Yuan Dynasty | Definition, Dates, & Facts

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There was a time during the Yuan Dynasty when the Mongol Empire ruled over China. From 1279 to 1368, China was controlled by the Yuan. The Ming Dynasty followed it in power.


For hundreds of years, the Chinese had engaged in conflict with the northern Mongol tribes. Genghis Khan led the Mongols as they banded together and invaded northern China, destroying numerous cities along the way. Years of fighting between the Mongols and the Chinese were endured before Kublai Khan took over.

To battle the Jin Chinese in the north, the Mongols under Kublai Khan first joined forces with the Southern Song Chinese. The Southern Song was then played. In the end, Kublai took control of a large portion of China and founded the Yuan empire, his own Chinese empire.

Although the Yuan Dynasty was established by Kublai Khan in 1271, the Song were not completely vanquished until 1279. Historians frequently cite these dates as the beginning of the Yuan Dynasty.

Rule of Kublai Khan

A large portion of Chinese culture was assimilated by Kublai Khan. He rapidly understood that, although being excellent soldiers, the Mongols were incapable of managing a vast kingdom. Although Kublai used Chinese officials to manage the government, he closely monitored them since he never fully trusted his former foe.

Kublai promoted communication and trade with nations outside of China. He invited guests from all across the world. Marco Polo, a famous European traveler, was one of his guests. Additionally, Kublai supported religious freedom for Confucianism, Islam, and Buddhism.

Racial Groups

Kublai established social strata based on race in order to maintain control over his Chinese subjects. The elite class was made up entirely of Mongols, who were always given preference over other racial groups. The non-Chinese races, such as Muslims and Turks, came after the Mongols. The Chinese were at the bottom, with those from the Southern Song region being regarded as the lowest class.


The Yuan Dynasty saw the continuous development of some aspects of Chinese culture. The Yuan emperors promoted progress in science and transportation. They also supported artistic endeavors including acting, painting, and pottery. Over time, the Mongols resembled the Chinese in some respects more. They made up a relatively minor portion of the total population. However, many Mongols made an effort to preserve their own culture. They kept on residing in tents, consuming fermented milk, and only getting hitched to other Mongols.

Downfall of the Yuan

Of all the significant Chinese dynasties, the Yuan Dynasty had the shortest lifespan. The dynasty weakened after the passing of Kublai Khan. The government grew corrupt as a result of the struggle for control among Kublai’s heirs. To rebel against Mongol control, Chinese rebel factions formed. Zhu Yuanzhang, a Buddhist monk, led the rebels who took down the Yuan in 1368. The Ming Dynasty was thereafter formed by him.

Facts worth knowing about the Yuan Dynasty

The meaning of the word “yuan” is “origin of the universe.”

The Mongols conquered people groups in the sequence that determined the social strata. The Southern Song Chinese were at the bottom because they were the last to be subdued.

Paper money was introduced throughout China with the Yuan. The currency later saw significant inflation.

The “yuan” is the fundamental unit of currency in China today.

The capital was located in Dadu. The city is now known as Beijing and serves as China’s capital today.

Shangdu was the name of Kublai’s “summer” capital in Mongolia. It is also known as Xanadu.

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