collection of hauma hamiddha's scattered posts

Posts tagged ‘china’

The battle of Talas & Chinese expansionism

China is a great enemy and we necessarily need to seek means to
counter it and overcome it in battle. The Chinese have always been
inveterate and ruthless expansionists who, like the Moslems,
understand only learn through the language of blows and punches.
Hence, reviewing the battle of Talas one of the most defining moments
in Asiatic history is worthwhile. We have to learn many military
lessons from the battle of Talas for a scenario like that is still
likely to be useful to unravel Chinese war machine.

In the space of 740-750 AD a numbers of events of importance
transpired in Central Asia. The Moslems from Merv and Khorasan grouped
under Abu Muslim and marched on the Umayyad Kalif and having routed
him placed the Abbasid Kalif as the head of the Moslem world. Shortly
after that Abu Muslim was commissioned to conduct Jihad in Central
Asia to exterminate the Kaffirs once and for all. It was a great low
point for the Western Turks. Their great Khan Su’lu, who was a bulwark
against the Moslems and the Chinese, in the wars of 720 and 723, was
assassinated by the Arabs. The pagan Turkic rulers of Samarqand and
Bokhara came under a heavy assault from the ghazis after the fall of
Su’lu when the Arabs with 300 giant trebuchets stormed the cities and
forcibly imposed Islam with the destruction of the pagan places of
worship. Archaeological evidence shows that these Turkic cities were
cosmopolitan with Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and the Tengri
cults of the Altaics being practiced. The Chinese in the meantime
eliminated a major rival of the Moslems, the Tibetans in a combined
operation with the Indians by smashing them in a 749 and reducing them
to vassalage. The pagan Turkic ruler of Tashkent, known as the Tudun,
was repeatedly pressured by the Chinese to pay tributes to the T’ang
emperor of China. The Uighurs in the mean time became the most
powerful Turko-Mongol group in the east and pushed the Qarluq turks
westwards. The Qarluqs remained the masters of the territory just west
of the Balkash lake. The Chinese appointed the Korean general Kao
Sien-chih to enforce the Chinese rule in central Asia and if possible
seize Baltistan, Gilgit and Wakhan from the emperors of Kashmir. Kao
marched right across the Pamirs and then took the Baroghil pass to
assault Gilgit and take its chief hostage. Thus he reduced Gilgit to
Chinese vassalage. Shri Mangala, the king of Kunduz was battling a
Tibetan invading force, when Kao promised him aid but betrayed him
once the former had beaten the Tibetans. Kao arrested him after
pretending to come to sign a treaty with his large Chinese army. Kao
to show his might as the Chinese viceroy of Central Asia, marched
suddenly on Tashkent and seized the city in 750 AD. He beheaded the
Tudun and appropriated the treasury of Tashkent, marking the pinnacle
of Chinese imperialist hegemony. The Turkic Tudun’s son shaken by the
Chinese advance, fled to his cousins, the Qarluqs, and sought their
aid against the imperial T’ang army. The Qarluq Yagbhu having built
his cavalry over the end of 750 started moving his horde towards the
Talas river from the northern bank. The Arabs under Abu Muslim
savagely crushed, the last attempt made by the populations of
Samarqand and Bokhara to rid themselves of Islam. Abu Muslim sent his
victorious commander of these wars, Ziyad ibn Salih, with a band of
40000 ghazis, to wage a Jihad on the Chinese. The Arab army marched
from the south towards Talas. Kao, itching to prove his might took
the cue and marched towards Aulie-Ata on the Talas with 100000 Chinese
troops in cavalry and infantry divisions. He totally underestimated
the strength of the Qarluq horde closing in from the north. On July
10th 751 AD the Qarluq, Arab and Chinese armies took to the field in
Aulie-Ata. The Chinese cavalry seemed to initially overwhelm the Arab
cavalry, but the Qarluqs forded the river and encircled a part of the
Chinese infantry butchering it to man. The Qarluq archers then shot
down Kao, shaking the Chinese center, which was rapidly assaulted by
the Arab heavy cavalry and destroyed. The infallible Chinese war
machine gave way under combined assault and they faced a heavy rout.
The Qarluqs fell upon their animals, baggage trains and supplies
carrying away all they could and receded back into the steppe. The
Arabs rounded up tens of thousands of Chinese and took them to
Samarqand from where Abu Muslim sent them to Baghdad and Damascus to
be sold as slaves, each worth a dirham. One Chinese survivor mentions
being kept as cattle in the Arab prison camps. Abu Muslim and Ziyad
made a huge buck out of this slave trade to pay their armies. More
importantly the Arabs forced the Chinese prisoners to teach them paper
making this allowed them the spread the ghazi manual, the Q’uran, with
even greater effectiveness. The same year the Southern division of the
Chinese Army faced a disastrous defeat at the hands of the Thais,
opening the once mighty empire for invasion by the Uighur Kha’Khans of

