Rupture With Vang Khan


Erkekara.--State of the country.--Wandering

habits.--Yemuka.--Sankum.--Yemuka's intrigues with

Sankum.--Deceit.--Temujin's situation.--His military

expeditions.--Popular commanders.--Stories of Temujin's

cruelty.--Probably fictions.--Vang Khan's uneasiness.--Temujin.--Vang

Khan's suspicions.--A reconciliation.--Fresh suspicions.--Plans

laid.--Treachery.--Menglik.--Menglik gives Temu
in warning.--The

double marriage.--Plans frustrated.--Temujin's camp.--Karasher.--Vang

Khan's plans.--His plans betrayed by two slaves.--How the slaves

overheard.--A council called.--Temujin plans a stratagem.

Temujin remained at the court, or in the dominions of Vang Khan, for a

great many years. During the greater portion of this time he continued

in the service of Vang Khan, and on good terms with him, though, in

the end, as we shall presently see, their friendship was turned into a

bitter enmity.

Erkekara, Vang Khan's brother, who had usurped his throne during the

rebellion, was killed, it was said, at the time when Vang Khan

recovered his throne. Several of the other rebel chieftains were also

killed, but some of them succeeded in saving themselves from utter

ruin, and in gradually recovering their former power over the hordes

which they respectively commanded. It must be remembered that the

country was not divided at this time into regular territorial states

and kingdoms, but was rather one vast undivided region, occupied by

immense hordes, each of which was more or less stationary, it is true,

in its own district or range, but was nevertheless without any

permanent settlement. The various clans drifted slowly this way and

that among the plains and mountains, as the prospects of pasturage,

the fortune of war, or the pressure of conterminous hordes might

incline them. In cases, too, where a number of hordes were united

under one general chieftain, as was the case with those over whom Vang

Khan claimed to have sway, the tie by which they were bound together

was very feeble, and the distinction between a state of submission and

of rebellion, except in case of actual war, was very slightly defined.

Yemuka, the chieftain who had been so exasperated against Temujin on

account of his being supplanted by him in the affections of the young

princess, Vang Khan's daughter, whom Temujin had married for his third

wife, succeeded in making his escape at the time when Vang Khan

conquered his enemies and recovered his throne. For a time he

concealed himself, or at least kept out of Vang Khan's reach, by

dwelling with hordes whose range was at some distance from Karakorom.

He soon, however, contrived to open secret negotiations with one of

Vang Khan's sons, whose name was something that sounded like Sankum.

Some authors, in attempting to represent his name in our letters,

spelled it Sunghim.

Yemuka easily persuaded this young Sankum to take sides with him in

the quarrel. It was natural that he should do so, for, being the son

of Vang Khan, he was in some measure displaced from his own legitimate

and proper position at his father's court by the great and constantly

increasing influence which Temujin exercised.

"And besides," said Yemuka, in the secret representations which he

made to Sankum, "this new-comer is not only interfering with and

curtailing your proper influence and consideration now, but his design

is by-and-by to circumvent and supplant you altogether. He is forming

plans for making himself your father's heir, and so robbing you of

your rightful inheritance."

Sankum listened very eagerly to these suggestions, and finally it was

agreed between him and Yemuka that Sankum should exert his influence

with his father to obtain permission for Yemuka to come back to court,

and to be received again into his father's service, under pretense of

having repented of his rebellion, and of being now disposed to return

to his allegiance. Sankum did this, and, after a time, Vang Khan was

persuaded to allow Yemuka to return.

Thus a sort of outward peace was made, but it was no real peace.

Yemuka was as envious and jealous of Temujin as ever, and now,

moreover, in addition to this envy and jealousy, he felt the stimulus

of revenge. Things, however, seem to have gone on very quietly for a

time, or at least without any open outbreak in the court. During this

time Vang Khan was, as usual with such princes, frequently engaged in

wars with the neighboring hordes. In these wars he relied a great deal

on Temujin. Temujin was in command of a large body of troops, which

consisted in part of his own guard, the troops that had come with him

from his own country, and in part of other bands of men whom Vang Khan

had placed under his orders, or who had joined him of their own

accord. He was assisted in the command of this body by four

subordinate generals or khans, whom he called his four intrepids. They

were all very brave and skillful commanders. At the head of this troop

Temujin was accustomed to scour the country, hunting out Vang Khan's

enemies, or making long expeditions over distant plains or among the

mountains, in the prosecution of Vang Khan's warlike projects,

whether those of invasion and plunder, or of retaliation and


Temujin was extremely popular with the soldiers who served under him.

