WHAT THE MONGOLS DID FOR CHINA
 IN 1294 the great Khan died, and the Japanese proverb, "There is no seed to the great general," was
By her wonderful social system, China is able to absorb all affluents, "salting all the water that
flows into it." Gradually the Mongols came under the influence of Chinese civilization, with its
comfort, luxury, and culture. Like other tribes, before and since, the Mongol invaders were absorbed
in the Family of the Hundred Names. As a distinct people, they disappeared in the Chinese mass, like
a lump of lead in the melting-pot.
Kublai was succeeded in 1295 by Tamur. Now, instead of exciting campaigns and thrilling news, there
seemed to come a succession of floods, famines, and earthquakes. Lao Tsze had taught that full
stomachs made government easy. Hunger creates political trouble. The people, famine-stricken, poor,
and discontented, developed a rebellious spirit. In this era sprang up those patriotic secret
societies which have ever since been so numerous in China, inciting rebellion and stirring up
trouble. The White Lily Society is the most
 famous, and that of the Boxers the most familiar to us. Their objects are for the most part
political, and usually anti-dynastic. In this era they were anti-Mongol. With the idea of "China for
the Chinese," they lived in hope of driving out their conquerors and bringing in a native line of
A MONGOL ENCAMPMENT
These secret societies soon became open bands of rebels, in one of which was a patriotic priest, who
left the monastery to become a leader. He showed rare qualities as a fighter and tactician, and
under his leadership Nanking was captured. The fall of the Mongol dynasty was now certain.
In the north, not only were fresh tribes menacing the frontier and advancing on Peking, but the
Mongols themselves were quarreling over the choice of an heir to the throne. It mattered little, for
when the rebels captured Kai Feng, the leader pronounced himself emperor and gave the name of Ming,
or Bright, to the new dynasty now founded. Peking was taken. The last Mongol Emperor fled to his
ancestral home in Mongolia. The Yuan dynasty passed out of history.
It has been the general fashion among European writers to brand the Mongols as utterly brutal
savages, before whose advent civilization melted away, and the land became a desert. No adjective
seems sufficiently black for them. Even Japanese authors mourn that the Mongols ravaged the
Buddha-garden and destroyed the
spirit-  ual unity of Asia. It is evident that nearly all Western people get their notions about the Mongols
not wholly from true history, but rather from folklore, romances, and fairy-tales, the nightmare
fears of the Middle Ages, and the fantastic legends of the monks. Yet a similar process of
description would lower our estimate of other races, who are highly praised, but who, like
Assyrians, Romans, Chinese, British, Russians, and Americans, have nearly annihilated native tribes
and shed seas of blood. Compared with other conquerors, from the dawn of history to this century,
Genghis need not be wholly ashamed. In justice, we must turn to inquire what and who the Mongols
were, and what results followed their conquest of China and part of Europe.
We have a wonderful picture of Cathay, or of Mongolian China, in Marco Polo's book. With his uncles
he traveled and traded in Kublai's empire, and held office under the great Khan during many years.
He told Europe about Japan, giving information which Columbus sought to verify, for he sailed
westward over the Sea of Darkness, with the idea of finding, not America, of which he knew nothing,
but Nippon and Cathay.
Polo's writings touched the imagination of Europe, helping mightily to stimulate discovery and to
unveil the continent of America. For over a century after Columbus, navigators sailed
west-  ward to find China, or sought a passage north of America or east of Spitzbergen. While the
coast-line of our continent was not yet unveiled, savage America was associated only with fish,
furs, gold, or things curious. It was considered rather as an obstacle in the quest for China, which
Captain John Smith, Henry Hudson, and many others were bent on finding. Only gradually was America
known as a continent which in itself was a source of wealth.
