Mongol invasion of Java

Mongol invasion of Java
Part of the Mongol invasions and Kublai Khan's Campaigns
LocationJava, Majapahit
Result Majapahit victory
Yuan dynasty Kingdom of Singhasari
Kediri Kingdom
Majapahit Empire
Commanders and leaders
Kublai Khan (supreme commander)
Gaoxing (generals)
Ike Mese
Jayakatwang (supreme commander)
Raden Wijaya (general, later ruler - allied to Yuan invaders in earlier phases of the war)
20,000-30,000 soldiers
1,000 ships
More than 100,000 soldiers
Casualties and losses
More than 3,000 killed More than 2,000 killed and drowned

The Mongol invasion of Java was a military effort made by Kublai Khan, founder of the Yuan dynasty (one of the fragments of the Mongol Empire), to invade Java, an island in modern Indonesia. In 1293, he sent a large invasion fleet to Java with 20,000[1] to 30,000 soldiers. This was a punitive expedition against King Kertanegara of Singhasari, who had refused to pay tribute to the Yuan and maimed one of its ministers. However, it ended with failure for the Mongols.


Kublai Khan, founder of the Yuan dynasty, the principal khanate of the Mongol Empire, had sent envoys to many states to ask them to put themselves under his protection and pay tribute. Men Shi or Meng-qi (孟琪), one of his ministers who was sent to Java, was not well received there.[2] The king of Singhasari, Kertanagara, was offended by his proposal and branded his face with a hot iron as was done to common thieves, cut his ears, and scornfully sent him on his way.

Kublai Khan was shocked and ordered a punitive expedition against Kertanagara, whom he labeled a barbarian, in 1292. According to the Yuan shi, the history of the Yuan dynasty, 20,000-30,000 men were collected from Fujian, Jiangxi and Huguang in Southern China, along with 1,000 ships and enough provisions for a year.[3] The officers were the Mongol Shi-bi, the Uyghur Ike Mese, and the Chinese Gaoxing. What kind of ships they used for the campaign is not mentioned in the Yuan shi, but they were apparently large since smaller boats had to be constructed for entering the rivers of Java.

Meanwhile, after defeating Srivijaya in Sumatra in 1290, Singhasari became the most powerful kingdom in the area. But Jayakatwang, the Adipati of Kediri, a vassal state of Singhasari, usurped and killed Kertanagara. Most of his relatives and former royal family members hated him. Kertanegara's son-in-law, Raden Wijaya, was pardoned by Jayakatwang with the aid of Madura's regent, Arya Wiraraja. Wijaya was then given the Tarik timberland. He opened that vast timberland and built a new village there. The village was named Majapahit, which was taken from maja fruit that had a bitter taste in that timberland (maja is the fruit name and pahit means bitter).


The Yuan forces departed from southern port of Quanzhou,[4] traveled along the coast of Dai Viet and Champa along the way to their primary target. The small states of Malay and Sumatra submitted and sent envoys to them, and Yuan commanders left darughachis there. It is known that the Yuan forces stopped at Ko-lan (Biliton). After arriving in Java, Shi-bi split their forces, sending one group ashore and another to proceed by boat. As noted in Kidung Panji-Wijayakrama, they probably looted the coastal village of Tuban.

When the Yuan army arrived in Java, Wijaya allied himself with the army to fight against Jayakatwang and gave the Mongols a map of the country Kalang. According to the Yuan-shi, Wijaya attacked Jayakatwang without success when he heard of the arrival of the Yuan navy. Then he requested their aid. In return, Yuan generals demanded his submission to their emperor, and he gave it.

The account of the war which appears in the Yuan-shi (Books 210) is brief:

…The soldiers from Dahanese came to attack Wijaya on the seventh day of the month, Ike Mese and Gaoxing came on the eighth, some Dahanese were defeated, the rest of them fled to the mountains. On the nineteenth day, the Mongols and their allies arrived in Daha, fought more than 100,000 soldiers, attacking 3 times, killing 2,000 outright while forcing many thousands into the river where they drowned. Jayakatwang retreated into his palace …

Once Jayakatwang was captured by the Mongols, Raden Wijaya returned to Majapahit, ostensibly to prepare his tribute settlement, leaving his allies to celebrate their victory. Shi-bi and Ike Mese allowed Raden Wijaya to go back to his country to prepare his tribute and a new letter of submission, but Gaoxing disliked the idea and he warned other two. Wijaya asked the Yuan forces to come to his country unarmed.

Two hundred unarmed Yuan soldiers led by two officers were sent to Raden Wijaya's country, but Raden Wijaya quickly mobilized his forces again and ambushed the Yuan convoy. After that Raden Wijaya marched his forces to the main Yuan camp and launched a surprise attack, killing many and sending the rest running back to their ships. The Yuan forces had to withdraw in confusion, as the monsoon winds to carry them home would soon end, leaving them to wait on a hostile island for six months. The Yuan army lost more than 3,000 of its elite soldiers.[4][5]


The three generals, demoralized by the considerable loss of their elite soldiers due to the ambush, went back to their empire with the surviving soldiers. Upon their arrival, Shi-bi was condemned to receive 70 lashes and have a third of his property confiscated for allowing the catastrophe. Ike Mese also was reprimanded and a third of his property taken away. But Gaoxing was awarded 50 taels of gold for protecting the soldiers from a total disaster. Later, Shi-bi and Ike Mese were shown mercy, and the emperor restored their reputation and property.[6]

This failure was the last expedition in Kublai Khan's reign. Majapahit, in contrast, became the most powerful state of its era in the region which is now Indonesia.[7]


  1. Weatherford, Jack (2004), Genghis khan and the making of the modern world, New York: Random House, p. 239, ISBN 0-609-80964-4
  2. Grousset, Rene (1988), Empire of steppes, Wars in Japan, Indochina and Java, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, p. 288, ISBN 0-8135-1304-9.
  3. Weatherford (2004), and also Man (2007).
  4. 1 2 Sen, Tan Ta; Dasheng Chen (2009), Cheng Ho and Islam in Southeast Asia, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 186, ISBN 9789812308375 Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  5. Yuan shi History of Yuan.
  6. Man 2007, p. 281.
  7. Saunders, J. J. (2001), The history of Mongol conquests, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, ISBN 0-8122-1766-7.

Further reading

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