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Four Oirats

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Title: Four Oirats  
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Subject: Northern Yuan dynasty, History of Mongolia, Kara Del, List of Mongol states, History of the Khitans
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Four Oirats

Alliance of the Four Oirats
Дөрвөн Ойрд
Dorben Oirad



Mongol states, XIV-XVII: 1. Mongolian Khaganate 2. Four Oirat 3. Moghulistan 4. Kara Del
Capital Not specified
Languages Mongolic
Religion Shamanism
later Buddhism
Government Monarchy
Taishi Mönkhtömör (Möngke-Temür)
Togoon (Toghan)
Esen taishi
Legislature Customary rules[1]

Mongol-Oirat Code

Historical era Postclassical to early modern period
 -  Möngke-Temür places himself at the head of the Oirats. before 1399 1399
 -  The Oirats overthrow a Genghisid Khagan. 1399
 -  Esen Tayishi becomes Emperor of the Mongols. 1455
 -  Movement of the Torghuds to the Volga. 1616–17
 -  Establishments of the Dzungar Khanate and the Khoshut Khanate 1630s
 -  Disestablished 1634
 -  XIV-XVI 1,000,000 km² (386,102 sq mi)
 -  XVII 1,600,000 km² (617,763 sq mi)
Today part of  Mongolia

The Four Oirat (Dorben Oirad), Alliance of the Four Oirat tribes or the Oirat confederation (Oirads; Mongolian: Дөрвөн Ойрад; in the past, also Eleuths) was the confederation of the Oirat tribes, which marked the rise of the Western Mongols in Mongolian history.

Despite the universal currency of the term Four Oirat among Dorbet and Khoid tribes,[2] there is a theory that the Oirats were not consanguineous units but political-ethnic units, composed of many patrilineages.[3]


The Oirats were one of the forest peoples who lived in west of the Mongols of Genghis Khan. They submitted to Genghis in 1207 and played prominent roles in the history of the Mongol Empire.

After the overthrow of the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), Möngke-Temür, a high official of the Yuan, had placed himself at the head of the Oirats. When he died, three chieftains, Mahamu (Mahmud), Taiping and Batu-bolad, ruled them.[4] They sent envoys with gifts to the Ming dynasty. In 1409, Yongle Emperor (r.1402-24) bestowed upon them the title of wang in return. The Oirats began to challenge the Borjigin Emperors in the reign of Elbeg Khan (c.1394-99).

It is curious to find one of the 3 chief was with Muslim name, Mahmud. Before 1640, the Oirats had been wavering between the two faiths, Islam and Buddhism. Both these creeds had supporters among the pagan Oirats.[5]


The Chinese Yongle Emperor demanded Öljei Temür Khan Bunyashiri to accept his supremacy in 1409 but Öljei Temür refused and defeated a Ming force the next year. In 1412 a large force under Yongle forced Öljei Temür Khan to flee westward. The Oirats led by Mahamu of Choros killed Öljei Temür who suffered great loss.[6]

The Western Mongols had Delbeg Khan, a descendant of Ariq Böke, whose family had been relegated to Mongolia during the Yuan, crowned. However, the Eastern Mongols under Arugtai of the Asud refused to accept the new khan and they were in constant war with each other. The Ming dynasty intervened aggressively against any overpowerful Mongol leader, exacerbating the Mongol-Oirat conflict.

In 1408 Mahamu was succeeded by his son Toghan, who continued his strife with Arugtai chingsang. By 1437, Toghan had totally defeated Arugtai and an Ögedeid Emperor Adai Khan. Toghan made Genghisid princes his puppet khans of the Northern Yuan dynasty. When he died in 1438, his son Esen became a taishi. The Oirats had close relations with Moghulistan and Hami where the Chagatayid Khans reigned. From the Ming chronicles, it is known that the Oirats conducted regular raids on those areas. Esen crushed the Moghulistan and Hami monarchs and forced them to accept him as their overlord. He also conquered Outer and Inner Mongolia and subjugated the Jurchens in Manchuria. The Ming Emperor Zhengtong was captured by Esen in 1449. During his reign, the Oirat headquarters was centered on north-west Mongolia and Barkol and the Irtysh were the western limits of their settlement. Esen relied on Muslim merchants from Samarkand, Hami and Turpan and his own royal house: Choros was related to Moghulistan according to a myth. After murdering Khagan Agbarjin, Esen took the title khan for himself. But soon after he was overthrown by the Oirat noblemen and killed by a son of a man whom he executed.


