The MONGOL EMPIRE (Mongolian : _Mongolyn Ezent Güren_ listen (help
·info ); Mongolian Cyrillic : Монголын эзэнт гүрэн;
; also Орда ("Horde") in Russian chronicles ) existed during the
13th and 14th centuries and was the largest contiguous land empire in
history. Originating in the steppes of
Central Asia , the Mongol
Empire eventually stretched from
Central Europe to the
Sea of Japan ,
extending northwards into
Siberia , eastwards and southwards into the
Indian subcontinent ,
Indochina , and the Iranian plateau , and
westwards as far as the
Levant and Arabia .
Empire emerged from the unification of nomadic tribes in
Mongol homeland under the leadership of
Genghis Khan , whom a
council proclaimed ruler of all the
Mongols in 1206. The empire grew
rapidly under his rule and that of his descendants, who sent invasions
in every direction. The vast transcontinental empire connected the
east with the west with an enforced _
Pax Mongolica _, allowing the
dissemination and exchange of trade, technologies, commodities, and
The empire began to split due to wars over succession, as the
Genghis Khan disputed whether the royal line should
follow from his son and initial heir
Ögedei or from one of his other
sons, such as
Tolui , Chagatai , or
Jochi . The Toluids prevailed
after a bloody purge of Ögedeid and Chagataid factions, but disputes
continued even among the descendants of Tolui. After
Möngke Khan died
(1259), rival kurultai councils simultaneously elected different
successors, the brothers
Ariq Böke and
Kublai Khan , who then not
only fought each other in the
Toluid Civil War (1260–1264), but also
dealt with challenges from descendants of other sons of Genghis.
Kublai successfully took power, but civil war ensued as
unsuccessfully to regain control of the Chagatayid and Ögedeid
Battle of Ain Jalut in
Galilee in 1260 marked both the high point
Mongol conquests and the first time opponents had ever beaten
Mongol advance in direct combat on the battlefield. Though the
Mongols launched many more invasions on the Levant, briefly occupying
it and raiding as far as Gaza after a decisive victory at the Battle
of Wadi al-Khazandar in 1299, they withdrew due to various
By the time of Kublai\'s death in 1294, the
fractured into four separate khanates or empires , each pursuing its
own separate interests and objectives:
Golden Horde khanate in the northwest
Chagatai Khanate in Central Asia
Ilkhanate in the southwest
Yuan dynasty in the east based near modern-day
In 1304 the three western khanates briefly accepted the nominal
suzerainty of the Yuan dynasty, but in 1368 the
Han Chinese Ming
dynasty took over the
Mongol capital. The Genghisid rulers of the Yuan
retreated to the Mongolian homeland and continued to rule there as the
Yuan dynasty , while the
Golden Horde and the Chagatai
Khanate lasted in one form or another for some additional centuries
after the fall of the
Yuan dynasty and of the
disintegrated in the period 1335–1353).
* 1 Name
* 2 History
* 2.1 Pre-empire context
* 2.2 Rise of
* 2.3 Early organization
* 2.3.1 Push into
* 2.3.2 Religious policies
* 2.4 Death of
Genghis Khan and expansion under
* 2.4.1 Invasions of Kievan Rus\' and central China
* 2.4.2 Push into central Europe
* 2.5 Post-
Ögedei power struggles (1241–1251)
* 2.5.1 Death of
* 2.6 Rule of
Möngke Khan (1251–1259)
* 2.6.1 Administrative reforms
* 2.6.2 New invasions of the Middle East and Southern China
* 2.6.3 Death of
Möngke Khan (1259)
* 2.7 Disunity
* 2.7.1 Dispute over succession
* 2.7.2 Mongolian Civil War
* 2.7.3 Campaigns of
Kublai Khan (1264–1294)
* 2.8 Disintegration into competing entities
* 2.8.1 Developments of the khanates
* 2.9 Relict states of the
* 3 Military organization
* 4 Society
* 4.1 Law and governance
* 4.2 Religions
* 4.3 Arts and literature
* 4.4 Mail system
* 6 Legacy
* 7 See also
* 8 References
* 8.1 Citations
* 8.2 Sources
* 9 Further reading
* 10 External links
What is referred to in English as the
Empire was called the
IKH MONGOL ULS (_ikh_: great, _uls_: state; Great Mongolian State).
In the 1240s, one of Genghis's descendants,
Güyük Khan , wrote a
Pope Innocent IV which used the preamble "Dalai
Khagan of the great Mongolian state (ulus)".
After the succession war between
Kublai Khan and his brother Ariq
Böke , Ariq limited Kublai's power to the eastern part of the empire.
Kublai officially issued an imperial edict on December 18, 1271 to
name the country "Great Yuan" (_Dai Yuan_, or _Dai Ön Ulus_) to
Yuan dynasty . Some sources state that the full
Mongolian name was _Dai Ön Yehe Monggul Ulus_.
Proto-Mongols _ Mongolian tribes during the Khitan
Liao dynasty (907-1125)
Eurasia on the eve of the Mongol
invasions, c._ 1200.
The area around
Manchuria , and parts of
North China had
been controlled by the
Liao dynasty since the 10th century. In 1125,
the Jin dynasty founded by the
Jurchens overthrew the
Liao dynasty and
attempted to gain control over former Liao territory in Mongolia. In
the 1130s the Jin dynasty rulers, known as the Golden Kings,
successfully resisted the
Khamag Mongol confederation, ruled at the
Khabul Khan , great-grandfather of
Temujin (Genghis Khan).
Mongolian plateau was occupied mainly by five powerful tribal
Khamag Mongol , Naiman , Mergid
Tatar . The Jin emperors, following a policy of divide and rule
, encouraged disputes among the tribes, especially between the Tatars
and Mongols, in order to keep the nomadic tribes distracted by their
own battles and thereby away from the Jin. Khabul's successor was
Ambaghai Khan , who was betrayed by the Tatars, handed over to the
Jurchen, and executed. The
Mongols retaliated by raiding the frontier,
resulting in a failed Jurchen counter-attack in 1143.
In 1147, the Jin somewhat changed their policy, signing a peace
treaty with the
Mongols and withdrawing from a score of forts. The
Mongols then resumed attacks on the Tatars to avenge the death of
their late khan, opening a long period of active hostilities. The Jin
Tatar armies defeated the
Mongols in 1161.
During the rise of the
Empire in the 13th century, the usually
cold, parched steppes of
Central Asia enjoyed their mildest, wettest
conditions in more than a millennium. It is thought that as a result,
a rapid increase in the number of war horses and other livestock
Mongol military strength.
RISE OF GENGHIS KHAN
Khamag Mongol and
Genghis Khan ,
National Palace Museum
National Palace Museum in
Known during his childhood as
Genghis Khan was the son of a
Mongol chieftain. When he was young he was from one of Yesugis
orphaned and deserted families, he rose very rapidly by working with
Toghrul Khan of the Kerait. Kurtait was the most powerful Mongol
leader during this time and was given the Chinese title "Wang" which
Temujin went to war with Wang Khan. After Temujin
Wang Khan he gave himself the name Genghis Khan. He then
Mongol state under himself and his kin.
Genghis Khan is
remembered for his system of laws for the
Mongols he called this the
Great Yasa. The Great Yasa was regarded by many generations of Mongols
ranging all over Asia. He had most of Asia under his control. The Yasa
provided necessary powers for taxation, and for all able bodied
Mongols to take part in the great hunt to gather meat for the winter
months. The term
Mongol became used to refer to all Mongolic Speaking
tribes under the control of Genghis Khan. His most powerful allies
were his father's friend,
Wang Khan Toghoril, and
Temujin's childhood _anda_ (friend)
Jamukha of the Jadran clan. With
Temujin defeated the
Merkit tribe, rescued his wife
Börte, and went on to defeat the
Naimans and Tatars.
