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ENCOURAGED by a long succession of victories, Genghis turned his arms against the Kins, whose struggle with the Sungs for undivided empire in China had reached a lull through the mutual exhaustion of the combatants. Some years before, when Madacou occupied the northern throne, a Kin ambassador had been received by Genghis with scant courtesy. This act is attributed to his contempt for the individual, but it probably arose from more complex sentiments. The ambassador returned to the capital, breathing vengeance against the Mongol, and besought his master to resent the slight cast upon his honour by the outrage thus offered to his representative; but Madacou had sufficient wisdom to refrain from attacking where he saw that he would, probably, be only courting defeat. In a few years Madacou died, and it so happened that his successor Chonghei was the very ambassador whom Genghis had received in this unceremonious fashion. When the envoy arrived at Genghis's quarters to inform him that there was a new Kin Emperor, the great Khan turned to him and asked the name of the new ruler. On learning who it was, Genghis expressed his contempt in the strongest manner, by turning towards the south, and spitting on the ground, saying, “I thought that your sovereigns were of the race of the gods; but do you suppose that I am going to do homage to (such an imbecile as that?” Chonghei brooded over this second affront, and allowed his personal pique to so far influence his policy that, when an occasion offered, he did not hesitate to assume the offensive against the Mongols. Genghis would have attacked him with or without an excuse ; Chonghei simply went out of his way to supply one. In A.D. 1210, when the Mongol campaign against Hia had been brought to a termination, Chonghei's troops attacked, and, from the account, apparently defeated a small detachment of Genghis's army. This added fuel to the flame, and war forthwith commenced along the whole frontier.
Genghis did not undertake this great enterprise without due deliberation. Information had been brought him from several quarters of the decline of the Kin power, and the abortive result of the later campaigns against the Sungs had done much towards giving fresh courage to the numerous internal enemies of this alien dynasty. The Khitans were again breaking out into rebellion, and their chief, Yeliu Liuko, concluded a convention for joint action with the Mongol leader. Genghis issued a proclamation to all the tribes of the desert, reminding them of the wrongs they had suffered at the hands of the Kins, and that if they desired vengeance they had only to follow him. The appeal was generally responded to, and Genghis found himself at the head of an army vastly superior in numbers to any that had yet gathered round his banner. It was at this conjuncture that Chonghei's rash act removed whatever chance there may have been of the preservation of peace.
In March, A.D. 1211, Genghis broke up his camp on the banks of the Kerulon, and, leaving a small force of trusty troops to maintain order in his rear, advanced to the Great Wall. That barrier had often before failed to keep out the lawless tribes of the north, and there is little surprising in its having proved unable to arrest the career of Genghis's great host. At the point where Genghis attacked it, the custody of this line of fortification had been entrusted to a local tribe, whose chief, far from attempting to defend his charge, surrendered the passage to the Mongols for a sum of money. The outer defence of the Kins was thus pierced through without the necessity arising for striking a blow. The Mongol army, under the command of Genghis, four of his sons and his general, Chepe Noyan, afterwards celebrated above all
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others in the wars in Western Asia, poured through the opening thus made, and proceeded to lay waste the province of Shansi. The Kin army was some time assembling, and Genghis and his generals were permitted to carry everything before them almost up to the gates of the capital. When the Kin army did take the field, its fortune was only indifferent. Several minor engagements were fought, but no decisive battle took place. The Mongols overran the northern districts of Pechihli, Shansi, and Shensi, and no doubt secured an immense amount of plunder; but the overthrow of a settled government, even when unpopular, is a much more difficult task than the subjugation of nomad tribes. During nearly two years Genghis remained encamped on Kin territory, but in August, A.D. 1212, having received a wound before the walls of Taitong or Siking, which resisted all his efforts, he collected his troops and retreated into Mongolia. The success he had met with had been very considerable, but the Kin Emperor was still resolved to defend his independence. It required twenty more years of constant fighting to crush this semi-Chinese potentate. If we contrast the resistance offered by him to the “irresistible” Mongols with that shown by all the western countries from Khwaresm to Hungary and Poland, we shall arrive at a fair idea of the stability and innate strength of a Chinese ruler at this period, although China was then almost as a house divided against itself. He had wealth, numbers, and reputation at his back; and although slow to adopt new ideas, or to sanction necessary changes, he was, even when at his weakest, a formidable opponent for the greatest of conquerors, with inferior resources. The Khitan insurgent Yeliu Liuko had been equally fortunate. He had defeated the Kin general Houcha sent against him, and, with the aid of a small force lent by Genghis, captured the chief city in Leaoutung. Liuko was then proclaimed King of Leaou, in the capacity of a Mongol vassal. He chose Hienping as his capital, and rendered opportune service to Genghis two years later by winning a decided victory over the Kin army. We shall see later on that Genghis did not forget, when the occasion offered, to reciprocate these timely services rendered against his great enemy.
