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Yuan Dynasty - Facts, History and Emperors in Order

Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368), for the first time in Chinese history, is a unified dynasty established by a minority group - Mongolian Borjigin clan. It lasted 98 years since Kublai set the state name Yuan, while the consolidated Mongolian regime had existed for 162 years since Genghis Khan unified the Mongolian tribes. In 1206, Genghis Khan from Borjigin clan conquered all Mongolian tribes and established the Mongolian Empire. In the following 30 years, he led the Mongolian army and conquered the Jin and Western Xia Kingdoms. In 1264, Kublai ascended the throne of Great Khan and changed the state name into Yuan in 1271, and settled the capital in Dadu (current Beijing) the next year. In 1279, Yuan army wiped out the Southern Song fugitives and achieved the final unification of China. During the middle Yuan Dynasty, there are multiple times of expeditions made to Japan, Burma, Vietnam, Java and other places, and all ended up failures. In addition, the corrupt politics, contradictions among classes and ethnics, and the constant coups deteriorated the Yuan Dynasty. In 1368, Han people led by Zhu Yuanzhang established Ming Dynasty and seized Dadu, forcing the Yuan court to retreat to north of Gobi and linger out as Northern Yuan Dynasty.

7 Quick Facts on Yuan Dynasty

1.Yuan Dynasty is the first dynasty in China that is established by a minority group.

2.The Chinese territory reached the largest scale during Yuan Dynasty.

3.The system of administrative provinces was first established in Yuan Dynasty.

4.China in Yuan Dynasty was the world’s largest financial power at that time.

5.The earliest cannon of metallic conduit was invented in Yuan Dynasty.

6.It was in Yuan Dynasty that the Grand Canyon created in Sui and Tang Dynasties was greatly expanded and became a straight canal to connect Beijing.

7.The first education popularization in Chinese history appeared in Yuan Dynasty and it’s the first time that a special class named “Ruhu” was set to protect scholars.

Khans of Mongolian Empire and Emperors of Yuan Dynasty



Reign Years

Reign Name


Big Events


Genghis Khan

Borjigin Temüjin

Yuan Taizu (1162 - 1227)

1206 - 1227


The founder of Great Mongolian Empire, he unified the all the Mongolian tribes and led Mongolian armies to destroy the Western Liao and Western Xia Kingdoms, and conquered middle Asia areas and Khwarazm.


Ögedei Khan

Borjigin Ögedei

Yuan Taizong (1186 - 1241)

1229 - 1241


Karakorum (from 1235)

The third son of Genghis Khan, he carried on his fathers wish and continued to conquer the middle Asia areas, northern China and eastern Europe.


Güyük Khan

Borjigin Güyük

Yuan Dingzong (1206 - 1248)

1246 - 1248


The eldest son of Ögedei Khan, during his reign, the Tubo Dynasty pledged allegiance to the Mongolian Empire.


Möngke Khan

Borjigin Möngke

Yuan Xianzong (1209 - 1259)

1251 - 1259


The adopted son of Ögedei Khan, during his reign, the Yuan army began to attack the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 - 1279) and he himself died during the battle.

Yuan Dynasty


Yuan Shizu

Kublai Khan

Borjigin Kublai (1215 - 1294)

1260 - 1294

Zhongtong (1260 - 1264)

Zhiyuan (1264 - 1294)

Khanbaliq (Beijing)

He is the founder of Yuan Dynasty and Möngke’s brother. During his reign, Kublai established a multiple-ethnic country, set up the provincial system and continued to conquer the neighboring countries.


Yuan Chengzong

Temür Khan

Borjigin Temür (1265 - 1307)

1294 - 1307

Yuanzhen (1295 - 1297)

Dade (1297 - 1307)

Khanbaliq (Beijing)

Grandson of Kublai, he stopped the foreign war expeditions, focused on restoring the domestic affairs, and forced several tribes in northwest China to pledge allegiance to Yuan court.


Yuan Wuzong

Külüg Khan

Borjigin Qayshan (1281 - 1311)

1307 - 1311

Zhida (1308 - 1311)

Khanbaliq (Beijing)

Nephew of Yuan Chengzong, during his reign, Yuan Dynasty reached a prosperous time.


Yuan Renzong

Ayurbarwada Buyantu Khan

Borjigin Ayurparibhadra (1285 - 1320)

1311 - 1320

Huangqing (1312 - 1313)

Yanyou (1314 - 1320)

Khanbaliq (Beijing)

Brother of Yuan Wuzong, he continued to reorganize the administration, promoted the policy of Governing with Confucianism and restored the imperial examinations.


Yuan Yingzong

Gegeen Khan

Borjigin Suddhipala (1303 - 1323)

1320 - 1323

Zhizhi (1321 - 1323)

Khanbaliq (Beijing)

Son of Yuan Renzong, he learned Han culture in the early years and supported Baizhu to perform the political reform. In 1323, he was assassinated during in the coup.