Soldiers always love a dashing, fearless, and energetic leader, who

has the genius to devise brilliant schemes, and the spirit to execute

them in a brilliant manner. They care very little how dangerous the

situations are into which he may lead them. Those that get killed in

performing the exploits which he undertakes can not speak to complain,

and those who survive are only so much the better pleased that the

dangers that they have been brought safely through were so desperate,

and that the harvest of glory which they have thereby acquired is so


Temujin, though a great favorite with his own men, was, like almost

all half-savage warriors of his class, utterly merciless, when he was

angry, in his treatment of his enemies. It is said that after one of

his battles, in which he had gained a complete victory over an immense

horde of rebels and other foes, and had taken great numbers of them

prisoners, he ordered fires to be built and seventy large caldrons of

water to be put over them, and then, when the water was boiling hot,

he caused the principal leaders of the vanquished army to be thrown

in headlong and thus scalded to death. Then he marched at once into

the country of the enemy, and there took all the women and children,

and sent them off to be sold as slaves, and seized the cattle and

other property which he found, and carried it off as plunder. In thus

taking possession of the enemy's property and making it his own, and

selling the poor captives into slavery, there was nothing remarkable.

Such was the custom of the times. But the act of scalding his

prisoners to death seems to denote or reveal in his character a vein

of peculiar and atrocious cruelty. It is possible, however, that the

story may not be true. It may have been invented by Yemuka and Sankum,

or by some of his other enemies.

For Yemuka and Sankum, and others who were combined with them, were

continually endeavoring to undermine Temujin's influence with Vang

Khan, and thus deprive him of his power. But he was too strong for

them. His great success in all his military undertakings kept him up

in spite of all that his rivals could do to pull him down. As for Vang

Khan himself, he was in part pleased with him and proud of him, and in

part he feared him. He was very unwilling to be so dependent upon a

subordinate chieftain, and yet he could not do without him. A king

never desires that any one of his subjects should become too

conspicuous or too great, and Vang Khan would have been very glad to

have diminished, in some way, the power and prestige which Temujin had

acquired, and which seemed to be increasing every day. He, however,

found no means of effecting this in any quiet and peaceful manner.

Temujin was at the head of his troops, generally away from Karakorom,

where Vang Khan resided, and he was, in a great measure, independent.

He raised his own recruits to keep the numbers of his army good, and

it was always easy to subsist if there chanced to be any failure in

the ordinary and regular supplies.

Besides, occasions were continually occurring in which Vang Khan

wished for Temujin's aid, and could not dispense with it. At one time,

while engaged in some important campaigns, far away among the

mountains, Yemuka contrived to awaken so much distrust of Temujin in

Vang Khan's mind, that Vang Khan secretly decamped in the night, and

marched away to a distant place to save himself from a plot which

Yemuka had told him that Temujin was contriving. Here, however, he was

attacked by a large body of his enemies, and was reduced to such

straits that he was obliged to send couriers off at once to Temujin to

come with his intrepids and save him. Temujin came. He rescued Vang

Khan from his danger, and drove his enemies away. Vang Khan was very

grateful for this service, so that the two friends became entirely

reconciled to each other, and were united more closely than ever,

greatly to Yemuka's disappointment and chagrin. They made a new league

of amity, and, to seal and confirm it, they agreed upon a double

marriage between their two families. A son of Temujin was to be

married to a daughter of Vang Khan, and a son of Vang Khan to a

daughter of Temujin.

This new compact did not, however, last long. As soon as Vang Khan

found that the danger from which Temujin had rescued him was passed,

he began again to listen to the representations of Yemuka and Sankum,

who still insisted that Temujin was a very dangerous man, and was by

no means to be trusted. They said that he was ambitious and

unprincipled, and that he was only waiting for a favorable opportunity

to rebel himself against Vang Khan and depose him from his throne.

They made a great many statements to the khan in confirmation of their

opinion, some of which were true doubtless, but many were

exaggerated, and others probably false. They, however, succeeded at

last in making such an impression upon the khan's mind that he finally

determined to take measures for putting Temujin out of the way.

Accordingly, on some pretext or other, he contrived to send Temujin

away from Karakorom, his capital, for Temujin was so great a favorite

with the royal guards and with all the garrison of the town, that he

did not dare to undertake any thing openly against him there. Vang

Khan also sent a messenger to Temujin's own country to persuade the

chief persons there to join him in his plot. It will be recollected

that, at the time that Temujin left his own country, when he was about

fourteen years old, his mother had married a great chieftain there,

named Menglik, and that this Menglik, in conjunction doubtless with

Temujin's mother, had been made regent during his absence. Vang Khan

now sent to Menglik to propose that he should unite with him to

destroy Temujin.