In A.D. 1213 Genghis returned with the full intention of completing his design ; but the Kins were better prepared, and fought with greater confidence. Under the guidance of a skilful general named Hushahu, they even defeated the Mongols, at the passage of one of the principal canals in Pechihli, near the modern Pekin; but the Mongols succeeded in retrieving this check a few days afterwards, when Hushahu had departed to superintend matters elsewhere. The defeated general, in order to save himself from the death which he knew he had merited, attacked and murdered Hushahu, thus depriving his country of the services of a man who had given some promise of being able to defend it. This year had also witnessed the deposition and murder of the Kin Emperor Chonghei, and the elevation of his brother Utubu to his place, mainly through the influence of Hushahu. When Utubu was informed of the murder of his great general he evinced no regret, and appointed his murderer, the defeated officer Kaoki, to be his successor as commander-in-chief.
As if the danger from the Mongols was not in itself sufficient, the people of Hia, at this moment of anxiety, crossed the frontier, desirous, apparently, of obtaining some share in the spoil of the Kin cities. Genghis also placed fresh troops in the field, and among these were many native Chinese who regarded both Kin, Khitan, and Mongol, with equal dislike and hostility. Utubu was unable to offer any protracted resistance to the invaders, who marched almost to the gates of the capital, when Genghis announced that he was willing to retreat on certain conditions. The letter in which the conqueror addressed the Kin prince, was couched in the following naive terms, and would seem to show that he possessed a humorous appreciation of the situation. He wrote, “Seeing your wretched condition and my exalted fortune, what may your opinion be now of the will of Heaven with regard to myself? At this moment I am desirous to return to Tartary ; but could you allow my soldiers to take their departure without appeasing their anger with presents.” Utubu was only too glad to secure the withdrawal of his troublesome guest to raise difficulties about the terms. A royal princess was given to Genghis as a wife ; five hundred
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youths, the same number of girls, three thousand horses, and a vast quantity of precious articles were also handed over to the victor. But Genghis did not appreciate these presents, for on his march homewards he stained the reputation his previous successes had obtained for him by the senseless massacre of his prisoners. During this same campaign Genghis had furnished further proof that many of his instincts were only those of the barbarian, by causing the old men, women, and children, whom he had made captives, to be placed in the front rank of battle. It is just to mention these unfavourable incidents in Genghis's career lest too favourable a view should be taken of his character. His military virtues were incontestable, but the orgy of continuous victory deprived him of the desire to practise moderation, or to cultivate the generous instincts which at an earlier stage in his career he had often showed that he possessed.
Utubu's first act after the departure of the enemy was to remove his capital from Tungking to Kaifong, where he hoped the greater distance from the frontier would bring him increased security ; but he had mistaken his opponent. Genghis made this step a point of grievance against him, as he said it showed distrust of his intentions. Utubu had not long taken up his residence in his new capital when the Mongols again crossed the frontier, and renewed their depredations. They were joined by Kanta, one of the Kin generals, at the head of a large army; and his example was followed by many of his colleagues, disgusted by Utubu's pusillanimity in retiring south of the Hoangho. In fact, from this time there were constant defections from the ranks of the Kins to those of the conquering Mongols, and as a rule the deserters were welcomed and given employment in the Mongol service.
The first act of this new campaign was the siege of Yenking (Pekin), where the prince imperial had been left by his father. Again Utubu's thoughts were of personal matters, rather than of the affairs of the state. He wished to save his son before the Mongols had completed their investment of the place, and in comparison with this object the relief of the garrison, or the preservation of the city, appeared of small importance. He rejected the advice of those who pointed