Temujin forbade looting of his enemies without permission, and he
implemented a policy of sharing spoils with his warriors and their
families instead of giving it all to the aristocrats. He thus held
the Khan title. These policies brought him into conflict with his
uncles, who were also legitimate heirs to the throne; they regarded
Temujin not as leader but merely an insolent usurper. This controversy
spread to his generals and other associates, and some
Mongols who had
previously been allies with him broke their allegiance.
War ensued, and
Temujin and the forces still loyal to him prevailed,
destroying all the remaining rival tribes from 1203 to 1205 and
bringing them under his sway. In 1206,
Temujin was crowned as the
khagan of the _Yekhe
Mongol Ulus_ (Great
Mongol State) at a kurultai
(general assembly/council). It was there that he assumed the title of
Genghis Khan (universal leader) instead of one of the old tribal
titles such as Gur Khan or Tayang Khan, marking the start of the
Genghis Khan ascended the throne in the Yeke Quriltay region in
the Onan river, from the Jami\' al-tawarikh .
Genghis Khan introduced many innovative ways of organizing his army,
dividing it into decimal subsections of arbans (10 people), zuuns
(100), Mingghans (1000), and tumens (10,000). The
Kheshig , or the
imperial guard , was founded and divided into day (khorchin torghuds )
and night guards (khevtuul ). Genghis rewarded those who had been
loyal to him and placed them in high positions, placing them as heads
of army units and households, even though many of his allies had been
from very low-rank clans.
Compared to the units he gave to his loyal companions, those assigned
to his own family members were quite few. He proclaimed a new law of
the empire, Ikh Zasag or
Yassa , and codified everything related to
the everyday life and political affairs of the nomads at the time. He
forbade the selling of women, theft, fighting among the Mongols, and
the hunting of animals during the breeding season.
He appointed his adopted brother Shigi-Khuthugh supreme judge
(jarughachi), ordering him to keep records of the empire. In addition
to laws regarding family, food, and the army, Genghis also decreed
religious freedom and supported domestic and international trade. He
exempted the poor and the clergy from taxation. He also encouraged
literacy, adopting the
Uyghur script , which would form the
Mongolian script of the empire, and he ordered the Uyghur
Tatatunga, who had previously served the khan of Naimans, to instruct
Push Into Central Asia
Mongol invasion of Central Asia
Genghis quickly came into conflict with the Jin dynasty of the
Jurchens and the
Western Xia of the
Tanguts in northern China. He also
had to deal with two other powers,
Tibet and Khara Khitai. Towards
the west he moved into
Central Asia , devastating
eastern Persia, then raiding into Kievan Rus\' (a predecessor state of
Belarus , and
Ukraine ) and the
Before his death,
Genghis Khan divided his empire among his sons and
immediate family, making the
Empire the joint property of the
entire imperial family who, along with the
constituted the ruling class.
Genghis Khan and the following Yuan emperors forbade Islamic
practices like Halal butchering, forcing Muslims to comply with Mongol
methods of butchering animals, and other restrictive decrees
continued. Muslims had to slaughter sheep in secret. Genghis Khan
directly called Muslims and Jews "slaves", and demanded that they
Mongol method of eating rather than the halal method.
Circumcision was also forbidden. Jews were also affected, and
forbidden by the
Mongols to eat kosher .
Among all the alien peoples only the Hui-hui say “we do not eat
Mongol food”. “By the aid of heaven we have pacified you; you are
our slaves. Yet you do not eat our food or drink. How can this be
right?” He thereupon made them eat. “If you slaughter sheep, you
will be considered guilty of a crime.” He issued a regulation to
that effect ... all the Muslims say: “if someone else slaughters
we do not eat”. Because the poor people are upset by this, from now
on, Musuluman Huihui and Zhuhu Huihui, no matter who kills will eat
and must cease slaughtering sheep themselves, and cease the rite of
Genghis Khan arranged for the Chinese Daoist master
Qiu Chuji to
visit him in Afghanistan and put him in charge of all religious
affairs in the empire.
DEATH OF GENGHIS KHAN AND EXPANSION UNDER ÖGEDEI (1227–1241)
Mongol invasions and conquests Coronation of
Ögedei Khan in 1229 as the successor of Genghis Khan. By Rashid
al-Din , early 14th century.
Genghis Khan died on August 18, 1227, by which time the
ruled from the Pacific Ocean to the
Caspian Sea — an empire twice
the size of the
Roman Empire and Muslim
Caliphate . Genghis named his
third son, the charismatic
Ögedei , as his heir. According to Mongol
Genghis Khan was buried in a secret location. The regency
was originally held by Ögedei's younger brother
Tolui until Ögedei's
formal election at the kurultai in 1229.
Among his first actions,
Ögedei sent troops to subjugate the
Bulgars , and other nations in the Kipchak-controlled
steppes. In the east, Ögedei's armies re-established Mongol
authority in Manchuria, crushing the Eastern Xia regime and Water
Tatars . In 1230, the great khan personally led his army in the
campaign against the Jin dynasty (China). Ögedei's general Subutai
captured the capital of Emperor Wanyan Shouxu in the siege of Kaifeng
in 1232. The Jin dynasty collapsed in 1234 when the
Caizhou , the town where Wanyan Shouxu had fled. In 1234, three armies
commanded by Ögedei's sons Kochu and Koten, as well as the Tangut
general Chagan, invaded southern China. With the assistance of the
Song dynasty , the
Mongols finished off the Jin in 1234.
Han Chinese and Khitan defected to the
Mongols to fight against
the Jin. Two
Han Chinese leaders,
Shi Tianze , Liu Heima (劉黑馬,
Liu Ni), and the Khitan Xiao Zhala defected and commanded the 3
Tumens in the
Mongol army. Liu Heima and
Shi Tianze served Ogödei
Khan. Liu Heima and Shi Tianxiang led armies against
Western Xia for
the Mongols. There were four Han Tumens and three Khitan Tumens, with
each Tumen consisting of 10,000 troops.
Shi Tianze was a
Han Chinese who lived in the Jin dynasty
(1115–1234) . Interethnic marriage between Han and Jurchen became
common at this time. His father was Shi Bingzhi (史秉直, Shih
Ping-chih). Shi Bingzhi was married to a Jurchen woman (surname Na-ho)
Han Chinese woman (surname Chang). It is unknown which of them
was Shi Tianze's mother.
Shi Tianze was married to two Jurchen women,
Han Chinese woman, and a Korean woman, and his son Shi Gang was born
to one of his Jurchen wives. His Jurchen wive's surnames were Mo-nien
and Na-ho, his Korean wife's surname was Li, and his Han Chinese
wife's surname was Shi.
Shi Tianze defected to the
forces upon their invasion of the Jin dynasty . His son Shi Gang
married a Kerait woman. The Kerait were Mongolified Turkic people and
considered part of the
Yuan dynasty created a Han army 漢軍 out of defected Jin troops
and army of defected Song troops called the Newly Submitted Army
In the West, Ögedei's general
Chormaqan destroyed Jalal ad-Din
Mingburnu , the last shah of the Khwarizmian
Empire . The small
kingdoms in Southern Persia voluntarily accepted
In East Asia, there were a number of Mongolian campaigns into Goryeo
Korea , but Ögedei's attempt to annex the
Korean Peninsula met with
little success. Gojong , the king of
Goryeo , surrendered but later
revolted and massacred
Mongol _darughachis _ (overseers); he then
moved his imperial court from
Ganghwa Island .
As the empire grew,
Ögedei established a
Mongol capital at Karakorum
in northwestern Mongolia.
Invasions Of Kievan Rus\' And Central China
Mongol invasion of Rus\' and
Mongol invasion of China
Mongol invasion of China
Mongol invasions of India ,
Mongol invasions of Korea , and
Mongol conquest of Tibet
Mongol conquest of Tibet The sack of
Batu Khan in
1238, miniature from 16th-century chronicle
Meanwhile, in an offensive action against the
Song dynasty , Mongol
armies captured Siyang-yang, the Yangtze and
Sichuan , but did not
secure their control over the conquered sites. The Song generals were
able to recapture Siyang-yang from the
Mongols in 1239. After the
sudden death of Ögedei's son Kochu in Chinese territory, the Mongols
withdrew from southern China, although Kochu's brother Prince Koten
Tibet right after their withdrawal.