"You have no interest," said Vang Khan in the message that he sent to

Menglik, "in taking his part. It is true that you have married his

mother, but, personally, he is nothing to you. And, if he is once out

of the way, you will be acknowledged as the Grand Khan of the Monguls

in your own right, whereas you now hold your place in subordination to

him, and he may at any time return and set you aside altogether."

Vang Khan hoped by these arguments to induce Menglik to come and

assist him in his plan of putting Temujin to death, or, at least, if

Menglik would not assist him in perpetrating the deed, he thought

that, by these arguments, he should induce him to be willing that it

should be committed, so that he should himself have nothing to fear

afterward from his resentment. But Menglik received the proposal in a

very different way from what Vang Khan had expected. He said nothing,

but he determined immediately to let Temujin know of the danger that

he was in. He accordingly at once set out to go to Temujin's camp to

inform him of Vang Khan's designs.

In the mean time, Vang Khan, having matured his plans, made an

appointment for Temujin to meet him at a certain place designated for

the purpose of consummating the double marriage between their

children, which had been before agreed upon. Temujin, not suspecting

any treachery, received and entertained the messenger in a very

honorable manner, and said that he would come. After making the

necessary preparations, he set out, in company with the messenger and

with a grand retinue of his own attendants, to go to the place

appointed. On his way he was met or overtaken by Menglik, who had come

to warn him of his danger. As soon as Temujin had heard what his

stepfather had to say, he made some excuse for postponing the journey,

and, sending a civil answer to Vang Khan by the embassador, he ordered

him to go forward, and went back himself to his own camp.

This camp was at some distance from Karakorom. Vang Khan, as has

already been stated, had sent Temujin away from the capital on account

of his being so great a favorite that he was afraid of some tumult if

he were to attempt any thing against him there. Temujin was, however,

pretty strong in his camp. The troops that usually attended him were

there, with the four intrepids as commanders of the four principal

divisions of them. His old instructor and guardian, Karasher, was with

him too. Karasher, it seems, had continued in Temujin's service up to

this time, and was accustomed to accompany him in all his expeditions

as his counselor and friend.

When Vang Khan learned, by the return of his messenger, that Temujin

declined to come to the place of rendezvous which he had appointed, he

concluded at once that he suspected treachery, and he immediately

decided that he must now strike a decisive blow without any delay,

otherwise Temujin would put himself more and more on his guard. He was

not mistaken, it seems, however, in thinking how great a favorite

Temujin was at Karakorom, for his secret design was betrayed to

Temujin by two of his servants, who overheard him speak of it to one

of his wives. Vang Khan's plan was to go out secretly to Temujin's

camp at the head of an armed force superior to his, and there come

upon him and his whole troop suddenly, by surprise, in the night, by

which means, he thought, he should easily overpower the whole

encampment, and either kill Temujin and his generals, or else make

them prisoners. The two men who betrayed this plan were slaves, who

were employed to take care of the horses of some person connected with

Vang Khan's household, and to render various other services. Their

names were Badu and Kishlik. It seems that these men were one day

carrying some milk to Vang Khan's house or tent, and there they

overheard a conversation between Vang Khan and his wife, by which

they learned the particulars of the plan formed for Temujin's

destruction. The expedition was to set out, they heard, on the

following morning.

It is not at all surprising that they overheard this conversation, for

not only the tents, but even the houses used by these Asiatic nations

were built of very frail and thin materials, and the partitions were

often made of canvas and felt, and other such substances as could have

very little power to intercept sound.

The two slaves determined to proceed at once to Temujin's camp and

warn him of his danger. So they stole away from their quarters at

nightfall, and, after traveling diligently all night, in the morning

they reached the camp and told Temujin what they had learned. Temujin

was surprised; but he had been, in some measure, prepared for such

intelligence by the communication which his stepfather had made him in

respect to Vang Khan's treacherous designs a few days before. He

immediately summoned Karasher and some of his other friends, in order

to consult in respect to what it was best to do.

It was resolved to elude Vang Khan's design by means of a stratagem.

He was to come upon them, according to the account of the slaves,

that night. The preparations for receiving him were consequently to be

made at once. The plan was for Temujin and all his troops to withdraw

from the camp and conceal themselves in a place of ambuscade near by.

They were to leave a number of men behind, who, when night came on,

were to set the lights and replenish the fires, and put every thing in

such a condition as to make it appear that the troops were all there.

Their expectation was that, when Vang Khan should arrive, he would

make his assault according to his original design, and then, while his

forces were in the midst of the confusion incident to such an onset,

Temujin was to come forth from his ambuscade and fall upon them. In

this way he hoped to conquer them and put them to flight, although he

had every reason to suppose that the force which Vang Khan would bring

out against him would be considerably stronger in numbers than his