Tolui Khan

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About Tolui Khan

Lifespan: 1191-1232 A.D

Reign Years: 1227 – 1229 A.D

Given Name: Borjigin Tolui

Reign Name: Ruizong

Tolui Khan – Yuan Dynasty

Tolui Khan was Genghis Khan and Borte’s 4th son. He grew up while his father expanded his rule in Mongolia. Tolui never bothered using the reigning Khagan title, and neither did his father nor his immediate successors.

However, Tolui Khan was given the title of Khagan by Mongke, his son. He had another son named Kublai, who gave him a temple name when he established the Yuan Dynasty.

The Early Life of Tolui Khan

During Genghis Khan’s rise, Tolui Khan was too young to involve himself in wars and battles. He was almost killed by a Tatar when he was only 5-years old. Luckily, the future Mongol commander was saved and rescued by his sister, along with two of Genghis’ companions.

In 1203, Genghis Khan bestowed upon Tolui, his wife. Her name was Sorghaghtani, the niece of Ong Khan, the friend of Tolui’s grandfather. In 1209, they had their first son and named him Mongke.

When Genghis Khan had to choose who would succeed him, he had quite a challenge choosing between his sons. Tolui had exceptional military skills and excelled as a Mongol commander. However, his father chose his brother, Ogodei, as his successor since he was more capable in politics.

Also, Genghis Khan felt that Tolui would be too suspicious and cautious to function as an effective leader. After the death of their father, the Mongol Empire was passed on to Genghis Khan’s sons. The Mongol commander Tolui Khan received the eastern part of Mongolia.

Tolui Khan as a Commander

From 1127 until 1229, Tolui Khan became the civil administrator. It was also when Ogedei was confirmed as the second Great Khan of their empire.

The nobles accepted this setup partly because of their tradition. Here, the youngest son would inherit the property of his father. Also, they partly accepted this because Tolui controlled the biggest and most powerful army during that time.

Tolui Khan backed and supported elections as the means to choose the next Khagan. There, Ogadei was chosen, which fulfilled his father’s wish.

Before that, he worked as the Mongol commander during the campaign against the Jin Dynasty’s Jurchens. That also goes for the campaign against the Khwarezmid and the Western Xia Empire.

During these Mongol conquests, Tolui Khan campaigned with his brother to northern China. He served as the field commander and strategist in 1231 and 1232.

Here, two armies were sent to capture Kaifeng, the Jin Empire’s capital. Then after breaching the enemy’s defenses, they went back to the north.

Conquest of Jin Dynasty

When Ogedei succeeded Genghis Khan, he rebuffed the offers of peace talks between the Jin. However, the Jin officers murdered the Mongol envoys.

The Jin army, under Emperor Aizong, were able to prevent a couple of Mongol offensives. They even had some major victories like the Battle of Dachangyuan, Battle of Weizhou, and the Battle of Daohuigu.

The Kheshig commander Doqolqu was sent off to attempt a frontal attack on Tong Pass. However, Wanyan Heda defeated him and forced Subutai to withdraw in 1230.

In 1231, the Mongol armies attacked once more and succeeded in taking Fengxiang. The western forces under the command of Tolui Khan started from Fengxiang. From there, they entered Tong Pass then went through the Song’s territory along the Han River.

They soon re-emerged on the southern part of Kaifeng to capture the Jurchens, taking them by surprise.

Continued Battles against the Jin

On Mount Yu, the Mongol conquest continued, and there, the two armies battled once more. The Jin army was at an advantage due to their numbers and fought fiercely in the process. This led the Mongols to withdraw, allowing Tolui Khan to re-strategize.

From Dengzhou to Kaifeng, the Mongols easily conquered area after area. They even burned all supplies in these places to cut off the supply lines of Wanyan Heda.

Because of the situation, Henya needed to withdraw but ran into the Mongols at the Three-peaked Hill.

At this point, the Jin army was diverted southwards from the Yellow River. There, they faced Tolui Khan’s attacks. Ogedei’s northern forces took the chance to cross the river to join the Mongol commander.

By 1232, Emperor Aizong of the Jurchens was captured in Kaifeng. From there on, his troops along with the Mongols, crushed the Jin forces.

After the battle, Ogedei Khan departed and left the last Mongol conquest in the hands of his generals.

Conquest of Western Xia

The Mongol conquest of Western Xia consisted of numerous conflicts between the Tangut West Xia Empire and the Mongol Empire. Tolui Khan was among the Mongol commanders during this conquest.

For almost a decade, West Xia was the Mongols’ vassals who helped them during the Mongol-Jin Wars. Yet when Genghis Khan invaded the Khwarazmian dynasty, Xia tried cutting ties with the empire. They did this to join the Song and Jin Dynasties.

This betrayal angered Genghis Khan immensely, which led to a second Mongol conquest towards Western Xia.

In hopes of gaining the plunder and vassal state, Genghis Khan led initial raids against Western Xia. These were pre-attacks before he launched a full-scale assault in 1209.

This attack was the first major invasion led by Genghis Khan. It was also China’s first Mongol conquest.

Conquest of the Khwarezmian Empire

The Mongol conquest of Khwarezmia was also referred to as the Mongol invasion of Persia (Iran). It was the beginning of the Mongol conquest in Central Asia which lasted from 1219 – 1221.

The army of Tolui Khan was made up of around 50,000 men. The troops consisted of Mongol soldiers, foreign soldiers like the Turks, and conquered people from Mongolia and China.

One of the first cities to fall was Termez, followed by Balkh, then the major city to fall was the City of Merv. For six consecutive days, Tolui surrounded the city, and on the 7th day, he attacked the area mercilessly.

After the attack, the city’s governor surrendered the area. He did this when Tolui Khan promised that the citizens’ lives would be spared.

But after the city was given to them, Tolui killed almost everyone who surrendered. It was a massacre likely on a greater scale compared to that of Urgench.

After the Mongol commander and his troops finished off Merv, they headed westwards to attack Herat and Nishapur. When the latter fell, Tokuchar, Genghis Khan’s son-in-law, fell in battle.

Because of this, Tolui attacked every living being within the city. As for the slaughter, it was controlled and directed by Tokuchar’s widow.

The acquisition of the new territory was a vital stepping stone for the Mongols to invade Poland and Kievan Rus’. Because of this, the future Mongol campaigns brought their troops to Hungary to the Baltic Sea.

Due to the destruction of Khwarezmia, it left Turkey, Iraq, and Syria open and vulnerable. Thus, the three areas were eventually conquered by the succeeding Khans.

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Death of Tolui Khan

In The Secret History of the Mongols, it was stated that Tolui sacrificed himself to cure Ogodei’s severe illness. The Shamans determined that China’s upset water and earth spirits caused his illness.

When land, animals, and people were offered, this only aggravated Ogodei’s illness. But when a family member was offered, Ogodei’s condition immediately improved. Tolui volunteered and died upon taking a cursed drink.

However, the historian Ata-Malik Juyvani said that Tolui’s cause of death was alcoholism.

In 1248, the Mongol commander Tolui’s son, Mongke, became the great Khan and carried out the expansionist policy. As for his brother Kublai, he eventually became the great Khan in 1260.

The Mongols defeated the Southern Song dynasty and reunited China under the rule of the Yuan dynasty.