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Mongol conquest of the Jin dynasty

Mongol conquest of the Jin dynasty

One of major battles at the Badger Mouth during the Mongol–Jin War.
Date 1211-1234
Location North China, Manchuria
Result Complete Mongol victory, destruction of the Jin dynasty
Mongol Empire Song dynasty (1233-34) The Jin dynasty


Western Xia (1225-1227)
Commanders and leaders
Genghis Khan
Boal (Bor)
Emperor Weishaowang of Jin  
Emperor Xuanzong of Jin  
Li Ying
Moran Jinzhong
Emperor Aizong of Jin 
Wanyan Heda
Puxian Wannu
Pucha Guannu
Ma Yong
Emperor Modi of Jin  
Approx 90,000-120,000 horse archers
Song dynasty lent 300,000 soldiers to the Mongols in 1234 after the death of Genghis Khan.
Casualties and losses
Moderately heavy casualties, most killed at Kaifeng unknown

The Mongol conquest of the Jin dynasty (Chinese: 蒙金戰爭), also known as the Mongol-Jin War, lasted over 23 years and the Jin dynasty finally fell in 1234, the year that the Mongol Empire had claimed the total conquest of the Jin, thus completing their control of the whole area of northern China.


  • Background 1
  • Mongol conquest under Genghis Khan 2
    • Muqali's advance 2.1
  • Mongol conquest under Ögedei Khan 3
    • The fall of the Jin dynasty 3.1
  • See also 4
  • References 5


The Jin collected tribute from some of the steppe tribes and encouraged rivalries amongst them. When the Mongols were unified under Khabul Khan in the 12th century, the Jin encouraged the Tatars to destroy them, but the Mongols were able to drive the Jin forces out of their territory. The Tatars eventually captured Khabul's successor Ambaghai Khan and handed him over to the Jurchen court, who nailed him to a wooden mule. The Jin forces conducted regular punitive expeditions against the nomads, either enslaving or killing them.

In 1210, a delegation arrived at the court of Genghis Khan (r.1206-27) to proclaim the ascension of a new Jin Emperor to the Jurchen throne and demanded the submission of the Mongols as a vassal state. Because the Jurchens defeated the powerful steppe nomads and allied with the Keraits and the Tatars, they claimed sovereignty over all the tribes of the steppe. High court officials of the Jin deserted to the Mongols and urged Genghis Khan to attack the Jin. The biographer of Genghis, Jack Weatherford, describes the Mongol efficacy: "The second unique characteristic of the Mongol army was that it traveled without a commissary of cumbersome supply train other than its large reserve of horses that always accompanied the soldiers." [1] But fearful of a trap or some other nefarious scheme, Genghis Khan refused. Upon receiving the order to demonstrate submission, Genghis is reported to have turned to the south and spat on the ground; then he mounted his horse, and rode toward the north, leaving the stunned envoy choking in his dust. His defiance of the Jin envoys was tantamount to a declaration of war between the Mongols and the Jurchens.[2]

Mongol cavalry battle Jin warriors

After Genghis Khan returned to [3]

Emperor Weishaowang of Jin, angry on hearing how Genghis Khan behaved, sent the message to Genghis that "Our Empire is like the sea; yours is but a handful of sand...How can we fear from you?".[4]

Mongol conquest under Genghis Khan

When the conquest of Tangut started, there were multiple raids between 1207-1209.[5] When the Mongols invaded Jin territory in 1211, Ala 'Qush, the chief of the Ongut, supported Genghis Khan and showed him a safe road to the heart of Jin. The first important battle between the Mongol Empire and the Jin dynasty was the Battle of the Badger Mouth, a mountain pass in Zhangjiakou, which took place in 1211. There the Jin commander made a tactical mistake in not attacking the Mongols at the first opportunity. Instead, he sent a messenger to the Mongol side, Ming-Tan, who promptly defected and told the Mongols that the Jin army was waiting on the other side of the pass. At this engagement, fought at Badger Pass, the Mongols massacred thousands of Jin troops. Mongols learned at an early age to always fight on the move. They would pass through towns to draw their opponent away from their animals. When they fell for the Mongol army's trap, the Mongols would kill them and take their animals.[6] While Genghis headed southward, his general Jebe travelled even further east into Manchuria and captured Mukden (Shenyang). However, Genghis Khan was wounded by an arrow in his knee in 1212 after the Mongols returned from their relaxation in the borderlands between grass and Gobi.[7] The Khitan leader Liu-ke had declared his allegiance to Genghis in 1212 and freed Manchuria from the Jin.