Esen's death broke up the unity of the Oirats. They now warred with each other for leadership. Esen's son Amasanj moved west, pillaging the lands of Hami, Moghulistan and the Uzbegs.[7]

From 1480 on, the Eastern Mongols under Mandukhai Khatun and Dayan Khan pushed the Oirats westward. By 1510 Dayan Khan had unified the entire Mongol nation including Oirats. However, the Khalkhas and some princes of southwest Inner Mongolia repeatedly launched massive attacks on the Oirats and looted their properties in the Irtysh, Barkol and Altai from 1552-1628. The Oirats were still powerful in Mongolia even after the fall of Esen and continued to hold Karakorum until the 16th century when Altan Khan recaptured the city from the hands of the Oirats. Oppressed and subjugated by Altan Khan of the Khalkha, Oirat confederation crushed the Khalkha prince Sholoi Ubaashi Khungtaiji perhaps around 1623.


The collapse of the confederation of the Oirats began with Torghuds, along with the Dorbets and a few Khoshud clansmen, seceding from the union. In 1628 the Turkic peoples of Manghyslak and Caspian Sea. They colonized the Volga Delta and occupied whole steppes north of the Caspian, establishing the Kalmyk Khanate.[9] The Kalmyks plundered the Khanate of Khiva from 1603-70. The Kalmyk Khanate proved good allies to the Russian Empire.

The Khoshuud khan Güshi went to Qinghai (Koke Nuur) in 1636. He increased his possessions in Tibet and Amdo. Güshi Khan protected the Dalai Lama Nag-dBang bLo-bzang and his Yellow Church from the old red clergy of the Tibetan Buddhism.[10] The Khoshuuds defeated the enemy of the Dalai Lama and Güshi Khan appointed his son ruler of Tibet.[11]

About 1620 the Choros scattered after bitter fighting with the Khalkha Altan Khan. Some of the Choros fled with a body of the Dorbed northwad into Siberia and present-day Baranaoul. But the majority of the Choros with the Dorbeds and the Khoids settled in the region of the Black Irtysh, the Urungu, the Imil, and the Ili, forming the Zunghar Empire.[12]

In 1640 the Oirats and the Khalkha made peace and formed an alliance, issuing new code, the Mongol-Oirat code. Led by the Khoshuud nobility, the Oirats began to convert to Buddhism. They became the chief defenders of the Dalai and Panchen Lamas. The Oirats who used the Mongolian script adopted in 1648-49 the clear script designed by the Oirat cleric and scholar Zaya Pandita Namkhaijamtsu.

Despite their geographical distribution, the Oirats maintained strong ties with each other and remained powerful players of Inner Asian politics until 1771.[13]

Leaders of the Oirat alliance

  • Mönkhtömör (c. 1368–1390s) Möngke-Temür)
  • Örögtömör (c. 1399) (Mongolian: Ögöchi Khashikha; Ugetchi Khashikha)
  • Khuuhai Dayuu
  • Batula; title: chinsan, (Bahamu, Mahamud) (1399–1408)
  • Togoon (1408–1438)
  • Esen (1438–1454)
  • Amasanj (1454–1455)
  • Ishtömör (Ush-Temür, Ish-Temür) (1455–1469)
  • Khishig
  • Arkhan
  • Büüvei
  • Khongor; Khan Khongor noyon; title: noyon
  • Abai khatan
  • Kharkhul


  1. ^ William Elliott Butler-The Mongolian legal system, p.3
  2. ^ René Grousset Empire of Steppes, p.341
  3. ^ C. P. Atwood Enc, p.310
  4. ^ E. Bretschneider-Mediaeval Researches from Eastern Asiatic Sources,p.161
  5. ^ Fred Walter Bergholz The partition of the steppe, p.52
  6. ^ Altan tobchi, p.158
  7. ^ Dmitri Pokotilov, Wolfgang Franke History of the Eastern Mongols During the Ming Dynasty from 1368 to 1634, p.31
  8. ^ René Grousset The Empire of the Steppes, p.521
  9. ^ Stephan Thernstrom, Ann Orlov, Oscar Harvard encyclopedia of American ethnic groups, p.599
  10. ^ Charles Sherring, Thomas George Longstaff Western Tibet and the British Border Land, p.246
  11. ^ Rolf Alfred Stein, J. E. Driver Tibetan civilization, p.82
  12. ^ Fred Walter Bergholz The partition of the steppe, p.353
  13. ^ C. P. Atwood Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire, p.421
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