To further support trade and commerce, the Mongols established
merchant associations, known as Ortogh, specifically
to promote caravan trade over long distances.
The Mongols recognized that the caravan trade across Eurasia
was extraordinarily expensive for any single merchant. Often
there would be as many as 70 to 100 men on each mission, and
all had to be fed and paid and provided with supplies (including
camels, horses, and so on) over a lengthy period of time.
Quite a number of the caravans simply did not make it, either
because of natural disasters of one sort or another or plundering
by bandit groups. Travelers, for example, mentioned coming
across numerous skeletons, animal and human, on these routes.
Because of the expense involved in such a disaster, just one
such failed caravan could devastate an individual merchant's
The Mongol solution to these concerns was the establishment
of Ortogh through which merchants could pool
their resources to support a single caravan. If a caravan
did not make it, no single merchant would be put out of business.
The losses would be shared, as would any risks, and of course,
profits when the caravans succeeded. The Mongols also provided
loans to merchants at relatively low rates of interest, as
long as they belonged to an Ortogh.