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Hongjila 弘吉剌, Qonggirads

Oct 7, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

The Qonggirads, Chinese rendering Hongjila 弘吉剌, were a Mongolian people related to the proper Mongols that would found the Mongolian federation under Činggis Qaɣan. The Khitans 契丹 called them Onggirad (corresponding Chinese transliteration Wangjila), the Jurchens 女真 Gonggirad (Chinese Guangjila or Guangjila).

During the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368), the transcriptions Wengjila 翁吉剌, Yongjili 雍吉利, Yongjilie 雍吉烈, Wengjili 甕吉里, Wengjila 甕吉剌, Hongjilie 弘吉烈 or Huangjila 晃吉剌 were used. The Mongolian history Altan tobči (Chinese name Huangjinshi 黃金史) and Menggu yuanliu 蒙古源流, as well as the Persian book Jami' at-tawārīkh (Chinese name Shiji 史集) use the name Qonggirad.

The Qonggirad belonged to the Mongolian branch of the Dierlijin 迭兒列斤 and lived in the southwest of Lake Hulun 呼倫湖, while a branch tribe of the Qonggirad, the Bosihur 孛思忽兒 (or Wolehunewuti 斡勒忽訥兀惕) lived east of the Lake and the course of River Erguna 額爾古納河 northwards towards River Derbur 得爾布爾河. The most important tribes of the Qonggirads were the Qiliesi 乞列思, Xialuolasi 豁羅剌思, Woqin Hunewuti 斡勤忽訥兀惕, Hala Newuti 哈剌訥兀惕 and Yelijijin 也里吉斤. The Qonggirads delivered tributea to the court of the Liao empire 遼 (907-1125) and later the Jin 金 (1115-1234). When the Liao empire disintegrated, they supported Prince Yelü Dashi's 耶律大石 withdrawal to the west, where he founded the Western Liao empire 西遼 (1124-1218). Only from 1198 on they accepted their status as vassals of the Jin empire.

A daughter of the Qonggirad chieftain Texuechan 特薛禪 (Dexuechan 德薛禪), Börte 孛兒臺, was married to Činggis Qaɣan 成吉思汗 (r. 1206-1227). When the great khan founded the Mongol federation, he therefore treated the Qonggirad with great favour. Some tribes of the Qonggirads under Tiemu Ge'aman 帖木哥阿蠻 and Die'ergeke 迭兒格克 were not on the side of Činggis Qaɣan. They allied with the Jalayirs 茶札剌 and were only incorporated into the Mongolian federation after their defeat in 1204, while others fled to the Naimans 乃蠻.

Činggis Qaɣan divided the Qonggirads into 3,000 military households and entrused his brothers-in-law with the command of 1,000 households each. Warriors of the Qonggirad participated in Činggis Qaɣan's campaign against the Jin and Western Xia empires. For these military merits the princes of the Qonggirad were granted the land along the Rivers Laoha 老哈河 and Siramuren 西拉木倫河. Öködei Khan 窩闊台 (r. 1229-1241) initiated a law that princesses of the Qonggirad regularly married the khans of the Mongols. A lot of emperors of the Mongolian Yuan dynasty therefore had mothers from the Qonggirad, and male descendants of the Qonggirad khans married girls from the house of Činggis Qaɣan.

The khan of the Qonggirad was Činggis Qaɣan's brother-in-law Anchen 按陳, and his son Chiku 赤窋 (赤窟). He and his descendants were bestowed the territory of the commandery of Jining 濟寧 and the old country of Lu 魯 and were therefore called Commandery Princes of Jining 濟寧郡王, Princes of Jining 濟寧王 and Princes of Lu 魯王. Their wives bore the title of Princess of Lu 魯國公主. Part of the Qonggirads later moved to the highland of Qinghai 青海 because Prince Changgji 昌吉, son-in-law of the khan (fuma 駙馬), participated in a western campaign of Qubilai Khan 忽必烈 (r. 1260-1294) and remained in the west. Changji and his descendants were given the title of Commandery Prince of Ningpu 寧濮郡王 and Prince of Puyang 濮陽王, their wives as Princess of Zhen 甄國公主. The brother of Changji and his descendants were Princes of Qi 岐王.

In 1270 Prince Woluochen erected a capital city called Yingchang 應昌 near Lake Darhaizi 答兒海子 (modern Dalinor 達里諾爾, Keshketeng Banner 克什克騰旗, Inner Monglia). His younger brother Manzitai founded a city called Quanning 全寧 (modern Udan 烏丹, Wengniute Banner 翁牛特旗, Inner Mongolia). The two locations served as the seat of the khans and at the same time were strategic points from the military and economical point of view. The rulers and princesses of the Qonggirads were partially educated in Chinese culture. Princess Xianggelaji collected paintings, and members of her family had built not only Buddhist monasteries but also Confucian temples.

With the downfall of the Yuan dynasty and the withdrawal of the Mongols to the northern steppe, the fate of the Qonggirads was also destined. In 1369 general Chang Yuchun 常遇春 attacked Quanning. Emperor Shun 元順帝 (Toγon Temür, r. 1333-1370) defended the city of Yingchang and finally died there. Yingchang was then conquered by the Chinese. In 1374 Li Wenzhong 李文忠 conquered Quanning, executed the Prince of Lu and arrested his wife, the Princess of Lu. Only seven years later, general Mu Ying 沐英 was able to force the last stronghold of the Qonggirad to submit to the Ming empire 明 (1368-1644).

Gao Wende 高文德, ed. (1995). Zhongguo shaoshu minzu shi da cidian 中國少數民族史大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin jiaoyu chubanshe), 644.
Zhou Qingshu 周清澍 (1992). "Hongjila 弘吉剌", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 366.
Zhou Weizhou 周偉洲, Ding Jingtai 丁景泰 (2006), Sichou zhi lu da cidian 絲綢之路大辭典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi remin chubanshe), 373.