Taiding Di

Borjigin Yesün Temür (1276 - 1328)

1323 - 1328

Taiding (1321 - 1328)

Zhihe (1328)

Khanbaliq (Beijing)

Great grandson of Kublai, he preserved the previous reform.


Tianshun Di

Ragibagh Khan

Borjigin Arigaba (1320 - 1328)


Tianshun (1328)

Khanbaliq (Beijing)

Son of Taiding Di, he was enthroned at 9 and only ruled for a month.


Yuan Wenzong

Jayaatu Khan

Tugh Temür (1304 - 1332)



Tianli (1328 - 1330)

Zhishun (1330-1332)

Khanbaliq (Beijing)

Son of Yuan Wuzong, he usurped the throne from Tianshun Di and Yuan Mingzong. During his reign, Yuan Dynasty began to decline.


Yuan Mingzong

Khutughtu Khan Kusala

Borjigin Qoshila (1300 - 1329)


Khanbaliq (Beijing)

Son of Yuan Wuzong, he claimed himself the emperor after Taiding Di died and fought against Yuan Wenzong for the throne before being poisoned to death by a general of Yuan Wenzong.


Yuan Ningzong

Rinchinbal Khan

Borjigin Irinchibal (1326 - 1332)


Zhishun (1332)

Khanbaliq (Beijing)

Son of Yuan Mingzong, he became the emperor at 7 years old and only hold the position for 53 days.


Yuan Huizong

Ukhaantu Khan

Borjigin Toghan-Temür (1320 - 1370)

1333 - 1368

Zhishun (1333)

Yuantong (1333 - 1335)

Zhiyuan (1335 - 1340)

Zhizheng (1341 - 1368)

Khanbaliq (Beijing)

The last emperor of Yuan Dynasty and the first emperor of the Northern Yuan Dynasty.

Yuan Dynasty History

The Rise of Great Mongol Empire

Before the 12th century, Mongolian tribes were mostly engaged in hunting and nomadism, there were few tribes pursuing agriculture. While in 12th century, the frequent trade and cultural communications between Mongolian people and the central Han people brought in a lot of ironware to Mongolian people, promoting the development of production and differentiated the classes. To gain more wealth, the slave owners of Mongolian tribes began to fight against each other. Many Mongolian tribes used to pledge allegiance to Jin Kingdom became stronger and grew separated from the Jin regime. In the fourth year (1204) of the Taihe's Reign of Jin Kingdom, Borjigin Temüjin unified all the Mongolian tribes by force. In 1206, he was chosen to be "Genghis Khan" and established the Great Mongolia Empire. Since then, the long-term melee situation in Mongolian grassland was ended. The newly built Mongolia Empire launched a series of conquests to Western Liao Kingdom, Khwarezm in Central Asia, and Western Xia Kingdom, and during the battle against the Western Xia Dynasty, the great Genghis Khan died in 1227. In 1234, together with Southern Song army, the Mongolian army, under the ruling of Ögedei, annihilated the Jin Kingdom. By 1241, the Mongolian army even made it to the backland of Eastern Europe. In 1246, Tubo Dynasty in the southwest China pledged allegiance to Mongolia Empire. Seven years later, Dali Kingdom nearby the Tubo was destroyed. These Mongolian armies slaughtered and enslaved numerous people during the conquests and caused a lot of damage to the local economy. In 1259, Möngke Khan died during the battle against Southern Song Dynasty in Hezhou (current Chongqing)when Kublai was fighting with Southern Song army in E'zhou (current Wuchang). Kublai made a peace agreement with Southern Song court before got back to Shangdu (Kaiping) to fight for the throne. In 1264, he successfully ascended the throne and became the empire of Mongolia Empire.

Rule of Kublai Khan

In 1271, Kublai claimed himself as the emperor and declared the state as "Yuan". A year later, he moved the capital to Dadu (current Beijing). As this time, the Southern Song Dynasty was on peril. In 1279, the Yuan army defeated the last army of Southern Song court and forced the young emperor to death. The Southern Song Dynasty was officially perished. Yuan Dynasty achieved the unification of the whole country and ended all the separated regimes. After exterminating the Southern Song Dynasty, the Yuan army continued to conquer the neighboring countries like Japan, Annan (current northern Vietam), Burma and Java in 1280s. These expeditions caused a lot of financial problems. To cope with these problem, Kublai set up the Department of State Affairs to implement the financial policies like increasing taxes, promoting iron smelting, state controlling the producing and trading of farming tools, recovering the public fields occupied by temples and soliciting farm tax, and more. However, the corrupt administration, overly plunder of wealth, and excessive taxes and levies not only failed to solve the state financial problems, but became one of the factors to hinder the social and economic development. As a result, hundreds of uprisings broke everywhere in the country.

