Article: From Military Leaders to Administrative Experts: The Biography of the “Treacherous Minister” Temüder and his Ancestors

“From Military Leaders to Administrative Experts:
 The Biography of the “Treacherous Minister” Temüder and his Ancestors” Asiatische Studien vol. 72-1 (2017), 1213–1230  (email me if you don’t have access)

TL;DR Summary

Three generations in, the Mongols transformed. A lot. Such a pity Temüder  was dismissed as an Treacherous Minister (jianchen 奸臣) though…


Temüder (d. 1322) was an influential Mongol official of the Yuan dynasty in the early fourteenth century. The compilers of the Yuanshi listed him as one of the six “treacherous ministers,” and it is easy to simply dismiss him accordingly. However, a closer examination of the life of Temüder himself and his ancestors reveals how the Mongol elites adapted and changed throughout time, and specifically how the earlier generation of military leaders transformed into administrative experts in civil administration and fiscal reform. Based on his biography in the Yuanshi, supplemented with a few scattered records from literary collections of Han-Chinese contemporaries and Persian-language sources, this article reconstructs the lives of Temüder, his ancestors, and his sons. In addition to balancing Temüder’s overwhelmingly negative image, this article ultimately shows how the ruling outsiders – here, the Mongol elites exemplified by the case of Temüder – also gained new expertise to further consolidate their rule over China, and provides a more complex and nuanced perspective for understanding the mid- to late-Yuan period.


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