Ayurbarwada Buyantu Khan

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Ayurbarwada Buyantu Khan
Emperor Renzong of Yuan
The 8th Khagan of the Mongol Empire
(Nominal due to the empire's division)
The 4th Emperor of the Yuan dynasty
Emperor of China
Portrait of Buyantu Khan (Emperor Renzong) during the Yuan era.
Reign April 7, 1311 – March 1, 1320
Coronation April 7, 1311
Predecessor Külüg Khan
Successor Gegeen Khan
Consort Radnashiri
Full name
Mongolian: ᠪᠦᠶᠠᠨᠲᠦ ᠬᠠᠭᠠᠨ ᠠᠶᠦᠷᠪᠠᠣᠠᠳᠠ
Chinese: 愛育黎拔力八達
Ayurbarwada Buyantu Khan
Era dates
Huangqing (皇慶, celebration of emperor) 1312–1313
Yanyou (延祐, extension of benediction) 1314–1320
Posthumous name
Emperor Shengwen Qinxiao (聖文欽孝皇帝)
Temple name
Rénzōng (仁宗)
House Borjigin
Dynasty Yuan
Father Darmabala
Mother Dagi of the Khunggirat
Born April 9, 1285
Died March 1, 1320(1320-03-01) (aged 34)

Buyantu Khan (Mongolian: Буянт хаан), born Ayurbarwada, also known by the temple name Renzong (Emperor Renzong of Yuan (Chinese: 元仁宗, April 9, 1285 – March 1, 1320), was the fourth emperor of the Yuan dynasty. Apart from Emperor of China, he is regarded as the eighth Great Khan of the Mongol Empire or Mongols, although it was only nominal due to the division of the empire. His name means "blessed/good Khan" in the Mongolian language. His name "Ayurbarwada" was from a Sanskrit compound "Āyur-parvata", which means "the mountain of longevity", in contrast with Emperor Wuzong's name Qaišan ("mountains and seas" in Chinese).[1]

Ayurbarwada was the first Yuan emperor who actively supported the adoption of confucian principles into the Mongolian administration system. The emperor, who was mentored by the Confucian academic Li Meng, succeeded peacefully to the throne and reversed his older brother Khayisan's policies. More importantly, Ayurbarwada reinstituted the civil service examination system for the Yuan dynasty.

Struggle for succession[edit]

Ayurbarwada was the second son of Darmabala and Dagi (Targi) of the Khunggirat, and a great-grandson of Kublai Khan (r.1260–94). He had been tutored by the Confucian scholar Li Meng, who strongly affected his future political attitudes since his early teens.[2]

In 1305 Bulugan Khatun removed Ayurbarwada from the court and sent him to Honan as the prince of Huai-ning. However, his uncle Temür Khan died without an heir on February 2, 1307, because his son Tachu had died a year earlier before him.

Temür's widow Bulugan of the Bayaud tribe had kept away the Khunggirad-mothered brothers of Khayishan and Ayurbarwada and attempted to set up her favorite, the Muslim Ananda, their uncle and the governor of Ningxia. The Darkhan Harghasun, the right chancellor (Chinese: 右丞相) of the government who became aware of Bulugan's plan, recalled Ayurbarwada and Li Meng from Huaizhou (Chinese: 懷州) to the capital Dadu. They successfully developed a strategy to imprison both Ananda and Bulugan. Afterwards, Ayurbarwada welcomed his older brother Khayishan, who was still far away from Dadu, to succeed to the throne. After the latter's coronation, Ayurbarwada was appointed the Crown Prince in June 1307. The brothers promised each other that their descendants would rule in succession.

Early career under Külüg Khan and enthronement[edit]

Ayurbarwada was made head of the top central administrative organs known as the Central Secretariat under his brother and predecessor Khayishan Külüg Khan.[3] He had surrounded himself with the Chinese scholars Chen Hao, Wang I, Wang Yueh, Chao Mengfu, Wang Chieh, Chan Yaoho, Shang-ye, Yao sui, and Hsia ku; the artists Shang cheng and Wang Cheng-peng; Chagaan, a scholar from Balkh and Haiya, the Uyghur lyricist.

He was able to read and write Chinese and appreciate Chinese paintings and calligraphy in addition to his deep knowledge of Confucianism and Chinese history.[4] Strongly influenced by Confucian political ethics, he was naturally opposed to his brother's exploitative policies. Khayishan's partisans had accused Li Meng of having advised Ayurbarwada to keep the throne for himself; Li Meng left the court immediately after Khayishan's accession. Ayurbarwada spoke out in Li Meng's defence but accomplished nothing much in the end. His disagreement with his brother's high officials remained concealed until his own enthronement.

