Tolui (also Toluy, Tului; [note 1] c. 1191 – 1232) was a Mongol khan, the fourth son of Genghis Khan by his chief khatun, Börte. At his father's death in 1227, his ulus, or territorial inheritance, was the Mongol homelands on the Mongolian Plateau, and he also served as civil administrator until 1229, the time it took to confirm Ögedei as the second Great Khan of the Mongol Empire (1206–1368). Before that, he had served with distinction in the campaigns against the Jin dynasty, the Western Xia and the Khwarezmid Empire, where he was instrumental in the capture and massacre at Merv and Nishapur. He is a direct ancestor of most of the Ilkhanids.

Tolui Khan.jpg
Painting of Tolui Khan by Rashid-al-Din Hamadani, early 14th century.
Regent of the Mongol Empire
Regency25 August 1227 – 13 September 1229
PredecessorGenghis Khan
SuccessorÖgedei Khan
Sorghaghtani as Head of the Toluid appanages
Bornc. 1191[1]
Khamag Mongol
(aged 41)[2]
Mongol Empire (in present-day Mongolia)
SpouseSorghaghtani Beki
Saruk Khatun
Lingqun Khatun
Nayan Khatun
Doquz Khatun
IssueMöngke Khan (1209–1259)
Kublai Khan (1215–1294)
Hulagu Khan (1217–1265)
Ariq Böke (1219–1266)
Given name: Tolui (Тулуй)
Regnal name
Yeke noyan (ᠶᠡᠬᠡ ᠨᠣᠶᠠᠨ; Chinese: 太上皇也可那顏[3])
Posthumous name
Emperor Rensheng Jingxiang (仁聖景襄皇帝, posthumously given in 1266)
Temple name
Ruizong (睿宗, posthumously given in 1266)
FatherGenghis Khan
MotherBörte Ujin

Tolui never used the title of Khagan himself; neither Genghis Khan nor his immediate three successors would ever use any era names unlike the neighboring Central Plain dynasties in the south. Tolui was posthumously elevated to the status of monarch by his son Möngke and was given the temple name (Chinese: 睿宗; pinyin: Ruìzōng; Wade–Giles: Jui-Tsung) by his other son Kublai, when he established the Yuan dynasty a few decades later.



During the rise of Genghis Khan, Tolui was too young to be involved in the battles. Tolui was almost killed by a Tatar when he was about five years of age. He was saved by his Geghis' sister-in-law Altani and Genghis ' two other companions.[4] In 1203, his father bestowed on Tolui his wife Sorghaghtani, the niece of Ong Khan (an ally of Genghis). Their first son Möngke was born in 1209.

Early careerEdit

He first entered combat against the Jin dynasty in 1213, scaling the walls of Dexing with his brother-in-law Chiqu.

In 1221, Genghis Khan dispatched him to Khorasan in Iran. The cities in this area had revolted several times. The defenders of Nishapur killed Toquchar, the brother-in-law of Tolui in November 1221. Tolui's army evacuated Nishapur onto the plains. He ordered the total massacres of Nishapur and Merv.[5]

Genghis Khan's successionEdit

When Genghis Khan was deciding who should succeed him, he had trouble choosing between his four sons. Tolui had a strong reputation for his military skills, and was very successful as a general, but Genghis Khan chose Ögodei, who was more capable politically. Genghis Khan felt that Tolui would be too cautious to be an effective leader. Tolui was with his father on campaign against Xi Xia in 1227.[citation needed]

After Genghis Khan's death, Tolui generally supervised the Mongol Empire for two years. The Mongol nobles accepted this partly because of the tradition that the youngest son inherits his father's properties, and partly because Tolui had the largest and most powerful army in central Mongolia at the time. Tolui supported the choice of the next Khagan by election, and Ögedei was chosen, fulfilling his father's wishes.[citation needed]

Tolui campaigned with Ögedei in north China, serving as strategist and field commander in 1231–32. Two armies had been dispatched to besiege Kaifeng, the capital of the Jin. After most of the Jin's defences were breached, they returned north.[6]


According to The Secret History of the Mongols, Tolui sacrificed himself in order to cure Ögödei from a very severe illness during a campaign in China. The shamans had determined that the root of Ögödei's illness were China's spirits of earth and water, who were upset that their subjects had been driven away and their land devastated. Offering land, animals, and people had only led to an aggravation of Ögödei's illness, but when they offered to sacrifice a family member, Ögödei got better immediately. Tolui volunteered and died directly after consuming a cursed drink. However, Ata-Malik Juvayni says he died from alcoholism.[7]

