Duan Zhixing
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Duan Zhixing
Some attributes
First Name: Duan Zhixing
Second Position: Emperor Gongji
Third Nationality: Chinese
Other attributes
Fourth Allegiance: Kingdom of Dali
Fifth Born: 5 July, 1151
Sixth Died: 12 August, 1200 (aged 49)

Duan Zhixing (Chinese: 段智興; temple name Xuanzong; posthumous name Gongji) was the 18th ruler of the Kingdom of Dali (present-day Yunnan, China) between 1172 and 1200. Duan tried to restore the strength of his Dynasty, but after his death, his kingdom was conquered by Kublai Khan's Mongol warriors.

Duan is better known for his military campaigns, in which he managed to defeat the Tufan Barbarians, the Tibetans, the Burmese Pagan Empire, the Indian Sena Empire and the Chinese Song and Jin Dynasties.

Early LifeEdit

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China during Wu's reign. The purple Kingdom is Dali.

Duan was born in 5 July 1151. He was the son of Emperor Wu Zhengxing and Li Peng, a Song princess. During his father's reign, feudal lords were able to get much power and become Kings in all but name in their territories. The economy was stagnating, the population was low, meaning that there where less men in the army, the farmers were forced to become serfs of the feudal lords, the army was badly equiped and trained, and most Dali Generals and ministers were corrupt and incapable.

The Song Dynasy in the east raided Dali territory and even conquered some of Dali's eastern territories. In the West, Barbarians were raiding the Western Dali territories and were able to penetrate deep into Dali territory and even took over the Dali capital twice.

When Duan was a young boy, he found more interest in reading Buddhist and Taoist scriptures and history books than going out with friends. Also, Duan was not very interested in martial arts or sword fighting and was not physically strong. This caused the anger of his father.


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Ma Weng was a influential Dali general.

Duan's father, Wu, except for the Empress Li, also had many other wifes. When Duan was 19 years old, Wu married a teenager Ok Soo, a Dali woman. The marriage made Duan's position as heir less secure, since any son of Ok Soo would be a fully Dali heir, while Duan was only half-Dali, because his mother was a Song princess. During the wedding banquet, a drunken Ma Weng, the uncle of Ok Soo and a Dali General, publicly prayed to the gods that the union would produce a legitimate heir.

"At the wedding of Ok Soo, whom Wu fell in love with and married, she being much too young for him, her uncle Ma Weng in his drink desired the Dalis would implore the gods to give them a lawful successor to the kingdom by his niece. This so irritated Duan, that throwing one of the cups at his head, "You villain," said he, "what, am I then a bastard?" Then Wu, taking Ma's part, rose up and would have run his son through; but by good fortune for them both, either his over-hasty rage, or the wine he had drunk, made his foot slip, so that he fell down on the floor."

—Fu Ma Ying, describing the feud at Wu's wedding.

Duan, along with his mother, fled to Song territory in order to escape Wu's rage. There, the Song Emperor Xiaozong allowed them to stay, as he had hostile relations with Wu and Li was his sister. The young, only 19 years old, Duan managed to impress the Song Emperor with his literacy skills and his knowledge of Confucian classics. While in exile, Li got ill and died. Now Duan was even more weakened. In 1171, Wu allowed his son to come back to Dali.

Taking the throneEdit


A young Duan.

When Duan returned to Dali in late 1171, he learnt that Ok Soo had given birth to a son. Her son was a full Dali and Wu was so much in love with Ok Soo and so angered with Duan's behaviour and his preference of Buddhist and Taoist scriptures to martial arts, that it was sure that Wu would make Ok Soo's son his heir to the throne.

When Duan met his father and asked him about who would be his heir, Wu just replied that if Duan liked so much Buddhust scriptures, he could become a monk instead of an Emperor. Duan now knew for sure that he would not be his father's heir. To add insult to injury, Wu made Ok Soo the new Empress, since Empress Li, Duan's mother, had died in exile.

Duan also had heard of rumours that Ok Soo was trying to persuade Wu to exile him. All those events persuaded Duan to move fast and be ruthless. He bribed the royal guards to kill Wu, Ok Soo and their child. He also promised Fu Sheng, the leader of the Guards, important positions in the government. So, in 1172, Wu, Ok Soo and their son were assassinated, and at the age of 21, Duan became Emperor of Dali.

Civil WarEdit


Duan in his twenties.


Emperor Xiaozong of the Song.

