The so-called "Mongols" were actually a heterogenous group of different nomad peoples of Türkish and "Tartar" origin. The word "Mongol" is derived from the name of a tribe called Manghol. Although the cultural stages of these ethnical groups were quite different, they had a common language (Mongolian or Türkic) that allowed a unification under the hand of the strongest clan. The strongest ethnics were the
Merkit and the
Tatars. They were socially divided into aristocracy, common people, and slaves and prisoners of war. Except animism, the higher religions of Nestorian Christianity, Manicheism and Buddhism had won many followers among the "Mongols". The economical base of these peoples was cattle breeding, hunting and trade with different Inner Asian states and the empires of China (Jin 金, 1115-1234, Western Xia 西夏, 1038-1227, and Southern Song 南宋, 1127-1279).
The unifier of the nomad peoples, Temüjin, was a originally vasall of the Kereyid and had been used by the Jin court to subdue the Kereyid Tatars. By 1206 Temüjin had defeated all his opponents and unified the Mongol people under his rule. He adopted the title of Great Khan (Qaɣan, in Chinese kèhán (!) 可汗) and was called Činggis Qaɣan (Genghis Khan). Chinggis used the expertise of the culturally more advanced Uyghurs to crush the empires of northern China. His basic aim was not to conquer the territory, but only to exploit their wealth in a manner that earlier steppe peoples had also used when looting Chinese border towns. The capital of the early Mongol empire was Karakorum (Qara-qorum, Karakhorum, "Halahelin 哈剌和林", short: Helin 和林) at the Orkhon River. Činggis Qaɣan's campaigns against the Jin empire had begun in 1211. Its central capital Zhongdu 中都 (modern Beijing) fell in 1215, and the Mongols installed a military government. In 1217 a large campaign, consisting of the armies of different tribes and peoples of the grasslands north of the Gobi desert, Khitans (a proto-Mongolian people that had founded the Liao empire 遼, 907-1125, in northern China), Jurchens (the people that had founded the Jin empire in northern China) and submissive Chinese, was launched against the Central Plain of the Yellow River, the heartland of northern China. The campaign was led by general Muqali (Mukhali, "Muhuali 木華黎"). The Mongols also found support among the Chinese gentry of the former Jin empire who saw their chance to get rid of the domination of the foreign Jurchens, founders of the Jin empire. Such were Zhang Rou 張柔, Yan Shi 嚴實, Zhang Rong 張榮, Li Quan 李全 and his son Li Tan 李璮.
A political balance between Persia and the new Mongol empire was not very easy, and some difficulties between these two empires led to the first Mongol expedition to the west: northern Persia and southern Russia (modern Ukraine) became part of a huge steppe empire.
Činggis Qaɣan (posthumous title Emperor Taizu of the Yuan 元太祖, r. 1206-1227) died in 1227, just when the Tangut empire of Western Xia had submitted to the Great Khan.
Činggis Qaɣan' son Öködei (Ögedei, "Wokuotai 窩闊台"), elected Great Khan during the Mongolian state council (Mongolian khuriltai, Chinese rendering "hulitai 忽里台"), in 1229, started to fulfil the left heritage of the first Great Khan: the conquest of the Jin empire. In three great division, the Mongol armies advanced to the south, Öködei himself commanding the central division, Temüge-otčigin ("Tiemuge Wochijin" 鐵木哥斡赤斤") the eastern division, and Tölüi (Tolui, "Tuolei 拖雷") the right division. They entered Jin territory from the Han River 漢水 valley. The Mongol armies merged, but general Subotai ("Subutai 速不台") was not able to take the besieged Jin capital Kaifeng 開封 (Bianliang 汴梁, modern Kaifeng, Henan). Only a year later, when Emperor Aizong of the Jin 金哀宗 (r. 1223-1233) had fled, the capital fell by treason. The Mongols then besieged the city of Caizhou 蔡州 (modern Xincai 新蔡, Henan), where the emperor had fled to, and sent to the Southern Song court a suggestion for a joint attack on the last strongholds of the Jin empire. The militarily relatively weak Song saw their chance to conquer back northern China that had been lost with the invasion by the Khitans almost three centuries earlier. It was therefore decided to ally with the Mongols, and general Meng Gong 孟珙 led a Song army to the north. He helped the Mongols to break the fortress of Caizhou in early 1234. Shortly before, Mongol armies had conquered the Jin satellite state of Dongzhen 東真 (in the area of modern Jilin province and North Korea) and a great part of the Korean kingdom of Koryŏ 高麗.
Činggis Qaɣan's grandson Batu ("Badu 拔都"; in European sources called Bathy) conquered a great part of the Russian principalities, subjugated the Türkish Kipchaks, and the Volga and Kama Bulgars. The Mongol hords terrified the eastern European states. Only shortly after the destruction of the Jin empire, Öködei sent his sons "Kuochu 闊出" and "Kuoduan 闊端" to begin with the conquest of Song China, their ally of yesterday. Öködei had a Khitan advisor named Yelü Chucai 耶律楚材 who compelled the Great Khan to make use of the traditional Chinese taxation method in northern China. Instead of plundering and enslaving the peasantry, Yelü Chucai argumented, a regular taxation would yield regular revenues in the long run and not deprive the Mongols' source of exploitation of its wealth. The local administration in northern China - and later in the south - was taken over whithout making personal changes, but every Chinese or Jurchen official was controlled by a Mongol or Central Asian supervisor, an office called darughachi ("daluhuachi 達魯花赤"). Household registers were retained and adjusted in 1235 as base for the taxation. To make administration easier, five households were obliged to pay a collective tax in the shape of cloth (wuhu si 五戶絲). For their merits achieved during the conquest, the Mongol princes and chieftains were rewarded with large estates in the north China plain. The Central Asian merchants of Türkish, Uyghurian or Persian origins were given special rights and monopolies in the trade. Furthermore, they were given the exclusive right to collect taxes and to monopolize important branches of the economy and the revenues the sales of salt. Generals or potentates of the Jin empire who quickly submitted to the Mongols and joined their cause were rewarded with hereditary titles of marquess (shihou 世侯).
