Showing posts with label Jurchens. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jurchens. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

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

The Mongols would not have long to enjoy their plunder. In July of 1214, when they were fattening their horses on the steppe, came the disturbing news that Emperor Xuanzong had abandoned Zhongdu, the Northern Capital. On 30,000 carts, and accompanied by 3000 camel loads of treasure, the Jin court and government had left Zhongdu and was on its way to the Southern Capital (current-day Kaifeng), hopefully out of reach of further Mongol incursions. Many Jurchens viewed this apparent refusal to face the Mongol threat head-on as abject cowardice on their part of their leadership. Mutinies broke about among Jurchen troops and even more units defected to the Mongols. The Southern Sung Dynasty, sensing the impotence of the Jin, refused to cough up the tribute it had previously promised to pay them. Chingis Khan, after the humiliating terms he had early imposed on the Jin, considered them to be subordinate to the Mongols, indeed part of the nascent Mongol Empire, and he viewed the move south as a treacherous attempt on the part to Jin Emperor to regroup and continue the fighting, despite the treaty agreements of early 1214. Obviously the war with the Jin was not over. 

In the autumn of 1214 Mongols armies again poured off the Mongolian Plateau, and by the end of the year the Northern Capital of Zhongdu was once more invested. The court and government may have fled, but the inhabitants of Zhongdu, including the army units that had remained, were by no means ready to surrender their walled and well-fortified city. In their earlier battles with the Xi Xia the Mongols had failed to take any major fortified cities due to their ignorance of siege techniques. This weakness again manifested itself. The walls of the city refused to yield, and a brutal war of attrition played out through the winter and spring of 1215. Food supplies within the city were soon exhausted and according to the Secret History, “the remaining soldiers, who began to grow thin and die, ate human flesh.” 

When a relief train sent to the beleaguered city was captured by the Mongols the defenders knew they were doomed. The commandant of the Northern Capital, Wayen Fuxing, committed suicide, and in late May or early June of 1215 troops led by the Khitan Shimo Mingan, who as we have seen had defected to the Mongols back in 1211, forced their way into the city. A month-long orgy of looting and mayhem ensued. According to one account, 60,000 women and girls committed suicide by throwing themselves from the city walls in order to avoid capture by the Mongols. This was no doubt an exaggeration, but a large part of the populace was massacred and much of city burned, but not before huge amounts of loot was seized . . . Continued.

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.

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.

Friday, May 27, 2011

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

Earlier I wrote about the Uighurs and the Xi Xia. Now I must finally turn my attention to the Jin Dynasty, also known as the Jurchen Dynasty (1115–1234).

The people known as Jurchens who went on to found the Jurchen, or Jin Dynasty, originated around the timbered basins of the Amur, Ussuri, and Sungari rivers in Manchuria, in what is now northeast China. Their language was Tungusic, an eastern extension of the Altaic language family and closely related to Manchu, the language of the people what would later create the Qing Dynasty. 

Almost nothing is known of their history prior to the tenth century a.d. Apparently they began to use iron only in the early eleventh century. One tribe of the Jurchen, the Wanyan, began making farming tools and weapons from iron and on the basis of this new technology soon dominated their neighbors. Under the leadership of a chieftain known as Wugunai (1021–1074) the Wanyan soon assumed leadership of a loose confederation of the various Jurchen tribes. Wugunai, according to contemporary histories, “was addicted to wine and women and could outdrink anyone,” but he was also a warrior of legendary stature  . . . Continued.