Toghon Temür

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Toghon Temür
Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty
Khagan of the Mongols
Emperor of China
Emperor of Yuan Dynasty
Reign 19 July 1333 – 23 May 1370
Coronation 19 July 1333
Predecessor Rinchinbal
Successor Biligtü Khan
Consort Empress Gi
Full name
Mongolian: ᠲᠤᠭᠬᠣᠣᠨᠲᠥᠮᠥᠷ
Chinese: 妥懽帖睦尔
Ukhaghatu Khan Toghon Temür
Era dates
Zhishun (至順 Zhìshùn) 1333
Yuantong (元統 Yuántǒng) 1333–1335
Zhiyuan (至元 Zhìyuán) 1335–1340
Zhizheng (至正 Zhìzhèng) 1341–1370
Posthumous name
Short: Shundi (順帝)[1]
Full: Emperor Xuanren Pu Xiao (宣仁普孝皇帝)
Temple name
Huizong (惠宗)
Dynasty Yuan
Father Kusala
Mother Mailaiti of the Karluks
Born 25 May 1320
Died 23 May 1370 (aged 50)

Toghon Temür (Mongolian: Тогоонтөмөр, Togoontömör; 25 May 1320 – 23 May 1370), also known by the temple name Huizong bestowed by the Northern Yuan and by the posthumous name Shundi (formerly romanized as Shun-ti) bestowed by the Hongwu Ming emperor, was a son of Kuśala who ruled as Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty and is considered the last Khagan of the Mongol Empire.[2][3][4] During the last years of his reign, the Yuan Empire was overthrown by the Ming Dynasty, although it remained in control of Mongolia as the Northern Yuan. He was a Buddhist student of Karmapas and is considered a previous incarnation of Tai Situpa.

Before succession[edit]

A possible portrait of Toghon Temür's stepmother Babusha.
Portrait of Toghon Temür.

Toghon Temür was born to Kuśala when he stayed in Central Asia in exile. Toghon Temür's mother was Mailaiti, descendant of Arslan, the chief of the Qarluq tribe.[5]

Following the civil war that broke out after Yesün Temür Khan's death in 1328, he attended his father Kuśala and entered Shangdu via Mongolia. But after Kuśala died and Kuśala's younger brother Tugh Temür was restored to the throne, he was kept from the court and was banished to Goryeo, present-day Korea, and then to Guangxi. While he was in exile, his stepmother Babusha was executed.

In 1332 when Tugh Temür died, his widow Budashiri Khatun respected his will to make Kuśala's son succeed the throne instead of his son El Tegüs. But it was not Toghon Temür but his younger half-brother Rinchinbal who became the emperor. Rinchinbal died in two months, and the de facto ruler El Temür attempted to install El Tegüs again, but it was rejected by Budashiri. As a result, Toghon Temür was summoned back from Guangxi. El Temür feared that Toghon Temür, who was too mature to be a puppet, would take arms against him since he was suspected of the assassination of Toghon Temür's father Kuśala. The enthronement of Toghon Temür was postponed for six months by El Temür. He managed to accede to the throne in 1333 when El Temür died.


Struggles during the early reign[edit]

Toghon Temür appointed his cousin El Tegüs Crown Prince, as he was ward of El Tegüs' mother Budashiri, but he was controlled by warlords even after El Temür's death. Among them, Bayan became as powerful as El Temür had been. He served as minister of the Secretariat and crushed a rebellion by El Temür's son. During his despotic rule, he made several purges and also suspended the imperial examination system. As Toghon Temür grew, he came to disfavor Bayan's autocratic rule. In 1340 he allied with Bayan's nephew Toqto'a, who was in discord with Bayan, and banished Bayan by coup. He also kicked El Tegüs and Budashiri out of the court. He managed to purge officials that had dominated the administration with the help of Toghtogha.

Administrations during the middle reign[edit]

With the dismissal of Bayan, Toghtogha seized the power of the court. His first administration clearly exhibited fresh new spirit. The young leader was quick to distinguish his regime as something wholly different from Bayan's. A new reign title Zhizheng (Chinese: 至正) was decreed to show this. Bayan's purges were called off. Many of the great Chinese literati came back to the capital from voluntary retirement or from administrative exile. Also, the imperial examination system was restored.

Toghtogha also gave a few early signs of a new and positive direction in central government. One of his successful projects was to finish the long-stalled official histories of the Liao, Jin and Song dynasties, which were eventually completed in 1345.

Yet, Toghtogha resigned his office with the approval of Toghon Temür in June 1344, which marked the end of his first administration. The several short-lived administrations that followed from 1344 and 1349 would develop an agenda very different from Toghtogha's. In 1347, Toghon Temür drove him into Gangsu with assistance from former officers of Kuśala and Yesün Temür. But he called Toghtogha back in 1349, which began Toghtogha's second, and a different-styled administration.

Disorder during the late reign[edit]

Since the late 1340s, people in the countryside suffered from frequent natural disasters; droughts, floods and the ensuing famines. The government's lack of effective policy led to a loss of the support from people. Illicit salt dealers who were disaffected with the government's salt monopoly raised a rebellion in 1348. It triggered many revolts around the empire. Among them, the Red Turban Rebellion, which started in 1351, grew into a nationwide turmoil.

Hsing-hua, 1362, Yuan dynasty. Much of Putian County was controlled by Chinese rebels.

