Monday, January 14, 2008

Yuan Dynasty

Yuan Dynasty, the Chinese under the Mongols

Map of the Yuan Dynasty

Reasons for take-over

Yuan Dynasty was the only time that China was completely ruled by the foriengners, the Mongols. Ghengis Khan led the Mongols in their defeat of China. The Mongols succeeded in controling China due to their superior militaly capabilities. However, the Chinese army had been fighting the Mongols for 40 years until their defeat. Kublai Khan began to defeat the Southern Song in 1271, but his success was 8 years later when Guangzhao was conqured by the Yuan. The invasion of the Mongols was the main reason. The Song didn't have enough military force to defend themselves. The Song grew too wealthy and lazy so they were ready to collapse like the previous dynasty.

Leader of Civilization

Portrait of Kublai Khan, the first Yuan Emperor

The actual founder of the Yuan Dynasty was Ghengis Khan. However, the Yuan was ruled by Kublai Khan, his grandson. Ariqe Boke, his brother was attempting to be the Khan, but after Kublai heard this, he went to China before he was supposed to and was elected as the Khan. Boke kept on fighting and was captured in 1264 where he died two years later. During Kublai Khan ruling of the Yuan, he was pressured by his advisors because he wanted to expand the territory further. Kublai Khan died in 1294 and Chengzhong(1294-1307), Zhenjin’s son (brother of Kublai), became the emperor. The corruption began during his reign. Wuzong (1307-1311) became the emperor after the death of Chengzhong. He rejected Kublai Khan’s work and China ran into financial problems which was partly due to his decisions. China was in debt when he died and was replaced by Renzong(1311-1320), the fourth emperor of the Yuan dynasty. He made many reforms which led to the execution of 5 hihgest ranking officials. After him, Yingzong(1321-1323) became the emperor followed by Jinzong(1323-1328), Wenzong(1329-1331), Mingzong (1329-1331),Ningzong(1332) and Huizong (1333-1368)respectively.

A Leader from another civilization

Portrait of Marco Polo, an Italian traveler

Marco Polo was the son of an Italian merchant who lived during 1254-1324. He was a trader and an explorer. He was the most famous Westerner and the first to travel on the Silk Road to China. Polo visited Kublai Khan and spent 17 years in China acquiring wealth in gold and jewels. He entertained the Khan with the story of his exploration and the land he had traveled. As Marco Polo mastered four languages, Kublai Khan made him a governor of the city of Yangzhou as well as serving in Khan’s court. He became famous for the book of his journey on the Silk Road. Finally, he took a ride to Persia and go back home. He returned with varieties of inventions from China such as astrolabes, mechanical clocks, telescopes, paper, and muskets. His journey took him 24 years altogether. His book,II Milione, influenced the Europeans to start trading with China and Far East.



Hand cannon from the Yuan dynasty

The Yuan was known for their war technology. The hand cannons were built during the Yuan dynasty. It was a simple weapon that is effective for surrounding the enemy and secretly attacking them. However, it could kill people only in a short range (maximum of 300m).

The earliest known bronze gun, 1332

The first Bronze hand-held was recored first during the Yuan Dynasty even though the Tang dynasty had used metal barrels earlier. The earliest evacuated gun was from the Yuan dynasty as well. The gun was placed on the wooden housing.


Canal built by peasants during the Yuan Dynasty

The restriction in trade and the excessive spending drained the economy during the Yuan dynasty. During that time, more canals and palaces were built which required the peasants to pay higher taxes and leave their home to work on the construction. The fighting against the Japanese was going on where the Chinese were not successful which destroyed many of their ships. External trade was made difficult because the Chinese were not allowed to learn other languages so traveling outside for commercial reason was almost impossible. However, foreign merchants were able to trade within China and were given the privileges by the Mongols. There were no taxes and they were allowed to travel through China without limitation. It was this time that Marco Polo came to China and explored the land. The Mongols took over China when it was wealthy and left a hundred year later when the country was under privileges.

Social changes

The Yuan was the period of cultural changes between China and Europe which were marked by the visit of Marco Polo. However, the interaction was not a cultural exchange. Since the Chinese were not allowed to occupy a government position, they were viewed as second class. The priority in trade were given to the Mongols and foreigners. However, the punishment for crimes and other illegal things were less severe during the Yuan dynasty due to the large gap in the cultural differences. If the Mongols punished the Chinese too harshly, there might be a dreadful consequences followed by.

Government changes

The Mongols spoke difference language from the Chinese. These made ruling difficult and it was almost impossible to overcome. The Mongols and other foreigners were given positions in the government, but there were no Chinese in the government officials. The Mongol realized that if they wanted to be successful in ruling China, they had to think and do things from the Chinese perspectives. However, Kublai Khan made several transition for government. Han Chinese was not allowed in any of the government positions. The Chinese Emperor used to rule by example, but Kublai Khan ruled by decree. He also created a new ministry which was used to rule the empire and advised him.

Current religion or philosophy

Stupa, Buddhist symbol

The Yuan has religious freedom. The Mongols, who ruled them, favored Daoism and Buddhism. However, Confucianism continued and Taoism remained important in the Empire. To play safe in ruling China, the Mongols had agreed to use the Chinese ways of thinking. Many Mongols, including Kublai Khan had adopted Chinese names. This indicated the Chinese influences on the Mongols' rules. The Mongols decided not to force the Chinese to use their lifestyle, social structure, or religion because it would cause more trouble for them. Later on, the Mongols saw that too many Buddhist were escaping military services, so they established a literacy test on Buddhist principles. This put pressure against the Buddhist and the Mongols.


The Orphans of Chaos, an opera written during the Yuan dynasty

As the Chinese nobility were not allow to be participated in the government, they had time to concentrate on art and literature. The forms of literature that were most dramatically improved during this period were novel, opera and theater (drama). Theater was a favorite place of entertainment for the wealthy people. Many wealthy people began to write the lines for the opera. They wrote them under the pen name because scholar didn’t accept playwright back then. Several famous operas that exist today are The Story of the Orphan of Chao, The Romance, The Western Chamber and The Story of Lute.

Reasons for fall

Portrait of Huizong, the Last Emperor of the Yuan dynasty

There were many reasons for the fall of the Yuan dynasty. They were on the downfall sides which were marked by the struggle and famine. The difference between the rich and the poor became larger during the Mongol rule so the economic situations got worsen during the beginning of the 14th century. The overtaxing in the area that experienced crops failure, infiltration, and the flooding along the Yellow river were some of the reasons to the downfall. Then, the rebellion broke out by the peasants who were repairing the barrier along the Yellow river. Zhu Yuanzhang joined the revolt with the Red Turbans and the Han Chinese group. Later, Zhu was able to capture the city of Nanjing. The dynastic head of the Red Turbans suspiciously died so Zhu sent the army toward the Yuan capital. The last Yuan emperor fled to Mongolia which also marked the end of the Yuan dynasty in 1368. However, the fall of the Yuan dynasty was mainly due to its once most powerful military who were lack of financial support to maintain housing, farming, and many slaves either died or fled. The uprising broke up with Zhu as a leader along with groups of united nobility and they overthrew the Yuan. The fact that the Chinese government officials contain no Chinese was the main problems. They treated the foreigners better than the Chinese.

Websites for information