From Marco Polo, who traveled from Venice to China and lived nearly twenty years in the empire, we
learn of the high state of prosperity to which China attained under the Mongols, and what broad and
liberal ideas the conquerors possessed and welcomed. Starting as savages, they quickly responded to
the ideas of civilization. They had a postal system from one end of the empire to the other, with
good roads and protection to the traveler. Trade and industry flourished to an extent unknown
before. Toleration was shown to all sects. Complete religious liberty was given the followers of
Buddha, Jesus, and Mahomet, and to the Jews, but the superstitious and magical practices of the
Taoists were put under ban and their books, except the original writings of Lao-Tsze, were ordered
to be burned. The Chinese, with their social system thus renovated and enlarged, became almost
reconciled to the rule of foreigners.
 The Mongol invasion of Europe was not wholly an evil. It hindered the spread of Mahometanism in
eastern Asia. It allowed the Christian missionaries to come into Mongolia, where they were for a
while so successful that afterwards, when the Turks closed the roads into Asia, thus hindering
caravans and traffic, there grew up the legend of a renowned Far Eastern Prester John, who long had
the fame of a great church prince. There are "lost" Christian nations in the same sense as there are
"lost" tribes of Israel.
The Mongols opened new lines of traffic. Through the freedom of the roads, many valuable discoveries
of the Chinese were carried westward, giving half-civilized Europe the rich fruits of Oriental
civilization. Our debt to China is vast. Among other things came printing, gunpowder, the mariner's
compass, paper money, wall paper, silk, tea, porcelain, banks, etc.
Marco Polo, who in 1295 A.D., while in prison, wrote his book on China—the
first in Europe—was laughed at as a romancer, but he told the truth as he saw it, as we now
know. Probably no medieval nation in Europe, before 1300 A.D., was on the whole
as highly civilized as China. The old text found new application, that our composite Western
civilization is but a revised and corrected edition of other civilizations. The Orientals excel at
originating, and the Westerners at developing and adapting. Each is debtor to the other.
 This subject deserves further study, but it is manifest that the Mongols were not wholly a curse to
the world, and that the progress of the race was hastened by bringing together the nations at
opposite ends of the earth's greatest island, the Eurasian continent.
The Mongols in India, called Moguls, descendants of Tamerlane, produced, in the sixteenth century,
one of the most liberal lines of rulers known in history. Under them there arose a brilliant
civilization. Men of genius from both China and Europe were invited, like the yatoi, whom the
Japanese from 1870 to 1900 employed to reconstruct their civilization, to lend their aid and talents
in making the Mogul Empire lovely as well as strong. Some of the fairest works of art and
architecture known on earth, such as the Taj Mahal and Kutub Minar, have arisen from the blending of
the Italian, the Mongol, and the Hindoo genius. In every country the Mongols showed a talent for
absorbing what was good and noble in the civilization amid which they dwelt. What the Tartar genius
is capable of, when fused with that of other races, is clearly discerned in China, Japan, and Korea,
by all who have openness of mind to see. The later Tartars, or Manchus, became "the most improvable
race in Asia."
In Russia the contact of the Mongols had certain striking results still visible in the Czar's
dominions. Ordinary horses would have died during
 the long winter, which in the Russian vernacular is first green, then white, then black; during
which the ground is wholly covered, and food for ordinary cattle is provided only by the forethought
of man. The Mongol ponies, with their long snouts, were able to dig into the snow, throw it up, and
find and feed upon the buried grass and plentiful moss. The Mongols conquered by their better arms,
discipline, and tactics. They secured a foothold which enabled them to remain in Russia two
centuries. Indeed, they were not wholly driven out until about the time of Peter the Great. The long
dwelling of these Orientals in Russia has left its mark upon the faces and forms of the Russians,
many of whom, in that conglomerate empire, are more Mongolian, or Tartar, than are many of the
Japanese, who have in them a powerful strain of true Aryan and Semitic blood.
Not least of the Mongols' gifts to China was the stimulus and fertilization of the native intellect
in the domain of the imagination. The great literary achievements are to be credited to them, the
drama and the novel. Previously the court had songs, music, and acting, besides the blending of the
two in the opera. Indeed, in A.D. 713, one of the Han emperors established the
Imperial Dramatic College, as it may be called, in which hundreds of male and female performers were
trained to amuse him with their music and acting. These were called Young Folks of the Pear Garden,
 which name Chinese actors call themselves to this day.
