Ayurbarwada Buyantu Khan, Emperor Renzong of Yuan

Buyantu Khan (Mongolian: Буянт хаан), also known as Emperor Renzong of Yuan (Chinese: 元仁宗, April 9, 1285 – March 1, 1320), born Ayurbarwada, was the Emperor of the yuan dynasty, and is regarded as the eighth Great Khan of the Mongols in Mongolia. His name means "blessed/good Khan" in the Mongolian language.

Ayurbarwada was the first Yuan emperor who actively supported and promoted the mainstream Chinese culture after the reign of Kublai. The emperor, who was mentored by Confucian academic Li Meng, succeeded peacefully to the throne and reversed his older brother Khayisan's policies. More importantly, Ayurbarwada reinstituted the civil service examination system for the yuan dynasty.

Struggle for succession

Ayurbarwada was the second son of Darmabala and Dagi (Targi) of the Khunggirat, and a great-grandson of Kublai Khan (r. 1260-94). He had been tutored by the Confucian scholar Li Meng, who strongly affected his future political attitudes since his early teens.

In 1305 Bulugan Khatun removed Ayurbarwada from the court and sent him to Honan as the prince of Huai-ning. However, his uncle Temur Khan died without an heir on 2 February 1307, because his son Tachu had died a year earlier before him.

Temür's widow Bulugan of the Bayaud tribe had kept away the Khunggirad-mothered brothers of Khayishan and Ayurbarwada and attempted to set up her favorite muslim Ananda, their uncle and the governor of Ningxia . The Darkhan Harghasun, the right chancellor (Chinese: 右丞相) of the government who became aware of Bulugan's plan, called Ayurbarwada and Li Meng back from Huaizhou (Chinese: 懷州) to the capital Dadu. They successfully developed a strategy to imprison Ananda and Bulugan. Afterwards, Ayurbarwada welcomed his older brother Khayishan, who was still far away from Dadu, to succeed to the throne. After the latter's coronation, Ayurbarwada was appointed the Crown Prince in June 1307. Brothers promised each other that their descendants would rule on relay.

Early career under Khayisan Kulug Khan and enthronement

Ayurbarwada was made head of the top central administrative organs. He had surrounded himself with the Chinese scholars Chen Hao, Wang I, Wang Yueh, Chao Mengfu, Wang Chieh, Chan Yaoho, Shang-ye, Yao sui, and Hsia ku; the artists Shang cheng and Wang Cheng-peng; Chagaan, a scholar from Balkh and Haiya, the Uyghur lyricist.

He was able to read and write Chinese and appreciate Chinese paintings and calligraphy in addition to his deep knowledge of Confucianism and Chinese history. Strongly influenced by Confucian political ethics, he was naturally opposed to his brother's exploitative policies. Khayisan's partisans had accused Li Meng of having advised Ayurbarwada to keep the throne for himself; Li Meng left the court immediately after Khayisan's accession. Ayurbarwada spoke out in Li Meng's defence but accomplished nothing much in the end. His disagreement with his brother's high officials remained concealed until his own enthronement.

Khayishan died in January 1311. Unlike the succession struggle over Yuan throne in 1307, Ayurbarwada's succession to his elder brother Khayisan's throne in April 1311 was a peaceful and smooth transition of the Yuan imperial history. This was made possible by the fact that he was designated by Khayishan as the heir apparent in June 1307, in accordance with their earlier agreement, similar to Kublai Khan had done when grooming Zhenjin to be his successor.

Ayurbarwada's accession kuriltai was composed of 14,000 princes, each of whom employed relays of from 700 to 1,000 horses. The feast lasted a week. Forty oxen and 4,000 sheep, besides a great number of animals were eaten daily. At the hour fixed by the astrologers, the new Emperor seated himself on his throne, his face turned towards the south, in the Karshi, which was hung with silk and brocade. The descendants of Genghis Khan were on the right, and the descendants of Hasar on the left of the throne. The Khatuns were seated on stools. Ayurbarwada was saluted under the title of Buyantu.


