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Mongol invasion of Java
Date 1293
Location Java, Majapahit
Result Majapahit victory
Yuan Dynasty of the Mongol Empire The Kingdom of Singhasari
Majapahit Dynasty
Kublai Khan
Ike Mese
Raden Wijaya
20,000-30,000 soldiers
1,000 ships
More than 100,000 soldiers
Casualties and losses
More than 3,000 killed More than 2,000 killed and drowned

In 1293, Kublai Khan, the Great Khan of the Mongol Empire and the founder of the Yuan Dynasty, sent a large invasion fleet to Java with over 20,000[1]–30,000 soldiers. This was a punitive expedition against Singhasari King Kertanegara who had disrespected the Yuan by tatooing on a Han Chinese messenger Meng Qi (孟琪)'s face and cutting his ears and refusing to pay tribute.



Kublai Khan had sent envoys to many states in order to maintain trade and cultural contact and request them to put themselves under his protection and to pay tribute. Men Shi or Meng-qi, one of his ministers who was sent to Java, was not well received there.[2] The king of Java, Kertanagara, was offended by his proposal and branded him in the face with a hot iron as was done to common thieves, cut his ears, and scornfully sent him on his way.

After defeating Srivijaya in Sumatra in 1290, Singhasari became the most powerful kingdom in the area. But Jayakatwang, the Adipati (Duke) of Kediri, a vassal state of Singhasari, had usurped and killed Kertanagara. Most of his relatives and former royal family members hated him. After being pardoned by Jayakatwang with the aid of Madura's regent, Arya Wiraraja, Raden Wijaya, Kertanegara's son-in-law, was given the land of Tarik timberland. He then opened that vast timberland and built a new village there. The village was named Majapahit, which was taken from a fruit name that had a bitter taste in that timberland (maja is the fruit name and pahit means bitter).

The Great khan was shocked and ordered a punitive expedition against this king, whom he labeled a barbarian, in 1292. According to the Yuan shi, the history of the Yuan Dynasty, 20,000-30,000 (Tong jian ganagmu) were collected from Fujian, Jiangxi and Huguang in Southern China, along with 1,000 ships, and provisions for a year.[3] Officers were Mongol Shi-bi, Ike Mese Uyghur and Gaoxing Chinese. What kind of ships they used for the campaign is not mentioned in the history of the Yuan Dynasty, but they were apparently large since smaller boats had to be constructed for entering the rivers of Java. It is known that they stopped at Ko-lan (Billiton).


The Mongols traveled along the coast of Dai Viet and Champa along the way to their primary target. The small states of Malay and Sumatra submitted and sent envoys to them. Yuan commanders left darughachis there. After arriving in Java, Shi-bi split the forces up into one group sent ashore and a second which proceeded by boat, had gone ahead first before the main army. As noted in Kidung Panji-Wijayakrama, they probably looted the coastal village of Tuban.

When the Mongolian Yuan army sent by Kublai Khan arrived in Java, Wijaya allied himself with the army to fight against Jayakatwang and gave the Mongols a map of the country Kalang. According to the Yuan-shi, Wijaya attacked Jayakatwang without success when he heard of the arrival of Yuan navy. Then he requested their aid. In response, Yuan generals demanded his submission to their emperor and he accepted it.

The account of the war which appears in the Yuan-shi (Books 210) is brief:

“… The soldiers from Dahanese came to attack Wijaya on the 7th day of the month, Ike Mese and Gaoxing came on 8th, some Dahanse were defeated, rest of them fled to the mountains. On the 19th day, Mongols and their allies arrived in Daha, fought more than 100,000 soldiers, attacking 3 times, killing 2,000 outright while forcing many thousands into the river where they drowned. Jayatkatwang retreated into his palace …”

Once Jayakatwang was destroyed by the Mongols, Raden Wijaya returned to Majapahit, ostensibly to prepare his tribute settlement, leaving his allies to celebrate their victory.

Shi-bi and Ike Mese allowed Raden Wijaya to go back to his country to prepare to send tribute and a new letter of submission. But Gaoxing disliked the idea and he warned other two. Wijaya asked the Mongols to come to his country unarmed.

200 unarmed Yuan soldiers led by 2 officers were sent to Raden Wijaya's country, by then Raden Wijaya quickly mobilized his forces again and ambush the Yuan convoy, After that Raden Wijaya marched his forces to Mongol's main army camp and launch a surprise attack, killing many and sending the rest running back to their ships.

The Yuan army had to withdraw in confusion as they were in hostile territory. It was also their last chance to catch the monsoon winds home; otherwise, they would have had to wait for another six months on a hostile island. The Yuan army lost more than 3,000 of its best soldiers.[4]


Three generals, who had gotten much booty in gold, precious stones and some captives, went back to their empire with the surviving Mongol soldiers. Upon their arrival, Shi-bi was condemned to receive 70 lashes and have a third of his property confiscated for allowing Wijaya to escape. Ike Mese also was reprimanded and a third of his property taken away by the court of the Yuan Dynasty. But Gaoxing was awarded 50 taels of gold for protecting the soldiers from a total disaster. It was Kubilai Khan's last expedition.

Later, Shi-bi and Ike Mese were shown mercy and the Emperor restored their reputation and property.[5]

Majapahit became most powerful medieval state of its era in modern Indonesia.[6]

See also


  1. ^ Weatherford, Jack (2004), Genghis khan and the making of the modern world, New York: Random House, p. 239, ISBN 0609809644 .
  2. ^ Grousset, Rene (1988), Empire of steppes, Wars in Japan, Indochina and Java, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, p. 288, ISBN 0813513049 .
  3. ^ Weatherford (2004), and also Man (2007).
  4. ^ Yuan shi History of Yuan.
  5. ^ Man 2007, p. 281.
  6. ^ Saunders, J. J. (2001), The history of Mongol conquests, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, ISBN 0812217667 .

Further reading

  • Bade, David W. (2002), Khubilai Khan and the Beautiful Princess of Tumapel: the Mongols Between History and Literature in Java, Ulaanbaatar: A. Chuluunbat 
  • Man, John (2007), Kublai Khan: The Mongol king who remade China, London: Bantam Books, ISBN 0553817183 
  • Levathes, Louise (1994), When China Ruled the Seas, New York: Simon & Schuster, p. 54, ISBN 0671701584, "The ambitious khan [Kublai Khan] also sent fleets into the South China Seas to attack Annam and Java, whose leaders both briefly acknowledged the suzerainty of the dragon throne" 
  • d'Ohsson, Constantin Mouradgea (2002), "Chapitre 3 Kublai Khan, Tome III", Histoire des Mongols, depuis Tchinguiz-Khan jusqu'à Timour Bey ou Tamerlan, Boston: Adamant Media, ISBN 9780543947291 


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