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Yuan Dynasty

Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368 AD), Great Yuan Empire was the first of two time periods where the entire area of China was ruled by minorities, in this case, the Mongols. It ended hundreds years of dispute in China after Tang Dynasty and reunified the country as a whole. It is considered both as a division and continuation of the Mongol Empire and as an imperial dynasty of China. Genghis Khan led the Mongols in their defeat over most of China. However, it was his grandson, Kublai Khan who became the emperor and founder of the Yuan dynasty. Genghis Khan was placed on the official record as the founder of the dynasty (Emperor Taizu). The Yuan Dynasty was famous for its incomparable military genius.

How did Yuan Dynasty rise?

From the beginning of his reign (1260), Kublai Khan had adopted many customs from earlier Chinese dynasties, such as era names and bureaucracy. After winning the war against Ariq Böke, Kublai Khan began his reign over his empire with greater aspirations and self-confidence.
In 1266 he ordered the construction of his new capital at the site that is now the modern city of Beijing. The city had been called Zhongdu (“Central Capital”) during the Jin Dynasty, and in 1272 it came to be known as Dadu (“Great Capital”).

map of Yuan Dynasty

In 1271 he established the Yuan Dynasty, which would proceed to be the first non-Han dynasty to rule all of China. Dadu officially became the capital of the Yuan Dynasty in 1272.
In the early 1270s, Kublai began his massive drive against the Southern Song. By 1273, Kublai had blockaded the Yangzi River with his navy and besieged Xiangyang, the last obstacle in his way to capture the rich Yangzi River basin. In 1275, a Song force of 130,000 troops under Chancellor Jia Sidao was defeated by the Yuan force. By 1276, most of the Southern Song territory had been captured by Yuan forces. In 1279, the Yuan army led by the general Zhang Hongfan had crushed the last Song resistance in Battle of Yamen, which marked the end of the Southern Song and the onset of all of China under the Yuan.

How did Yuan Dynasty collapse?
china in Yuan Dynasty

The dynasty was, significantly, one of the shortest-lived dynasties in the history of China, covering just a century. The last years of the Yuan Dynasty were marked by struggle, famine, and bitterness among the population. Kublai Khan's successors lost all influence on other Mongol lands across Asia. Gradually, they lost influence in China as well. The reigns of the later Yuan emperors were short and were marked by rivalries. Uninterested in administration, they were separated from both the army and the populace. China was torn by conflict and unrest. Outlaws ravaged the country without interference from the weakening Yuan armies.

From the late 1340s onwards, people in the countryside suffered from frequent natural disasters such as droughts, floods and the resulting famines. The government's lack of effective policy led to a loss of popular support. In 1351, the Red Turban Rebellion started and grew into a nationwide uprising. In 1354, when Toghtogha led a large army to crush the Red Turban rebels, Toghun Temür, Emperor of Shun suddenly dismissed him for fear of betrayal. This resulted in Toghun Temür's restoration of power on the one hand and a rapid weakening of the central government on the other. He had no choice but to rely on local warlords' military power, and gradually lost his interest in politics and ceased to intervene in political struggles. He fled north to Shangdu from Dadu (present-day Beijing) in 1368 after the approach of the forces of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), founded by Zhu Yuanzhang in the south. He had tried to regain Dadu, which eventually failed. He died in Yingchang (located in present-day Inner Mongolia) two years later (1370). Yingchang was seized by the Ming shortly after his death.
Basalawarmi established a separate pocket of resistance to the Ming in Yunnan and Guizhou, but his forces were defeated by the Ming in 1381.
The Yuan remnants retreated to Mongolia after the fall of Yingchang to the Ming in 1370. Under the name Northern Yuan the Mongols resisted the Ming. The Ming and the Northern Yuan denied each other's legitimacy as emperors of China. The Ming army pursued the Northern Yuan forces into Mongolia in 1372, but was defeated by the latter under Ayushridar and Köke Temür. They tried again in 1380, ultimately winning a decisive victory over Northern Yuan in 1388. Many Mongols were taken prisoner, and Karakorum (the Northern Yuan capital) was sacked in 1380.

What did the Yuan Dynasty achieve?


The major cultural achievements were the development of drama and novels and the increased use of the written dialect. Enjoying the same fame with Tang poetry and Song Ci, Yuan Qu (Yuan Drama) represented the high peak of Yuan literature.Yuan Qu refers to two different types of writing: San Qu and Za Ju. The former, like Ci, is a form of poetry. There are fixed tunes, and poets compose words for them.

Chinese traditional painting

The style is more direct, more passionate and more forceful. San Qu came from the ordinary people. The rise of San Qu was connected with the new political and social conditions in North China. Border tribes including the Khitan, the Nfizhen and the Mongols moved into North China, bringing with them their music played on horseback. San Qu was born when this music was merged with the passionate songs of Hebei and Liaodong.

Cultural exchange was also very frequent. A rich cultural diversity developed during the Yuan Dynasty. The Mongols' extensive West Asian and European contacts produced a fair amount of cultural exchange. The other cultures and people in the Mongol World Empire greatly influenced China. Tibetan-rite Tantric Buddhism also took permanent root in Chinese Buddhism. The Muslims of the Yuan Dynasty introduced Middle Eastern cartography, astronomy, medicine, clothing, and diet in East Asia. Middle Eastern crops such as carrots, turnips, new varieties of lemons, eggplants, and melons, high-quality granulated sugar, and cotton were all introduced and became popular by the Yuan Mongols.


Due to the reunion of the country, road and water communications were reorganized and improved. To protect them against possible famines, granaries were ordered to be built throughout the empire.
The city of Beijing was rebuilt with new palace grounds that included artificial lakes, hills and mountains, and parks. During the Yuan period, Beijing became the end of the Grand Canal of China, which was completely renovated.

Wall Paiting

The political unity of China and much of central Asia improved trade between East and West. These commercially oriented improvements encouraged overland and maritime commerce throughout Asia and facilitated direct Chinese contacts with Europe. Chinese travelers to the West were able to provide assistance in areas such as hydraulic engineering. Contacts with the West also introduced the major food crop, sorghum to China as well as many other foreign food products and methods of preparation.

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