In 1173, Duan removed Zhao Shouchang, the Duke of Zhong, from power and replaced him with Gao Zhenming. Zhao had managed, during Wu's reign, to create a personal army and ruled as a King in all but name in his Duchy. So, when Gao arrived in Zhong, Zhao refused to give up his power and arrested Gao. After three days, however, he released Gao and send him to inform Duan that he would not serve an illegitimate Emperor who killed his father.

Duan decided to gather his army and march against Zhao, but the majority of the army took Zhao's side and from an army of 80,000 men, Duan commanded only 20,000. Duan also had no experience at all in warfare. Most ministers and feudal lords also took Zhao's side, in order to not lose their powers.

So, Duan was forced to ask for help from his uncle, Emperor Xiaozong of the Song. Xiaozong, who always wanted to take over Dali, accepted to help Duan on the condition that he would become his vassal. Duan had no other option, so he had to accept this. Xiaozong send an army of 120,000 men, who managed to defeat Zhao's army again and again.

The last battle was fought in 1175, near the Pu'er City. A defector from Zhao's army had informed Duan that Zhao and his remaining 18,000 men were marching to the Pu'er City, where they would fortify. So, Duan took 6,000 cavalrymen and set an ambush on the road to the Pu'er City. While Zhao's army was marching towards the city, they were suddenly encircled and massacred by Duan's cavalrymen. 3,000 of Duan's men and 12,000 of Zhao's soldiers, along with Zhao himself, were killed, ending the civil war. After the defeat of Zhao, Emperor Xiaozong gave to Duan the title of Duke of Dali.

Duke of DaliEdit


Xia Chenggong.


Duan as a young Duke.

The lands of Dali were destroyed by civil war, causing a destructive famine. Duan saw the importance of an ample food supply in building a strong military. He began a series of agricultural programs in which soldiers were given wasteland to cultivate. Duan also took the lands of feudal lords and divided them between peasants. Although Duan's primary intention was to build a powerful army, the agricultural program also improved the living standards of the people.

Duan also build more than 200 schools all over Dali and all children would be schooled and everyone, both rich and poor, would have the same chances of taking a position in the government, based on their skills. So, Duan had created a true meritocracy.

Many Buddhist monasteries and military fortifications were build during Duan's reign, as he was known to like engineering. The most famous of his buildings was the Dali Wall, sometimes called the Small Wall, that was build in Dali's western and northern borders after Duan's victory over Ogodai Khan.

Duan also personally trained his army and made sure that all of his soldiers would be well equipped and supplied. Also, he managed to gather many quite good Generals around him, like Fu Sheng, the former leader of the royal guards. But, despite of his reforms, Duan was still a vassal of Emperor Xiaozong of the Song.

In 1180, at the age of 29, he met a beautiful daughter of one of his Generals, and fell in love with her. The young woman, named Xia Chenggong, also fell in love with Duan, and so they decided to marry. But this had to have the blessing of Xiaozong. But when the Song Emperor saw the woman, he wanted her as his concubine, and since Duan was his vassal, he had to give her to him. This greatly angered Duan.

Military CampaignsEdit

Duan is most well known for his military campaigns, as many times during his reign, he had had to face Barbarians, Tibetans, Burmese, Indians and the Song and Jin Dynasties. Duan was known to be a great military commander and managed to inflict many defeats on his enemies before being defeated in 1200.

War against the BarbariansEdit

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Duan in his 30's.

In 1178, a huge force of Tufan Barbarian cavalrymen raided Dali territory. Duan decided to send diplomats to the Khan of the Tufans, Ogodai Khan, to negotiate a trade agreement and ask that he stops raiding Dali territories, but Ogodai not only refused to accept Duan's offer, but he also cut the ears of the Chinese diplomats. This act infuriated Duan, who gathered a force of 20,000 men, of whom 7,000 were cavalrymen, and raided Tufan lands.

The next year, 1179, Ogodai decided to invade Dali with a force of 20,000 cavalrymen and 60,000 infantry. Emperor Xiaozong refused to help Duan, despite that Duan was his vassal, so Duan had to face Ogodai on his own, with his 50,000 men. Duan devised a brilliant plan. When Ogodai invaded Dali, he found no resistance, until he reached the outskirts of Dali (the capital of Dali). There, he found Duan waiting for him along with 30,000 men.

Ogodai did not know, however, that he was allowed to penetrate so deep into Dali territory because Duan had hidden his forces and ordered them not to meet Ogodai on the battlefield, but instead to allow him to penetrate into Dali territory and then encircle him. So, Ogodai suddenly found 20,000 men in his rear. Ogodai's army tried to resist, but they were now trapped and massacred. 40,000 of Ogodai's men died, while Duan lost only 7,000 men.

