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Tolerance as a political tool

Independent Ruler, Indefinable Role

Understanding the History of the Golden Horde from the Perspectives of the Yuan Dynasty
Comprendre l’histoire de la Horde d’Or à travers la perspective de la dynastie Yuan
Yihao QIU
p. vol. 143


Résumé : Comprendre l’histoire de la Horde d’Or à travers la perspective de la dynastie Yuan. Cet article montre comment l’histoire de la Horde d’Or et le statut politique de l’ulus de Jochi étaient perçus par la dynastie Yuan. En effet, le récit historiographique traditionnel présente les souverains de l’ulus de Jochi soit comme des rivaux des souverains Yuan, soit comme indifférents à ces derniers. Cependant, les sources chinoises nous permettent de brosser un autre tableau de leurs relations. Ces sources offrent, notamment, un éclairage inédit sur un certain nombre d’aspects complexes qui faisaient litige sous les Mongols, dont le statut des souverains jochides, l’importance des apanages jochides en Chine, les structures administratives sous double responsabilité et la question des représentants officiels du Grand Khan. Cet article traite également de la conversion à l’islam de Berke, de son importance pour les contemporains et de son rôle dans les conflits entre Jochides et Toluides. L’auteur conclut sur un état des relations entre la Horde d’Or et la dynastie Yuan après le règne de Berke.

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1Very few articles have been published concerning the relationship between the Golden Horde (1236-1502) and the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). This is remarkable as both polities were influential successor states of the Great Mongol Empire and coexisted for almost a century. It is the widely-held opinion in Mongol history studies that in the civil war between Möngke’s two younger brothers, Qubilai and Ariq-Böke, the new ruler of the Golden Horde, Berke (r. 1256-1266), rejected Qubilai’s legitimacy and supported Ariq-Böke. The relationship between the Great Khan of the Yuan Dynasty and the Khan of the Golden Horde was irreparably damaged after Ariq-Böke’s failed claim for the throne. At the same time, the superiority of the Great Khan was weakened after the dissolution of the Mongol Empire. As a result of their political and diplomatic estrangement and the vast distance between New Saray and Khanbaliq, the Great Khan of the Yuan Dynasty no longer had a voice in the internal affairs of the Golden Horde.

2One of the most important Chinese sources, the Yuanshi (The History of Yuan, hereafter YS), was compiled between 1368 to 1369. The text is mainly based on the imperial annals, governmental archives, and official reports in the royal chancery (Chen, 1990: 115-129), and includes a significant amount of information relating to the military and diplomatic contacts between the Yuan and the Golden Horde. In addition, there are local Chinese documents and personal works (e.g. gazetteers, literary anthologies, and inscriptions), written during the reigns of the first four Mongol Great Khans (1206-1259), which occasionally reveal the esteem that the Jochids had in the eastern part of the Mongol Empire.

  • 1 The Yuanshi records the names of successive rulers of the Jochid ulus down to the reign of Janibek (...)

3When it comes to the study of Golden Horde history, Chinese sources suffer from a number of drawbacks. First, official documents written during the Yuan Dynasty were deeply influenced by a Toluid bias. An obvious example of this is the absence of Berke’s name from the biography of rulers of the Jochid ulus and genealogical tables of the imperial family.1 Second, Chinese historians sometimes failed to record non-Chinese individuals or confused the chronology of distant events. However, despite these disadvantages, Chinese documents have the potential to shed important new light on Golden Horde history. As established by Chinggis Khan, each branch of the royal clan had to be alloted shares of recently-conquered territories. Batu gained an apanage in China, and in subsequent decades alterations to this apanage always coincided with political upheavals that affected the whole empire. Chinese documents contain detailed information on the agents, officials, and administrative structures that the Jochids used to control this and other apanages.

4This contribution seeks to provide an overview of Golden Horde history from the perspective of the Yuan Dynasty. It uses Yuan sources to obtain new information on the status of the ruler of the Jochid ulus in the eyes of the Yuan historians, the importance of Jochid apanages in China, and local dual-administrative structures and officials. The question to what extent Berke’s Islamisation influenced the Jochids’ relationship with the Toluids is also discussed. The contribution ends with a discussion of the relationship between the Golden Horde and the Yuan Dynasty in the post-Berke period.

The Status of the Ruler of the Jochid Ulus

5Generally speaking, Chinese historians refer to the Jochid princes as the « princes of western regions » (xidao zhuwang, 西道諸王) or the « princes of the right hand » (Song, 1978: 63, 1721). These labels are used in conjunction with the terms « princes of eastern regions » (dongdao zhuwang, 東道諸王) or « princes of the left hand » (zuoshouzhuwang, 左手諸王) (Song, 1978: 63, 3797-3798), which refer to the descendants of Chinggis Khan’s brothers. The emperor of the Yuan Dynasty was called the heir of « the nation of the centre » (Mong. qool-un ulus), which indicated he was Qubilai’s lineal descendant and a legitimate successor of Chinggis Khan.

  • 2 In general, the Chinese character « zhen » means « to quake, to shake », but as a literal allusion (...)

