Enthronement and Civil War
Kublai received a message from his wife that his younger brother Ariq Böke had been raising troops, and returned north to the Mongolian plains. Before he reached Mongolia, he learned that Ariq Böke had held a kurultai (Mongol great council), at the capital Karakorum, which had named him Great Khan with the support of most of Genghis Khan's descendants. Kublai and the fourth brother, the Il-Khan Hulagu opposed this. Kublai's Chinese staff encouraged Kublai to ascend the throne, and almost all of the senior princes in North China and Manchuria supported his candidacy. Upon returning to his own territories, Kublai summoned his own kurultai. Few members of the royal family supported Kublai's claims to the title, though the small number of attendees included representatives of all the Borjigin lines except that of Jochi. This kurultai proclaimed Kublai Great Khan, on April 15, 1260, despite Ariq Böke's apparently legal claim.
This led to warfare between Kublai and Ariq Böke, which resulted in the destruction of the Mongolian capital at Karakorum. In Shaanxi and Sichuan, Möngke's army supported Ariq Böke. Kublai dispatched Lian Xixian to Shaanxi and Sichuan, where they executed Ariq Böke's civil administrator Liu Taiping and won over several wavering generals. To secure the southern front, Kublai attempted a diplomatic resolution and sent envoys to Hangzhou, but Jia broke his promise and arrested them. Kublai sent Abishqa as new khan to the Chagatai Khanate. Ariq Böke captured Abishqa, two other princes and 100 men and had his own man, Alghu, crowned khan of Chagatai's territory. In the first armed clash between Ariq Böke and Kublai, Ariq Böke lost and his commander Alamdar was killed at the battle. In revenge, Ariq Böke had Abishqa executed. Kublai cut off supplies of food to Karakorum with the support of his cousin Kadan, son of Ögedei Khan. Karakorum quickly fell to Kublai's large army, but following Kublai's departure it was temporarily re-taken by Ariq Böke in 1261. Yizhou governor Li Tan revolted against Mongol rule in February 1262 and Kublai ordered his Chancellor Shi Tianze and Shi Shu to attack Li Tan. The two armies crushed Li Tan's revolt in just a few months and Li Tan was executed. These armies also executed Wang Wentong, Li Tan's father-in-law, who had been appointed the Chief Administrator of the Zhongshusheng ("Department of Central Governing") early in Kublai's reign and became one of Kublai's most trusted Han Chinese officials. The incident instilled in Kublai a distrust of ethnic Hans. After becoming emperor, Kublai banned granting the titles of and tithes to Han Chinese warlords.
Chagatayid Khan Alghu, who had been appointed by Ariq Böke, declared his allegiance to Kublai and defeated a punitive expedition sent by Ariq Böke in 1262. The Ilkhan Hulagu also sided with Kublai and criticized Ariq Böke. Ariq Böke surrendered to Kublai at Xanadu on August 21, 1264. The rulers of the western khanates acknowledged Kublai's victory and rule in Mongolia. When Kublai summoned them to a new kurultai, Alghu Khan demanded recognition of his illegal position from Kublai in return. Despite tensions between them, both Hulagu and Berke, khan of the Golden Horde, at first accepted Kublai's invitation. However, they soon declined to attend the kurultai. Kublai pardoned Ariq Böke, although he executed Ariq Böke's chief supporters.
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