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Far East Kingdoms

Central Asia



The nomads of Central Asia were the masters of horsemanship and were deadly shots with their composite bow. They were virtually born as fighting men, and almost every element of their lives involved the same training and skills that they would take into battle. All they needed was someone who could unite the many tribes and put an end to the incessant internecine feuding that characterised them until the start of the thirteenth century.

The Mongols were an amalgam of native Turkic and Mongol-Tungusic groups in north-eastern Central Asia. They briefly became powerful around 1130, defeating their neighbouring tribes and forcing the Jin to pay tribute. In 1160 they were destroyed by the neighbouring Tartars and their clans fought each other for local superiority. Mongol power collapsed until a new figurehead could be found to reunite the clans.

The Tartars became a major force during the Mongol expansion, and the name still survives today in several major communities in far Eastern Europe. They were originally the Ta-ta (Ta-tan, or Da-Dan of Chinese records) of the north-eastern Gobi desert in the fifth century, but were subjugated by the Khitans in the ninth century (who went on to form their own Qara-Khitaï empire in the twelfth century). The Tartars drifted southwards and offered staunch opposition in the twelfth century to Mongol growth. In the end they were subjugated by Chingiz Khan and became an integral part of his vast army.

The Central Asian steppe

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from the New World Encyclopaedia, from Crimean Tatars, H B Paksoy, and from External Links: Origins of the Volga Tatars, and Tatar.net (dead link).)

Dobu Mergen

Eleventh generation descendant of Borte Chino and Gua Maral.

Bodonchar Munkhag

Son. Ancestor of the Borjigin clan.







Khaidu Khan


Tumbinai Setsen


1120s - 1148/50

Khabul Khan / Qabul

Great-grandfather of Chingiz Khan. Founder of Khamag Mongols.


The Liao are displaced by the Jin dynasty nomads and retreat into Central Asia where they form a short-lived empire, the Qara-Khitaï. Their departure allows the Khamag Mongols to begin to play a more pivotal role on the Mongolian plains. Khabul Khan of the Borjigin clan becomes the head of a collective of four major tribes, the Jalayir (ancestors of the Jalayirid sultans), Jirukhen, Khiyad, and Taichuud (Taichuit).

Mongol warriors
A modern depiction of Mongol warriors in the twelfth century, when Chingiz Khan led them across vast swathes of Asia to encounter and conquer much of what they saw


The sudden rise to power of the Khamag Mongols lasts long enough for them to defend their lands against Jin attacks and force them to pay tribute.

1149 - 1156


Brother. Founder of the Taichuud. Executed.


Ambaghai delivers his daughter to the Tartars in preparation for her wedding to one of their number. The Tartars take him prisoner and hand him over to the Jin who promptly execute him. The Tartar betrayal prompts Hotula Khan to engage them in a series of battles.

1156 - 1160?

Hotula Khan

Son of Khabul.

1160 - 1206

The Khamag Mongols are destroyed by the neighbouring Tartars. The cohesion of the Mongol tribes collapses, and they fight each other for local superiority. Yesugei Baghatur becomes chief, but his role is less that of a powerful warlord and more that of a steward.

1160? - 1171

Yesugei / Yesuk Hei

Nephew, and son of Bartan Baghatur. Father of Chingiz Khan.


Yesugei is poisoned by the Tartars, destroying any remaining Mongol unity for several decades. His son, Temujin, attempts to claim his father's position as leader of the Borjigin, but he is rejected due to his youth. He and his family are cast adrift during one of the lowest points in Mongol history.

Great Khans of the Mongols
AD 1206 - 1294

The father of Chingiz Khan, or Temujin as he was known for much of his life, was a powerful clan leader named Yesukhei (or Yesugei). He led the Borjigin clan and was a descendant of a khan of the short-lived Khamag Mongol kingdom of the twelfth century, but he died when Temujin was young, poisoned by Tartars who were constant enemies of the Mongols. Temujin attempted to claim his father's position as leader of the Borjigin, but the tribesmen refused to be led by someone so young, and he and his family were cast adrift. Temujin and his brothers grew up in the wilderness, hunting for their own food. A dispute in which he and another brother killed Begter, one of his half-brothers, over hunting spoils cemented his position as a ruthless commander.

By the time he was a young man, Temujin commanded a small group of Mongol warriors. He won favour with Toghril Khan of the Kerait tribe and was able to build up his forces into a powerful army. The Onggirat (or Qongirat/Qongrat) tribe also follows him closely, being his mother's tribe, as well as that of Temujin's first wife. Soon he was strong enough to attack the hated Tartars, defeating them in battle, beheading all their men, and taking their women and children as concubines and slaves. Jamuka, his former childhood friend, now initiated a power struggle against him, apparently betraying a close bond of trust that had been established between them as children. Jamuka persuaded Toghril that Temujin was a threat to them all, and the two teamed up against him. In the resulting close-run campaign, which lasted for a year, Temujin emerged victorious against the odds. Jamuka was on the run, Toghril was dead, and Temujin was a powerful warrior chief. At the age of forty-four, in 1206, he was declared supreme khan. He took a completely unique title, 'Chingiz Khan', which perhaps meant 'the fierce king' and which was selected to single him out as a truly great leader.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Mongol Empire: Genghis Khan: His Triumph and his Legacy, Peter Brent (Book Club Associates, 1976), from The Mongols: A Very Short Introduction, Morris Rossabi (Oxford University Press, 2012), and from the BBC documentary, The Secret History of Genghis Khan, broadcast 28 December 2011.)

1206 - 1227

Temujin / Chingiz Khan / Genghis Khan

Born c.1162. 'Great Khan'. Died following a fall from his horse.

1209 - 1210

Having already united the Mongol clans and created a kingdom covering territory that roughly corresponds to modern Outer Mongolia, Chingiz now campaigns against the Hsi-Hsia. The Mongols are offered tribute to placate them and, with their tents flooded, they accept. The payment of tribute by defeated enemies becomes a habit, encouraging Chingiz to turn his thoughts towards conquest of such weak opponents.