The sudden death of Öködei (posthumous title Emperor Taizong of the Yuan 元太宗, r. 1229-1241) in 1241 forced the Mongol troops to interrupt their campaign and to return to Mongolia for the election of the new khan, that eventually should be Güyük ("Guiyou 貴由"), Öködei's son, who adopted the title of Khan in 1246. Between 1241 and 1246 Öködei's widow Naimaĵin Töregene ("Naimazhen Tuoliegena 乃馬真脫列哥那") acted as regent in the Mongol homeland. Güyük's reign experienced the first split of the great Mongol empire. Batu, khan of the Golden Horde in the far west, was no friend of him. Only Güyük's (posthumous title Emperor Dingzong of the Yuan 元定宗, r. 1246-1248) early death in 1248 could prevent a military confrontation between Mongols and Mongols. Oγul Qaimiš ("Wowuli Haimishi 斡兀立海迷失"), widow of Güyük, took over regency until the new Great Khan would be elected. Batu proposed to elect Möngke ("Mengge 蒙哥"), son of Tolui, the youngest son of Činggis Qaɣan, and enforced his election during an incomplete state assembly in which the supporters of the lines of Čagatai and Öködei did not participate. These Chingisids contined to deny in a common assembly with Batu and Möngke. Mönke therefore one-sidedly declared himself Great Khan in 1251. He was not willing to tolerate differences among the descendant lines of Činggis Qaɣan. He killed Oγul Qaimiš and Gükük's adherents Čingqai ("Zhenhai 鎮海") and Elĵigidei ("Yelizhijidai 野里知吉帶") and ordered Güyük's son "Shiliemen" 失烈門 to go to the western front. While Möngke tried to establish an effective central government of the vast empire, his brothers took over the mililtary duties: Hülagü ("Xüliewu 旭烈兀") conquered Persia, and the Chinese affairswere laid in the hands of Möngke's younger brother Khubilai (Qubilai, "Hubilie 忽必烈"). In 1252 a kind of household registration within the great Mongol empire was undertaken.
It was a great difference for the Mongols to erect a khanate on a vast territory in the scarcely populated areas of Inner Asia, Persia or southern Russia, or to control a densely populated empire with a highly sophisticated administration and culture like China. Immediately after being named military commander over the region of the former Jin empire Khubilai invited Khitan, Jurchen and Chinese scholar-officials to advise him how to govern his realm: Liu Binzhong 劉秉忠, Zhang Wenqian 張文謙, Lian Xixian 廉希憲, Yao Shu 姚樞, Xu Heng 許衡, and Shi Tianze 史天澤 proposed to install regular pacification commissions (anfusi 安撫司) and military commissions (jinglüeshi 經略司) as administrative units, and to propagate the creation of military agro-colonies (tuntian 屯田) as germs for the reconstruction of the economy. Chinese, Khitan or Jurchen advisors were essential for Khubilai's style of governing China, but the Mongol prince and eventual Great Khan had always to create a balance between the interests of the Mongol nobility and the prosperity of his own domain. When the Chinese governor Li Tan rebelled against him in 1262, Khubilai sacrified almost all Chinese advisors in higher positions and replaced them with Persians and Uyghurs.
Khubilai becomes Great Khan
Great Khan Möngke ordered Khubilati to take over the conquest of Dali 大理, an empire in the southwestern region of Yunnan, from where it would be possible to destroy Song China. After Khubilai had conquered the capital of Dali the new territory was left to general Uriyangqadai ("Ulianghedai 兀良合台") for further consolidation, and Khubilai headed back to the north to keep a close eye on the administration of his domain in northern China. He had constructed a Chinese-style palace in his "Upper Capital" (Shangdu 上都) Kaiping 開平 (modern Duolun 多倫, Inner Mongolia; the "Xanadu" of Western reports). Great Khan Möngke meanwhile had learned that Khubilai was able to exploit great ressources from China in a very sophisticated way, and envious of his success, Möngke left the conquest of Southern Song to other generals like Alamdar ("Alandar 阿藍答兒") and "Tachar 塔察兒". These conquered the region of the Han River and eastwards to the Huai River 淮水 region which means that practically all territory north of the Yangtze River was in Mongol hands. Möngke himself commanded an army to conquer the rest of Sichuan. But the conquest of Sichuan proved far more complicated than expected because the Chinese governor resisted the Mongol assaults for long months in the fortress of Diaoyucheng 釣魚城. The Mongol troops did neither smoothly advance, and Möngke could not but hand over command to the experienced Khubilai in 1258. Khubilai reorganized the Mongol troops, installed the Chinese Yang Weizhong 楊惟中 and Hao Jing 郝經 as provisory governors of Sichuan and forbade his troops looting and marauding. In the same moment Mönkge died (posthumous title Emperor Xianzong of the Yuan 元憲宗, r. 1251-1259) during the siege of Diaoyucheng. Neglecting the critical situation of this moment, Khubilai did not interrupt his campaigning and the duty to finish his task. Ariq-Böke (Arigh Böke, "Alibuge 阿里不哥"), his brother, who commanded the troops in Mongolia, saw his chance to assume the powerful throne of the Great Khan. Following the advice of Hao Jing, Khubilai negotiated a cease-fire with the Song commander Jia Sidao 賈似道 and hurried to the national assembly in Mongolia.
In 1260 Khubilai was elected Great Khan by his own state assembly and simultaneously proclaimed a Chinese reign motto (Zhongtong 中統 "Well-balanced government") as emperor of China. His empire was governed through a Chinese-style Palace Secretariat (zhongshusheng 中書省), and the various regions of China were governed through "en route"-branch secretariates (xing zhongshusheng 行中書省). The abbreviation of this administrative units, sheng 省, was later to become the term for "province".
The war with Ariq-Böke and the foundation of the Yuan dynasty
But Khubilai was not safe yet on the throne of the Mongol empire. His brother Ariq-Böke had himself proclaimed Great Khan and was supported by the Mongol troops standing in China's west (modern Gansu, Shaanxi and Sichuan). To secure title and empire, Khubilai commanded his troops himself to engage in a protracted war among brothers. Most campaigns and battles took place far in the west and destroyed the territory and economic base of the Central Asian khanates. Only in 1264 Ariq-Böke submitted to his stonger brother. Khubilai was accepted as the Great Khan, but the western khanates began to indulge in a fratricidal war that would end the unity of the Mongol world. Khubilai and his descendants became rulers of China and Mongolia. Under the influence of Chinese and Jurchen officials, Khubilai went on to regularize the administration of China's north without depriving the Mongol nobility of their privileges. Yanjing 燕京 (modern Beijing) became "Central Capital" (Zhongdu 中都), and an imperial palace was constructed on the traces of the old buildings. In 1271 Khubilai proclaimed the Yuan dynasty 元, and the Central Capital was made main capital of the empire. It was called "Great Capital" (Dadu 大都), in Mongolian-Türkic "Khanbalik" ("City of the Khan").
