The Travels of Marco Polo/Book 2/Chapter 2

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Concerning the Revolt of Nayan, Who Was Uncle to the Great Kaan Cublay[edit]

Now this Cublay Kaan is of the right Imperial lineage, being descended from Chinghis Kaan, the first sovereign of all the Tartars. And he is the sixth Lord in that succession, as I have already told you in this book. He came to the throne in the year of Christ, 1256, and the Empire fell to him because of his ability and valour and great worth, as was right and reason.[1] His brothers, indeed, and other kinsmen disputed his claim, but his it remained, both because maintained by his great valour, and because it was in law and right his, as being directly sprung of the imperial line.

Up to the year of Christ now running, to wit 1298, he hath reigned two-and-forty years, and his age is about eighty-five, so that he must have been about forty-three years of age when he first came to the throne.[2] Before that time he had often been to the wars, and had shown himself a gallant soldier and an excellent captain. But after coming to the throne he never went to the wars in person save once.[3] This befel in the year of Christ, 1286, and I will tell you why he went.

There was a great Tartar Chief, whose name was NAYAN,[4] a young man [of thirty], Lord over many lands and many provinces; and he was Uncle to the Emperor Cublay Kaan of whom we are speaking. And when he found himself in authority this Nayan waxed proud in the insolence of his youth and his great power; for indeed he could bring into the field 300,000 horsemen, though all the time he was liegeman to his nephew, the Great Kaan Cublay, as was right and reason. Seeing then what great power he had, he took it into his head that he would be the Great Kaan's vassal no longer; nay more, he would fain wrest his empire from him if he could. So this Nayan sent envoys to another Tartar Prince called CAIDU, also a great and potent Lord, who was a kinsman of his, and who was a nephew of the Great Kaan and his lawful liegeman also, though he was in rebellion and at bitter enmity with his sovereign Lord and Uncle. Now the message that Nayan sent was this: That he himself was making ready to march against the Great Kaan with all his forces (which were great), and he begged Caidu to do likewise from his side, so that by attacking Cublay on two sides at once with such great forces they would be able to wrest his dominion from him.

And when Caidu heard the message of Nayan, he was right glad thereat, and thought the time was come at last to gain his object. So he sent back answer that he would do as requested; and got ready his host, which mustered a good hundred thousand horsemen.

Now let us go back to the Great Kaan, who had news of all this plot.




  1. 1.0 1.1 There is no doubt that Kublai was proclaimed Kaan in 1260 (4th month), his brother Mangku Kaan having perished during the seige of Hochau in Ssechwan in August of the preceding year. But Kublai had come into Cathay some years before as his brother's Lieutenant.

    He was the fifth, not sixth, Supreme Kaan, as we have already noticed. (Bk. I. ch. li. note 2.)

  2. 2.0 2.1 Kublai was born in the eighth month of the year corresponding to 1216, and had he lived to 1298 would have been eighty-two years old. [According to Dr. E. Bretschneider (Peking, 30), quoting the Yuen-Shi, Kublai died at Khanbaligh, in the Tze-t'an tien in February, 1294.--H. C.] But by Mahomedan reckoning he would have been close upon eighty-five. He was the fourth son of Tuli, who was the youngest of Chinghiz's four sons by his favourite wife Burte Fujin. (See De Mailla, IX. 255, etc.)
  3. 3.0 3.1 This is not literally true; for soon after his accession (in 1261) Kublai led an army against his brother and rival Arikbuga, and defeated him. And again in his old age, if we credit the Chinese annalist, in 1289, when his grandson Kanmala (or Kambala) was beaten on the northern frontier by Kaidu, Kublai took the field himself, though on his approach the rebels disappeared.

    Kublai and his brother Hulaku, young as they were, commenced their military career on Chinghiz's last expedition (1226-1227). His most notable campaign was the conquest of Yunnan in 1253-1254. (De Mailla, IX. 298, 441.)

  4. 4.0 4.1 NAYAN was no "uncle" of Kublai's, but a cousin in a junior generation. For Kublai was the grandson of Chinghiz, and Nayan was the great-great-grandson of Chinghiz's brother Uchegin, called in the Chinese annals Pilgutai. [Belgutai was Chinghiz's step-brother. (Palladius.)--H. C.] On this brother, the great-uncle of Kublai, and the commander of the latter's forces against Arikbuga in the beginning of the reign, both Chinghiz and Kublai had bestowed large territories in Eastern Tartary towards the frontier of Corea, and north of Liaotong towards the Manchu country. ["The situation and limits of his appanage are not clearly defined in history. According to Belgutai's biography, it was between the Onon and Kerulen (Yuen shi), and according to Shin Yao's researches (Lo fung low wen kao), at the confluence of the Argun and Shilka. Finally, according to Harabadur's biography, it was situated in Abalahu, which geographically and etymologically corresponds to modern Butkha (Yuen shi); Abalahu, as Kublai himself said, was rich in fish; indeed, after the suppression of Nayan's rebellion, the governor of that country used to send to the Peking Court fishes weighing up to a thousand Chinese pounds (kin.). It was evidently a country near the Amur River." (Palladius, l.c. 31.)--H. C.] Nayan had added to his inherited territory, and become very powerful. ["History has apparently connected Nayan's appanage with that of Hatan (a grandson of Hachiun, brother of Chinghiz Khan), whose ordo was contiguous to Nayan's, on the left bank of the Amur, hypothetically east of Blagovietschensk, on the spot, where still the traces of an ancient city can be seen. Nayan's possessions stretched south to Kwang-ning, which belonged to his appanage, and it was from this town that he had the title of prince of Kwang-ning (Yuen shi)." (Palladius, l.c. 31.)--H. C.] Kaidu had gained influence over Nayan, and persuaded him to rise against Kublai. A number of the other Mongol princes took part with him. Kublai was much disquieted at the rumours, and sent his great lieutenant BAYAN to reconnoitre. Bayan was nearly captured, but escaped to court and reported to his master the great armament that Nayan was preparing. Kublai succeeded by diplomacy in detaching some of the princes from the enterprise, and resolved to march in person to the scene of action, whilst despatching Bayan to the Karakorum frontier to intercept Kaidu. This was in the summer of 1287. What followed will be found in a subsequent note (ch. iv. note 6). (For Nayan's descent, see the Genealogical Table in the Appendix (A).)