The lesson to be learnt is that probably like the Moslem-Qarluq
combined assault, India, should draw China into Central Asia and then
combine with Japan, Russia and USA inflict a crushing blow on it and
split it up. Once communism goes away the Chinese will return to
normalcy on their own.

The death of Chingiz Kha’Khan

On the New moon day in August in 1227 AD the greatest of the military leaders of all times Chingiz Ka’Khan died. Born Temujin, and elected Ka’Khan- the khan of the khans in 1206, destroyed in a span of 21 years the hegemony of China and Islam, two of the most dangerous powers in human history. This was very often done by waging war on both the fronts, something which, even superpowers like the United States today cannot really sustain if it were pitted against these same powers. Furthermore, this rise of Chingiz should be placed in the background of his immediate ancestors like Yessugai, Kabul and Kutula who while noted for their valor had no more an impact on the Central Asian history than any of the other khans who came and went. The other turko-mongol expansions such as the Huns of Motun-Tegin, the Uighurs of Mei-Yu and Tu-chüh of Kül-tegin and Qapaghan khan were nowhere near Chingiz Khan in the organizational effort or result of their campaigns.

Chingiz died in final campaign on the Northern Chinese empire of the Tangut and the Xia-Xia. The Tangut had failed to pay heed to the Khan’s message to them to send forces to aid him in the great battle against Mohammed Khwarazim Shah. But seeing the Khan caught up in the fierce battles with Temur Malik in the sack of Samarkand, the two Chinese empires of the Chin and the Tangut became increasingly hostile to the Mongols. They thought the Khan might never return from West. The Tangut who were of Tibetan descent with the aid of the Chin were seeking to conquer Tibet that Chingiz had sacked by sending his general Arslan Khan. Chingiz watching these movements in the East sent his great general Muqali against the Chinese Empires. Muqali and his son Boru cut of the communication between the Chin and the Tangut and started and routed the Chin armies in the battles of Shan Si and Pe chi li. In 1223 Muqali passed away and Chin reestablished ties with Tangut and were trying to recapture their lost empire. Chingiz sent Boru against the remnants of the Chin and himself set out against the Tangut after returning from the West in 1226. Li Hien the Tangut emperor tried to take the returning Mongol army from the north in the city of Ling Chau. However Chingiz waging a blitzkreig got there before Li Hien and sacked the city and destroyed it. Then he took on the Tangut army and completely destroyed. Chronicles say there were no survivors of this Mongol assault. He chased the reserve forces of the Tangut army southwards sacking the cities of Si Ning, Lin Tao and Shen Si and erased them of the face of the earth. He destroyed the reserve army of the Tangut of around 90,000 men in the winter of that year and conquered the whole Tangut empire and laid siege to its capital. Li Hien promised to surrender in a month. Pleased with this Chingiz retreated to the Mountains of Liu Pan to spend the hot summer. Here while hunting an Ibex the Khan fell from horse and fell seriously ill in the aftermath of the fall. Knowing that his end had come, he called his men around him and gave them his last lecture. He laid out for his sons and generals the grand schemes of the future world conquest that was to encompass the rest of China destroying all its empires, the Muslims of Arabia and the Russians, the Hungarians and the Poles. Then he called for an arrow and picking it up with his ebbing strength broke it. Then he called for his quiver and asked his sons and grandsons to break it but they failed. This he said illustrated the importance of unity. The he bestowed his empire on his second son Ogodai saying that his temperment was best suited for reigning the Mongols and added that his grandson the wise Kublai would be a great ruler one day. Having said this we are told that he asked his old friend and scribe Kiluken to take care of his wife Bortai, to be faithful to his sons Ogodai and Tolui an record his mysterious last words:

“A jade stone is truely without crust, polished dagger has no dirt on it, a man born to life is not deathless, he must go without home, without a resting placing. The glory of a deed is in its completion. Firm and unbending is he who keeps a plighted word faithfully. Follow not the will of another and good will of many will be yours. It is clear I must depart from you all. The words of the boy Kublai are very weighty, his words you shall note. He shall adorn my throne some day”. With this on the New moon day that was August 18th of 1227 the Khan expired.

