Siege of Diaoyu Castle
Siege of Diaoyu Castle was a battle between Song dynasty
China and the
Mongol Empire in the year 1259. Möngke Khan, the
fourth khan of the Mongol Empire, lost his life in this battle making
it the only battle where the Mongols lost their khan during their
campaigns of conquest. This battle was preceded by the Siege of
Baghdad in 1258. The siege of Diaoyu Castle was a setback for the
2 In Sichuan
3 Defense by Yu Jie
4 The offensive of Möngke
5 Siege of Diaoyu Castle
Mongol Empire under
Genghis Khan conquered vast lands and
subjugated nations. Genghis Khan's last battle was fought in Western
Xia but his life had come to an end before he was able to conquer it.
His successors carried on his ambition. In the year 1234, the Mongols
conquered the Great Jin with the assistance of the Song dynasty.
In the same year, Song China attempted to take back its northern
territories originally occupied by the Jin. In September 1234, the
Mongols responded with the siege of Luoyang. The Song army holding
Luoyang was short of food supplies. Additionally, the Mongols led the
Yellow River into the city causing great casualties among the
The fall of Luoyang was simply a prologue of a series of upcoming
battles which lasted decades. The Mongols blamed the Song for
"breaking the alliance". However, it was more of an excuse for further
After 1234, the Mongols launched an all-out war against the Song
dynasty. They attacked from both the east and west flanks, crippling
the Chinese defenses. Despite these initial military successes, the
Song army managed to retaliate. No significant advancement was made.
Under the command of Meng Gong, Yu Jie and other generals, the Song
army fended off the advancing Mongols. In Sichuan, Meng Gong led the
Song army as it held its position against the Mongols in 1239 and
Defense by Yu Jie
In the year of 1243, Yu Jie was appointed the commander of the Song
army in Sichuan. When he actually came to Sichuan, he discovered
that, due to the Mongol invasion, the
Sichuan region was in a state of
anarchy. The Song army was able to defend themselves by forming
smaller military units that did not have superiority over each other.
In order to reverse the dire situation in Sichuan, Yu sought the
advice of the people under his command. Ran Lian and Ran Pu, two
hermits of Bozhou came to his office and offered him the plan of
building a castle in Hechuan. Specifically, the plan was to build a
castle on Diaoyu mountain of Hechuan. Hechuan sits at the eastern
Sichuan region, the Mongols had to pass it before
advancing further into the interior of Sichuan. Thus, the Diaoyu
mountain was a great defensive vantage point for the Song army.
Yu Jie ordered the construction of dozens of castles in different
counties and made these castles the administrative centre of local
government. All the castles that were built were situated on the tops
of mountains which made them extremely formidable against any
offensive. Diaoyu Castle was built in March 1243 and became the
administrative center of Hechuan county.
Meanwhile, the Mongols began to cultivate lands in occupied
territories in Sichuan. This action brought distress to the Song army
since they would no longer possessed the ability to recover these lost
territories once the Mongols acquired a permanent resource of food and
The offensive of Möngke
The long-term standoff between Song and Mongols lasted till the year
of 1258. After receiving the news of Hulagu reporting the demise of
Baghdad and its Khalifa,
Möngke Khan decided to break the standoff by
leading a large army into
Sichuan himself. He also ordered his
Kublai to march towards Hangzhou, the capital of Song.
The offensive consists of three waves of armies. Möngke led his troop
Dasan Pass and entered the city of
Hanzhong while the other
two waves of advancing forces made their way to Micang pass and
The resistance of the Song army in
Sichuan was ineffective. By the
spring of 1259, Möngke reached the city of Hechuan. In order to take
Hechuan, the Mongols had to capture the Diaoyu Castle.
Siege of Diaoyu Castle
Möngke's siege of Diaoyu Castle began sometime between 24 February
and 25 March 1259. The siege lasted for approximately five months.
The commander of the Song forces in the castle was Wang Jian. Möngke
sent his general Wang Dechen as the vanguard of the Mongol army. The
Mongols initially tried to break the castle's gates. When this
strategy was proven ineffective, they started night raids on the outer
part of the castle on minor defensive structures. Although these raids
surprised the Song army at first, the Mongols were not able to break
into the castle. During these attempts, Wang Dechen was killed by a
In the seventh month of the first year of Kaiqing, Möngke had given
up the plan of capturing the castle before sending the remaining
forces to attack Chongqing. In the fifth month, Möngke caught an
illness. His illness went on untreated. On August 11, 1259, Möngke
died of disease in the Diaoyu Mountain, Hechuan. The siege ended
before his death.
After receiving the news that his brother died,
Kublai decided to
withdraw his troops. He did not forget to threaten the Song that he
would attack Lin'an, the capital of Song. Kublai's intention was to
deter any the possible retaliation by the Song armies. His strategy
was proven effective. The prime minister of Song
Jia Sidao soon sent
his ambassador to negotiate a peace treaty.
Diaoyu castle remained in the hands of Song armies. Mongols under
Kublai tried taking it in 1263 but failed again. In the following
decade, the Mongols routinely returned to the castle every autumn.
In 1279, the garrison of Diaoyu Castle surrendered to the Mongols two
months before the end of the Song dynasty.
From 1246 to 1279, the Chinese resistance of Mongol conquest in the
Sichuan lasted 36 years. The unexpected stubborn defense of
Chinese garrison in Diaoyu Castle caused the Mongols much trouble,
such as the Mongol defeat in Egypt as a result of Hulagu's sudden
retreat after the death of Möngke.
The death of Möngke led to the division of the Mongol Empire. Hulagu
remained in Persia permanently while
Ariq Böke tried to
seize the title of Khan for themselves. The
Song dynasty was
temporarily rescued from the brink of destruction. However, Kublai
eventually marked the end of
Song dynasty in the year of 1279, 20
years after the siege of Diaoyu castle. Both events were irreversible
and had great significance in Chinese, Mongolian, and world history.
^ a b History of Yuan vol.3
^ History of Jin.vol.18
^ a b c Songshi Jishi Ben mo(宋史紀事本末).vol.24
^ Tang, Weimu (1979). Collection of historical documents concerning
Hechuan and Diaoyu Castle. Hechuan: Library of Hechuan county.
^ History of Yuan.vol.155
^ Tang P.24
^ Tang p.49
^ Tang p.46
^ 钓鱼城史实考察. 四川人民出版社. 1980.