Temür Khan, Emperor Chengzong of Yuan

Temür Öljeytü Khan (Mongolian: Öljiyt Tömör, Өлзийт Төмөр, Öljeytü Temür), born Temür (traditional Chinese: 鐵穆耳; simplified Chinese: 铁穆耳; pinyin: Tiě mù ěr), or Emperor Chengzong of Yuan (Chinese: 元成宗; pinyin: Yuán Chéngzōng; Wade–Giles: Ch'eng-Tsung) (October 15, 1265 – February 10, 1307), also spelled Timur, was the second leader of the yuan dynasty between May 10, 1294 and February 10, 1307, and is considered as the sixth Great Khan of the Mongols in Mongolia. He, whose reign established the patterns of power for the next few decades, was an able ruler of the Yuan. His name means "blessed iron Khan" in the Mongolian language.

He was a son of the Crown Prince Zhenjin (真金) and the grandson of Kublai Khan. During his rule, the Tran, Pagan and Champa dynasties and western khanates of the Mongol Empire accepted his supremacy.

Early life

Temür was born the third son of Zhenjin of the Borjigin and Kökejin (Bairam-Egechi) of the Khunggirad on October 15, 1265. Because Kublai's first son Dorji died early, his second son and Temur's father, Zhenjin, became the crown prince. However, he died in 1286 when Temür was 21 years old. Kublai remained close to Zhenjin's widow Kökejin who was high in his favor. Like his grandfather Kublai he too was a follower of Buddhism.

He followed his grandfather Kublai to suppress the rebellion of Nayan (Naiyan) and other rival relatives in 1287. Then he and Kublai's official, Oz-Temur, came to guard the Liao River area and Liaodong in the east from Nayan's ally, Qadaan, and defeated him. Kublai appointed him the princely overseer of Karakorum and surrounding areas in July 1293. Three Chagatai princes submitted to him while he was defending Mongolia (they fled to Chagatai Khanate soon and returned to yuan dynasty again during the reign of Temür).

After Kublai Khan died in 1294, Kublai's old officials urged the court to summon a kurultai in Shangdu. Because Zhenjin's second son Darmabala already died in 1292, only his two sons, Gammala and Temür, were left to succeed. Temür was Kublai's provisional choice but he had never been confirmed as heir. In his early life he had been addicted to drunkenness and gluttony of which he had been reproved by his grandfather. Even though Temur was given the seal of the heir apparent when he was dispatched to Mongolia, he was not given the panoply of an heir. At the kurultai a matriarch suggested that Kublai Khan had said whoever knew the sayings (Билэг сургааль) of Genghis Khan best was suited to rule at the kurultai on 14 April. It was agreed that the two would compete. Temur declaimed well while his eldest brother Gammala, who stammered, could not match him. All cried out: "Temur knows them better! ...It's he that is worthy of crown and throne!". The grand councillor Bayan claimed that he could support only Kublai's choice, Temur, but not someone else. Temur was backed by his mother Kökejin and by merited officials of Khubilai, namely Oz Temür, Bayan, the Kankali Bukhumu, and Ölĵei all experienced with the state bureaucracy and honored military leaders. These highly estimated persons could enforce the election of Temür. Although Gammala wanted the throne, he recognized that Temur had won in the competition.


Temür Khan was a competent emperor of the yuan dynasty. He kept the empire the way Kublai Khan left it though he did not make any great achievements. He continued many of Kublai Khan's economic reforms and tried to recover the economy from the expensive campaigns of Kublai Khan's reign. He allowed the empire to heal from the wounds of particularly the Vietnam Campaign. Many other high posts of his empire were filled with people of different origin, including Mongols, Han Chinese, muslims and few Christians. Ideologically, Temür's administration showed respect for Confucianism and Confucian scholars. Shortly after his accession, Temür issued an edict to revere Confucius. Temur appointed Harghasun, who was particularly close to the Confucian scholars, right grand chancellor in the secretariat. Nevertheless, the Mongol court did not accept every principle of Confucianism. Temur bestowed new guards and assets on his mother and renamed her ordo (great palace-tent or camp) Longfugong palace which became a center of Khunggirad power for the next few decades. Mongol and westerner statesmen were assisted by an array of Chinese administrators and muslim financers. The most prominent muslim statesman was Bayan (Баян), great-grandson of Saiyid Ajall Shams al-Din who was in charge of the Ministry of Finance. Under Mongol administrators, Oljei and Harghasun, the Yuan court adopted policies that were designed to ensure political and social stability.

