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Battles And Sieges

Dominions Of Genghis Khan

The Sultan Mohammed

Conquests In China

Temujin In Exile

The Monguls

Progress Of The Quarrel

The First Battle

The War With The Sultan

The Death Of Yemuka

The Fall Of Bokhara

Vang Khan

Pastoral Life In Asia

The Death Of Vang Khan


Victorious Campaigns

Adventures Of Prince Kushluk

Establishment Of The Empire

Rupture With Vang Khan

Yezonkai Khan

Vang Khan


Karakatay.--Vang Khan's dominions.--The cruel fate of Mergus.--His
wife's stratagem.--Nawr.--He falls into the snare.--Armed men in
ambuscade.--Death of Nawr.--Credibility of these tales.--Early life
of Vang Khan.--Reception of Temujin.--Prester John.--His letter to
the King of France.--Other letters.--The probable truth.--Temujin
and Vang Khan.

The country over which Vang Khan ruled was called Karakatay. It
bordered upon the country of Katay, which has already been mentioned
as forming the northern part of what is now China. Indeed, as its name
imports, it was considered in some sense as a portion of the same
general district of country. It was that part of Katay which was
inhabited by Tartars.

Vang Khan's name at first was Togrul. The name Vang Khan, which was,
in fact, a title rather than a name, was given him long afterward,
when he had attained to the height of his power. To avoid confusion,
however, we shall drop the name Togrul, and call him Vang Khan from
the beginning.

Vang Khan was descended from a powerful line of khans who had reigned
over Karakatay for many generations. These khans were a wild and
lawless race of men, continually fighting with each other, both for
mastery, and also for the plunder of each other's flocks and herds.
In this way most furious and cruel wars were often fought between near
relatives. Vang Khan's grandfather, whose name was Mergus, was taken
prisoner in one of these quarrels by another khan, who, though he was
a relative, was so much exasperated by something that Mergus had done
that he sent him away to a great distance to the king of a certain
country which is called Kurga, to be disposed of there. The King of
Kurga put him into a sack, sewed up the mouth of it, and then laid him
across the wooden image of an ass, and left him there to die of hunger
and suffocation.

The wife of Mergus was greatly enraged when she heard of the cruel
fate of her husband. She determined to be revenged. It seems that the
relative of her husband who had taken him prisoner, and had sent him
to the King of Kurga, had been her lover in former times before her
marriage; so she sent him a message, in which she dissembled her grief
for the loss of her husband, and only blamed the King of Kurga for his
cruel death, and then said that she had long felt an affection for
him, and that, if he continued of the same mind as when he had
formally addressed her, she was now willing to become his wife, and
offered, if he would come to a certain place, which she specified, to
meet her, she would join him there.

Nawr, for that was the chieftain's name, fell at once into the snare
which the beautiful widow thus laid for him. He immediately accepted
her proposals, and proceeded to the place of rendezvous. He went, of
course, attended by a suitable guard, though his guard was small, and
consisted chiefly of friends and personal attendants. The princess was
attended also by a guard, not large enough, however, to excite any
suspicion. She also took with her in her train a large number of
carts, which were to be drawn by bullocks, and which were laden with
stores of provisions, clothing, and other such valuables, intended as
a present for her new husband. Among these, however, there were a
large number of great barrels, or rounded receptacles of some sort, in
which she had concealed a considerable force of armed men. These
receptacles were so arranged that the men concealed in them could open
them from within in an instant, at a given signal, and issue forth
suddenly all armed and ready for action.

Among the other stores which the princess had provided, there was a
large supply of a certain intoxicating drink which the Monguls and
Tartars were accustomed to make in those days. As soon as the two
parties met at the place of rendezvous the princess gave Nawr a very
cordial greeting, and invited him and all his party to a feast, to be
partaken on the spot. The invitation was accepted, the stores of
provisions were opened, and many of the presents were unpacked and
displayed. At the feast Nawr and his party were all supplied
abundantly with the intoxicating liquor, which, as is usual in such
cases, they were easily led to drink to excess; while, on the other
hand, the princess's party, who knew what was coming, took good care
to keep themselves sober. At length, when the proper moment arrived,
the princess made the signal. In an instant the men who had been
placed in ambuscade in the barrels burst forth from their concealment
and rushed upon the guests at the feast. The princess herself, who was
all ready for action, drew a dagger from her girdle and stabbed Nawr
to the heart. Her guards, assisted by the re-enforcement which had so
suddenly appeared, slew or secured all his attendants, who were so
totally incapacitated, partly by the drink which they had taken, and
partly by their astonishment at the sudden appearance of so
overwhelming a force, that they were incapable of making any

The princess, having thus accomplished her revenge, marshaled her men,
packed up her pretended presents, and returned in triumph home.

