The Last Great Nomadic Challenges: From Chinggis Khan to Timur 

During the 13th century, the Mongols ended the great postclassical empires while extending the world network. It was Chinggis Khan and his successors who led the regime, bringing under their control regions such as Asia, China, Persia, Tibet, Iraq, Asia Minor, and southern Russia. The Mongols themselves were portrayed as barbarians and destructive conquerors, however, among their vast possessions, there were factors that support that of a good society, such as having peace, religious tolerance, and a unified law code. Furthermore, the Mongol territory was seen as a bridge that was between the great civilizations of the East, moving products and ideas among civilized and nomadic peoples.

Chinggis Khan

Grandson of Kabul Khan; also known as Temujin or Genghis Khan; born in 1170s into one of rivaling clans; father poisoned by rival group and became leader; rival tribe attack and he became prisoner; escaped, sought revenge to the tribe; joined camp of more powerful Mongol tribe, raid camp; because of this, reputation grew a warrior and military commander; had many allies and clan chiefs to aid him; at a kuriltai renamed Chinggis Khan and elect as khagan; brought organization, discipline, and unity of command; created messenger force (carry urgent messages between khagan and commanders); help conquer China and Khwarazm Empire; open to new ideas; fell ill while attacking Xi Xia and died 1227

"O people, know that you have committed great sins, and that the great ones among you have committed these sins. If you ask me what proof I have for these words, I say it is because I am the punishment of God. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you." Chinggis Khan when conquering Khwarezmid Empire 


Meeting of all Mongol chieftains at which the supreme ruler of all tribes was selected; example Chinggis Khan named Khagan in kuriltai


Title of Supreme ruler of the Mongol Tribes


Basic fighting units of Mongol forces; made up of 10,000 cavalrymen divided into smaller units; divided into unites of 1000, 100, and 10 warriors; commanders responsible for training, arming, and disciplining; divided into heavy cavalry and light cavalry 

 Muhammad Shah II

Turkic ruler of Muslim Kwarazm; by 1205 conquered Great Seljuk; declared himself shah; conquered land from Jazartes to Baghdad; provoked Chinggis Khan; led to Mongols attacking and his land was soon conquered in 1220


Capitol of Mongol Empire founded by Chinggis Khan; in Steppes of Mongolia; wealthy city, but only capitol for 13 years

Shamanistic religion

Animistic religion; usually in northern Asia; based on belief world is pervaded by good and evil spirits; Mongol beliefs focused on nature spirits


Mongols divide into Chinggis three sons and Batu ;Grandson of Chinggis Khan and ruler of the Golden Horde; led army, golden horde, to claim abundance of lands; invaded Russia in 1236; closer to prize, western Europe


Third son of Chinggis Khan; elected as grand khan; crafty diplomat and manipulator; conquered with campaigns; not best military leader; maintained stable empire; conquered Jurchen Jin Empire; re-established Silk Road

Golden Horde

One of four regional subdivisons of the Mongol Empire after the death of Chinggis Khan; mixture of Turks and Mongols; golden tent of early khans; conquered and ruled Russia during the 13th and 14th centuries; Russia forced to pay tribute to Golden Horde; power declined after Russia broke away

Ilkhan Khanate

One of the four regional subdivisions of the Mongol Empire after the death of Chinggis Khan; eventually included much of Abbasid Empire; example is Hulegu


A title given to rulers and officials; successors of Genghis Khan 

Battle of Kulikovo

Russian army victory over the forces of the Golden Horde; helped break Mongol hold over Russia; created Moscow to be central power of Russia; battle lasted two decades


Prester John

Legendary Christian priest and king lived in 1100s; supposedly had been cut off from Europe by the Muslim conquests; mysterious letter circulated about Mongols 


One of grandsons of Chinggis Khan; ruler of Ilkhan khanate; main attacks was capture of Baghdad inn 1258; murdered 800,000 from Abbasid caliph; ended dynasty of Islamic world; defeated Muslims by attacking from both sides of cities, broke bridges and trapped people until  they surrendered 


Muslim slave warrior who served Muslim caliphs; had own caste system; many on horseback with short bows; advance in Asia Minor halted in 1260 when Mamluks of Egypt; led by Baibars; defeated Mongols at Ain Jalut in 1260


(1223 – 1277) a commander of Mamluk (Egyptian) forces at Ain Jalut, was enslaved by Mongols and sold to Egyptians a few years prior to battle and rose to power; Muslims won with Christian help, they feared the Mongols


(1257-1266) A ruler of the Golden Horde who converted to Islam; his threat to Hulegu combined with the growing power of Mamluks in Egypt forestalled further Mongol conquests in the middle East Alliance with Baibars and threatened Hulegu; together they pushed him out of the Middle east.

