Thepre-modern theories of China’s foreign relation held that China wasa Middle Kingdom whose status was center of the world’scivilization. During this time, China and Europe were estranged, lotsof speculation revolved among the two. The Chinese foreign policyheld notion that Europe, among other civilizations, contained thethreat of barbarian inversion. Hence, they aimed at containing thethreats through war and by peace marriages. In addition, theysuffered from the superiority complex of their culture in that theybelieved other cultures were there to cater to them.
However,direct interaction between China and Europe are insignificant aswestern contacts of China were limited to Korea, Japan, and RussiaChina traded its silk for ceramics with these civilizations.Therefore, direct contact between the Chinese and Europeancivilizations was unheard, and Europe remained a vague region thatwas beyond the Uighur in the eyes of the Chinese (Franke, 1967).
Nevertheless,the situation on Europe’s knowledge of China was quite different.The encroachment of the Mongols into Eastern Europe had given acuteinformation to the Europeans regarding the actual people who live inmiddle Asian in the midst of all myths and folklore legends.Christian leaders in Europe were thrilled by the Central Asianmilitary power that was claimed to persecute Muslims (Franke, 1967).It is through this rumors and speculation that Europeans thought ofthe Mongols as Prester John. The Christian’s Monarch of Europe hadits speculations short lived as a Mongol assassination on theChristian fraternity in Russia affirmed that they Mongols wereneither Christians nor Muslims, rather a powerful kingdom that was nomore partial to anyone who stood in the way of their cause.
TheMongol’s military in the 13thcentury witnessed enormous success by conquering almost all of Asia,Eastern Europe and Middle East. This was highly attributed to thetactics and organization of the military backed by other factors thatwere considered as the solid basis of their military success(Hildinger, 1997). The Mongols lost few battles, among them, SamaraBend Battle and Ain Jalut Battle, that employed the Mongol’s owntactics against them.
TheMongol’s military adapted Technologies useful to attackfortifications from other cultures (Hildinger, 1997). This helpedthem know all the dynamics involved in different cultures andkingdoms, thus giving them an advantage over others in the battlefronts because they already had an understanding of how they couldhandle the enemy. In addition, the Mongol’s military integrated theservices of foreign technical experts into their command structures.This was highly useful as it gave them an upper hand over otherarmies that never employed the services of the foreign experts andonly depended on their own expertise.
Thesocial and civil structure of the Mongol’s was an edge thatprovided a backbone support to the military activities the socialstructure advocated outstanding obedience and firm discipline. Theyhighly respected their leaders and could not contradict them, andthis was highly helpful as it helped in smooth coordination ofactivities at the battle front (Rossabi, 2011). Consequently, theMongol’s military delegates were chosen purely on merit or from theKhan lineage an important factor as it helped eliminate individualswho could not actually handle the matters. The military was trainedto live off the land under extreme conditions that made them strongenough to fight and survive and wage battles under harshenvironmental conditions. In the case of an ambush, they usedpostal-relay horse stations for fast transfer of written messages tocall for backup (Rossabi, 2011).
Ata time when William of Rubruck and John from plano Carpini reachedthe Cuyuc’s camp, he directed that the two should be awardedaccommodation and allowances. This was the nature of the Tartarsthey were very generous and had mastered the habit of giving. Aftereight days at the Cuyuc’s camp, he directed them to his mother, thelocation that hosted the solemn court. Here, a great tent made ofwhite and purple colors, with a capacity to hold more than twothousand people had been erected.
Themode of dressing varied from day to day, for instance, on day onethey were adorned in white and purple whereas on day two they weredecorate in red and purple garments. Day three was blue and purplegarments and on the fourth day they were covered in the finestbaldakins. Two big gates stood at the paling near the tent one wasreserved for the emperor only. No guards stood manning it yet it wasopen but no one dared to pass through it. The other gate was used byall those who had admittance, and it was protected by guards withswords, bows and arrows (HakluytSociety & Rockhill, 1900).These guards ensured that anyone who came near the tent within theset boundary limits was punished punishment included being beaten orbeing shot with headless arrows the case of an escapee. The Chiefsmoved around surrounded by armed men who protected them.
