Although the Mongol leader Genghis Khan was unable to conquer all of China, his grandson Kublai Khan was successful. As first emperor of the Yuan, or Mongol, dynasty, Kublai Khan created a prosperous and unified empire, in which Mongols enjoyed certain privileges. However, to help him rule his great empire, he adopted some Chinese methods of government and encouraged Chinese traditions. * Asyou read, think about how Kublai Khan's policies may have been viewed by the Chinese. Then, on a separate sheet of paper, answer the questions that follow.
Kublai Khan (1215-1294)
Before he became emperor, Kublai Khan aided his brother, Mongol emperor Mongke, in the conquest of southern China. Kublai Khan was given full military and civil responsibility for the affairs of the region. He actively sought the opinions and advice of the Chinese. Learned advisers taught Kublai Khan Confucian principles of government and methods for administrative and economic reform.
After Mongke's death in 1259, Kublai Khan succeeded him as emperor. In 1279, he completed the Mongol conquest of Song China. All of China fell under his rule.
Unifying China was his greatest achievement. Kublai Khan embraced Chinese culture, traditions, and politics and chose a Chinese name—Yuan—for his dynasty. He reorganized the government to gain greater political control and restored traditional Chinese features of government, such as Confucian rites and the calendar. Kublai Khan also encouraged the advancement of literature and the arts.
A Buddhist, Kublai Khan supported religious tolerance in China. Under his rule, cler-
ics and their communities were exempt from taxation. Buddhist temples were given donations of land and peasants to work the land. Under Kublai Khan, the people were
divided into four social classes. At the top were the Mongols, who were exempt from taxation and were served by Chinese peasants. Next were the central Asians, who also held a privileged status and paid no taxes. The third and fourth classes were the largest groups. They were made up of the northern Chinese and southern Chinese who had been part of the Song dynasty. These two lower classes paid taxes and served the privileged, upper classes.
During his reign, Kublai Khan's economic policies and trade expansion helped mainly the privileged classes. The lower classes became progressively poorer. His adoption of some of China's political traditions drove some Mongols away from leadership positions. Years after Kublai Khan's death, the Yuan dynasty fell in 1368. Mongols never again played a significant role in China.