Directions: Underline at least 7 facts about Ghengis Khan and the Mongols

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Post Classical China Global 9

Directions: Underline at least 7 facts about Ghengis Khan and the Mongols

Year by year, he gradually defeated everyone who was more powerful than he was, until he had conquered every tribe on the Mongolian steppe. At the age of fifty, when most of the great conquerors had already put their fighting days behind them, Genghis Khan’s Spirit Banner beckoned him out of his remote homeland to confront the armies of the civilized people who had harassed and enslaved the nomadic tribes for centuries. In the remaining years of his life, he followed that Sprit Banner to repeated victory across the Gobi desert and the Yellow River into the kingdoms of China, through the central Asian lands of the Turks and Persians, and across the mountains of Afghanistan to the Indus River.

In conquest after conquest, the Mongol army transformed warfare into an intercontinental affair fought on multiple fronts stretching across thousands of miles. Genghis Khan’s innovative fighting techniques made the knights of Europe obsolete, replacing them with disciplined cavalry moving in coordinated units. Rather than relying on defensive fortifications, he made brilliant use of speed and surprise on the battlefield, as well as perfecting siege warfare to such a degree that he ended the era of the walled city. Genghis Khan taught his people not only to fight across incredible distances but to sustain their campaign over years, decades and eventually, more than three generations of constant fighting.

In twenty five years, the Mongol army subjugated more lands and people than the Romans had conquered in four hundred years. Genghis Khan, together with his grandsons, conquered the most densely population of the 13th century. Whether measured by the total number of people defeated, the sum of the countries annexed, or by the total area occupied, Genghis Khan conquered more than twice as much as any other man in history. The hooves of Mongol warriors’ horses splashed in the waters of every river and lake from the Pacific Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. At its zenith, the empire covered between 11 and 12 million contiguous square miles, an area about the size of the African continent and considerably larger than North America, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America and the islands of the Caribbean combined. It stretched from the snowy tundra of Siberia to the hot plains of India, from the rice paddies of Vietnam to the wheat fields of Hungary and from Korea to the Balkans. The majority of the people today live in countries that were conquered by the Mongols, on the modern map; Genghis Khan’s conquests include 30 countries with well over 3 billion people. The most astonishing aspect of this achievement is that the entire Mongol tribe under him numbered around a million, smaller that the workforce of some modern corporations. From this million, he recruited his army, which comprised no more than one hundred thousand warriors.

In American terms, the accomplishments of Genghis Khan might he understood if the United States, instead of being created by a group of educated merchants or wealthy planters, had been founded by one of its illiterate slaves, who, by sheer force of personality, charisma, and determination liberated American from foreign rule, united its people, created an alphabet, wrote the constitution, established universal freedom of religion, invented a new system of warfare, marched an army from Canada to Brazil, and opened roads of commerce in a free-trade zone that stretched across continents. On every level and from any perspective, the scale and scope of Genghis Khan’s accomplishments challenge the limits of imagination.

Genghis Khan left his empire with such a firm foundation that it continued to growing for another 150 years. Then, in the centuries that followed its collapse, his descendants continued to rule a variety of smaller empires and large countries, from Russia, Turkey, and India and China. They held an eclectic assortment of titles, including khan, emperor, sultan and king. As the Mughals, some of them reigned in India until 1857.


Weatherford, J. McIver. "Introduction: The Missing Conqueror." Introduction. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. New York: Three Rivers, 2004. Xvii-ix. Print.

Who were the Mongols?

  • The Mongols were among the numerous ____________________________________________________________

  • The Mongols lived in the harsh climate of the __________________, an area with little rain & extreme temperatures

  • Steppes=______________________________________________________

  • Mongol life centered on herding animals, especially _________________

  • Mongols lived as nomadic clans, constantly searching for better pasture lands

  • As a result of their lifestyle, the Mongols were tough warriors who occasionally _____________________________________________

Genghis Khan

  • From 1200 to 1206, a clan leader named _________________________________

  • Genghis Khan built a powerful Mongol army & began a 21-year conquest of Eurasia

  • Under Genghis & later khans, the Mongols conquered

    • Central __________

    • The Islamic ____________

    • _____________________

    • _____________________

    • _____________________

How did the Mongols create this massive empire?

  • Mongol soldiers were excellent _________________;Used the horse saddle to shoot arrows while riding

  • Genghis was a brilliant military organizer &_________, but his greatest tactic was __________________

    • If an enemy refused to surrender, Genghis would order the death of the entire population

    • As the Mongol reputation spread, many towns surrendered to Genghis without a fight.