Ayurbarwada was highlighted for his reform efforts based on Confucianism principle for the Yuan government, though these reforms were made at the displeasure of some Mongol nobility. As soon as he ascended to the throne, he disbanded of the Department of State Affairs (Chinese: 尚書省) set up during Khayishan's reign, which resulted in the execution of 5 high-ranking officials. He also abolished the Zhida paper notes and coins issued by the court of Khayishan; and restored the Zhongtong and Zhiyuan notes as the only official currency. The bureaucracy was trimmed to the 1293 level and new high offices were reduced to the original status they had had in Kublai's reign. The various public building projects of Khayisan were halted. He made Li Meng and Zhang Kui grand councillors in addition to appointing others including Mongols and Semuren (a caste of assorted peoples from Central Asia and the west). The Office of Market Taxes, which was set up to supervise merchants, was abolished with the attempt at abolition by the Semuren.

The most prominent reform he made was the reintroduction of the imperial examination system for public officials similar to the one in previous dynasties of China. The imperial examination system, though had repeated been debated during Kublai's reign, had not put into effect until this time. It was now based entirely on Neo-Confucianism, which was thus established as the state philosophy of China for many centuries ever since. A race-based quotas were set for these examinations, allowing a certain number of both Mongol and Han Chinese to enter the government as civil officials. For example, starting in 1313 examinations were introduced for prospective officials - testing their knowledge on significant historical works - in 1315 300 appointments went to the court, with an extra quarter of the positions being given to non-Han Chinese people.

Codification of the law was another area in which Ayurbarwada's efforts to reform the yuan dynasty produced the desired results. In the same month that he was enthroned in 1311, he instructed the Secretariat (Chinese: 中書省) to systematize the codes and regulations promulgated since the beginning of Kublai's reign. This compilation and editing was completed in 1316, though the process of reviewing the collection was not completely until 1323, under his son and successor Shidibala, who formally promulgated it under the title Da Yuan Tong Zhi (Chinese: 大元通制, "the comprehensive institutions of the Great Yuan"). In some ways the new code also reflected certain Mongolian customs and the institutional features peculiar to the Mongol dynasty in the history of China.

He believed that the Mongol elites and the Semuren had to learn from Confucian political philosophy and Chinese historical experience in order to govern China. During the reign of Ayurbarwada, a number of Chinese books and works were translated or published with Ayurbarwada's authorization. This can also reveal his fondness for Chinese culture and his and his officials' (especially the Mongols and Central Asians) desire to benefit from Confucian political wisdom and Chinese historical experience. Examples of these translated or published books and works include the Confucian classic Shang Shu (Chinese: 尚書, "Book of history"), Daxue Yanyi (Chinese: 大學衍義, "Extended meaning of the Great Learning"), Zhenguan Zhengyao (Chinese: 貞觀政要, "Essentials of the government of the Zhenguan period"), and the Xiao Jing (Chinese: 孝經, "Books of filial piety").

In the winter of 1311 Ayurbarwada ordered the abolition of the jarghuchi (judge) of the princely establishments that was created by Ogedei Khan (r. 1229-41) and placed all Mongolian violators under the jurisdiction of chienbu while attempting to restrict separate appanage judges. He restricted the position jarghuchi to judicial affairs and organized them under the Court of the Imperial Clan.

Early in his reign Ayurbarwada encouraged agriculture to increase the state revenue. His senior councillor, Temuder, took drastic measures which included collecting salt and iron monopoly taxes and the state monopoly over foreign trade under the Maritime Trade Supervisorate. Despite commercial ties with Europe increased, Ayurbarwada's administration, led by Temuder, unsuccessfully attempted a new cadastral survey called Yanyou Jingli (Chinese: 延祐經理) which involves a comprehensive land survey in 1314. If it had been implemented properly, this survey would have greatly increased the state revenue and helped a more effective tax structure. Ineffective implementation of the survey by corrupt officials caused widespread hardship and resentment. As a result, a serious revolt broke out in Jiangxi in the fall of 1315. Although the revolt was suppressed within two months, it forced the government to abandon the survey program completely to relieve the situation.