When the Mongol army besieged Zhongdu (Beijing) in 1213, Li Ying, Li Xiong and a few other Jin generals assembled a militia of more than 10,000 men who inflicted several defeats on the Mongols. The Mongols smashed the Jin armies, each numbering in the hundreds of thousands, and broke through Juyongguan Pass and Zijingkou Gap by November 1213.[8] From 1213 through spring 1214, the Mongols pillaged the entire North China plain. In 1214, Genghis Khan surrounded the court of the Golden Khan in Zhongdu, China.[9] The Jin general Heishilie Hushahu had murdered the emperor Wanyan Yongji and enthroned his nephew Wanyang Xun. When the Mongols besieged the capital, Zhongdu and the Jin temporarily agreed to become tributary of the Mongols, presenting a Jin princess to Genghis Khan. But when the Mongols withdrew in 1214, believing the war was over after being given a large tribute by the Jin, Li Ying wanted to ambush them on the way with his forces (which had grown to several tens of thousands). However, the Jin emperor Aizong (Wanyan Shouxu) was afraid of offending the Mongols again and stopped him. The emperor and Shuhu Gaoqi then decided to shift the capital south to Kaifeng, above the objections of many courtiers including Li Ying. From then on, the Jin were strictly on the defensive and Zhongdu fell to the Mongols in 1215. By 1215, under Mongol pressure, the Jin were forced to move their capital south from Beijing to Kaifeng, where the Mongols extinguished the Jin dynasty in 1234.

After the shift of the Jin capital to Kaifeng, Prime Minister Wanyan Chenghui and General Moran Jinzhong were left to guard Zhongdu. At this point, one of the Jin armies defected to the Mongols and launched an attack on Zhongdu from the south, taking the Lugou Bridge. Genghis Khan then dispatched his troops to attack Zhongdu again, led by the surrendered Khitan generals Shimo Ming'an, Yelu Ahai, and the Tuhua brothers. Moran Jingzhong's second-in-command, Pucha Qijin, surrendered to the Mongols with all the troops under him, throwing Zhongdu into crisis. The Jin emperor then sent reinforcements north: Yongxi leading the troops from Zhending and Zhongshan (numbers not given), and Wugulun Qingshou leading 18,000 Imperial Guards, 11,000 infantry and cavalry from the southwestern route, and 10,000 soldiers from Hebei, with Li Ying in charge of the supply train. Zhongdu fell to the Mongols on May 31, 1215. Then they systematically rooted out all resistance in Shanxi, Hebei and Shangdong from 1217-23. Fortunately for the Jin, Genghis turned his attention to another event in Central Asia and Persia.

When Shuhu Gaoqi was in control of the imperial court in 1217, he foolishly decided to invade the Southern Song for the first time in nearly 30 years. This war lasted until 1224 and was a total failure for the Jin. In 1219, Botohuitarhun, a women chief took one of Genghis Khan's Mongol troop captive and sent one of his trusted general, with help of a small group of well knowledgeable soldiers to find out what happened.[10] In 1224, the Wanyan Shouxu declared that the Jin would never again invade the Song. But the damage had already been done - the Jin forces had been split between north and south at a critical stage in the war with the Mongols when Zhongdu, Hebei and Shandong had fallen and Shanxi was being attacked. Many Khitan mercenaries left the Jurchen armies and joined Genghis Khan.

Mongol Empire in 1227 at Genghis Khan's death

Muqali's advance

In 1223, the Mongol general Muqali had struck into Shaanxi, attacking Chang'an when Chingis was campaigning in Khorazm. The garrison in Chang'an, 200,000 under Wanyan Heda, was too strong and Muqali had to turn to besieging Fengxian with 100,000 men. The siege dragged on for months and the Mongols were harassed by local militia, while Jin reinforcements were about to arrive. Muqali then died of illness, and the Mongols retreated. This was the siege in which the Xi Xia troops supporting the Mongols gave up and went home, incurring the wrath of Genghis Khan. In the wars against the Mongols, therefore, the Jin relied heavily on subjects or allies like the Uighurs, Tanguts and Khitans to supply cavalry.

