These biographies are not the most comprehensive as there are so many sources I cannot access due to language and availability issues and also many of the men have very little information written about them; I have also had to consider how much of the main narrative I wanted to bring in to them as I didn’t necessarily want to reveal too many upcoming events. The level of detail has really depended on how likely we are to come across the person again. The biographies end around the death of Chingis Khan in 1227.
Let’s remind ourselves of the 14 men who were apparently at Baljuna. The Mongol people were represented by Temujin, Khasar, Jurchedei and Achulugh. Three Kereyid tribesmen Ha-san-na, Qaidu and Chinqai; a Suldus tribesman Taghai Badur; Sorgen Noyan possibly from a clan called Che’utei, Sa’ughur the Merkit, Botu Butu the Ikires; two Khitan brothers Yelu Ahai and Yelu Tuhua and the Muslim Jabar Qoje.
We’ll start with the leader because I don’t feel that we really need to recount his life in any real detail at this point – go and listen to the other episodes of the Mongol Empire Podcast to find out more!
As we have seen, Temujin was the son of Yesugei and Hogelun, brother to Khasar, Kachigun, Temuge and Temulun, and half brother to Belgutei and Bekter. He overcame adversity in his youth to establish himself as one of the strongest leaders on the steppe, using the protection of the Kereyid Toghoril Ong Khan to grow his reputation, tribe and family. And family is something that I have not really looked at in any great detail. In the main narrative we are at 1203 at which point he has a large number of sons, daughters and wives but I’ve only really acknowledged that Jochi and Ogedei exist. The subject of another supplemental episode is likely to be the make-up of Chingis Khan’s household, his family members etc, because they are very important to the growth of the Mongol Empire. This may come in the gap between becoming Chingis Khan and the start of the conquest of Xi Xia. I have many things I want to look at and only limited time to research and write so we shall see what happens.
Achulugh, Ha-san-na, Qaidu, Sa’ugher and Sorgen Noyan
These five men have very little written about them, other than what is translated by Cleaves. For Temujin to have honoured their loyalty to him at Baljuna suggests that all five held important positions in his camp – possibly as members of his bodyguard, or Keshigten. According to Buell, the role of the Keshigten was multi-faceted. In addition to protecting the Khan, they maintained his household carrying out jobs which included preparing his weapons, ensuring the emperor had plenty of food and drink, looking after tents and supplies, and record keeping. The Keshigten also acted as advisors able to directly impact government policy. Having a family member placed within the bodyguard was a both an honour and a threat – it was a method of control to deter clans from rebellion.
The first of our five keshigten is Achulugh the Mongol. Beyond his participation in the Baljuna Covenant the Yuanshi states that he took part in the invasion of Northern China.
Next up is Ha-san-na the Kereyid. The Yuanshi tells us only that he proved his loyalty and ability in the battle against Ong Khan and was invited to drink the waters of Baljuna.
Qaidu was another Kereyid and the information about him comes from the Yuanshi biography of his son Suge. It states that Qaidu was of the Kereyid clan, Suge was his son and his wife was a descendant of the Tang Dynasty.
The biography of Sa’ughur the Merkit states that he also took part in the Mongol conquest of the Jin but little other information is given. The fact that we find a member of the Merkit serving Temujin in 1203 is a little surprising, but if we remember the tribe had been badly beaten twice very recently and whilst they were still operating autonomously the Merkit were nowhere near the threat they had once been. The make-up of Temujin’s tribe also allowed for individuals to join, so it may be that Sa’ughur had realised that fighting for the Merkit leader Toghtogha Beki was no longer in his best interests. That he was so close to the Mongol leader is perhaps an example of the intimidating element of serving in the bodyguard – Sa’ughur had to prove that he was not an agent of the Merkit and gain the trust of the Khan. He must of gained that trust as the Yuanshi gives a brief account of his service in Northern China.
The last of the five keshigten is Sorgen Noyan. Cleaves reconstructed his clan name as Che’utei, but that isn’t certain and there doesn’t appear to be any other sources that mention him.
We’ll begin with Taghai Badur or Taghai Ba’atur – Taghai the valiant. Taghai was a Suldus tribesman who had joined Temujin at some point prior to the fight against Ong Khan. He must have been a warrior of some repute – in addition to being a celebrated Baljunatu, Taghai’s name is recorded by the Secret History as being one of the men who were elevated to the position of Minggan-u Noyan, or commander of 1000 men, by the quriltai of 1206. Whilst Taghai’s history appears to fizzle out at this point, his participation at Baljuna is recorded in the Yuanshi biography of his grandson Ataqai, showing that his family continued to be held in high regard.