Such stories as these, related by the Asiatic writers, though they
were probably often much embellished in the narration, had doubtless
all some foundation in fact, and they give us some faint idea of the
modes of life and action which prevailed among these half-savage
chieftains in those times. Vang Khan himself was the grandson of
Mergus, who was sewed up in the sack. His father was the oldest son of
the princess who contrived the above-narrated stratagem to revenge her
husband's death. It is said that he used to accompany his father to
the wars when he was only ten years old. The way in which he formed
his friendship for Yezonkai, and the alliance with him which led him
to call Temujin his son and to refuse to take his wife away from him,
as already related, was this: When his father died he succeeded to the
command, being the oldest son; but the others were jealous of him, and
after many and long quarrels with them and with other relatives,
especially with his uncle, who seemed to take the lead against him, he
was at last overpowered or outmanoeuvred, and was obliged to fly.
He took refuge, in his distress, in the country of Yezonkai. Yezonkai
received him in a very friendly manner, and gave him effectual
protection. After a time he furnished him with troops, and helped him
to recover his kingdom, and to drive his uncle away into banishment in
his turn. It was while he was thus in Yezonkai's dominions that he
became acquainted with Temujin, who was then very small, and it was
there that he learned to call him his son. Of course, now that Temujin
was obliged to fly himself from his native country and abandon his
hereditary dominions, as he had done before, he was glad of the
opportunity of requiting to the son the favor which he had received,
in precisely similar circumstances, from the father, and so he gave
Temujin a very kind reception.

There is another circumstance which is somewhat curious in respect to
Vang Khan, and that is, that he is generally supposed to be the prince
whose fame was about this period spread all over Europe, under the
name of Prester John, by the Christian missionaries in Asia. These
missionaries sent to the Pope, and to various Christian kings in
Europe, very exaggerated accounts of the success of their missions
among the Persians, Turks, and Tartars; and at last they wrote word
that the great Khan of the Tartars had become a convert, and had even
become a preacher of the Gospel, and had taken the name of Prester
John. The word prester was understood to be a corruption of
presbyter. A great deal was accordingly written and said all through
Christendom about the great Tartar convert, Prester John. There were
several letters forwarded by the missionaries, professedly from him,
and addressed to the Pope and to the different kings of Europe. Some
of these letters, it is said, are still in existence. One of them was
to the King of France. In this letter the writer tells the King of
France of his great wealth and of the vastness of his dominions. He
says he has seventy kings to serve and wait upon him. He invites the
King of France to come and see him, promising to bestow a great
kingdom upon him if he will, and also to make him his heir and leave
all his dominions to him when he dies; with a great deal more of the
same general character.

The other letters were much the same, and the interest which they
naturally excited was increased by the accounts which the missionaries
gave of the greatness and renown of this more than royal convert, and
of the progress which Christianity had made and was still making in
his dominions through their instrumentality.

It is supposed, in modern times, that these stories were pretty much
all inventions on the part of the missionaries, or, at least, that the
accounts which they sent were greatly exaggerated and embellished; and
there is but little doubt that they had much more to do with the
authorship of the letters than any khan. Still, however, it is
supposed that there was a great prince who at least encouraged the
missionaries in their work, and allowed them to preach Christianity in
his dominions, and, if so, there is little doubt that Vang Khan was
the man.

At all events, he was a very great and powerful prince, and he reigned
over a wide extent of country. The name of his capital was Karakorom.
The distance which Temujin had to travel to reach this city was about
ten days' journey.

He was received by Vang Khan with great marks of kindness and
consideration. Vang Khan promised to protect him, and, in due time, to
assist him in recovering his kingdom. In the mean while Temujin
promised to enter at once into Vang Khan's service, and to devote
himself faithfully to promoting the interests of his kind protector by
every means in his power.

Next: Temujin In Exile

Previous: The First Battle

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