Toghrul, also known as Wang Khan or Ong Khan (Mongolian: Тоорил хан Tooril han or Ван хан Wan han; Chinese: 王汗; pinyin: Wáng Hàn; died 1203) was a khan of the Keraites. He was the blood brother (anda) of the Mongol chief Yesugei and served as an important early patron and ally to Yesugei's son Temüjin, later known as Genghis Khan. The main source on his life is The Secret History of Mongols, a supposedly 14th century Chinese work which survives only in a 18th century Russian translation by a Christian priest.
|Khan of Keraites|
|Predecessor||Cyriacus Buyruk Khan|
|Khan of Keraites|
|Reign||1198 – 1203|
|Successor||Keraits Merged with Mongol Empire|
Tuul River, Mongolia
|Died||1203 (aged 72–73)|
|Father||Cyriacus Buyruk Khan|
"Wang Khan" was the name given to Toghrul by the Jurchen Jin Dynasty of China; Wang means king or prince. During the 13th century, Toghrul was one of several Asian leaders who was identified with the legend of Prester John, but also King David, a brother to John. There's no credible proof that he was Christian.
He was born around 1130, to Shamanist family of Keraites but later Europeans mistakingly thought him to be Christian and pastor John, a mythical figure. His father was Cyriacus Buyruk Khan, the leader of Keraites. Toghrul had a very difficult youth. The Merkits captured him during his childhood and he was reduced to slavery. It is possible that he left the Merkit after being freed by a ransom or simply escaped. However, according to the Secret History, he was again abducted at the age of thirteen by the Tatars, who also took his own mother. When Toghrul returned to the Keraites later, his father was near death. Toghrul took his place and commanded the Keraites around 1165.
In order to eliminate potential rivals, he started by killing his brothers between 1165–1171. One of them, namely Erke Qara managed to escape and fled to the Naimans, who were a neighboring tribe to the west of the Keraites. The two other brothers, Buqa-Timur and Tai-Timur Taïshi were executed. However, Toghrul's success was brief because his uncle only known with the title Gurkhan overthrew him. Toghrul fled with his daughter and a handful of faithful. He tried to get the help of the Merkits to overthrow Gurkhan in turn, but their leader, Toqto'a Beki, refused despite the fact that Toghrul offered him his daughter because the Keraites were very numerous. Being unsuccessful, Toghrul went to see the father of Temujin, Yesugei. He chose to help Toghrul because he had previously fought a battle with the Keraites against the Tatars. The Keraites were surprised when Yesugei attacked without having time to prepare. Despite the fact that the Keraits were much more numerous, their forces were dispersed throughout Central Mongolia. Toghrul resumed the command of the Keraites, and Gurkhan fled.
Relationship with TemujinEdit
Toghrul was, like Jamukha, blood-brother of Temujin. He led the coalition against Merkits when Börte was abducted in 1183, joined by his brother Jakha Gambhu, Jamukha and Temujin. Two of the tribal chiefs, Dair Usun and Toqto'a fled the camp, probably informed by people who had seen the army move. The coalition easily won the fight that followed and about 300 Merkit perished. The chiefs distributed the booty among themselves and gave the Merkit wives to the warriors. The children became slaves. Börte was found later in the evening. Toghrul returned to the Kerait camp with his men, proud of an easy victory.
Temujin, intending to attack the Tatar Confederation who had long caused him problems, including the murder of his father, asked for help from Toghrul in 1194; he willingly accepted, still satisfied with the victory he had had before. Toghrul's grandfather Marcus Buyruk Khan had also been assassinated by the Tatar, which gave him a similar reason to fight them. He joined Temujin with a few thousand Keraits. The Jurkhin, a Mongolic tribe, were also invited, but declined the offer because they were somewhat hostile with the Borjigin tribe. They eventually found allies in Wanyan Xiang (完顏襄), minister of Emperor Zhangzong of the Jurchen Jin dynasty of China. The Tatars were considered by the Jurchen to be harmful and the opportunity was perfect to exterminate them. When the combined forces of Toghrul and Genghis Khan attacked the Tatars, they were caught in a vice as the Jurchen warriors behind them easily encircled the enemy tribe. The men were slaughtered, the women were taken as concubines and the children were adopted or became servants and slaves. Some thousands of Tatar who had resisted and then escaped entrenched themselves. This was the time when he was given the name Wang Khan (Chinese: 王汗; lit. 'King Khan').
