- from China's Empires
The Han dynasty ended in 220 CE. For the next thousand years, China was rarely united under one ruler. But then, near the end of that time, a great power arose to the north and west of China.
The Mongols lived on the vast grasslands of central Asia. They were skilled horse riders and warriors. As nomads, they moved from place to place with their herds. Often Mongol clans fought over grazing lands, water, or scarce firewood. Sometimes, a khan, or leader, would bring together several clans.
At a meeting of the Mongol clans in 1206, a young man named Temujin was named leader of all the clans. He took the name Genghis Khan, which means “Universal Leader.” Very quickly, he expanded the Mongol Empire to the east and west. In 1215, he and his warriors captured the capital city of China. In 1260, a grandson of Genghis Khan became leader of the Mongol Empire. He took the name Kublai Khan, or “Great Leader.” In 1271, Kublai Khan claimed rule over all of China and created the Yuan dynasty.