End of Khubilai Khan



End of Khubilai Khan

The year of 1279 CE, was the highlight in the ruling of Khubilai Khan, he had established himself as an intellectual and as a warrior. He enjoyed the company of scholars and intellectuals, men of wisdom. With the help of these persons he constructed a new written language for the Mongolians. In his court there were a lot of drama, and the Buddhism and Taoism flourished. He saw wisdom in taxing the people instead of killing them. He saw the use of fair laws instead of bribing persons, because he realized that there were only enough money for a few and even with a few there were no limit to their greed. Therefore it was better with law and order. He was tolerant with different religious groups. To impress his equals and to make them understand that he really was the ruler of the world he encouraged diplomats and merchants like Marco Polo from far away of the West to make deep bow in his presence!

But after 1279 CE, Khubilai Khans role as a ruler began to weaken and his loss of power marks the known pattern that recognizes the fall of an empire. One reason, to demonstrate that he really ruled over the world, was that he sent to very costly and failed attacks against Japan. He hoped that a victory against Japan would improve his image as a conqueror of the world and not just like a Chinese bureaucrat and in that way give him the legitimacy as Khaghan. The defeat against Japan in 1281 CE, shattered his image as an invincible ruler and when he tried to reestablish it through campaigns in Southeast Asia he failed there as well.

If Khubilai had concentrated on just ruling over his empire surely his honor and dynasty would have shone longer and brighter than it did. But as Khubilai grew older he was distracted by the need to prove himself as a conqueror, therefore he started his disastrous military campaigns, which both tarnished his reputation and made the country almost bankrupt. The Japanese offensive proved to be very costly financially speaking and to pay for that he overtaxed the people. These are often one of the largest reasons for the fall of a government. The peasants suffered severely under the increasing taxes. To hinder the inflation Khubilai ordered a devaluation of the currency for five to one.

The economical problems made Khubilai less tolerant. He became more and more suspicious of the merchants, whom many were Muslims, and in the end of the 1270’s CE, he began to legislate anti-Muslim laws, like for instance circumcision and slaughter of animals in the Muslim way. This pursuit continued until 1287 CE, during the same time he showed increased support for the Buddhists, which in turn led to that some of the Buddhist priests took advantage of their own positions.

Even if Khubilai Khan tried to rule like a wise emperor, the Mongolians did not want to adjust themselves to the Chinese customs. Ideologically and culturally the Mongolians resisted against assimilation and tried to keep themselves isolated from the Chinese. The Mongolians felt that the Confucianism was anti-foreign, that it was boring and that it had too many social prohibitions. The Chinese intellectuals turned from Buddhism even if many Mongolians took a liking to it, so Buddhism made no difference in uniting the Mongolians and Chinese either. Toward the end Khubilai reinstated the examination that had existed before the time of the Mongolians, he also let Chinese serve in lesser positions in the government, perhaps in an effort to make the people happier, but the Mongolians would always be foreigners in the eyes of the Chinese.

The triumphs that Khubilai had enjoyed in his youth never came back again. As his life continued to fill with disappointments, especially after the deaths of his wife Chabi in 1281 CE and his son Chen-chin in 1285 CE, the great man became a recluse and withdrew from the surrounding world. He gave up hunting, devoted his life to food and drinking and became extremely overweight. High age, fatigue, disappointments and excessive drinking finally took its toll.

The Chinese sources reveals that he early in 1294 was low-spirited and severely depressed. He even rejected those who traditionally brought new years greetings to the Khaghan. His old brother in arms, Bayan, arrived to the court in an attempt to cheer up Khubilai but to no avail. Khubilai became rapidly weakened and on February 18, 1294 CE, he died in his palace. A few days later a caravan began its journey to the Kentei Mountains where Khubilai were to be buried. As with his grandfather, no tomb was built upon the ground. The exact position of his grave is not preserved and it is still undiscovered. No great tomb memorial for one of the greatest persons in Asia’s, if not to say in the world, history is preserved.

Anders Blixt
Diagnosvägen 11 A, 7 tr

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