The Mongols were a part of the nomadic tribal groups that existed in Central Asia starting in 700 B.C. They were originally known as the Donghu or Eastern Barbarians, and this particular tribal group had slowly moved across Asia, Russia and into Eastern Europe for over a thousand years. The Mongols were not a significant people until about the 13th century A.D.
A Mongol warrior by the name of Genghis Khan had managed to bring the various nomadic tribes into one unified group. The tribes were given the choice to join peacefully with the Mongols otherwise they would be forced into compliance. Once the tribes were unified Genghis Khan had amassed enough power, the Mongols began to challenge kingdoms and empires that were situated in Russia, the Middle East, Euro-Asia and China.
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Kublai Khan and the Yuan Dynasty
Genghis didn’t conquer all of China during his lifetime, but his efforts allowed a future Khan, named Kublai, to complete the task. Kublai Khan was an effective military commander like his grandfather Genghis and in 1279 A.D. he managed to gain control all of China. Once in power the Mongols established the Yuan Dynasty, and they started to rule over the people. They changed some parts of Chinese society such as the government, military, taxation and local administration, but they allowed other parts of China’s culture to remain intact. The Mongols were fond of China’s culture, and many of them had adopted the Chinese ways during their reign. The Mongols dominated China for almost a century and by 1368 A.D. they were driven out of China’s territory.
Decline of the Yuan Dynasty
After the death of Kublai Khan in 1294 A.D., the empire had grown weaker. The Khan rulers after Kublai couldn’t effectively keep control of China’s population. Various Mongolian empires no longer considered the Chinese Khans as true members of the Mongolian tribes. They believed that the Yuan rulers had adopted Chinese culture as their own. Another problem that faced the Yuan was a major epidemic that spread across the land killing millions of people and a famine which eliminated millions more. Social disorder had increased, and the Mongol rulers were passing laws that forbid the use of weapons by local Chinese citizens. People were dying, fortunes were being lost, and the peasants were fed up with Mongol rule. The Yuan leaders were also fighting among themselves, and they were afraid of outsiders as well as people within their borders. These events took place between 1300 and 1340 A.D.
Mongols Expelled from China
A farmer named Zhu Yuan Zhang had lost everything that he owned during this turbulent period. By the time, he was 17 years old he had no choice but to live in a Buddhist monastery because he didn’t have a home. After residing in this monastery for two years, he started a revolt against the Mongols, which lasted for 13 years. He led a group of peasants known as the Red Turbans and many disillusioned and disfranchised commoners had joined the ranks of this group. The Mongol rulers found out about the Red Turbans and ruthlessly tried to stomp them out, but it didn’t work. The Red Turbans took their rebellion underground, and when the time was right, they attacked the Mongols by surprise and massacred their leaders in 1368 AD. Once this took place, the last Mongol Emperor named Toghon Temur Khan fled China after the Red Turbans surrounded the capital of Beijing. Zhu Yuan Zhang ultimately ended up slaying the Toghon Temur Khan and ended the Dynasty of Yuan. The Mongols never again regained control of China.
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