Tolui: Fourth Son of the Genghis Khan and Khatun Börte


Tolui was Genghis Khan's fourth son from his chief Khatun Börte. At his father's death in 1227, his ulus, or geographical inheritance, was Mongolia's homeland. He also served as civil governor until 1229, when Ögedei was confirmed as the second Great Khan of the Mongol Empire (1206–1368). He had previously distinguished himself in wars against the Jin dynasty, the Western Xia, and the Khwarezmid Empire, where he played a key role in the capture and massacre of Jin at Merv and Nishapur. Thus, most Ilkhanids have him as a direct ancestor. Unlike the neighbouring Chinese kingdoms to the south, Tolui never used the title of Khagan; neither Genghis Khan nor his immediate three successors would ever use any reigning titles. However, when his son Möngke formed the Yuan dynasty a few decades later, Tolui was given the title of Khagan and a temple name by his other son Kublai.



Tolui was too young to participate in the battles during the emergence of Genghis Khan. When Tolui was approximately five years old, he was almost slain by a Tatar. His sister Altani and two Genghis pals rescued him. Tolui's father married Sorghaghtani, the niece of Ong Khan (a friend of Tolui's grandpa Yesugei), in 1203. Möngke, their first son, was born in 1209.

Early Career

In 1213, he fought the Jin dynasty for the first time, storming the walls of Dexing with his brother-in-law Chiqu. Genghis Khan sent him to Khorasan, Iran, in 1221. Several times, the cities in this area had revolted. In November 1220, the defenders of Nishapur assassinated Toquchar, Tolui's brother-in-law. Nishapur was evacuated onto the plains by Tolui's army. He commanded the massacres of Nishapur and Merv in their entirety.

Genghis Khan's Succession

Genghis Khan had to choose between his four sons when considering who should succeed. Tolui was well-known for his military prowess and was a successful general, but Genghis Khan preferred godei, who was more skilled diplomatically. Tolui, according to Genghis Khan, would be too careful to be an effective leader. In 1227, Tolui accompanied his father in a war against Xi Xia. Tolui was in charge of the Mongol Empire for two years after Genghis Khan's death. Tolui commanded central Mongolia's largest and most powerful army, which the Mongol aristocracy accepted partly because of the tradition that the youngest son inherited his father's land and partly because Tolui commanded central Mongolia's largest and most formidable army at the time. Tolui favoured electing the next Khagan, and Ögedei was chosen, fulfilling his father's intentions. In 1231–32, Tolui fought alongside Ögedei in northern China as a strategist and field commander. Two armies had been sent to besiege Kaifeng, Jin's capital. They returned north once most of Jin's defences were breached.


According to The Secret History of the Mongols, during a war in China, Tolui sacrificed himself to heal gödei of a serious disease. The shamans had deduced that gödei's illness was caused by China's soil and water spirits, who were enraged that their subjects had been driven away and their country had been damaged. Offering land, animals, and people had only made gödei's condition worse, but when they promised to sacrifice a family member, gödei suddenly improved. Unfortunately, Tolui volunteered and perished as soon as he drank the cursed potion. Ata-Malik Juvayni, on the other hand, claims he died of drunkenness.

Wives, Concubines and Children



Sorghaghtani Beki (Daughter of Jakha Gambhu, the younger brother of the powerful Keraite leader Toghrul)

  • Möngke Khan: Great Khan (1251–1259) of the Mongol Empire.
  • Kublai Khan: Great Khan (1260–1294) of the Mongol Empire and the Yuan dynasty
  • Hulagu Khan: Khan (1256–1264) of the Ilkhanate dynasty that ruled Persia, Turkey, Georgia and Armenia.
  • Ariq Böke: Declared Great Khan (rivalling Kublai) for a short period in 1260; he fought Kublai in the Toluid Civil War and would eventually be captured by Kublai in 1264.

Lingqun khatun (Daughter of Naiman khan and Qara-Khitai ruler Kuchlug)

  • Qutuqtu (Killed in battle against general Meng Yu during Mongol conquest of Song China)

Saruq Khatun (Nurse of Kublai, concubine from Naimans)

  • Jörike (Married Bulga, granddaughter of Anchen of Khongirads, died in youth.)
  • Möge (Died during the Mongol conquest of Song China.)

Mayiche (a concubine from Naimans)

  • Böchök (Participated in Mongol invasion of Europe in 1236–41 and Möngke's election in 1250)

Nayan Khatun


Doquz Khatun (Granddaughter of Keraite khan Toghrul)


Unknown wives

  • Sögetei
  • Sübügetei


Perhaps more important than himself was the influence of his family, the Toluids, on the Mongol Empire's fate. Tolui had Möngke, Kublai, Ariq Böke, and Hulagu through his Nestorian Christian wife Sorghaghtani Beki. The first three would be Great Khans, while Hulagu established the Ilkhanate and Kublai establish the Chinese Yuan dynasty. The Toluid Civil War, which raged between 1260 and 1264, was sparked by a rivalry between Tolui's sons, Kublai and Ariq Böke, which shattered the empire's strength and pitted the western khanates against each other. After the deaths of Ögedei and his son Güyük, the rivalry between the Toluids and the sons of Ögedei and Jochi created stagnation and infighting during the regency periods. In 1252, Möngke bestowed the title of Khagan on his father after his death. When Kublai Khan founded the Yuan Dynasty in 1271, he had his father Tolui's name changed to Ruizong on the official record. From 1251 to 1635, Tolui's line governed Mongolia and south Mongolia, Mongolia until 1691, and Bukhara until 1920. In Inner Mongolia, he and his wife are buried alongside Genghis Khan in a mausoleum built by Chinese Communists in the 1950s.

Last updated: 2021-October-12
Tags: Mongol Empire
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