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HIST241: Pre-Modern Northeast Asia

Unit 6: The Yuan Dynasty    The Mongols—nomads of central Asia—dominated world history during the thirteenth century.  The Mongols invaded many postclassical empires and built an extensive cultural and commercial network.  Led by Chinggis Khan and his successors, the Mongols brought China, Persia, Tibet, Asia Minor, and southern Russia under their control.  Though the Mongols are often portrayed as barbarians and destructive warriors, most of the peoples they conquered lived in relative peace, enjoyed religious tolerance, and had a unified law code.  The Mongol empire also opened trade routes and communication between different regions in Asia.
           
In the mid-1200s, Kubilai Khan, the grandson of Chinggis Khan, invaded China and conquered the Song dynasty.  Known as the House of Yuan, Kubilai Khan’s regime attempted to preserve a distinction between Mongol and Chinese culture.  Chinese were forbidden from learning the Mongol writing system, intermarriage was prohibited between Mongols and Chinese, and Chinese religious customs and civil service examinations were largely ignored.  However, Kubilai Khan styled a Chinese-influenced court in Tatu (Beijing).

In this unit, you will consider how the Mongols tolerated many aspects of Chinese culture while still preserving their own authority.  You will also study how China—essentially an occupied territory—was affected by foreign domination.

Unit 6 Time Advisory
Time Advisory: This unit should take you 5.25 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 6.1: 3.75 hours ☐    Introduction: 0.25 hour

☐    Subunit 6.1.1: 0.5 hour

☐    Subunit 6.1.2: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 6.1.3: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 6.2: 1.5 hours

Unit6 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:
- Demonstrate how Mongol conquests inspired closer connections between the Eurasian lands by facilitating cross-cultural communication and exchange. - Compare how the Yuan Dynasty came to power with its adoption and rejection of Chinese numerous cultural practices. - Distinguish aspects of Mongol culture and the legacy of the Song culture in Yuan Dynasty society and politics.

6.1 The Rise of the Yuan   - Reading: Michigan State University: Asian Studies Center’s Windows on Asia: China – History: “Yuan Dynasty (1271 to 1368)” Link: Michigan State University: Asian Studies Center’s Windows on Asia: China – History: “Yuan Dynasty (1271 to 1368)” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this webpage to gain a general understanding of the rise and fall of the Yuan Dynasty in which the Mongols, initially led by Temujin (Ghengis Khan), defeated the Chinese Song Dynasty and established their own dynasty throughout much of Asia.  Note that this reading covers Subunits 6.1.1 through 6.1.3.  This reading should take you approximately 15 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the linked page.

6.1.1 The Defeat of the Song   - Lecture: iTunes U: University of Louisville’s Survey of Asian Art: “Yuan Dynasty Painting” Link: iTunes U: University of Louisville’s Survey of Asian Art: “Yuan Dynasty Painting” (iTunes U)
 
Instructions: Scroll down to the title “Yuan Dynasty Painting,” and select the “View in iTunes” link to launch the video.  Please watch this entire 14-minute podcast to explore some of the artists who depicted life during the fall of the Song Dynasty and rise of the Yuan Dynasty.  This lecture combines both historical context and visual examples of Chinese painting of the period.  After you view this podcast, write a brief paragraph about the ways in which the Chinese and Mongol cultures were represented through the medium of painting during this volatile moment in history.  Viewing this lecture, taking notes, and writing the paragraph should take you approximately 30 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the linked page.

6.1.2 Absolute Monarchy and Centralized Government   - Reading: Columbia University: Asia for Educators’ The Mongols in China: “What Was the Mongols’ Influence on China?” “Khubilai Khan in China” and “Life in China under Mongol Rule” Link: Columbia University: Asia for Educators’ The Mongols in China: “What Was the Mongols’ Influence on China?” (HTML) “Khubilai Khan in China” (HTML) and “Life in China under Mongol Rule” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the section “What Was the Mongols’ Influence on China?” “Khubilai Khan” and all the subsections under “Life in China under Mongol Rule,” including “For Peasants,” “For Artisans,” “For Merchants,” “Legal Codes,” “Civilian Life,” “Religion,” and “Culture.”  These sections will describe the rise of the Yuan Dynasty and the political rule of Khubilai Khan (also spelled Kublai Khan), whose court played home to the Polo family and witnessed a time of economic and social prosperity.  Think about the Chinese social and political institutions that the Mongols adopted and which ones they repudiated with the establishment of the Yuan Dynasty.  The other individual sections demonstrate the everyday lives and institutions that shaped Yuan Dynasty China. Please follow the additional links at the bottom of each subsection to gain further insights into Mongol culture and the legacy of the Yuan Dynasty.  This reading and note-taking should take approximately 2 hours to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the linked page.

6.1.3 Cross-cultural Encounters   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of Marco Polo “On the Tartars” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of Marco Polo “On the Tartars” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the following chapters written by the Venetian merchant Marco Polo, who traveled and lived in China during the Yuan dynasty.  Keep in mind that Polo refers to the Mongols as the “Tartars.”  Though his stories are often exaggerated (and to some degree have questionable authenticity), they do offer the viewpoint of an outsider.  His works would inspire many others to follow in his footsteps and travel to the East (and eventually to the West) in order to seek out the people, places, and goods described in his writings.  This reading and note-taking should take you approximately 1 hour to complete.
 
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6.2 The Later Yuan and Reasons for Collapse   - Reading: Columbia University: Asia for Educators’ The Mongols in China: Beginnings of Mongol Collapse: “Military Successes and Failures” and “Public Works Failures” Link: Columbia University: Asia for Educators’ The Mongols in China: Beginnings of Mongol Collapse: “Military Successes and Failures” (HTML) and “Public Works Failures” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the two sections “Military Successes and Failures” and “Public Works Failures” to examine the decline of the Yuan Dynasty, resulting from failed military excursions and the difficulty of maintaining political and social order in such a vast territory.  Be sure to look at the “Related Reading” and “Related Web Link” sections to view primary source materials from the period depicting Mongol art and artifacts of the period.  The archaeology article on the Kamikaze legacy is relevant to both the history of China and Japan.  This main reading and the related readings and web links should take you approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete.
           
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the linked page.