The Mongol and Ming Empires

Mongol Armies Build an Empire

Mongols Invade China
The steppes, or unforested grasslands, of Central Asia were where the Mongols, a group of nomads, fed their livestock. Most of the nomads’ time was exhausted by battles with rival clans, but this changed in the beginning of the 13th Century when a Mongol leader (who took the moniker of Genghis Khan, or “Universal Ruler”) brought them together. This regime led the conquest of an expansive empire, which his heirs continued to add to after his death. The majority of Asia was ruled by the Mongols, whose norm was peace and order within domains, for the next 150 years. This included their safeguarding of t
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Marco Polo
he Silk Road, which resulted in an increase in commerce.

China Under Mongol Rule

An All-Mongol Government

In 1279, the last Song emperor in China was overthrown by Genghis Khan’s grandson, Kublai Khan, who dubbed his empire the Yuan. He only accepted Mongols into his army and into prestigious government positions, but Chinese officials were permitted to rule in the cantons. Into his court, welcome many foreigners, such as Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta. Polo’s writings on the wealth and splendor he experienced caused Europe to take an interest in Asia, which led the pope to send missionaries, and Muslims to settle there. Back to Europe came Chinese goods, such as porcelain and gunpowder.

The Ming Restore Chinese Rule
The Yuan’s power started decreasing in 1294 when Kublai Khan’s death. Eventually, the Mongols were defeated by Zhu Yuanzhang’s contumacious army. He founded the Ming (“brilliant”) regime, an extremely prolific dynasty, in 1368.

The Economy Grows
The Ming improved agriculture by thinking up superior fertilization techniques and increased commerce and population growth by fixing the canal system.

Culture Flourishes
Their artists had an original flair for painting and produced elegant blue-and-white porcelain. Many novels -- the world’s first detective stories among them -- were authored by the Ming.

Chinese Fleets Sail the Seas

Zheng He and His Fleets
In a show of glory, early Ming rulers sent explorers out, the most famed of which was Zheng He, to visit distant lands. He led seven voyages between 1405 and 1433, traveling to places such as Southeast Asia, the Persian Gulf, India, and East Africa.

Exploration Ends
Following He’s death in 1435, the construction of seafaring ships was banned by the emperor, resulting in the conclusion of all overseas exploration. Historians have not come to a definitive explanation as to why.

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The Mongol Empire