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Kublai Khan and His Empress Enthroned

circa 1596

Kublai Khan and His Empress Enthroned, from a Jami al-Twarikh (or Chingiznama), Smithsonian, Jami / Freer Gallery of Art

This painting comes either from a Jama al-Twarikh (Chronicle of Chronicles about the Mongols) or a Chingiznama (History of Chinggis Khan) copied in northern India during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Akbar (reigned 1556 – 1605). Although the title of the visual given by the Freer/Sackler Gallery reads Kublai Khan, the text indicates that this is a different man, Qabul Khan, Chinggis’s ancestor. The Mughals were a Turkic-speaking nomadic group from Central Asia who had belonged to the Mongol army. The Mughal emperors claimed descent from Chinggis Khan, and their name — Mughal — was based on Mongol. Akbar likely ordered this manuscript made because he was proud of his ancestor and thought memories of the Mongol conquest would add glory to his own rule. The painting shows Qabul Khan and his wife sitting on a Persian- and Mughal-style throne in a Persian or Mughal court. The Mongols and Mughals admired and copied Persian culture. Students should recognize that the figures are dressed in Mughal style and their faces resemble Mughal (Persian) faces. After students catalog the similarities and differences between the images, encourage them to make an interpretation about how different cultures represent figures.

An artist from the Mughal Empire painted this for the Emperor Akbar (reigned 1556 – 1605). The artist was representing Qabul Khan, an ancestor of Chinggis and Kublai, sitting on his throne with his wife. The Mughals ruled in South Asia, which is now India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. The Mughals were from Central Asia and were related to Chinggis Khan. Why do you think the Mughal emperor in the sixteenth century ordered this manuscript made about Chinggis Khan and his family, who had died centuries before? To represent Qabul Khan as a great ruler, the Mughal artist used a Mughal-style throne, palace, and dress. Compare the faces and the dress of Qabul Khan and other Mongols with the faces and dress of the figures in Sources 2 and 4. What is similar? What is different?

Enmity spread among them. Also the sons of Qabul Khan fell into discord and war with Tatar nations for reasons that will be mentioned later. Because of this, they were always lying in wait for an opportunity until they captured Ökin Barqaq and sent him to Altan Khan who ordered him sewn with iron pegs to a wooden horse until he died. His second son was Bartan Bahadur who was Chinggis Khan’s grandfather. He and his children will be mentioned sufficiently later in the narrative. The third son was Qutuqtu Münggür who had numerous descendants. He had a son named Taichu who begat some of the Qiyat. The fourth son was Qada’an Bahadur of whom many lineages and commanders are descended. There are many tales told about them. The fifth son was Qutula Qa’an. Even though he had other brothers, he became king after their father. His story is long, although at first he was allied with Chinggis Khan. Afterwards he joined Ong Khan, but that story will be told in the appropriate place in the narrative. His oldest son and successor named Jochi Khan joined Chinggis Khan with his thousand men and stood in [Chinggis Khan’s] army. He had another son named Altan who was at first allied with Chinggis Khan, but afterwards he was filled with indignation towards Chinggis Khan because when Chinggis Khan had gone to war with the Tatars, he had agreed with Altan that he and his men should not get busy plundering. Altan however did not honor his word, and Chinggis Khan seized the plunder from him. Altan defected to Ong Khan and was eventually killed by Chinggis Khan’s army. The sixth son was Tödö’an Otchigin.
The likeness of Qabul Khan, his queen, and their children are shown in the image that is drawn below.
Part Three: The story of Qabul Khan and his sons, and their wars. These have been collected variously wherever they could be discovered.