Biligtu Khan Ayushiridara: a Northern Yuan Dynasty Emperor

Biligtu Khan Ayushiridara: a Northern Yuan Dynasty Emperor


Biligtu Khan, also known as Monarch Zhaozong of Northern Yuan, was a Northern Yuan dynasty emperor who reigned from 1370 until 1378. After his father, the last Yuan emperor, died, he succeeded to the throne, repelled an invading Ming army in 1372, and reclaimed some territories previously lost to the newly formed Ming dynasty.

Early Life

In 1338, Toghon Temur (Emperor Shun of Yuan) and Lady Gi had a son named Ayushiridara. When he was ten years, he gained his first Chinese lessons at the home of his father's minister, Toqto'a. Danashiri, Toghon Temur's primary empress, had just one son, who died in infancy. Because Ayushiridara's mother was a former royal maid and tea server, the Mongol noyans chose another Borjigin (Mongol aristocratic) heir over him. Danashiri and his mother were only allowed into the Yuan court after the purging of Danashiri's family and the death of Bayan. The Yuan emperor Toghon Temur was induced by his Korean queen, Lady Gi, to elect his heir apparent in 1353. Toqto'a, on the other hand, delayed the timetable for unexplained reasons. This infuriated the latter's political opponents. While fighting the Red Turban Rebellion in 1354, the chief minister and his former protégé, Hama of the "Qangli," and Ayushiridara, with the assistance of his mother, the Empress, Lady Gi, accused Toqto'a of corruption and law violations. Toqto'a, who had successfully suppressed the uprising, was stripped of his dignity and exiled to Hoai-nan due to this scenario.

Hama was appointed the first minister, and all authority was transferred to him. Hama, ecstatic at his victory, resolved to appoint Ayushiridara to the throne. This conspiracy was uncovered, and Hama was sentenced to exile in 1356, where he was killed by his opponents, while Ayushiridara was pardoned. When he was made crown prince in 1353, it sparked internal struggle between his supporters and opponents. He and Lady Gi wished for the first minister, Tai ping, to persuade the Khagan to retire and depart the Ayushiridara realm seven years later. They poisoned the minister's partisans and pushed him to quit when Tai ping refused. Papuhwa, a eunuch, and Cho sekin, two weak men, were given power. In 1364, Bolad-Temur, an opposition leader, took control of the capital. His father instructed Ayushiridara to return to Dadu. Ayushiridara fled to the Yuan general Köke Temur because he felt he could not stand up to Bolad-huge Temur's force. Bolad-Temur arrested Lady Gi and compelled her to recall her son to the capital when he learnt that Ayushiridara was approaching troops. Bolad-commanders, Temur's on the other hand, deserted to Köke Temur. Toghon Temur covertly arranged the assassination of Bolad-Temur by Ho chang, son of the prince of Wei Chun. In 1365, Köke Temur beat Bolad-commander Temur's Tukiel after the latter's death. Ayushiridara pushed köke Temur to urge the Emperor to retire in his favour. The Emperor refused to surrender, although he did designate his son as Yuan lieutenant. Köke Temur sought but failed to stop it, and he was deprived of his dignity. Toghon Temur Khan and his family moved north from Dadu to Shangdu when the Ming dynasty destroyed the Yuan dynasty in 1368. Toghon Temur died at Yingchang in 1370. The Ming army conquered the city, but Maidarbal, a son of Ayushiridara, managed to flee to the Karakorum, where he was formally enthroned as Khagan of the Mongols and given the Mongolian title of Biligtu (Intelligent).


Shortly after the accession, he escaped to the Karakorum and renamed Xuanguang (1371–1378) there. Biligtu Khan appointed Köke Temur as his commander in chief and chingsang of the Central Government's right hand. During his rule, the Yuan remnants in Mongolia's heartland, called the Northern Yuan dynasty, remained a powerful force. Its sphere of influence stretched from Northeast China to Xinjiang. The Hongwu Emperor tried numerous times to persuade Biligtu Khan Ayushiridara to hand over his arms, but he was unsuccessful. Finally, in 1372, the former sent a 150,000-strong Ming army to Mongolia. Biligtu Khan dispatched Köke Temur's army against Xu Da's Ming army's centre division. Within 20 days, Xu Da's forces arrived at Tuul River. However, they were routed, and their commander only managed to escape with a handful of his troops. The Ming army's eastern division proceeded to Kherlen River, pillaging Mongolian camps along the way. They were unexpectedly beaten and had to flee to Orkhon, where they fought another terrible fight. Following that, they battled the Mongol army of Halajchani and were defeated near the Karakorum. The Ming army's western division was forced to retire due to other divisions' failures, although they did gain several positions.  To battle the Ming dynasty of China, Ayushiridara enlisted the help of the Yuan's former vassal King Gongmin of Goryeo. Biligtu Khan writes to Gongmin in a letter: "Oh wang, you, like me, are a descendant of Genghis Khan. As a consequence, we ask that you join us in establishing justice and truth beneath the heavens." King Gongmin, on the other hand, refused to cooperate and launched an anti-Mongol campaign, reclaiming areas that the Yuan dynasty had conquered in the 1270s. In 1374, Gongmin was assassinated by a pro-Mongol group led by Yin Im-in. They dispatched envoys to the Mongols in Liaoyang, and Biligtu Khan promptly acknowledged King U, Yin Im-puppet. In's, Biligtu Khan requested that Goryeo Korea send men to help him attack the Ming stronghold. The Goryeo court hesitantly declined to assist once more. In 1373, the Mongols captured the districts of Funin and Suijin in the provinces of Sinhe, Liaoning, and Hebei, cutting the Ming off from Liaodong. Naghachu, a Mongol official from Liaoyang province, attacked the Liaodong Peninsula in 1375, intending to restore Mongol rule, and he was successful with the help of the pro-Mongol Jurchens. The Ming no longer raided the Northern Yuan. Köke Temur, Biligtu Khan's most powerful commander, died in 1375. Tögus Temur, Biligtu Khan Ayushiridara's half-brother, succeeded to the throne in 1378.




Consort and Issue (s)

  • Grandfather: Khutughtu Khan Kusala
  • Grandmother: Mailati of the Karluks
  • Grandfather: Gi Ja-oh
  • Father: Toghon Temur
  • Mother: Empress Ki


Empress Consort Gwon (29 April 1342— 22 May 1410)

  • Unnamed son (March 1363 to May 1375
  • Unnamed daughter (September 1377 to February 1423)

Popular Culture

Kim Jin-woo and Lee Shi-woo portrayed Empress Ki in the MBC TV series Empress Ki, from 2013 to 2014.