Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
families had their feet deformed from an early age. Tightly wrapped
bandages gradually broke the arch of the foot and caused the toes
and heel to grow inward toward one another. This excruciatingly pain-
ful process was complete by the girl's late teens, at which time she was
deformed for life. Chinese literature abounds with stories of mothers
who wept bitterly as they wrapped their daughters' feet; they knew
that the process hurt, but if their daughters did not have small feet,
they would never be able to marry a prominent man and achieve
social standing. Foot binding continued well into the first decades of
the twentieth century but was finally abandoned when China bowed
to modern ways and international norms.
In 1279 Khubilai Khan, grandson of the Mongol conqueror Chinggis
Khan (Genghis Khan), prevailed over the last vestigial Song loyalist re-
sistance and brought all of China under Mongol rule. This was the first
time in history that all of China had been conquered by a foreign peo-
ple. The Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) established by Khubilai was only
part of a larger Mongol world empire that included other “khanates”
or regions conquered and ruled by the Mongols: the Golden Horde
in Russia, the Il Khanate in Persia and other areas of the Middle East,
and the Chagadai Khanate in Central Asia. Together, these khanates
formed the largest land empire the world has ever known. Khubilai
Khan was Khaghan,orGrandKhan,overallofthesekhanates.He
was, in the words of Marco Polo, “the most powerful man since
Adam.” His only significant failures were the abortive invasions of
Japan he made during the later years of his reign.
The Mongol conquest of China was a long time in the making. Its
roots go back to the twelfth century when a young man named Temujin,
abandoned by his clan when his father was poisoned by political
enemies, began building up a personal following in the steppe regions
north of China, an area we know today as Mongolia. By dint of deter-
mination, luck, and the guidance of his mother, Temujin expanded his
power over several rival tribes and finally became ruler of them all. In
1206, at a great assembly of pastoral nomadic warriors, he was pro-
claimed Chinggis Khan, which means “Universal Ruler” or “Khan
fromOcean to Ocean.” Chinggis Khan attacked the Jurchen Jin dynasty
in northern China, and for a time the Jin seemedwilling to submit to his
rule. Ultimately, however, the Jin rebelled against Mongol overlordship
and was never fully subjugated by Chinggis Khan, who devoted
much of his life after 1206 to conquering Central Asia, including many
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