Theemperor’s imperial seat was in the tent it was executively madeusing wood that was fastened by gold nails, and it was anchored ongold plated pillars. The top and sideways of the tent were coveredwith baldakips. Everyone entering the tent had to bend their leftknee four times as a sign of respect, and this was to be done withcaution so as not to touch the threshold (HakluytSociety & Rockhill, 1900).They were to be frisked carefully for knives before being allowed toenter the door on the east side. Only the Emperor could enter thedoor on the west side. This rules also applied on the Chief’stents. The Emperor`s throne was made of wonderfully sculptured ebony,decorated with gold, and precious stones. According to HakluytSociety & Rockhill(1900), the left side of the throne was decorated with benches thatwere designated for ladies while no one sat on the raised seats. Themiddle section seats that were of lesser height designated for Chiefsand the other people sat behind the Chiefs.
TheEmperor’s wives had large and handsome tents of white felt. TheTartarian Emperor never addressed a stranger in person, regardless ofthe status of the person he listened and gave feedback through themedium. On the way back, they were rejoiced and congratulatedthroughout Kiew, Ruscia, Poland and Bohemia.
Duringthe 13th century Mongol Empire expansion towards Europe andPalestine, contacts were made between the Mongols and the Westleading to the adoption and assimilation of Christianity. Initially,the Mongols held a false perception that the Pope was the leader ofthe Europeans. They continually sent him messages demanding that Popesurrenders Europe to Mongol authority. The Mongols stated that theywould return Jerusalem to the Christian Crusaders after they capturedit as a reward of the pope surrendering Europe to the Mongol’sauthority. On the other hand, various Popes at the time seemedunaware that Christianity already existed in the East. As a result,these Popes usually responded with messages insisting that theMongols convert to Christianity and accept baptism (Jackson, 2005).Later, constant communications between the Mongols and Europe led toattempts to form a Franco-Mongol alliance against the Muslims.
Inthe 13thcentury, Christianity was a significant influence in the MongolEmpire. This was informed by the fact that several Mongol tribes wereprimarily subscribed to Nestorian Christianity and at the same timealmost all the wives of Genghis Khan`s descendants were Christian. Bythe 13thcentury, Mongol Empire had already established a Yuan dynasty inChina, (Jackson, 2005). This is the same period that Mongol Empirewas making contacts with Western Christianity through envoys from thePapacy to the Mongol capital in Khanbaliq, which is the present dayBeijing.
Thesecontacts with the western Christianity led to the adoption andinfluence of Christianity in most of the Mongol’s spheres ofinfluence including central and eastern Asia, through the Yuandynasty in China (Jackson, 2005). Mongols turned out to be moreaccommodative and tolerant of multiple religions, with several Mongoltribes being primarily Christian from both the Western, which was theRoman version, and the Eastern or Nestorian Christianity.
Franke, W.(1967). China and the West. Columbia: University of SouthCarolina Press.
HakluytSociety., & Rockhill, W. W. (1900). Thejourney of William of Rubruck to the Eastern parts of the world,1253-55, as narrated by himself, with two accounts of the earlierjourney of John of Pian de Carpine.London.
Hildinger, E.(1997). Warriorsof the Steppe: A military history of Central Asia, 500 B.C. to 1700A.D.New York: Sarpedon.
Jackson, P.(2005). TheMongols and the West, 1221-1410.Harlow, England: Pearson Longman.
Rockhill, W. W.(1894). Diaryof a journey through Mongolia and Tibet in 1891 and 1892.Washington: Smithsonian Institution.
Rossabi, M.(2011). TheMongols and global history: A Norton documents reader.New York: W.W. Norton.