The conquest of the Southern Song empire
The conquest of southern China with the Southern Song empire proved to be far more complicated than expected. The campaign began in 1268 with the siege of the double-city Xiangyang 襄陽 and Fancheng 樊城 (modern Xiangfan 襄樊, Hubei) by the generals Aĵu ("Azhu 阿朮") and Liu Zheng 劉整, a defector from the Song. Only in 1274 the stubbornly defended fortress capitulated and the way to southern China was open. General Bayan ("Boyan 伯顏") marched down the Han River to the Yangtze valley, and Liu Zheng and Dong Wenbing 董文炳 started to attack Song China in the Huai River region. Although there are also many examples of heroic Song commanders withstanding the assaults of the Mongol marine troops, there were many contingents that capitulated without fighting. The actual powerholder of the Song empire, Counsellor-in-chief Jia Sidao, resisted the intruding Mongol troops only half-hearted. In 1275 the Song emperor Gongdi 宋恭帝 (r. 1274-1275) offered his capitulation after the capital Lin'an 臨安 (modern Hangzhou 杭州, Zhejiang) was pocketed. In 1279 the conquest was ended, and China was reunited for the first time since the end of the 9th century - although not but a native, but by a foreign conquest dynasty.
The conquests of Khubilai were not yet ended, but within China, a time of consolidation began.
Two times, in 1274 and 1281, Khubilai tried to invade Japan, but his flots were repelled by typhoons - by the Japanese interpreted as "Divine Winds" (kamikaze 神風). 1282 a flotilla under general Söghetei ("Suodu 唆都") was sent out to conquer Champa ("Zhancheng" 占城; middle part of modern Vietnam), two years later Prince "Tuohuan 脫歡" was sent out to conquer Annam 安南 (northern Vietnam). In the same period of time, Mongol troops were sent out from Yunnan to conquer the state of Bagan ("Bugan 蒲甘") in today's Myanmar and devastated this holy city thoroughly. Mongol flotillas were event sent out to conquer Java ("Zhuawa" 爪哇), an undertaking that was determined to failure. So far the expansion politics of the early Yuan period.
At home, in China, the situation was relatively calm after the reunification of Chinese territory. Indeed, Khubilai invested much energy in the establishment of an effective government and administration in Chinese style which was better suited than the exploitative management adopted elsewhere.
The dissolution of the Great Khanate
Marxist historians often overstress the significance of further wars of resistance against the Mongol government or - in their eyes - occupation. Much of these popular uprisings in the 1280es were mere small-scale rebellions against high taxation, like the rebellions of Huang Hua 黃華 and Zhong Mingliang 鐘明亮. Such peasant uprisings were quite "normal" through all ages of Chinese history and were almost naturally occurring through the Yuan period.
A much greater threat to the rule of Khubilai were the expansion wars to Japan and the south that imposed an enormous burden on the state treasury, and the wars against the other Mongol khanates (ulus "hordes", Chinese rendering "wulusi 兀魯思") who rebelled against the overlordship of Khubilai. Qaidu ("Haidu 海都") from the Öködei Ulus, and Boraq ("Bala 八剌") from the Čaqadai Ulus united in a front against the Great Khan Khubilai in 1276, inmidst Khubilai's campaigns against Southern Song. This second threat from Mongol khanates posed upon upon Khubilai the question whether he was willing and able to control all khanates, or to reduce his power to the rich region of China. In the struggles and war campaigns against his western neighbours the "Chinese" khan was not able to extend his control beyond the Tarim Basin. This region was mostly inhabited by Uyghurs that had long been accustomed with diplomacy, communication and trade between east and west. The Yuan government had learned much from these Central Asian specialists and employed many Uyghurs and other Central Asian Moslems within their bureaucray.
Governing China and the Chinese
At the same time Khubilai had to appease the claims of the Mongol nobility for land and wealth that had been promised to them with the beginning of all military undertakings in Mongolia. The Mongols installed translation offices, and although they had to rely on Chinese experts for administration, their deep distrust into their new subjects led to the decision that high offices could only be appointed to Mongols, and that tax administration could only be laid in the hands of the Uyghur and Persian allies of the Mongols.
The Mongol chieftains could be pursued not to use the Chinese soil as a prairie ground for their horses as they had intended to do during the first years after the conquest of the Jin empire. Yet Mongol rule exerted a deep discrimination among different ethnic groups of the Mongol empire - at least theoretically. The population was classified in occupational ranks or levels based on a combination of ethnic and political considerations. The highest social status granted to the Mongols, the secondary status to their allies and non-Chinese persons from Inner Asia (called semuren 色目人 "special people"), the third status was granted to the inhabitants of north China, subjects of the former Jin empire, including the Khitans and Jurchens (called hanren 漢人 "Han people" or "Chinese"), and at the lowest level of society were the southern Chinese, subjects of the former Song empire (called nanzi 南子 "southlings" or manzi 蠻子 "barbarians"). This discrimination was the basis for taxation and the use of the penal law, but also vice versa for privileges granted to the members of the higher ranks. Mixed marriages were forbidden, and promotion inside this social system was in theory impossible. While Chinese historians often blamed the Mongols for exerting a government of exploitation where the Chinese, especially in the south, were not seen as much more than beasts, scholarly research has made evident that in practice, particularly on the local level, these restrictions were not stringently adhered to. Thus, the senior co-incumbent office of the darughachi was often filled by Chinese and not, as law prescribed, by Uyghurs, Persians or Mongols. And the Mongols were not in total illiterate, barbarious and ignorant of Chinese culture, but after a few generations, it became necessary that Mongol officials learned Chinese and took decisions in a cooperative way rather than by pure authority. It can furthermore be seen that at the end of the Yuan period, there were many Chinese warlords that fought for the Yuan dynasty and against looters, bandits and rebels like Zhu Yuanzhang 朱元璋, the eventual founder of the Ming dynasty 明 (1368-1644).
In 1294 Khubilai died without having nominated a heir. He was not obliged to do so according to Mongol law. His Chinese-style posthumous temple name is Emperor Shizu 元世祖 (r. 1260-1294).
After the death of Khubilai Khan the imperial court of the Yuan was dominated by faction struggles among the Mongol nobility that sought to control the emperors. Khubilai had refrained from naming a successor because according to steppe traditions it should be the Mongol nobility that elected the new khan during a state assembly, a khuriltai. This custom would be a problem for the stability of the Yuan empire in later years because the Chinese bureaucratic empire required a more regular succession without greater conflicts. Nevertheless Khubilai's grandson Temür, son of Prince Jingim ("Zhenjin" 真金), had obtained the seal of heir apparent and was backened by his mother Kököjin ("Kuokuozhen") and by deserved officials of Khubilai, namely Üs Temür ("Yuxi Tiemu'r 玉昔鐵木耳"), Bayan ("Boyan 伯顏"), the Türk Bukhumu ("Buhumu 不忽木"), and Ölĵei ("Wanze 完澤"), all of which were experienced with the Chinese state bureaucracy and experienced military leaders. These highly estimated persons enforced the election of Temür against his opponent Kammala ("Ganmala 甘麻剌").
