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A Brief History of Khubilai Khan: Lord of Xanadu, Founder of the Yuan Dynasty, Emperor of China

Jonathan Clements

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Brief Histories, Prose: non-fiction, Asian history, Early history: c 500 to c 1450/1500

Founder of China's Yuan dynasty, legendary resident of Xanadu and rebuilder of medieval Beijing

His grandfather was the bloodthirsty Mongol leader Genghis Khan, his mother a Christian princess. Groomed from childhood for a position of authority, Khubilai snatched the position of Great Khan, becoming the overlord of a Mongol federation that stretched from the Balkans to the Korean coast. His armies conquered the Asian kingdom of Dali and brought down the last defenders of imperial China.

Khubilai Khan presided over a glorious Asian renaissance, attracting emissaries from all across the continent, and opening his civil service to 'men with coloured eyes' - administrators from the far west. His reign began the glorious Yuan dynasty that ruled over China for only ninety years, but had a profound impact on Asian history, from international trade to cultural revolution.

Jonathan Clements's insightful biography into the life and times of one of China's greatest leaders is a fascinating introduction to an important era, uncovering the man behind Marco Polo's mythic portrait.

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Jonathan Clements

Dr Jonathan Clements is a historian and TV presenter specialising in East Asia. He was visiting professor at Xi'an Jiaotong University in China from 2013 to 2019 and is the author of several books on the history of China, including A Brief History of China, The Art of War: A New Translation, and Confucius: A Biography. His history of the Silk Road and his lives of the First Emperor, Empress Wu and Wellington Koo have all been translated into Chinese.

Dr Clements has presented several seasons of Route Awakening (National Geographic), an award-winning television series about icons of Chinese culture. In the course of his travels, he has harvested rice with Hani tribeswomen, cooked a Kam curry using a cow's intestinal juices and picked tea in Fujian.

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