Batu Khan , another grandson of Genghis Khan, overran the countries
Bulgars , the
Alans , the Kypchaks, Bashkirs, Mordvins ,
Chuvash , and other nations of the southern Russian steppe . By 1237,
Mongols began encroaching upon Ryazan , their first Kievan Rus\'
principality. After a three-day siege using heavy attacks, the Mongols
captured the city and massacred its inhabitants, then proceeded to
destroy the army of the
Grand principality of Vladimir at the Battle
of the Sit River .
Mongols captured the
Maghas in 1238. By 1240, all
Kievan Rus' had fallen to the Asian invaders except for a few northern
Mongol troops under
Chormaqan in Persia connected his invasion
Transcaucasia with the invasion of Batu and Subutai, forced the
Georgian and Armenian nobles to surrender as well.
Giovanni de Plano Carpini , the pope's envoy to the
khan, traveled through
Kiev in February 1246 and wrote:
They attacked Russia, where they made great havoc, destroying cities
and fortresses and slaughtering men; and they laid siege to Kiev, the
capital of Russia; after they had besieged the city for a long time,
they took it and put the inhabitants to death. When we were journeying
through that land we came across countless skulls and bones of dead
men lying about on the ground.
Kiev had been a very large and thickly
populated town, but now it has been reduced almost to nothing, for
there are at the present time scarce two hundred houses there and the
inhabitants are kept in complete slavery.
Despite the military successes, strife continued within the Mongol
ranks. Batu's relations with
Güyük , Ögedei's eldest son, and Büri
, the beloved grandson of
Chagatai Khan , remained tense and worsened
during Batu's victory banquet in southern Kievan Rus'. Nevertheless,
Güyük and Buri could not do anything to harm Batu's position as long
as his uncle
Ögedei was still alive. Meanwhile,
with invasions into the
Indian subcontinent , temporarily investing
Lahore , and
Multan of the
Delhi Sultanate and stationing a
Mongol overseer in
Kashmir , though the invasions into India
eventually failed and were forced to retreat. In northeastern Asia,
Ögedei agreed to settle conflicts with
Goryeo by making it a client
state and sent Mongolian princesses to wed
Goryeo princes. He then
reinforced his keshig with the Koreans through both diplomacy and
Push Into Central Europe
Mongol invasion of Europe The battle of Liegnitz
, 1241. From a medieval manuscript of the Hedwig legend.
The advance into Europe continued with
Mongol invasions of Poland and
Hungary. When the western flank of the
Mongols plundered Polish
cities, a European alliance among the
Poles , the Moravians , and the
Christian military orders of the
Teutonic Knights and
the Templars assembled sufficient forces to halt, although briefly,
Mongol advance at
Legnica . The Hungarian army, their Croatian
allies and the Templar Knights were beaten by
Mongols at the banks of
Sajo River on April 11, 1241. After their victories over European
Mongol armies quickly advanced across
Babenberg Austria and then into the Holy Roman
Before Batu's forces could continue into
Vienna and northern Albania
, news of Ögedei's death in December 1241 brought a halt to the
invasion. As was customary in
Mongol military tradition, all princes
of Genghis's line had to attend the kurultai to elect a successor.
Batu and his western
Mongol army withdrew from
Central Europe the next
POST-ÖGEDEI POWER STRUGGLES (1241–1251)
Great Khan Ögedei's death in 1241, and before the next
kurultai, Ögedei's widow
Töregene took over the empire. She
persecuted her husband's Khitan and Muslim officials, giving high
positions to her own allies. She built palaces, cathedrals, and social
structures on an imperial scale, supporting religion and education.
She was able to win over most
Mongol aristocrats to support Ögedei's
Güyük . But Batu, ruler of the
Golden Horde , refused to come to
the kurultai, claiming that he was ill and that the Mongolian climate
was too harsh for him. The resulting stalemate lasted more than four
years and further destabilized the unity of the empire. Batu
Khan consolidates the
When Genghis Khan's youngest brother
seize the throne,
Güyük came to
Karakorum to try to secure his
position. Batu eventually agreed to send his brothers and generals to
the kurultai convened by
Töregene in 1246.
Güyük by this time was
ill and alcoholic, but his campaigns in
Manchuria and Europe gave him
the kind of stature necessary for a great khan. He was duly elected at
a ceremony attended by
Mongols and foreign dignitaries from both
within and without the empire — leaders of vassal nations,
representatives from Rome, and other entities who came to the kurultai
to show their respects and negotiate diplomacy.
Pope Innocent IV 's submission. The letter was written in
Güyük took steps to reduce corruption, announcing that he would
continue the policies of his father Ögedei, not Töregene. He
punished Töregene's supporters except governor
Arghun the Elder . He
also replaced young
Qara Hülëgü , the khan of the Chagatai Khanate
, with his favorite cousin
Yesü Möngke to assert his newly conferred
powers. He restored his father's officials to their former positions
and was surrounded by the Uyghur, Naiman , and Central Asian
Han Chinese commanders who helped his father
conquer Northern China. He continued military operations in Korea,
advanced into Song China in the south and
Iraq in the west, and
ordered an empire-wide census.
Güyük also divided the Sultanate of
Rum between Izz-ad-Din Kaykawus and Rukn ad-Din Kilij Arslan , though
Kaykawus disagreed with this decision.
Not all parts of the empire respected Güyük's election. The
Hashshashins , former
Mongol allies whose Grand Master Hasan
Jalalud-Din had offered his submission to
Genghis Khan in 1221,
Güyük by refusing to submit. He instead murdered Mongol
generals in Persia.
Güyük appointed his best friend's father
Eljigidei as chief commander of the troops in Persia and gave them the
task of both reducing the strongholds of the
Assassins Muslim movement
and conquering the
Abbasids in the center of the Islamic world, Iran
Güyük raised more troops and suddenly marched westwards
Mongol capital of Karakorum. The reasoning was unclear. Some
sources wrote that he sought to recuperate his personal property Emyl;
others suggested that he might have been moving to join
conduct a full-scale conquest of the Middle East or possibly to make a
surprise attack on his rival cousin
Batu Khan in Russia.
Suspicious of Güyük's motives,
Sorghaghtani Beki , the widow of
Genghis's son Tolui, secretly warned her nephew Batu of Güyük's
approach. Batu had himself been traveling eastwards at the time,
possibly to pay homage, or perhaps with other plans in mind. Before
the forces of Batu and
Güyük met, Güyük, sick and worn out by
travel, died en route at Qum-Senggir (Hong-siang-yi-eulh) in Xinjiang
, possibly a victim of poison. A Stone Turtle at the site of the
Oghul Qaimish stepped forward to take control of the
empire, but she lacked the skills of her mother-in-law Töregene, and
her young sons Khoja and Naku and other princes challenged her
authority. To decide on a new great khan, Batu called a kurultai on
his own territory in 1250. As it was far from the Mongolian heartland,
members of the Ögedeid and Chagataid families refused to attend. The
kurultai offered the throne to Batu, but he rejected it, claiming he
had no interest in the position.
Batu instead nominated Möngke , a grandson of Genghis from his son
Tolui's lineage. Möngke was leading a
Mongol army in Russia, the
Northern Caucasus, and Hungary. The pro-
Tolui faction rose up and
supported Batu's choice, and Möngke was elected, though given the
kurultai's limited attendance and location, it was of questionable
Batu sent Möngke under the protection of his brothers,
Tukhtemur, and his son
Sartaq to assemble a more formal kurultai at
Kodoe Aral in the heartland. The supporters of Möngke invited Oghul
Qaimish and other main Ögedeid and Chagataid princes to attend the
kurultai, but they refused each time. The Ögedeid and Chagataid
princes refused to accept a descendant of Genghis's son
leader, demanding that only descendants of Genghis's son
be great khan.