Mongol conquest under Ögedei Khan

Ögedei (r.1229-41), the son of Genghis Khan and the Great Khan of the Mongols

When Ögedei ascended the throne, he rebuffed Jin offers of peace talks. The Jin officers murdered Mongol envoys.[11] The Kheshig commander Doqolqu was dispatched to attempt a frontal attack on Tongguan Pass, but Wanyan Heda defeated him and forced Subutai to withdraw in 1230. In 1231, the Mongols attacked again and finally took Fengxiang. The Jin garrison in Chang'an panicked and abandoned the city, pulling back to Henan with all the city's population. One month later, the Mongols decided to use a three-pronged attack to converge on Kaifeng from north, east and west. The western force under Tolui would start from Fengxiang, enter the Tong Pass, and then pass through Song territory at the Han River (near Xiangyang) to reemerge south of Kaifeng to catch the Jin by surprise.

The Chinese used fire arrows against the Mongols during the defence of Kaifeng in 1232. The Mongols later adopted this weapon in later conquests.[12]

In 1233, after Wanyan Shouxu (the Jin emperor Aizong) had abandoned Kaifeng and failed to raise a new army for himself in Hebei, he returned to Henan and established his base in Gui'de (present-day Anyang). Scattered Jin armies began to gather at Gui'de from the surrounding region and Hebei, and the supplies in the city could no longer feed all these soldiers. Thus Wanyan Shouxu left only 450 Han Chinese troops (Zhongxiao Jun) under Commander in Chief Pucha Guannu and 280 men under Commander Ma Yong to guard the city, and dispersed the rest of the troops to forage in Su (in Anhui), Xu (modern Xuzhou in Jiangsu), and Chen (modern Huaiyang in Henan).

Pucha Guannu then launched a coup with his troops, killing Ma Yong and more than 300 other courtiers, as well as about 3,000 officers, palace guards and civilians who refused to cooperate with him. He made the emperor his puppet and became the real master of the imperial court. At this point the Mongols had arrived outside Gui'de and were preparing to besiege the city. The Mongol general Sajisibuhua had set up camp north of the city, on the bank of a river. Guannu then led his 450 troops out on boats from the southern gate at night, armed with fire-lances (huoqiang). They rowed along the river by the eastern side of the city, reaching the Mongol camp early in the morning. Wanyan Shouxu watched the battle from the northern gate of the city, with his imperial boat prepared for him to flee to Xuzhou if the Jin troops were defeated.

The Jin troops assaulted the Mongol camp from two directions, using their fire-lances to throw the Mongols into a panic. More than 3,500 Mongols drowned in the river while trying to flee, and the Mongol stockades were all burned to the ground. Sajisibuhua was also killed in the battle. Guannu had achieved a remarkable victory and was promoted by the emperor (who after all was under his control). But Gui'de was not defensible in the long term, and the other courtiers urged the emperor to move to Caizhou, which had stronger walls and more provisions and troops. Pucha Guannu opposed the move, afraid that his power base would be weakened and arguing that Caizhou's advantages had been overstated.

Three months later, Wanyan Shouxu used a plot to assassinate Guannu, and then quickly began preparations to move to Caizhou. By the time new reports reached him that Caizhou was still too weak in defences, troops and supplies, he was already on the way there. The fate of the Jin dynasty was then sealed for good, despite the earlier victory against great odds at Gui'de.

Wanyan Heda learned of this plan and led 200,000 men to intercept Tolui. At Dengzhou, he set an ambush in a valley with several tens of thousands of cavalry hidden behind the crest of either mountain, but Tolui's spies alerted him and he kept his main force with the supply train, sending only a smaller force of light cavalry to skirt around the valley and attack the Jin troops from behind. Wanyan Heda saw that his plan had been foiled and prepared his troops for a Mongol assault. At Mount Yu, southwest of Dengzhou, the two armies met in a pitched battle. The Jin army had an advantage in numbers, and fought fiercely. The Mongols then withdrew from Mount Yu by about 30 li, and Tolui changed his strategy. Leaving a part of his force to keep Wanyan Heda occupied, he sent most of his men to strike northwards at Kaifeng in several dispersed contingents to avoid alerting Heda.

