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Mongolian general and statesman Kublai Khan was the grandson of Genghis Khan. He conquered China, founding and becoming the first emperor of the country's Yuan Dynasty.
Marco Polo - An Amazing Tale (2:08)
Marco Polo was an adventurer and merchant from Italy who eventually left Italy and served under the Chinese ruler Kubla Khan for 20 years. When he returned to his homeland, Marco Polo brought the first taste of Asian culture to Europe.
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The only personal account of Kublai is by Marco Polo, who became an associate of Kublai’s early in his reign and who was the author of the chief Renaissance source of information on the East. Polo served as an envoy to the East. Under Kublai, the opening of direct contact between China and the West was made possible, as the Mongols controlled central Asian trade routes. In the early 13th century,
large numbers of Europeans and central Asians made their way to China, and Kublai met Marco Polo in the 1270s on one such expedition. Polo was such a supporter of Kublai’s that when the dispute arose in the late 1250s between Kublai and his brother Arigbge, Polo intervened, insisting that Kublai was the legitimate heir to the throne.
Kublai Khan, learning from his predecessors’ mistakes, became the longest-ruling khan of the Mongol Empire and was a beloved leader, to both the Mongols and the Chinese, during his lifetime. In his account, Marco Polo presents Kublai as the model of a universal sovereign, but he also presents him with common human weaknesses. All said, Kublai’s love of and respect for the Chinese way of life may have defined him best of all, for better and worse. Kublai’s interests and energies were absorbed by China to the exclusion of the Mongol homeland, and his reign isolated the Mongols in China. So with the collapse of Kublai’s dynasty, the last of the Mongol Empire, the Mongols withdrew and never again played a role of any great historical importance.
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