RULE OF MöNGKE KHAN (1251–1259)
When Möngke's mother Sorghaghtani and their cousin
Berke organized a
second kurultai on July 1, 1251, the assembled throng proclaimed
Möngke great khan of the
Mongol Empire. This marked a major shift in
the leadership of the empire, transferring power from the descendants
of Genghis's son
Ögedei to the descendants of Genghis's son Tolui.
The decision was acknowledged by a few of the Ögedeid and Chagataid
princes, such as Möngke's cousin
Kadan and the deposed khan Qara
Hülëgü, but one of the other legitimate heirs, Ögedei's grandson
Shiremun, sought to topple Möngke.
Shiremun moved with his own forces towards the emperor's nomadic
palace with a plan for an armed attack, but Möngke was alerted by his
falconer of the plan. Möngke ordered an investigation of the plot,
which led to a series of major trials all across the empire. Many
members of the
Mongol elite were found guilty and put to death, with
estimates ranging from 77–300, though princes of Genghis's royal
line were often exiled rather than executed.
Möngke eliminated the estates of the Ögedeid and the Chagatai
families and shared the western part of the empire with his ally Batu
Khan . After the bloody purge, Möngke ordered a general amnesty for
prisoners and captives, but thereafter the power of the great khan's
throne remained firmly with the descendants of Genghis's son Tolui.
Möngke was a serious man who followed the laws of his ancestors and
avoided alcoholism. He was tolerant of outside religions and artistic
styles, leading to the building of foreign merchants' quarters,
Buddhist monasteries , mosques , and
Christian churches in the Mongol
capital. As construction projects continued,
Karakorum was adorned
with Chinese, European, and
Persian architecture . One famous example
was a large silver tree with cleverly designed pipes that dispensed
various drinks. The tree, topped by a triumphant angel, was crafted by
Guillaume Boucher , a Parisian goldsmith.
Hulagu , Genghis
Khan's grandson and founder of the
Il-Khanate . From a medieval
Although he had a strong Chinese contingent, Möngke relied heavily
on Muslim and
Mongol administrators and launched a series of economic
reforms to make government expenses more predictable. His court
limited government spending and prohibited nobles and troops from
abusing civilians or issuing edicts without authorization. He commuted
the contribution system into a fixed poll tax that was collected by
imperial agents and forwarded to units in need.
His court also tried to lighten the tax burden on commoners by
reducing tax rates. Along with the reform of the tax system , he
reinforced the guards at the postal relays and centralized control of
monetary affairs. Möngke also ordered an empire-wide census in 1252
that took several years to complete, not finished until
the far northwest was counted in 1258.
In another move to consolidate his power, Möngke assigned his
Kublai to rule Persia and Mongol-held China. In
the southern part of the empire, he continued his predecessors'
struggle against the
Song dynasty . In order to outflank the Song from
three directions, Möngke dispatched
Mongol armies under his brother
Yunnan , and under his uncle Iyeku to subdue Korea and
pressure the Song from that direction as well.
Kublai conquered the
Dali Kingdom in 1253 after the Dali King Duan
Xingzhi defected to the
Mongols and helped them conquer the rest of
Yunnan, and Möngke's general Qoridai stabilized his control over
Tibet, inducing leading monasteries to submit to
Subutai's son Uryankhadai reduced the neighboring peoples of
submission and defeated the
Trần dynasty in northern
1257, but they had to draw back in 1258. The
Empire tried to
Vietnam again in 1284 and 1287 but were defeated both times.
New Invasions Of The Middle East And Southern China
Mongol invasions of the Levant See also: Mongol
invasion of China and
Siege of Baghdad (1258)
Mongol invasion of
After stabilizing the empire's finances, Möngke once again sought to
expand its borders. At kurultais in
Karakorum in 1253 and 1258 he
approved new invasions of the Middle East and south China . Möngke
Hulagu in overall charge of military and civil affairs in Persia,
and appointed Chagataids and Jochids to join Hulagu's army.
The Muslims from
Qazvin denounced the menace of the
a heretical sect of
Shiites . The
Mongol Naiman commander Kitbuqa
began to assault several Ismaili fortresses in 1253, before Hulagu
deliberately advanced in 1256. Ismaili Grand Master Rukn ud-Din
surrendered in 1257 and was executed. All of the Ismaili strongholds
in Persia were destroyed by Hulagu's army in 1257, though Girdukh held
out until 1271. Fall of Baghdad, 1258
The center of the Islamic
Empire at the time was Baghdad, which had
held power for 500 years but was suffering internal divisions. When
its caliph al-Mustasim refused to submit to the Mongols, Baghdad was
besieged and captured by the
Mongols in 1258, an event considered as
one of the more catastrophic events in the history of Islam, and
sometimes compared to the rupture of the
Kaaba . With the destruction
of the Abbasid Caliphate,
Hulagu had an open route to Syria and moved
against the other Muslim powers in the region.
His army advanced towards
Ayyubid -ruled Syria, capturing small local
states en route. The sultan
Al-Nasir Yusuf of the Ayyubids refused to
show himself before Hulagu; however, he had accepted
two decades earlier. When
Hulagu headed further west, the Armenians
Cilicia , the
Rum and the Christian realms of
Tripoli submitted to
Mongol authority, joining the Mongols
in their assault against the Muslims. While some cities surrendered
without resisting, others such as Mayafarriqin fought back; their
populations were massacred and the cities were sacked.
Möngke Khan (1259)
The extent of the
Empire after the death of Möngke Khan
Meanwhile, in the northwestern portion of the empire, Batu's
successor and younger brother
Berke sent punitive expeditions to
Lithuania , and Poland. Dissension began brewing
between the northwestern and southwestern sections of the Mongol
Empire as Batu suspected that Hulagu's invasion of Western Asia would
result in the elimination of Batu's own predominance there.
In the southern part of the empire,
Möngke Khan himself led his army
to complete the conquest of China. Military operations were generally
successful, but prolonged, so the forces did not withdraw to the north
as was customary when the weather turned hot. Disease ravaged the
Mongol forces with bloody epidemics, and Möngke died there on August
11, 1259. This event began a new chapter of history for the Mongols,
as again a decision needed to be made on a new great khan. Mongol
armies across the empire withdrew from their campaigns to once again
convene for a new kurultai.
Dispute Over Succession
Mongols at war
Hulagu broke off his successful military advance
into Syria, withdrawing the bulk of his forces to
Mughan and leaving
only a small contingent under his general
Kitbuqa . The opposing
forces in the region, the Christian Crusaders and Muslim Mamluks, both
recognizing that the
Mongols were the greater threat, took advantage
of the weakened state of the
Mongol army and engaged in an unusual
passive truce with each other.
In 1260, the Mamluks advanced from Egypt, being allowed to camp and
resupply near the Christian stronghold of Acre , and engaged Kitbuqa's
forces just north of
Galilee at the
Battle of Ain Jalut . The Mongols
were defeated, and
Kitbuqa executed. This pivotal battle marked the
western limit for
Mongol expansion, and the
Mongols were never again
able to make any serious military advances farther than Syria.
In a separate part of the empire,
Kublai Khan , another brother of
Hulagu and Möngke, heard of the great khan's death at the Huai River
in China. Rather than returning to the capital, he continued his
advance into the Wuchang area of China, near the
Yangtze River . Their
younger brother Ariqboke took advantage of the absence of
Kublai, and used his position at the capital to win the title of great
khan for himself, with representatives of all the family branches
proclaiming him as the leader at the kurultai in Karakorum. When
Kublai learned of this, he summoned his own kurultai at
Kaiping , and
nearly all the senior princes and great noyans in
North China and
Manchuria supported his own candidacy over that of Ariqboke.
Mongolian Civil War
Toluid Civil War and Berke–
Kublai Khan ,
Genghis Khan 's grandson and founder of the
Battles ensued between the armies of
Kublai and those of his brother
Ariqboke, which included forces still loyal to Möngke's previous
administration. Kublai's army easily eliminated Ariqboke's supporters
and seized control of the civil administration in southern Mongolia.