6Jochi had a superior status among his brothers during Chinggis Khan’s lifetime, not only in terms of age but also in political and economic affairs. According to the Secret History of the Mongols, Chinggis Khan called him « the eldest of my sons », and due to this position, Jochi was granted rule over the forest peoples in Siberia after he had conquered the area (Cleaves, 1982: 173). As his successor, Batu seems to have inherited Jochi’s position and status. In Chinese sources, the status of Jochi and his successors is emphasised. In an inscription written in 1254, Jochi is described as zhengong (震宫), a term usually translated as « crown prince » or « senior prince » (Ma, 1998: 236).2 A decade later, in a memorandum submitted to Möngke, the author complains that Jochi’s apanage in China was much bigger than that of his brothers, which was due to Jochi’s senior status (Hao, 1738: v.32, f.19). Batu’s Chinese title provides additional information. A recently-published tomb inscription includes Batu’s title of « supreme commander » (fujun, 撫軍), which reflects his actual identity from the perspective of the Chinese sources (Liu, 2011: 43). Coincidentally, contemporary Armenian sources also emphasise Batu’s status as « the commander of the North » (Kirakos, 1985: 309). Like his father, Batu was appointed to lead various Chinggisid princes to conquer the Qipchaq Steppe, Volga Bulgar, and Rus’ in 1236, and his Chinese title seems to have been granted at this time (Juvaynī, 1958: p. 267, 269; Rashīd al-Dīn, 1994: v.2, p. 360). Afterwards, the title fujun was retained by the Yuan Dynasty. For example, Qubilai’s crown prince, Jinggim, and the later emperors, Temür and Qaishan, were granted this title before they were dispatched to Qaraqorum (Song, 1978: 381, 500, 3113).

  • 3 The title fujun, supreme commander, is mentioned inW the Zuozhuan (左傳), in the second year of Duke (...)

7According to classic Chinese sources, the title fujun (supreme commander) indicates a prince who was appointed as the main representative of the Great Khan to lead military operations in a certain area under the joint rulership of the Chinggisids.3 The military function of the position is emphasised. In most military and civil affairs a fujun had to cooperate with princes from other lineages and join his interests with them. Thus, it can be concluded that during Ögödei’s reign, Batu was not merely the head of the Jochid ulus; he was also the supreme military commander and main representative of the Great Khan.

  • 4 Rashīd al-Dīn (Rashīd,1994: v.1, 746) mentions that Nogay’s commanders referred to themselves as « (...)

8It seems that the meaning and the functions of a fujun were very similar those of the ilkhan (i.e. a prince who was appointed as chief commander to govern a region as a representative, rather than a subordinate, of the Great Khan). There is some evidence that the title ilkhan was used to refer to the ruler of the Golden Horde, Toqta.4 In Arabic sources, Hülegü, the later ilkhan, was identified as Möngke’s representative (mandūb) and lieutenant (nāʿib). He was responsible for governing Iran and making further conquests in the ‘Irāq-i ʿArab area (Lech, 1968: 91, 103). A similar description can also be found in Kirakos’ work (1985: 314), who refers to Hülegü as « the great general ».

9The similarity between Batu and Hülegü’s status is also reflected in their princely titles. The Chinese granted Möngke-Temür the title « to bring benefit to the country and to show mercy to the people » (jiguo huimin, 濟國惠民), which was probably inherited from Batu and has the same rhetoric form as Hülegü’s title on Abaqa’s seal: « to support the country and to procure peace for people » (fuguo anmin, 輔國安民) (Allsen, 1991: 227-228; Belyaev and Sidorovich, 2013: 20-21; Chen, 2015: 70). These two princely titles correspond to fujun and ilkhan respectively, and indicate the same status, namely that of imperial representative of the Great Khan (Buell, 1977: 126, 227).

The Apanages and Benefits of the Jochid ulus in China


10The apanage of Jochi can be regarded as a loose unity that consisted of a large steppe territory and a series of isolated fiefs that were conquered during various episodes of conquest. The steppe territory and isolated fiefs had been established in different ways.

11First, several years before his death, Chinggis Khan divided his empire among his three brothers and his four sons from his chief wife. The author of The Secret History and Juvaynī do not mention in what year this occurred, but Sugiyama (1978: 7) suggests it took place between 1207-1211. As Chinggis’s eldest son, Jochi was granted the steppe-forest territory and peoples between the western side of the Altai Mountains and the Irtysh River. Around the same time, the empire was divided into a centre and a left and right wing, reflecting the traditional, tripartite nomadic military structure. This tripartite division was strictly duplicated in newly-conquered territories.

  • 5 Lu is a Chinese term for a subunit of a local administrative institution, inherited from the Song a (...)

12With the collapse of the Jin Dynasty in 1236, Ögödei divided its population and lands among the imperial family, using the aforementioned tripartite system. The apanages of the three elder sons were mainly located in Shanxi (山西) Province in the west, along the route they had marched. Chinggis’s brothers received apanages in the east, in today’s Shandong (山東) Province. In between was the apanage of the Toluids, which included the Zhending (真定) Circuit, in the south of Hebei (河北) Province. As ruler of the Jochid ulus, Batu received 41,302 households in Pingyang Lu (平陽路)5 and turned the whole region into his own apanage (Song, 1978: 2414; Li, 2007: 410-421).

13Decades later, in 1281, the tripartite system continued to be implemented by Qubilai (Song, 1978: 2414), when he divided the population and revenues of Jiangxi and Hunan, two provinces of the Southern Song Dynasty, which had been conquered several years prior. As one of the princes of the right wing (i.e. the offspring of Chinggis Khan’s sons), the Jochid state received 60,000 families in Yongzhou (永州) in today’s Hunan. Pingyang and Yongzhou together constituted the Jochid ulus’s most important apanages. Their number of households and annual revenues were carefully registered in the governmental archives. Even decades later, when the relationship between the Golden Horde and the Yuan Dynasty had deteriorated, the Jochid ulus’s rights and privileges in these regions continued to be guaranteed by the government. This situation changed in 1288 when Qubilai merged the Directorate-General for the Pingyang Apanage (pingyangtouxia zongguanfu, 平陽投下總管府) into the administration of Pingyang Circuit (pingyanglu, 平陽路). This meant that the Yuan court stopped paying annual revenues to the Jochid ulus (Song, 1978: 311). However, when Özbek Khan sent an envoy to make inquiries in 1336, the revenues were paid out after all (Song, 1978: 2906).

