Kublai Khan Merch

Kublai Khan Merch - Rise to power

Kublai Khan was the fourth son of Tolui, the youngest of Genghis’s four sons by his favourite wife, and Sorghaghtani Beki. He began to play an important part in the extension and consolidation of the Mongol empire only in 1251, when he was in his mid-30s. His brother, the emperor Möngke (reigned 1251–59), resolved to complete the conquest of China’s Nan (Southern) Song dynasty (1127–1279)—centred on Lin’an (present-day Hangzhou, Zhejiang province)—which had been planned by Genghis’s third son, Ögödei.

Möngke also intended to subdue Persia, a task allotted to Kublai’s brother Hülegü. At that time Kublai was invested with full civil and military responsibility for the affairs of China. He appears never to have learned to read or write Chinese, but already he had recognized the superiority of Chinese thought and had gathered around himself a group of trustworthy Confucian advisers.

Kublai Khan Merch

Legacy of Kublai Khan

Though Kublai was celebrated above all as a Chinese emperor, he also helped to form the political traditions of his own Mongol people. To him and to his adviser, the Tibetan grand lama ’Phags-pa, is attributed the development of the political theory known as the “dual principle”—that is, the parity of power and dignity of religion and state in political affairs.

That theory was turned to practical account on more than one occasion in the subsequent history of Mongolia and, for example, underlay the constitution of the theocratic monarchy proclaimed in 1911, when Mongolia recovered its independence from China.

Kublai’s character is difficult to assess. The only personal account of him is by Marco Polo, and that work is more of a panegyric than a sober appraisal. Polo presents Kublai as the ideal of a universal sovereign. Yet he does not overlook his human weaknesses—above all, an indulgence in feasting and hunting, a complicated and expensive sexual life, a failure to exercise proper supervision over his subordinates, and occasional outbursts of cruelty. read more

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