The Mongol era in China is remembered chiefly for the rule of Khubilai Khan, grandson of Chinggis Khan. Khubilai patronized painting and the theater, which experienced a golden age during the Yuan dynasty, over which the Mongols ruled [also see The Mongols in China: Cultural Life under Mongol Rule]. Khubilai and his successors also recruited and employed Confucian scholars and Tibetan Buddhist monks as advisers, a policy that led to many innovative ideas and the construction of new temples and monasteries.

The Mongol Khans also funded advances in medicine and astronomy throughout their domains. And their construction projects — extension of the Grand Canal in the direction of Beijing, the building of a capital city in Daidu (present-day Beijing) and of summer palaces in Shangdu ("Xanadu") and Takht-i-Sulaiman, and the construction of a sizable network of roads and postal stations throughout their lands — promoted developments in science and engineering [also see The Mongols in China: Civilian Life under Mongol Rule].

Perhaps most importantly, the Mongol empire inextricably linked Europe and Asia and ushered in an era of frequent and extended contacts between East and West. And once the Mongols had achieved relative stability and order in their newly acquired domains, they neither discouraged nor impeded relations with foreigners. Though they never abandoned their claims of universal rule, they were hospitable to foreign travelers, even those whose monarchs had not submitted to them.

The Mongols also expedited and encouraged travel in the sizable section of Asia that was under their rule, permitting European merchants, craftsmen, and envoys to journey as far as China for the first time. Asian goods reached Europe along the caravan trails (earlier known as the "Silk Roads"), and the ensuing European demand for these products eventually inspired the search for a sea route to Asia. Thus, it could be said that the Mongol invasions indirectly led to Europe's "Age of Exploration" in the 15th century.

 


 
 
© 2004 Asia for Educators, Columbia University
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