Return to Mongolia “Ilihan”

Winter is not a good day to travel in Iran. The gray-yellow brick buildings and the gardens of the Safavid and Keja periods dotted with it, outline a more bleak Qazvin street scene.

This is the beginning of 2015. I plan to do an inspection along the winter and summer parade route of Ilkhan (ilkhan, referring to the ruler of the Khanate established by the Mongols in Iran). In order to at least be a little closer to the “nomad” style in form, I decided to take short-distance buses as much as possible along the way, arrange daily schedules more casually, and choose inns that serve locals rather than tourists as much as possible.

“Huanghuoer Yueliang”
Going northwest from Tehran, Qazvin is the first big city along the way. In ancient times, it was mainly used as a commercial hub connecting northwestern Iran with the Caucasus, the Black Sea and the Rum region.

However, the Mongols who insisted on a nomadic life ruled Iran for more than half a century, but still followed the ancient habits, preferring to cruise in the cold steppes of the northwest (mostly in the West Azerbaijan Province of Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan) as the seasons change. . Therefore, leaving Qazvin and heading north, the “Ilihan Road” can be regarded as the real beginning.

From the map, the nearest old Mongol city to the north of Qazvin is Sultaniye. The name of the place literally means “the city of Sudan”, but it is translated as “Sun Danniya” in the “Yuan Shi”. In the Jiajing period of the Ming Dynasty (1522-1566), although no official envoys had traveled to this place personally since the Yongle Dynasty, the “Outline of Characters in the Land of the Western Regions” compiled by local officials in Shaanxi still regarded it as an important city in West Asia. In the description, its name was changed to “Suolidan City” according to the pronunciation of Ming Dynasty Chinese. The Ming dynasty writer also added a note below with a conscious note that there was a “Cangtouhuihui” farming in the city.

Hulagu at the banquet

Isfahan City Center, Iran

The road to Sultaniye is empty and somewhat desolate. After all, today it is only a small town with a population of less than 5,000 (statistics in 2012). Outside the car window is a large flat field covered with light yellowish brown turf. Isolation hedges on both sides of the road are sparse and weak, and the roots still have residual snow accumulated a few days ago. The continuous hills in the distance are the Elbrus Mountains that divide the Caspian Sea and the inland. The clouds are so low that they only show the sun’s light at some low-pitched mountain passes.

In the era of Mongol rule, the plain where Sultaniye was located was the central node of the Ili Khan’s four-season cruise route. The Mongolian court and the daily accomplices usually stationed in summer on the grasslands near Sultaniye, and then slowly moved westward to Malaguey. Usually, when the monarch is stationed in the summer, he will also call his guards and cronies to hold hunting activities on the grassland. According to the tradition of the nomadic regime, this hunting is not only pure entertainment, but also has the meaning of military exercises. At the same time, this is also an occasion for the monarch, his military generals, and the tribal leaders who are loyal to him to discuss the state of the country, and to enhance personal feelings. The Mongolians have a deep attachment to this place, and even renamed places in Mongolian.

The grassland I passed by was called “” at the time. According to the Yuan dynasty’s translation, it could be written “Hang Huo Er Yue Liang” (or “Huang Wu Er Yu Liang”). The dictionary “Xiyu Tongwenzhi” compiled by the Qing people explained the meaning of the word as “earth-colored yellow, soft grass, hence the name”, which is very much in line with the actual situation at hand. Coincidentally, there is also a grassland called “Hanghuoer Yueliang” in the Yuan Dynasty in Honggeri Elen in the northern part of Alxa Left Banner. This pasture was also located on the main road connecting the inland to Mobei in the Yuan Dynasty. It can be seen that even though they are in West Asia, the Mongols still inherited the knowledge of how to choose the right geographical environment and named them in the same way.