His corpse was raised in a cart with 4 horses and was surrounded on all sides on horse by his wife, sons, grandsons and generals, Ogodai, Tolui, Batu, Shibhan, Kublai, Hulegu, Guyuk, Subedai and Kiluken and they marched from the Tangut empire towards the  Kentai Khan mountains in upper Mongolia. I reproduce below the funeral chant composed by Kiluken as they marched which was found on a parchment in a Mongolian monastery:

“In the times gone thou swept like falcon before us; today a car bears thee on as it rumbles; O thou my khan!

Hast thou indeed left us, wives and children and the Quriltai of thy empire, O thou my khan!

Sweeping forward as a golden eagle on its prey did thou lead us in strife, but now thou hast stumbled, and art down like a colt broken in its charge, O thou my khan!

O Lion of the great god Tengri, Boddhisatva on Earth, numerous clans of thy Mongol nation are wailing for thee.

The rivers, thy birth land all seem are waiting for thee, thy commanders Bogorju and Muqali are waiting for thee. O thou my Khan!

Thy standard of Yak tails, thy drums and trumpets and thy golden house are waiting for thee, O thou my Khan.”

Reaching Kentei Khan, they dug a huge grave near a large conifer tree which had greatly pleased Chingiz in his life time. He was interned with enormous amount of wealth and the place was totally leveled and there was not a stone to tell where the greatest character of medieval history lay.

The Tangut emperor failed to surrender as promised and the Mongols in a bloody offering to their dead leader, obliterated the entire Tangut capital to the last man emperor and all.

The Mongol conquest of Myanmar

In 1044, rAja aniruddha the chief of the Mramma tribe was brought to the fold of the sangha by the brAhmaNa paNDita, dharmadarshi from bhAratavarsha. He ascended the throne in Pagan and Sanskritized it as arimardanapura. He first moved against the Mon kingdom of Thaton and conquered it after a 3 month war. Next he annexed the city of Shrikshetra of the Pyu who were the other dominant force in Myanmar and carried away the bauddha relics from the city. Next he advanced against the North Arakan and conquered it after a swift campaign. The Shan tribes were then subdued and their chiefdoms were invested. aniruddha next marched into Yunnan with a large army and ousted the Thais in a keenly contested battle. With this he had completed the conquest of Myanmar and crowned himself as rAjAdhirAja. This increased prestige allowed him to gain a kshatriya princess from India. He formed an alliance with the Simhalas against the Cholas, but was crushed in a naval battle by the Chola navy. In 1077, he was succeed by his half-Indian son tribhuvanAditya dharmarAja, who Indianized Myanmar further by settling Buddhists and Hindus from India. He was involved in a tripartite struggle with the Cholas from South India and the Chinese, however, he finally formed a alliance with the former by marrying a Chola princess. The Chinese tried to interfere in Myanmar by setting up their agents in south Arakan, but tribhuvanAditya conducted a successful campaign against them and succeeded in maintaining the unity of Myanmar. He made a trip to India to renovate buddha gayA and was great builder who raised the might Myanmar to its pinnacle. The impetus of the aniruddhan dynasty lasted 1270 keeping Myanmar intact and very much in the Indian cultural sphere. However, its last ruler, Narasimhapati, who boasted of impregnating a new woman every day and eating 365 curries, had neglected the threats from his surroundings.

