A century and a half later, the Mongols conquered both the Jurchen and the Song, marking for the first time the occupation and rule of all China by a barbarian. The genius behind Mongol power was Genghis Khan; by the time of his death in 1227 the Mongols possessed an empire stretching from Korea to Russian Turkistan and from Siberia to northern India. But even then China had still not been made part of the Mongol empire. This work was left to Genghis's successors, especially his grandson Kublai Khan, who in 1279 at last succeeded in conquering the Southern Song and founded the Chinese-style Yuan (Yüan) dynasty (1279–1368), with its capital at Beijing.

With the peace that settled over Asia as a result of Mongol rule, access to China became relatively easy, and another age of cosmopolitanism and broad foreign contact, particularly with the West, was begun. The Mongols supported foreign mercantile ventures in China, welcomed foreign faiths like Nestorian Christianity and Islam, and patronized Tibetan Buddhism, or Tantrism. They also employed numerous foreigners in the state bureaucracy, such as the Venetian Marco Polo. The Chinese were systematically discriminated against for government service and suffered numerous legal disabilities. Despite this repression, native arts flourished, especially calligraphy and painting produced by the scholar-gentry class and two literary forms — drama (see Yuan drama) and the novel (see Chinese literature).


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