Letter from Kublai Khan to the Japanese Emperor

A 1266 letter from Kublai Khan to the Japanese emperor threatening use of force
A 1266 letter from Kublai Khan to the Japanese emperor threatening use of force

Historical Context

In 1274 the Mongol Empire under Kublai Khan launched the first of two failed invasions of Japan. Eight years before, Kublai had sent a letter to the Japanese emperor (who in the letter he called the "King of Japan"), threatening the use of force unless Japan submitted.

The Japanese did not respond. So it was that five years later the Mongol empire (specifically the Yuan dynasty in China and Korean soldiers form the tributary state of Goryeo) launched an amphibious attack on Japan. The Mongols were however repulsed in their first invasion, and, upon being forced back to their ships, were sunk by a large typhoon.

Another invasion occurred in 1281. Prior to this Kublai Khan had sent emissaries from the Yuan dynasty to Japan to negotiate but the Japanese had them beheaded. Again the Mongols were defeated by stiff resistance and their retreating ships sunk by a typhoon.

The invasions were important moments in both countries, being a defining battle in the history of Japan and setting a limit on Mongol expansion which until then had been unabated.

Document Info


Author(s): Kublai Khan
Location signed: Mongol Empire

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Related Events

  • 1274-10-05 Around 1,000 soldiers of the Mongol army land on the Japanese island of Tsushima, the first attack of Kublai Khan's Mongol invasion of Japan
  • 1279-07-29 Five emissaries dispatched by Kublai Khan from the Mongol Yuan dynasty are beheaded by Japan
  • 1280-02-20 Japanese Imperial Court orders all temples and shrines to pray for victory in the impending second Mongol invasion
  • 1281-08-14 During Kublai Khan's second Mongol invasion of Japan his invading Chinese fleet of 3,500 vessels disappears in a typhoon near Japan

Historical Documents