Ayurbarwada also granted diploma (yarliq) to exempt the Franciscans from any taxation in 1314. The friars were still expected to pray for the Emperor's life and give their blessing on ceremonial occasions.

Temuder chipped away at the autonomy of the princely appanages and executed Confucian opponents. Since Temuder was viewed by Confucians as an "evil minister," opponents of fiscal centralization charged Temuder with corruption; and Buyantu Khan had to dismiss him in 1317. Unwilling to oppose his mother Dagi (Targi), Ayurbarwada could not eliminate Temuder.

Mongol Empire

Ayurbarwada continued his ancestors' imperialistic policies. He reminded the vassal states of his accession, and told them to remember and send their tribute at the proper time, and assured them that he would make punitive actions if they failed. Among the tributary princes to whom he notified his advent to the throne are named those of Champa, Annam, an island near Japan, Malabar, and kingdoms on the borders of Yunnan .

muslim Ozbeg Khan mounted the throne of the golden horde in 1312. He proscribed Buddhism and Shamanism among the Mongols in Russia, reversing the spread of the Yuan culture. Yuan envoys seems to have backed Toqta's son, a rival candidate, against Ozbeg.

Ayurbarwarda also maintained friendly relations with Ilkhan Oljeitu. The Chagatayid Khan Esen Buqa in 1312 sent the Yuan border garrison envoys in an attempt to convince them to adjust their position. The negotiations, however, did not go well. Esen Buqa sent tributes to Ayurbarwada in 1312 and 1313, but the Yuan court's attempts to restrict trade between the two states kept tensions high. Esen Buqa attempted to gain the support of Ozbeg Khan without success. Ayurbarwada's emissary, Abishqa, to the Ilkhanate while travelling through Central Asia, revealed to a Chaghadayid commander that an alliance between the Yuan and the Ilkhanate had been created, and the allies forces were mobilizing to attack the khanate. Esen Buqa ordered Abishqa to be executed and decided to attack the Yuan. The Yuan armies repelled his troops twice in 1314.

After his failure, Esen Buqa warned Ozbeg Khan that the Khagan Ayurbarwada would replace him with another from the House of Jochi. This testimony was never corroborated with any evidence. Ozbeg was suggested not to believe it by one of his vizirs and he therefore refused to help Esen Buqa.

Oljeitu drove out the Qaraunas of Dawud Khoja, son of Qutlugh Khwaja from Afghanistan. Esen buqa dispatched his brother Kebek with a large force to attack Khorasan. Kebek and Yasa'ur defeated Oljeitu's army at the Murgab River and advanced to Herat. But they were recalled, for the Chagatai Khanate was attacked by Ayurbarwada's force under the Kipchak commander Chongur. Around this time Yasa'ur defected to Öljeitü and engaged in battle with Kebek's troops. The Yuan army crushed Esen Buqa's resistance and plundered his winter quarters on the Issyk Kul as well as his summer residence in Talas. The disaster was completed when prince Tore Temur deserted to the Yuan.

After Esen Buqa's death in 1318, his brother Kebek mitigated the situation with the Yuan and the Ilkhanate. He enjoyed peaceful relations with the Great Khan despite Ayurbarwada's reestablishment of nominal authority in Uighurstan.

In 1326 Ozbeg reopened friendly relations with the Yuan court. From 1339 he received annually 24,000 ding in Yuan paper currency from the Jochid appanages in China.


Ayurbarwada died on 1 March 1320. After Khayishan died Ayurbarwada lost his promise later in his reign by making his own son Shidibala the new Crown Prince. Therefore, his son succeeded him instead of one of Khayisan's sons.

His death created two decades of political turmoil. The Khunggirat faction under Temuder and Dagi became even more powerful at the court. After the assassination of Shidibala in 1323, none of his descendants ruled the Empire.

Last update 18-06-2012

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