CHAPTER VI. KUBLAI AND THE MONGOL DYNASTY
Kublai's long reign marked the climax of the Mongol triumph which he had all the personal satisfaction of extending to China. Where Genghis failed, or attained only partial success, he succeeded to the fullest extent, thus verifying the prophecy of his grandfather. But although he conquered their country, he never vanquished the prejudices of the Chinese, and the Mongols, unlike the Manchus, failed completely to propitiate the good will of the historiographers of the Hanlin. Of Kublai they take some recognition, as an enlightened and well-meaning prince, but for all the other emperors of the Yuen line they have nothing good to say. Even Kublai himself could not assure the stability of his throne, and when he died it was at once clear that the Mongols could not long retain the supreme position in China.
But Kublai's authority was sufficiently established for it to be transmitted, without popular disturbance or any insurrection on the part of the Chinese, to his legal heir, who was his grandson. Such risk as presented itself to the succession arose from the dissensions among the Mongol princes themselves, but the prompt measures of Bayan arrested any trouble, and Prince Timour was proclaimed emperor under the Chinese style of Chingtsong. A few months after this signal service to the ruling family, Bayan died, leaving behind him the reputation of being one of the most capable of all the Mongol commanders. Whether because he could find no general worthy to fill Bayan's place, or because his temperament was naturally pacific, Timour carried on no military operations, and the thirteen years of his reign were marked by almost unbroken peace. But peace did not bring prosperity in its train, for a considerable part of China suffered from the ravages of famine, and the cravings of hunger drove many to become brigands. Timour's anxiety to alleviate the public suffering gained him some small measure of popularity, and he also endeavored to limit the opportunities of the Mongol governors to be tyrannical by taking away from them the power of life and death. Timour was compelled by the sustained hostility of Kaidu to continue the struggle with that prince, but he confined himself to the defensive, and the death of Kaidu, in 1301, deprived the contest of its extreme bitterness although it still continued.
Timour was, however, unfortunate in the one foreign enterprise which he undertook. The ease with which Burmah had been vanquished and reduced to a tributary state emboldened some of his officers on the southern frontier to attempt the conquest of Papesifu - a state which may be identified with the modern Laos. The enterprise, commenced in a thoughtless and light- hearted manner, revealed unexpected peril and proved disastrous. A large part of the Mongol army perished from the heat, and the survivors were only rescued from their perilous position, surrounded by the numerous enemies they had irritated, by a supreme effort on the part of Koko, the viceroy of Yunnan, who was also Timour's uncle. The insurrectionary movement was not confined to the outlying districts of Annam and Burmah, but extended within the Chinese border, and several years elapsed before tranquillity was restored to the frontier provinces.
Timour died in 1306 without leaving a direct legitimate heir, and his two nephews Haichan and Aiyuli Palipata were held to possess an equal claim to the throne. Haichan was absent in Mongolia when his uncle died, and a faction put forward the pretensions of Honanta, prince of Gansi, who seems to have been Timour's natural son, but Aiyuli Palipata, acting with great energy, arrested the pretender and proclaimed Haichan as emperor. Haichan reigned five years, during which the chief reputation he gained was as a glutton. When he died, in 1311, his brother Palipata was proclaimed emperor, although Haichan left two sons. Palipata's reign of nine years was peaceful and uneventful, and his son Chutepala succeeded him. Chutepala was a young and inexperienced prince who owed such authority as he enjoyed to the courage of Baiju, a brave soldier, who was specially distinguished as the lineal descendant of the great general, Muhula. The plots and intrigues which compassed the ruin of the Yuen dynasty began during this reign, and both Chutepala and Baiju were murdered by conspirators. The next emperor, Yesun Timour, was fortunate in a peaceful reign, but on his death, in 1328, the troubles of the dynasty accumulated, and its end came clearly into view. In little more than a year, three emperors were proclaimed and died. Tou Timour, one of the sons of Haichan, who ruled before Palipata, was so far fortunate in reigning for a longer period, but the most interesting episode in his barren reign was the visit of the Grand Lama of Tibet to Pekin, where he was received with exceptional honor; but when Tou Timour attempted to compel his courtiers to pay the representative of Buddhism special obeisance he encountered the opposition of both Chinese and Mongols.