Conquests In China


War continued.--Rich and fertile country.--Grand invasion.--Simultaneous

attack by four armies.--Enthusiasm of the troops.--Captives.--Immense

plunder.--Dreadful ravages.--Base use made of the captives.--Extent

of Mongul conquests.--The siege of Yen-king.--Proposed terms of

arrangement.--Difference of opinion.--Consultation on the subject.--The

conditions accepted.--Terms of peace agreed upon.--

emperor's uneasiness.--Abandonment of the capital.--Revolt of the

guards.--The siege of the capital renewed.--Wan-yen and Mon-yen.--Their

perplexity.--Suicide proposed.--Wan-yen in despair.--His

suicide.--Mon-yen's plan.--Petition of the wives.--Sacking of the city

by Mingan.--Massacres.--Fate of Mon-yen.--Treasures.--Conquests

extended.--Governors appointed.

After the death of Hujaku, the Emperor of China endeavored to defend

his dominions against Genghis Khan by means of his other generals, and

the war was continued for several years, during which time Genghis

Khan made himself master of all the northern part of China, and

ravaged the whole country in the most reckless and cruel manner. The

country was very populous and very rich. The people, unlike the

Monguls and Tartars, lived by tilling the ground, and they practiced,

in great perfection, many manufacturing and mechanic arts. The country

was very fertile, and, in the place of the boundless pasturages of the

Mongul territories, it was covered in all directions with cultivated

fields, gardens, orchards, and mulberry-groves, while thriving

villages and busy towns were scattered over the whole face of it. It

was to protect this busy hive of wealth and industry that the great

wall had been built ages before; for the Chinese had always been

stationary, industrious, and peaceful, while the territories of

Central Asia, lying to the north of them, had been filled from time

immemorial with wild, roaming, and unscrupulous troops of marauders,

like those who were now united under the banner of Genghis Khan. The

wall had afforded for some hundreds of years an adequate protection,

for no commander had appeared of sufficient power to organize and

combine the various hordes on a scale great enough to enable them to

force so strong a barrier. But, now that Genghis Khan had come upon

the stage, the barrier was broken through, and the terrible and

reckless hordes poured in with all the force and fury of an

inundation. In the year 1214, which was the year following that in

which Hujaku was killed, Genghis Khan organized a force so large, for

the invasion of China, that he divided it into four different

battalions, which were to enter by different roads, and ravage

different portions of the country. Each of these divisions was by

itself a great and powerful army, and the simultaneous invasion of

four such masses of reckless and merciless enemies filled the whole

land with terror and dismay.

The Chinese emperor sent the best bodies of troops under his command

to guard the passes in the mountains, and the bridges and

fording-places on the rivers, hoping in this way to do something

toward stemming the tide of these torrents of invasion. But it was all

in vain. Genghis Khan had raised and equipped his forces by means, in

a great measure, of the plunder which he had obtained in China the

year before, and he had made great promises and glowing

representations to his men in respect to the booty to be obtained in

this new campaign. The troops were consequently full of ardor and

enthusiasm, and they pressed on with such impetuosity as to carry all

before them.

The Emperor of China, in pursuing his measures of defense, had ordered

all the men capable of bearing arms in the villages and in the open

country to repair to the nearest large city or fortress, there to be

enrolled and equipped for service. The consequence was that the

Monguls found in many places, as they advanced through the country,

nobody but infirm old men, and women and children in the hamlets and

villages. A great many of these, especially such as seemed to be of

most consequence, the handsomest and best of the women, and the oldest

children, they seized and took with them in continuing their march,

intending to make slaves of them. They also took possession of all

the gold and silver, and also of all the silks and other rich and

valuable merchandise which they found, and distributed it as plunder.

The spoil which they obtained, too, in sheep and cattle, was enormous.

From it they made up immense flocks and herds, which were driven off

into the Mongul country. The rest were slaughtered, and used to supply

the army with food.

It was the custom of the invaders, after having pillaged a town and

its environs, and taken away all which they could convert to any

useful purpose for themselves, to burn the town itself, and then to

march on, leaving in the place only a smoking heap of ruins, with the

miserable remnant of the population which they had spared wandering

about the scene of desolation in misery and despair.

They made a most cowardly and atrocious use, too, of the prisoners

whom they conveyed away. When they arrived at a fortified town where

there was a garrison or any other armed force prepared to resist them,

they would bring forward these helpless captives, and put them in the

fore-front of the battle in such a manner that the men on the walls

could not shoot their arrows at their savage assailants without

killing their own wives and children. The officers commanded the men

to fire notwithstanding. But they were so moved by the piteous cries

which the women and children made that they could not bear to do it,

and so they refused to obey, and in the excitement and confusion thus

produced the Monguls easily obtained possession of the town.