Temür saw himself as successor (posthumous title Emperor Chengzong 元成宗, r. 1294-1307) and perpetuator of the will of his grandfather. Retaining the loyal ministers of his grandfather like Ölĵei, Bukhumu and later Harghasun ("Halahasun 哈剌哈孫"), Emperor Chengzong was dedicated to develop regular patterns of a peaceful Mongol rule over China. While Ölĵei and Harghasun were grand counsellors, Bukhumu as a well-educated Confucian scholar took over the task of Censor-in-chief. Many other high post of the Yuan central government were filled with people of different origins, Chinese, Uyghur and Mongols, in order to balance ethnic origin and "ideologies". Yet although many of these statesmen were guided by the Confucian principle that the tax burden was to be kept low, the Yuan state treasury was permanently plagued by deficits, caused by extremely high apanages to imperial princes, a blown-up bureaucracy with thousands of officials just being paid for doing nothing, and widespread corruption even among the highest state officials, Mongols as well as Chinese. Zheng Jiefu 鄭介夫 pointed out in his memorial Taipingce 太平策 that jurisdicitional proceedings took too much time. In that situation, much of the government expenditure had to be paid by the monetary (silver) reserves in the provinces. Emperor Chengzong soon called off all preparations that had by his father been initiated for further expansions to Annam (Vietnam) and Japan. Yet military expenditure was necessary for the suppression of rebellions in the southwestern mountainous area, led by tribal chieftains like Song Longji 宋隆濟 and the female leader Shejie 蛇節. It took long months for the generals Liu Shen 劉深 and Liu Guojie 劉國傑 to supress these rebellions. In 1304 Emperor Chengzong concluded a peace treaty with Du'a ("Duwa 篤哇") and "Chabar 察八兒", khans of the Čaqadai Ulus and the Öködei Ulus, respectively. From then on, the western border of the Yuan empire was undisputed by territorials claims.
Upon his death, Empress Dowager Bulukhan ("Buluhan 卜魯罕") and Akhutai ("Ahutai 阿忽台") planned to install Ananda (阿難答), but under Prince Tura ("Tula 禿剌"), Prince Yakhudu ("Yahudu 牙忽都"), Harghasun as Right Counsellor-in-chief and the Chinese imperial tutor Li Meng 李孟 preferred the princes Qaišan and Ayurbarwada who had in general better conditions for the throne. Ayurbarwada advanced to the capital, killed Akhutai and arrested the Empress Dowager in a coup d'état. It was thus the first time that a Mongol ruler came to the throne without being elected on a khuriltai: the new khan was only reaffirmed ex post by the Mongol nobility. The mother of the two princes, Targi ("Daji 答己"), made the elder, Qaišan, emperor under the condition that the younger, Ayurbarwada be his successor.
Qaišan (posthumous title Emperor Wuzong 元武宗, r. 1307-1311) was a young man who was rather inclined to the traditional martial Mongolian way of life than to a bureaucratic administration. His retainers hoped to exploit the wealth of China to reunite the Mongol world that was divided into four different khanates (ulus), but their ambitions were not fulfilled. Instead of planning military campaigns against the other khantes, mperor Wuzong indulged in dissipative activities and wasted the wealthes of the state treasury. He even displayed disgrace for his supporter Harghasun and removed him from the Great Capital. The new emperor's disinterest in the conduction of appropriate government led to a deep financial crisis. Highest official posts were not only filled with Wuzong's retainers that he had brought with him from Mongolia; he even bestowed high titles and posts to some of the smallest fray among his entourage. Administrative matters bypassed the Chinese bureaucratic channels and were forwarded by his private court attendants. The state treasure suffered extreme deficits through these practices, and in this financial crisis the Uyghur official Toghtō ("Tuotuo" 脫脫) proposed to reintroduce the Chinese-style Department of State Affairs (shangshusheng) that was determined to organize fiscal reform. New paper bills and two new copper coins were issued, and silver money was taken out of circulation, but only in certain provinces, and not throughout the empire. Furthermore, the prices on salt licences were raised, liquor production licences were introduced, taxes in array were recollected, and in some areas surcharges were introduced, and the quota for the so-called tribute grain to be be shipped to the state granaries were raised. Tax collectors obtained a commission in case of high collections. But instead of reducing expenditure, the Department only prospected for new sources of income. In the minds of the population, these new kinds of taxation and the resulting inflation created a bad image of the Yuan government, and therefore a lot of high offials contradicted the introduction of these measures. The distastrous fiscal policy of Emperor Wuzong's ministers "Baoba 保八", Yue Shi 樂 實 and "Sanbaonu 三寶奴" and natural disters aggravated the situation and critically affected the living standards of vast parts of the population. These fiscal reforms were therefore nullified after Emperor Wuzong's early death.
Emperor Wuzong left the throne to his younger brother Ayurbarwada (posthumous title Emperor Renzong 元仁宗, r. 1311-1320). He was the best-educated ruler among all Yuan emperors. Through the guidance of his tutor Li Meng he was able to study the Confucian Classics as well as Buddhist writings, poetry, and assembled around him scholars, painters and calligraphers from China and Central Asia. Emperor Renzong decisively pursued a politics of accomodation of Mongol rule to the Chinese bureaucratic and state ritual system. He first dismissed or even executed courtiers and retainers of his brother Emperor Wuzong, abolished the Department of State Affairs and the new coins and paper bills. He then established a state council staffed with experienced loyal persons of Mongol and Chinese origin and restored the state examination system that provided the Chinese access to official career. Many of his highest officials were Chinese scholars, like Zhang Gui 張珪, Li Qian 李謙, Hao Tianting 郝天挺, Cheng Jufu 程鉅夫 and Liu Minzhong 劉敏中. Emperor Renzong selected scholars to be teachers in the Hanlin Academy 翰林院, the Academy of Scholary Worthies (jixianyuan 集賢院) and Directorate of Education (guozixue 國子學). This measure gave a chance for Chinese scholars to climb the ladder of official career, and at the same time gave an impetus to Mongol and semu people to study Chinese thought. He also took care for the regularization of the darughachi system by which Chinese officials of all levels were controlled by Mongols who often successful cooperated with their Chinese conterparts in administrative means. The grand-counsellor Temüder's ("Tiemudier 鐵木迭兒") proposal to deprive the Mongol princes of the right to install their own judges (jarghuchi) and darughachi met the harsh resistance of the Mongol nobility. Emperor Renzong intiated the compilation of a legal code, the Da Yuan tongzhi 大元通制 (see Tongzhi tiaoge 通制條格), published 1323, and the statecraft statutes Yuan dianzhang 元典章. The Confucian among the Mongol emperors did not only have translated Confucian Classics and Chinese books on government (e.g. Zhenguan zhengyao 貞觀政要) and social behaviour into Mongolian, but had also compiled the agricultural work Nongsang jiyao 農桑輯要 "Essentials of agriculture and sericulture".
