Week 6: China Under Mongol Rule

Lecture 1: “Storm from the East”

I. Rise of the Mongols

  1. The settings—Mongolian steppe . . . 12th-century subsistence crisis
  2. Chinggis (Genghis) (c.1162–1227)—”Great Khan” (1206) . . . militarization

II. The Mongol Empire

  1. Ögödei (r. 1227–1241)
  2. Batu (r. 1224–1255)—Khanate of the Golden Horde (southern Russia)
  3. Hülegü (r. 1256–1265)—Il-Khan Empire of Iran
  4. Jagadai (r. 1227–1242)—Khanate of Central Asia

III. Khubilai Khan (reign 1260–1294)

  1. Rise to power
  2. Khubilai’s court
  3. Yuan administration


Lecture 2: Yuan Society (1271–1368)

I. “A Horse and Groom in the Wind” (1280s)

  1. Zhao Mengfu (1254–1322)—”Eight Talents of Wuxing ” . . . Hanlin Academy

II. Chinese Society during the Yuan Period

  1. Economy—trade . . . agriculture . . . Grand Canal
  2. Social conditions—Mongols . . . Semu (“Color-Eyed”) . . . Han . . . Southerners . . . occupational groups . . . civil service examinations (1315)
  3. Community of learning

III. Impacts of Mongol Rule

  1. Foreign contacts
  2. Reaffirmation of the cultural tradition



  1. What is the moral of the play?
  2. Whom was the play written or performed for?
  3. What could the play tell us about Yuan society?


External links to Maps:

Southern Song

Physical Map

Map of Modern China: Physical Geography

Source: National Museum of Chinese History, ed., A Journey into China's Antiquity, vol. 1 (Beijing: Morning Glory Publishers, 1997), pp. 8–9.


Physical Map by Satellite

Map of Modern China: Physical Geography

Administrative Map

Map of Modern China: Administrative Divisions

Source: SACU




Images-Bamboo Images-Entertainment


  • Cahill, James F. Hills Beyond a River: Chinese Painting of the Yuan Dynasty, 1279–1368. New York: Weatherhill, 1976.
  • Chan, Hok-lam, and Wm. Theodore de Bary, eds. Yuan Thought: Chinese Thought and Religion under the Mongols. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.
  • Franke, Herbert, and Denis Twitchett, eds. The Cambridge History of China. Vol. 6: Alien Regimes and Border States. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996?
  • Langlois, John D., Jr., ed. China under Mongol Rule. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981.
  • Rossabi, Morris. Khubilai Khan: His Life and Times. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1988



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