Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Zhang Shijie

Zhang Shijie was a 13th century Chinese admiral and government official during the Mongol invasion of China.

Born to a prosperous family in Hebei, Zhang's family moved into Song China because his father had committed a crime in . Zhang Shijie gained his position after passing his , eventually becoming a successful administrator overseeing civil, military, and naval duties for the Southern Song. Since the fall of the capital Hangzhou, Zhang commanded the Song naval forces during the Mongol invasion of China in 1276, and served as the last commander of the Song fleet, during the attempt to escort Emperor Bing of Song and other Imperial officials as they fled the Mongols in 1279. However, Zhang's fleet was intercepted by Mongol forces off the coast of Xinhui and was destroyed at the Battle of Yamen on March 19, 1279, with the Emperor and his Prime Minister Lu Xiufu committing suicide following their defeat. Although Zhang was able to escape with his remaining ships, he was said to have died a few days later during a storm at sea. Alternate theories exist, suggesting that he fled with the real emperor and established the in the island of Luzon in the Philippines. Although his fate remains a mystery, many suggest his death was simply Mongolian propaganda, as the remains of his fleet were never found.

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