First Campaign against the SongEdit


Duan's first campaign against the Song.


Fu Sheng, one of Duan's most able Generals

In 1182, the Babarbarian Jin Dynasty in North China, invaded the Song Dynasty. Emperor Xiaozong asked for Duan, who was his vassal, to help him. But Duan had enough of Xiaozong. The Song refused to help him during his war against Ogodai Khan, and Xiaozong had taken as concubine Xia Chenggong, a woman that Duan was deeply in love with. So, instead of help, Duan invaded the Song with a force of 40,000 men, 30,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalrymen. Fu Sheng was given command of the cavalry while Liu Pei, another Dali general, command of the infantry, while Duan would have overall command.

Duan was able to take over in just two months Chengdu and Tongchuan. Duan met real resistance only outside the city of Kui. There, a Song force of 30,000 men had gathered to stop him. Duan was able to defeat with ease the Song army, by using his cavalry to encrcle and massacre the enemy, and took over the city.

He then allowed his army to rest for a few months and moved in early 1183 against the Song city of Jiangling. He besieged the city, that was defended by 10,000 men, for six months, because of the heroic resistance of the defenders. But the city fell in July 1183, as Fu Sheng found a weak spot in the city's defense and was able to exploit it.

Duan then divided his 32,000 men (he had lost 8,000 men by now) into two groups. An army under the command of Liu Pei, with 10,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalrymen, a total of 13,00 men, would go to the north and block a Song army that moved against them, while a second army under Duan and Fu Sheng, with 15,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalrymen, a total of 19,000 men, would moved to the South.

Duan's men reached the Song city of Tan, a vital city because it was in the center of Song, in early September and besieged it. Meanwhile, in the north, Liu Pei was able to defeat a Song army of 20,000 men, thanks to his cavalry that was able to rout the enemy cavalry and outflank the enemy army.

Duan managed to take over Tan in late October, but news of Tibetan raids of Dali territory forced him to ask for peace. The Song Emperor accepted, as he also had to face the Jin in the north, who had managed to beat one Song army after the other. The terms of the peace were that Duan would keep Chengdu, Tongchuan, Kui and Jiangling, that Xia Chenggong would return to Dali and that the Song Emperor would accept that Duan was no longer his vassal, but an Emperor. So, Duan took the title of Emperor Gongji and married Xia.

Tibetan CampaignEdit

Liu Pei

Liu Pei, an expert in the use of cavalry.

Duan left Fu Sheng and 10,000 men to act as a garrison in the newly conquered territories and came back to Dali with 20,000 men. There, he was able to raise 30,000 men and spend many months in training them. In January 1184, Duan send Liu Pei with 3,000 cavalrymen to raid Tibetan territory and use hit and run tactics against the Tibetan Army, while he prepared his army for an invasion of Tibet.

The leader of the Tibetans, Gorryeng, was a Tibetan Warlord, who held hostage the Dalai Lama and managed to create an army large and strong enough to threaten Dali. Duan was hoping that Liu Pei's hit and run attacks would keep the Tibetan Warlord in Tibet while he was training his army.

In late February, Duan invaded with 50,000 men, 40,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry, Tibet and united with Liu's 3,000 men strong cavalry. A Tibetan army of 30,000 men attempted to resist him, but it was defeated with ease. Duan let his army to pillage and rape in all Tibetan cities and villages he took over. Gorryeng, however, managed to gather 40,000 men and attempted to defeat Duan. The two armies met outside Lhasa.

Duan's army was 40,000 strong, because of the deaths and the garrisons he left to protect his newly conquered Tibetan territories, so the two armies were equal in number. But, Duan had more cavalry than the Tibetans. While Gorryeng had 38,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry, Duan had 30,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry.

Duan's cavalry, commanded by Liu Pei, was able to destroy the Tibetan cavalry and then outflank the enemy army. Duan then ordered an attack of his infantry on the Tibetan army, and the Tibetans were crushed. Duan lost 5,000 men to Gorryeng's 20,000. Also Gorryeng was captured and impaled. The Dalai Lama was given again control of Tibet by Duan and Tibet became a Dalai vassal.

Burmese CampaignEdit

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Duan inspecting his soldiers. Modern day painting.


Liu Pei leading his cavalry in the Battle of Tagaung.