1211 - 1216

The hated Jin empire in northern China is attacked, but the initial invasion is foiled when Chingiz is wounded and retires to Mongolia. In 1213, he divides his army in three, the other two sections falling under the command of his sons. The Jin empire is devastated by this three-pronged attack, and its capital at Zhongdu (modern Beijing) is captured in 1214. The following year areas of territory to the north of the Huang He (Yellow River) fall under Mongol control.

1217 - 1218

Tiring of the campaign against the Jin, Chingiz sends his general, Chepe, westwards to overthrow the empire of the Qara-Khitaï. This opens the way towards Mongol interaction with Khwarazm and Persia. Further Mongol raids take place into Korea.

Chingiz Khan
This portrait shown Chingiz Khan in his later years, by which time he had built up an empire which covered much of eastern and Central Asia, as well as stretching into Eastern Europe

1219 - 1221

After the shah of Khwarazm decapitates Chingiz Khan's ambassador, the emirate is attacked twice by the Mongols under the command of Chingiz himself, plus Subedei, aided by two sons, Chaghadai and Ogedei. Ghurid Southern Khorasan is also attacked, and Khwarazm is reduced to its western section covering northern Mesopotamia and western Persia. Bukhara and then Samarkand are captured by the Mongols and chaos results, with thousands being massacred or sold into slavery.

1221 or 1223

After being defeated, Emir Ala ad Deen Muhammed of Khwarazm flees west with Subedei and a large force following. The emir dies a fugitive but Subedei continues north into territory around the Caspian Sea and into the lands of the Rus.

Rus and Cuman forces assemble which greatly outnumber Subedei's men, but they are defeated at the River Kalka (or Khalka). Subedei extends his expedition farther to attack the Volga Bulgars before he returns to Mongolia in one of the greatest exploratory campaigns of the era.

Farther south, Khwarazm has survived to an extent, and has even profited from the Mongol control of the caravan trade. The rise there and in formerly Seljuq Persia of Shah Jalal al-Din Mingburnu poses a challenge for the Mongols. The two sides come together at the Battle of the Indus and Jalal ad-Din is defeated. Khwarazm is occupied between Samarkand and the Indus, and Persia also falls, to be inherited by the Il-Khans in 1256.

The Battle of the River Kalka
The Battle of the River Kalka in 1221 or 1223 (both dates are reported) was a valiant Rus effort to stem the westwards tide of Mongol advance, but due largely to the refusal of Mstislav 'the Bold' to wait for all of his allied forces to assemble before leaping into battle, it opened the gates to full invasion


The kingdom of Georgia is subordinated. The Alani, living to the north, put up a stiff resistance which sees them driven from their valleys but otherwise undefeated. Eastwards, the death of Mukali, Chingiz' commander in northern China, allows the Jin to begin to fight back.

1226 - 1227

Although they had been defeated in 1210, the Hsi-Hsia had not been properly subjugated. Now, with the Jin fighting back against Mongol dominance, they refuse to pay tribute, so the aging Chingiz conducts one final campaign against them, overthrowing them. Their Tarter state is subsumed within the Mongol empire. Shortly afterwards, Chingiz dies, not in battle but following a fall from his horse. A regent is appointed to oversee the succession.

1227 - 1229


Son and regent. Governor of Khwarazm & Persia.


The empire is effectively divided into four sections, or ulus (inheritances), each governed by one of the sons of Chingiz. They remain politically united under the great khan, but their existence establishes the basis of future independent Mongol kingdoms. Ogedei is the selected successor to Chingiz, and is officially proclaimed as such in 1229. While he and his successors still control the entire empire, they largely concentrate their attention on Mongolia and China.

The rest is governed by the other sons of Chingiz. The north-western section is handed to Jochi and it is Jochi's son, Batu Khan, who inherits the westernmost section of this ulu as the Blue Horde, with Orda leading the eastern section as the White Horde (collectively known as the Golden Horde). Chagatai Khan (the second son) inherits Mughulistan, while Tolui governs Persia. Shiban is too young when his father dies to gain any territories himself, despite being one of Juchi's sub-commanders of the White Horde. Instead, his descendants, the Shaibanids, carve out their own territory in fifteenth century Turkestan.

1229 - 1241

Ögedei / Ogedei Khan

Brother and great khan.

1231 - 1234

Control over the kingdom of Georgia is reaffirmed by a new invasion under Ogedei Khan which also overruns the remnants of Khwarazm (centred on modern Azerbaijan). The latter becomes part of Persia and its territories which are under the governance of Tolui. Within a year or so (1235) much of Southern Khorasan is also conquered, including several minor principalities which include the Nasrids of Seistan.

In the same year, Ogedei Khan, with Subedei and Tolui, launches a fresh campaign against the Jin. After a series of setbacks, the Mongols approach the Jin capital at Kai-feng in 1234 with 20,000 Song Chinese auxiliaries. The city is taken and the Jin fall, ending the northern empire and its rule of the steppes.


Korea is invaded for the first time with the serious intent of conquering it instead merely of raiding there. In the same year, construction of the Mongol imperial capital at Karakorum is completed. While not a great city in terms of its size, it is an impressively multicultural and diverse place with a flourishing trading centre.

1237 - 1239

Batu Khan of the Blue Horde begins the invasion and conquest of the lands of the Rus, with Subedei agreeing to accompany him. They cross the Volga and take the city of Riazan after a five-day catapult assault. Then they take Kolumna and Moscow, and defeat the grand duke of Suzdal leading the most powerful force in the northern half of the Rus lands. During the invasion, Kyiv is conquered by Danylo Romanovych of Halych-Volynia, creating another target for a Mongol attack.

