Köden (Died between 1253-1260)

Köden was Ögödei Khan’s second son and primarily had his seat of power located in Liangzhou, which had been under the rule of the Xia Empire. According to historical records, Köden was likely the first member of the Mongol ruling house that came into contact with the Sa skya Sect of Tibetan Buddhism when he launched an attack on Tibet in 1240AD. Dor-ta, the general who led the army into Tibet, had intended to return to Liangzhou with the Bri gung abbot. The abbot was to give advice and instruct the Mongols on the Buddhist doctrine. However, the Bri gung abbot, for fear of his life, declined the invitation and instead suggested to Dor-ta that the Sa skya Pandita was perhaps a better choice for the job. As a result, Köden summoned the Sa skya Pandita in 1244 and the first historical meeting between a member of the Mongol ruling house and leader of a Tibetan Buddhist sect occurred in 1246. Later Tibetan histories claimed that Sa skya Pandita was given a new political role where he was incorporated into the Mongol bureaucracy as the representative of the new rulers in Tibet. During Köden’s contact with the Sa skya Pandita, the latter healed Köden from an illness which was said to have been one of the reasons he was by-passed as a candidate to the position of Khan. However, in another little known work of ‘Phags pa, the first Imperial Preceptor under Kubilai Khan, he mentioned that Köden had received special blessings from the Sa skya Pandita and was able to “speedily produce a son”. As a reward for the Pandita’s act, Köden gave him the local temple Sprul pa’i sde (白塔寺 Baitasi or White Stupa Temple) where the Sa skya Pandita was later buried in 1251.

After the death of Güyüg Khan, a series of power struggles came into play with Möngke Khan emerging victorious. The members of the new Mongol ruling house took over patronage of the different Tibetan sects. The Sa skya sect was still left in the care of Köden while Khubilai, Möngke’s younger brother was given the Tshal pa sect. However, on his way back from an attack in Sichuan around 1252-53, Kubilai requested that Koöen hand over Phags pa, the Sa Skya Pandita’s nephew and had a personal audience with him. Kubilai was impressed with the wisdom of ‘Phags pa and consequently honored him with the title of Imperial Preceptor some years later. Köden’s influence and authority over the Sa skya sect was thus transferred to Kubilai Khan.

  • Luciano Petech. 1983. Tibetan Relations with Sung China and the Mongols, In China among equals: The Middle Kingdom and its neighbors, 10th - 14th Centuries. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 173-204
  • Drashi Rinchen, Tibetan Buddhism and the Yuan Royal Court, In Tibetan Studies, pp 1-26.
  • Chris Beckwith, 1987, Tibetan Science at the Court of the Great Khans, In Tibetan Society Vol. 7. pp 5-11.

Entry by ShiQi Wu, 1/30/07