Factional struggles at the court impeded reforms and even the right exertion of imperial power during the last years of Emperor Renzong's reign. The court was dominated by Empress Dowager Targi and Temüder who reigned with autocratic power. Although a faction around Li Meng, the Khitan Xiao Baizhu 蕭拜住 (Baiju), the Tangut Yang Dorji and the Önggüd Zhao Shiyan 趙世延 unveiled the corruption of Temüder, he was protected by the Empress Dowager. While the court at the Great Capital was bound by struggles between these groups, the high tax burden caused peasant upraisings like that in 1315 by Cai Wujiu 蔡五九.
Renzong left the throne to his son Šudibala (posthumous title Emperor Yingzong 元英宗, r. 1320-1323) who tried to free himself from the influence of Grand Empress Dowager Targi and the mighty Counsellor-in-chief Temüder. Supported by Confucian scholars like Ke Jiusi 柯九思, he installed Baiju, descendant of the honored general Mukhali, as his Left Counsellor-in-chief and therewith won the support of large parts of the Mongolian aristocracy. But only after the death of Temüder and the emperor's grand mother, the retainers of Temüder could be executed. Emperor Yingzong announced further steps in the sinification of governmental structures, especially in means of education of scholar-officials in the state academies. He also appointed important Chinese scholars in highest state offices, like Zhang Gui, Wu Yuangui 吳元珪, Wang Yue 王約, Han Congyi 韓從益, Wu Cheng 吳澄, and "Bozhulu Chong" 孛朮魯翀, all of them serving as his advisors. Superfluous posts were planned to be abandoned, corruption should be fighted, and a corvée-assistance law (zhuyifa 助役法, a fix proportion of the field was reserved to deliver an amount of money as a substitution for labour corvée) was issued to relieve the corvée burden of the small peasants. Nevertheless, Emperor Yingzong also was an ardent adherent of Buddhism and spent huge sums for the construction of Buddhist temples, like the Dazhaoxiao Temple 大昭孝寺 near the Great Capital. Moslems on the other side were somewhat repressed during his short reign. The tensions between the pro-reforming group and the traditional Mongol warrior elite aggravated and resulted in bloody fights at the court and the assassination of the emperor and his chancellor at Nanpo 南坡 by chief-censor Tegshi ("Tieshi 鐵失") who lead a group of people who had been protégés of Temüder and feared further purges. To his sideliners also belonged many Mongol princes like Esen Temür ("Yexian Tiemu'r 也先帖木兒") who had not been granted their annual apanages by Emperor Yingzong and felt their traditional privileges endangered by the centralisation and bureaucratisation undertaken by Emperor Renzong and his son Yingzong.
For a decade the Yuan court should find no peace and was bound to be a battlefield of the pro-Mongol and the pro-China factions. The new ruler Yesun Temür (posthumously called the Taiding Emperor 元泰定皇帝, r. 1323-1328) tried to punish the assassins of the late emperor - although the belonged to the pro-Mongol group himself and had probably stimulated the murderers. Now, Tegshi and Esen Temür were executed, others were banished, in a kind of coup that legitimated the succession of Yesun Temür. The new emperor was quite the contrary of the two literate and educated rulers he followed. The Taiding Emperor had spent his life in the steppe and brought retainers with him that now filled the posts of the central government, including Mongols and semu people like the Muslim Daula Shāh ("Daolasha 倒剌沙"). Almost none of these men had a deeper understanding of Chinese culture. The Chinese scholars' influence on the Yuan government was very limited during his reign. Yesun Temür's policy was reconciliatorious: he compensated the relatives of the victims of Temüder and the Nanpo coup and granted high apanages and amnesties to the other Mongol princes in order to obtain their loyalty. He did not only patronage Islam and Buddhism but also showed reverence to Confucius and sponsored colloquia about the Confucian Classics.
The Taiding Emperor died unexpectedly, and El Temür ("Yan Tiemu'er 燕鐵木兒") who was in control of the imperial kesig guards (quexue 怯薛), took his chance to welcome Tuγ Temür as the new emperor (posthumous title Emperor Wenzong 元文宗, r. 1328; 1329-1331). At the same time Prince Ongchan ("Wangchan 王禪") and Counsellor-in-chief Daula Shāh proclaimed Aragibag as emperor (posthumously called the Infant Emperor of the Tianshun Reign 幼主天順皇帝, he had no temple name, r. 1328) in the Upper Capital in Inner Mongolia. Tuγ Temür, emperor in the Great Capital, invited his older brother Qošila to mount the throne. In this situation of inner war, the Great Capital finally fell into the hands of the supporters of Tuγ Temür and his brother, and Qošila was made the new emperor (posthumous title Emperor Mingzong 元明宗, r. 1329). It took the rebel generals Temür Bukha ("Tiemu'r Buhua 帖木兒不花") and Örlüg Temür ("Yueli Tiemu'r 躍里帖木兒") one month to conquer the Upper Capital and to execute Arigibag's ministers; the Infant Emperor himself had vanished. Only in March 1332 the last followers of Yesun Temür's line, Prince Tügel ("Tujian 土堅"), capitulated. But only after a few months after the capitulation of the loyalists at the Upper Capital, El Temür felt endangered by the Muslim retainers of the new khan, Qošila, and managed to meet with Emperor Mingzong in the Middle Capital Ongghachatu and poisoned him, making his younger brother Tuγ Temür emperor (posthumous title Emperor Wenzong 元文宗; r. 1328; 1329-1331). Tuγ Temür was a weak personality and left government affairs widely in the hands of his ministers, especially the Türk-Qipchaq El Temür and the Merkit Bayan, who reigned with almost autocratic power. All officials and retainers of Yesun Temür were punished, the deceased emperor was denied a temple name. Likewise, all governmental officials of Qošila were purged, and no single Muslim was allowed to hold a high office, and only a few Chinese advanced to important posts in the central government.