Later that year he was overthrown by Erke Qara, whom he had not been able to assassinate and returned with the Naiman army. Many Keraites who were dissatisfied with the command of Toghrul probably also helped to drive Toghrul out. He fled to Yelü Zhilugu without even going to seek the help of Temujin. He stayed there a year according to the Secret History. It was after leaving the Qara-Khitai that he finally decided to join Genghis Khan. According to Rashid al-Din, he would have reached Genghis Khan's encampment by 1196. Toghrul became his guest for about two years.
Living in exile, Toghrul was aided by Temujin who undertook an attack to the Merkits for a second time and gave a large part of the booty to Toghrul who gifted it to different Kerait chiefs to consolidate allies with his tribe of origin. Temujin then allegedly attacked a Kerait clan, the Tumen Tubegen, and a large part of the survivors became Toghrul's followers. The Keraites returned fully to Toghrul around 1198. The Naimans remained neutral and offered no help to Erke Qara because the Naiman people were then divided between two kings. Buyruq khan took the southern part and Tayang khan inherited the northern part of the Naiman lands. Erke Qara fled for the second time, this time to Buyruq khan. To reward the Kerait who had remained faithful to him, Toghrul ordered them to plunder the weakened Merkits for the third time. Significant Merkits, including two sons of Toqto'a-beki, were captured while another was murdered. Meanwhile Toghrul's brother, Jakha Gambhu became blood brothers by Temujin.
Relationship with NaimansEdit
Around 1199, Toghrul wanted to finish once and for all with the Naimans and the dispute between the two kings of this tribe was a useful chance to attack. If he attacked one of the brothers, it was almost certain that the other would do nothing and he could destroy them one after the other without having to confront the two tribes together, which could have formed a formidable alliance. He succeeded in bringing together Temujin and Jamukha, chief of the tribe of the Jadaran, and forced them to become allies again, for they had hitherto become enemies. They did so, but with a distrust of one another. When the forces of coalition came together to fight Buyruq's army, they quickly realized that the Naiman lands were conducive to a long pursuit. Indeed, Toghrul had a hard time chasing his enemies because they had plenty of ground to escape. After a hike of a few hundred kilometers, Toghrul realized that he could never catch them and came back. Buyruq's general Kökse Sabraq attacked Toghrul who moved away from Temujin, defeated Toghrul's son Senggüm, capturing his son and wife in process. However they were beaten back thanks to aid from Temujin.
In 1200, Toghrul aided Temujin, who was attacked by an alliance formed by the Taichiud, commanded by Targhutai Kiriltuk, an old enemy of Temujin, and Merkit led by Toqto'a Beki, who had recently recovered his son on the banks of the Onon River.
Relationship with JamukhaEdit
In 1201, Jamukha had resumed hostilities against Temujin. An impressive coalition of Mongol tribes of Taichiud, Ikires, Qorolas, Salji'ut, Dörbet, Suldus, Qatagin, Besud, Merkit, Oirat and finally Tatars recognized Jamukha as "Khan Universal" (Gurkhan). Toghrul decided to back Temujin in order to oppose growing power of Jamukha. Toghrul, Jakha Gambu and Temujin went into the valley called the Kerulen Valley with 15000 men. When they saw the enemy, they climbed the mountains because they were shorthanded against the enemy. It was also when Buyruq khan joined Jamukha. Toghrul and Temujin fought a defensive battle which was very difficult and perilous. Torrential rain made the rolling hills and mountains men fell from the top to finish in crevices and ravines. After the enemy had withdrawn his forces, Toghrul left to return to Tula river with his warriors. Temujin took advantage of the flight of his enemies to finish several on horseback. Targhutai was reportedly wounded to death as a result of the fight.
Jamukha had fared badly during the first attack and Buyruq khan took command of the armies in 1202. Temujin took the initiative to make a massacre among the Tatar, which dramatically reduced their numbers. Genghis and Toghrul returned to the mountains, but this time in the southern portion and faced the newly-commanding Kuchuguden's men, among them were Merkit, South Naiman, Oirats and tribes following Jamukha. Six tribes had left Jamukha and there were only four. Again, steep slopes, trees and various natural obstacles greatly slowed down the enemies of Toghrul and Temujin and the fight gradually grew favorable.
