you order me to attack,
I will slash the black stones.
I will attack for you.
Chingis Khan was impressed that the man had admitting to shooting at him, even though there was a chance he would be put to death for such an act, and had not attempted to lie his way out of it. A man like this, Chingis concluded, would make a good addition to his armies. Chingis gave Zurgadai the new name of Zebe, which means “arrow” in Mongolian, and proclaimed. “I shall use him as an arrow.” Zebe (or Jebe, as it is more commonly rendered in English) would become the arrow which would unfailingly fly at any target to which Chingis aimed him. The target now was Khüchüleg. 

Jebe headed westward, adding a contingent of Uighur troops to his army on the way, and soon arrived at Almaliq, in the basin of the Ili River, where he linked up with the tribesmen who had already declared their allegiance to Chingis. With these reinforcements he proceeded to the old Khara Khitai capital of Balagasun, where he defeated an army of some 30,000 men who had earlier obeyed the Gür Khan but who now were aligned at least nominally with Khüchüleg. Now reading the prevailing winds, other local rulers threw in their lot with Jebe and Mongols, including Yisimaili, a prominent Khara Khitai commander from the city of Kasan in the Ferghana Valley. With Yisimaili, who was apparently familiar with the country, leading Jebe’s vanguard, the Mongol army headed south to Kashgar, where Khüchüleg was reputed to be holed up. Hearing of the imminent arrival of the Mongols he fled south toward the Pamirs, perhaps hoping to eventually reach the dubious safety of India. 

Jebe and his army of 20,000 Mongols and various auxiliaries were viewed as liberators by the Muslim population of Kashgar. According to Juvaini the local people stated that: 
. . . each group of Mongols, arriving one after another, sought nothing from us save Khüchlüg [sic], and permitted the recitation of the takbir [call to prayer] and azan, and caused a herald to proclaim in the town that each should abide by their religion and follow their own creed. Then we knew the existence of this people to be one of the mercies of the Lord and one of the bounties of divine grace. 
After rounding up and executing all of Khüchüleg’s soldiers who had remained in the city Jebe and his men set out in hot pursuit of the Naiman runaway. They probably followed the old Silk Road caravan road (and now the route of the Karakoram Highway) up the valley and canyon of the Gez River, past Khökh Nuur (Blue Lake) and the immense massif of 24,757-foot Muztagh-Ata (later Marco Polo may have used this same route).
 The Pamirs 
 Valley of the Gez River leading into the Pamir
 Khökh Nuur (Blue Lake) and 24,757-foot Muztagh-Ata
Plateau of the Pamirs
Somewhere near the border of Badakhshan and the Wakhan region deep in the Pamir Knot (perhaps in modern-day Tajikistan) Khüchüleg took the wrong road (Juvaini cannot help opining that “it was right that he should do so”) and ended up in a dead-end valley. 

Jebe, coming up behind, met some local hunters and made them a deal: if they would bring him Khüchüleg no harm would come to them; if they did not they would to be aiding and abetting Khüchüleg’s escape and would have to face the consequences. They captured the errant Naiman and brought him to Jebe, who rewarded them with much of the loot—jewels and money—which they had seized from Khüchüleg’s traveling party. The Naiman adventurer, born on the steppes of Mongolia, had led a wild and tumultuous life since 1204 when he had fled Mongolia, throwing a good portion of Inner Asia into turmoil, but it all ended here in a desolate valley in the high Pamirs. He was executed and his head cut off. One source maintains that Jebe took his head back with him and displayed it in Kashgar and Khotan to prove that the oppressor of the local Muslim populations was finally, at long last, dead. 

With the death of Khüchüleg Chingis’s favored general Jebe was now the de facto ruler of a huge swath of land from Khotan north to the Seven Rivers region. Did the thought cross his mind that at this point he could have declared himself the new Gür Khan and founded an empire of his own? Apparently back in Mongolia even Chingis Khan began to worry that Jebe “in the pride of victory would mutiny,” as Barthold puts it. But Jebe was made of different stuff. He had sworn his loyalty to Chingis Khan back when his life had been spared after the defeat of the Taichuud and he was not about to turn on his sworn lord and master. As a sign of his fealty.he gave to his commander-in-chief a gift of 1000 yellow horses like the one Chingis had been riding at the final battle with the Taichuud, the horse he, Jebe, had supposedly hit in the neck with an arrow. Tracking down Khüchüleg and seizing his territories was certainly a feather in his cap, but his greatest exploits as a general in the Mongol army were yet to come. He would remain loyal to Chingis until his death in 1225. 

Khüchüleg died sometime in 1218. Around this time the merchants of the Mongol Caravan To Otrār had been killed, along with the emissary Chingis had sent to demand compensation for the massacre. War with the Khwarezmshah was now inevitable and the Last Obstacle between the Mongols and the Khwarezm Empire—the Naiman adventurer Khüchülüg—had been removed. Now Chingis Khan was ready to ride west

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