Khayishan died in January 1311. Unlike the succession struggle over Yuan throne in 1307, Ayurbarwada's succession to his elder brother Khayishan's throne in April 1311 was a peaceful and smooth transition of the Yuan imperial history.[5] This was made possible by the fact that he was designated by Khayishan as the heir apparent in June 1307, in accordance with their earlier agreement, and had subsequently appointed him as the titular head of the Central Secretariat, similar to Kublai Khan had done when grooming Zhenjin to be his successor. He was saluted under the title of Buyantu in his accession kuriltai.


While one might expect a general continuity in policy and personnel between the two reigns in view of the fraternal love between Khaishan and Ayurbawada and the peaceful way in which one succeeded the other, what was to happen early in Ayurbarwada's reign was actually the opposite: a political purge of Khaishan's chief ministers and a reversal of most of his policies. These reversals of policies can be traced to Ayurbarwada's cultural and ideological orientation and his uneasy political relationship with his late brother. Strongly influenced by Confucian political ethics as he was, he was naturally opposed to the exploitative policies carried out by the Department of State Affairs under Khaishan.[6]

Ayurbarwada was highlighted for his reform efforts based on Confucianism principle for the Yuan government, though these reforms were made at the displeasure of some Mongol nobility. As soon as he ascended to the throne, he disbanded of the Department of State Affairs set up during Khayishan's reign, which resulted in the execution of 5 high-ranking officials. He also abolished the Zhida paper notes and coins issued by the court of Khayishan; and restored the Zhongtong and Zhiyuan notes as the only official currency. The bureaucracy was trimmed to the 1293 level and new high offices were reduced to the original status they had had in Kublai's reign. The various public building projects of Khayisan were halted. He made Li Meng and Zhang Kui grand councillors in addition to appointing others including Mongols and Semuren (a caste of assorted peoples from Central Asia and the west). The Office of Market Taxes, which was set up to supervise merchants, was abolished with the attempt at abolition by the Semuren.[7]

The most prominent reform he made was the reintroduction of the imperial examination system for public officials similar to the one in previous dynasties of China.[8] The imperial examination system, though had repeated been debated during Kublai's reign, had not put into effect until this time. It was now based entirely on Neo-Confucianism, which was thus established as the state philosophy of China for many centuries ever since. A race-based quotas were set for these examinations, allowing a certain number of both Mongol and Han Chinese to enter the government as civil officials. For example, starting in 1313 examinations were introduced for prospective officials – testing their knowledge on significant historical works – in 1315 300 appointments went to the court, with an extra quarter of the positions being given to non-Han Chinese people.

Codification of the law was another area in which Ayurbarwada's efforts to reform the Yuan Dynasty produced the desired results. In the same month that he was enthroned in 1311, he instructed the Central Secretariat to systematize the codes and regulations promulgated since the beginning of Kublai's reign. This compilation and editing was completed in 1316, though the process of reviewing the collection was not completely until 1323, under his son and successor Shidibala, who formally promulgated it under the title Da Yuan Tong Zhi (Chinese: 大元通制, "the comprehensive institutions of the Great Yuan").[9] In some ways the new code also reflected certain Mongolian customs and the institutional features peculiar to the Mongol dynasty in the history of China.

A Yuan Dynasty blue-and-white porcelain dish with fish and flowing water design, mid-fourteenth century, Freer Gallery of Art.

He believed that the Mongol elites and the Semuren had to learn from Confucian political philosophy and Chinese historical experience in order to govern China.[10] During the reign of Ayurbarwada, a number of Chinese books and works were translated or published with Ayurbarwada's authorization. This can also reveal his fondness for Chinese culture and his and his officials' (especially the Mongols and Central Asians) desire to benefit from Confucian political wisdom and Chinese historical experience. Examples of these translated or published books and works include the Confucian classic Shang Shu (Chinese: 尚書, "Book of history"), Daxue Yanyi (Chinese: 大學衍義, "Extended meaning of the Great Learning"), Zhenguan Zhengyao (貞觀政要, "Essentials of the government of the Zhenguan period"), and the Xiao Jing (孝經, "Books of filial piety").

