Mongols Impact on South, Southeast, and East Asia
The Mongols were nomadic people from the north of China. They were barbaric, fierce, destructive, and conquerors. And that is exactly what they planned on doing to the world, conquer. Temuchin took the title Genghis Khan, which means “Ruler of the Oceans” or the world in their view, which showcases the type of attitude that the Mongols carried within their forces. Mongols conquered many lands in the south, southeast, and east Asia and carried many similarities and differences within each conquest they attempted.
In East Asia, around the time during the Song empire, Genghis Khan was the leader of the Mongol forces, which were in numbers of over one-hundred thousand troops. Temuchin conquered many rivals of the Song dynasty such as Jin and the Xi Xia and succeeded in creating the world’s largest empire. Khubilai, Temuchin’s son, took over after his death and conquered most of south China after declaring himself the emperor of the Yuan dynasty, declaring himself the inheritor of the Mandate of Heaven. They would “burn, loot, kill, and rape indiscriminately and enslave the survivors” (Ropp 81). Religiously the Mongols were tolerant, but Khubilai Khan patronized a form of Buddhism and looted tombs and sold treasures for money to build new temples of Tibetan. The conquest of China by the Mongols economically devastated the Song iron industry which never fully recovered, reduced populations, spread diseases, hurt agriculture from the destruction of farmland, and rapidly increased inflation (Ropp 81–82).
As the great kingdoms of Southeast Asia were declining, the Mongols began to invade territories. In the thirteenth century, the Mongol warriors rode horseback and carried advanced weaponry that created the same fierce attitudes as in East Asia. They were interested in Southeast and began to attack Pagan in 1287, but failed due to tropical heat, and withdrew their forces; After which Pagan collapsed entirely, which is debated what degree of impact the Mongols had (Lockard 48). In 1281 and 1285, the Mongols attempted to take control of Vietnam’s capital city, Hanoi, but due to the Mongols naval ability, they sailed home, which Vietnam became one of the only South Asian societies to fend off the Mongols (Lockard 49). The Mongols did inflict a vast amount of damage on the capital, but never to the degree that they had in East Asia.
In 1258, the Mongol invasion of Islamic Persia brought catastrophic effects for centuries. They severed the Delhi Sultanate which forced the sultans to continue the custom of praying for the health of the caliph so that unity continued, even though the caliph was dead. When the Turkic people stopped the continuance of the Mongol conquest of the Middle East, the destruction of Baghdad brought damaging blows to “Muslim arts, literature, science, and law,” for many years (Gilbert 56). Surprisingly, after the destruction of the Muslim way of life in that area, refugees went to the Delhi Sultanate, whose culture was enriched by the new people because of the invasions. Mongols did not stop there either; they drove into more of the subcontinent which uprooted Sunni and Shi’a’s way of life and caused them to flee to other portions of the area (Gilbert 56). Ala-ud-din Khalji stopped a Mongol invasion, which sparked an economic change that lowered price controls, tax rates, and land assessments. Mongols impact on South Asia was more cultural than anything else.
Mongols brought destruction in all locations they attempted or succeeded to conquer. This destruction had catastrophic differences and similarities between the locations. In all three areas, destruction was seen throughout, whether it was in the Yuan dynasty, Hanoi of Vietnam, or Baghdad in Islamic areas. East Asia saw the most economic hardship directly due to invasions and conquering of their land, however, the Chinese way of life did not change as much as one would expect. Southeast Asia maintained its cities but eventually collapsed after the invasions. And in South Asia, the destruction of religious figures and cities cause refugees to culturally incline the cities that where they fled, but also destroyed Muslim progress in the world in various fields. Mongols restricted many areas of Asia from growing and becoming a global powerhouse due to their raging conquests, powerful armies, and overall capabilities.
Gilbert, Marc Jason. South Asia in World History. Oxford University Press, 2017.
Lockard, Craig A. Southeast Asia in World History. Oxford University Press, 2009.
Ropp, Paul S. The New Oxford World History, 2010.