Mongol warriors
Within just thirty years, Mongol warriors had travelled as far afield as central China and Eastern Europe, and south-west into Iran, turning the Mongol empire into the largest single controlling force in history

Cumans and Kipchaks (possibly one and the same people according to details shown for the blue and white hordes), and other nomadic groups flee the Rus lands to seek refuge in Hungary. As Batu Khan sees these people as his subjects, news of their departure is not welcomed and plans are laid to pursue them. Novgorod survives the tidal wave of conquest because the Mongols are unable to find a route through the marshes. Instead, they attack Kozelsk, which inflicts an unusual defeat on their vanguard before falling. Its entire population is slaughtered as an example. Kyiv also falls after a brave defence, even though Prince Michael of Kyiv flees beforehand. The city is largely destroyed.

1241 - 1242

Batu Khan and Subedei turn their attention farther into Europe. They enter Galicia, capturing the capital and destroying the cathedral there and ending any hopes that the Galicians may have had of holding onto Kyiv. Both Poland and Hungary are also conquered, with European defeats at Liegnitz and the River Sajo (the Battle of Mohi). Austria, Dalmatia, and Moravia also fall under Mongol domination, and the tide seems unstoppable.

A force under the command of Kadan, son of Ögedei Khan, enters Bulgarian lands. Archaeological evidence shows that at least a dozen forts are burned in this period, and the Bulgarians are forced to accept that they will have to pay tribute. Subsequent events mean that the Mongols are content to leave the Bulgarians alone afterwards.

The death of Ögedei Khan causes the Mongols to withdraw, with Batu Khan intent on securing his conquests in the lands of the Rus thanks to the possibility that his rival, Guyuk Khan, could be elected great khan.

1241 - 1246

Toregene Khatun

Regent and wife of Ogedei.


Almost immediately after he has succeeded his father as malik, Shams-uddin seizes Herat during an unstable period of Mongol domination. Doing so as a Ghurid subject, he submits to the Mongols and is accepted as their Kartid governor of the city and its surroundings.


The Seljuq sultanate of Rum is overcome by Baiju in a limited incursion into the region, and is reduced to vassal status by the Mongols. The Seljuqs of Rum begin to disintegrate, despite attempts to retain the sultanate's cohesiveness.

Kipchak mounted warrior
An illustration of a mounted Kipchack warrior, typical of the waves of westward migrants who swept in from the Kazak steppe during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, largely pushed that way by the sudden creation of the Mongol empire

1246 - 1248

Guyuk Khan

Son of Ogedei and Toregene. Great khan.


The election of Guyuk Khan as great khan confirms Batu Khan's fears, so he consolidates his territories to the north of the Caspian Sea and establishes a capital at Sarai Batu (Old Sarai). He converts his territories into a khanate (the equivalent of a kingdom) which becomes known as the Blue Horde. Batu's brothers, Orda and Shiban had also participated in his European campaign, and they now form their own khanates. Orda's khanate, located to the east of the Blue Horde, becomes known as the White Horde, while Shiban's khanate is the relatively obscure Shaibanids. Although both the Blue Horde and White Horde are in effect independent, they still acknowledge the suzerainty of the great khan.


With rising tensions between Guyuk Khan and Batu Khan, it is only the great khan's early death that prevents a civil war from erupting between them. Oghul Ghaymish becomes regent during the election process that selects the next great khan, but the mighty empire has been shown to be prone to disunity.

1248 - 1251

Oghul Ghaymish



Following a siege, Aleppo is captured and destroyed by the Mongols while the sultan of Egypt, al-Muazzam, is commanding there. Unusually, the defeated defenders are allowed to live.

1251 - 1259

Mongke / Mengku Khan

Son of Tolui and cousin of Ogedei. Great khan.


The invasion of the Sung empire of southern China begins, the last of the three Chinese powers to remain independent and unconquered to date. Mongke leads the campaign himself, while entrusting a Near Eastern campaign to Hulegu.

1253 - 1258

Hulegu and his Il-Khan Mongols begin the campaign which sees him enter the Islamic lands of Mesopotamia on behalf of Mongke. Ismailis (assassins) have been threatening the Mongol governors of the western provinces, so Mongke has determined that both they and the Abbasid caliphs must be brought to heel.

Hulegu takes Khwarazm, and quickly establishes dominion over Mosul, and Badr ad Din Lu'lu is allowed to retain governance of the city as he aids the Mongols in other campaigns in Syria. Hulegu's next conquest is Baghdad, in 1258. The caliph and his family are massacred when no army is produced to defend them.

Hulegu Khan
Inheriting the Persian section of the Mongol empire through his father, Tolui, Hulegu Khan led the devastating attack which ended the Islamic caliphate at Baghdad, but he also brought the eastern Persian territories under his firm control (he is seen here with his wife)


The Mongol general, Uriyangkhadai, demands that Trần Thái Tông of Dai Viet allows his forces passage so that they can attack the Southern Song through their weaker southern border.

The Viet ruler is not impressed by the demands, jailing three successive Mongol envoys. Uriyangkhadai invades the kingdom, defeating the native forces in two large battles over two days: at No Nguyen (today's Viet Tri on the River Hong), and at the Phu Lo bridge. The Tran nobles are forced to evacuate the capital to avoid capture.

After nine days of mopping-up operations, the Mongols head for Song territory to attack the real target while the Tran dynasty is forced to send tribute every three years to the court of the Mongol empire.


The Mongol army marches on Aleppo and it quickly falls (within a week). This time, most of the inhabitants are killed or sold into slavery and the Great Mosque and the defensive Citadel are razed. When the army arrives at Damascus the city surrenders immediately as Yusuf has already fled to Gaza. Samaria is captured, with the garrison of Nablus being put to the sword, and Gaza is taken. Yusuf is captured and killed while a prisoner.

Hulegu withdraws from Syria once he learns of Mongke's death, leaving behind a minor force. Baybars of Egypt sends a Mameluke army against this and defeats it at the Battle of Ain Jalut. Damascus is freed five days later and within a month most of Syria is in Baybars' hands. With the political climate in the Mongol empire becoming unstable, Hulegu settles in Persia as the first independent ruler of the Il-Khanate.

