Timeline Description: Kublai Khan (1215 - 1294) was the fifth Great Khan of the Mongol Empire started by Genghis Khan. He reigned from 1260 to 1294, and the Mongols also knew him as Setsen Khan, which meant "Wise Khan," due to his political savvy. He was the fourth son of Tolui, and the grandson of Genghis. He was also the first foreign emperor to conquer all of China. Thanks to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 1797 poem, Kubla Khan, Kublai Khan is a well-known figure today.
|September 23, 1215||Kublai Khan is born.
Kublai is born the fourth son of Tolui Khan, the son of Genghis Khan, who consolidated control over nomadic Mongolian tribes.
|1236||Hebei province granted to Tolui's family
Ogedei, Genghis Khan's son and successor as Great Khan, grants Tolui's family control over Hebei Province, in China, after a war with the Jin Dynasty. Due to inexperience, Kublai initially mismanages the province, which leads to corrupt officials and over taxation. Kublai Khan returns and reforms the government. This becomes his first real experience with politics.
|1242||Kublai meets Haiyun
In 1241, Kublai meets Haiyun, the leading Buddhist monk in North China, in Karakorum, the Mongol capital city. He becomes his advisor, and even names Kublai's son for him - calling him Zhenjin. He later introduces Kublai to Liu Bingzhong, a former Taoist and now Buddhist monk, who takes over as Kublai's advisor when Haiyun has to return to his temple. He also adds another Chinese scholar named Zhao Bi to his entourage as an advisor. These advisors act in formative ways to the young man throughout his life.
|1251||Mongke becomes the third Great Khan
The fourth Great Khan, Guyuk, dies. His rival, Batu, calls a kurultai in his own territory, which his rivals refuse to attend, but he then refuses to take the role of the next Great Khan. Instead, he nominates Mongke, Kublai's older brother. This causes a division in the empire between the descendents of Ogedei on one side, and Mongke and the descendents of Genghis's other son, Tolui. So, Mongke institutes a bloody purge of the Ogedei line, which consolidates his power.
|1251||Kublai given control of North China
Mongke sends Kublai Khan to rule over North China for him. Kublai manages the territory well - he boosts agricultural production, and increased social welfare spending. His work wins him respect from the Chinese warlords, which would be important to his later work.
|1253||Kublai ordered to attack the Kingdom of Dali
Mongke orders Kublai to attack the Kingdom of Dali, in Yunnan - another Chinese province. He sends ambassadors to give them the chance to surrender, but the Dali rulers kill them. Kublai marches his army on Yunnan and takes Dali. Despite the insult of killing his ambassadors, Kublai spares the residents of Dali and establishes a government and pacifies the province.
|1258||Kublai calls a conference of Taoist and Buddhist leaders
Taoists had been gaining power and welath by seizing Buddhist temples, so Kublai, a Buddhist sympathizer, forcibly converts all the Taoist temples to Buddhism and destroys all their sacred texts.
|1259||Kublai's forces assist Mongke's attack on Sichuan
Despite suffering from gout, Kublai heads to Sichaun province to assist Mongke's forces' assault. Before he arrives, word reaches Kublai that Mongke has died. He initially suppresses the news to continue the assault, as it would have resulted in the withdrawal of the forces. Instead he pushes on until he can reach an acceptable truce with the Song Dynasty ruler of Sichuan.
|1260||The Toluid Civil War
Kublai receives word that his youngest brother, Ariq Boke, is raising troops, so he decides to take his army back to Mongolia. Before he is able to return, however, Ariq Boke holds a kurultai - the meeting of royal families to decide the succession. Taking advantage of Kublai's absence, and that of their fourth brother, Hulagu, Ariq Boke is named Great Khan. Halagu and Kublai both oppose this kurultai, despite its apparent legality. Kublai returns to his own Chinese territories and, despite a lack of the ruling Mongolian families, holds his own kurultai, which names him Great Khan. This leads to the Touid Civil War between the forces of Ariq Boke and Kublai.
|August 21, 1264||Ariq Boke surrenders
After being betrayed by his general, Alghu, Ariq Boke is left without the resources to resist Kublai's forces, and when Alghu attacks him at Xanadu, he is forced to surrender. Kublai holds a new kurultai, and, though his brother Hulagu and the important general Berk (the khan of the Golden Horde) refuse to support him, he uses it to solidify his power. He pardons Ariq Boke, but kills all of his supporters.
|1271||Yuan Dynasty created
To consolidate his control over China, Kublai renames the Mongol regime the Yuan Dynasty, and moves his capital to Khanbaliq (also known as Dadu) - modern day Beijing. This leads to an uprising in the former capital, Karakorum, of traditionalist Mongolians who resisted Kublai's Chinese leanings.
|1276||Song Dynasty surrenders
Defeated, the Song Dynasty of China surrenders to Kublai's Yuan dynasty. This marks the final Chinese resistance's defeat, and it becomes the first time in history a non-Chinese leader conquers all of China. Kublai Khan focuses on building public schools, developing economic growth through rebuilding the Great Canal and extending highways, and reducing the control of regional governors.
|1281||Failed invasion of Japan begins
Kublai Khan, intent on expanding his territory into Japan, rushes construction of a fleet to carry his army into Japan. Disaster strikes and, though the Mongol army was militarily superior, they suffer huge losses in the transport and the invasion is a disaster.
|1287||Failed invasion of Korea begins
After two failed previous attempts, the Mongols attempt to invade Korea. Though their army was superior, the Korean commander, Tran Khanh Du, is able to use superior tactics to separate and defeat the army.
|February 18, 1294||Kublai Khan dies
Kublai had selected his son Zhenjin as his heir, but he died. This, along with the death of his favorite wife and his military defeats in Japan and Vietnam, haunted Kublai in his old age. He turned to liquor and food as comfort, and so his health quickly declined. He died with gout, depressed and unwell.