14Second, when a prince conquered a settled area, he had the right to request it as his apanage (Togan, 2001: 180, n.39). There is evidence for this kind of apanage belonging to the Jochid state in China. In 1227, Batu was granted Shazhou (沙州) in the former Tangut kingdom (xixia, 西夏) as reward for taking the city after a bloody struggle (Song, 1978: 1450). Sha-zhou lay outside the major Jochid apanage, and was linked to it through the postal system (Mong. jam) (Song, 1978: 2906; Shen, 2015: 98-99).

15The outcome of this system was that each Mongol ulus consisted of a loose unity of apanages that included sections belonging to different imperial families and minor possessions that were severed from the major apanage and granted to other princes (Jackson, 1979: 192-193). Naṭanzī, a Timurid historian, inaccurately explained the genesis of the system:

Chinggis Khan divided [the empire] among his four sons, he assigned each son several possessions in the territory of the others so that in this way envoys would continuously pass to-and-fro between them. (Naṭanzī, 1957: 427; Allsen, 2001: 184).

16In 1238, Ögödei ordered to sever Shenzhou (深州) and Guchen (鼓城) from Zhending (真定), and granted them to the Chagatayid and Jochid states respectively. Both places were on the border of the Toluids’s apanage. Batu received 10,000 households in Zhending (真定), and ordered the establishment of an Office of Military and Civil Myriarchy (junmin wanhufu, 軍民萬戶府) to administer his subordinates there (Song, 1978: 1358, 2414). In addition, we know that Berkecher’s son, Yesü Buqa (Rashīd al-Dīn: f.113b), was given the apanages in Liaoshan (遼山) and Heshun (和順). These regions bordered the Chagatayids’ apanage, whose agents once plundered the population of these two counties, resulting in a conflict involving hundreds of people (Xu, 1985: 259). Besides Jochi’s descendants, Qutuqu, the son of Qubilai’s concubine, owned pasture land in Luzhou (潞州), which was an inferior county in Batu’s apanage. This is probably due to the close relationship between Qutuqu and Batu. Qutuqu’s eldest daughter, Kalmish, married Batu’s amīr and emigrated to the Golden Horde (Qiu, 2011: 109-110).

17Due to the remoteness of these apanages, it was difficult to maintain an efficient administration from the main camps of the Golden Horde, especially during the tumultuous period following 1260. Thus, during Qubilai’s reign, most of these fragmentary apanages were transformed into traditional Chinese, local administrative institutions, and placed under the direct control of Yuan officials. The government no longer registered the revenue of the Jochid ulus separately, but included it in the state revenue. In addition, Qubilai’s son, Ananda, Prince of Anxi, annexed part of Pingyang in the 1270s (Wang, 1998: 72).

Local administrative institutions

18Even within his apanage, a prince’s jurisdiction was not exclusive but shared with the emperor. Normally, the imperial representative was placed in a superior position that covered more than one princely apanage. The imperial representative took charge of affairs in cooperation with princely representatives, military officials, and locally recruited elites. This system can be referred to as a dual-administrative structure, which set a precedent for the satellite administration that was established during the reign of Möngke (Buell, 1977: 125).

19Unfortunately, there is only very limited information regarding the dual-administrative structure of the Golden Horde, especially in early periods. This is largely due to the absence of a written historiographical tradition in the Qipchaq cultural sphere (Halperin, 2007: 273). However, there is direct evidence for the dual-administrative structure in Central Asia and China. For instance, around 1230, Ögödei ordered all the princely representatives in Transoxiana and Turkistan to assist Chormaqun, the Great Khan’s representative. Batu’s representatives were the civil administrator, Chin-Temür, and the Mongol amīr, Nosal (Juvaynî, 1958: 482-3).

20In China, the Great Khan nominated his intimate attendants to oversee the civil and military affairs of various princely apanages in Shanxi Province. Around 1229, Sayyid Ajall was appointed as daruγači of Taiyuan and Pingyang, which belonged to Chagatayids and Jochids respectively (Song, 1978: 3063). The continuity of the policy is shown by the fact that two years later a Mongolian official, Süke (su-ge, 速哥), replaced Sayyid Ajall (sai-dian-chi, 賽典赤) and adopted a new title « great daruγači of Shanxi Province ». His son inherited this position after his death (Song, 1978: 3052-3053). The Great Khan also dispatched other officials as assistants. In 1231, Ögödei’s former bitikči (Mong. scribe), Hu Tianlu (胡天禄), was dispatched to the Jochid state’s apanage to revive the local economy (Tong, 1986: v.5, f.13a). The policy of sending assistants guaranteed the supreme authority of the Great Khan over the whole empire. It allowed him to efficiently mobilise manpower and other military resources from the apanages and mediate disputes among the various imperial families.

