This series has four easy 5 minute installments. This first installment: Kublai Khan’s Diplomatic Offensive to the Japanese.
Kublai Khan, the first of the Mongol emperors who reigned over both the Mongol and the China empires, and Kameyama, the ninetieth emperor (as reputed) of Japan, are supposed to have come to their respective thrones in the same year, 1260. Soon after that, Kublai Khan subjugated Korea. Around 1265 some of the Koreans suggested to him that his way was now open to Japan. He sent a letter to Japan. In this letter the Mongol Emperor called upon Japan to return to the vassal duty which for centuries, he claimed, she had formerly owned to China. When Japan refused it looked like another Mongol conquest was about to happen.
The selections are from:
- A Thousand Years of the Tartars by Edward H Parker published in 1895.
- Travels of Marco Polo by by Marco Polo published around 1300.
There’s three installments by Edward H Parker and 1 installment by Marco Polo.
Edward H. Parker was an English diplomat. He spent his career in the Orient, becoming one of the world’s foremost experts in Oriental history and culture.
Marco Polo was the famous merchant who traveled across Asia to China and returned to Italy. His controversial book may not be accurate but it reminded Europe of the Orient.
We begin with Parker.
The King of Korea, who had meanwhile been instructed to show the road to the Mongol mission, provided it with two high officers as escort. In 1267, however, Hart and his staff returned to Peking from their wanderings, re injecta, faithfully accompanied by their Korean guides, whose explanations as to why the goal had not been reached were by no means satisfactory to Kublai. The whole party was dispatched once more to Korea, carrying with them to the King positive instructions “to succeed better this time.”
The wily King of Korea now adopted another tack. He pleaded that the sea-route was beset with dangers to which it would be unseemly to expose the person of an imperial envoy, but he accommodatingly sent the Emperor’s letter on to Japan by an envoy of his own. This Korean envoy was detained half a year by the Japanese, but he had also to return empty-handed. Meanwhile the King of Korea sent his own brother on a special mission to Kublai, to endeavor to mollify his Tartar majesty.
In the autumn of 1268 Hart and his former assistant colleague were sent a third time. As a surveying party had meanwhile been examining the sea-route by way of Quelpaert Island, the mission was enabled to reach the Tsushima Islands this time; but the local authority would not suffer them to land, or at least to stay, nor were the letters accepted, as, in the opinion of the Japanese, “the phraseology was not considered sufficiently modest.” Once more the unsuccessful mission returned to Peking, but on this occasion it was with two Japanese “captives”–probably spies; for there is plenty of evidence that even then the art was well understood in Japan. In the summer of 1269 it was resolved to utilize these captives as a peg whereon to hang the conciliatory and virtuous act of returning them. Koreans were intrusted with this mission; but even this letter the Japanese declined to receive, and the envoys were detained a considerable time in the official prisons at Dazai Fu (in Chikuzen).
Early in the year 1270 a Manchu Tartar in Kublai’s employ, named Djuyaoka, who had already been employed as a kind of resident or adviser at the court of the King of Korea, was dispatched on a solemn mission to Japan, having earnestly volunteered for his new service in spite of his gray hairs. The King of Korea was again ordered to assist, and a Korean in Chinese employ, named Hung Ts’a-k’iu (Marco Polo’s Von-Sanichin), was told to demonstrate with a fleet around the Liao-Tung and Korean peninsulas. The envoy is usually called by his adopted Chinese name of Chao Liang-Pih. The mission landed in the spring of 1271 at an island called Golden Ford, which, according to the Chinese characters, ought, I suppose, to be pronounced Kananari in Japanese. Here the strangers met with a very rough reception. The Tartar, however, kept his head well during the various attempts which were made to frighten him; he pointed out the historical precedents to be found in the annals of previous Chinese dynasties, and firmly declined to surrender his credentials except at the chief seat of government, and to the king or ruler in person. It seems that even the Japanese now began to see that the “honest broker,” Korea, was playing false to both sides; at all events, they said that “Korea had reported the imminence of a Chinese attack, whereas Kublai’s language seemed to deprecate war.” Officials from head-quarters explained that “from ancient times till now, no foreign envoy has ever gone east of the Dazai Fu.” The reply to this was: “If I cannot see your ruler, you had better take him my head; but you shall not have my documents.” The Japanese pleaded that it was too far to the ruler’s capital, but that in the mean time they would send officers back with him to China. He was thereupon sent back to await events at Tsushima, and, having remained there a year, he arrived back in Peking in the summer of 1273. In escorting him to Tsushima, the Japanese had sent with him a number of secondary officials to have an audience of Kublai; it appears that the Japanese had been alarmed at the establishment of a Mongol garrison at Kin Chow (I suppose the one near Port Arthur, then within Korean dominions); and the Tartar envoy, during his stay in Tsushima, now sent on these Japanese “envoys” (or spies) in advance, advising Kublai at the same time to humor Japanese susceptibilities by removing the Kin Chow garrison. The cabinet council suggested to Kublai that it would be a good thing to explain to the Japanese envoys that the occupation of Kin Chow was “only temporary,” and would be removed so soon as the operations now in process against Quelpaert were at an end. It is related that the “Japanese interpreters”–which probably means Chinese accompanying the Japanese — explained to Kublai that it was quite unnecessary to go round via Korea, and that with a good wind it was possible to reach Japan in a very short time. Kublai said, “Then I must think it over afresh.” Late in the year 1273 the same Tartar envoy was once more sent to Japan, but it is not stated by what route or where he first landed; this time he really reached the Dazai Fu, or capital of Chikuzen. In the same year, and possibly in connection with the above mission, a Chinese general, Lu T’ung, with a force of forty thousand men in nine hundred boats, defeated one hundred thousand Japanese — it is not stated where. I am inclined to think, from the consonance of the word Liu and the nine hundred boats, that this must be the affair mentioned lower down.
Marco Polo begins here.
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