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Early Wars in China

Having the steppe under his control, Genghis now turned his attention to neighboring states. A major goal of Genghis was the conquest of Jin, both to avenge earlier defeats and to gain the riches of northern China. Jinghis, in beginning a war against China, was really attacking the Northern, or Kin dynasty, which had driven out that of the Kitans, hence, very naturally, he turned for co-operation to the Kitans.

Madaku, the Kin Emperor, died in November 1209, and in 1210 an envoy informed Jinghis Khan that Chong hei, the eighth of the dynasty, had succeeded Madaku. The envoy demanded that the vassal, as he claimed to consider Jinghis, should receive the announcement while kneeling, in accordance with the etiquette of China.

"Who is this new Emperor? " asked Jinghis of the envoy. "Prince Chong hei." On hearing the name, the story goes that Jinghis spat toward the South, and then added: "I thought that the Son of Heaven must be lofty and uncommon, but how is this idiot Chong hei to sit on a throne, and why should I lower myself in his presence?" Then he mounted his steed and rode away without further word or explanation. He summoned his leaders at once, and said to them: "My forefathers suffered very greatly, as ye know, from Chinese monarchs; and still those same monarchs failed to conquer this land of ours after centuries of effort. Heaven has granted me victory over every opponent and permitted me to mount the highest round of fortune. If ye act with me faithfully, that same Heaven will grant a glorious triumph over China. Through this triumph the Mongols will win the greatest wealth and magnificence; their fame will never cease among nations."

He declared war in 1211. The army of invasion was held together by the sternest discipline and made up of mounted men only. The units of this force were ten, one hundred, one thousand and ten thousand warriors. The orders of the sovereign were given to the chiefs of ten thousand, and by them to subordinates. Each man had a strong rawhide armor and helmet; he carried a lance and a sabre with an ax, a bow, and a quiver; he was followed by a number of horses, which had no food save that which they found as they traveled. Immense herds of cattle were driven in the rear of the army. In time of forced marches each man carried with him some milk and a small portion of flesh food.

To reach the Great Wall the Mongols crossed a space of about twelve hundred miles consisting in part of the desert known as Sha mo in Chinese and as the Gobi in Mongol. The first success of the invaders was made easier by Ala Kush Tegin of the Onguts, whose duty it was to guard the Great Wall for the Emperor.

At first the pattern of operations against Jin was the same as it had been against Western Xia. The Mongols were victorious in the field, but they were frustrated in their efforts to take major cities. In his typically logical and determined fashion, Genghis and his highly developed staff studied the problems of the assault of fortifications. With the help of Chinese engineers, they gradually developed the techniques that eventually would make them the most accomplished and most successful besiegers in the history of warfare.

As a result of a number of overwhelming victories in the field and a few successes in the capture of fortifications deep within China, Genghis had conquered and had consolidated Jin territory as far south as the Great Wall by 1213. He then advanced with three armies into the heart of Jin territory, between the Great Wall and the Huang He. He defeated the Jin forces, devastated northern China, captured numerous cities, and in 1215 besieged, captured, and sacked the Jin capital of Yanjing (later known as Beijing). The Jin emperor did not surrender, however, but removed his capital to Kaifeng. There his successors finally were defeated, but not until 1234. Meanwhile, Kuchlug, the deposed khan of the Naiman Mongols, had fled west and had conquered the state of Karakitai, the western allies that had decided to side with Genghis.

By this time, the Mongol army was exhausted by ten years of continuous campaigning against Western Xia and Jin. Therefore, Genghis sent only two tumen under a brilliant young general, Jebe, against Kuchlug. An internal revolt was incited by Mongol agents; then Jebe overran the country. Kuchlug's forces were defeated west of Kashgar; he was captured and executed, and Karakitai was annexed. By 1218 the Mongol state extended as far west as Lake Balkash and adjoined Khwarizm, a Muslim state that reached to the Caspian Sea in the west and to the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea in the south.

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Page last modified: 01-07-2012 18:54:06 ZULU