21There existed similar arrangements economic affairs. For instance, the tax levied on the local salt ponds of Xiezhou (解州), today’s Yuncheng (運城) in Shanxi Province, provided substantial income for the government. Therefore, Ögödei assigned Yao Xingjian (姚行簡) as the Commissioner of the Salt Tax of Xie[zhou] (xieyanshi, 解鹽使) to supervise tax affairs (Wang, 1998: 51). Among Yao Xingjian’s subordinates, Su Zhuan (蘇瑑), was appointed as the Commissioner of the Monopoly Office of Taxed Salt of Xiezhou in the Hedong area (hedong juquexieyansuo dashi, 河東拘榷解鹽所大使) (Liu, 2011: 44). Su Zhuan’s family had served Batu since 1236, and as his representative, he was responsible for overseeing the interests of Batu and other Jochids in local salt tax affairs.

22Local gazetteers and inscriptions provide detailed information about several representatives of the Jochid ulus and local administrative structures. According to Batu’s edict of 1237, his representatives consulted with the officials of the Great Khan, namely the jaruqači (judge) Taraqudai and the aforementioned bitikči Hu Tianlu (Cui, 1826: f. 20b-22a), before his orders were put into practice. However, ten years later (1251), another edict indicates that Batu’s status had risen in the early years of Möngke’s reign. This edict was addressed to Batu’s representative and governors directly, without consulting the Great Khan’s officials (Qü, 2006: 840-841).

23These two edicts also record the names of several representatives, including Seče (xue-che, 斜徹), Jara’un (xia-la-hun, 匣剌浑), Jalardai (zha-la-er-dai, 札剌兒歹), and Qorqai (huo-la-hai, 霍剌海), most of whom can be identified as Mongols. In addition to Mongol officials, local elites had to be recruited as assistants to take care of daily affairs. Thus, we can assume that the local administrative structure in the Jochid apanages included the following positions: 1) jaruqači; 2) chief daruγači; 3) subordinate daruγači; 4) the nökörs of Mongol officials, 5) Chinese officials (commander and technical officials); 6) interpreters (kelemači). Other than collecting revenues, Batu’s representatives participated in many areas of local administration, such as sponsoring the re-establishment of local offices, recruiting manpower to rebuild bridges, organising public security, and allocating water.

24In general, nothing is known of Batu’s representatives except for their names. The only exception is an official called Seče, whose name is mentioned in different works, which enables us to sketch a general outline of his life. In 1237, Seče was appointed as chief daruγači in Pingyang, and in 1241 he sponsored the re-establishment of a local office that had been destroyed during the Mongol invasion. Five years later, he was promoted to jaruqači (Wang, 1998: 61), but soon after he was executed on Güyük’s orders. It seems that he became a victim of the personal enmity between Batu and Güyük (Song, 1978: 3467). In addition, a recently-published tomb inscription mentions a Chinese official serving Batu. This person, named Su Gongshi (蘇公式), was appointed as « the daruγači of the various artisans of Pingyang ». He thrice transferred revenue to Batu’s encampment, which was located in the region of today’s Kazakhstan (Liu, 2011: 43-44; Shen, 2015: 92-100). According to Chinese sources, Batu’s revenue was paid in gold, and probably included golden wares produced by Chinese artisans. An archaeological analysis by Shen (2012: 7-97) suggests that golden wares found in early Golden Horde tombs show Chinese influence in craftsmanship (Shen, 2012: 7-97).

A Consequence of Islamisation?

25Is it reasonable to consider the hostility between Berke and the Toluids (i.e. Qubilai and Hülegü) a consequence of Berke’s conversion to Islam? Most Islamic sources assert that their enmity originated from Berke’s response to Hülegü after the fall of the Abbasid Caliphate. However, this reading is gradually being questioned. The evidence remaining in the multilingual corpus reveals that their estrangement began at a very early stage. In fact, the policies issued during Möngke’s reign already split the alliance between the two families.

26It is well known that after Möngke’s enthronement in 1251, Batu, his main supporter, was rewarded with further privileges in the western part of the Mongol Empire. The Talas River became the boundary of Möngke and Batu’s spheres of influence. However, both de facto and de jure, Möngke’s authority remained absolute throughout the empire (Allsen, 1987: 54-63). To achieve the necessary balance between both parties, Batu had to give up several interests in the east. For instance, Arghun āqā and Batu made an agreement in 1252 to arrange the taxes of Iran and the Caucasus, which confirmed Batu’s specific interests (Kolbas, 2006: 143). As a condition of this exchange, the annual grant to the Jochid ulus from China was reduced to a much smaller amount than Batu had requested (Song, 1978: 47). Moreover, Jochid princes were excluded from assignments in Tibet, which was monopolised by the Great Khan and his three brothers (Petech, 1990: 11).

27In the same year, Möngke assigned the conquests of the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad and Southern Song in South China to his two younger brothers, Qubilai and Hülegü respectively (Song, 1978: 46; Juvaynī, 1957: 607). As part of this arrangement, the Mongol garrisons stationed in Central Asia and North China were transferred to the princes, and local economic sources, which had previously been shared among various imperial branches, were bestowed upon them as well. According to Möngke’s decree, the Jochid garrisons (Mong. tammači) in Iran and Kashmir were under Hülegü’s command (Rashīd al-Dīn, 1994: v.2, 975). Thus, with Möngke’s support, Hülegü’s agent had the upper hand over the Jochids in Herat’s local economic affairs around 1255 (Sayfī, 2004: 259-267; Jackson, 1978: 222, n.157). A similar scenario unfolded in China. In 1253, Qubilai monopolised the salt tax of Xiezhou with Möngke’s permission. A new institution was established, called the Office of the Expedient Actions (Congyifu, 從宜府), which came to incorporate the former Monopoly Office of Taxed Salt of Xiezhou in the Hedong area (Song, 1978: 59; Wang, 2010: 51). The monopoly office had been the office of Batu’s agent, whereas the new institution, which was responsible for preparing military supplies and taxation, was controlled exclusively by Qubilai.