Toghrul became very old by 1203. He was more than 70 years old and did not have the same reflexes as in his youth. His son Ilga Senggüm took command of the Kerait armies and Toghrul became a figurehead. Ambitious Ilga joined forces with Jamukha, Altan and Qutchar, who persuaded him to eliminate Temujin. Ilga attempted to assassinate him, failed, and then confronted the hordes of Temujin in a fierce battle in which he was wounded. Toghrul was present and assumed command, but he was more or less able to fight himself given his advanced age and withdrew his men from the fight. Some of Keraist joined the forces with Temujin during and after the battle. After this battle, which was called "Battle of the Burning Sands", Temujin received the help of the Qonggirats who had confronted him during the first battle of Kerulen and then fled to Jamukha. Toghrul and Ilga, however, were still more numerous. Temujin sent ambassadors to demand peace, as he wished to renew his friendship with Toghrul. Ilga, now choosing for his father, rejected the request. Other tribes joined Temujin during that year. He was then in possession of eleven tribes, which formed a third of the whole population of Mongolia. As the enemy increased in number, Jamukha, Qutchar and Altan conspired against Toghrul, but eventually left the Kerait to take refuge with the Naimans of the North. The Tayitchi'ut, Dorbed, Qatagin and Salji'ut followed them.
He died after Temujin attacked the Keraits by surprise. 8000 Mongol horsemen faced Keraits for three days but eventually Kerait surrendered. Toghrul fled to Tayang Khan but was killed by a Naiman soldier named Qori Sübeči who did not recognize him. The majority of the Keraits allied themselves with Temujin. Toghrul's head was presented to Tayang who stepped on it, crushing it.
Starting from 15th century, Torghut nobles claimed descent from Toghrul.
Wang Khan's character in primary sourcesEdit
In Paragraphs 150-151 of the Secret History of the Mongols (written in 1240):
"Wang Khan of the Kerait had earlier been a good friend and anda (blood brother) of Yesugei Baatar. The reasons for becoming anda was as follows. Wang Khan, after having killed his brothers the sons of his Khan Father Kurchakus Buyuruk, had hostilities with his uncle Gur Khan and hid in a land called Kara'un Crevice. From there he barely managed to escape with a hundred men and came to Yesugei Khan. Yesugei Khan took care of him and, going at the head of his own army, drove Gur Khan to the Tangut lands, took his subjects and beasts and giving them to Wang Khan became anda blood brothers. After that Erkh Khar the brother of Wang Khan, fearing assassination by his brother Wang Khan, fled to Inancha Khan of the Naiman. When Inancha Khan came with his army Wang Khan fled, wandering through three cities and came to Gur Khan of the Khar-Khyatad (Kara-Kitai). He became hostile with that khan as well and wandered through Uighur and Tangut cities, leading five goats and drinking camel blood and barely made it alive to Lake Guse'ur where Genghis Khan, remembering how he became anda with his father Yesugei Baatar, sent his envoys Dahai Baatar and Sukekei Je'un to receive him and then Genghis Khan personally picked him up at the source of the Kherlen river. Pitying his rough journey of hunger he gave him donation out of his own (Genghis Khan's) subjects, harbored him in his own Khuree (camp) and took care of him. That winter they moved together and Genghis Khan wintered at Khubakhaya."
In Paragraph 152 of the Secret History:
"The brothers and nobles of Wang Khan spoke as follows: 'This Khan elder brother of ours is a no-good person who harbors the evil intention of killing us his kin. He killed his precious brothers. He also went to the Kara-Khitai for protection and hid there in subjection. He has not loved his nation but made it suffer cruelly. What do we do with him? When he was seven years old he was taken by the Merkit, wore a black goat skin, went to Buur Steppe of the Selenge and lived pounding grain for the Merkits. His father Kurchakus Buyuruk Khan attacked the Merkit and saved his son. But this Toghril was taken again at the age of thirteen this time by Ajai Khan of the Tatar who took him and his mother. There he herded his camels. From there he escaped with Ajai Khan's shepherd. After that he fled in fear from the Naiman and went to Gur Khan of the Kara-Khitai at the Chui River in Sartuul (Muslim) lands. Staying there one year he fled again and wandered through Uyghur lands, fled through Tangut lands, leading five goats, feeding on camel blood and came to Temujin with one blind brown horse. That good son Temujin gave him tribute (donation) and fed him. But now he forgets what he was and is harboring evil intentions.' Wang Khan had the participants of this discussion, namely Elqudur, Khulbari and Arin Taij his brothers and nobles arrested. The younger brother of Wang Khan Jakha Khambu managed to escape and went to the Naiman. Wang Khan brought his arrested brothers into a ger and said 'What did you say about how I went through the Uyghur lands and Tangut lands? What did you miserables think?" and spat on their faces. Then he made everyone else in the ger rise and spit on their faces. He let loose their horses."
