Personal PhD Project: Imperial Sons-in-law in the Mongol Empire (13th -14th centuries)
The imperial sons-in-laws of the Chinggisid clan (Mon. güregens) constituted one of the most important political and social institutions of the Mongol Empire. The importance of the güregens derived mainly from them holding key roles in the Mongol army and administration and creating a middle tier between the Chinggisids themselves and the "regular" commanders throughout the whole Mongol Eurasia. They were composed mainly of former tribal leaders, who often retained their tribal connections longer than other members of the Chinggisid elites, as well as subject rulers or their families (from Uighuria, Korea, Iran, Georgia etc.). I will analyze the matrimonial connections between the Golden Lineage, that of Chinggis Khan and his heirs, and other tribal and political groups, which constituted the multi-leveled networks of power and loyalty of Mongol Eurasia and served in their complexity as one of the main foundations of the Chinggisid rule. The research will cover the history of the development of this institution both in the United Mongol Empire (1206-1260) and in the four successor Khanates (the Ilkhanate, the Chaghadaid Khanate, the Golden Horde and the Yuan dynasty), documenting the backgrounds of the various Chinggisidsʾ “in-laws” as well as their functions during the period of the 12th until the 14th centuries in those areas. I intend to elucidate the objectives of marriage alliances, gender roles, as well as the comparative power of different loyalties – tribal, family, personal, and political – in Mongol Eurasia. This, in turn, will provide the opportunity for a more in-depth understanding of the distribution of power under the Mongol rule. The research will be of importance not only for the analysis of the successful pages of the Mongol conquests and rule, but also for the stages of their decline. In-laws, mostly military commanders, both Mongols and non-Mongols, played a decisive role in the crisis of the mid-14th century, which shook all of the Mongol states and led to the collapse of the Ilkhanate and Yuan China and to a severe crisis in the Steppe khanates. The proposed research therefore presents a suitable platform for comparing how each of the four khanates handled the challenges of the mid-14th century. At the same time, it will also open up new perspectives for the research of post-Mongol Eurasia, as the in-laws were often the Chinggisid successors ‒ the most famous example is that of Tamerlane (r. 1370-1405 in Central Asia). Those “in-law dynasties” used their relation to the Golden lineage for extending their legitimacy, thereby manipulating and undermining the Chinggisid principle according to which only descendants of the Chinggisid family are entitled to be khans (the Oyirads since the Ming being a notable and surprising exception). An in-depth research of the matrimonial networks of the Mongol states can therefore clarify the historical roots of the later political developments, the long-term influences of which can still be traced in today’s Central Asia. Last but not least, this project can lay the basis for a research project on Chinggisid women, their statuses and roles in the history of the respective political entities (Oyirad Orghina Khatun of the Chaghadaid Khanate and Hajji Khatun of the Ilkhanate serving as examples). My MA research on the migration of the Oyirad tribe and its matrimonial connections with the Golden Lineage can serve as a case study for the broader analysis of the “güregen” institution in the Mongol Empire.
MA thesis: “Eurasian Migrations and Nomadic Identity: The Oyirad Tribe in the 13th-14th Centuries” (written under the supervision of Prof. M. Biran)
One of the more intriguing aspects of the Chinggisid conquest is the revolution it brought to the tribal world of Mongolia. Common wisdom says that Chinggis Khan reorganized Mongolia's tribal society in decimal military units thereby breaking many of the tribal ties that hitherto underpinned Mongol identity, replacing them with personal loyalty to the army commander and Chinggis himself. That said, a few of these groups held on to a semblance of their old identity throughout the Mongol period, and many of them re-tribalized when the Mongol empire began to teeter in the mid-1300s. Originally a forest tribe from north-western Mongolia, the Oirats (later known as the Zunghars or Qalmuqs) not only survived the imperial dispersion, but managed to become the Chinggisids‘ arch rivals in post-Yuan Mongolia. Against this backdrop, my thesis charted the migrations of the Oirat people: it followed the biographies of the Oirat people in the 13th and 14th centuries, in the United Empire, the four Mongol khanates and beyond, including the Oirat migration to Mamluk Egypt in the 1290s. It analysed Oirats' career patterns and illuminated the circumstances that enabled them to retain or reconstruct their tribal identity throughout the upheavals of the Mongol period.
