when most people think of the mongol empire they think power conquest and of course genghis khan but not so often some may ask how the mongols managed to become synonymous with such words and legends after all the single empire managed to be the first to bring every inch of china which was at that point made up of an amalgamation of separate entities under the control of a foreign power this feat would have been impressive.
in any case but the gravity of the accomplishment is strengthened by the fact that the mongol empire faced a multitude of opponents and locally established dynasties that they managed to defeat in order to seize the entire region so how exactly did they manage to do this the region was split into the territories of multiple kingdoms and dynasties such as dali jinn western shah and southern song all of these entities would one by one fall to the mongols.
as the invaders swept across the region taking everything and everyone under their control as they went so let’s take a look at how it happened the first step was the conquest of western shah the beginning of the initial mongol attempt to seize the territory of the tanggud western shah dynasty came in the early 13th century initially the mongols led by genghis khan started with a series of simple raids into the western shah lands at the time genghis khan was looking to expand and consolidate mongol power.
and in 1205 launched the first raid under the guise of looking for his political rival nilga seng-um who was currently hiding within western shah while the mongol empire wasn’t officially established until the following year genghis khan was already able to begin spreading his authority into western shah with these first border town raids one local noble surrendered to the invaders.
whilst the lands of others were simply plundered more raids followed in 1207 through 1208 before genghis khan was ready to launch a true conquest for his freshly declared empire in 1209 the incursion began and the contemporary emperor of western shah lee angkwan reached out to the neighboring jinn emperor for help but was harshly declined any assistance.
in fighting off the mongols instead one young young ji of the jin dynasty which would soon fall itself to the mongols said of lin angkwan’s request for aid is it to our advantage when our enemies attack each other wherein lies the danger to us as a result the mongols found success quickly and swiftly they were temporarily held up at the keemon fortress but eventually broke.
through nonetheless and continued on to the capital city yin chuan here they resisted once again now for a few months it wasn’t until 1210 that the mongols would eventually force the surrender of lee angkwan and pushed western shah into vassal ship conflict would remain between the mongols and leadership of western shah for the following two decades.
nonetheless until the region finally fell fully into mongol hands after the death of genghis khan in 1227 prior to the total defeat of western shah back in 1211 the mongols had also prompted a war within the nearby jinn dynasty simultaneously when the latter demanded that genghis khan surrender his empire to become a vassal of the jinn empire.
the mongol ruler flatly refused which triggered the subsequent warfare the first major conflict broke out at the battle of yehu ling and brought about a quick mongol victory after that the tide of the war seemed to swing back and forth until the end of 1213 at which point the mongols managed to take the upper hand and began to plunder the whole of the north china plain through early 1214.
the fight would continue on for another two decades though with the mongols slowly taking over the jinn territory piece by piece in the 1230s the mongols gained an advantage in the form of a new ally ironically the southern song who would soon fall victim to the growing empire just the same but for now the song and mongols shared a common enemy and decided to work together to see them fall the final collapse of the jin dynasty came.
after the battle of sang fen shan ended with a sweeping victory for the mongols and the song dynasty joined the fight at the last second to crush the remaining gin resistance in february of 1234 little did the leaders of the southern song know this move would seal their own fate just the same as other territories within today’s china continued to collapse.
under the pressure of the invading mongols the final straw came only a year after being assisted by southern song against the jin dynasty the mongols turned on their allies just as the jinn had predicted the mongol conquest of the song dynasty and the final wrap-up of their conquest of china happened in two stages the first began in 1235.
when mongol general hua dani launched an attack on the region of xichuan and within a year the city of zhang yang had fallen to the mongols and their forces continued to increase however the valiant efforts of the song generals and local leaders made the capture of sichuan in its entirety nearly impossible for quite some time various cities would continue to fall to the mongols but the process was not excessively fast nor aggressive despite.
a remarkable number of han chinese defecting to the mongol side and backing the conquest at one point the mongols attempted to negotiate with the song leaders but their envoys were imprisoned upon arrival and warfare ramped up again after stronger incursions and plundering of song territories a ceasefire was finally made and the invasion was temporarily halted but started up again in 1251 after the mongol election that put monkey in power the dali kingdom soon came under mongol control in 1253 and the attack of the song dynasty pushed on by 1258.
southern song was under attack from multiple angles as the mongols began to close in on the final stretch of their conquest some historians theorize that part of what caused the downfall of the song dynasty was their fear of an internal military rebellion which had led them to greatly neglect their armed forces and therefore crumble under the pressure of the mongol attack whether this rings true or not southern song did undoubtedly collapse eventually the contemporary ruler kublai khan founded the yuan dynasty in the 1270s.
which would become the subsequent leader of the chinese region this of course is a vast simplification of the process that allowed the mongols to conquer today’s china as mentioned earlier the mongols had the upper hand because the song dynasty had a lacking military due to concerns about rebellions like they had previously seen take down other dynasties still this factor would only have affected the mongols at the very end of their campaign.
when they finally faced southern song prior to that one detail that may have made their endeavors a bit easier was the fact that what is now the chinese nation was then an amalgamation of multiple individual entities who were often also fighting against each other and supported the mongols against each of their own enemies without a unified front against the mongols the latter was able to take bits of the region piece by piece and with local help.
furthermore as mentioned earlier a fair number of chinese locals had also opted to defect to the mongol side throughout the warfare which only helped to boost the cause even more the mongols themselves were likewise far from incompetent and had some exceptional generals and leaders such as genghis khan himself and lastly referring back to the final fall of the southern song dynasty some historians argue that they did in fact have the means to fight back against the mongols but instead simply opted not to put up a stronger opposition or attempts to recapture lost territories.
as a result of inner corruption and a lack of political maturity while the theories surrounding what made it possible may be widely debated in many cases what we do know for a fact is that the mongols managed to conquer china by setting off a domino effect of conquest after conquest with the help of the surrounding kingdoms and empires one by one taking out the others until all of china was in mongol hands.
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