Further challenges took place from their cousins, the Chagataids.
Kublai sent Abishka, a Chagataid prince loyal to him, to take charge
of Chagatai's realm. But Ariqboke captured and then executed Abishka,
having his own man
Alghu crowned there instead. Kublai's new
administration blockaded Ariqboke in
Mongolia to cut food supplies,
causing a famine.
Karakorum fell quickly to Kublai, but Ariqboke
rallied and re-took the capital in 1261.
In the southwestern Ilkhanate,
Hulagu was loyal to his brother
Kublai, but clashes with their cousin Berke, the ruler of the Golden
Horde in the northwestern part of the empire, began in 1262. The
suspicious deaths of Jochid princes in Hulagu's service, unequal
distribution of war booty, and Hulagu's massacres of the Muslims
increased the anger of Berke, who considered supporting a rebellion of
the Georgian Kingdom against Hulagu's rule in 1259–1260.
forged an alliance with the Egyptian Mamluks against
supported Kublai's rival claimant, Ariqboke.
Hulagu died on February 8, 1264.
Berke sought to take advantage and
invade Hulagu's realm, but he died along the way, and a few months
Alghu Khan of the
Chagatai Khanate died as well.
Hulagu's son Abaqa as a new Ilkhan, and Abaqa sought foreign
alliances, such as attempting to form a Franco-
Mongol alliance with
the Europeans against the Egyptian Mamluks.
Kublai nominated Batu's
Möngke Temür to lead the Golden Horde. Ariqboqe
Shangdu on August 21, 1264.
Kublai Khan (1264–1294)
Kublai Khan\'s Campaigns _ The samurai Suenaga
facing Mongol's bomb and Goryeo's arrows.
Mōko Shūrai Ekotoba _
(蒙古襲来絵詞), circa 1293.
In the south, after the fall of Xiangyang in 1273, the
the final conquest of the
Song dynasty in South China. In 1271, Kublai
renamed the new
Mongol regime in China as the
Yuan dynasty and sought
to sinicize his image as
Emperor of China to win the control of the
Kublai moved his headquarters to Dadu , the genesis
for what later became the modern city of
Beijing , although his
establishment of a capital there was a controversial move to many
Mongols who accused him of being too closely tied to
Chinese culture .
Mongols were eventually successful in their campaigns against
(Song) China, and the Chinese Song imperial family surrendered to the
Yuan in 1276, making the
Mongols the first non-Chinese people to
conquer all of China.
Kublai used his base to build a powerful empire,
creating an academy, offices, trade ports and canals, and sponsoring
arts and science.
Mongol records list 20,166 public schools created
during his reign.
Mongol warrior on horseback, preparing a
mounted archery shot.
After achieving actual or nominal dominion over much of
successfully conquering China,
Kublai pursued further expansion. His
invasions of Burma and
Sakhalin were costly, and his attempted
invasions of Annam and
Champa ended in devastating defeat, but secured
vassal statuses of those countries. The
Mongol armies were massacred
and smashed repeatedly in Annam and at the Battle of Bạch Đằng
(1288) . Annam (Vietnam) was ruled by the
Tran dynasty . The ancestors
of the Trần clan originated from the province of
Fujian and later
migrated to Đại Việt under Trần Kinh 陳京 (Chén Jīng), the
ancestor of the Trần clan. Their descendants, the later rulers of
Đại Việt who were of mixed-blooded descent later established the
Tran dynasty , which ruled
Vietnam (Đại Việt); despite many
intermarriages between the Trần and several royal members of the Lý
dynasty alongside members of their royal court as in the case of
Trần Lý and
Trần Thừa , some of the mixed-blooded
descendants of the
Trần dynasty and certain members of the clan were
still capable of speaking Chinese such as when a
Yuan dynasty envoy
had a meeting with the Chinese-speaking Trần prince Trần Quốc
Tuấn in 1282.
Nogai and Konchi , the khan of the
White Horde , established friendly
relations with the
Yuan dynasty and the Ilkhanate. Political
disagreement among contending branches of the family over the office
of great khan continued, but the economic and commercial success of
Empire continued despite the squabbling.
DISINTEGRATION INTO COMPETING ENTITIES
Division of the Mongol Empire The funeral of
Chagatai Khan .
Major changes occurred in the
Empire in the late 1200s. Kublai
Khan, after having conquered all of China and established the Yuan
dynasty, died in 1294, and was succeeded by his grandson
Temür Khan ,
who continued Kublai's policies. At the same time, the Toluid Civil
War , along with the Berke–
Hulagu war and the subsequent
Kublai war greatly weakened the authority of the great khan
over the entirety of the
Empire and the empire fractured into
autonomous khanates, including the
Yuan dynasty and the three western
Golden Horde , the
Chagatai Khanate and the
All of them became functionally autonomous; only the Ilkhanate
remained loyal to the Yuan court but endured its own power struggle,
in part because of a dispute with the growing Islamic factions within
the southwestern part of the empire.
After the death of
Kaidu , the Chatagai ruler
Duwa initiated a peace
proposal and persuaded the Ögedeids to submit to Temür Khan. In
1304, all khanates approved a peace treaty and accepted Yuan emperor
Temür's supremacy. This established the nominal supremacy of the
Yuan dynasty over the western khanates. While this supremacy based on
nothing like the same foundations as that of the earlier Khagans (such
as the continued border clashes among them) and each of the four
khanates continued to develop separately and function as different
states, the nominal supremacy did last for a few decades.
Nearly a century of conquest and civil war was followed by relative
Pax Mongolica _), and international trade and cultural
exchanges flourished between Asia and Europe. Communication between
Yuan dynasty in China and
Ilkhanate in Persia further encouraged
trade and commerce between east and west. Patterns of Yuan royal
textiles could be found on the opposite side of the empire adorning
Armenian decorations; trees and vegetables were transplanted across
the empire; and technological innovations spread from
towards the West.
Pope John XXII was presented a memorandum from the
eastern church describing the Pax Mongolica: "...
Khagan is one of the
greatest monarchs and all lords of the state, e.g., the king of
Almaligh (Chagatai Khanate), emperor Abu Said and Uzbek Khan, are his
subjects, saluting his holiness to pay their respects." However,
while the four khanates continued to interact with one another well
into the 14th century, they did so as sovereign states and never again
pooled their resources in a cooperative military endeavor.
Developments Of The Khanates
_ A European depiction of the four khans, Temür (Yuan), Chapar
House of Ögedei ),
Toqta (Golden Horde), and
in the Fleur des histoires d'orient_.
In spite of his conflicts with
Kaidu and Duwa, Yuan emperor Temür
established a tributary relationship with the war-like Shan brothers
after his series of military operations against
Thailand from 1297 to
1303. This was to mark the end of the southern expansion of the
Ghazan took the throne of the
Ilkhanate in 1295, he formally
Islam as his own religion, marking a turning point in Mongol
history after which
Mongol Persia became more and more Islamic.
Despite this though,
Ghazan continued to strengthen ties with Temür
Khan and the
Yuan dynasty in the east. It was politically useful to
advertise the great khan's authority in the Ilkhanate, because the
Golden Horde in Russia had long made claims on nearby Georgia. Within
Ghazan began sending tributes to the Yuan court and
appealing to other khans to accept
Temür Khan as their overlord. He
oversaw an extensive program of cultural and scientific interaction
Ilkhanate and the
Yuan dynasty in the following decades.
Ghazan's faith may have been Islamic, but he continued his ancestors'
war with the Egyptian Mamluks, and consulted with his old Mongolian
advisers in his native tongue. He defeated the Mamluk army at the
Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar in 1299, but he was only briefly able to
occupy Syria, due to distracting raids from the
Chagatai Khanate under
its _de facto_ ruler
Kaidu , who was at war with both the Ilkhans and
the Yuan dynasty.
Struggling for influence within the Golden Horde,
Kaidu sponsored his
own candidate Kobeleg against Bayan (r. 1299–1304), the khan of the
White Horde. Bayan, after receiving military support from the Mongols
in Russia, requested assistance from both
Temür Khan and the
Ilkhanate to organize a unified attack against Kaidu's forces. Temür
was amenable and enlarged counterattacks against
Kaidu a year later.