Emperor Wenzong's reign was marked by permanent rebellions of discontent Mongol nobles, ethnic minorities in Yunnan and by increased pressure from the peasantry in China proper. Natural disasters aggravated the situation of the peasants, the suppression of rebellions and the feeding of starving peasants again endangered the state treasury. But unlike before, the government now tried to lower its expenditures for apanages, for religious purposes, and inside the palace. It tried increasing its revenue by selling offices. Through these measures, it was necessary to issue new paper bills. Emperor Wenzong himself as one of the few well-educated Mongol rulers mastered calligraphy, poetry and studied the Confucian Classics. He had published a political enyclopedia, the Jingshi dadian 經世大典, compiled by Zhao Shiyan 趙世延 and Yu Ji 虞集, and was the first and only Mongolian ruler to perform the Suburban Offerings (jiaosi 郊祀). He also founded the Kuizhangge Academy 奎章閣學士院 whose objective was to transmit Chinese culture to the Mongolians, and whose members were renowned Chinese, Mongol, Uyghur and other semu scholars.
The tendency that not the emperor but his highest ministers controlled the Yuan government would continue to the end of the Yuan period. After Emperor Wenzong's early death, Irinĵinpal (posthumous title Emperor Ningzong 元寧宗, r. 1332) was the first under-age emperor who acceeded to the throne. He died after a few months and was succeeded by his older brother Toqōn Temür (posthumous title Emperor Shundi 元順帝, r. 1333-1368/1370), illigimate (?) son of the assassinated Qošila. This accession was only made possible after the death of the mighty El Temür who had controlled the court for a couple of years. Now, it was Bayan who held a firm grip on the Yuan government and murdered El Temür's retainers. Bayan's political program intended to improve the general welfare of the Yuan empire's society by reducing expenditure, and also to resume the politics of the dynastic founder Khubilai, in first place the enforcement of the strict ethnic division of Yuan China's population. But during the last fourty years the strict separation into four "castes" had become indistinct, Mongols were accustomed to the Chinese way of life, and Chinese had adopted some Mongol customs, both peoples intermarried with each other although it was strictly forbidden by law. Especially among the elite, Chinese, semu people and Mongols could no longer clearly be separated. Chinese historians blamed Bayan with many faults of the Mongol politics in general. Bayan indeed abolished the state examinations in 1335 an so destroyed the hopes not only of the Chinese, but also of many young Mongols, to climb the ladder of bureaucratic career. The main arguments of the most important proponent of the abolishment, Cherig Temür ("Cheli Tiemu'r 徹里帖木兒"), were the expenses for state schools and the examinations, and that the examination degrees undercut the value of the aristocratic hereditary privileges. Bayan prohibited the class of Southern Chinese to learn Mongolian or one of the semu languages. He is even said to have planned to kill all Chinese with the most common surnames Zhang 張, Wang 王, Liu 劉, Li 李 and Zhao 趙.
By his harsh treatment of some members of the Mongol aristocracy Bayan made himself a lot of enemies. When he was outraged by a murder committed by a Chinese, he wanted to purge the whole stratum of Chinese officials at the Yuan court. In this situation, Bayan's nephew Toghtō ("Tuotuo 脫脫") arranged a coup against the mighty Counsellor-in-chief and had him banished into exile, where Bayan died soon.
Like in the decades before, every change in political leadership was immediately followed by almost reverse politics, either pro-Chinese (centralist-bureaucratic), or pro-Mongolian (provincial, and nobility-oriented). The same situation repated with the two leading politicians of the reign of Emperor Shundi, Toghtō and Berke Bukha ("Bie'rque Buhua 別兒怯不花"). The examination system was resumed and access to high offices was again opened to Chinese. Toghtō ("Tuotuo" 脫脫) cooperated with Chinese officials, strengthened fiscal policy, military administration and many other spheres of governmental tasks like the compiling of the previous dynasties' official histories, which resulted in the Songshi 宋史, Liaoshi 遼史 and Jinshi 金史. The emperor himself scarcely intervened actively into government affairs but instead dedicated himself to asketic practices, influenced by a Tibetan monk. The period of Berke Bukha's administration made the strengthening of provincial civil and military administration necessary. Because of heavy taxation, corrupt local officials and repeating natural disasters led to banditry. The end of the 1330es experienced several peasant uprisings, e.g. under Zhu Guangqing 朱光卿 in Guangdong, Bang Hu 棒胡 in Henan, Han Fashi 韓法師 in Sichuan, Li Zhifu 李志甫 in Fujian, Peng Yingyu 彭瑩玉 and Zhou Ziwang 周子旺 in Jiangxi. Those had to be encountered and to be suppressed through the initiative of provincial governors. When the state treasury again was running severely low, Toghtō was recalled to the court. The tribute grain transports could not pass the Yellow River and the Grand Canal, but for the first time in history the grain was shipped along the coastline. Unfortunatley pirates under Fang Guozhen 方國珍 were active there and endangered the transports. Toghtō therefore issued a new paper currency to finance a huge project of diverting the Yellow River to a bed south of the Shandong Peninsula, a gigantic hydraulic project that was engineered by Jia Lu 賈魯 and successfully concluded in 1351.
Throughout the history of Yuan dynasty there was always a pending question that was never really decided: if the Mongols wanted to govern a steppe empire with accordingly simple governmental structures, or if they wanted to rule a civilized nation with a highly complex system of bureaucracy, a long administrative tradition and important state rituals. Because this question was never solved, mainly because court factions and cliques of Mongol nobles never ceased to fight for power, the Mongol ruling elite was not able to retain a strong foothold on Chinese soil. A crucial factor influencing court politics was the regular replacement of the whole top echelon of court officials when a new ruler mounted the throne and gave the highest posts only to his own retainers. By these changes in political leadership that took place every few years a continuity in effective politics was not possible. One reason for the fall of the Yuan dynasty is often neglected: The 14th century was full of natural disasters in all parts of the world: droughts, inundations, pestilence, and a decrease in the average temperature.
Peasant uprisings were seen throughout Chinese history, many of them were led by Daoist or Buddhist sects and had a millenarian character. In the 1350es there were also many salt workers among the rebels. Still, the Mongol military units were strong enough to handle the problem of bandit rebels, sometimes by recruiting the local population into governmental batallions. The Counsellor-in-chief Toghtō personally commanded campaigns against rebels under the salt smuggler Zhang Shicheng 張士誠 in the Huai River area. When Emperor Shundi suddenly dismissed Toghtō in 1354, the Yuan dynasty lost her military initiative against the rebels in the battle of Gaoyou 高郵 - and also lost the empire.
