Article

Yuan Dynasty

David Robinson

in Chinese Studies

ISBN: 9780199920082
Published online April 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199920082-0025
Yuan Dynasty

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The Yuan dynasty sits awkwardly in Eurasian history. The dynastic name, Yuan, is Chinese, as is the practice of naming dynastic houses not by the leading family’s surname but by the place where the regime began or, as was the case with the Yuan, a term that carried auspicious meaning. In the case of East Asia, dynasty also calls to mind a package of political institutions and conventions (including a dominant role for the emperor; a highly articulated bureaucracy; written law codes regulating political, commercial, and family life; a court with extensive and minutely described rituals; a capital with a grand palace) and a well-developed political philosophy that explained the place of the Son of Heaven in the cosmos, and the interaction among the realms of man, nature, social life, and much more. Thus, one approach to the Yuan period has been to view it in the longer span of Chinese history. Yet, the rulers of the Yuan dynasty were Mongol conquerors whose family, the Chinggisids (descendants of Chinggis khan), subjugated much of Eurasia. Although Mongols had conquered much of northern China in the mid-13th century, the Yuan dynasty was not established until 1271. It is generally used to describe China under Mongol rule, but equating the Yuan dynasty with China is both factually inaccurate and highly misleading because Mongolian (or, more broadly, steppe) traditions of rulership and governance differed importantly from those of earlier and later Chinese dynasties. Much recent Japanese scholarship thus uses the term “Great Yuan ulus” (Mongolian for nation) rather than dynasty to highlight such differences.

Article.  7516 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Studies ; Asian History ; East Asian Philosophy ; East Asian Religions

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