Botu Butu (Butu Gürӓgen)
Botu Butu was a man who did receive a little more coverage in episode 3.8 of the Mongol Empire Podcast, but it turns out that the information I gave was not quite right. I stated that Rashid al-Din wrote that Botu Butu was a brother of Temujin’s mother Hogelun, but this isn’t correct and if I’d read the footnotes a little closer, I would have realised this. Oops. So, who was Botu Butu, or Butu Guragen? Well it seems that he was a leader of the Ikires clan, one of the loose confederation of groups who made up the Ungirad tribe. Around the same time that trouble was brewing between Toghoril and Temujin, the Ikires clan came under attack from another Ungirad clan, the Qorolas. The Qorolas routed the Ikires who then joined with Temujin at Baljuna. Botu Butu appears to have been held in high regard by Temujin, as Rashid al-Din tells us he married the Mongol Khan’s eldest daughter Fujin Beki and this time the Secret History does provide some support to this detail by telling us that the name Guragen was given to men who had married one of Temujin’s daughters. Botu Butu is said to have brought 2000 Ikires to Temujin’s army and, like Taghai Badur, the Secret History names him as one of the men promoted to Minggan-u Noyan in Chingis Khan’s new look Mongol army. Rashid al-Din states that Botu Butu served as Temujin’s attendant.
Khasar (Jochi Khasar/Qasar)
Temujin’s brother Khasar was the second son of Yesugei and Hogelun. According to Rashid al-Din Jochi was his birth name but he got the additional name of Qasar which means wild beast, because he was big, powerful and mighty. You will see sources and accounts referring to him as Jochi Khasar, which gets a little confusing when Temujin’s first son was named Jochi, which is why I shall continue to refer to him just as Khasar. On a separate note, was Jochi the son named after Jochi the brother? Hmm I doubt we’ll find an answer for that one.
Khasar was generally supportive of Chingis Khan’s action throughout his life, and barring a few occasions, Temujin retained trust in his brother. Khasar played an instrumental role in several key points in Temujin’s rise to khan, the murder of Bekter being one. He did miss out on the battle of Qalaqaljid Sands as his family was being held captive by Ong Khan. Depending on which source you read, Khasar either escaped from Ong Khan’s camp, abandoning his family or avoided capture in the first place and wandered around the steppe living off carrion until he joined up with Temujin at Baljuna. As we shall see in the next full episode Qasar’s decision to abandon his family to Toghoril provided an opportunity for the Mongol Khan to strike back against his adopted father.
Khasar’s family always retained a place of honour in Mongol society, but Khasar himself fades in and out of the narrative. I’ve decided to provide fairly limited information about Khasar at this time as although he seems to swing from one moment being a key figure in Temujin’s government to then playing a more secondary role, his life is still very much tied up with the events of the main narrative. So you will have to wait to find out what contributions he makes to the founding of the Mongol Empire.
Jurchedei (Kӓhӓtӓi Noyen)
As we have seen he was the leader the Mongol Urugud clan and probably transferred his allegiance from Jamugha to Temujin on the latter’s return from the frontier zone in 1196, taking part in the battle against the Tatar. Did the fact that Temujin was now the de facto leader of Toghoril’s Kereyids with Jurchen support help with this decision? – possibly, but Jurchedai remained as one of Temujin’s most loyal commanders, answering his call for support at Qalaqaljid Sands and leading the charge against the Keryeid/Mongol alliance.
Additionally, Rashid al-Din reports that Jurchedai was the only leader of the Urugud who remained loyal to Temujin throughout, with the others deciding to join the Tayichigud, this could also be Rashid al-din confusing events again though. After the Tayichigud were completely defeated by Temujin, the Mongol leader ordered the rebellious Urugud clans to be reduced to slavery, and Jurchedei did not object to it because he agreed that they deserved their punishment.
Despite naming Jurchedai as a great and important commander, the only story Rashid al-Din recounts about him relates to a time Temujin suffered a nightmare. Apparently Jurchedei was on night guard duty outside the Khan’s tent when Temujin came stumbling out somewhat frantically. The nightmare had been so bad that Temujin felt that the only way save himself from it was to give away one of his wives to the man who was guarding his tent, which happened to be a bemused Jurchedei. In the quriltai of 1206 Jurchedei was also named one of the minggan-u noyan.
Yelü Ahai and Yelü Tuhua
The term Yelü identifies these two men to be members of the old Khitan imperial clan and both were officials in Huanzhou, in Inner Mongolia. According to the biography in the Yuan Shi, Yelü Ahai was originally sent to the steppe by the Jin to serve as an ambassador to Ong Khan. During this service he identified Temujin as being a man of extraordinary talent and offered to transfer his service from the Jin to the Mongol leader. To guarantee his loyalty Ahai offered to give his younger brother Tuhua to the Khan as a hostage. Agreeing to this, Temujin allowed Ahai to return to his home in China and following year he returned to the Mongols bringing with him Tuhua. Ahai was granted a position in the heart of Temujin’s retinue to provide consultations on strategy and battle order whilst Tuhua was placed into the Khan’s bodyguard.
Ahai was a noted horse rider and archer, probably a polyglot and was probably quite a bit older than Temujin, having been born around 1150.