Number of the Tibetans gradually increased in the administration. The Khon family of Tibet was honored and one of them became an imperial son-in law in 1296. Temur reversed his grandfather's anti-Taoist policy and made Taoist Zhang Liusun cochair of the Academy of Scholarly Worthies. In 1304, Temur appointed the Celestial master of Dragon and Tiger Mountain as head of the Orthodox Unity School. He banned sales and distillation of alcohols in Mongolia in 1297. The French historian René Grousset applauded his activity in the book The Empire of Steppes. Temur was opposed to imposing any additional fiscal burden on the people. Exemptions from levies and taxes were granted several times for part or all of the Yuan. After his enthronement, Temur exempted Dadu and Shangdu from taxes for a year. He also exempted the Mongol commoners from taxation for two years. In 1302 he prohibited the collection of anything beyond the established tax quotas. Orders were given that portraits be painted of the khagans and khatuns during the reign of Temur.

However, the government's financial situation deteriorated and the draining of monetary reserves greatly weakened the credibility of the paper currency system.

One problem was that corrupt officials of the Yuan started to show up during his reign, but overall, the empire was still in a good shape. Because his only son Teshou died a year earlier (January 1306), Temür died without a male heir in capital Dadu on 10 February 1307.

South East Asia

Soon after his enthronement in 1294, Temür called off all preparations for further expansions to Japan and the Đại Việt whose new ruler ignored his grandfather's envoy in 1291. Temür sent his messengers to Japan and Champa to demand submissions. Champa accepted the term but Kamakura shogunate declined it, and the Japanese Wokou attacked Ningbo in Zheijiang province in his late reign. The rulers of Đại Việt, Burma and Sukhotai visited Khanbalik to greet him as their overlord in 1295, 1297 and 1300. After the compliment from the prince of Burma, he aborted the Burmese campaign and said all his ministers: "They are our friendly subjects. Do not attack their people". Temür also released envoys of Đại Việt to show his goodwill and the Tran court began to send tributary missions. But Temur's government had to quell rebellions in the southwestern mountainous area, led by tribal chieftains like Song Longji and female leader Shejie in 1296. It took long months for the generals Liu Shen and Liu Guojie to suppress these rebellions.

By the request of the Burmese prince, Tribhuvanaditya, Temür dispatched a detachment of Yuan army to Burma in 1297. They successfully repelled the Shans from Myanmar. Temur also received envoys from Siam and Cambodia. He dispatched Zhou Daguan to Khmer Cambodia in 1296, and Zhou wrote an account about his journey. In 1299 Athinkaya murdered his brother Tribhuvanaditya, who submitted to Temur in 1297. In 1300, a punitive expedition was launched against Burma for dethroning Temur's protectorate, Tribhuvanaditya. The Shan warlords of Babai-Xifu, who were quarreling over the royal succession of Pagan, also raided the Yuan realms. Temur sent his Yunnan -based force in turn to halt the advance of Babaixifu (Lanna Kingdom of Chiangmai) in 1301–03. Although, those campaigns were fruitless, Athinkaya and the Shan lords offered their submission.

The costly expedition spurred rebellions of a Yunnan official, Song Longji, and the Gold-Tooths (ancestors of the Dai people) in 1301-03. The revolts were eventually suppressed. After Temur Khan ordered to withdraw his army from Burma, Central and southern Burma soon came under the Tai rulers who paid nominal tribute to the yuan dynasty.