28In addition to restricting Jochid privileges in China, Möngke started to regulate the economic disorder in the princely territories. In 1255, a Chinese intellectual addressed a memorandum to the Great Khan (i.e. Möngke) via Qubilai, wherein he complained that Batu had redistributed the apanage in Pingyang among the Jochid clan, and had permitted all imperial relatives to collect taxes from subjects directly. Furthermore, Batu had ordered Chinese subjects to pay their annual tribute exclusively in gold, which caused extensive poverty (Hao, 1738: v.32, f.19). In response, Möngke issued an edict regulating illegal taxation in 1255, and two years later a strict population census was conducted, again at Möngke’s order, in order to prevent economic anarchy.

29The relationship between the two families deteriorated further after Batu’s death in 1255. In a hasty arrangement, Möngke appointed Sartaq to succeed Batu, but he died on the way back to his realm. Some contemporaries accused his uncle, Berke, of poisoning Sartaq. Within two years, Sartaq’s successor, Ulaghchi, passed away also. In the eyes of the Toluids, Berke was not well suited to head the Jochid ulus, which was partly due to his relatively lowly maternal line: his mother, Sulṭān Khan, was a former Khwārazmshāh princess, who was granted to Jochi after being captured by the Mongols (Pochekaev, 2010: 248-249). Meanwhile, Batu’s chief wife, Boraqchin, was a powerful regent in the Jochid ulus. She enjoyed Möngke’s strong support and came from the Alchī-Tātār, an influential tribe in the political life of the Jochid ulus (Rashīd al-Dīn, 1994: v.1, 89). As Tuda-Möngke’s stepmother and marriage partner, she supported Tuda-Möngke’s to become the ruler of the Jochid ulus. She supposedly obtained permission from Möngke, and in 1256 secretly dispatched envoys to request Hülegü’s assistance. Mamluk sources state that when Boraqchin’s plot was revealed, she was executed by the amīrs who supported Berke (al-Manṣūrī, 1998: 14-17). Jūzjānī (1881-99: v.2, 1292) briefly mentions the ensuing violent purge in Jochi’s clan. Of the Ilkhanate’s historians, only Qazvīnī provides a brief and ambiguous description of the event (Qazvīnī, 1960: 585).

30Berke was enthroned in 1257, and Möngke’s reaction was antagonistic, which is clearly borne out by Möngke’s dispensation of allotted territories in 1257. This dispensation benefitted many members of the imperial families and the nobility. In addition to the Toluids, even former political opponents were granted households, including the princes of the Ögödeid and Chagatayid uluses, who had been deprived of most of their apanages and subjects after 1251. It is noteworthy that no one from the Jochi clan was included on the distribution list. Instead, a considerable number of households in Pingyang, a traditional Jochid apanage, were transferred to the Toluids. For example, 1,100 households in Pingyang were granted to Princess Dumugan (du-mu-gan, 獨木干), daughter of Tolui, and Noqu noyan (nao-hu guanren, 猱虎官人), a Mongol official, was allotted 1,000 households (Song, 1978: 2427, 2436). In Central Asia, Hülegü, encouraged by Möngke, stopped paying revenue shares to Berke (Ayalon, 1971: 174).

31Another suggestive action was Möngke’s appointment of Qitai (qi-dai, 乞歹), son of Qonggirad güregen (son-in-law) Lachin, as the daruγači in charge of internal security in Rus and Alania (Song, 1978: 50, 1570). In light of the recent political crisis and rumours that Berke had annexed the possessions of the Jochids who had opposed him, it is very likely that Qitai was not only appointed to oversee the registration of the population, as Allsen (1981: 41) suggested, but also to control Berke, which would reveal Möngke’s wariness of him. The Great Khan’s vigilance was justified, as Kolbas (2006: 146) pointed out, because Berke had not abided by previous agreements and started to mint independent coinage after 1257.

32Möngke died in 1259 during the invasion of South Song, and since his eldest son, Baltu, had passed away before him, there was no appointed successor to the throne. Baltu’s younger brother, Qubilai, proclaimed himself Khan in Kaiping. Ariq-Böke, the Great Khan’s representative in Qaraqorum, followed his example and enthroned himself as Khan. This resulted in the Toluid Civil War, which involved all branches of the Chinggisid family.

33The members of the two camps are recorded in the Yuanshi and by Vaṣṣāf respectively. These two sources provide complementary information. According to the Yuanshi, the list of the rewards issued in 1260 includes all of Qubilai’s actual and potential allies. Princes descended from Chinggis Khan’s brothers were the main supporters of Qubilai, and were granted 5,000 silver ingots per family. Apart from them, only a few minor princes from the Chagatayid and Ögödeid branches stayed in Qubilai’s camp. The list includes no members of the Jochid branch (Song, 1978: 68-69).