After a bloody battle with Temür's armies near
Zawkhan River in 1301,
the old valiant
Kaidu died and was succeeded by
Béla IV in flight from the
Mongols under general Kadan
Golden Horde .
Duwa was challenged by Kaidu's son Chapar, but with the assistance of
Duwa defeated the Ögedeids.
Tokhta of the Golden Horde, also
seeking a general peace, sent 20,000 men to buttress the Yuan
Tokhta died in 1312, though, and was succeeded by
1313–41), who seized the throne of the
Golden Horde and persecuted
non-Muslim Mongols. The Yuan's influence on the Horde was largely
reversed and border clashes between
Mongol states resumed. Ayurbarwada
Buyantu Khan 's envoys backed Tokhta's son against Ozbeg.
In the Chagatai Khanate,
Esen Buqa I (r. 1309–1318) was enthroned
as khan after suppressing a sudden rebellion by Ögedei's descendants
and driving Chapar into exile. The Yuan and Ilkhanid armies eventually
attacked the Chagatai Khanate. Realizing economic benefits and the
Ozbeg reopened friendly relations with the Yuan in
1326, and strengthened ties with the Muslim world as well, building
mosques and other elaborate places such as baths. By the second decade
of the 14th century,
Mongol invasions had further decreased. In 1323,
Abu Said Khan (r. 1316-35) of the
Ilkhanate signed a peace treaty with
Egypt. At his request, the Yuan court awarded his custodian
title of commander-in-chief of all
Mongol khanates, but
Chupan died in
Civil war erupted in the
Yuan dynasty in 1328–29. After the death
of Yesün Temür in 1328,
Tugh Temür became the new leader in Dadu,
while Yesün Temür's son Ragibagh succeeded to the throne in Shangdu,
leading to the civil war known as the
War of the Two Capitals . Tugh
Temür defeated Ragibagh, but the Chagatai khan
Kusala , elder brother of Tugh Temür, as great
khan. He invaded with a commanding force, and
Tugh Temür abdicated.
Kusala was elected khan on August 30, 1329.
Kusala was then poisoned
Kypchak commander under Tugh Temür, who returned to power. Tugh
Temür (1304–32) was knowledgeable about Chinese language and
history and was also a creditable poet, calligrapher, and painter. In
order to be accepted by other khanates as the sovereign of the Mongol
world, he sent Genghisid princes and descendants of other notable
Mongol generals to the Chagatai Khanate, Ilkhan Abu Said, and Ozbeg.
In response to the emissaries, they all agreed to send tribute each
Tugh Temür gave lavish presents and an imperial
Eljigidey to mollify his anger.
RELICT STATES OF THE MONGOL EMPIRE
The relict states of the
Empire by 1300.
With the death of Ilkhan Abu Said Bahatur in 1335,
faltered and Persia fell into political anarchy. A year later his
successor was killed by an Oirat governor, and the
divided between the Suldus, the
Jalayir , Qasarid
Togha Temür (d.
1353), and Persian warlords. Taking advantage of the chaos, the
Georgians pushed the
Mongols out of their own territory, and the
Uyghur commander Eretna established an independent state (Ertenids )
Anatolia in 1336. Following the downfall of their
the loyal vassal, the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, received escalating
threats from the Mamluks and were eventually overrun.
Along with the dissolution of the
Ilkhanate in Persia,
in China and the
Chagatai Khanate were also in turmoil. The plague
known as the
Black Death , which started in the
Mongol dominions and
spread to Europe, added to the confusion. Disease devastated all the
khanates, cutting off commercial ties and killing millions. Plague
may have taken 50 million lives in Europe alone in the 14th century.
Battle of Blue Waters between the armies of
Lithuania and the
Golden Horde in 1362
As the power of the
Mongols declined, chaos erupted throughout the
empire as non-
Mongol leaders expanded their own influence. The Golden
Horde lost all of its western dominions (including modern
Ukraine ) to Poland and
Lithuania from 1342 to 1369. Muslim and
non-Muslim princes in the
Chagatai Khanate warred with each other from
1331–43, and the
Chagatai Khanate disintegrated when non-Genghisid
warlords set up their own puppet khans in
Transoxiana and Moghulistan
Janibeg Khan (r. 1342–1357) briefly reasserted Jochid dominance
over the Chaghataids to restore their former glory. Demanding
submission from an offshoot of the
Azerbaijan , he
boasted that "today three uluses are under my control". Crimean
Tatar khan ,
Mengli Giray .
However, rival families of the Jochids began fighting for the throne
Golden Horde after the assassination of his successor Berdibek
Khan in 1359. The last Yuan ruler
Toghan Temür (r. 1333–70) was
powerless to regulate those troubles because the empire had nearly
reached its end. His court's unbacked currency had entered a
hyperinflationary spiral and the Han-Chinese people revolted due to
the Yuan's harsh restrictions. In the 1350s Gongmin of Goryeo
successfully pushed Mongolian garrisons back and exterminated the
Toghan Temür Khan's empress while Tai Situ Changchub
Gyaltsen managed to eliminate the
Mongol influence in Tibet.
Increasingly isolated from their subjects, the
Mongols quickly lost
most of China to the rebellious Ming forces in 1368 and fled to their
homeland Mongolia. After the overthrow of the
Yuan dynasty , the
Golden Horde lost touch with
Mongolia and China, while the two main
parts of the
Chagatai Khanate were defeated by
(1336–1405), who founded the
Timurid Empire . However, remnants of
Chagatai Khanate survived; the last Chagataid state to survive was
Yarkent Khanate , until its defeat by the Oirat
Dzungar Khanate in
Dzungar conquest of Altishahr in 1680. The
Golden Horde broke into
smaller Turkic-hordes that declined steadily in power through four
long centuries. Among them, the khanate's shadow
Great Horde survived
until 1502, when one of its successors, the
Crimean Khanate , sacked
Crimean Khanate lasted until 1783, whereas khanates such
Khanate of Bukhara and the
Kazakh Khanate lasted even longer.
Mongol military tactics and organization
Reconstruction of a
The number of troops mustered by the
Mongols is the subject of some
scholarly debate, but was at least 105,000 in 1206. The Mongol
military organization was simple but effective, based on the decimal
system. The army was built up from squads of ten men each, arbans (10
people), zuuns (100), Mingghans (1000), and tumens (10,000).
Mongols were most famous for their horse archers , but troops
armed with lances were equally skilled, and the
other military talents from the cities they conquered. With
experienced Chinese engineers and bombardier corps who were experts in
building trebuchets , Xuanfeng catapults and other machines, the
Mongols could lay siege to fortified positions, sometimes building
machinery on the spot using available local resources. Mongol
Subutai of the
Forces under the command of the
Empire were trained,
organized, and equipped for mobility and speed.
Mongol soldiers were
more lightly armored than many of the armies they faced but were able
to make up for it with maneuverability. Each
Mongol warrior would
usually travel with multiple horses, allowing him to quickly switch to
a fresh mount as needed. In addition, soldiers of the
functioned independently of supply lines , considerably speeding up
Skillful use of couriers enabled these armies to maintain contact
with each other and their leadership. Discipline was inculcated during
a _nerge_ (traditional hunt), as reported by Juvayni . These hunts
were distinctive from hunts in other cultures where they were the
equivalent to small unit actions.
Mongol forces would spread out in a
line, surround an entire region, and then drive all of the game within
that area together. The goal was to let none of the animals escape and
to slaughter them all.
Another advantage of the
Mongols was their ability to traverse large
distances, even in unusually cold winters; for instance, frozen rivers
led them like highways to large urban centers on their banks. In
addition to siege engineering, the
Mongols were also adept at
river-work, crossing the river
Sajó in spring flood conditions with
thirty thousand cavalry soldiers in a single night during the Battle
of Mohi (April 1241) to defeat the Hungarian king
Béla IV .