At Karakorum, there is disagreement about the choice of successor. The two claimants, Kublai Khan and Ariq-Boke, engage in civil war which lasts four years. During this period, Hulegu's slaughter of so many thousands of Muslims at Baghdad has enraged Berke Khan of the Blue Horde. War erupts between the two, with the side-effect that Berke is forced to cancel a planned invasion of Europe. Alughu is appointed to take control of the Chaghatayid khanate by Ariq-Boke, deposing Orqina Khatun in the process. He also takes advantage of the unstable situation by revolting against Ariq-Boke's rule of the west and gaining the allegiance of the governors of Transoxiana.

1260 - 1294

Kublai Khan / Qubilai Khan

Brother. Born 1215. Great khan. Shih Tsu in China in 1280.

1260 - 1264


Brother. Rival great khan in Karakorum. Defeated. Died 1266.

1260 - 1264

The Mongol empire is engulfed in two simultaneous civil wars: Hulegu and Berke in the west, and Kublai and Ariq-Boke in the east. Both Kublai and Ariq-Boke are elected great khan in 1260 at two separate khuriltai, with Kublai basing himself in China and Ariq-Boke at Karakorum. When Kublai is victorious in 1264, he retains China as his main base, implying (or perhaps establishing) China as the most important Mongol possession. When Ariq-Boke dies just two years later, in 1266, his side of the struggle is continued by Kaidu of Mughulistan, grandson of Ogedei Khan.

1267 - 1279

FeatureThe Southern Sung are conquered, and with that the great khans concentrate their rule almost entirely on China itself (from this point the list of Mongol rulers is repeated under the Chinese Yuan dynasty, and see feature link).

The Mongol dynasty is christened Yuan by Kublai Khan in 1279, from which time he is emperor of the Chinese and great khan of the Mongols. Effective control of a single Mongol empire has ended, with each of the main ulus (inheritances) now being ruled independently, albeit with nominal control being exercised by the great Kublai during his lifetime.


The first Mongol invasion of Japan is defeated through bad weather conditions, with the outnumbered Japanese facing superior and much more modern forces. The defeat is an unexpected one for the otherwise near-universally victorious Mongols.

First Mongol invasion of Japan
This illustration of the first Mongol attempt to invade Japan shows the Mongol fleet being smashed to pieces by the 'divine wind' that saved the Japanese - the equivalent to the contrary winds which prevented Napoleon Bonaparte from crossing the English Channel

1277 - 1278

Burma is invaded, and a puppet government is installed there. While it is a victory, it is far from the total conquest and domination that previous great khans would have expected.


The second Mongol invasion of Japan is again defeated through bad weather conditions. The Mongols suffer around seventy-five per cent casualties and a clear limit is set on their expansion in Asia. Japan praises the kamikaze, or 'divine wind', which has saved it twice from invasion.

1284 - 1288

The second Mongol invasion of Dai Viet begins under the command of Toghan, a son of Kublai Khan and a general of his newly-formed Yuan dynasty. They advance simultaneously from the north (the main force) and south (through Champa). The Dai Viet wisely defend and retreat, rarely engaging in heavy combat until circumstances favour them.

Those circumstances turn so that the southern Mongol force is defeated in a pitched battle in April 1285, while the northern force is persuaded through gifts (including the provision of a spare princess) to hold off.

The third Mongol invasion starts in 1287. This time the battle-hardened Dai Viet are ready. The invasion is decisively defeated in 1288 and Mongol ambitions for southern expansion are extinguished.

Mongol warriors
Initial Mongol interest in Dai Viet seemed purely designed to be able to use it as a conduit for troops to outflank the Southern Song, but following their fall in 1279, invasion and permanent occupation was on the cards


With the death of Kublai Khan, the Yuan dynasty survives under his successor, but the Mongol empire effectively ceases to exist. There are no further khakhans (great khans), and command of the empire's territory is now permanently divided into four distinct and fully independent kingdoms.

These are the Golden Horde (made up of the Blue Horde and White Horde), the Il-Khanate, Mughulistan, and Yuan China, which incorporates Mongolia and much of southern Siberia, along with governing Tibet through the institution of the Xuanzheng Yuan, and with Korea as a tributary state.

Mongol Khans of the Yuan Dynasty
AD 1294 - 1368

FeatureThe Mongols took control of China through a series of conquests, ending with total domination. Kublai Khan retained China as his main base during his civil war against his brother in 1260-1264, implying (or perhaps establishing) China as the most important Mongol possession. It was only a matter of time before China became central to the Great Khans, and the Mongol dynasty was christened the Yuan by Kublai Khan in 1279, from which time he was emperor of the Chinese as well at great khan of the Mongols. The centre of the Mongol empire shifted with him to China, fragmenting its authority farther west. His death in 1294 signalled the effective end of the empire, so that the Yuan Mongols ruled only in China, Mongolia, southern Siberia, and Tibet. Mongolia was governed by the nominated heir to the imperial throne who resided in Karakorum.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Mongol Empire: Genghis Khan: His Triumph and his Legacy, Peter Brent (Book Club Associates, 1976), from The Mongols: A Very Short Introduction, Morris Rossabi (Oxford University Press, 2012), and from the BBC documentary, The Secret History of Genghis Khan, broadcast 28 December 2011.)

1294 - 1307

Temur Öljeytu Khan

Grandson of Kublai Khan. Yuan emperor. Ch'eng Tsung in 1295.


Following his accession, Mahmud Ghazan of the Il-Khanate accepts Islam, marking a departure in the politics of Mongol Persia. From this point onwards, despite Ghazan maintaining strong links with the Yuan, the Il-Khanate becomes increasingly Islamicised, turning away from its Mongol origins.