34Vaṣṣāf reports that Ariq-Böke won the support of several influential princes of the Chagatayid and Ögödeid branches, including Möngke’s widow (Vaṣṣāf, 1960: 11). Berke’s support was especially crucial. During the last years of Möngke’s reign, Berke had become one of the most powerful persons in the empire, and his prestige in Central Asia and Iran had grown rapidly. According to a poetic adaption of the yarlïq addressed to Hülegü, Ariq-Böke said that his enthronement took place « after consulting with Barkāy, son of my uncle Jochi, who was the patriarch of the clan ». For this reason, his claim to the throne may have been considered more legitimate than Qubilai’s (Qazvīnī, 2010: v.8, 177).

35Some of Qubilai’s advisers predicted the political climate very well, and warned Qubilai that the connection between China and Iran would likely be interrupted by « nomads of western regions » (xi-yu-zhu-hu, 西域諸胡), almost surely referring to Berke and his allies (Hao, 1738: v.32, 11). This prediction was based on more than hearsay. Udur’s son, Qarachar, joined Ariq-Böke’s army (Allsen, 1987: 17), and Mamluk historians mention Berke’s military aid against Qubilai and his subsequent defeat (Ibn Abī-l-Faḍā’il, 1919: 442-446).

36Qubilai’s revenge was swift. He renounced Jochid interests in Iran and Central Asia to gain Hülegü and Alghu’s support (Rashīd al-Dīn, v.2, 880). In 1261, Qubilai furthermore accepted a local governor’s suggestion to revoke the Jochid apanage in Zhending (Ren: 1998, 22), and one year later Pingyang was also put under the direct administration of the central government (Song, 1978: 107). Of all the revenge measures implemented after Möngke’s enthronement, the revocation and change of the Jochid apanages were the most extreme.

37When one considers these developments chronologically, it is difficult to assert that Islamisation played a key role in the conflict between the Jochids and the Toluids. In contrast to Islamic historians, who tend to emphasise the role of religion in the conflict (Jūzjānī, 1881-99: v.2, 1257; Rashīd al-Dīn, 1994: v.2, 1044; al-Yūnīnī, 1954-61: v.2, 365), the hostility can be attributed largely to pragmatic disputes over political and economic interests rather than religious disagreements. Both Möngke and Qubilai attempted to establish a centralised state, which infringed upon the interests of imperial relatives and conflicted with the tribal-based redistributive system. Therefore, contrary to the impression given by the historians of the Yuan and the Ilkhanate, Berke was more of a passive resister who tried to stand up to the Great Khan. However, his resistance always prompted a more severe reaction from the Great Khan. In Yuan China, contemporaries might easily conclude that the enmities between the Great Khan and the rebel princes were due to irreconcilable differences between nomadic values and Chinese political principles.

  • 6 The first volume of Ibn Shaddād’s biography of Sultan Baybars is lost. Some quotations are included (...)

38Religious motives, or rather an Islamic bias, can be traced back to Muslim historians, who deliberately emphasised religion as a key factor in their narrative. They used it to explain the cause of the conflict, and appealed for a jihād against their common enemy, the rulers of the Ilkhanate. However, there is little evidence in support of this narrative. In an abridged version of Berke’s diplomatic letter to Sultan Baybars, Berke accuses Hülegü of being an infidel and an enemy of Islam, and asks the sultan to block Hülegü’s passage (Ibn Shaddād, 1983: 170-171; Ayalon, 1971: 172). While this may suggest that religion played an important role, Ayalon (1971: 173) points out that according to Ibn Shaddād the main cause of the antagonism was that Hülegü stopped sending revenues to Batu’s family (al-Khazandārī, 2005: 126; al-Yūnīnī, 1954-61: v.1, 498; Ibn Abī-l-Faḍā’il, 1919: 445).6

  • 7 Blochet suggests to identify « Yikshā » with « Bikshā » (Ibn Abī-l-Faḍā’il, 1919: 446, footnote). H (...)
  • 8 Hülegü’s patronage of Buddhist monks was widely reported by contemporary Arabic and Persian authors (...)

39Some Mamluk historians mention that before the outbreak of hostilities, Berke dispatched a number of « sorcerers » (saḥara) with his envoys to counterbalance the sorcerers serving the Ilkhan. Among Hülegü sorcerers, an individual named Bikshā (misspelt as « Yikshā ») accepted Berke’s gifts and agreed to cooperate with him in an attempt to influence Hülegü secretly. However, a sorceress from China (min al-Khiṭā), called « Kamshā », realised their attempt and notified Hülegü, who then ordered the arrest and execution of all of Berke’s envoys and sorcerers (al-Yūnīnī, 1954-61: v.1, 498, v.2, 162; Ibn Abī-l-Faḍā’il, 1919: 445).7 Considering Hülegü’s personal convictions and the religious climate at the Ilkhan’s court, the « sorcerers » mentioned here are more likely to refer to Buddhist monks than to Muslim scholars.8 The linguistic evidence also indicates that the sorcerers’ names are more likely to have been transliterated from Sanskrit. Thus, this episode indicates that non-Muslims were not strictly excluded from Berke’s private circle, even after his public conversion to Islam.

  • 9 According to the Yuanshi, Jaqula was a subordinate commander of Nomqan (Song, 1978: 239). See Shuʿa (...)

