Kublai was born in Mongolia in 1215. The name Khan is a title and shows someone is chief of a tribe, so Kublai was not born with this name.
He was the grandson of Genghis Khan, the first chief of all of Mongolia.
As a child, Kublai travelled around with his father Tolui Khan and his grandfather while they conquered Northern China and Central Asia.
When Kublai grew older, Genghis named him khan of a small area in north China, which he ruled. Kublai spent his free time studying Chinese history, culture and Confucianism.
When Genghis Khan died, Kublai’s eldest brother Mongke became the Great Khan – khan of the Mongol empire.
Kublai was made ruler of all northern China. Here he increased crop production and improved the welfare of the people.
For this he received respect from the Chinese people and government.
In 1253, Mongke ordered Kublai to conquer southern China and end the Song dynasty. Kublai set of with his army at once.
During the war, Kublai found out that Mongke had died. He made a treaty with the Song family where the Song would pay him 200,000 silks each year and in return there would be peace.
Kublai was next in line to become emperor, or the Great Khan. However, by the time Kublai returned to northern China, his brother Ariq Boke had seized the title, supported by many of his family.
Kublai’s claim was supported by those in northern China. He also proclaimed himself Great Khan on 15 April 1260. This started a civil war.
After 4 years of war, Kublai Khan became Great Khan, starting the Yuan dynasty in 1271 – the only foreign dynasty to rule China.
He went back on his treaty with the Song dynasty and captured most of southern China.
The Songs resisted for years but the family was eventually found and killed, ending the dynasty. By 1276, Kublai had control of all of China.
Kublai wanted the Mongols to stay in power. He created a social system where the Mongols were the most important people.
Next came people from Central Asia, then northern Chinese, and lastly southern Chinese as the least important.
The less important you were, the stricter the laws you had to obey. This caused a lot of hatred towards the Mongols.
To help rule the empire, Kublai combined the Mongolia and Chinese governments, putting people from different countries in each.
He wanted to learn about running a large government from China. Kublai built a second palace in the southern city of Xanadu, built infrastructure, created new trade routes and brought in new, foreign ideas.
Kublai died in 1294 aged 79. His daughter married and became Queen of Korea. His grandson Temur became emperor and Great Khan.