Traditionally, merchants were accorded a relatively low social status in China. The Mongols, however, had a more favorable attitude toward merchants and commerce — their nomadic way of life, which is much reliant on trade with sedentary peoples, had caused them to recognize the importance of trade from the very earliest times. Thus, the Mongols worked to improve the social status of merchants and traders throughout their domains.

In particular, the Mongols initiated the Ortogh, or merchant associations, that helped merchants who were in the business of long-distance trade. They also increased the availability of paper money and reduced some of the tariffs imposed on merchants. The result was an extraordinary increase of trade across and throughout Eurasia. [Also see The Mongols' Mark on Global History: Merchant Associations]

Along with the merchants, physicians, scientists, and artisans traveled freely throughout the Mongol domains in Eurasia, and these interchanges of knowledge and culture became important not only for the rest of world, but for China as well. [Also see The Mongols' Mark on Global History: Relations with Islam]

For more on the Mongols' support of merchants throughout their empires, see:
The Mongols' Mark on Global History: Improved Status of Merchants


© 2004 Asia for Educators, Columbia University
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