Kublai Khan, born Kublai and also known by the temple name Shizu, was the fifth Khagan of the Mongol Empire, reigning from 1260 to 1294. He also founded the Yuan dynasty in China as a conquest dynasty in 1271, Kublai was the fourth son of Tolui and a grandson of Genghis Khan. He succeeded his older brother Möngke as Khagan in 1260, but had to defeat his younger brother Ariq Böke in the Toluid Civil War lasting until 1264 and this episode marked the beginning of disunity in the empire. Kublais real power was limited to China and Mongolia, though as Khagan he still had influence in the Ilkhanate and, to a lesser degree. In 1271, Kublai established the Yuan dynasty, which ruled over present-day Mongolia, China, Korea, and some adjacent areas, by 1279, the Mongol conquest of the Song dynasty was completed and Kublai became the first non-native emperor to conquer all of China. Kublai Khan was the son of Tolui, and his second son with Sorghaghtani Beki. As his grandfather Genghis Khan advised, Sorghaghtani chose a Buddhist Tangut woman as her sons nurse, on his way home after the Mongol conquest of Khwarezmia, Genghis Khan performed a ceremony on his grandsons Möngke and Kublai after their first hunt in 1224 near the Ili River. Kublai was nine years old and with his eldest brother killed a rabbit and his grandfather smeared fat from killed animals onto Kublais middle finger in accordance with a Mongol tradition. After the Mongol conquest of the Jin dynasty, in 1236, Ögedei gave Hebei to the family of Tolui, Kublai received an estate of his own, which included 10,000 households. Because he was inexperienced, Kublai allowed local officials free rein, corruption amongst his officials and aggressive taxation caused large numbers of Chinese peasants to flee, which led to a decline in tax revenues. Kublai quickly came to his appanage in Hebei and ordered reforms, Sorghaghtani sent new officials to help him and tax laws were revised. Thanks to those efforts, many of the people who fled returned, the most prominent, and arguably most influential, component of Kublai Khans early life was his study and strong attraction to contemporary Chinese culture. Kublai invited Haiyun, the leading Buddhist monk in North China, when he met Haiyun in Karakorum in 1242, Kublai asked him about the philosophy of Buddhism. Haiyun named Kublais son, who was born in 1243, Zhenjin, Haiyun also introduced Kublai to the formerly Daoist and now Buddhist monk, Liu Bingzhong. Liu was a painter, calligrapher, poet, and mathematician, Kublai soon added the Shanxi scholar Zhao Bi to his entourage. Kublai employed people of other nationalities as well, for he was keen to balance local and imperial interests, Mongol, in 1251, Kublais eldest brother Möngke became Khan of the Mongol Empire, and Khwarizmian Mahmud Yalavach and Kublai were sent to China. Kublai received the viceroyalty over North China and moved his ordo to central Inner Mongolia, during his years as viceroy, Kublai managed his territory well, boosted the agricultural output of Henan, and increased social welfare spendings after receiving Xian. These acts received great acclaim from the Chinese warlords and were essential to the building of the Yuan Dynasty, Möngke dismissed Mahmud Yalavach, which met with resistance from Chinese Confucian-trained officials
Portrait of Kublai Khan drawn shortly after his death on February 18, 1294. The painting depicts Kublai prior to the onset of obesity from heavy eating and drinking. Kublai's white robes reflect his desired symbolic role as a religious Mongol shaman. Now Located in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan; colors and ink on silk, 59.4 by 47 cm.
Portrait of young Kublai by Anige, a Nepali artist in Kublai's court
Painting of Kublai Khan on a hunting expedition, by Chinese court artist Liu Guandao, c. 1280.