I. New Views of the Mongols
II. Mongols and Trade
III. Mongol Legacy and Diffusion in the Sciences and the Arts
IV. Mongol Impact on China
V. Notes on Mongol Legacy in the Golden Horde and Ilkhanate
VI. Mongol Influence in Central Asia
This essay, based on an oral presentation, provides the non-specialist, with an evaluation of the Mongols’ influence and China and, to a lesser extent, on Russia and the Middle East. Starting in the 1980s, specialists challenged the conventional wisdom about the Mongol Empire’s almost entirely destructive influence on global history. They asserted that Mongols promoted vital economic, social, and cultural exchanges among civilizations. Chinggis Khan, Khubilai Khan, and other rulers supported trade, adopted policies of toleration toward foreign religions, and served as patrons of the arts, architecture, and the theater. Eurasian history starts with the Mongols. Exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art confirmed that the Mongol era witnessed extraordinary developments in painting, ceramics, manuscript illustration, and textiles. To be sure, specialists did not ignore the destruction and killings that the Mongols engendered.
This reevaluation has prompted both sophisticated analyses of the Mongols’ legacy in Eurasian history. The Ming dynasty, the Mongols’ successor in China, adopted some of the principles of Mongol military organization and tactics and were exposed to Tibetan Buddhism and Persian astronomy and medicine. The Mongols introduced agricultural techniques, porcelain, and artistic motifs to the Middle East, and supported the writing of histories. They also promoted Sufism in the Islamic world and influenced Russian government, trade, and art, among other impacts. Europeans became aware, via Marco Polo who traveled through the Mongols’ domains, of Asian products, as well as technological, scientific, and philosophical innovations in the East and were motivated to find sea routes to South and East Asia.
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