Esen Buqa I

Esen Buqa I was Khan of the Chagatai Khanate (1310 – c. 1318). He was the son of Duwa.

In 1309 Esen Buqa's brother Kebek ordered a meeting (quriltai) to determine the future of the khanate following his seizure of power. The meeting resulted in Esen Buqa being proclaimed khan.

Esen Buqa spent the bulk of his reign in conflict with two of his neighbors, the yuan dynasty of China and the Ilkhanate of Persia. The Chaghadaids feared a Yuan-Ilkhanate alliance against the state; this fear was caused by the testimony of the Yuan's emissary to the Ilkhanate, Abishqa. The diplomat, while travelling through Central Asia, revealed to a Chaghadaid commander that such an alliance had been created, and Yuan-Ilkhanate forces were mobilizing to attack the khanate. Abishqa's testimony was never corroborated with any evidence, but Esen Buqa remained convinced of the truth of his statement.

Yuan forces had, in fact, already for a long time been entrenched in the east. This was originally meant to keep Chapar in submission, but since the latter's defeat in 1310, the garrisons were perceived as a threat to the Chaghadaid state. In order to solve the shortages of pasture grounds, Esen Buqa in 1312 sent envoys in an attempt to negotiate with the border garrison commander Tughaji Jinsank in order to convince them to adjust their position. The negotiations, however, did not go well, and strained relations between the two. Esen Buqa sent tribute to the Yuan court in 1312 and 1313, but Yuan attempts to restrict trade between the two states kept tensions high. Esen Buqa attempted to gain the support of Uzbeg Khan of the golden horde, but without success.

Because of these events, Esen Buqa decided to attack the Yuan forces, thus breaking the peace that his father Duwa had brokered with China in 1304. The element of surprise, however, was lost when a Chaghadaid official defected to Tughaji's camp and revealed the plan. Tughaji withdrew his troops to beyond the Irtysh, then defeated Esen Buqa's troops in the spring of 1314. The magnitude of the defeat was such that Esen Buqa sought peace, claiming to the Yuan court that Tughaji had moved to attack first. Chunqur, a son of Tughaji, convinced the Chagatai khan that none of the Yuan troops besides Tughaji's would move against him if he attacked again. Tughaji, however, again kept Esen Buqa's troops from victory. The Yuan Emperor Renzong, growing impatient with Esen Buqa, ordered all of the garrisons to invade the Chagatai realm. Hami was conquered, and Uzbeg Khan again rejected Esen Buqa's invitation for an alliance in 1315.

In an attempt to make up for some of his losses, Esen Buqa launched an invasion of Khurasan, a part of the Ilkhanate, sometime after 1315. The invasion, while initially successful, turned sour when news reached the army that Talas and the pasture of Issyk Kül had been captured by Yuan forces. Many of the Chaghadaid troops' families had been located there, and, already tired of campaigning, they fled back home. The defection of a Yuan contender, Qoshila, to Esen Buqa's side did little to improve the situation, and the Yuan continued to advance their position. Only Esen Buqa's death in either 1318 or 1320, and the ascension again of his brother Kebek to the Chagatai throne, allowed peace to prosper again in the region.

Last update 20-06-2012

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