Convert to Islam
Before Sultaniye was established, during the first few reigns of Ilihan, the Mongols had begun to plan and build small-scale cities in the core areas under their own rule. The functions of these cities are somewhat symbolic and are used to demonstrate the lofty status of the rulers. The site selection often directly uses abandoned ancient Zoroastrian temples, or the ruins of palaces in the Sassanid period. As for the Mongolian rulers themselves, they are more willing to live in traditional nomadic tents.

The monarch’s court is far away from traditional settlements, and it also isolates or slows down the chances of upper-class Mongols contacting and being influenced by Islam. In the eyes of native Iranian intellectuals at the time, the court of Ili Khan was filled with the smell of “paganism”. Among them are not only servants and artisans from China, but even Buddhist monks who have been invited from Han to Tibet from thousands of miles away.

The experience of Chinese culture in the Ili Khanate reflects the conflict, acceptance, and adjustment of foreign cultures in the Islamic world in the Middle Ages; it can also be summarized as a process from obvious to hidden, from consciousness to ordinary daily use, and from concrete objects to symbolic symbols. The process of transformation.

In the early period of Ilihan’s rule, Hulagu, who founded the Ilikhanate, had a certain degree of understanding of Han culture when he was young because of the respect of the royal family. Even after he led the army to the west, he still played the role of patron of groups such as Confucian scholars, Han monks and Tibetan lamas. The western expedition led by Xu Liewu was full of Chinese soldiers, craftsmen, and various logistics and management personnel. A considerable number of them were stationed in the Azerbaijan region since then and gradually integrated into the local society.

Chinese immigrants also brought their talent for farming to Iran. Persian Prime Minister Rashid during the Hezan Khan period once said that the “Khitan people” who lived in Huyi planted millet there and spread this crop to Tabriz and other places. The Chinese immigrants stationed in Mugan, West Azerbaijan Province, not only transplanted mung beans to the local area, but also brought the skills of making mung bean vermicelli. This novel food made Raschte curious. He recorded very accurately that the Chinese extracted starch from mung beans and made them into noodles for cooking.

In order to meet the spiritual needs of these new immigrants, Ili Khan also ordered the construction of Buddhist temples throughout Iran. Archaeological excavations have also confirmed that the sites of Buddhist temples newly built during the Ili Khanate have been found in places such as Altahei (now northeast of Nakhchewan, Republic of Azerbaijan), Huyi, Tabriz, and Malagai. The archaeological work at Suleyman’s Throne revealed a large number of remains of wooden structures. Researchers believe that these wooden structures come from multi-pillar buildings that mimic Chinese styles. Since Yilihan hopes to imitate the style of Dahan palaces in most cities, borrowing Chinese architecture and decoration has become a popular fashion.

But since Hezan Khan announced his conversion to Islam, Chinese elements have quickly faded in the ideological field. Buddhist temples have been converted into mosques on a large scale or directly destroyed, and the official application of Chinese characters in the Ili Khanate has almost disappeared. Those who finished in 1305 decided to build a new capital in what is now Sultaniyah, and their motives shifted from imitating the majesty of the great Khan of the Yuan Dynasty to competing with the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt for the orthodoxy of the Islamic world. For the cities that Sultaniye competed against, contemporary historians have provided several different opinions. One said it was Damascus, the central city of Syria under the control of Mamluk, while others believed it was to rival the holy city of Hejaz in terms of scale.

Mausoleum of Sultan Wanzhedu
When the taxi drove into Sultaniyah, the streets were a little shabby, and on both sides were some small shops with a layout similar to that in the suburbs of Tehran. But as soon as the car drove out of the short urban arterial road, an octagonal dome building surrounded by low brick walls on the high platform immediately came into view. This is the building known as the “Mausoleum of the Sultan’s Capital”.

It occupies the highest point of the entire area, and the azure dome decorated with pottery is still vivid even under the dim sky that day. This is the only remaining main building in Sultaniye City. In addition, we can only estimate the size of the old city from the square foundations scattered around the tomb. Even the mausoleum itself, according to researchers’ research, has gone through years of destruction, and the top niches of the eight tower pillars that originally surrounded the vault have all been damaged.

