Jebe (or Jebei, Mongolian: Зэв, Zev; birth name: Jirqo'adai (Modern Mongolian: Zurgadai), Mongolian: Зургаадай, Simplified Chinese: 哲别) (death: May 23, 1223)[1] was one of the most prominent Noyans (generals) of Genghis Khan. He belonged to the Besud clan, part of the Taichud tribe, which was under Targudai Khiriltug's leadership at the time of Genghis Khan.[2] Even though Jebe was originally an enemy soldier, Genghis Khan recruited him and turned him into one of his greatest generals. Jebe played an important role in helping to expand the territory of Genghis Khan's empire.[3] Despite playing a large role as a general for Genghis Khan, there are relatively few sources or biographies about his life.[4] Jebe has been described as "the greatest cavalry general in history" for his unorthodox and daring maneuvers.[5]

In 1201, during the Battle of the Thirteen Sides, an arrow wounded Genghis Khan to the neck. His loyal subordinate, Jelme, cared for him. After winning the battle, he asked the defeated to reveal who shot his horse in the neck. This was an euphemism for his own injury in an attempt to conceal his injury or possibly to prevent false confessions. Zurgadai voluntarily confessed, and further added that it was Genghis Khan's choice to kill him, but if Zurgadai was allowed to live, he would serve Genghis Khan loyally.[6] Genghis Khan valued demonstrated skills by men and their loyalty.[7] He thus pardoned and praised Zurgadai in this account. He then gave Zurgadai a new name, Jebe, which means both "arrow" and "weapon" in Mongolian.[8]

However, in another account by Rashiduddin, an Ilkhanate administrator and historian, the event came about much differently. In this version of the event, Jebe managed to escape and was later pursued by Genghis Khan's men. Jebe managed to kill Genghis' horse before being forced to turn himself in and pleading for his life. In exchange for his life, Zuragadai promised to provide many horses for his new master in return for the one he killed with an arrow.[9]

Jebe quickly became one of the best and most loyal commanders of Genghis Khan in later conquests, rising to one of Genghis Khan's top generals in just 3 years, and commanding the critical left army wing in the 1211 Jin invasion. His ability as a general put him on the level of Muqali and Subutai ba'atur.[10] A Song emissary, Zhao Hong, noted that Jebe was considered to have the same level of authority as a third tier governor and held command of elite troops in Genghis Khan's army.[11] This can be attributed to many successful military achievements while he served under Genghis Khan.

He served with distinction in the initial war against Jin China (1211-1214). During this first invasion, Jebe commanded the left wing with Subutai. His unit went around the wall to the east, capturing two fortresses. He then re-circled his tracks to destroy the second Jin army at Wusha Fortress and linked up with Genghis's main army, who later went on to win the Battle of Yehuling.[12] After this crushing victory, the Mongols took command of the passes that lead into the Beijing plains and continued to spread their control through the territory. Jebe was sent to capture numerous chains of fortresses, which he accomplished by using a feigned retreat to lure out defenders.[13] Genghis Khan seemed to rely on Jebe as his long ranged general: in winter 1211, Jebe was sent to capture Liaoyang, when Mongol forces had barely secured the great plains around Zhongdu. After riding several hundred miles away from the main battle front, Jebe lured the defenders of Liaoyang on a feigned retreat that lasted over 100 miles and left a large amount of Mongol booty on the ground. The Chinese troops paused to plunder it, and using the long nights of the northern winter, Jebe's army rode 100 miles in 24 hours to rout the disorderly Jin forces and seize Liaoyang.[14]

In 1213, Genghis sent Jebe to secure the heavily defended Juyong pass. Jebe managed to find a mountain pass that enveloped the Jin fortifications, forcing the defenders to take the field. Jebe and Subutai then made forced marches the opposite way, retracing their steps and falling behind the enemy's new rear, encircling and liquidating this crucial army.[15] After inciting a revolt in Manchuria and reducing a number of fortresses, Genghis split his army into five parts to raid vast swathes of Jin territory. Jebe was placed in the elite force under Muqali with Subutai, and they successfully raided the territory to the ocean while destroying or capturing many Jin towns and cities.

In 1218, Jebe was tasked to defeat the perennial Mongol adversary Kuchlug and conquer Kara-Khitai. Given only 20,000 men, Jebe conserved manpower by inciting and backing religious revolts between the ruling Buddhists and oppressed Muslims.[16] His forces moved with incredible alacrity which allowed him to overwhelm Kuchlug and his 30,000 men. Kuchlug was later hunted down after a long chase through the mountains. After Jebe scored victories over Kuchlug of Kara-Khitan, Genghis Khan was said to be concerned. Although Genghis Khan was glad of his general's victory, he was unsure if Jebe would seek greater ambition and rebel against him. When word of this reached Jebe, he immediately returned to where Genghis Khan was and offered 100 white horses (the same kind that Genghis Khan rode when Jebe wounded him) as a sign of loyalty and put any doubts to rest.[17]

This page was last edited on 23 April 2018, at 00:33 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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