Thanks to the support of Kaidu of Mughulistan for the opposing faction in the White Horde dynastic conflict, Buyan has won support both from Great Khan Temur and Mahmud Ghazan of the Il-Khanate. Temur now organises a response against Kaidu, ending with the latter's defeat at the bloody Battle of the River Zawkhan. Kaidu dies shortly afterwards.


The Chaghatayids under Du'a and Chapar, son of Kaidu, the Golden Horde under Toqta, and the Il-Khanate under Mahmud Ghazan negotiate peace with Temur Khan so that trade and diplomatic relations are not harmed by constant bickering and fighting. The Yuan emperor is also accepted as the nominal overlord of the three junior Mongol states. As is customary (but not always observed in recent times), Temur designates Öljeytu as the new Il-Khan. Soon afterwards, the former allies Du'a and Chapar fall out over the territory they control within Mughulistan, so Temur backs the rightful ruler, Du'a, and sends a large army into the region in 1306, forcing Chapar to surrender.

1307 - 1311

Qayshan Guluk / Khaisan Külüg / Hai-Shan

Son of Darmabala. Wu Tsung in 1308.

1308 - 1309

The Seljuq sultanate of Rum collapses and the area is ruled through regional governors by the Mongols. In the same year, Qayshan nominates Ch'ungson as the successor to King Ch'unguyol of the Koryo kingdom of Korea. In addition, the rebellious Chapar and his key supporters in Mughulistan appear before Qayshan to submit to him, ending the threat posed by them to stability in the Yuan empire.

Mongol horse warrior
The Mongols in China, such as this horse archer (a typical Mongol warrior) gradually became more and more Sinicised as part of the Yuan dynasty, and more distanced from their cousins in Central Asia

1311 - 1320

Ayurparibhadra / Ayurbarwada

Brother. Half Korean. Became Jen Tsung in 1312.


Following the death of Qayshan and the succession of Ayurparibhadra, their mother, Dagi, leads the aggressive Khunggiad faction in the Yuan imperial court to purge it of Qayshan's officials and supporters. Qayshan's son and Ayurparibhadra's agreed successor, Toq-Temur, is driven out. Under Ayurparibhadra, the Yuan become increasingly integrated into Chinese culture.

1320 - 1323

Suddhipala Gege'en / Shidebala

Son. Ying Tsung in 1321. Assassinated.


A promising reign under Suddhipala is cut short when he is assassinated by the embittered former followers of the late Empress Dagi. They carry out the act to avoid possible action against them for supporting Dagi and her (equally late) puppet minister, Temüder. The head of the assassins is Temüder's son, Tegshi. He offers the throne to Yesun-Temur, and he accepts, but not until after he has purged the court of Tegshi's faction to avoid becoming a Yuan puppet.

1323 - 1328


Tai-ting Ti in 1324.


Arigaba / Aragibag / Ragibagh

Son. Defeated by his rival and possibly murdered.


Arigaba succeeds his father, installed by Yesun-Temur's Muslim aide, Dawlat Shah. Before that succession can be made official, an uprising is triggered by nobles who are dissatisfied with Yesun-Temur's monopolisation of power under a few select and very powerful officials. Arigaba leads an army against them but their commander, a Mongolised Kipchak general named El Temür, defeats them. The Yuan capital is seized by El Temür and Jayaatu Khan while Arigaba disappears, presumably murdered.

1328 - 1329

Jayaatu Khan / Jijaghatu Toq-Temur

Son of Qayshan. Ming Tsung in 1329.

1328 - 1329

During the successful campaign by El Temür and Jayaatu Khan to capture the Yuan throne, Qoshila Qutuqtu begins his own campaign against them in Mongolia. He enters Mongolia from the Tarbagatai region of the Khangai Mountains with support from the Chaghatayid khans, Eljigedey and Du'a Temur. The nobles of Mongolia also support him, so he has himself declared emperor on 27 February at a location to the north of Karakorum. Jayaatu Khan recognises that he has been defeated and abdicates.


Khutughtu Khan / Qoshila Qutuqtu

Wen Tsung? In 1330. Died suddenly.


Ruling as Khutughtu Khan, Qoshila accepts Jayaatu Khan as his heir and the two meet at a banquet. The new khan is busy filling Yuan positions with his own people so it seems likely that it is El Temür who is responsible for his unexpected death just four days after the banquet, probably because he fears losing his own power and influence to other Mongols and Chaghatayids (however, conflicting sources state that the khan's own son, Toghan-Temur, is responsible). Now Jayaatu Khan is able to resume his position on the throne after the briefest of interludes.

1329 - 1332

Jayaatu Khan / Jijaghatu Toq-Temur

Restored as Khutughtu Khan's heir.


Jayaatu Khan's own son and designated heir, Aratnadara, has already died just just a month after being nominated in 1331. As a result, Jayaatu nominates Toghan-Temur as his heir. El Temür resists this as it is Toghan-Temur who is strongly suspected of murdering his father (lending support to the alternative report for this event in 1329). Instead, Toghan-Temur's younger brother, Rinchenpal, is nominated, and duly succeeds upon Jayaatu's death.

1332 - 1333

Rinchenpal / Irinchibal / Rinchinbal Khan

Son of Qoshila. Aged 6 at accession. Died 53 days later.

1333 - 1368


Brother. Shun Ti in 1333. Fled China to be Northern Yuan khan.


The Mongol Jalayirid sultanate establishes itself in southern and western Persia, ruling Persia itself through puppets. They also take control of the areas of former Rum that have not yet been conquered by the expanding Ottomans.


The Mongols are expelled from China by Chu Yüan-chang when he captures Dadu (modern Beijing). Toghan-Temur flees to Mongolia, while Chu Yüan-chang seizes the throne and is proclaimed the first Ming emperor of a reunited China. This act effectively dissolves the Mongol empire. The surviving khanates, the Blue Horde, White Horde, and Chaghatayids (the Il-Khans have already fallen), are now ruled as entirely independent kingdoms in their own right. The descendents of Kublai Khan and the great khans continue to rule locally in Mongolia as the Northern Yuan.

