The Advance of the Mongols: 6 Campaigns That Built the World's Largest Land Empire
The Advance of the Mongols: 6 Campaigns That Built the World’s Largest Land Empire

The Advance of the Mongols: 6 Campaigns That Built the World’s Largest Land Empire

Kurt Christopher - July 13, 2017

The Advance of the Mongols: 6 Campaigns That Built the World’s Largest Land Empire
Depiction of Mongol soldiers facing Song Chinese rockets. Quora

The Subjugation of Song China

While Mongols were engaged in subduing the Jin Chinese they had maintained an alliance with the Song Dynasty in southern China, but a territory dispute between the two over the spoils of the defeated Jin precipitated a war between the former allies in 1235. Unlike previous Mongol campaigns, the Song Chinese would prove resilient and hold out against the Mongols for over forty years. For sixteen years the Mongols struggled just to get a handhold in the Song territories near Chengdu. When Mongke Khan came to power in 1251 he would reenergize the Mongol efforts to master the Song dynasty.

While Mongke Khan had charged his brother Hulegu with incorporating the Middle East into the empire, for Mongke that was more of a side show. China was far more important to Mongke, so much so that he would personally lead the campaign there along with his brother Kublai. Together the brothers would take Tibet and the Kingdom of Dali, but the Mongols would suffer a disaster in 1259 when Mongke succumbed to an illness during a failed attack on the Diaoyu Fortress in Sichuan.

Kublai would take up the position of Khan after Mongke’s death, committed to pursuing the campaign against the Song to its conclusion. He found an unlikely ally in the general leading the Diaoyu Fortress that had just defeated Mongke. Unhappy with the Song dynasty’s chilly reaction to his defense against the Mongols, this general defected to Kublai and guided them to the Song weak point at Xiangyang. Kublai heeded this advice and, with the help of some Arab siege engineers imported from Hulegu’s conquests, captured the city.

The siege of Xiangyang had been a long ordeal for the Mongols, the city had managed to hold out for years. But it was even more exhausting for the Song Chinese. One attempt to relieve the city after another had been massacred by the Mongols. After Xiangyang fell the Song would commit to one final decisive battle at Yuhue, but their forces had been so seriously depleted at Xiangyang that they no longer had the ability to put together real resistance. In 1276 the Song dynasty capitulated to the Mongols, and Kublai Khan took on the title of Emperor of China.

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