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Thread: The Mongol extermination of Chinese peasantry.

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    Senior Member Senior Member Kurando's Avatar
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    Only real old-school .org patrons would remember this, but about a year-and-a-half ago Magy and I had a somewhat heated discussion regarding the early-13th-century Mongol extermination of Chinese peasantry.

    This is certainly an interesting topic which moreover is currently listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the worst genocide in human history; (with an estimated 30 Million Chinese peasants passing through the veil of tears at the hands of the dreaded Mongol Hordes).

    If anyone's interested I'd like to restart this discussion with the intention of exploring some of the reasons as to why this tragic yet largely un-heralded chapter in Human history came about.

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    Senior Member Senior Member ShaiHulud's Avatar
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    I was always confounded by the Mongols tendency to eradicate populations in cities taken. What confounded was that there seemed no rhyme or reason to their actions. Sometimes a city would surrender without attempting defense at all and would be slaughtered. Some would fight to the end and THEN be slaughtered. Some would fight and there would be no slaughter.
    As a terror tactic it would be effective but
    what was their purpose in doing so in a manner that left all wondering?

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    Senior Member Senior Member Kurando's Avatar
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    If someone has a Guinness Book of Records handy can you please verify the figure "30 Million"? (I am going by memory on the exact amount, but I am almost positive this is correct). -thanks.

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    karoshi Senior Member solypsist's Avatar
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    What peasantry didn't the Mongols exterminate?

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    Member Member Magyar Khan's Avatar
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    i have tons of books here, and to be sure i have to look it up.
    in my believes the mongols killed peasant for several reasons, some are legimate, some dont:
    - those who stand in their way, esp. those who fought against them
    - a way to spread terror for other cities and countries to conquer
    - an outburst of emotion by soldiers after a succesfully sieged city, raping and killing inhabatants
    - those needed as levy or human shield in their army, to make the next battle more succesfull
    - those who surrendered early were spared, those leaders who fought bravely were spared too. those who could be of any relevant service were spared too. dont think of Mongols as complete stupid people, especially after Genghis, if someone could benefit the Empire they would try to use the advantage.

    maybe i forget some, although most wars take more kills then necessarry i want to suggest that during Mongol ruling whole west-central-east asia was a save place to be, or to move through. This would probably have saved lives. But still 30 million is a lot.

    If i have some time during battling, when laying siege on a camping site i will look some things up....
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    Member Member Tenchimuyo's Avatar
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    Those imperial armies could never do anyting to help the peasants since they were so damn corrupted. It has always been a shameful moment in the Chinese history. We built a great wall and all we got was years of mongol invasions and rulings.
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    Senior Member Senior Member Kurando's Avatar
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    Good points Magy; I'd also put forth that the foremost reason why the Chinese extermination took place was the Mongols inability to relate to the importance of agriculture within the Chinese infrastructure.

    The early Mongol's of the period in question strike me as being both very efficient, and very intolerent in their ways; if something was not useful to them it was earmarked for destruction. And being a Nomadic people themselves the Mongols knew nothing other than a hand-to-mouth existance; consequently they had no use for, or concept of, agriculture. Thus when they sought to eradicate the farmlands of Chin, and Huan they could not have possibly fathomed the far-reaching consequences of their actions.

    Though the Mongols of that period were indeed brutal and atrocities against the Chinese population would have been commonplace it was really the constructs of a catrastrophic famine which desimated the population. Given the circumstance it is even probable that the majority of the 30 Million who perished did so completely by proxy, having never seen a Mongol Warrior.

