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Unformatted text preview: rly thirteenth century, the Mongols under Chingghis Khan
assembled one of the greatest empires in the history of the world, conquering North China and extending their territorial control across Asia
and into eastern Europe. After Chingghis’s death, the Chinese portion
of his empire was inherited by his grandson Khubilai Khan. It took
Khubilai until 1279 to destroy the Southern Sung and to unite all of
China under the Yüan or “Original” dynasty (1270–1368). But even
before this final achievement, Khubilai sought to bring Japan into a subservient, tributary relationship. The other countries of East Asia had
long accepted as a matter of course such a relationship with the mighty
Middle Kingdom of China, but the Japanese from at least the time of
Prince Shòtoku in the early seventh century had steadfastly resisted being
drawn into it.
When the Japanese steadfastly refused to submit—indeed, even to
respond—to Khubilai’s imperious and threatening demands, the Mongol
leader launched two great armadas against them in 1274 and 1281. In
the first invasion the Mongol force numbered some 90,000, and in the
second nearly 140,000. Both invasions took place in northern Kyushu,
which was defended by the samurai of that westernmost island, and both
failed—the first after only one day and the second after nearly two months 106 The Canons of Medieval Taste —because of typhoons that forced the Mongols back onto their ships,
out to open water, and subsequently, after severe losses (especially during
the storm of 1281), back to the continent.17
In the second invasion, the Kyushu samurai were better able to defend
themselves because they had built a protective stone wall (about three
meters high) around Hakata Bay, where the Mongols had landed in the
first invasion and were likely to tr y to land in the second, and because
they had prepared a fleet of small boats that they sent out to harass and,
in some cases, even board the larger Mongol troop ships. But in the first
invasion the discrepancy in fighting methods and power in favor...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at UBC.
- Spring '13