In Paragraph 164 of the Secret History:
"Wang Khan spoke saying 'My anda Yesugei Baatar saved and gathered my lost and dying nation. His eldest son Temujin Genghis Khan gathered and sustained my scattered and wandering nation. These two, father and son, in so sustaining my nation: who have they been striving for so earnestly? For what have they been suffering so selflessly? If I, old man that I am, were to lean on a high mountain, were to lay my head on the grass and depart, who will inherit this numerous nation of mine? If I, Khan Toghril, were to leave my walled ger and go to my rock ger, who will take care of this nation that has been gathered under me?...Though there are brothers they cannot carry on state affairs, they do not have good stable characters, they are troublesome and difficult people. Though I have my one son Sengum he does not have a partner. I will make Temujin the elder brother of Sengum, have two sons and live my remaining years in peace.' Then Genghis Khan and Wang Khan became father and son at the Black Forest of the Tuul river. Long ago Wang Khan had become anda with Yesugei Baatar so he looked on Wang Khan as his father and they became father and son. They said the following words: 'When we fight against alien enemies let us fight together. When we hunt game in the rocky mountains let us hunt together.' Again Genghis and Wang Khan said: 'If a poisonous snake's tongue comes between let us not distance ourselves but meet face to face and undo that evil. When a fanged snake's tooth comes between friends breaking unity let us not grow hostile but meet and talk directly and find all reasons.' Thus they made firm their words and walked in friendship."
In Paragraph 178 of the Secret History:
"Wang Khan hearing these words (of Genghis) said: 'Alas, I have separated from my good son and shamed my good state. I have split apart from my esteemed son and done a deed of disunity.' Having spoken these words of repentance he made an oath saying 'If I ever think evil of my son Temujin may my blood flow thus' and he pricked his fingertip with a knife, collected the blood in a small container and sent it saying 'Give this to my son.' Genghis Khan then sent the following message to Jamukha: 'With an evil mind you have separated me from my khan father. Whoever rose earlier of us two would drink from the blue cup of our father (Wang Khan). I always woke up earlier and drank from his cup so you must have gotten jealous. Now drink from the khan father's blue cup as much as you can. How can you empty it?' "
In Paragraph 189 of the Secret History:
"Gurbesu the mother of Tayan Khan of the Naimans said: 'Wang Khan is a great and old khan. Bring his head. If it is truly him we will worship him' and she sent a messenger to Korisu-beki. They cut his head off from the corpse and brought it and it was truly him. So they placed his head on a white cushion, offered food offerings, blew their trumpets, played their horse-head fiddles and worshipped him placing food offerings and raising cups. As they were doing that the head smiled. Tayan Khan got angry because of the smile and had the head stomped on. At that Kugse'u Sabrag said: 'Is it proper to cut and bring a dead khan's head, stomp on it and throw it away? Our dogs have started howling bad (with bad omens)."
"Ong Khan, John, Christian King, ruler of the barbarian Hun people called Krit (Kerait), took a wife from one of the Cathayan people called Karaketa (Kara-Khitai). He abandoned the faith of his fathers and worshipped strange gods."
In the Travels of Marco Polo Book 1, Chapter 47:
"Now in the year of Christ 1200 he sent an embassy to Prester John, and desired to have his daughter to wife. But when Prester John heard that Chinghis Kaan demanded his daughter in marriage he waxed very wroth, and said to the Envoys, "What impudence is this, to ask my daughter to wife! Wist he not well that he was my liegeman and serf? Get ye back to him and tell him that I had liever set my daughter in the fire than give her in marriage to him, and that he deserves death at my hand, rebel and traitor that he is!" So he bade the Envoys begone at once, and never come into his presence again. The Envoys, on receiving this reply, departed straightway, and made haste to their master, and related all that Prester John had ordered them to say, keeping nothing back."
- Marie Therese Gousset, p.42
- Igor de Rachewiltz, Papal Envoys to the Great Khans (Stanford University Press, 1971), p. 114.
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