Wives, concubines, and childrenEdit

  1. Sorghaghtani Beki — daughter of Jakha Gambhu, the younger brother of the powerful Keraite leader Toghrul
  2. Lingqun khatun[8] — daughter of Naiman khan and Qara-Khitai ruler Kuchlug
  3. Saruq Khatun — nurse of Kublai, concubine from Naimans
  4. Mayiche — a concubine from Naimans
  5. Nayan Khatun
  6. Doquz Khatun —granddaughter of Keraite khan Toghrul,
  7. Unknown wives
    • Sögetei
    • Sübügetei


Perhaps more important than himself was the role of his family, the Toluids, in shaping the destinies of the Mongol Empire. Through his Nestorian Christian wife Sorghaghtani Beki, Tolui fathered Möngke, Kublai, Ariq Böke, and Hulagu. The first three of these would all go on to claim the title of Great Khan, while Hulagu founded the Ilkhanate and Kublai the Yuan dynasty of China. It was the rivalry between Tolui's own sons, Kublai and Ariq Böke, that fragmented the power of the empire and set the western khanates against each other in the Toluid Civil War between 1260 and 1264.

Rivalry between the Toluids and the sons of Ögedei and Jochi caused stagnation and infighting during the regency periods after the deaths of Ögedei and his son Güyük. Möngke posthumously awarded his father the title of Khagan in 1252.[10] When Kublai Khan established the Yuan Dynasty in 1271, he had his father Tolui placed on the official record as Ruizong. Tolui's line ruled Mongolia and south Mongolia from 1251 to 1635, Mongolia until 1691, and Bukhara until 1920. He and his wife are honored beside Genghis Khan at the mausoleum constructed in the 1950s by the Chinese Communists in Inner Mongolia.


HoelunYesugei Baghatur
BörteTemüjin (Genghis Khan)HasarHachiunTemügeBelguteiBehter



  • Music in the Mirrors by Greg Kuznetsov, in which a Mongolian conqueror named Tolui loosely inspired by the historical figure is the main antagonist.[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Mongolian script: ᠲᠥᠯᠦᠢ, Mongolian: Тулуй, meaning: "the mirror"; Chinese: 拖雷; pinyin: Tuōléi


  1. ^ The Mongol Empire: A historical encyclopedia [2 volumes]: A historical encyclopedia: "Then in 1203, he was given the Kereit princess Sorqoqtani as a wife. At the time, Tolui was 12 or 13 years old."
  2. ^ Morris, Rossabi (2012). The Mongols : a very short introduction. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. xxi. ISBN 9780199841455. OCLC 808367351.
  3. ^ 柯劭忞. 《新元史‧卷八十四‧志第五十一‧禮四》 (in Chinese). 中華民國. 是歲,改作金主,太祖主曰「成吉思皇帝」,睿宗題曰「太上皇也可那顏」,皇后皆題名諱。
  4. ^ The secret history of the Mongols
  5. ^ William Bayne Fisher, John Andrew Boyle, Ilya Gershevitch, Ehsan Yar The Cambridge History of Iran, p. 313.
  6. ^ Mote, Frederick W. Imperial China 900-1800, p. 447.
  7. ^ Kahn, Paul; Cleaves, Francis Woodman. The Secret History of the Mongols, p. xxvi.
  8. ^ F., Broadbridge, Anne (2018-07-18). Women and the making of the Mongol Empire. Cambridge. p. 233. ISBN 9781108424899. OCLC 1022078179.
  9. ^ Broadbridge, Anne F. (18 July 2018). Women and the making of the Mongol Empire. Cambridge. p. 242. ISBN 978-1-108-42489-9. OCLC 1022078179.
  10. ^ Weatherford, Jack. Genghis Khan and the making of the modern world, p. 169.
  11. ^ Kuznetsov, Greg (2022). Music in the Mirrors. Amazon. pp. 343–345. ISBN 979-8449961334.
House of Borjigin (1206–1635)
Born: 1191 Died: 1232
Regnal titles
Preceded by Regent of the Mongol Empire
Succeeded by