Middle Ages of Yuan Dynasty

In 1294, with Yuan Shizu Kublai's death, Yuan Chengzong Temür became the emperor. He continued to implement the policies established by his grandfather, and stopped the conquest of Japan and Annan (current Vietnam). To cope with the social problems, Yuan Chengzong focused on rectifying the domestic administration and cut down some taxes of Southern areas. However, the emperor's excessive rewards worsened the state finance. In 1307, Yuan Chengzong died, leaving the throne to his nephew Qayshan, which is called the Yuan Wuzong. To thank Ayurbarwada's contribution in helping him to earn the throne, Yuan Wuzong made an promise that Ayurbarwada shall be the next emperor after him. During Yuan Wuzong's reign, the financial problems were impending. The emperor set up special administration to stabilize the price and print banknotes, resulting in the serious devaluation of the banknotes. In 1311, Yuan Wuzong died of over drinking, and unsurprisingly, Ayurbarwada ascended the throne and became the Yuan Renzong. This is the first peaceful power transition in Yuan history.

Yuan Renzong tried to change the situation of fiscal depletion and political chaos and pursued the policy of "rule with Confucianism". He also cut down redundancies and strengthened the centralized governance. In 1312, the imperial examination was restored and 56 Mongolian and Han people who passed the examination were promoted. In terms of finance, he abandoned the previous financial measures and thoroughly investigated the farmland in Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Jiangxi and Henan in 1314. In addition, he abolished the agreement he made with Yuan Wuzong and exiled the descendants of latter. In 1320, Yuan Renzong died, his son Suddhipala became the emperor, which is historically called Yuan Yingzong.

Civil War and Crisis

Yuan Yingzong proceeded his father's policy and continued to use Confucianism scholars to rule. In 1323, he ordered to compile and promulgate the official code of Yuan Dynasty - Da Yuan Tong Zhi (Comprehensive Institutions of the Great Yuan). To personally rule the country, Yuan Yingzong decided to eliminate the powerful minister Tiemudieer. Unfortunately, he was assassinated by the adopted son of Tiermudieer in Nanpo area in the same year before taking any effective action. On hearing the news, the great grandson of Kublai came back and killed the treacherous ministers and claimed himself the emperor, which is Taiding Di. His reign only lasted for 5 years.

In 1328, with Taiding Di’s death, Yuan court became chaotic again. The prime minister enthroned Arigaba to be the emperor, which is called Yuan Tianshun Di in Shangdu. While the King Huai Tugh Temür claimed himself the emperor (Yuan Wenzong) in Dadu, and the King Zhou Qoshila claimed himself the emperor (Yuan Mingzong) in north of Gobi a year later. A general of Yuan Wenzong led an army broke into Shangdu and killed the Yuan Tianshun Di. So far, there were two emperors left to compete. Yuan Wenzong decided to abdicate, he sent the same general who killed Tianshun Di to make his heart clear to Yuan Mingzong. Instead of doing what he was told to do, the general poisoned Yuan Mingzong to death. Therefore, Yuan Wenzong officially ruled the country as an emperor. During his reign, civil administration was greatly promoted and the Academy of the Pavilion of the Star of Literature (奎章阁) was established in 1329. Many imperials were ordered to learn Confucianism classics. Meanwhile, the institutional compendium Jingshi Dadian (经世大典) was compiled. However, the prime minister (former general of Yuan Wenzong) became self-conceited and made the court more corrupt.

In 1333, with the death of Yuan Wenzong, the prime minister enthroned the 7-year-old Irinchibal (son of Yuan Mingzong) to clear his crime of murdering the previous emperor. Irinchibal, historically called Yuan Ningzong, only stayed at the throne for 2 months before he died and the prime minister passed away soon after that. The eldest son of Yuan Mingzong was made the emperor in 1333, which is called Yuan Huizong.

Decline of Yuan Dynasty

In the early years of Yuan Huizong’s reign, the state affairs were controlled by the power prime minister. After 7 years of tolerance and scheming, the emperor finally dismissed the prime minister and personally ruled. He launched a series of reforms to adjust the politics and soften the social contradictions. He also ordered to compile the History of Liao Kingdom, History of Jin Kingdom and History of Song Dynasty in 1343. However, in the late years of Yuan Huizong’s reign, he began to neglect the state affairs and together with the natural diseases, a lot of public anger was aroused. During 1340s and 1350s, the droughts, pandemics (black death of Europe) and floods happened a lot, and the Yuan court was unable to control those disasters. In addition, the broken state fiscal system, high inflation, and heavy taxes made people even suffer more. Many rebellions broke out everywhere in the country. One of largest rebellious armies was Red Scarf army that fought for the restoration of Song Dynasty. Zhu Yuanzhang, a monk in eastern army of Red Scarf armies, began to take control of the most uprisings. In 1368, his army broke into Dadu and drove the Yuan Huizong to flee to Shangdu (Kaiping). By now, Yuan Dynasty came to the end and the Ming Dynasty was established.