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In 1260, after the death of his grandfather Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan became the ruler of the entire Mongol Empire. He predominantly focused on extending his control over most of the areas in Asia. Some of the areas that he controlled included; Korea, Tibet, Northern China and Mongolia. Nevertheless, he had first to conquer the whole of China in order to accomplish the goal of his father. The era in which Kublai Khan reigned, became a significant period in the history of the Chinese. During this time, China became more open to foreign trade deals and contracts. In order to avoid hurting the Chinese people, Kublai did not adopt the same hatred his ancestors had on the Chinese. He oversaw a number of development projects in the Northern Chinese including the construction of a new square-walled capital which is currently the modern Beijing. However, the main concern during the reign of Kublai Khan was what motivated him to send invasion fleets to conquer Japan. Actually, it is challenging to determine what influenced his decision on invading Japan. Was is it because of his eagerness to justify his legitimacy to the title of Khan or was it an attempt to expand his regime to be more Chinese?
Argument for Invading Japan
My opinion is that Kublai Khan was driven to invade Japan because of his desire to expand his regime beyond China. Kublai Khan attempted to extend his regime to Japan after successful conquering China. He attempted to conquer Japan in two invasions in which he sent large fleets to invade it. The first invasion was in 1274, and the second invasion was in 1281. However, both invasions were fruitless and hence he failed in his attempt to extend his empire.
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During the first invasion in 1274, Kublai Khan structured an army consisting of 15000 troops armed with weaponry and 450 ships. Also, his army had small bombs, which were the first to be seen in Japan. Although his troops arrived fruitfully in Japan, they were instantaneously hit by storm even before they made significant stride in their tussle to conquer Japan. Subsequently, the Yuan army aborted their invasion after the storm wrecked their fleet entirely.
After realizing his attempt to conquer Japan has failed, Kublai Khan opted to use dialogue as a means of successfully taking control of Japan. The Japanese did not give a single chance for the envoys sent by Kublai, to explain their message. Instead, they beheaded them and built fortifications along the border line.
After the beheading of the entourage that he had sent to Japan, Kublai decided to hold onto his diplomats at home for some time. However, he never lost his determination to extend his regime by invading Japan. His resolve to conquer the whole world was dumbfounding, to say the least. Kublai believed that by successfully conquering Japan, he will earn the respect from other world leaders which will endear him to them as an up-and-coming world conqueror. Therefore, he was not about to shelve his ambitions of being the ultimate governor of the world.
During the second invasion, Japanese people were fully aware of the implications of allowing Kublai’s army to set foot on their territory. Therefore, they designed different defense mechanisms to protect their territory against the imminent invasion of the Mongol army. At every harbor on the islands, the Japanese army set up defense positions. They totally reinforced the local defense forces with new recruits who were given the brand new weapons after adequate training from the proficient army men. A 40000 powerful Japanese army was in place at the fortifications to prevent the Yuan army from landing on their territory.
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Kublai had ordered the construction of 1000 new ships that will carry his troops during the second invasion. Nonetheless, the Japanese fierce efforts to defend their territory proved successful as they were able to hold the Yuan army at the beachheads. Even after trying to break the defense lines of Japanese, the Mongols were still fruitless in their attempts.
Importantly, the Kublai’s army was still unfortunate during the second invasion. When his soldiers were busy preparing to land on their second attempt, a powerful typhoon hit the north of Kyushu. The typhoon significantly destroyed the Yuan army. Therefore, they were forced to retreat after realizing that the number of troops was insufficient to conquer Japan. Also, their hopes of reinforcement were dashed by the powerful typhoon. Thereafter, the Japanese army took advantage of the disorderly moment within the Yuan camp and attacked them on the beach. They took some as slaves but beheaded a majority of them at the beach.
For example, Kublai had already successfully conquered Korea and China. Therefore, he clearly knew that if the invasion of Japan were successful, he would have successfully extended his regime and earned more resources. Therefore, in order to extend his regime, he needed more resources under his control to show the amount of power he exerted. Hence, invading Japan was a clear attempt to make his regime more Chinese.
Arguments against Kublai’s Invasion of Japan
On the other hand, the eagerness of Kublai, to justify his legitimacy as the Great Khan did not motivate him to send invasion fleets to conquer Japan. After the death of his grandfather, other siblings of Kublai tried to be recognized as the Great Khan. They even went to the extent of establishing their own independent kingdoms to show their power. Kublai Khan opted to conquer southern China while still based in Beijing. Being an advocate of diplomacy, Kublai beseeched upon the emperor of Song, to subjugate himself peacefully. However, when this was fruitless, he commanded his army to move deeper inside China. It is after conquering China that Kublai requested Japan to subjugate itself. He threatened them with retaliations if they objected to his request. Nevertheless, the Japanese did not obligate to his threats forcing him to organize an invasion into Japan.
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Kublai was already controlling the largest empire in the history of the world, when he decided to send his army to conquer Japan. Actually, he had gained control over China, Vietnam and Korea through invasion. Evidently, he had by now justified his title of being the Great Khan. Therefore, he did not have to prove to anyone that he is indeed the Great Khan. Notably, Kublai sending to troops to conquer Japan was not attempt to legitimize his title as the Great Khan. The other people who had declared themselves as the Great Khan had already become irrelevant in the running of their mini-kingdoms. Kublai had for obvious reasons asked these rulers to subjugate to him quietly, and they did so without much confrontation.
In conclusion, it is clear that what made the informed decision of Kublai, to send invasion fleets to conquer Japan was his attempt to make his regime more Chinese. Kublai wanted to become the world’s most successful conqueror by invading Japan and other regions he had yet to occupy. Kublai had control over the largest empire in the history of the world comprising of China, Taiwan, Korea and Vietnam. He invaded Japan because of his desire to extend this regime. Although he failed in his attempt to conquer Japan, this should not be misjudged to mean that he was not the Great Khan. Manifestly, Kublai was motivated to invade Japan by the yearning to extend his empire to become the biggest in the history of the world.
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