Mongol Khans of the Northern Yuan Dynasty
AD 1368 - 1634

The Mongols were expelled from China in 1368 by Chu Yüan-chang and the Red Turban Army rebel movement. Toghan-Temur, the final Yuan emperor, fled to Mongolia to become the first ruler of the much-reduced Northern Yuan dynasty (as it was named in Chinese records), which effectively meant that he had returned to his homeland to govern the original core of the Mongolian empire. He died at Karakorum just two years later, by which time the formal existence of the Mongol empire had been ended (although this had been the case in reality since the death of Kublai Khan in 1294). The surviving khanates, the Blue Horde, White Horde, and Chaghatayids (the Il-Khans had already fallen), were now fully independent kingdoms in their own right.

The descendents of Kublai Khan and the great khans largely continued to rule locally in Mongolia until the seventeenth century, but they never again rose to prominence. (Names shown below incorporate each khan's official name first, and their birth name second.) The khans directly ruled the eastern wing of the Mongolian army, suggesting eastern Mongolia itself, while a royal prince, or 'jinong', governed the western wing in the khan's name.

Farther west were the vassal Oirats, a grouping of four major Mongol tribes which occupied territory around the Altai Mountains (the point of congruence between modern China, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Russia as well as seemingly being the point of origin for the early Turks). The Oirats quickly became the leaders of the Western Mongols (supporters of the descendants of Ariq-Boke), and engaged in a constant struggle for power, and control of the great khan, with the Eastern Mongols (supporters of the descendants of Kublai Khan). A third faction emerged in the form of the Uriyangkhai, which controlled Mongol groups in the north-east, effectively placing the Eastern Mongols in the middle of a struggle that largely split Mongol unity along these lines.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Mongol Empire: Genghis Khan: His Triumph and his Legacy, Peter Brent (Book Club Associates, 1976), from The Mongols: A Very Short Introduction, Morris Rossabi (Oxford University Press, 2012), and from the BBC documentary, The Secret History of Genghis Khan, broadcast 28 December 2011.)

1368 - 1370


Fled China. First Northern Yuan. Died 1370 at Karakorum.


Yingchang is seized by the Ming Chinese shortly after the death of Toghan-Temur. It is the start of constant conflict between the Mongols and the Ming. The Mongolians are forced to retreat into Mongolia itself.

Mongol warriors
With the loss of China, the Mongols gradually returned to the old ways over the course of several generations of feuding and jostling for control

1370 - 1378

Biligtü Khan / Ayushiridara


1372 - 1373

Not content with kicking the Mongols out of China, the Ming emperor begins a military push into Mongolia. Mongol General Köke Temür, the half-Chinese grandson of a Mongolian prince who had been known as Wang Baobao during the Yuan dynasty days, leads the defence of Mongolia. In 1373 he defeats 15,000 Ming soldiers at the River Orkhon. The Mongols recapture Funin and Suijin districts in Sinhe, Liaoning and Hebei provinces, cutting off the Ming from Liadong with the help of the Jurchen (former rulers of the Jin dynasty which itself had been defeated by the Mongols).

Ayushiridara asks Gongmin of the Koryo Korean dynasty for assistance in the fight against the Ming. As a former Mongol vassal, he is acclaimed as a fellow descendant of Chingiz Khan, and will therefore be happy to work together wth the Yuan in their current reduced state. However, Gongmin's reforms have already cut many ties with the Yuan in favour of the Ming, and he not only refuses to help, he actively pursues a policy of reconquering territory that had been annexed by the Great Khans in the 1270s.

1378 - 1388

Ukshal Khan / Togus-Temur

Brother or son.

1380 - 1381

In response to further Mongol pressure on their northern border, the Ming invade Mongolia again, reaching Karakorum, which they loot. Other Mongol cities are also attacked and looted, but a further invasion the following year is repulsed. However, the Yuan loyalists who had been holding out in the southern Chinese territory of Yunnan are finally defeated in the same year.

1387 - 1388

A Mongolian official in the former north-eastern Chinese province of Liaoyang (now in Mongolian hands) invades Liaodong. Nahachu envisions a restoration of the Yuan dynasty in China, but he and his army of about 200,000, suffering in the midst of a famine, are persuaded to surrender by Ming diplomacy. Shortly afterwards, also in 1388,  Ukshal Khan is attacked during a Ming raid on Lake Buir. He escapes, heading for Karakorum, but is subject to a surprise attack along the River Tuul by Yesüder, a rival who is allied to the Oirats. Both Ukshal Khan and his son are killed, marking the end of recent Yuan supremacy and the rise of the Oirats in Mongolia. The Mongols begin to disintegrate.

1388 - 1392?

Jorightu Khan / Yesüder

Descendant of Ariq-Boke (brother and rival of Kublai Khan).

1388 - 1389

With the break in rule of the descendants of Kublai Khan, and the dramatic reduction in Mongol power over the past two decades, the authority of the great khan has been gravely damaged. One of the former generals of Togus-Temur breaks away and forms his own small khanate. Gunashiri is a descendant of Chagatai Khan of the Chaghatayids, and the small state he forms is called Qara Del, which is centred in Hami (modern Kumul in Xinjiang Province).

Altai Mountains
The Altai Mountains link together the borders of Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, and Xinjiang, providing the source for the rivers Irtysh and Ob and also, it would seem, the source region for the early Turkic tribes


The third grouping of Mongols, the Uriyangkhai, surrender to the Ming Chinese, along with some Borjigin princes. Led by Ukshal Khan's former minister, Necelai, the Mongols are divided by the Ming into three sub-groups, known as the Three Guards: Doyin, Fuyu, and Tai'nin. They are settled as a buffer force in territory that becomes the modern Inner Mongolia (to be re-acquired by the Mongols in 1495). Necelai is killed by Shirmen, the late khan's chingsang (chancellor) who is now allied to Jorightu Khan.