40The only record of a religious dispute relating to the Islamic faith of a ruler of the Golden Horde is that of Zheng Sixiao (鄭思肖), a supporter of the former Song Dynasty who lived in Suzhou in South China. Zheng Sixiao reported that Batu ruled the Muslim territories, and that all the Muslims were his subjects, including Aḥmad, a former vizier of Qubilai. The Muslim subjects and Batu planned to invade the Yuan territories to avenge Aḥmad who was executed on Qubilai’s order (Zheng, 1991: 177). As Zheng Sixiao lived in a remote region, far away from the political centre, there are quite a few confusions in his report. For example, Batu actually refers to Tudan-Möngke, and Nomqan’s name was confused with that of Qachi’un’s grandson, Jaqula.9 However, ignoring these mistakes, it is clear that this account was based on more than just a rumour. After Aḥmad’s execution, which occurred two years before Nomqan’s release, Qubilai took strict measures against Muslims in China, and issued an edict prohibiting circumcision and the Islamic method of slaughtering. These policies reverberated in the Islamic world, and gave rise to continuous tensions in diplomatic and commercial contacts (Togan, 2013: 96-98). Considering the unstable relationship between the Yuan and other Khanates in this period, there was a real fear of an invasion from the Golden Horde.

Golden Horde and Yuan Dynasty Relationships in the Post-Berke Period

41After Berke’s death (d. 1267), the tension between the Golden Horde and the Yuan Dynasty easened. At least, the emperor of the Yuan Dynasty no longer considered the Khan of the Jochid ulus an opponent threatening the north-western border of his territory. Around 1270, Qubilai sent envoys to confirm Möngke-Temür’s accession, which strengthened his legitimacy to run the affairs of the Jochid ulus. Qubilai even persuaded him not to cooperate with Qaidu, the independent Mongol ruler of the Ögödeid ulus. Nevertheless, Möngke-Temür’s policies were variable and pragmatic, and primarily aimed at defending his own authority and interests. He supported Qaidu in conflicts against Baraq and Abaqa, but generally speaking remained neutral and kept distant from the turmoil in the eastern territories. Qaidu once sent Nomqan, a son of Qubilai, as a captive to Möngke-Temür’s court, probably with the intention to involve Möngke-Temür in the anti-Qubilai alliance, but this attempt was unsuccessful. Nomqan was eventually released by Möngke-Temür’s successor, Tudan-Möngke. As a good-faith response to Tudan-Möngke, Yuan government newly constructed thirty postal stations from the Besh-Baliq to the Taihe Mountain (大和嶺, i.e. Caucasian Mountain) in the 1281, aiming to link the interior territory of the Golden Horde with China via the Chaghatai Khanate (Song, 1978: 1569).

42 However, the foreign policy of the Golden Horde was strongly affected by the establishment of the anti-Ilkhanid alliance. The idea was that this alliance would consist of the Mamluk Sultanate, the Chagatai Khanate, and Qaidu’s ulus and attack the Ilkhanate from three directions. Despite the alliance’s limited success, the Golden Horde acted as a mediator, and adopted a somewhat unfriendly attitude towards the Yuan Dynasty, the Ilkhanate’s major ally. Mamluk chroniclers used to gloat over Qubilai’s military failure undisguisedly, and without a doubt this reflected the point of view of the Golden Horde. However, the succession to the throne of the Golden Horde was unstable, and consequently it was difficult for them to implement a coherent foreign policy on Far Eastern affairs.

43The Yuan Dynasty allied with the head of the left-wing of the Jochid ulus, the descendants of Orda, in order to counterbalance their estrangement from the Khans of Saray. Qonichi, Orda’s successor, implemented an independent policy in his contact with the Yuan Dynasty and remained neutral in a series of conflicts (Akasaka, 2005: 156). In 1288 and 1289, the Yuan court twice aided prince Qonichi with silver and supplies (Song, 1978: 307, 320). Again, at the beginning of the 14th c. (1304-1312), the Yuan court constantly helped crown prince Bayan to resist attacks from claimants to the throne during the civil war (Qiu, 2013: 32-38).

44As for the Khans of Saray, they found that confirmation by the Great Khan was still necessary to consolidate their legitimacy. Therefore, Möngke-Temür, Toqta, and Özbek dispatched envoys to request his confirmation and the concomitant edict, seal, and honorable princely title. In return, Möngke-Temür and Toqta issued coins and tablets with Chinese characters and Phags-pa Mongolian scripts respectively, which represented the symbolic authority of the Great Khan (Nyamaa, 2005: 106; Tumutogoo, 2010: 125). The Yuan court paid close attention to political developments within the Golden Horde. In 1305, one year after Toqta endorsed the peace agreement, the Yuan government aided in providing five-months’ provisions to Toqta’s Kirghiz subjects (Song, 1978: 465). With the centralisation of the administrative apparatus of the Yuan Dynasty, the Jochid state’s apanages in China were brought under the direct administration of the central government. The Directorate-General of the Territorial Office in Pingyang was dissolved in 1288, and integrated within local government (Song, 1978: 311; Cai, 2009: 121-122).

45Only the descendants of Chinggis Khan, the Golden Kin, could rule within the Mongol Empire, and as a result the rulers of different khanates tended to view disputes among them as family affairs. The term brotherhood, in Mongolian aqa and de’ü (āqā wa-īnī in Persian), was used in diplomatic exchanges between the uluses, and gave these contacts a very different spirit from contacts with independent states (Kim, 2009: 33). For the Yuan Emperor, the unification of his relatives in harmonious brotherhood proved that his prestige covered the whole of the empire. Thus, the Toluid prince Yaqudu (ya-hu-du, 牙忽都) praised the achievement of the Great Khan Temür (r. 1294-1307) in these words:

Qubilai (shi-zu) had combined the whole world, but the princes of the imperial clan were unable to have a banquet together. Now, with Your Majesty’s limitless fortune, Batu Khan’s descendants showed their obedience first, and the rebel prince, Chapar, yielded with his clans subsequently. The peoples and lands unite as a family again (Song, 1978: 2909).

