Week 5: Shizu and the Chinese Pen




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For this class, Khubilai is now Khan, the emperor of the Yuan Dynasty, and arguably one of the most powerful men ever to rule anywhere. His reach is long, his government vast and the legends of him are spreading. We’ll see some of the practical problems of administering such a varied and large empire and encounter the limitations of the effectiveness of the Mongol cavalry.

  1. John Man, Chapters 11, 12 and 14, from Kublai Khan: the Mongol King Who Remade China. In these chapters, Khubilai is already the Great Khan, after a predictably violent acquisition of the position. (If you have Man’s book and are interested, Chapter 5, “The Claimant,” tells the interesting story of his accession struggle.) For our second class on Khubilai, we’ll look more at his role as Chinese Emperor and the tension it caused for him with his Mongol associates, examine some of the practices he put into place for management of the Mongol Empire, and get a taste for just what sort of man he might have been.
  2. Marco Polo, The Travels. This long excerpt from Polo’s account discusses Khubilai and Marco’s opinion of him. There are sections about his sons, his parties, his women, his hobbies and his capital. Read it all, if you want, but feel free to just read the sections that interest you.




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