The Impact of the Mongol Empire

  • The Mongols were merciless in battle, but ___________ as rulers

  • Mongol Khans (rulers) often adopted parts of the culture of the people they conquered

    • In the West, Mongols converted to Islam

    • In the East, Mongols embraced Chinese culture

  • Mongol Khans brought __________________________ to Eurasia

  • The era from the mid-1200s to the mid-1300s is called the __________________ (“Mongol Peace”)

    • Chinese technologies like gunpowder & the magnetic compass reached Europe

    • But diseases like the plague (Black Death) reached Europe too.

Death of Genghis KhanDivision into Khanates

  • After the death of Genghis Khan, the Mongol Empire was divided into 4 major ____________ each ruled by a son or grandson of Genghis

    • The khanate in Persia helped control the Silk Road

    • The Mongol destruction of Kiev increased the importance of Moscow in Russia

    • The Mongols were the first non-Muslims to rule over the Islamic Empire

    • But the most significant khanate was the Mongol rule over China

  • In 1279, Genghis’ grandson _________________ became the first foreign leader to rule China

Kublai Khan Starts the Yuan Dynasty

  • Kublai Khan united China and began a new era in China called the __________________

  • Kublai enjoyed Chinese culture so much that he moved the Mongolian capital to __________________________________________

  • But, he ___________________ the Chinese from serving in high gov’t offices & relied on foreigners to serve in his government

  • Mongols had little in common with the Chinese and tended to live separate lives and obeyed different laws.

  • Under Kublai, __________________________________ due to the Pax Mongolica

    • He built roads & extended the Grand Canal to help improve transportation in China

Marco Polo Visits Kublai Khan’s Court

  • In 1275, a _______________________ named ____________________ visited Kublai Khan’s court.

  • Kublai was so impressed with Marco Polo that he employed him in the Yuan gov’t for 17 years

  • When Marco Polo returned to Italy in 1292, his stories of China _____________________________________________________________

  • He wrote down his travels in a book called. “______________________________”

Decline of the Yuan Dynasty

  • By the time of Kublai’s death in 1294, the entire Mongol Empire was growing weak

  • In 1330, the Mongols lost control of Persia

  • In 1368, Chinese rebels overthrew the Mongols & started the __________________________

  • In 1370, the Mongols lost control of Central Asia

  • In 1480, under Ivan III, Russia gained independence from Mongol rule & started the ____________

Marco Polo and His Travels

Marco Polo (1254-1324), is probably the most famous Westerner traveled on the Silk Road. He excelled all the other travelers in his determination, his writing, and his influence. His journey through Asia lasted 24 years. He reached further than any of his predecessors, beyond Mongolia to China. He became a confidant of Kublai Khan (1214-1294). He traveled the whole of China and returned to tell the tale, which became the greatest travelogue.

Years Serviced in Khan's Court
Marco, a gifted linguist and master of four languages, became a favorite with the khan and was appointed to high posts in his administration. He served at the Khan's court and was sent on a number of special missions in China, Burma and India. Many places which Marco saw were not seen again by Europeans until last century. Marco went on great length to describe Kublia's capital, ceremonies, hunting and public assistance, and they were all to be found on a much smaller scale in Europe. Marco Polo fell in love with the capital, which later became part of Beijing. This new city, built because astrologers predicted rebellion in the old one, was described as the most magnificent city in the world. He marveled the summer palace in particular. He described "the greatest palace that ever was". The walls were covered with gold and silver and the Hall was so large that it could easily dine 6,000 people. The palace was made of cane supported by 200 silk cords, which could be taken to pieces and transported easily when the Emperor moved. There too, the Khan kept a stud of 10,000 speckless white horses, whose milk was reserved for his family and for a tribe which had won a victory for Genghis Khan." fine marble Palace, the rooms of which are all gilt and painted with figures of men and beasts....all executed with such exquisite art that you regard them with delight and astonishment."

Marco was equally impressed with the efficient communication system in the Mongol world. There were three main grades of dispatch, which may be rendered in modern terms as 'second class', 'first class', and 'On His Imperial Majesty's Service: Top Priority'. 'Second class' messages were carried by foot-runners, who had relay-stations three miles apart. Each messenger wore a special belt hung with small bells to announce his approach and ensure that his relief was out on the road and ready for a smooth takeover. This system enabled a message to cover the distance of a normal ten-day journey in 24 hours. At each three miles station a log was kept on the flow of messages and all the routes were patrolled by inspectors. 'First class' business was conveyed on horseback, with relay-stages of 25 miles. But the really important business of Kublai empire was carried by non-stop dispatch-riders carrying the special tablet with the sign of the gerfalcon. At the approach to each post-house the messenger would sound his horn; the ostlers would bring out a ready-saddled fresh horse, the messenger would transfer to it and gallop straight off. Marco affirmed that those courier horsemen could travel 250 or 300 miles in a day.