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    Senior Member Senior Member FwSeal's Avatar
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    There is a well-known story involving a certain Yeh-lu Chu-tsai. Yeh-Lu was Khitan and entered the service of Genghis after the fall of Chung-tu. A moderate and well-educated Confucianist, he proved of great worth to the Mongols in their occupation of China. During the time of Ogedei, he was to prove of greater use to the Chinese people. Following the fall of Kai-feng in 1234 (which was aided, ironically, by Sung troops), Ogedei and his generals met to discuss what to do next. One option they seriously considered was simply eradicating the population of the Chinese lands they held, save the artisans, merchants, and scholars. The bothersome (and, from the Mongol point of view, useless) Chinese peasants in all their millions would be killed and their lands turned over to pasture for grazing. At this point, Ye-luh made a very practical suggestion - rather then kill them, why not tax them? To make a long story short, Ogedei heeded this advice and once the money began to roll in, the idea of genocide was forgotten (the standard tax rate was 10 percent for the Mongol's Chinese subjects).
    The figure of 30 million dead in China comes from a comparison of an earlier Chin Dynasty census of the population of northern China to a later Mongol census. The Chin counted some 50 or so million - the Mongol, around 9 million. Of course, there is no way of telling how accurate the Mongol census was given the chaos of the years in between the two counts. The rough estimate, in view of this, is usually 30 million.
    As for Ye-luh, he ended up dying a poor man, despite the high regard in which he was held by Mongols - leaving behind only a collection of books, medicines, and musical instruments. To Yeh-lu is credited the saying: 'The Mongol Empire has been won from the saddle - it cannot be ruled from the saddle.' (Ratchnevsky, 'Genghis Khan')
    One other interesting Mongol figure is Ghazan, a later Il-khan of Persia. A Muslim, he is recorded as giving some advice to his subordinates that ought to be words to rule by: 'If you insult the peasant, take his oxen and seed, and trample his crops into the ground - what will you do in the future? You must think, too, when you beat and torture their wives and children, that just as our wives and children are dear to our hearts, so are theirs to them. They are human beings, just as we are.' (Marshall, 'Storm from the East')

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    my understanding of the mongol atrocities is as follows. mobility was the most important quality. no people survived on the steppe without being proficient horse riders. unlike sedentary cultures, flight was always an option for defeated groups on the steppes, it being virtually impossible to completely eliminate rivals who fled to the extremes of the steppes.

    1) genghis khan himself was forced at least twice in his life, once as and adolescent, and another during his quest for steppe supremacy, to run away to the far reaches of the steppes and regroup.
    2) the mongol western campaigns initally started out as the hunt for survivors of groups they had defeated.

    so to a steppe nomad it was almost incomprehensible that people when defeated would not only remain, but actually go and shut themselves up in cities, making their job of rounding up the survivors, infinitely easier. so nomads usually looked down upon their sedentary neighbors whom they considered docile and stupid.

    the mongols being pastoralists, waged war the same way they took care of their flocks, and the same way they hunted. anybody who has seen cowboys herding castle can appreciate this. you have small independent units that surround the herd, except for the direction they want the herd to go. then when they have them where they want them, they close the trap.

    the annual hunts of the great khans were more training exercises for war in that respect.

    as for the wholesale slaughter of the populace of conquered lands, and extermination of certain populations, as i posted above, the mongols, like all steppe dwellers felt contempt for the horseback riding- challenged of the rest of the world and viewed them as less than human. the mongols were almost self-sufficient, so except for specialists (artists, blacksmiths) that produced things that were hard to come by on the steppe, the rest of the populations were seen as less than human and as a drain on the rapid movement necessary for a steppe force. so when they saw cities, they saw them as holding pens and farming fields were seen as good grazing lands wasted.

    as for sacking cities, the mongols had a system for it as well. being always outnumbered, they usually didn't keep garrissons except at really important places. if a city surrendered soon after the mongols arrived, the people were viewed as treacherous and the city was sacked.

    if a member of the royal house was killed
    there during the fight, the city was sacked.

    if the city submitted at some point and then later rebelled, it was always sacked.

    if the ruler of the land had been decisively defeated then the cities that didn't promptly submit were seen as rebellious and sacked.

    if the city resisted too long and delayed their timetable, it was sacked.

    pretty much the only time a city was spared was if it put up a heroic defense and fought to the bitter end. then it was felt that these people were honorable enough to be incorporated and they were spared.

    needless to say, there is a very thin line between resisting heroically and resisisting too long. and as the criteria for sparing a city was very slight, most cities were sacked.

    this is in no way an apology for the mongols, the amount of pain, cruelty and barbarity suffered by the peoples of eurasia were unmatched anywhere at anytime in the world until the twentieth century. but this is an explantion.
    my point is that this wasn't just callous, mind-numbing, chaotic brutality, but rather callous, mind-numbing, SYSTEMIC brutality.
    indeed

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    Member Member Magyar Khan's Avatar
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    I will make a forum at my mongol site at www.mongols.club.tip.nl so these type of comments will live on there!
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    Senior Member Senior Member Red Peasant's Avatar
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    Just where do you people get your facts from? How do you know how many people got killed? As far as I know, the nazis in WWII were quite efficient but killed nowhere near 30million, so why do people ascribe feats of genocide to medieval peoples that are quite unbelievable in magnitude? The nazis had all kinds of modern methods of killing availble to them but you are trying to tell me that that that the Mongols were better mass killers? I don't think so some how!
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    Southpaw Samurai Member Ii Naomasa's Avatar
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    Red Peasant, while I would have been a bit more diplomatic in the wording, I can fully understand your point. Thirty million does seem like an extraordinary large number. But you must remember two things: 1) the Mongols were in power for much longer than the men who lead the Nazi regimes in Germany, 2) Hitler's apparent anger was focused on specific groups within the populace, whereas the peasantry in general constituted much larger percentage of the population than all the group the Nazis ever chose to make their victims. So such numbers are not necessarily ridiculous, especially if whole villages were massacred.