On his deathbed Chingiz Kha’Khan had laid out the vast lines of action that his successors were to follow. One these include the conquest of Myanmar. The two small Chinese states in Yunnan, namely Lai Liu and Yung Chang had been made vassals of Myanmar by tribhuvanAditya and remained so till the reign of Narasimhapati. Kublai Kha’Khan sent his greatest generals, Baghatur Uriangkhadai, son of Subedai, of one of the greatest warriors of Chingiz, to annex these territories. Uriangkhadai was assisted by an advance raiding party under the Mongol warrior Soegetue Noyan, and an auxiliary force led two Chechnyan generals Ali Haiya and Nassireddin. Soegetue’s advance force seized Lai Liu and Yung Chang and beheaded its rulers. Then he sent a messenger to Narasimhapati to humbly surrender to the Mongols and hand over his kingdom to Kublai Kha’Khan. Proud over his strength the Burman king refused and declared his intentions to seize back the provinces of Yunnan. Then Soegetue made a move with Nasser towards Myanmar from Yunnan in the North West. This drew the Burman army in that direction, as Uriangkhadai marched in from the North and seized the relatively undefended Northern Mynamar through a swift campaign and moved in to occupy Bhamo. The conquest of Bhamo opened the path to the Iravati (Ayerayawaddy) valley and gave them a straight route to arimardanapura (Pagan). Uriang then secured a forest in the vicinity of Bhamo and planned his attack on the Burman interior. Shaken by move Narasimhapati sent a force of 60,000 men to take on Uriang. Of this around 10000 made the elite Burman cavalry and the frontline was made of a large elephant force with archers borne on howdas. Uriang led a charge but his horses seeing the elephants fled in terror and for some minutes the Mongols failed to check the beasts under them. This made the Burmans bolder and they advanced forward boldly. However, Uriang noticed that the elephants lacked armor and ordered his men to dismount and shower arrows on the elephants. The Mongol archers, with strong armor and being able to hit targets with their iron-tipped arrows from a much greater distance than the Burmans who only shot bone arrows, held the upper hand in such a confrontation. The elephants wounded all over by the arrows fled backwards into the forest and their howdas broke and sent the archers crashing down. With the elephants out of the way the Mongols remounted and covered the Burmans with swarms of arrows. When they were weakened, Uriang led a direct charge with the cavalry to cut the poorly armored Burmans to pieces with their swords and axes. The Mongols captured 200 elephants in the campaign and incorporated them as draught beasts. Having destroyed the Burman army, Uriang marched along to the Iravati valley to conquer the entire northern Burma but did not move further due to their horses not standing the oppressive heat.

In winter of 1283 Kublai Kha’Khan sent his general Siankur Noyan to slay Narasimhapati and put and end to the Burman kingdom once and for all. A fierce Mongol army with spread through the Iravati valley to destroy all the major Burman cities and grind down the Burma economy. A division of engineers of the Mongol army appeared near the city of Katha on the Iravati and set up huge engines hurl enormous stone missiles on it. In November of that year the assault began with Mongols hurling a hail of ballistas crushing everything in the city that they fell on. The Burmans having never encountered anything of this kind gave up all hopes of defense and fled in terror. Narasihapati sent a strong Burman fleet on the Iravati to relieve his northern defense from the Mongols. However, Sianchur sent his cavalry and infantry on either side of Iravati river to hurl storms of stone ballistas and fireworks on the Burman fleet. Several of their barges were sunk and the river was said to be reddened by their blood. Narasimhapati fearing a total route fled his capital. However, the Mongols paused their campaign against Myanmar to move east and devastate the mahArAjas of Thailand and Indo-China who were bravely defending their independence. In this context the valiant struggle of mahArAja indravarman the 4th of Cambodia, with his guerrilla troops, was particularly noteworthy.

Once this flank clearing operation was done with the Mongols decided to trap Myanmar in a pincer grip, in 1287. One Mongol army under Sianchur advanced from the north, which had already been conquered, while Uriangkhadai marched from the east to intersect at Pagan. First the Mongol raiding parties destroyed major cities and blockaded the ports of Myanmar to cause an economic paralysis. This resulted in the total breakdown of the central authority of the aniruddhan dynasty and local tribal rebellions of the Shan tribes broke out. The chaos prevented any concerted action by the Burman army which splintered up rapidly. At this point the two Mongol generals marched straight on arimardanapura (Pagan) to deliver the coup de grace, even as Narasimhapati was assassinated by agents of the Mongols. The ramshackle Burman army led by the general Ramya was overwhelmed by the Mongol armies and butchered completely. He made his final stand in Pagan, which was besieged by the Mongol generals and assaulted with trebuchets which hurled rocks over a ton on the fortifications. When the cities defenses were broken the Mongol army stormed it and massacred the population and burnt it down. With that the conquest of Myanmar had been achieved and it became a vassal of the Mongols. Kublai Kha’khan was pleased with his generals and rewarded them richly for the great task. Puppet agents from the Shan tribe were placed for administrative purposes in the captured territory. An important consequence of this event was that Burma moved out of the Indian sphere of influence and was appended to the Mongol (to be inherited by the Chinese) sphere. This was especially so because it also corresponded to a low-point in India’s history: its fall under Moslem occupation was underway. The other important issue with the Mongol invasion of Burma was the devastation of its economy, that never allowed its unity to recover completely to the pre-Mongol period.

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