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Toghon Temür -- An Excellent Engineer Emperor who Gave Up Fighting Through Divination

Toghon Temür (1320 -- 1370), also respected as Yuan Hui Zong or Yuan Shun Di, was the last emperor of the united Yuan Dynasty in the history of China.

From A Banished Prince to An Ambitious Emperor 

When he was little, he was banished to Guilin city because of a dispute over the throne. He learned Confucianism and some other traditional Chinese culture during that period. When he was 13, he was welcomed back to the capital city and ascended to the throne. 


At that time, a very powerful minister was in real charge of the kingdom; this regent defeated his political enemies, perished their clans, and collected a large amount of treasures greedily. In addition, this minister again abrogated the Imperial Examination and expelled all Han people from government of Empire Yuan; he also published even severe restrictions to the Han people, which caused more uprisings and intense combats among different ethical groups. Till now, endless wars and heavy taxes already brought chaos and disasters to civilians, along with racist policies, all of these led to more and more severe rebellions.


Failed Reforms of Emperor Toghon Temür

Toghon Temür then allied with that minister’s nephew named Tuotuo and initiated a coup; he got great success and retrieved centralized power, when he was 20 years old. 


Then together they published a series of good policies; Toghon Temür himself was very diligent and smart as well. They reinstated the Imperial Examination that had been abolished before, lowered taxes, encouraged agriculture, and contributed to making the different treatments among races less severe. He edited history and highly respected Confucianism, recovered some traditional Chinese ceremony and implemented some economic reforms. 


However, those racist unfairness and poverty issues were still existing, plus years of severe natural disasters, the kingdom declined again. Soon, Emperor Toghon Temür published an article to take all the blame himself and tried harder to right all the wrongs. 


But this time, he failed. Years of huge natural disasters made civilians living in extreme poverty, and plagues were spreading extensively; officers were still greedy and incapable to properly handle those unstable issues. Consequently, uprisings by Han people were endless.

A Disappointed Emperor and A Marvelous Architect


This time, Toghon Temür felt that there was nothing else he could do as an emperor, so he nominated a likable person to be minister whom, however, turned out to be a wrong one. Then Toghon Temür became a luxurious monarch who only wanted to enjoy life in his palace. 


He was a very talented mechanical and architectural engineer and had participated in designing and constructing some excellent palaces, dragon boats and house leakages. From designing and drafting, to sophisticated carving, he was a magnificent master. Moreover, he was good at calligraphy and painting, and popularized them among the ruling classes of Yuan Dynasty. 

Fancy Clock Designed and Made by  Emperor Toghon Temür

Retreating Guided by Astrology

Emperor Toghon Temür also strongly believed in destiny and Chinese astrology. When an army of Zhu Yuanzhang, founder of the next dynasty, marched near his capital, he said the stars told him that he couldn’t win. Then he took his families and government escaped northwards without a fight, though many officers said that he shouldn’t give up Genghis Khan’s empire like that.


Afterwards, he spent most of his time writing sad articles and poems, while trying to command the rest of his army to fight back. He passed away two years later, as the last emperor of the united Yuan Dynasty. Mongolia Plat then was separated into different regimes again. 


Many people believed that Emperor Toghon Temür shouldn’t take the blame for Empire Yuan’s ending, because he did publish many good policies and made some contributions to agriculture, economy and culture.


His life as an emperor could be clearly classified into two parts. In the first stage, he was smart and diligent and decisive, when he removed the most powerful regent and brought his kingdom a big progress. In the second stage, after seeing extensive destructions by natural disasters and uprising armies and corrupted officers, he stopped fighting and enjoyed luxurious life. Additionally, his escape protected the Mongolian culture from perishing forever; maybe stars told him that leaving at that circumstance would be a better choice.