Relation with other khanates

Ghazan Khan of the Ilkhanate converted to islam after his enthronement in 1295. He actively supported the expansion of islam in his empire and renounced all relationship with the "paganish" yuan dynasty. In 1296 Temur Khan dispatched Baiju, the military commander, to Mongol Persia, the western region of the Mongol Empire. Ghazan was very impressed with Baiju's abilities. But three years later, he changed his policy and sent his envoys with precious gifts such as cloths, jewels and gold to greet Temür who was the most respected person of the House of Tolui at time. In response, Temür said "Descendants of Chingis Khan shall be friendly to each other forever" and sent Ghazan a seal reading "王府定國理民之寶" in Chinese script, meaning "Seal certifying the authority of his Royal Highness to establish a country and govern its people as a prince below Khagan". The Ilkhanid envoys presented tribute to Khagan Temur and inspected properties granted to Hulegu in North China. They stayed at the ordo of Temur Khagan in Dadu for 4 years. Ghazan called upon other Mongol Khans to unite their will under the Khagan Temur. Kaidu's enemy Bayan Khan of the White Horde strongly supported his appeal. However, the envoys returned to Persia after the death of Ghazan.

Temur also treated Ochicher, a descendant of Borokhula (one of Genghis Khan's "4 steeds"), as an elder statesman and dispatched him to Karakorum to assist his brother Gammala in pacifying the threat from the House of Ogedei and the Chagatai Khanate. While Ochicher and Gammala never achieved the final surrender of Kaidu, head of the Ogedeid and Chagatayid families, they neutralized him by skillfully exploiting their divisions and reviving military farms up to the Altai Range. In 1293 Tutugh occupied the Baarin tumen, who were allies of Kaidu, on the Ob River. From 1298 on the Chagatayid Khan Duwa increased his raids on the Yuan. He launched a surprise attack against the Yuan garrison under Temur's uncle Kokechu in Mongolia and captured Temur's son-in-law, Korguz of the Ongud when he and his commanders were drunk. However, Duwa was defeated by the Yuan army under Ananda in Gansu and his son-in law and several relations were captured. Although, Duwa and the Yuan generals agreed to exchange their prisoners, Duwa and Qaidu executed Korguz in revenge and cheated the Yuan officials. To reorganize the Yuan defence system in Mongolia, Temur appointed Darmabala's son Khayisan to replace Kokechu. The Yuan army defeated Qaidu south of the Altai Mountains. However, in 1300, Kaidu defeated Khayishan's force. Then Kaidu and Duwa mobilized a large army to attack Karakorum the next year. The Yuan army suffered heavy losses while both sides could not make any decisive victory in September. Duwa was wounded in the battle and Qaidu died soon thereafter. Duwa assisted Kaidu's son Chapar to succeed his father as head of the House of Ogedei and insisted him to recognize Temur's supremacy as Khagan of all Mongols. Because Duwa was more interested in foreign expansion, especially to India, and tired of the civil strife of the Mongols.

In 1304, Duwa, Kaidu's son Chapar, Tokhta of golden horde and Ilkhan Oljeitu negotiated peace with Temür Khan, in order to maintain trade and diplomatic relations, and agreed him to be their nominal overlord. According to the ancient custom which was inherited from the time of Hulegu, Temür thus deigned Oljeitu as the new khan of the Ilkhanate, and sent him a seal reading "真命皇帝和順萬夷之寶" in Chinese script, meaning "Seal of Mandate of Heaven Emperor [i.e. Emperor of China] who made peace with all foreigners/barbarians", which was later used by Oljeitu in his letter to the French king Philip IV of France in 1305. Soon after that the fighting between Duwa and Chapar soon broke out over the question of territory. Temür backed Duwa and sent a large army under Khayisan in the fall of 1306, and Chapar finally surrendered. Tokhta Khan of the golden horde also sent his overlord Temur two tumens to buttress the Yuan frontier.

Last update 17-06-2012

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