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1300 AD: The Age of the Mongols (Thomas Lessman--Source Website http://www.WorldHistoryMaps.info)

The Yuan Dynasty (1271 AD to 1368 AD) was the era during which the Mongols ruled China.  Although the dynasty lasted less than a hundred years, it was a time of substantial prosperity and innovation which witnessed the reunification of China (divided under the Song and then the Southern Song dynasties) and the movement of the capital to Dadu (now known as Beijing).  The largest city on earth during that time was Hangzhou, with a population between four hundred thousand and a million souls (it is not easy to figure out the population of ancient Chinese cities!)

Kublai Khan by Liu Kuan-Tao (Yuan Dynasty, ca. 1280 AD)

Unlike his predecessors who were primarily interested in tribute and plunder, the Mongol war chief Kublai Khan sought to govern his conquests through traditional institutions.  After defeating his brother in a civil war, Kublai Khan crushed the last great army of the Southern Song dynasty and assumed control of China.  Kublai Khan recognized that in order to rule China he needed to employ Han bureaucrats and adopt Chinese customs.  He adapted the style and manner of a Chinese emperor and initiated a dynasty during which the Mongol elites became progressively more sinicized.

A Mongol Mounted Archer as Painted by A Yuan Dynasty Artist

At least initially, the Yuan era saw a greater interconnectedness between China and the world beyond its borders.  Trade flourished across the silk routes of central Asia.  Military incursions and trade ties brought South East Asia closer to China. Chinese technologies spread out through the world (this is the era when gunpowder and the compass spread to Europe).

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