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Huang Di, The Yellow Emperor

Qin Shi Huang

Mao ZeDong at ChingKangShan 1965

Deng Xiao Ping

Sun Yat Sen

Typical Mongol Warrior

Kublai Khan

HongWu, Founder of the Ming Dynasty

Qing Dynasty Flag

Hand-held, trigger-operated crossbow from the 2nd century BC, Han Dynasty

Ogedei Khan

Modern Hun Bow - Typical of Mongol Bows
Chinese History
Imperial China - Yuan
Yuan (1271 – 1368)
This represents the Mongol invasion(s) of China, which went as far as the shores of Japan, included the domination and subjugation of Tibet, most of eastern Russia, a lot of Europe.

Genghis Khan is still a name that is remembered today, and he controlled or gave rise to: The largest Empire ever witnessed

The names you may know from history books are Genghis Khan, and his grandson Kublai Khan. What you may not know is that the Mongols were divided, as some like Kublai Khan wanted to adopt Chinese culture, whilst others did not. Genghis just wanted to rule the world, and he virtually did!

Click to Enlarge - Map. Mongol Empire 1227
The Mongols are always rendered as ruthless aggressors, but let's study this in more detail. It is true to say they were very well disciplined and formidable foes, feared all over the known world by their enemies. What is overlooked is that they were also traders and merchants. To their friends and allies they brought security and prosperity. To ordinary people who tilled the land they brought fair and just living

From the map above you will see that in their early years they ruled an area that spread from Korea to Georgia, and included Afghanistan and Kashmir (Simplified). They controlled most of Northern China, and especially prized the fertile plains previously held by the Western Xia.

Temujin was a successful ruler or Khan, with shrewd military brain coupled with the ability to spot talent and gather the brightest people to him. He became Universal Ruler (Of the World) or Genghis Khan in 1202 at the age of 46. He greatly improved military organisation and created a powerful homogenous group of Mongols. With this unity came strength, and he built upon this by instigating a fair legal system, something that had previously brought disharmony within Mongol Tribes. He outlawed stealing women and animals, selling brides into marriages. Lost animals were now to be returned to the rightful owner and not kept by the finder. All these were made capital offences. This was administered by a light civil service, backed by the written language he had created some years earlier

He needed to secure his borders, so made alliance with the Uyghurs (Kara-Khitin Khanate) who controlled the Western Silk Road. This was sealed by marriage of his daughter to the Uyghur Khan; who brought a caravan of gold, silk, and much treasure to the wedding party, and the Mongols felt humiliated. From this point onwards, they determined that leather, fur and felt would be replaced by the treasures of the southern world - which were needed in part to pay troops

The Uyghur alliance was long and successful, however they were still under threat from the Tanguts (Western Xia) and Jurchen Jin, and from the Merkits in the far North. After several years of fighting the, Xia capitulated, giving access to the plains and middle section of the Silk Road. To the East, the Jurchen sent and envoy to Genghis Khan demanding his submission. This was refused of course, and a bloody war ensued. The Southern Song took this opportunity to attack the Jurchen Jin from the south, seeking to overthrow both the Jin and Mongols. It was not to be, and eventually the Jin were subjugated by Genghis Khan.

One tactic he employed was to treat common people fairly, whilst attacking the wealthy rulers. He used a divide and conquer strategy, and many people turned to the Khan, or made possible disruption of Jin cities with minor uprisings and disloyalty to their former masters. Another strategy was to cut supply lines and wait for surrender. They drove opposing peoples before them, thus clogging roads and cities with refugees. One thing in their favour was their meat diet, which meant a Mongol could last several days without food, whilst the grain eaters needed daily sustenance. By being benevolent to those who sided with them, and ruthless with those who opposed them, the Mongols were eventually victorious.