In 1354, when Toghtogha led a large army to crush the Red Turban rebels, Toghon Temür suddenly dismissed him for fear of betrayal. It resulted in Toghon Temür's restoration of power on the one hand and a rapid weakening of the central government on the other. He had no choice but to rely on local warlords' military.

He gradually lost his interest in politics and ceased to intervene political struggles. His son Ayushiridar, who became Crown Prince in 1353, attempted to seize power and came to conflict with Toghon Temür's aides who dominated politics instead of the khan. Chief Khatun Öljei Khutugh and his minister persuaded Ayushiridar to overthrow the latter. Toghon Temür was unable to conciliate the dispute but executed the minister. In 1364 the Shangxi-based warlord Bolad Temür occupied Khanbaliq and expelled the Crown Prince from the winter base. In alliance with the Henan-based warlord Köke Temür, Ayushiridar defeated Bolad Temür in the next year. This internal struggle resulted in further weakening of political and military power of the central government.

Relations with other nations[edit]

Holy See[edit]

Monument in honor of the rebuilding of the Temple of Yan in Qufu in Year 9 of Zhizheng era (1349)

Pope John XXII and Pope Benedict XII successfully extended a network of Catholic churches all over the Mongol Empire, from the Crimean peninsula to China between 1317 and 1343. The archbishop of Khanbaligh, John of Montecorvino, died in 1328. With the backing of the Khagan and last Yuan Emperor, Toghon Temür, the Alans wrote to Pope Benedict XII in 1336 asking for a new metropolitan. In 1338, the pope sent back the embassy headed by John of Marignolli, who stayed at Peking three or four years. They brought gifts for Toghon Temür that included fine European horses.

Delhi Sultanate[edit]

In around 1338, Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq of Delhi Sultanate appointed Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta an ambassador to the Yuan court of Togan Temur in China. The gifts he was to take included 200 Hindu slaves. On the Doab plain they were attacked by Hindu insurgents; the imperial cavalry killed all 4,000 of them while losing 78 men, according to Battuta, who was separated, captured, and barely escaped being killed by brigands. Battuta also luckily escaped to China. However, he said when he came to China, the Qaghan was dead but the traveller travelling further north, through the Grand Canal to Beijing, and along with his fellow countryman Al-Bushri, Ibn Battuta was invited to the Yuan imperial court of Toghon Temür as an ambassador of the Delhi Sultanate.[6]


When the Koreans captured a Japanese fishing ship they thought was spying, the Goryeo court sent it to their overlord, the Yuan emperor Toghon Temür, who then sent the fishermen back to Japan. In reply, the Ashikaga shogunate sent an embassy led by a monk to express its gratitude.

Retreat to the north[edit]

A statue of Toghon Temür in Mongol Castle

Unifying rebel groups in Southern China and establishing the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang conducted military expeditions to Northern China and defeated the Yuan army in 1368. When Köke Temür lost battles against Ming General Xu Da and the Ming troops approached Hebei, Toghon Temür gave up Khanbalik and fled to the summer base Xanadu.

In 1369 when Shangdu also fell under the Ming's occupation, Toghon Temür fled northward to Yingchang, which was located in present-day Inner Mongolia. He died there in 1370, and his son Ayushiridara succeeded to the throne and retreated to Karakorum in present-day Mongolia in the same year. The Yuan remnants ruled Mongolia and continued to claim the title of Emperor of China. It was called the Northern Yuan by Chinese and Mongols.

At the time of his death, the Mongolia-based empire maintained its influence, stretching the domination from the Sea of Japan to Altai Mountains. There were also pro-Yuan, anti-Ming forces in Yunnan and Guizhou. Even though its control over China had not been stable yet, the Ming considered that the Yuan lost the Mandate of Heaven when it abandoned Khanbalik, and that the Yuan was overthrown in 1368. The Ming did not treat Toghon Temür after 1368 and his successor Ayushiridar as legitimate emperors.

The Ming gave Toghon Temür the posthumous name Shundi (順帝), which implied that he followed the Mandate of Heaven ceding his empire to the Ming. But the Northern Yuan gave him their own posthumous name Xuanren Pu Xiao Huangdi (宣仁普孝皇帝) and temple name Huizong (惠宗).

Even after Toghon Temür, there was still Yuan resistance to the Ming in the south. In southwestern China, Basalawarmi, the self-styled "Prince of Liang", established a Yuan resistance movement in Yunnan and Guizhou that was not put down until 1381.


Mongolian chronicles such as the Erdeni-yin tobchi include a poem known as the Lament of Toghon Temür. It deals with his grieving after the loss of Khanbalik.

Depiction in art and media[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The posthumous name Shundi was given by the Ming Dynasty.
  2. ^ Michael Prawdin The Mongol Empire and its Legacy
  3. ^ J. J. Saunders The History of Mongol Conquests
  4. ^ René Grousset The Empire of Steppes
  5. ^ Andreas Radbruch, ed. Flow Cytometry and Cell Sorting. Berlin: Springer, 1992 or 2000 ISBN 0-387-55594-3 ISBN 3540656308, p. 129
  6. ^
Toghon Temür
Died: 1370
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Rinchinbal Khan
Great Khan of the Mongol Empire
Succeeded by
The Mongol Empire fell
Preceded by
Emperor Ningzong
Emperor of China
Succeeded by
The Hongwu Emperor of the Ming Dynasty
Emperor Zhaozong (Claimant)
Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty
Succeeded by
Biligtü Khan Ayushiridara