Nearly all dramatic pieces were at first religious. Development was made during the Middle Ages, but
there was no real theatre or full dramatic performance until the Mongol era. Then the plays were
worked up by the Chinese from their own history and social life. Some, in origin, were from Western
players and musicians at the Mongol court. Then, from the court to the people came the dramas and
plays illustrating life. Tragedy, melodrama, and comedy, as acted on the stage, are now common in
China. These had been long known among the Mongols and were introduced by them, the Chinese theatre
of to-day having changed little from the days of Kublai. Now there are theatres and strolling
players all over China. In most of the villages the theatre and stage are put up with bamboo and
matting by expert artificers. After the play, which lasts two or three days, the temporary structure
Whether the Mongols brought the romance from that paradise of the story-tellers, in central Asia,
where grew up from the soil of Persia, India, and Arabia the so-called Arabian Nights'
Entertainments, or whether they invented it in China, the credit of the Chinese novel belongs to the
Yuan era. Before this time there were only fables, anecdotes, short stories, and the lore that
Buddhism supplied. Whether the novel was developed out
 of the drama, or from the Buddhist mystery and morality plays and pageants, cannot yet be said.
There is a vast storehouse of fiction, but only a few Chinese novels have been translated. In
four-fold division, they deal with usurpation or plots; love and intrigue; superstition, local
legend, mythical zoology, etc.; or with lawless characters; exactly as in American cheap fiction.
In the voluminous folklore of China one soon learns to detect the elements, Taoist, Buddhist,
primitive, or medieval, and to recognize the symbols, characters, and course of the story.
Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism are three separate worlds of ideas, differing one from another as
do air, earth, and water; birds, beasts, and fishes.
At home, in China, Mongol supremacy was at first the rule of cow-boys in the cities. Yet while the
men who governed moved around more freely on horseback, carrying messages and transacting public
business with a celerity that startled the staid natives, the Chinese women retreated still further
into privacy and security. It is often sup-posed in Europe that the custom of foot-binding arose
because husbands wished to keep their wives at home and to prevent them from gadding about. On the
contrary, as in our own country, it was the decree of fashion that led women to make martyrs of
themselves in order to have small and pretty feet. Chinese girls suffer years of pain and even agony
in order to turn one of the most
beau-  tiful things in nature—the human foot—into a hoof, or something that custom calls
beautiful when within an embroidered slipper. Such extremities might be attractive if belonging to
sheep or gazelles.
Chinese writers say that a paragon of female beauty in the person of Yao Niang, the lovely concubine
of the last of the Southern line of Tang emperors, began the practice. According to poetical
tradition, her feet were pinched and "cramped into the semblance of the new moon." Such an example
set at court was soon followed, and became so general that it will require generations of argument
and disapproval to break up the custom.
Undoubtedly the rough manners of the Mongols drove Chinese women into stricter privacy, and helped
to immure women. Centuries of Confucianism, foot-binding, and abominable customs still tolerated
have contributed to make it an ordeal for decent women to appear freely on the streets of a Chinese
city, encouraging also female slavery and the multiplication of the wrong kind of women, to the
detriment of public morals.
Deeper notes were struck in the Chinese consciousness, and imagination was kindled by the clash of
alien with native humanity. Certainly from this era literature is infused with a new spirit and
takes on more fascinating forms. The sublimity of thought and boldness of imagery
 stimulated may be best set forth to the Western mind by the following poem:—
"See the five variegated peaks of yon mountain, connected like the finders of the hand,
And rising up from the south, as a wall midway to heaven:
At night, it would pluck, from the inverted concave, the stars of the milky way;
During the day, it explores the zenith and plays with the clouds.
The rain has ceased—and the shining summits are apparent in the void expanse;
The moon is up and looks like a bright pearl over the expanded palm;
One might imagipe that the Great Spirit had stretched forth an arm.
From afar—from beyond the sea—and was numbering the Nations."