    On the other hand, as stated earlier, these numbers may not be definitive and perfectly reliable. Unfortunately, my knowledge of the Mongols is limited to the personal history of Genghis and is currently limited in the full scope of their history and culture (which is why I have refrained from adding too much here). But, as others have said before, it may not have been that the Mongols personally put to death thirty million, but that their actions (and the actions they stirred in the governments of the time), aided the faminine and sicknesses that plagued the populace. I have read accounts of Mongols by European historians who make the warriors of the Steppes seem to be the most vile demons possible in the form of humans. Many of the so called 'attrocities' that the Mongols performed on European communities is unproven, and sometimes contradict the policies established as they worked their way through Western Asia.

    Whether the Mongols killed thirty, thirty thousand, or thirty million Chinese peasants is not the main focus of this thread. The main point, I believe, is the 'Why'. Why did the Mongols sometimes show great restraint, tolerance, and foresight (for example, Genghis eventually became one of the most enlightened leaders this millenia has seen in regards to religion, his belief being (forgive my paraphrasing) that he would restrain no religions as he did not want to anger whicher god was the right one)), yet at other times be cruel, malicious, and almost every bit the stereotype than many of their enemies had of them.

    [This message has been edited by Ii Naomasa (edited 12-27-2000).]
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    karoshi Senior Member solypsist's Avatar
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    somehow I know I'm just wasting my time with Red Pheasant, but...

    You're probably forgetting the 20 million or so Russians the Germans killed by way of warfare during WW2. The Jewish extermination adds up to about 6 million, conservatively. The rest of the zeroes are other battlefield and attrition deaths caused by Germany on Allied forces et al between the years 1939-1945. As for the sources, most of the figures are German/Nazi in origin, who as you know, kept flawless records.
    But really, The Mongols win this sick contest hands down with 30 million plus over the years they scoured Eurasia.

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    Senior Member Senior Member Red Peasant's Avatar
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    You're right Sol, it's sick, and it's definitely NOT a contest! I just wanted to know, really, where these people got their FACTS! They're talking rubbish!
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    Senior Member Senior Member Dark Phoenix's Avatar
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    Peasant how do you know what they are saying is total rubbish? Do you have information that proves what they are saying is wrong?

    It is possible when compared with the length of time of both. From what I read above is that the Mongols were agressive and moved on afterwards. Anybody if I am wrong please correct me.

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    Senior Member Senior Member Red Peasant's Avatar
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    FACTS please!!! Can anyone PROVE that the Mongols were any more aggressive or destructive or homicidal than any other expansive people? I don't think so. They were undoubtedly BAD lads, but they were unfortunate to be remembered as such by several of the world's MAJOR cultures. They got really BAD press!!!
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    Red Peasant, if you are going to denounce other people's posts as 'rubbish', without offering any convincing argument against them, you can't expect to be treated seriously. True, the Mongols hurt a lot of people and maybe they are victims of a false portrayal by historians, but there's no need to insult others in order to make your point.

    Nobody said that the Mongols were 'homicidal'. 'Genocidal' might be the word you were looking for. It is a widely accepted fact that Mongol invasions were the cause of much death and destruction. Whether they were any more destructive than other people is open to question. Perhaps they were just a lot more effective than others of their time?

    You make an interesting point; that historical records may well be inaccurate and that the figures mentioned may well be exaggerations. Just try not to be so aggressive towards those who disagree with you. We will all listen to your points of view so long as you do not insult people.

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    Senior Member Senior Member Red Peasant's Avatar
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    I'm not aggressive, just Mongolish!!!!

    But, "widely accepted facts," mmmmmm.....very suspect!!! I suggest u read people like E H Carr and Keith Jenkins to ascertain the nature of what u call 'facts'! They MAY be wrong but they make u think.
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    Senior Member Senior Member Red Peasant's Avatar
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    Just thinking, but how am I too aggressive? My replies would have been totally inocuous at the old SD. The times they are a changin' .... as some guy said.
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    What I mean by that is:
    It is widely accepted that the Mongols caused death and destruction, in the sense that almost all invasions cause death and destruction. I was suggesting that perhaps, since the Mongols regularly carried out invasions, the numbers of people they killed simply reflect that.