? - 1392

Engke Khan

Son, or perhaps even Jorightu Khan himself.

1392 - 1399

Nigülesügchi Khan / Elbeg

Younger brother of Jorightu Khan.


Ugetchi Khashikha, ruler of the Oirats, opposes Elbeg's decision to appoint a new ruler in his place. Ugetchi persuades the chingsang, Batula, that the violent khan who has already killed his own kin, along with Batula's father, is unworthy of his position. Elbeg is defeated by the four Oirat tribes and is killed by their leaders, Ugetchi Khashikha and Batula. There is a hiatus of several months before Elbeg's son, Gün Temür Khan, is able to succeed him.

1400 - 1402

Gün Temür Khan

Son. Defeated and killed.


Gün Temür Khan is defeated and killed by Guilichi, who seizes the Mongol throne under the title Örüg Temür Khan. It is possible that this little-known individual is in fact Ugetchi Khashikha, ruler of the Oirats ('Khashikha' means 'prince' or 'duke'). He is certainly a non-Chingisid, and therefore not in direct line of descent from Chingiz Khan.

1402 - 1403

Örüg Temür Khan / Guilichi

A non-Chingisid khan. Defeated by Buyanshri.

1403 - 1412

Öljei Temür Khan / Buyanshri

Brother of Gün Temür. Killed by the Oirats.

1409 - 1422

Ming Emperor Ch'eng Tsu invades Mongolian lands three times in this period, in 1409, 1414, and 1422. The first time he is repulsed by Öljei Temür Khan, while the Oirats successfully defend Mongolia on the other occasions, showing that the Mongols are still powerful enough to ably defend themselves against Chinese aggression. Continually foiled on the battlefield, the emperor begins a policy of politically dividing the Mongols by conspiring to encourage internecine feuding.

Mongol warrior print
The Mongols were still a formidable fighting force when they were opposed by the Ming, with regional feuds largely (but not exclusively) being put aside

1412 - 1413

Following a humiliating defeat by the Ming in 1410, Öljei Temür Khan is now killed by the Oirat ruler, Mahamud. The following year, Mahamud installs his own puppet khan on the throne. This point marks the temporary decline of the Borjigin khans and the start of a period in which various Mongol clans fight each other for supremacy.

1413 - 1415

Delbeg Khan / Dalbag

Puppet of Oirat ruler, Mahamud. Not recognised by most clans.


The Mongols under Delbeg are defeated in a pyrrhic victory for the Ming in which nothing is really gained. Despite penetrating as far as the River Tuul, the Ming subsequently withdraw. One of Delbeg's main Mongol rivals, the future Adai Khan, has managed to unify the central and eastern clans against him, and now kills Delbeg and many of his Oirat supporters.

1415 - 1425


Selected by the Oirats as their replacement for Delbeg.

1422 - 1423

With the help of the Ming, Oyiradai leads an Oirat resurgence against the central and eastern Mongols under the chingsang, Arughtai, and Adai Khan. The latter are defeated twice, but Oyiradai's subsequent death prompts infighting between the Oirats and western Mongols, allowing Adai Khan to seize power.

1425 - 1438

Adai Khan

A Borjigin khan, possibly the son of Örüg Temür Khan.

1433 - 1438

Tayisung Khan is promoted by the Oirats as the great khan, in direct opposition to Adai Khan. For the next five years, the western Mongols acknowledge Tayisung while the central and eastern Mongols acknowledge Adai Khan. An Oirat victory in 1434 which kills Arughtai and other key Adai Khan supporters ends any immediate chance of the Mongols being fully unified. In 1438, Adai Khan is overrun by the Oirats and is killed by Toghtoa Bukha. The Mongols are now unified by the Oirats (western Mongols).

1433 - 1453

Tayisung Khan / Toghtoa Bukha

Puppet of the Oirats.


With the Golden Horde becoming increasingly weakened, one recent claimant for the throne has been Dawlat Berdi. He had managed to establish himself in the Crimea in 1427 but had constantly been troubled by Hajji Giray, another would-be ruler of the horde. The assassination of Dawlat Berdi in 1432 has left the route open to Hajji setting up the Crimean khanate as an independent entity under his command. The actual date of the take-over is somewhat disputed, with 1443 and 1449 being two of the favourites.

Also in 1449, Togoon Taishi, khan of the supposedly vassal Oirats, has been steadily winning influence at the Mongol court, and his successor, Esen Tayisi increases that influence. Having led diplomatic attempts to negotiate with the Ming to improve trading conditions with China, Esen Tayisi finds that he is rebuffed. As a result he leads a startling military campaign which defeats a force of 50,000, captures the emperor and besieges Beijing.


Esen Tayisi defeats Tayisung Khan and, after dealing with Tayisung's brother, Agbarjin, declares himself khan of the Mongols in his place. Tayisung is quickly assassinated by his former father-in-law for returning the man's daughter to him as a divorce and causing her to be humiliated.


Agbarjin / Akbarjin

Brother. Betrayed Tayisung Khan for throne, then killed by Oirats.

1453 - 1454

Esen Tayisi

Oirat khan. Overthrown by Mongol rebel faction.


Despite being the khan of the Oirats and great khan under whom the Mongols have been reunited, Esen faces a rebellion by the Oirats and his own general, Alag. He is defeated in battle and murdered by the son of one of his own victims. His death fragments Mongol unity once again and also ends Oirat supremacy over Mongolia.

1454 - 1465

Markörgis Khan / Ükegtü

Child son of Tayisung Khan.

1454 - 1465

Dogholon Taishi

Of the seven Tümeds (a Mongol subgrouping). Regent.

1454 - 1465


Of the Kharchin Mongols. Co-regent.


After years of rivalry between Dogholon and Bulay, as each struggles to attain dominance, the Mongols finally erupt into internecine war. The young Markörgis Khan is killed during the fighting and his elder half-brother, Molon, succeeds him.

