The First Emperor who unified the Country—Kublai Khan
Kublai is the fourth son of Tuo Lei, son of Genghis Khan and brother of Mengge Khan. He was born in 1215. When he was still a child, he joined in the western expedition of the Mongol troops with Genghis Khan. When he became a young man, he began to consider displaying his ability in the country. He made friends with many men of letters in the Central Plains, and got himself familiar with the circumstances of the Central Plains and the Confucianism in administer the state well and ensure the national security. In 1251, Mengge Khan succeeded the throne, and Kublai was in charge of the military affairs in southern desert area. He summoned men of worth, and gathered advice from all quarters. He also began to learn and accept Confucianism, and displayed his large-mindedness and bearing, which were different from other Mongolian rulers. In 1252, he was assigned to go on a punitive expedition to Song dynasty, and he fought his way from western Sichuan province to Yunnan province. After he destroyed Dali in 1253, he returned to the north with his troops.
Wulianghatai remained to conquest other troops, and thus most of the areas in the southwest were under the rule of the Mongols. In the same year, he accepted his enfeoffment in Jingzhao, and in 1256, in Huaizhou. He built his mansion in the east of Hengzhou and Longgang, which is on the north of Huai River, and finally, the prefecture of Kaiping was built (today, it is in the east of Zhenglanqi). During this period, he devoted great effort to carry out the “law of the Chinese”, reformed the old rules and established the new order. He also took a series of measures, for example, rash killing was forbidden, garrison troops were asked to open up wasteland for cultivation and store up the grains, and the financial systems were rectified, which won him the support of the Chinese landed class. But because of such policy, he was also opposed and envied by some of the Mongol noble class people.
In 1258, he went to fight with Mengge Khan against Song dynasty, and besieged Ezhou (Wuchang, today) in the following year. But the news came that Mengge Khan died and his little brother Alibuge was after the throne, Kublai decided to make peace with Song and returned to the north. In 1206, with the support of Hedan, Azhiji, Tachaer, Yixiangge, Hulahuer and Zhaodu, Kublai succeeded the throne in Kaiping. He followed the example of the Central Plain dynasties, and used Zhongtong as the title of his reign. In 1264, he put down the turmoil caused by Alibuge, and moved the center of his reign from Kaiping to Yanjing (Beijing, today), and called it Zhongdu.
In 1271, according to the custom of the Central Plain, he changed the title of his dynasty into “Dayuan”. In 1272, he altered the name of Zhongdu to Dadu, and established the capital there. Then, he adopted the advices of the Chinese scholar-bureaucrat, “to set Jin and Song dynasty as the recent example, and also learn from the ancient dynasties like Han and Tang” and the organs of his nation were gradually consummated. He preserved the Mongol’s original “Daluhuachi”(in charge of guarding), “Zaluhuachi” (in charge of lawsuit) and so on and in central government, he set up Zhongshu Ministry to deal with the political affairs, Supreme Military Council to hold the military leadership and Yushi Ministry to supervise the officials. He also set up 6 ministries under the rule of Z, which include Ministry of Civil Offices, Ministry of Revenue, Ministry of Rites, Ministry of War, Ministry of Punishment, and Ministry of Works. He also set up ten Xuanfu Ministry, and ten XingZhongshu Ministry, and Lu, Fu, Zhou Xian in succession, which played a positive role in Yuan dynasty’s centralization of state power, and also had far-reaching influence on later generations.
While he stabilized and solidified his state power, he restarted the war against Southern Song dynasty. In 1273, he broke through Fancheng and Xiangyang. In 1276, the royalty of Southern Song Dynasty surrendered to him. From 1278 to1279, he defeated Wen Tianxiang, Lu Xiufu, Zhang Shijie and other forces that were against Yuan’s rule, and finally destroyed the Song dynasty and unified the whole country. His dynasty is the first one that is ruled by minority in the Chinese history. In January (lunar calendar), 1294, Kublai died of illness in Dadu, the capital of Yuan. After Yuan Chengzong Tiemuer succeeded the throne, Kublai was given the posthumous title of “Shengdeshengongwenwu Emperor”, and posthumous title of honor “shizu”.
Like his grandfather Genghis Khan, Kublai is the creator of the brilliant history of the Mongol nationality, and an outstanding statesman and militarist. For hundreds of years, the southern and northern part of China had been confronting each other, and the country had been torn apart by rival small countries. Kublai brought such situation to an end, and set up a unified multinational country with a territory “north to Yin Mountain, west to Liusha, east to Liaoning province and south to the sea”—-such vastness is unprecedented in history. He is the first Emperor who unified the country and settled the territory. At the same time, he was determined to carry out reforms.
In economy, his policy emphasized on “agriculture and keeping silkworms”, he had more garrison troops open up more wasteland for cultivation of food, started the construction of irrigation works, and developed the production of agriculture; In politics, he practiced the Chinese law, set up Xingsheng system, settled state affairs, made bureaucratic establishments, and enacted laws; in the appointment of officials, he paid attention to appointing the talented, and punished the corrupted ones; in culture, he set up schools, attached importance to education, rewarded the scholars, and issued Phags-pa new Mongolian characters for enforcement; besides, he also set up posts all over the country and kept the traffic extending in all directions.
Kublai protected the trade route, and encouraged the cultural and economic communication with foreign countries. The series of measures rapidly renewed and developed the economy affected by the war, and pushed Yuan dynasty into a period at the height of power and splendor. Kublai is one of the most illustrious emperors in the Chinese history, and he is “self-possessed and acumen, his judgment is wise, his achievement is adorable, and he is above all the great men so far, and all the famous people pale by comparison with him.”