There are two great rivers in China, both of which flow from west

to east, and they are at such a distance from each other and from

the frontiers that they divide the territory into three nearly equal

parts. The northernmost of these rivers is the Hoang Ho. The Monguls

in the course of two years overran and made themselves masters of

almost the whole country lying north of this river, that is, of

about one third of China proper. There were, however, some

strongly-fortified towns which they found it very difficult to


Among other places, there was the imperial city of Yen-king, where the

emperor himself resided, which was so strongly defended that for some

time the Monguls did not venture to attack it. At length, however,

Genghis Khan came himself to the place, and concentrated there a very

large force. The emperor and his court were very much alarmed,

expecting an immediate assault. Still Genghis Khan hesitated. Some of

his generals urged him to scale the walls, and so force his way into

the city. But he thought it more politic to adopt a different plan.

So he sent an officer into the town with proposals of peace to be

communicated to the emperor. In these proposals Genghis Khan said that

he himself was inclined to spare the town, but that to appease his

soldiers, who were furious to attack and pillage the city, it would be

necessary to make them considerable presents, and that, if the emperor

would agree to such terms with him as should enable him to satisfy his

men in this respect, he would spare the city and would retire.

The emperor and his advisers were much perplexed at the receipt of

this proposal. There was great difference of opinion among the

counselors in respect to the reply which was to be made to it. Some

were in favor of rejecting it at once. One general, not content with a

simple rejection of it, proposed that, to show the indignation and

resentment which they felt in receiving it, the garrison should march

out of the gates and attack the Monguls in their camp.

There were other ministers, however, who urged the emperor to submit

to the necessity of the case, and make peace with the conqueror. They

said that the idea of going out to attack the enemy in their camp was

too desperate to be entertained for a moment, and if they waited

within the walls and attempted to defend themselves there, they

exposed themselves to a terrible danger, without any countervailing

hope of advantage at all commensurate with it; for if they failed to

save the city they were all utterly and irretrievably ruined; and if,

on the other hand, they succeeded in repelling the assault, it was

only a brief respite that they could hope to gain, for the Monguls

would soon return in greater numbers and in a higher state of

excitement and fury than ever. Besides, they said, the garrison was

discontented and depressed in spirit, and would make but a feeble

resistance. It was composed mainly of troops brought in from the

country, away from their families and homes, and all that they desired

was to be released from duty, in order that they might go and see what

had become of their wives and children.

The emperor, in the end, adopted this counsel, and he sent a

commissioner to the camp of Genghis Khan to ask on what terms peace

could be made. Genghis Khan stated the conditions. They were very

hard, but the emperor was compelled to submit to them. One of the

stipulations was that Genghis Khan was to receive one of the Chinese

princesses, a daughter of the late emperor Yong-tsi, to add to the

number of his wives. There were also to be delivered to him for slaves

five hundred young boys and as many girls, three thousand horses, a

large quantity of silk, and an immense sum of money. As soon as these

conditions were fulfilled, after dividing the slaves and the booty

among the officers and soldiers of his army, Genghis Khan raised the

siege and moved off to the northward.

In respect to the captives that his soldiers had taken in the towns

and villages--the women and children spoken of above--the army carried

off with them all that were old enough to be of any value as slaves.

The little children, who would only, they thought, be in the way, they


The emperor was by no means easy after the Mongul army had gone. A

marauding enemy like that, bought off by the payment of a ransom, is

exceedingly apt to find some pretext for returning, and the emperor

did not feel that he was safe. Very soon after the Monguls had

withdrawn, he proposed to his council the plan of removing his court

southward to the other side of the Hoang Ho, to a large city in the

province of Henan. Some of his counselors made great objections to

this proposal. They said that if the emperor withdrew in that manner

from the northern provinces that portion of his empire would be

irretrievably lost. Genghis Khan would soon obtain complete and

undisputed possession of the whole of it. The proper course to be

adopted, they said, was to remain and make a firm stand in defense of

the capital and of the country. They must levy new troops, repair the

fortifications, recruit the garrison, and lay in supplies of food and

of other military stores, and thus prepare themselves for a vigorous

and efficient resistance in case the enemy should return.

But the emperor could not be persuaded. He said that the treasury was

exhausted, the troops were discouraged, the cities around the capital

were destroyed, and the whole country was so depopulated by the

devastations of the Monguls that no considerable number of fresh

levies could be obtained; and that, consequently, the only safe course

for the government to pursue was to retire to the southward, beyond

the river. He would, however, he added, leave his son, with a strong

garrison, to defend the capital.

He accordingly took with him a few favorites of his immediate family

and a small body of troops, and commenced his journey--a journey

which was considered by all the people as a base and ignoble flight.

He involved himself in endless troubles by this step. A revolt broke

out on the way among the guards who accompanied him. One of the

generals who headed the revolt sent a messenger to Genghis Khan

informing him of the emperor's abandonment of his capital, and

offering to go over, with all the troops under his command, to the

service of Genghis Khan if Genghis Khan would receive him.