Similarly, in the attack against the Muslim Khwarezmshah , a flotilla
of barges was used to prevent escape on the river.
Traditionally known for their prowess with ground forces, the Mongols
rarely used naval power, with a few exceptions. In the 1260s and 1270s
they used seapower while conquering the
Song dynasty of China, though
their attempts to mount seaborne campaigns against Japan were
unsuccessful. Around the Eastern Mediterranean, their campaigns were
almost exclusively land-based, with the seas controlled by the
Crusader and Mamluk forces.
All military campaigns were preceded by careful planning,
reconnaissance, and gathering sensitive information relating to enemy
territories and forces. The success, organization, and mobility of the
Mongol armies permitted them to fight on several fronts at once. All
adult males up to the age of 60 were eligible for conscription into
the army, a source of honor in their tribal warrior tradition.
Main article: Society of the
LAW AND GOVERNANCE
See also: Organization of the
The executed - long and full beard probably means he is not a
has been thrown off a cliff.
Empire was governed by a code of law devised by Genghis,
Yassa _, meaning "order" or "decree". A particular canon of
this code was that those of rank shared much of the same hardship as
the common man. It also imposed severe penalties — e.g., the death
penalty was decreed if one mounted soldier following another did not
pick up something dropped from the mount in front. Penalties were also
decreed for rape and to some extent for murder. Any resistance to
Mongol rule was met with massive collective punishment. Cities were
destroyed and their inhabitants slaughtered if they defied Mongol
orders. On the whole, the tight discipline made the
extremely safe and well-run.
Under _Yassa_, chiefs and generals were selected based on merit . The
empire was governed by a non-democratic, parliamentary -style central
assembly, called kurultai , in which the
Mongol chiefs met with the
great khan to discuss domestic and foreign policies. Kurultais were
also convened for the selection of each new great khan. Throughout
the empire, trade routes and an extensive postal system (_yam_) were
created. Many merchants, messengers, and travelers from China, the
Middle East, and Europe used the system.
Genghis Khan also created a
national seal, encouraged the use of a written alphabet in Mongolia,
and exempted teachers, lawyers, and artists from taxes, although taxes
were heavy on all other subjects of the empire.
At the same time the
Mongols imported Central Asian Muslims to serve
as administrators in China, the
Mongols also sent
Han Chinese and
Khitans from China to serve as administrators over the Muslim
Bukhara in Central Asia, using foreigners to curtail the
power of the local peoples of both lands. The
Mongols were very
tolerant of other religions, and never persecuted people on religious
grounds. This was associated with their culture and progressive
thought. Some historians of the 20th century thought this was a good
military strategy: when Genghis was at war with Sultan Muhammad of
Khwarezm, other Islamic leaders did not join the fight, as it was seen
as a non-holy war between two individuals.
Religion in the
Empire Persian miniature
Ghazan 's conversion from
At the time of Genghis Khan, virtually every religion had found
Mongol converts, from
Islam , while all religions were accepted in
Mongol society. To avoid
Genghis Khan set up an institution that ensured complete
religious freedom, though he himself was a tengrist . Under his
administration, all religious leaders were exempt from taxation and
from public service.
Initially there were few formal places of worship because of the
nomadic lifestyle. However, under
Ögedei (1186–1241), several
building projects were undertaken in the
Mongol capital of
Along with palaces,
Ögedei built houses of worship for the Buddhist,
Muslim, Christian, and Taoist followers. The dominant religions at
that time were
Tengrism , and
Buddhism , although
Ögedei's wife was a Nestorian Christian.
Eventually, each of the successor states adopted the dominant
religion of the local populations: the Chinese-Mongolian Yuan dynasty
in the East (originally the great khan's domain) embraced
while the three Western khanates (the Central Asian
Chagatai Khanate ,
Ilkhanate and the Eastern European
Golden Horde ) adopted
ARTS AND LITERATURE
See also: List of historical cities and towns of
The oldest surviving literary work in the
Mongolian language is _The
Secret History of the
Mongols _, which was written for the royal
family some time after Genghis Khan's death in 1227. It is the most
significant native account of Genghis's life and genealogy, covering
his origins and childhood through to the establishment of the Mongol
Empire and the reign of his son, Ögedei.
Another classic from the empire is the _Jami\' al-tawarikh _, or
"Universal History". It was commissioned in the early 14th century by
Abaqa Khan as a way of documenting the entire world's
history, to help establish the Mongols' own cultural legacy.
Mongol scribes in the 14th century used a mixture of resin and
vegetable pigments as a primitive form of correction fluid ; this is
arguably its first known usage.
Mongols also appreciated the visual arts, though their taste in
portraiture was strictly focused on portraits of their horses, rather
than of people.
Yam (route) A 1305 letter (on a scroll measuring
302 by 50 centimetres (9.91 by 1.64 ft)) from the Ilkhan Mongol
Öljaitü to King
Philip IV of France .
Empire had an ingenious and efficient mail system for the
time, often referred to by scholars as the Yam , which had lavishly-
furnished and well-guarded relay posts known as _örtöö_ setup all
over the Empire. The _yam_ system would be replicated later in the
United States, in the form of the
Pony Express . A messenger would
typically travel 25 miles (40 km) from one station to the next, either
receiving a fresh, rested horse, or relaying the mail to the next
rider to ensure the speediest possible delivery. The
regularly covered 125 miles (200 km) per day, better than the fastest
record set by the
Pony Express some 600 years later.
Genghis and his successor
Ögedei built a wide system of roadways,
one of which carved the
Altai Range . After his enthronement, Ögedei
further organized the road system, ordering the
Chagatai Khanate and
Golden Horde to link up roads in western parts of the
In order to reduce pressure on households, he set up relay stations
with attached households every 25 miles (40 km). Anyone with paiza was
allowed to stop there for re-mounts and specified rations, while those
carrying military identities used the Yam even without a paiza. When
the great khan died in Karakorum, news reached the
Mongol forces under
Batu Khan in
Central Europe within 4–6 weeks thanks to the Yam.
Kublai Khan , founder of the
Yuan dynasty , built special relays for
high officials, as well as ordinary relays that had hostels. During
Kublai's reign, the Yuan communication system consisted of some 1,400
postal stations, which used 50,000 horses, 8,400 oxen, 6,700 mules,
4,000 carts, and 6,000 boats.
Manchuria and southern
Siberia , the
Mongols still used dogsled
relays for the yam. In the Ilkhanate,
Ghazan restored the declining
relay system in the Middle East on a restricted scale. He constructed
some hostels and decreed that only imperial envoys could receive a
stipend. The Jochids of the
Golden Horde financed their relay system
by a special yam tax.
Silk Road See also:
Pax Mongolica and
Tuda Mengu of the
Golden Horde .
Mongols had a history of supporting merchants and trade. Genghis
Khan had encouraged foreign merchants early in his career, even before
uniting the Mongols. Merchants provided him with information about
neighboring cultures, served as diplomats and official traders for the
Mongols, and were essential for many needed goods, since the Mongols
produced little of their own.
Mongols sometimes provided capital for merchants and sent them far
afield, in an _ortoq_ (merchant partner) arrangement. As the empire
grew, any merchants or ambassadors with proper documentation and
authorization received protection and sanctuary as they traveled
Mongol realms. Well-traveled and relatively well-maintained
roads linked lands from the Mediterranean basin to China, greatly
increasing overland trade and resulting in some dramatic stories of
those who travelled through what would become known as the Silk Road.