Marco Polo traveled in great deal in China. He was amazed with China's enormous power, great wealth, and complex social structure. China under the Yuan (The Mongol Empire) dynasty was a huge empire whose internal economy dwarfed that of Europe. He reported that Iron manufacture was around 125,000 tons a year (a level not reached in Europe before the 18th century) and salt production was on a prodigious scale: 30,000 tons a year in one province alone. A canal-based transportation system linked China's huge cities and markets in a vast internal communication network in which paper money and credit facilities were highly developed. The citizens could purchase paperback books with paper money, eat rice from fine porcelain bowls and wear silk garments, lived in prosperous city that no European town could match.

Kublai Khan appointed Marco Polo as an official of the Privy Council in 1277 and for 3 years he was a tax inspector in Yanzhou, a city on the Grand Canal, northeast of Nanking. He also visited Karakorum and part of Siberia. He frequently visited Hangzhou, another city very near Yangzhou. At one time Hangzhou was the capital of the Song dynasty and had a beautiful lakes and many canals, like Marco's hometown, Venice. Marco fell in love with it.

The Book, Life in Venice and Controversies 
Three years after Marco returned to Venice, he commanded a galley in a war against the rival city of Genoa. He was captured during the flighting and spent a year in a Genoese prison - where one of his fellow-prisoners was a writer of romances named Rustichello of Pisa. It was only when prompted by Rustichello that Marco Polo dictated the story of his travels, known in his time as The Description of the World or The Travels of Marco Polo. His account of the wealth of Cathay (China), the might of the Mongol empire, and the exotic customs of India and Africa made his book the bestseller soon after. The book became one of the most popular books in medieval Europe and the impact of his book on the contemporary Europe was tremendous. It was known as Il Milione, The Million Lies and Marco earned the nickname of Marco Milione because few believed that his stories were true and most Europeans dismissed the book as mere fable.

In the summer of 1299 a peace was concluded between Venice and Genoa, and after a year of captivity, Marco Polo was released from the prison and returned to Venice. He was married to Donata Badoer and had three daughters. He remained in Venice until his death in 1324, aged 70. At his deathbed, he left the famous epitaph for the world: "I have only told the half of what I saw!" On Marco's will, he left his wife and three daughters substantial amount of money, though not an enormous fortune as Marco boasted. He also mentioned his servant, Peter, who came from the Mongols, was to set free. We also learned that 30 years after his return home, Marco still owned a quantity of cloths, valuable pieces, coverings, brocades of silk and gold, exactly like those mentioned several times in his book, together with other precious objects. Among them there was "golden tablet of command" that had been given him by the Great Khan on his departure from the Mongol capital.

Many people took his accounts with a grain of salt and some skeptics question the authenticity of his account. Many of his stories have been considered as fairytales: the strange oil in Baku and the monstrous birds which dropped elephants from a height and devoured their broken carcasses. His Travels made no mention about the Great Wall. While traveled extensively in China, Marco Polo never learned the Chinese language nor mentioned a number of articles which are part of everyday life, such as women's foot-binding, calligraphy, or tea. In additional, Marco Polo's name was never occurred in the Annals of the Empire (Yuan Shih), which recorded the names of foreign visitors far less important and illustrious than the three Venetians. So did Marco Polo ever go to China?

Fiction or not, his Travels has captured readers through the centuries. Manuscript editions of his work ran into the hundreds within a century after his death. The book was recognized as the most important account of the world outside Europe that was available at the time. Today there are more than 80 manuscript copies in various versions and several languages around the world.

Traversing thousands of miles, on horseback mostly, through uncharted deserts, over steep mountain passes, exposed to extreme weathers, to wild animals and very uncivilized tribesmen, Marco's book has become the most influential travelogue on the Silk Road ever written in a European language, and it paved the way for the arrivals of thousands of Westerners in the centuries to come. Today there are a school of experts conducting research and authentication of Marco Polo and his Travels. Much of what he wrote, which regarded with suspicion at medieval time was, confirmed by travelers of the 18th and 19th centuries.

On a separate piece of paper, or by typing, answer the following questions.

  1. How was Marco Polo able to collect so much information on the Mongol Empire?

  2. Who did Marco Polo serve under and why?

  3. When did Marco Polo write his travelogue?

  4. Write down at least 10 new facts that you learned from this reading.

  5. Why is his travelogue considered “the most important account of the world outside of Europe”?

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