Kubilai Khan

Grandson of Chinggis Khan; Mongol leader who attacked Song China; great khan of Yuan dynasty; passed laws to preserve the distinction between Mongols and Chinese; created social hierarchy with Chinese; encourage spread of culture (Mongols’ and cultures of conquered); cities expanded; welcomed travelers like Marco Polo; interchange of cultures; aid peasant class; influence by wife Chabi; after wife died, plummeted and corrupt 


Mongol capital of Yuan dynasty and also known as Khanbaliq; present-day Beijing; built on site occupied by earlier dynasties; government directly administered the Central Region of the Yuan Empire and dictated policies for the other provinces


Second wife of Kubilai Khan and most influential; devout Tibetan Buddhist; encourage husband to learn Buddhism, allow Chinese peasants to keep land; famous for frugality and hat invented to keep sun out of face; demonstrated refusal of Mongolian women to adopt restrictive social conventions of Confucian China

"Girls and women ride and gallop as skillfully as men. We even saw them carrying quivers and bows, and the women can ride horses for as long as the men; they have shorter stirrups, handle horses very well, and mind all the property. The Tartar (commonly used term for Mongols) women make everything: skin clothes, shoes, leggings, and everything made of leather. They drive carts and repair them, they load camels, and are quick and vigorous in all their tasks. They all wear trousers, and some of them shoot just like men" Giovanni da Pian del Carpine, author of the earliest important Western account of northern and central Asia, Rus, and other regions of the Mongol dominion  


Asian Christian sect; cut off from Europe by Muslim invasions

The Story of the Western Wing

Famous Chinese romantic  dramatic work written during the Yuan period; tragedy about love, union and separation between Zhang Sheng and Cui Yingying in Tang dynasty 

White Lotus Society

Secret religious society dedicated to overthrow of Yuan dynasty; Buddhist sect; attracted the poor and women; Mongols found out ad banned so forced to meet underground; inspired many secret societies to rebel

Zhu Yuanzhang

Chinese peasant who led successful revolt against Yuan; joined Red Turban rebels; created own group; took over Beijing, attained Mandate of Heaven in 1387;  founded Ming dynasty  and moved capital to Nanjing; increased literature, reestablish Civil Service Examinations

"… Those of you in charge of money and grain have stolen them for yourselves; those of you in charge of criminal laws and punishments have neglected the regulations. In this way grievances are not redressed and false charges are ignored. … Occasionally these unjust matters come to my attention. After I discover the truth, I capture and imprison the corrupt, villainous, and oppressive officials involved. I punish them with the death penalty or forced labor or have them flogged with bamboo sticks in order to make manifest the consequences of good and evil actions.Excerpt of An Imperial Edict Restraining Officials from Evil by Zhu Yuanzhang

Ming Dynasty

Succeeded Mongol Yuan dynasty in China in 1368; increase in educated bureaucrats; maritime voyages, tributary system, encyclopedia; changed Chancellor into Grand Secretariat, Six Ministries, detached Emperors; problems (factions, corruption, eunuchs, natural disasters, invading Manchus)

Timur-I Lang

Last major nomad leader; 14th century Turkic leader of Samarkan; launched attacks in Persia, Fertile Crescent, India, southern Russia; empire disintegrated after his death in 1405 

Decline of Mongols

The Ilkhan in Persia introduced paper money, which led to a fall in commerce and the Mongolian Empire. The Mongol rule in China fell because of their divisions, epidemic diseases (plague), and their economic tactics. As the Mongols fell, other empires like the Turkish Empire started to expand. Tamerlane, a turkish conqueror, took back the land that the Mongols captured.

Impact on the World

The Mongol's, because they were lenient towards the empires they conquered, allowed people to maintain their culture and religion. This led to a "trade" of cultures as well as religion. Their political structure, which was based mostly on their military, intermixed with the political structure of China. They mainly impacted the world because they promoted trade, diversity, and tolerance; however, they also promoted violence and senseless destruction.

The themes of this chapter are the interaction between humans and the environment and the development and the transformation of social structures. The population of the Mongols increased rapidly during its hiatus; however, near the decline of the empire, diseases rapidly spread and led to a decrease in population. The Mongols, one of the most famous of nomads, migrated from Central Asia and spread throughout Tibet, Northern China, and persia. There were regional contrasts with the rural and urban areas. They were very militaristic, and they spread new technology to other civilizations. They spread the use of gunpowder, new weaponry (a more accurate bow and arrow), and new styles of combat.

The Mongols had less distinct gender roles than the empires they conquered. Unlike the Chinese, Mongolian women had a voice in politics and were able hunt. The Mongols had a serious political and military system. However, the Mongols were still patrilineal, and like other nomadic civilizations, they were based on kinship. The government refused civil service examinations and was mostly based on their military. The Mongols believed they were more supreme than the land they conquered, like Persia and Northern China, but were still open to their ideas. They assimilated to the Persian culture and learned many innovations from China. They were also very tolerate, letting the Russian rulers to keep their powers.  

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