1465 - 1466

Molon Khan

Half-brother of Markörgis Khan. Killed during internecine feuding.

1466 - 1475

Further internecine fighting causes the death of Molon Khan, and such is the level of disruption, no election can be held to select a successor. It takes almost a decade of warfare until Manduul Khan can gain superiority enough to be selected khan over all the Mongols.

Molon Khan
Molon Khan was one of many short-lived figureheads of the Mongol people during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, as the unity of Chingiz Khan faded

1475 - 1478

Manduul Khan

Son of Tayisung Khan. Grand councillor of the Ongud Mongols.

1478 - 1517

Dayan Khan / Batu Möngke

Great-grandnephew and selected heir.


Succeeding to what is now a fairly stable, reunited Mongol confederacy, Dayan Khan moves his capital from Khalkha to Chaharia so that he can more tightly control the Taishis of the right wing. This makes him the chief of the Chahar Mongols, another of many Mongol subgroupings, which survives today, largely in the south-eastern section of Inner Mongolia. The Three Guards (created in the 1390s) are re-acquired in 1495.


Much of the Great Horde's people and horses are captured by the khan of the Crimea and forcibly relocated to the Crimea itself, while Shaykh Ahmad flees with about 4,000 horsemen. His days are numbered, and the Great Horde is unable to reform.


With the death of Dayan Khan, his selected successor is the youthful Bars Bolud Jinong Khan. Dayan Khan's third son, Bodi Alagh Khan, fears that the boy's youth and inexperience will undo the work of reuniting the Mongols, so he pushes the boy aside to claim the khanship himself. He is largely supported by the nobility who have the same fears.

Dayan Khan's death also sparks a proliferation of minor Mongol dynasties that further fragments Mongolian unity. He has divided his domains between his eleven sons, with the youngest, Gersenz Hongtaiji, gaining Northern Khalkha (which approximates modern Outer Mongolia in terms of its territory). This is further subdivided between Gersenz' seven sons and one of his great-grandchildren, Eriyehi Mergen Khan, founds the Tushiyeti khanship. Another great-grandson, Sholoi, founds the Secen khans. A member of the next generation, Sumbadai, creates the Zasagtu khans in the western section of North Khalkha, but his cousin, Ubashi Hongtaiji, secedes to found the Altyn khans of Khotgoid. Such constant division only serves to weaken the Mongols.

1517 - 1519

Bars Bolud Jinong Khan

Son. Pushed aside by Bodi Alagh Khan.


It has taken two years for Bodi Alagh to secure enough support to force Bars Bolud Jinong to step down as khan and avoid a civil war. Now that he can assume power, he rules for an impressive twenty-eight years.

1519 - 1547

Bodi Alagh Khan

Nephew, and son of Turbolad.


Bodi Alagh Khan is the last of the powerful khans. His successors carry the same titular authority but in reality they provide direct governance only for the Chahar Mongols, situated towards the south-east of the modern region of Inner Mongolia. The situation reflects the ever-diminishing authority of the great khans and their successors since the fourteenth century.

1547 - 1557

Daraisung Guden Khan


1547 - 1551

Daraisung Guden Khan is unable to quash the growing power and arrogance of Altan Khan of the Tümet Mongol subgroup. Altan Khan forces Daraisung to flee eastwards, and the two only come to a compromise in 1551. Altan accepts Daraisung's suzerainty in return for being granted the title 'Geegen Khan' for himself. The more senior khan has to relocate his capital to a location near Manchuria, and his distance from the heartland of Mongol territory engenders a further decline in the authority of his position.

1557 - 1592

Tümen Jasagtu Khan


1592 - 1603

Buyan Sechen Khan


1603 - 1634

Legdan Hutuhtu Khan / Ligdan Khan

Grandson. Oversaw translation of Buddhist scripts into Mongolian.


Legdan Hutuhtu becomes khan at a time at which the authority of his position is greatly in decline, at least partially thanks to the constant subdivision of Mongol territory and the creation of lesser khanates. He becomes known as the 'Khan of Chaharia', a derogatory title which belittles his power, consigning him to the Chaharia region of Inner Mongolia alone in titular terms. At about the same time, the Khoshut tribe of Oirats migrates to Kukunor, while the Torghuts leave Mongolia entirely, heading to the Volga basin to become the Kalmyks.


Legdan Hutuhtu Khan is the last of the Borjigin khans, ruling from Chahar. He has been unpopular and has treated his fellow Mongols harshly, while pursuing an alliance with the Ming. Two of the Mongol subgroups under his direct rule, the Jarud and Khorchin, have been intermarrying with the Qin, and the khan's court has lost most of its authority to them. Legdan's death signals the end of the khanship that has descended directly from Chingiz Khan and a virtual surrendering of Inner Mongolia to the Qin. However, by this stage, Khara Khula of the Choros clan has managed to unify the Oirats so that his son, Erdeni Batur Hongtaiji, is able to establish the Zunghar khanate in this year.

1634 - 1635

Ejei Khan

Son. Surrendered to the Qin.


Ejei Khan completes the surrender of the Borjigin Mongols to the Qin. Within forty years, all Qin royal males have been systematically exterminated by the Qin, including those born to Qin princesses.


Ulan Bator is founded as a nomadic Buddhist monastic centre. It is not settled permanently until 1778, and in the twentieth century it becomes the capital city of Outer Mongolia.

Ulan Bator plains
The plains around Ulan Bator offer stereotypical views of traditional Mongol territory - wide, sweeping plains that were (and still are) ideally suited to horse-borne warriors


Some time after this date, although just when is unclear, Kondeleng Ubashi, brother of Gushi Khan, Mongol king of Tibet, migrates to the Volga with a division of the Koshut tribe of Oirats. There they merge with the Kalmyks (although they return in 1771 to Zungaria where they are resettled by the now-dominant Qin and survive into modern times).

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