After the dismission of Toghtō the military and political initiative was left over to different factions, many of them regional governors who recruited troops from the local population to defend in first place their own territory, and only then the empire. Yet there were also many loyalists to the Yuan government like the half-Chinese Kökö Temür ("Kuokuo Tiemur" 擴廓帖木兒; Chinese name Wang Baobao 王保保) who controlled the region around Kaifeng 開封, Chen Youliang 陳友諒 in Fujian and He Zhen 何真 in Guangdong. These loyalists were politically not inactive, as is often suggested by Chinese historians. Especially in southeast China local governors tried to initiate a movement of Confucian revival, like under the Tangut Yu Que 余闕. Some scholar-officials advocated the instalment of local warlords as an appropriate means of regional defence that was also in accordance with the principle of system of semi-autonomous regional states during the Zhou period 周 (11th cent.-221 BCE). Others supported a centralization of the government with a radical change in ethical standards - away with corruption, favoritism and luxurious expenditure. Leaders of this group of reformist supporters of the Yuan dynasty were Liu Ji 劉基 and the Dilie 敵烈 general Shimo Yisun 石抹宜孫 who vehemently fought against the increasing power of local bandits like Fang Guozhen. When the Yuan central government did not adopt their proposals, both sided with the local warlord: Zhu Yuanzhang 朱元璋, eventual founder of the Ming dynasty, who keenly receicved Liu's proposals for an austere and morally integer government. Enemies of the local governors and warlords were, especially in the areas of modern Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, leaders of groups of salt workers and salt smugglers, pirates and "bandits - outlaws", like Zhang Shicheng and Fang Guozhen who even proclaimed their own dynasties. A fourth group of contenders for power in the decentralized Yuan empire were sectarian rebels who were led by messianic personalities that preached synchretistic believes of popular religion, Buddhism, Daoism and Manicheism. The largest of these religious societies were the White Lotus Society (bailianjiao 白蓮教) whose members were also called "Red Turbans" (hongjin 紅巾) and were active in the region of Jiangxi and north across Anhui into Shandong. But the leaders of this movement, including Han Shantong 韓山童, Liu Futong 劉福通, Du Zundao 杜遵道, Luo Wensu 羅文素, and Cheng Wenyu 盛文郁, were not able to unify the different branches among the rebels, even after the conquest of the prefecture of Yingzhou 穎州 (modern Fuyang 阜陽, Anhui) under Han Lin'er 韓林兒 and his brother Han Jiao'er 韓咬兒. Nonetheless, the uprising workers, pirates, smugglers and peasants as followers of pseudo-Buddhist belief could acheive a surprisingly fast victory over the Mongol troops under "Hesi 赫廝", "Tuchi 禿赤", Esen Temür ("Yexian Tiemu'er 也先帖木兒") and "Kuanchege 寬徹哥". The regular Mongol troops were sided by local potentates like the Uyghur Čaqan Temür "Chahan Tiemu'er 察罕帖木兒" and Li Siqi 李思齊. In the region of Hubei, Peng Yingyu 彭瑩玉 ("Monk Peng" Peng Heshang 彭和尚), Zhao Pusheng 趙普勝 and Xu Shouhui 徐壽輝 eliminated the Yuan government and founded their own Buddhist kingdom of Tianwan 天完. From 1354 on, when the regular Mongol armies lost their initative, the southern rebels started to advance to the north, pillaged the countryside and marched even beyond the capital Dadu, like Guan Yi 關鐸 and Pan Cheng 潘誠 (also called "Potou Pan 破頭潘"). It was only local military leaders like Li Siqi and Čaqan Temür, "Dashibadulu 答失八都魯" and Zhang Liangbi 張良弼 who blocked and defeated the rebel armies under Li Wu 李武, Cui De 崔德, Mao Gui 毛貴 until 1362. The disagreement among the different leaders in the different regions and quarrels about leadership of emperorship had been the most important factor for the failure of the rebel armies.
At this time, the Yuan dynasty was further weakened by succession struggles. Emperor Shundi favored a nobleman called Hama 哈麻 whom he appointed to the office of Counsellor-in-chief. When Hama tried to undertake a plot against the emperor, there arose two factions at the court favoring different throne aspirants. Prince Ayuširidara was favored by the Kereyid 克烈 Shuosijian 搠思監 and the Korean eunuch Pak Bul-hwa 樸不花, while the emperor himself was supported by "Laodisha 老的沙" and Tulu Temür. Both factions were supported by mighty generals outside the court. Kökö Temür supported the Prince, and Laodisha was supported by "Boluo Temür 勃羅帖木兒" and "Tujian Temür 禿堅帖木兒". Boluo Temür entered the capital and forced the Prince to flee. But only a few months later, Prince Ayuširidara was able to return with the help of Kökö Temür. The mighty general was expected to force Emperor Shundi to retreat, but Kökö Temür proved to be a loyal servant to his emperor. He was highly rewarded but soon stripped off his offices, and the military power was left to the crown prince.
In 1362 rebel leader Zhu Yuanzhang, a follower of the rebel Guo Zixing 郭子興, achieved a great victory over the warlord emperor Chen Youliang 陳友諒 during the battle of Lake Poyang 鄱陽湖, and proclaimed himself in 1367 emperor of Wu 吳. His next target were the mighty local governors Zhang Shicheng and Fang Guozhe in the region of Jiangsu and Zhejiang. After his conquest of Fujian province under Chen Youding 陳友定 in 1368 Zhu Yuanzhang proclaimed himself emperor of the Ming dynasty 明. His generals Xu Da 徐達 and Chang Yuchun 常遇春 started to conquer the north that was heavily disturbed by the inner quarrels among the Mongol nobility. It took the Ming armies only half a year to advance to and to take the Yuan capital Dadu. In 1369 Kökö Temür was defeated, the Chinese loyals surrendered to the Ming, and Emperor Shundi died in the next year in Mongolia.
Northern Yuan Beiyuan 北元 is the name of the Mongolian Yuan dynasty 元 (1279-1368) after the withdrawal of the Mongol leaders to the steppe in 1368. The dynasty ended in 1402 with the death of Tögüs Temür 脫古思帖木兒 XXX. From then on the Mongols were referred to as Dada 韃靼 "Tatars" (Eastern Mongols) or Wala "Oirats" (Western Mongols).
