Newly discovered stone inscriptions show the battle from 13th century of Mongolia Empire. The article was published on April 15, 2006 in UBPost by Sumya, Ch.
Early this month, a joint scientific research team of Mongolian and Japanese scholars announced that they have discovered two new stone inscriptions related to Genghis Khan’s military campaign against the Tatars. The inscriptions which are carved on two granite stones, “May be older than the Secret History of the Mongols,” the researchers claimed.
The research was carried out at “Serven Khaanga,” (450 kilometers to the east of Ulaanbaatar) located in Bayankhutag soum, Khentii aimag. There are two inscriptions; one was engraved by the Jurchen while the other one was written with Chinese characters. However, these two inscriptions were first introduced by a Mongolian linguist during the 1980s, but the writings had not been fully deciphered until recently.
Both inscriptions are monuments which recorded the distinguished military service of “a fight for Ulz River,” by Wangyan Xiang, who was a general and a minister of the Jin Dynasty. Genghis Khan also participated in this battle. By deciphering the Chinese character inscription, it became clear that the fight happened in 1196 (June 7th year of Mingchang) before the official establishment of Mongolia Empire.
“Both inscriptions are very important for studying the background of the growth of Genghis Khan and Mongolia Empire. However the weathering from the harsh climate is greatly affecting them and the inscriptions are rapidly disappearing. Protection measures are necessary as soon as possible,” said Noriyuki Shiraishi, an associate professor of Niigata University in Japan.
The Chinese inscription was twenty meters from the Jurchen inscription, which is 135 cm high and 130 cm wide and consists of nine lines of 143 characters carved in a huge rock face on the south slope of “Serven Khaalga.” The content is roughly the same as the Chinese and the dates also coincided with one another. The exact date of the battle had been debated before, but was finally settled by the inscriptions.
The Chinese inscription consists of nine lines, with 88 or 90 characters. Although the characters are carved in an area of 110 cm high and 97 cm wide, they were difficult to read because of heavy weathering to the surface.
“In particular, the surface of the last half of the inscription had been worn down and could not be deciphered. As is the situation, this precious inscription will likely disappear in a few years,” Shiraishi said.
The opening sentence of the Chinese character inscription is “Xiang, a member of the Emperor’s household, the Right prime minister of the great Jin Empire, was ordered by the emperor to lead an army to suppress the Tatars who had revolted…”
The Secret History of the Mongols (the main source about Mongolia Empire) contains a very interesting sentence. It claims that after his triumphant return to the capital Zhong Du (current Beijing), Xiang reported to the emperor and bestowed Genghis Khan with the title Ja’ud Qur to, chief of Zhaotaoshi – the public office in charge of defense in remote regions during the Jin Dynasty. In other words, he was attempting to put Genghis Khan in charge of border security instead of the Tatars. The Mongols had completely turned around from being the invaders of the Chinese to providing them with defense.
“There is a doubt whether he was actually assigned to the Zhaotaoshi. However, there is no doubt that Genghis Khan began operating near the Jin fortresses during this time. Moreover, there was almost no interference by the Jin. At the very least, Genghis’ actions were tolerated,” said Shiraishi.
Historical Background prior to Mongolia Empire
The Jin dynasty began building a fortress in 1170 as part of a strategy to prevent incursions of cavalry from the north. This wall extended a total length of 2,500 kilometers, which is comparable in length to the famous Great Wall of China. The Jin maintained an exclusively defense oriented policy.
Pro-Jin nomadic tribes were based outside of the wall, one of which was the Tatars. The Jin entrusted the defense of the northern region to Tatar tribes, who lived a nomadic existence in the vicinity of the fortress with little direct intervention. Consequently, the Mongols and Tatars fought desperately for many years. As described in The Secret History of the Mongols, the Mongolian leader Ambagai was captured by the Tatars and murdered, and Genghis Khan’s father, Yesukhei, was poisoned and killed by the Tatars. Hence, the Mongols had a longstanding hatred for them.
The Tatars betrayed the Jin who accused them of seizing the spoils of war without permission. According to a report by the researcher, “If they allowed the defection of a subordinate tribe, it would have potentially lead to the failure of defenses in the north.”
The Jin emperor ordered Wangyan Xiang to suppress the Tatars. The campaign began in December 1195, when Wangyan Xiang sent a vanguard to Dayanbo Lake. In January 1196, he advanced with the main body of his army to Dayanbo and dispatched another convoy to Wolushu fortress. In February, he sent the east wing of his main body to the Kherlen River, where, however, they became surrounded by the Tatar forces and sent out a call for help. Wangyan Xiang, leading the west wing of the army, rushed to their rescue, defeated the enemy and captured their tents. As the enemy fled up the Ulz River valley, Wangyan Xiang dispatched a unit of 10,000 soldiers to pursue them. In the course of the campaign, 80-90 percent of the enemies froze to death and the chieftain surrendered.
According to the Secret History of the Mongols, Genghis Khan, who was informed of Xiang’s dispatch of soldiers, decided to side with Xiang because of the longstanding grudge with the Tatars over the death of his father. Genghis proposed that his master at the time, To’oril of the Khereid, also join the war. To’oril and Genghis sped to the Ulz River and completely annihilated the Tatars, including their leader, Megujin Se’ultu.
The Secret History of the Mongols claims that the Jin secured victory due to the actions of Genghis Khan, soon to be a leader of Mongolia Empire. Either way, the victory led to a critical turning point in Genghis Khan’s life.
“Unfortunately, neither of these Serven Khaalga inscriptions mentions Chinggis Khaan. Perhaps his achievements were not sufficient at the time to warrant the Mongols to write about him. Even if he had supposedly played the biggest role, from Xiang’s perspective, they probably could not mention the fact that a different ethnic group helped seal a victory in an important memorial,” reported Shiraishi. It was the beginning of a prelude to the establishment of Mongolia Empire in 1206.
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