CHAPTER V. THE MONGOL CONQUEST OF CHINA
Mangu did not come to his resolution to prosecute the war with the Sungs any too soon, for Uriangkadai was beginning to find his isolated position not free from danger. Large as the army of that general was, and skillfully as he had endeavored to improve his position by strengthening the fortresses and recruiting from the warlike tribes of Yunnan, Uriangkadai found himself threatened by the collected armies of the Sungs, who occupied Szchuen with a large garrison and menaced the daring Mongol general with the whole of their power. There seems every reason to believe that if the Sungs had acted with only ordinary promptitude they might have destroyed this Mongol army long before any aid could have reached it from the north. Once Mangu had formed his resolution the rapidity of his movements left the Sungs little or no chance of attacking Uriangkadai. This campaign began in the winter of 1257, when the troops were able to cross the frozen waters of the Hoangho, and the immense Mongol army was divided into three bodies, while Uriangkadai was ordered to march north and effect a junction with his old chief Kublai in Szchuen. The principal fighting of the first year occurred in this part of China, and Mangu hastened there with another of his armies. The Sung garrison was large, and showed great courage and fortitude. The difficulty of the country and the strength of several of their fortresses seconded their efforts, and after two years' fighting the Mongols felt so doubtful of success that they held a council of war to decide whether they should retreat or continue to prosecute the struggle. It has been said that councils of war do not come to bold resolutions, but this must have been an exception, as it decided not to retreat, and to make one more determined effort to overcome the Chinese. The campaign of 1259 began with the siege of Hochau, a strong fortress, held by a valiant garrison and commander, and to whose aid a Chinese army under Luwenti was hastening. The governor, Wangkien, offered a stout resistance, and Luwenti succeeded in harassing the besiegers; but the fall of the fortress appeared assured, when a new and more formidable defender arrived in the form of dysentery. The Mongol camp was ravaged by this foe, Mangu himself died of the disease, and those of the Mongols who escaped beat a hasty and disorderly retreat back to the north. Once more the Sungs obtained a brief respite.
The death of Mangu threatened fresh disputes and strife among the Mongol royal family. Kublai was his brother's lawful heir, but Arikbuka, the youngest of the brothers was in possession of Karakoram, and supreme throughout Mongolia. He was hostile to Kublai, and disposed to assert all his rights and to make the most of his opportunities. No Great Khan could be proclaimed anywhere save at Karakoram, and Arikbuka would not allow his brother to gain that place, the cradle of their race and dynasty, unless he could do so by force of arms. Kublai attempted to solve the difficulty by holding a grand council near his favorite city of Cambaluc, the modern Pekin, and he sent forth his proclamation to the Mongols as their Khan. But they refused to recognize one who was not elected in the orthodox fashion at Karakoram; and Arikbuka not merely defied Kublai, but summoned his own kuriltai at Karakoram, where he was proclaimed Khakhan in the most formal manner and with all the accustomed ceremonies. Arikbuka was undoubtedly popular among the Mongols, while Kublai, who was regarded as half a Chinese on account of his education, had a far greater reputation south of the wall than north of it. Kublai could not tolerate the open defiance of his authority, and the contempt shown for what was his birthright, by Arikbuka; and in 1261 he advanced upon Karakoram at the head of a large army. A single battle sufficed to dispose of Arikbuka's pretensions, and that prince was glad to find a place of refuge among the Kirghiz. Kublai proved himself a generous enemy. He sent Arikbuka his full pardon, he reinstated him in his rank of prince, and he left him virtually supreme among the Mongol tribes. He retraced his steps to Pekin, fully resolved to become Chinese emperor in reality, but prepared to waive his rights as Mongol Khan. Mangu Khan was the last of the Mongol rulers whose authority was recognized in both the east and the west, and his successor, Kublai, seeing that its old significance had departed, was fain to establish his on a new basis in the fertile, ancient and wide-stretching dominions of China.