  • 10 According to Biran’s (2008: 373) definition, the two main functions of a diplomatic embassy are pol (...)

46After the Great Rapprochement of 1304, almost 14 formal embassies took place between the Yuan and the Golden Horde.10 There were seven times bilateral mission exchanges and, seven times again, Great Khan’s embassies were dispatched simultaneously to the Golden Horde, the Ilkhanate and the Chaghatai Khanate. These embassies indicate that with the revival of the notion of Chinggisid unity, the connections between the different Khanates intensified.

47Since the reign of Sultan Baybars (r. 1260-1277), the Khan of the Golden Horde was involved in the long-distance trade between the Mamluk Sultanate and China. The Sultan’s commercial agents were entertained at Berke and Möngke-Temür’s courts, travelled through Golden Horde territory, and proceeded to Qaraqorum as far as the Yuan capital of Khanbaliq (Ibn Shaddād, 1983: 307-308). Mamluk commercial agents were also involved in the slave trade and obtained military and economic information about the Yuan Dynasty. In 1290, after defeating the Yuan garrison at Qaraqorum, Yuan captives were transferred to Egypt and sold as slaves in the market (al-Manṣūrī, 1998: 262). The diplomatic gifts presented by Janibek to Toghan-Temür (r. 1333-1370), including saqalāt (a kind of textile), a chachir (tent), a knife produced in Egypt, and Arabian horses, reflect the influence of Golden Horde-Mamluk commerce (Allsen, 1997: 75; Behrens-Abouseif, 2014: 61-65).


48The relations between the Golden Horde and the Yuan Dynasty were not interrupted by the dissolution of the Mongol Empire. On the contrary, they were sustained until the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty. However, the nature of these relations changed over time. Originally, the ruler of the Golden Horde was seen as the Great Khan’s representative, but later he became an independent ruler with a junior status. After the de facto dissolution of the Mongol Empire, the Yuan Emperor was unwilling to abandon his self-identification as supreme sovereign of a united Mongol Empire in diplomatic contacts. Kinship relations and traditional customs continued to play essential roles in the interrelationship between the Yuan and the Golden Horde. Islamisation does not appear to have been as important as formerly thought in this relationship. Most disputes also had to do with political and economic factors.

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Appendix 1 : Fig.1

Figure 1. Mongol apanages in Shanxi Province (Tan, 1996: 7-8).

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1 The Yuanshi records the names of successive rulers of the Jochid ulus down to the reign of Janibek (r. 1342-1357), but Berke’s name is not included. Berke’s name is also absent in two genealogical tables of the Chinggisids. In contrast, Berke’s predecessor, Sartaq (r. 1256-1257), and successor, Möngke-Temür (r. 1267-1280), are recorded in these works (Song, 1978: 2714-2715; Tao, 1997: vol. 1, 2-3).

2 In general, the Chinese character « zhen » means « to quake, to shake », but as a literal allusion it also means « eastern, oriental ». In the original text, the term « zhengong » is used as a synonym for « donggong », the eastern palace (東宮), which is a metonym for the crown prince.

3 The title fujun, supreme commander, is mentioned inW the Zuozhuan (左傳), in the second year of Duke Min (閔公二年): « [The crown prince] guards the capital when the ruler goes abroad; and if another be appointed to guard it, he attends upon his father. When he attends upon his father, he is called “Soother of the troops”; and when he stays as a guardian, he is called “Inspector of the state” [supreme commander], and this is the ancient rule. » (太子……君行則守, 有守則從, 從曰撫軍, 守曰監國, 古之制也) (Yang, 1995: 268; Legge, 1893: 130).

4 Rashīd al-Dīn (Rashīd,1994: v.1, 746) mentions that Nogay’s commanders referred to themselves as « the slaves and subjects of ilkhān » when they wrote to Toqta.

5 Lu is a Chinese term for a subunit of a local administrative institution, inherited from the Song and Jin Dynasties.

6 The first volume of Ibn Shaddād’s biography of Sultan Baybars is lost. Some quotations are included in later Mamluk works. Jackson (1999: 16) pointed out that al-Khazandārī’s description in Ayalon’s article was wrongly attributed to Ibn Wāṣil by Tiesenhausen.

7 Blochet suggests to identify « Yikshā » with « Bikshā » (Ibn Abī-l-Faḍā’il, 1919: 446, footnote). However, in al-Yūnīnī’s version, the sorcerer’s name is spelt as « Taktā », and the sorceress’ name is spelled « Kamsā » or « Kamshtā ».

8 Hülegü’s patronage of Buddhist monks was widely reported by contemporary Arabic and Persian authors. Armenian historians also discuss it in detail (Kirakos, 1985: 333).

9 According to the Yuanshi, Jaqula was a subordinate commander of Nomqan (Song, 1978: 239). See Shuʿab-i Panjgāna for Jaqula’s genealogy (Rashīd al-Dīn: f.103b).

10 According to Biran’s (2008: 373) definition, the two main functions of a diplomatic embassy are political and formal. Political embassies were dispatched to discuss alliances, submissions, or requests for military help. In contrast, formal embassies usually aimed to pay honours and express friendships.

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Yihao QIU, « Independent Ruler, Indefinable Role », Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée [En ligne], 143 | octobre 2018, mis en ligne le 12 octobre 2018, consulté le 13 novembre 2018. URL :

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Yihao QIU

Department of History, Fudan University, Shanghai

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