Burmese Elephants.

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The Pagan Empire.

For the few next years, Duan spend more time in Dali and building a larger army. In 1189, he had manage to create a well trained army of more than 120,000 men, of whom 40,000 were cavalrymen. He also had build a series of forts in the borders with the Song Dynasty.

Duan decided to use this army against the Pagan Empire in Burma. With an army of 80,000 men, 50,000 infantry and 30,000 cavalry, he invaded in March 1189. He besieged the city of Bhamo in North Burma and took it over after a week. In early April, he met a huge Burmese army outside the city of Tagaung.

There, the Burmese King Narapatisithu, had gathered an army of 100,000 men, 80,000 infantry and 20,000 cavalry, along with a force of 400 elephants. Duan, because of the costly siege of Bhamo and the need to leave soldiers to guard his supply line, had a force of 70,000 men, 40,000 infantry and 30,000 cavalry, and also had 100 Ballistas. Fu Sheng commanded the infantry and Liu Pei the cavalry, with Duan in the overall command.

The battle begun when King Narapatisithu ordered his 400 Elephants to charge at the enemy center and break it. Duan, who had never faced elephants before, ordered 4,000 cavalrymen to outflank the elephants. However, the horses were scared by the elephants and they retreated. Fu Sheng, who had seen what was happening, and he knew that his men would not be able to withstand the elephants, ordered all of his 100 Ballistas to fire at the elephants, killing more than 200 of them. Some of the elephants, because of the pain, became mad and fell on other elephants.

Dua then ordered Fu Sheng to have his archers to fire at the elephants and then to charge with 10,000 men. And so Fu Sheng did and the elephants panicked even more and, during their retreat, they fell on the Burmese infantry, breaking the Burmese center. Duan, who saw this, ordered Liu Pei to lead 20,000 cavalry into the gap opened in the enemy center and outflank the enemy army.

When Liu Pei did this, Fu Sheng ordered an all out charge of all 40,000 Chinese infantry. The Burmese army was massacred and Duan achieved his greatest victory. More than 70,000 Burmese soldiers, 70% of the Burmese Army, were killed, while Duan lost only 10,000 men, mainly infantry. In the battle of Tagaung, Duan was able to use the enemy elephants to break the Burmese center and allow his cavalry to outflank and encircle the enemy.

After the battle, the city of Tagaung fell without a fight. Kyaukse also fell without a fight and Duen entered into Pagan (the capital of the Pagan Empire) in late May. He burned the city to the ground and killed all of it's inhabitants. From 150,000 to 200,000 Burmese civilians died in Pagan alone. In Bhamo, Tagaung, Kyaukse and all of north Burma, Duan had also ordered the massacre of civilians. In the entire Burmese campaign, it is estimated that between 400,000 to 500,000 Burmese civilians were killed, around 1/3 of the entire Burmese population.

King Narapatisithu was forced to make peace and become a Dali vassal. Duan then spend a few months building a Dali Navy in Burmese ports and preparing for a campaign against the Indian Sena Empire in Bengal. Burma would become his base of operations for his Indian campaign.

Indian CampaignEdit

War Elephant

Emperor's Lakshman Sen war elephants.

The Indian Sena Empire, in Bengal, was established by Hemanta Sen, who declared himself king in 1095. But by 1190, the Sena Dynasty was in decline. Barbarians raided it's territory and most officials and generals were corrupt. In late 1189, Duan send Burmese spies to learn more about the Sena Empire. When Duan learnt of the decline and corruption of the Sena Empire, he decided to invade it.

In 1190, Duan invaded with an army of 60,000 men, 40,000 infantry and 20,000 cavalry. Fu Sheng commanded the infantry, Liu Pei the cavalry and Duan had the overall command. Duan's army reached Chittagong, which was defended by 10,000 men, in April 1190, and took it over after a short siege.

Duan then moved against Dhaka, where an army of 50,000 men and 200 elephants, under the command of Emperor Lakshman Sen, waited for them. Duan was able to crush the enemy army in an epic battle, using the same tactics he had used in the Battle of Tagaung. Emperor Lakshman Sen was barely able to escape.

After his victory, Duan moved against Kolkata, capital of the Sena Empire, which he took over in eary June. After the fall of the city, Emperor Lakshman Sen was forced to become a Dali vassal and use the title of Duke instead of that of an Emperor.

During his Indian campaign, Duan ordered the widespread massacre of civilian populations in Chittagong, Dhaka and Kolkata, killing more than 2,000,000 Indian Civilians, 2/10 of the population of the Sena Empire. Duan is still remembered in Bangladesh as a brutal genocidal warlord.

