By George Lane
Eurasian Influences On Yuan China: Cross-Cultural Transmissions in the 13th and 14th Centuries, ed. Morris Rossabi (Singapore: Univerity of Singapore Press, 2012)
Introduction: Hülegü Khan’s arrival on the south bank of the Amu Darya, or the Oxus, in the 1250s was the second time that a large Mongol-led military force had landed south of the great river poised to advance on the Iranian plateau. Three decades earlier his grandfather Chinggis Khan had unleashed his forces in a destructive campaign of retribution and conquest whereas Hülegü Khan came in response to an invitation from the Persian notables of Qazvin. He and his brothers harboured the aim of extending the mercantile, political, and cultural power of the Chinggisid empire and its emerging new dynamic reincarnation under Möngke Khan, eldest of the brothers, by consolidating their grip over the southern half of the greater Chinggisid empire encompassing Iran, Tibet, and China. A delegation from Qazvin had approached the newly enthroned emperor and requested that he extend his direct rule over the Iranian heartlands and appoint a prince to replace the ineffective and corrupt military regime, which had been in place since the early 1220s.
The Iranians had seen the rising fortunes of individual Persians and Muslims in the Chinggisid domains, and they sought to bring their land out from the cold and in from the peripheral political wastelands of the West. They sought to pre-empt any ambition that the Turanian rulers might harbour towards their land and welcome the new generation of sophisticated, worldly, and educated young princes and, as they had done so many times before, assimilate the migrants from north of the Oxus.
This paper aims to show how and why various Iranian players contributed to the assimilation and development of Il-Khanid rule in Iran. With individual notables and their families, such as Baydawi, the Iftikhariyans, and the Juwaynis, exploiting their contacts and positions, by the turn of the century the courts of the two ‘Iraqs’ were awash with linguistically adept adventurers and entrepreneurs with their gaze ﬁxed determinedly eastward. Many had seen the hand of God in the rise of the Mongols. If God’s secret intent was promotion of the Faith, for the notables of Iran it was promotion of Persian interests.