Strife: Fighting for the Khans



In 1279, the last Song Chinese emperor was killed with his entire fleet of over 1000 ships on the coast of Yamen, 10,000 loyal retainers and his entire court was drowned in the ensuing conflagration, the last ember of Chinese resistance was snuffed out. Finally, after three generations of fighting and four Great Khans, the Mongols succeeded in taking all of China, making it one of the last states to fallen under Mongol yoke. Through this acquisition, Kublai, the most cosmopolitan of the Mongol rulers was able to declare himself the Great Khan: the supreme leader of the Mongol people.

However, by this time the title had largely became ceremonial, the mighty empire that stretched from Korea to Germany, from Russia to Egypt's borders, was cracking among the grand children of Genghis' four sons. Nearly a century of what the west would call Pax Mongolica, where a traveler was theortically safe traveling from one end of the empire to the other with a pot of gold on his head- was coming to an end. However, the conquest of China halted the disastrous trajectory, and maintained the inertia of the Mongol power for at least another century with its vast hoard of natural resources.



Chinese resources, and legions of specialized Chinese labor was able to make China one of the last bastions of Mongol presence. It was this prized holding along with his possession of the ancestral Mongolian lands that made Kublai the undisputed Mongol ruler, even though by his time there are several de facto "Khans" (meaning King in the steppe languages) that ruled other parts of the former Mongolian Empire with their own absolute powers.


Separated and cut off from other autonomous Mongolian entities, China became the pet project of Kublai and his descendants, who styled themselves as a Chinese sounding- "Yuan" dynasty. They also styled themselves as legitimized Chinese sounding rulers rather than foreign overlords.


However despite this gesture of benign integration and cosmopolitanism, the Yuan rulers instituted many discriminatory policies that prevented the native Chinese from holding power. The court position were kept largely in the hands of Mongolians and half Mongolians, then a rotating hands of minorities around the fringes of the vast empire, including Nepalese, Tibetans, Uygurs, and Arabs.

Northern Chinese, those who surrendered from the previously extinguished Xixia and Jin dynasties (who were once lorded by Jurchen and Tibetan Kings) were the only Chinese permitted to serve in any lucrative administrative posts. Nearly all the former subjects of the most sinisized native Chinese dynasty, the Song, were barred from acquiring power in both administration and military.


Because the south was the last hold out of Song resistance before the whole of China succumbed, the Yuan rulers were keen on periodically repressing the populace through a combination of high taxes and disdain during several great famines that left millions dead in the south. Southern China, once a place renowned internationally for its cultural, scientific, and cosmopolitan splendor, was left to rot. Slavery was instituted by the Mongols, and hereditary bond servitude was re- introduced to the Chinese after nearly 500 years of freedom.


Worse yet, the keen "Mongolian" aspect of the dynasty's endless struggles in previously non-Chinese territories severely lowered the Chinese people's attachment to the dynasty's fortunes. Kublai's forced impressment of millions of Chinese sailors and Korean soldiers to disastrously invade Japan (a nation China was at peace for nearly 650 years since formal relationship was established) was one of these examples. This, combined with the typical Mongolian disdain for traditional Chinese beliefs of Confucianism and Daoism only compounded to the daily Chinese sentiment that the foreign oppressors have lost the sacred "Mandate of Heaven" from their ill actions.


The south would repeatedly became hotbeds of great rebellions, and in 1368, a great rebellion led by the rebel Chinese Zhu Yuan Zhang would wholly drive out the Mongols and re- establish a native Chinese dynasty: the Ming.



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