Second Campaign against the SongEdit


Dali cavalry.


Cavalry fight between the Song and Dali Empires.

While Duan was thinking if he should expand more in India, the Song invaded his Eastern territories in China with 100,000 men. The 40,000 men he had left to defend Dali, fortified in the several forts Duan had build in the borders with Song, allowing Duan to move fast to reinforce his army. Duan, in order to move faster, left his infantry, under the command of Fu Sheng, behind, to march on it's own pace, and he, along with Liu Pei, moved faster with his 25,000 men strong cavalry.

In early August, Duan and his cavalry arrived in Dali. The Song were able to retake all the lands that they had lost during Duan's first campaign against them, but they were unable to take over Dali itself. Duan, with his 25,000 cavalry and 30,000 infantry, counter-attacked. Duan moved against Chengdu and Tongchuan, which he was able to take over with minimal casualties. Duan then moved north, against the city of Xingyuan, which was defended by 30,000 men. After a month long siege, the city surrendered in early October. Duan then moved fast to take over the northern cities of Xiangyang, Lu and Jiankang and met the Song army outside the city of Yang.

The Song Emperor had managed to gather an army of 70,000 men, 60,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry. Duan had 20,000 cavalry and 25,000 infantry, a total of 45,000 men. He had his infantry to stay on the defensive. The Song Emperor, sure of his victory, ordered his army to charge at the enemy. But, Duan's infantry, despite being outnumbered by more than three to one, was better trained than the Song infantry and it's resistance gave time for the Dali cavalry, led by Liu Pei, to outflank and encircle the enemy army.

The Song Army was massacred and Emperor Xiaozong of the Song was forced to retreat. More than 30,000 Song and 5,000 Dali men died. Duan then took over Lin'an, the Song capital, in early December. The Song were forced to give up the cities of Chengdu, Tongchuan, Xingyuan, Kui, Xiangyang, Jiangling, Tan, Jingning and Guang, effectively the western half of the Song Empire, for peace. But, this peace also gave Duan a border with the aggressive Jin Dynasty of north China.



Dali and Jin soldiers battle.


Fu Sheng arrested by Jin soldiers.

In early 1191, Duan had reached the height of his power. He had made a small Kingdom that was client state of the Song Dynasty into a mighty Empire that extended from Central China to Yunnan and had as it's client states Tibet, the Pagan Empire in Burma and the Sena Empire in Bengal. Duan had also managed to defeat twice the huge Song Empire. But this expansion would also be his downfall.

Duan's expansion worried the Jin Dynasty and made them ally with their former enemies, the Song. But most importantly, it overextended the relative small Dali army and opened many fronts. So, Duan could not defend all his borders at once. For this reason, he hoped that his enemies would not be able to coordinate their forces against him.

And indeed, they did not for many years. But in 1199, an alliance was build between the Jin and Song Dynasties and the Tufans of Ogodai Khan, who wanted to take revenge for his defeat in 1179. So, they all moved against the small Dali army in late 1199. Duan headed for the border with the Song with an army of 40,000 men, 30,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry, to face a Song force of 100,000 men, 80,000 infantry and 20,000 cavalry. The two armies met outside the city of Kui. Duan's army, despite it's truly heroic resistance, was crushed. 20,000 of his men and 30,000 Song soldiers were killed.

Meanwhile, Fu Sheng, who had been ordered to defeat the Jin, faced a Jin force of 120,000 men with just 30,000 men in Xingyuan and was defeated, losing his life (he was arrested by Jin soldiers and beheaded). Also, Ogodai Khan invaded Dali and Liu Pei, who had been left to Dali, moved with his 12,000 cavalrymen to meet him. However, because Ogodai had been able to gather a force of 60,000 men, Liu Pei was defeated and commited suicide.

At the same time, the Dalai Lama ordered his Tibetan soldiers to kill all Dali soldiers in Tibet and join the coalition against Duan, and the Pagan and Sena Emperors joined forces to destroy all Dali garrisons in South-East Asia. The Dali Empire was collapsing, and Duan knew it. He, along with 20,000 remaining men, fortified in Dali (capital) in May 1200 and were able to resist for a few months. But, in 12 August 1200, Song and Jin forces entered Dali and Duan commited suicide. After Duan's defeat, the Song made Dali their vassal and made a pro-Song Dali feudal lord Duke of Dali.