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    Senior Member Senior Member Kurando's Avatar
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    Red Peasant;

    Seemingly what you are failing to grasp here is that unlike the Nazi Holocaust the Mongol Extermination of Chinese Peasantry did not involve the "rounding up" millions of people for the purpose of putting them to death. Rather, as I stated previously, the genocide was a result of a massive famine which was predicated by the Mongol's destruction of the Chinese agricultural system circa 1212 A.D.

    My source, (as I also stated previously), is Guinness Book of World Records (under the topic "genocide"); if you don't believe me go to the library and look for yourself. Additionaly, as FWS put forth this figure is based on a "comparison of an earlier Chin Dynasty census of the population of northern China to a later Mongol census."

    That having been said, I agree with some of the points you have made + given that the destruction of the Chinese agricultural system was probably more of an act of ignorance than an act of diabolical-intent, you could make a case that the event commonly refered to as "The Mongol Extermination of Chinese Peasantry" was not genocide per se, but rather was a form of catastrophe.

    However you wish to classify it though, it goes without saying this tragedy constitutes one of the most prolific concentrations of death in human history + all things being equal it probably stands paralleled only by the prolonged hardship which was inflicted upon the Soviet Union and Poland during the Second World War, and/or the Black Plague of the Middle Ages.

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    Senior Member Senior Member The Black Ship's Avatar
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    A Black Death BTW which can be directly related to the Mongols...as the origin of this plague was from the Steppes of Mongolia
    Semantics aside it is safe to say that the Mongols were a catalyst for death, by whatever means, on an epic scale.
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    Senior Member Senior Member ShaiHulud's Avatar
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    Red Pheasant....."Rubbish" is a perjorative term that offers a qualitative value judgement. As such, it may be deemed aggressive and as it offers no counter-argument it adds nothing insightful that may, of itself, be judged.
    As to Nazi-caused deaths... As previously posted the Soviet Union, alone, suffered over 20 million deaths, the Germans over 6 million deaths, the Jews over 6 million deaths. Need one say more? I'd be willing to listen when you provide any refutation to those numbers. Until then, they are the common knowledge.
    As to the Mongols...they, at first, tried to destroy the Chinese populace but found it beyond even their ability..just too many Chinese. Their destruction in the area we now call the mideast was so general that the
    cultivation by irrigation was destroyed for lack of people to maintain it. By doing so they removed, permanently, the necessity of guarding that flank. China, being too populous required differing methods. I've never seen anything stating that 30 million Chinese were killed but CITY populations of a million or more were captured and slaughtered in China. Collateral damage from marauding undoubtedly caused many more deaths.

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    [This message has been edited by ShaiHulud (edited 12-27-2000).]
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    Senior Member Senior Member ShaiHulud's Avatar
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    [QUOTE]Originally posted by Red Peasant:
    [B]I'm not aggressive, just Mongolish!!!!

    The preferred spelling is "Mongoloid" but it is now more politically correct to simply refer to yourself as 'exceptional'. (hehe)



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    Standing Up For Rationality Senior Member Ronin's Avatar
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    Good one! lol!

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    Senior Member Senior Member FwSeal's Avatar
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    To reiterate what I wrote earlier, and to elaborate on Kurando's points, the figure of '30 million' is based on a comparison of population counts conducted by the Chin and, later, the Mongols themselves. Historians I have read are divided on just how much stock to place in that figure. However, it should be understood that famine, disease, and general chaos most likely figured heavily in the terrible toll in China. No, the Mongols were probably not lining up Chinese villagers by the millions to hack down one by one. (In fact, that very idea was abandoned by the second Khan on the advice of Yeh-lu Chu-sai). But the by-products of war (again, in the form of disease, famine, and times of anarchy) tend, at least in my understanding of history, to reap a much greater toll among the innocent then direct action by the enemy soldiers themselves. As Kurando said, '"The Mongol Extermination of Chinese Peasantry" was not genocide per se, but rather was a form of catastrophe.'

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    on an almost unrelated side note, the khwarem shah with his 400,000 strong army was on the point of attempting to reunify all of islam when he decided to execute the merchant/emmissaries/spies sent by genghis for an alliance.
    france survived the black death, china revived after each babarian dynasty but central asia to this day has not reached the level of population or urbanity that it had before the mongol invasions.
    indeed

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