CHAPTER V. THE MONGOL CONQUEST OF CHINA
During the five years following the death of Ogotai, the Mongols were absorbed in the question who should be their next Great Khan, and it was only after a warm and protracted discussion, which threatened to entail the disruption of Mongol power, and the revelation of many rivalries among the descendants of Genghis, that Kuyuk, the eldest son of Ogotai, was proclaimed emperor. At the kuriltai held for this purpose, all the great Mongol leaders were present, including Batu, the conqueror of Hungary, and after the Mongol chiefs had agreed as to their chief, the captive kings, Yaroslaf of Russia and David of Georgia, paid homage to their conqueror. We owe to the monk Carpino, who was sent by the Pope to convert the Mongol, a graphic account of one of the most brilliant ceremonies to be met with in the whole course of Mongol history. The delay in selecting Kuyuk, whose principal act of sovereignty was to issue a seal having this inscription: "God in Heaven and Kuyuk on earth; by the power of God the ruler of all men," had given the Sungs one respite, and his early death procured them another. Kuyuk died in 1248, and his cousin, Mangu, the son of Tuli, was appointed his successor. By this time the Mongol chiefs of the family of Genghis in Western Asia were practically independent of the nominal Great Khan, and governed their states in complete sovereignty, and waged war without reference to Karakoram. This change left the Mongols in their original home of the Amour absolutely free to devote all their attention to the final overthrow of the Sungs, and Mangu declared that he would know no rest until he had finally subjected the last of the Chinese ruling families. In this resolution Mangu received the hearty support of his younger but more able brother, Kublai, to whom was intrusted the direction in the field of the armies sent to complete the conquest of China.
Kublai received this charge in 1251, so that the Sungs had enjoyed, first through the pacific disposition of Ogotai, and, secondly, from the family disputes following his death, peace for more than fifteen years. The advantage of this tranquillity was almost nullified by the death of Mongkong, a general whose reputation may have been easily gained, but who certainly enjoyed the confidence of his soldiers, and who was thought by his countrymen to be the best commander of his day. When the Chinese emperor, Litsong, saw the storm again approaching his northern frontier, he found that he had lost the main support of his power, and that his military resources were inferior to those of his enemy. He had allowed himself to be lulled into a false sense of security by the long inaction of the Mongols, and although he seems to have been an amiable prince, and a typical Chinese ruler, honoring the descendants of Confucius with the hereditary title of duke, which still remains in that family, and is the only title of its kind in China, and encouraging the literary classes of his country, he was a bad sovereign to be intrusted with the task of defending his realm and people against a bold and determined enemy.
Kublai prepared the way for his campaigns in Southern China by following a very wise and moderate policy in Northern China similar to that begun by Muhula, and carried out with greater effect by Yeliu Chutsai. He had enjoyed the advantage of a Chinese education, imparted by an able tutor named Yaochu, who became the prince's private secretary and mentor in all Chinese matters. At his instigation, or, at least, with his co-operation, Kublai took in hand the restoration of the southern portion of Honan, which had been devastated during the wars, and he succeeded in bringing back its population and prosperity to that great province of Central China. He thus secured a base for his operations close to the Sung frontier, while he attached to his person a large section of the Chinese nation. There never was any concealment that this patronage of Chinese officials, and these measures for the amelioration of many millions of Chinese subjects, were the well calculated preliminaries to the invasion of Southern China and the extinction of the Sung dynasty.