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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: October 2015

Introduction: views from the other side


Why views from the other side? Because no Mongol views have survived into our time.

When they had landed on the elected coast they gained possession of the island which is 200 parasangs in length and 120 parasangs in breadth through spreading fear of the fury of their sword … His Majesty [Khubilai] did not permit that certain death should excercise his power here, but put his son [Kertanagara's son in law Wijaya] on the steps of the high throne. He bestowed on him a ceremonial dress of honor, and conferred on him much grace, and, against the payment of tribute and taxes in the shape of pearls and gold, he left the island in his hands. (Wassaf, translated in Spuler, 1988, pp. 168–69)

Wassaf thus describes the Mongol invasion of Java in what is perhaps the closest to an official Mongol version as is extant, having been written for the Mongol Ilkhans of Persia in the early 14th century. The Yuan dynastic history compiled under the Ming gives a very different account, as do the accounts written in Java. Even so, Wassaf's account — and all other accounts of the Java campaign — differ greatly in tone from his own and other accounts of the Mongol campaigns in western Asia and elsewhere. Although Wassaf claims that the Mongols “gained possession of the Island … through spreading fear of the fury of their sword”, he concludes his account with the claim that Khubilai “did not permit that certain death should excercise his power here,” but installed a new king on the throne — Javanese, not Mongol — “conferred on him much grace” and left the kingdom in his hands. Compare the preceding description with his account of the Mongol siege of Baghdad and Ibn al-Athir's account of the Central Asian campaigns:

The people were killed, both from inside and outside, or were carried away wounded … In this way was Baghdad besieged and terrorized for fifty days. … [T]hey razed to the ground the walls … and filled in the moat which was as deep as the contemplation of rational men.[…]

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Of Palm Wine, Women and War
  • Online ISBN: 9789814517836
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