After 6 years of fighting Genghis Khan returned home, leaving his best generals behind to maintain positions. As well as tremendous booty, he also returned with many experts, engineers, doctors, artists, musicians etc - all had chosen to side with the great Khan. The flow of treasures from China continued, and was so large that new warehouses and administration had to be created to cope with it all. Further campaigns followed in the West, and Afghanistan, Persia, and Armenia also fell. In 1227 whilst fighting pockets of Tangut resistance, Genghis fell from his horse and died. He was succeeded by his third son Ogedei

Ogedei Khan proved a worthy successor, and in 1231 he sent forces to secure Korea vassaldom. In 1234 his armies finally destroyed the Jurchen Jin, and all of Northern China was now under Mongol control. By 1241 his armies has subjugated most of Russia west of the Urals, taken Hungary and Poland, and had reached the gates of Vienna. This was when he dies, and all senior Mongols returned home to help appoint the new Khan. Thus Europe was saved. This time the succession was troubled and split by many pretenders. Ogedei's widow administered the realm after his death, with a short reign by their eldest son Guyuk Khan. However, the record shows that for almost 10 years, there was no strong leadership

In 1251, Mongke Khan became ruler, and after uncovering an assassination plot for his coronation - he swiftly set about cleaning out the household rubbish, and with much blood-letting, he secured his undisputed personal tenure

He then set about a series of reforms aimed at making the administration of the Empire more efficient, introducing fair taxation procedures, and social reforms that benefited ordinary people. For instance, it became a capital offence for officers to take Chinese peasants vegetables. Women were given greater rights, including land ownership and to pursue litigation. Military campaigning was to be done without devastating agricultural land or devastating cities, actions seen as reducing potential tax revenues for the imperial treasury

Regarding military campaigns, Mongke sent one of his brothers Hulegu to the West, whilst he planned to invade Southern China. Hulegu proved a good choice, and in 1258 he took Baghdad, and a year later Damascus. However, he found he could not take Egypt, and had gone as far as he could. Meantime, Mongke was fighting in Sichuan Province, where he died in battle. He was succeeded by another brother, Kublai Khan, who had been fighting along side him. Mongke was the last Khan to rule from their homeland of Karakorum, and the last to administer the entire Empire personally. He is regarded as a great reformer

Kublai Khan ruled from a new capital near modern Beijing, the palace of the fabled pleasure dome. However, other Khan's also claimed sovereignty in other areas, proclaiming Kingdoms and dividing the Empire - the plague of many Empires befell the Mongols.

However, Kublai was focused on China, and saw great wealth to the South, and especially from the traders of the Pearl River. First he asked the Song ruler to subjugate himself. When this failed he sent his armies by various land routes, and his navy along the coast. It took 16 years, but in 1276 he completed the conquest of Southern China.

He also wanted tribute from Japan, and when this was refused he tried two invasions - the first in 1274 and the second in 1281. Both were met with fierce resistance, but both were actually defeated by tropical storms hitting the Japanese coast

Socially, Kublai Khan was a benevolent and autonomous leader. He introduced many reforms and overhauled government and economic institutions. Government became centralised. He also made banknotes called Chao the sole legal tender throughout the whole Empire. He extended the Grand Canal, and much of his focus rested with engendering trade. In times of hardship, he reduced taxes. He built orphanages and hospitals, and distributed food amongst the abject poor

By the time of his death in 1294, the Mongol Empire had split into 4 khanates, with the Yuan Dynasty being one of them

Click to enlarge - Map of the Mongol Empire 1300 - 1405
Map courtesy of Wikipedia

Kublai was succeeded by his grandson Chengzong, who continued his work and even made peace the the other Khanates and Vietnam, who paid tribute for several decades. Chengzong was followed by Wuzong in 1307, and in his 4-year reign he rejected much of the preceding work, made disastrous decisions, and drove the Empire into debt. Feuding resulted within the lines of succession, and peasant unrest grew in the towns and fields. In all, nine Khans succeeded Kublai, and few were any good. Later the Empire was struck by droughts, floods and famine, and the rulers became isolated and resented. The end finally dawned with The Red Turban Rebellion, which by 1354 had grown into a nationwide uprising. Local Warlords were called upon to help keep order as Imperial forces were weak and in disarray. Not a good idea!

The door was wide open for the Ming, who mounted devastating campaigns and chased the fleeing Yuan deep into Mongolia. The Yuan Empire officially ended in 1368, but it was effectively over years before this date

We will continue the history of China with The Ming Empire
This information is as supplied by Wikipedia, as dated March 2009 or later, and/or other reliable sources.

Maps (Unless stated otherwise) are provided in association with Thomas Lessman

Please check this information yourself as it may alter without notice, and whilst we try our best to ensure it is correct, please do not hold us responsible for any errors - this is intended as a simple guide only
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