Marco Polo traveled east along the Silk Road, and
Rabban Bar Sauma made a comparably epic
journey along the route, venturing from his home of Khanbaliq
(Beijing) as far as Europe. European missionaries, such as William of
Rubruck , also traveled to the
Mongol court to convert believers to
their cause, or went as papal envoys to correspond with
in an attempt to secure a Franco-
Mongol alliance . It was rare,
however, for anyone to journey the full length of Silk Road. Instead,
merchants moved products like a bucket brigade, goods being traded
from one middleman to another, moving from China all the way to the
West; the goods moving over such long distances reached extravagant
prices. An Islamic gold coin inscribed in the name of Genghis
After Genghis, the merchant partner business continued to flourish
under his successors
Ögedei and Güyük. Merchants brought clothing,
food, information, and other provisions to the imperial palaces, and
in return the great khans gave the merchants tax exemptions and
allowed them to use the official relay stations of the
Merchants also served as tax farmers in China, Russia and Iran. If the
merchants were attacked by bandits, losses were made up from the
Policies changed under the
Great Khan Möngke . Because of money
laundering and overtaxing, he attempted to limit abuses and sent
imperial investigators to supervise the _ortoq_ businesses. He decreed
all merchants must pay commercial and property taxes, and he paid off
all drafts drawn by high-ranking
Mongol elites from the merchants.
This policy continued in the Yuan dynasty.
The fall of the
Empire in the 14th century led to the collapse
of the political, cultural, and economic unity along the Silk Road.
Turkic tribes seized the western end of the route from the Byzantine
Empire , sowing the seeds of a Turkic culture that would later
crystallize into the
Ottoman Empire under the
Sunni faith. In the
East, the native Chinese overthrew the
Yuan dynasty in 1368, launching
Ming dynasty and pursuing a policy of economic isolationism.
See also: History of
Mongolia Map showing the boundary of 13th
Empire compared to today's
Russia, the Central Asian States, and China
Empire — at its height the largest contiguous empire in
history — had a lasting impact, unifying large regions. Some of
these (such as eastern and western Russia and the western parts of
China) remain unified today, albeit under different rulership.
Mongols other than the main population might have been assimilated
into local populations after the fall of the empire, and some of these
descendants adopted local religions — for example, the eastern
khanate largely adopted
Buddhism , and the three western khanates
Islam , largely under
According to some interpretations, Genghis Khan's conquests caused
wholesale destruction on an unprecedented scale in certain
geographical regions, leading to changes in the demographics of Asia,
such as the mass migration of the Iranian tribes of
Central Asia into
modern-day Iran. The
Islamic world was also subject to massive changes
as a result of
Mongol invasions. The population of the Iranian plateau
suffered from widespread disease and famine, resulting in the deaths
of up to three-quarters of its population, possibly 10 to 15 million
people. Historian Steven Ward estimates that Iran's population did not
again reach its pre-
Mongol levels until the mid-20th century.
Non-military achievements of the
Empire included the
introduction of a writing system, a
Mongol alphabet based on Uyghur
language characters, that is still used today in Inner
Tokhtamysh and the armies of the
Golden Horde initiate the Siege of
Moscow (1382) .
Some of the other long-term consequences of the
* Moscow rose to prominence during the Mongol-
Tatar yoke , some time
after Russian rulers were accorded the status of tax collectors for
the Mongols. The fact that the Russians collected tribute and taxes
Mongols meant that the
Mongols themselves would rarely visit
the lands that they owned. The Russians eventually gained military
power, and their ruler Ivan III overthrew the
Mongols completely to
form the Russian Tsardom . After the Great stand on the Ugra river
Mongols vulnerable, the Grand Duke of Moscow gained
* Europe's knowledge of the known world was immensely expanded by
the information brought back by ambassadors and merchants. When
Columbus sailed in 1492, his missions were to reach
Cathay , the land
of the Grand Khan in China, and give him a letter from the monarchs
Ferdinand II of Aragon and
Isabella I of Castile .
* Some studies indicate that the
Black Death that devastated Europe
in the late 1340s may have traveled from China to Europe along the
trade routes of the
Mongol Empire. In 1347, the Genoese possessor of
Caffa , a great trade emporium on the
Crimean Peninsula , came under
siege by an army of
Mongol warriors under the command of
After a protracted siege during which the
Mongol army was reportedly
withering from the disease, they decided to use the infected corpses
as a biological weapon . The corpses were catapulted over the city
walls, infecting the inhabitants. The Genoese traders fled,
transferring the plague via their ships into the south of Europe,
whence it rapidly spread. The total number of deaths worldwide from
the pandemic is estimated at 75 million people, with an estimated 20
million deaths in Europe alone.
_ Dominican martyrs killed by
Mongols during the
of Poland in 1260.
* Western researcher
R. J. Rummel
R. J. Rummel estimated that 30 million people
were killed under the rule of the
Mongol Empire. This is a low-end
estimate, as some estimates go as high as 80 million, with 50 million
deaths being the middle ground. The population of China fell by half
in fifty years of
Mongol rule. Before the
Mongol invasion, the
territories of the Chinese dynasties reportedly had approximately 120
million inhabitants; after the conquest was completed in 1279, the
1300 census reported roughly 60 million people. While it is tempting
to attribute this major decline solely to
Mongol ferocity, scholars
today have mixed opinions regarding this subject. Scholars such as
Frederick W. Mote argue that the wide drop in numbers reflects an
administrative failure to record rather than a de facto_ decrease,
whilst others such as Timothy Brook argue that the
much of the south Chinese population, and very debatably of the Han
Chinese population, to an invisible status through cancellation of the
right to passports and denial of the right to direct land ownership.
This meant that the Chinese had to depend on and be cared for chiefly
Mongols and Tartars, which also involved recruitment into the
Mongol army. Other historians such as William McNeill and David Morgan
argue that the Bubonic Plague was the main factor behind the
demographic decline during this period.
* David Nicole states in _The
Mongol Warlords_, "terror and mass
extermination of anyone opposing them was a well tested Mongol
tactic." About half of the Russian population may have died during
the invasion. However,
Colin McEvedy (_Atlas of World Population
History, 1978_) estimates the population of Russia-in-Europe dropped
from 7.5 million prior to the invasion to 7 million afterwards.
Historians estimate that up to half of Hungary's two million
population at that time were victims of the
Mongol invasion .
Historian Andrea Peto says that Rogerius , an eyewitness, said "the
Mongols killed everybody regardless of gender or age" and that "the
Mongols especially 'found pleasure' in humiliating women."
_ The first
Babur and his heir
* One of the more successful tactics employed by the
Mongols was to
wipe out urban populations that refused to surrender. In the Mongol
invasion of Rus\' , almost all major cities were destroyed. If they
chose to submit, the people were generally spared, though this was not
guaranteed. For example, the city of Hamadan in modern-day Iran was
destroyed and every man, woman, and child executed by
Subadai, after surrendering to him but failing to have enough
provisions for his
Mongol scouting force. Several days after the
initial razing of the city, Subadai sent a force back to the burning
ruins and the site of the massacre to kill any inhabitants of the city
who had been away at the time of the initial slaughter and had
returned in the meantime. Mongolian armies made use of local peoples
and their soldiers, often incorporating them into their armies.
Prisoners of war sometimes were given the choice between death and
becoming part of the
Mongol army to aid in future conquests. In
addition to intimidation tactics, the rapid expansion of the empire
was facilitated by military hardiness (especially during bitterly cold
winters), military skill, meritocracy, and discipline.
Kalmyk migration from Russia to China in 1770–1771
Crimean Khanate and other descendants, such as the Mughal
royal family of South Asia, are also descended from Genghis Khan:
Babur 's mother was a descendant — whereas his father was directly
Timur (Tamerlane). The word "Mughol"_ is a Persian word
Kalmyks were the last
Mongol nomads to penetrate European
territory, having migrated to Europe from
Central Asia at the turn of
the 17th century. In the winter of 1770–1771, approximately 200,000
Kalmyks began the journey from their pastures on the left bank of the
Volga River to
Dzungaria , through the territories of their Kazakh and
Kyrgyz enemies. After several months of travel, only one-third of the
original group reached
Dzungaria in northwest China.
* Some Turko-
Mongol Khanates lasted into recent centuries: The
Crimean Khanate lasted until 1783; the
Khanate of Bukhara until 1785;
Kazakh Khanate until 1847; the
Khanate of Kokand until 1876; and
Khanate of Khiva survived under a Russian protectorate until 1917.
* Destruction under the
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