In the winter of 1311 Ayurbarwada ordered the abolition of the jarghuchi (judge) of the princely establishments that was created by Ögedei Khan (r.1229–41) and placed all Mongolian violators under the jurisdiction of chienbu while attempting to restrict separate appanage judges. He restricted the position jarghuchi to judicial affairs and organized them under the Court of the Imperial Clan.[11]

Early in his reign Ayurbarwada encouraged agriculture to increase the state revenue.[12] His senior councillor, Temuder, took drastic measures which included collecting salt and iron monopoly taxes and the state monopoly over foreign trade under the Maritime Trade Supervisorate. Despite commercial ties with Europe increased, Ayurbarwada's administration, led by Temuder, unsuccessfully attempted a new cadastral survey called Yanyou Jingli (Chinese: 延祐經理) which involves a comprehensive land survey in 1314. If it had been implemented properly, this survey would have greatly increased the state revenue and helped a more effective tax structure. Ineffective implementation of the survey by corrupt officials caused widespread hardship and resentment. As a result, a serious revolt broke out in Jiangxi in the fall of 1315. Although the revolt was suppressed within two months, it forced the government to abandon the survey program completely to relieve the situation.[13]

Ayurbarwada also granted diploma (yarliq) to exempt the Franciscans from any taxation in 1314.[14] The friars were still expected to pray for the Emperor's life and give their blessing on ceremonial occasions.

Temuder chipped away at the autonomy of the princely appanages and executed Confucian opponents. Since Temuder was viewed by Confucians as an "evil minister", opponents of fiscal centralization charged Temuder with corruption; and Buyantu Khan had to dismiss him in 1317.[15] Unwilling to oppose his mother Dagi (Targi), Ayurbarwada could not eliminate Temuder.

Internationally, Ayurbarwada continued his ancestors' imperialistic policies. He reminded the vassal states of his accession, and told them to remember and send their tribute at the proper time, and assured them that he would make punitive actions if they failed. Among the tributary princes to whom he notified his advent to the throne are named those of Champa, Annam, an island near Japan, Malabar, and kingdoms on the borders of Yunnan.[16]

The reign of Ayurbarwada also saw the Esen Buqa–Ayurbarwada war between the Chagatai Khanate under Esen Buqa I and the Ayurbarwada's Yuan dynasty and its ally the Ilkhanate under Öljaitü. The war ended with the victory for the Yuan and the Ilkhanate, but the peace only came after the death of Esen Buqa in 1318.


Ayurbarwada died on March 1, 1320.[17] After Khayishan died, Ayurbarwada reneged his promise later in his reign by making his own son Shidibala the new Crown Prince in 1316. Therefore, his son succeeded him instead of one of Khayisan's sons.

His death created two decades of political turmoil. The Khunggirat faction under Temuder and Dagi became even more powerful at the court. After the assassination of Shidibala in 1323, none of his descendants ruled the Empire.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ See Yao Dali 姚大力, "Yuan renzong yu zhongyuan zhengzhi" 元仁宗与中元政治 (Emperor Renzong and the Mid-Yuan Politics), Mengyuan zhidu yu zhengzhi wenhua 蒙元制度与政治文化, Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe, 2011.
  2. ^ Yuan shi, 22. p.480
  3. ^ Yuan shi, 22. p.480
  4. ^ Yoshikawa Kojiro Gen no shotei no Bungaku, p.234
  5. ^ Peter Allan Lorge War, politics and society in early modern China, 900–1795, p. 92
  6. ^ Herbert Franke, Denis Twitchett, John King Fairbank The Cambridge History of China: Alien regimes and border states, 907–1368, p.513
  7. ^ C. P. Atwood Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire, p.430
  8. ^ J. A. G. Roberts A Concise History of China, p.107
  9. ^ Denis Twitchett, Herbert Franke, John K. Fairbank, in The Cambridge History of China: Volume 6, Alien Regimes and Border States (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), p518.
  10. ^ Herbert Franke, Denis Twitchett, John King Fairbank The Cambridge History of China: Alien regimes and border states, 907–1368, p.520
  11. ^ C. P. Atwood Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire, p.264
  12. ^ yuan shi, 24. pp.538
  13. ^ Herbert Franke, Denis Twitchett, John King Fairbank The Cambridge History of China: Alien regimes and border states, 907–1368, p.523
  14. ^ P.Jackson The Mongols and the West, p.271
  15. ^ Thomas T. Allsen Culture and Conquest in Mongol Eurasia, p.38
  16. ^ H. H. Howorth History of the Mongols, part 1, p.401
  17. ^ Herbert Franke, Denis Twitchett, John King Fairbank The Cambridge History of China: "Alien regimes and border states, 907–1368", p.526
Ayurbarwada Buyantu Khan
Born: 1285 Died: 1320
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Külüg Khan, Emperor Wuzong
Great Khan of the Mongol Empire
(Nominal due to the empire's division)

Succeeded by
Gegeen Khan, Emperor Yingzong
Emperor of the Yuan dynasty
Emperor of China