- from China's Empires
The Han dynasty ended in 220 CE, and for the next thousand years, China was seldom united under one ruler. Toward the end of that time, a mighty power arose to the north and west of China.
They were known as the Mongols, and they lived on the vast grasslands of central Asia. The Mongols were skilled horse riders and warriors. As nomads, they moved from place to place with their herds. Often Mongol clans fought over grazing lands or 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.” In a very short time, Genghis Khan 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 established the Yuan dynasty.