AREAS OF INTEREST
Chinese modern and imperial history, Mongol history and etnography, Central Asian history, medieval history of the Islamic Western Asia, islamic theology, tribal genealogy of the Mongols, Caucasian (Armenian and Georgian) and Russian historiography of the Mongol period, Chinese calligraphy.
2014 - Present: PhD Student. Topic of the dissertation: "Imperial Sons-in-law in the Mongol Empire (13th-14th centuries)" (Department of Asian Studies, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem).
2010 – 2013: MA Degree in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies. Academic curator – Prof. Michal Biran. Title of the MA thesis: “Eurasian Migrations and Nomadic Identity: The Oirat Tribe in the 13th-14th Centuries”. Graduated with Honors.
2011 - 2012: A year of Chinese language study in the Beijing Language and Culture University 北京语言大学 (sponsored by the CRC – Chinese Research Council – of the People Republic of China).
2007 - 2010: BA Degree in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies and Eastern Asia Studies, Chinese Department (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem). Graduated with Honors.
"From Mongolia to Khwarazm: The Qonggirad Migrations in the Jochid Ulus (13c.-15c.)," forthcoming in Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée 143 (2017).
"Reconsidering the Chinggisid Sons-in-law: Lessons from the United Empire," forthcoming in Chronica 12 (2017).
"New Light on Early Mongol Islamization: The Case of Arghun Aqa’s Family," forthcoming in the Journal of Royal Asiatic Society (2017).
"Oirats in the Ilkhanate and the Mamluk Sultanate in the Thirteenth to the Early Fifteenth Centuries: Two Cases of Assimilation into the Muslim Environment," Mamluk Studies Review, 19, 2016, pp. 149-191.
CONFERENCES AND WORKSHOPS
"Reconsidering the Chinggisids' Sons-in-law: Lessons from the United Empire", Sixth International Conference on the Medieval History of the Eurasian Steppe, Szeged, Hungary, November 23-25, 2016.
Summer School in Chinese Digital Humanities, Leiden University, 6-9 July 2016.
"Serving two Khans: Oyirads between Qubilai Khan and Arigh Böke", Asia in Motion: Horizons of Hope (AAS-in-Asia 2016); Doshisha University, Kyoto, 24-27 June, 2016.
"Staying Loyal to the Losing Party: Some New Remarks Concerning the Oyirad Tribe in the Yuan and post-Yuan Realms", The 13th Biennial Conference of Asian Studies in Israel, Tel Hai, 18-19 Mai, 2016.
"Oyirads in the Ilkhanate and the Mamluk Sultanate in the 14th Century: Two Patterns of Assimilation into the Muslim Environment", Second Conference of the School of Mamluk Studies, Liège University, 25-28 June, 2015.
"Imperial Sons-in-law on the Move: Oyirad and Qunqirat Dispersion in Mongol Eurasia", Asia in Motion: Ideas, Institutions, Identities (AAS-in-Asia 2015); Academia Sinica (Taipei), 22-24 June, 2015.
"Early Mongol Islamisation in Khurasan: The case of Arghun Aqa's Family", The Second Biennial Simposia Iranica, Cambridge University, 8-9 April 2015.
"Tribal Identity and Tribal Migration in Mongol Eurasia: the Oyirad Case", WOCMES 2014, Ankara, 18-22 August, 2014.
"The Oirats in the Ilkhanid State: Vicissitudes of the Destiny of the Tribe through the Lenses of the Prosopographic Research”, The Annual 37th Conference of The Middle East and Islamic Studies Association of Israel, Tel-Aviv University, June 6, 2013.