On the way from Dengzhou to Kaifeng, the Mongols easily took county after county, and burned all the supplies they captured so as to cut off Wanyan Heda's supply lines. Heda was forced to withdraw, and ran into the Mongols at Three-peaked Hill in Junzhou. At this point, the Jin troops on the Yellow River were also diverted southwards to meet Tolui's attack, and the Mongol northern force under Khan Ögodei seized this opportunity to cross the frozen river and join up with Tolui - even at this point, their combined strength was only about 50,000. By 1232 the Jin Emperor was besieged in his capital of Kaifeng. They together smashed the Jin forces. Ögedei soon departed, leaving the final conquest to his generals.

The fall of the Jin dynasty

Wanyan Heda's Jin army still had more than 100,000 men after the battle at Mount Yu, and the Mongols adopted a strategy of exhausting the enemy. The Jin troops had little rest all the way from Dengzhou, and had not eaten for three days because of the severing of their supply lines. Their morale was plummeting and their commanders were losing confidence. When they reached Three-peaked Hill, a snowstorm suddenly broke out, and it was so cold that the faces of the Jin troops went as white as corpses, and they could hardly march. Rather than attack them when they were desperate with their backs to the wall, the Mongols left them an escape route and then ambushed them when they let down their guard during the retreat. The Jin army collapsed without a fight, and the Mongols pursued the fleeing Jin troops relentlessly. Wanyan Heda was killed, and most of his commanders also lost their lives. After the Battle of Three-peaked Hill, Kaifeng was doomed and the Jin emperor soon abandoned the city and entered Hebei in a vain attempt to reestablish himself there. Thousands of people—offered a stubborn resistance to the Mongols, who entrusted the conduct of the attack to Subutai, the most daring of all their commanders. The Jin Emperor was driven south again, and by this time Kaifeng had been taken by the Mongols so he established his new capital at Caizhou (Runan, in Henan). Subutai wished to massacre the whole of the population. But fortunately for the Khitan, Yelü Chucai was more humane, and under his advice Ögedei rejected the cruel proposal.

The Song, wishing to give them the coup de grâce, declared war upon the Jin, and placed a large army in the field under their best general, Mongkong. The remainder of the Jurchen army, under their sovereign Ninkiassu, took shelter in Caizhou, where they were closely besieged by the Mongols on one side and the Song on the other. Driven thus into a corner, the Jins fought with the courage of despair and long held out against the combined efforts of their enemies. At last Ninkiassu saw that the struggle could not be prolonged, and he prepared himself to end his life. When the enemy broke into the city, he heard the stormers at the gate of his palace. Wanyan Shouxu committed suicide, and the Jin dynasty was finally destroyed. He retired to an upper chamber and set fire to the building. Many of his generals, and even of his soldiers, followed his example, preferring to end their existence rather than to add to the triumph of their Mongol and Song opponents. Thus came to an end in 1234 the famous dynasty of the Jurchens.

See also


  1. ^ Jack Weatherford, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2004), 86
  2. ^ Weatherford 2004 p.83
  3. ^ The secret history of the Mongols
  4. ^ Meng Ta Peu Lu Aufzeichnungen über die Mongolischen Tatan von Chao Hung, 1221, p.61
  5. ^ Weatherford 2004 p85
  6. ^ Weatherford 2004) p95.
  7. ^ John Man Genghis Khan, p.158
  8. ^ C. P. Atwood Encyclopedia of Mongol and the Mongol Empire, p.277
  9. ^ Weatherford 2004 p96.
  10. ^ Jack Weatherford, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2004), 102
  11. ^ Herbert Franke, Denis Twitchett, John King Fairbank The Cambridge History of China: Volume 6, Alien Regimes and Border States, p.263
  12. ^ Gloria Skurzynski (2010). This Is Rocket Science: True Stories of the Risk-Taking Scientists Who Figure Out Ways to Explore Beyond Earth (illustrated ed.). National Geographic Books. p. 1958.  
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