During the conquest of the Jin, both brothers served under Jebe in the vanguard of the Mongol army. Ahai unsuccessfully attempted to apply some control over the violence meted out on the conquered population by the victorious army. Later on, the administrative experience of the brothers became invaluable, and Chingis Khan gave Ahai permission to set up a basic local government in the conquered territory.
Ahai went on to take part in the Western campaign and was appointed Darughachi (overseer) of Samarkhand, a position that was inherited by his son, Miansige. Ahai died in 1225.
Tuhua remained in China as a military organiser.
Jabar Qoje (Jafa Qoje)
Jabar Qoje was a Muslim and Sayyad, someone who claimed descent from Muhammad. His origins are unknown, but he was probably a merchant. Much like the Khitan brothers, it seems likely that Jabar Qoje held a more administrative role within Temujin’s council, but the Yuanshi states that he was a highly proficient hunter and used a bow to bring down a horse which was used to feed Temujin’s followers after the battle at Qalaqaljid Sands.
He was appointed as the Mongol envoy to the Jin Dynasty and was instrumental for speeding up its defeat. His knowledge of northern China allowed the Mongol army to bypass potentially difficult obstacles such as fortresses to gain combat advantage. He served as the Mongol negotiator during the 1214 peace talks and when war recommenced in 1215, Jabar Qoje was instrumental in the capitulation of the Jin capital Zhongdu. He received a large part of the city as a reward for his service.
Later he was given the task of organising local government in the region surrounding Zhongdu as the Mongol administration looked to make its sedentary holdings profitable under a centralised power. Apparently Jabar Qoje lived to 117 years old, dying in 1227.
Described by both the Yuanshi, and me in episode 3.8, as being a Kereyid, Chinqai’s origins seem a little uncertain as other sources describe him as an Onggut, a Muslim from Turkestan or a Uighur; and he does not appear in the Secret History at all. His absence from that source may suggest a non-steppe origin and much like Jabar Qoje, it seems likely that prior to joining the Mongols he was a trader.
Wherever he was from, Chinqai was highly educated and we know he could fluently speak the Turkish and Mongol dialects and the Chinese language, he could also read Chinese and the Uighur script.
His career as a Mongol leader probably started prior to 1203 in Temujin’s bodyguard in a dual administrative and martial capacity. At the quriltai of 1206 he was given his own force of men and then moved on to holding two offices in the Khan’s government. The first kept him close to Chingis as a bodyguard and household administrator, the second was an appointment within the larger imperial government. These roles were often intertwined and typically men who formed the bodyguard could end up in important government positions because of their natural talent and from having the trust of the emperor.
In 1212 Chinqai was made a cherbi, or chamberlain, and ran his own staff. At the same time, he was given the position of Jhaghuchi – an arbitrator. He was involved in resolving legal disputes alongside the Chingis’ senior Jharghuchi, Shigi Khutukhu.
At some point prior to 1221 he was ordered to establish a colony of artisans and captives in Western Mongolia, which came to be known as Chinqai Balayasun or the grainary of Chinqai. He also arranged for the Taoist monk Ch’ang Ch’un to cross Mongolia and Central Asia to meet with Chingis Khan in Afghanistan, recording the event for posterity.
On the military front it seems likely that he had an important role in the conquest of northern China, in both the planning and fighting parts. He helped to bring about the capitulation of the Jin capital Zhongdu and as a reward was allowed to fire off four arrows in four directions and claim all the booty within, similar to the reward received by Jabar Qoje.
Chinqai’s legacy appears to be more on the administrative side of government. He was one of the men who recognised the need to wean the government away from the practice of violently exploiting its conquered subjects, instead working to turn the land into profitable parts of the empire.
By 1225 his responsibilities had grown beyond the Khan’s household and he had been moved into the wider imperial administration where he worked under the empires chief Jharghuchi, Belgutei. He had control of the representatives of the families who had married into Chingis Khan’s family, which would probably have included Botu Butu. The representatives acted much like agents trying to gain positions of influence for their clients.
Chinqai served in the administration of all the emperors until the reign of Mongke in 1252, when he was executed for supporting the rival house of Ogedei.
Buell, P. D. n.d. Chinqai (ca.1169-1252): architect of the Mongolian Empire. Unknown source, p168-186. Full version of article found in de Rachewiltz, I. 1993. In the Service of the Khan, Eminent Personalities of the Early Mongol-Yuan Period (1200-1300); p95-111.
Cleaves, F.W. 1955. The Historicity of the Baljuna Covenant. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 18 (3/4), p357-421.
Kahn, Paul. 1998. The Secret History of the Mongols: the origin of Chingis Khan. Cheng & Tsui: Boston.
Rashiduddin Fazullah. 1998. Jami’u’t-Tawarikh: Compendium of Chronicles. Translated by W.M. Thackston. Harvard University. 3 vols.
Ratchnevsky, P. 1992. Genghis Khan: his life and legacy. Blackwell, Oxford.