In late summer 1368 General-in-chief Xu Da 徐達, a commander of Zhu Yuanzhang (Emperor Taizu 明太祖, the Hongwu Emperor 洪武, r. 1368-1398), founder of the Ming dynasty 明 (1368-1644), entered the capital of the Yuan dynasty, Dadu 大都 (modern Beijing). Emperor Shundi 元順帝 (Toghon Temür 妥歡貼睦爾, r. 1333-1370) fled with his court to the northern capital Shangdu 上都 (near modern Dolon Nur, Inner Mongolia). Except his own imperial troops, he was supported by the military contingent of Prince Köke Temür 擴廓帖木兒 (in Chinese sources also called Wang Baobao 王保保), who controlled the region of the modern provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu. The region of Liaodong 遼東 (modern province of Liaoning) was still controlled by Prince Naγaču 納哈出, who found support in the kingdom of Koryŏ 高麗, a tributary state of the Yuan empire on the Korean peninsula. In Yunnan, the Prince of Liang 梁王, Bazalawarmi 把匝剌瓦爾密, built up the last stronghold of the Mongolian dynasty in southern China. His territory fell to the Ming in 1382.
The Mongols had never given up the idea that they might be able to reconquer their empire in China, and therefore constituted a permanent threat on the northern border of the new Ming empire. Emperor Taizu undertook several campaigns into the steppe, with the aim to crush the last hordes of the Mongols. In 1369 Chang Yuchun 常遇春 and Li Wenzhong 李文忠 made an attack on Kaiping 開平 (i.e. Shangdu) and so forced Emperor Toγun Temür to withdraw farther to the north, to Yingchang 應昌 (near modern Dar Nor 達爾諾爾, Heshigten Banner 克什克騰旗, in Inner Mongolia). A year later Xu Da was given the title of "General-in-Chief Smashing the Barbarians" (zhenglu da jiangjun 征虜大將軍). He commanded the western division of the Ming army that defeated Köke Temür and captured a huge number of Mongolian nobles (Yuan dynasty officials) under the Prince of Tan 郯王. The eastern division under Left Vice General (zuo fujiangjun 左副將軍) Li Wenzhong advanced to Yingchang. At that time Emperor Shun was already dead, and his son and successor, Ayuširidara 愛猷識理達臘 (Emperor Zhaozong 元昭宗, Mongolian title Biligtü Khan 必里克圖汗, r. 1370-1378), fled with a small cavalry contingent to Qaraqorum (Chinese name Helin 和林, near 額Kharkhorin or Erdenesant 爾德尼桑圖, Mongolia). Köke Temür also fled to the ancient capital of the Mongols, where Ayuširidara proclaimed himself emperor in 1371, chosing the reing motto Xuanguang 宣光.
In 1372 the Ming dispatched an army of 150,000 troops that advanced in three divisions to the north of the Gobi Desert (in Chinese called Mobei 漠北 "north of the Desert"). Xu Da commanded the central division that left from Yanmen 雁門 directly towards Qaraqorum, Li Wenzhong the eastern division that marched via Juyong 居庸 and Yingtian, and the western division by Feng Sheng 馮勝 that headed from Jinlan 金蘭 to the region of Gansu. This time the Mongols undertook a counter-attack. Not far from Qaraqorum Köke Temür defeated the army of Xu Da, and the western division advanced to Guazhou 瓜州 (near modern Anxi 安西, Gansu) and Shazhou 沙州 (modern Dunhuang 敦煌, Gansu), where they were routed by the Mongols. Li Wenzhong's division was likewise defeated somewhere between the rivers Kerülen, Tula and Orkhon.
This unexpected defeat was a great lesson for the Ming, and they changed their tactics by advancing step by step to the north, always backed by military garrisons that protected the rear of advancing armies. From Liaodong in the east to Qinghai in the west, a line of border garrisons was built. Each time new land could be conquered, it was secured by a new garrison. With this method the Ming were able to force more and more Mongol princes and commanders to submit.
In 1378 Ayuširidara died and was succeeded by his brother Tögüs Temür (Emperor Yizong 元益宗, Mongolian title Uskhal Khan 兀思哈勒可汗, r. 1378-1388), who chose the reign motto Tianyuan 天元. His counsellors Lu'er 驢兒, Manzi 蠻子 and Halajang 哈剌章 and Duke of State (guogong 國公) Tokhochi 脫火赤 assembled their fighing forces in Yingchang and Qaraqorum and repeatedly raided the border region to the Ming empire. Having several times urged the Mongols to submit, Emperor Taizu of the Ming finally decided in 1380 to sent out a fresh army under Mu Ying 沐英. At Qara Qoto (Eji Nai 亦集乃 or Heishuicheng 黑水城, modern Ejin Banner in the Alaša Leage, Inner Mongolia) the Mongols were defeated. Tokhochi was captured, likewise XXX 樞密知院 Aidzu 愛足 and XXX 平章 Yuanje Bukha 完者不花.
In the aftermath of this victory the Ming sent out troops to bring down the Mongol princes in Yunnan and Liaodong. Bazalawarmi in Yunnan had two times killed Ming envoys who offered him peaceful surrender. "General conquering the south" (zhengnan jiangjun 征南將軍) Fu Youde 傅友德 and the vice generals (fu jiangjun 副將軍) Lan Yu 藍玉 and Mu Ying fought with XXX 司徒平章 Dalima's 達里麻 army at Qujing 曲靖. The Mongol army was defeated, and Kunming fell into the hands of the Ming. Seeing their case lost, Bazalawarmi and his two counsellors Dadi 達的 and Lu'er committed suicide. In 1387 Feng Teng, Fu Youde and Lan Yu attacked the Mongols in Liaodong. Naγaču submitted voluntarily and was rewarded with the title of Marquis of Haixi 海西侯.
A year later Lan Yu attacked the Mongol troops at Fishing Lake 捕魚兒海 (today lake Buir 貝爾湖, New Barag Left Banner in Inner Mongolia) and won a major victory over their enemies. Defender-in-chief (taiwei 太尉) Manzi was killed, more than 3,000 princes and XXX 平章 captured, and a whole number of 70,000 commoners, men and women. Emperor Yizong fled with a small number of cavalry, hoping to escape to Qaraqorum, but at the banks of River Tula, he was killed by Yesüder 也速迭兒, one of his generals. The Mongolian empire disintegrated in internal fights for the succession of the throne of Činggis Qaɣan.
It was only in 1400 that Gün Temür 坤帖木兒 (Toγoγan Qaγan 脱古罕可汗, r. 1400-1402) assumed the title of Great Khan of the Tatars. He was killed by the nobleman Guliči 鬼力赤 (Örüg Temür Qaγan 兀雷帖木兒汗, r. 1402-1408). The official dynastic history of the Ming dynasty, Mingshi 明史, says that Guliči was the first Mongol leader who relinquished the title of emperor of the Yuan dynasty, but it seems quite probable that Yesüder had already ceased to use it.