When Genghis Khan heard thus of the retreat of the emperor from his

capital, he was, or pretended to be, much incensed. He considered the

proceeding as in some sense an act of hostility against himself, and,

as such, an infraction of the treaty and a renewal of the war. So he

immediately ordered one of his leading generals--a certain chieftain

named Mingan--to proceed southward at the head of a large army and lay

siege to Yen-king again.

The old emperor, who seems now to have lost all spirit, and to have

given himself up entirely to despondency and fear, was greatly alarmed

for the safety of his son the prince, whom he had left in command at

Yen-king. He immediately sent orders to his son to leave the city and

come to him. The departure of the prince, in obedience to these

orders, of course threw an additional gloom over the city, and excited

still more the general discontent which the emperor's conduct had


The prince, on his departure, left two generals in command of the

garrison. Their names were Wan-yen and Mon-yen. They were left to

defend the city as well as they could from the army of Monguls under

Mingan, which was now rapidly drawing near. The generals were greatly

embarrassed and perplexed with the difficulties of their situation.

The means of defense at their disposal were wholly inadequate, and

they knew not what to do.

At length one of them, Wan-yen, proposed to the other that they should

kill themselves. This Mon-yen refused to do. Mon-yen was the commander

on whom the troops chiefly relied, and he considered suicide a mode of

deserting one's post scarcely less dishonorable than any other. He

said that his duty was to stand by his troops, and, if he could not

defend them where they were, to endeavor to draw them away, while

there was an opportunity, to a place of safety.

So Wan-yen, finding his proposal rejected, went away in a rage. He

retired to his apartment, and wrote a dispatch to the emperor, in

which he explained the desperate condition of affairs, and the

impossibility of saving the city, and in the end declared himself

deserving of death for not being able to accomplish the work which his

majesty had assigned to him.

He enveloped and sealed this dispatch, and then, calling his domestics

together, he divided among them, in a very calm and composed manner,

all his personal effects, and then took leave of them and dismissed


A single officer only now remained with him. In the presence of this

officer he wrote a few words, and then sent him away. As soon as the

officer had gone, he drank a cup of poison which he had previously

ordered to be prepared for him, and in a few minutes was a lifeless


In the mean time, the other general, Mon-yen, had been making

preparations to leave the city. His plan was to take with him such

troops as might be serviceable to the emperor, but to leave all the

inmates of the palace, as well as the inhabitants of the city, to

their fate. Among the people of the palace were, it seems, a number of

the emperor's wives, whom he had left behind at the time of his own

flight, he having taken with him at that time only a few of the more

favored ones. These women who were left, when they heard that Mon-yen

was intending to abandon the city with a view of joining the emperor

in the south, came to him in a body, and begged him to take them with


In order to relieve himself of their solicitations, he said that he

would do so, but he added that he must leave the city himself with the

guards to prepare the way, and that he would return immediately for

them. They were satisfied with this promise, and returned to the

palace to prepare for the journey. Mon-yen at once left the city, and

very soon after he had gone, Mingan, the Mongul general, arrived at

the gates, and, meeting with no effectual resistance, he easily forced

his way in, and a scene of universal terror and confusion ensued. The

soldiers spread themselves over the city in search of plunder, and

killed all who came in their way. They plundered the palace and then

set it on fire. So extensive was the edifice, and so vast were the

stores of clothing and other valuables which it contained, even after

all the treasures which could be made available to the conquerors had

been taken away, that the fire continued to burn among the ruins for a

month or more.

What became of the unhappy women who were so cruelly deceived by

Mon-yen in respect to their hopes of escape does not directly appear.

They doubtless perished with the other inhabitants of the city in the

general massacre. Soldiers at such a time, while engaged in the sack

and plunder of a city, are always excited to a species of insane fury,

and take a savage delight in thrusting their pikes into all that come

in their way.

Mon-yen excused himself, when he arrived at the quarters of the

emperor, for having thus abandoned the women to their fate by the

alleged impossibility of saving them. He could not have succeeded, he

said, in effecting his own retreat and that of the troops who went

with him if he had been encumbered in his movements by such a company

of women. The emperor accepted this excuse, and seemed to be satisfied

with it, though, not long afterward, Mon-yen was accused of conspiracy

against the emperor and was put to death.

Mingan took possession of the imperial treasury, where he found great

stores of silk, and also of gold and silver plate. All these things he

sent to Genghis Khan, who remained still at the north at a grand

encampment which he had made in Tartary.

After this, other campaigns were fought by Genghis Khan in China, in

the course of which he extended his conquests still farther to the

southward, and made himself master of a very great extent of country.

After confirming these conquests, he selected from among such Chinese

officers as were disposed to enter into his service suitable persons

to be appointed governors of the provinces, and in this way annexed

them to his dominions; these officers thus transferring their

allegiance from the emperor to him, and covenanting to send to him the

tribute which they should annually collect from their respective

dominions. Every thing being thus settled in this quarter, Genghis

Khan next turned his attention to the western frontiers of his empire,

where the Tartar and Mongul territory bordered on Turkestan and the

dominions of the Mohammedans.