The main body of the mausoleum is connected with four arcades, which is a typical “Iwan” structure, that is, a rectangular architectural style with vaults in Islamic architecture. The lintels on each side are decorated with intricate honeycomb vaults called “Mucanas”. There are three floors inside the mausoleum, and the second floor is the Sultaniye Research and Archaeology Office. I heard that my major is Mongolian history, and three experts, one man, two women, welcomed me warmly. They not only allowed me to copy the research bibliography in the office, but also copied to me the detailed photos taken during the maintenance of the mausoleum.

The western expedition led by Xu Liewu was full of Chinese soldiers, craftsmen, and various logistics and management personnel.

In the chronicle written by Du Khan, who has finished, there is a whole chapter praising his mausoleum as “being as beautiful as the blue sky… it can make the green peaks and dust-covered hills compete with each other, and also make the paradise secret garden look ugly.” , Also known as “The floor and atrium of the building are inlaid with red, sapphire, and decorative panels of teak, agarwood, gold, ebony and ivory.” As we can see from the close-up photos, the interior of the tomb is indeed decorated with geometric patterns inlaid with lapis lazuli, colored glaze, and fired pottery pieces, “Quran” maxims, and wooden screens decorated with reliefs.

Tomb of Sultaniye

The style of the finished tombs inherited the tradition of traditional Iranian vault architecture, but the influence of the Mongols is everywhere. In the Dietz album in the Berlin collection, there is an album depicting a young Mongolian prince studying the Quran in a felt tent. The top of the felt tent in the painting resembles the vault of a building. And whether it is the blue Kufa style banners hanging in the tents or the decorative patterns on the tents, you can also find their counterparts in the tomb of Wanzhedu.

Compared with the magnificence of the upper space, the real secret of the whole building is hidden in its underground tomb.

According to legend, Wan Zhedu himself deliberately abandoned the tradition of secret burial of Mongolian Khan kings, hoping to put his coffin in the basement of the mausoleum. As evidence of his conversion to Islam and Shia conversion, he ordered a bunch of hair of the Prophet Muhammad and the remains of Shia saints Ali and Hussein to be buried in the tomb of Sultaniyah. This move symbolizes that he himself has perfectly inherited the trinity of the descendants of Genghis Khan, the protector of Islam and the followers of Shia.

The style of the finished tombs inherited the tradition of traditional Iranian vault architecture, but the influence of the Mongols is everywhere.

It can be said that Wanzhedu Mausoleum is the true heritage of the Mongolian era. Just as the early Ilihanes brought Chinese architectural styles to Iran, the Islamic architectural styles represented by Wanzhedu Mausoleum have also been reversed to Central Asia and China. The Kuoligi tomb of the Yuan Dynasty in Guyuan County, Hebei Province, has a similar rectangular style with round vaults. Although in the local folklore, it was attached to the “dressing house” of the Queen Mother Xiao, the mother of the Liao Shengzong, its style is undoubtedly West Asian rather than Khitan style. About 100 years later (1405), the “Fireman Yasawi Tomb” established by Timur’s descendants in the Turkestan Province of Kazakhstan also reflected the influence of the architectural form of the Tomb of Wanzhedu.

However, in the history education of Iran today, the evaluation of the Mongols’ rule is basically negative. Iran’s history of humiliation and frustration in modern and contemporary times is often attributed to the destruction caused by the Mongolian conquest. When talking with the experts of the Mausoleum Preservation Office, I asked them how they evaluated the position of all the people in Iran’s history. They replied that he received a more positive evaluation because he was the first Mongolian Khan who converted to Shia.

“So, how do you evaluate his successor, Bu Saiin Khan? He is the Mongolian Khan who has been in Iran for the longest time.” They discussed each other for a while and said, “Heech (he did nothing).”