Travel Route: Arvaikheer – Khogno Khan
“The steppe has one other unchanging characteristic: day and night, summer and winter, in foul weather or fine weather, it speaks of freedom. If someone has lost his freedom, the steppe will remind him of it.” – Vasily Grossman
Our drive further north took us into a different terrain: the low, dark, and somewhat gloomy clouds led us into a rainstorm and made the scenery look majestic in its endless powerful silence. When we arrived at Khogno Khan Nature Reserve, I took a hike on the dunes. I roamed with no clear path. It was just after the rain, and the dunes were lightly wet. It was one of the most memorable hikes I ever took; the beauty, the limitless space, was mesmerizing.
What is Deel?
Deel is the customary Mongolian tunic coat; it has both traditional and practical uses. On the practical side, they are used as rain and wind coats and as blankets at night. The subtle variety of design and patterns represent different ethnic groups.
What caused the demise of the Mongol Empire?
“The reason is quite simple; some say if you think of the Mongol Empire as the land version of the Spanish or Portuguese Empires, or even the British Empire. These nations have little to no industrial might before imperialism started, and they heavily relied on trade and conquest for materials and goods. The Spanish and Portuguese sought for gold, the British sought prosperous coastal colonies. The Mongol Empire sought land, a land where people produced an abundance of goods that the not-so technologically advanced Mongols could not engineer or create but could rather be acquired through conquest.
The Mongol Empire started out as just one small country in Mongolia that gained control over regional tribes. Starting in the heartland on the Mongolian steppes, the tribes of the Mongol nation were absorbed and ultimately united under Genghis Khan.
After consolidating power on the steppes, Genghis looked to conquering nearby nations such as Jin to the south, Turkish nations to the west, Xia to the southeast. The conquered were instituted with loyal Mongol subjects as head of states. The Mongol Empire then gained control in kingdoms further away in the Middle East, Russian confederates, Eastern European countries, and finally the rich Chinese dynasty in southeast Asia.
All these nations have specialized trades be it in science, military technology, language and culture, and/or advanced statehood. None were able to march across the lands however and conquer one another because they were able to give and take. The Mongols? Well, they didn’t have much the world needed. So, they conquered.
All the conquered nations were instated with loyal Mongol leaders who assimilated to native countries’ cultures. These states are independently ruled but answer directly to the Mongol capital in Karakorum and its leaders, with Khan having the greatest authority, by submitting annual tributes and gifts. They transported to the Mongol heartland gold, silver, textile, livestock, children, slaves, and other goods. This “tribute in lieu of conquest” helped the Mongol Empire survive at its core.
Different tributes were taken from different cultures. For instance, Goryeo was assessed at 10,000 otter skins, 20,000 horses, 10,000 bolts of silk, clothing for 1,000,000 soldiers, and a large number of children and artisans as slaves.
Now after a while, these loyal Mongolian rulers who ran the satellite states grew tired and did not want to answer to Mongolia. They were just fine and had enough for themselves, and besides the capital was troubled by constant infighting, political strife, reshuffling of positions in order to gain power for the Khan’s seat, and then there was Kublai Khan…
Kublai is a Khan who was so endeared by the Chinese, that he started his own dynasty called Yuan. China under his rule became rich and prosperous, simultaneously growing in power. Kublai could easily jostle with the ruling Khan in Karakorum who also had other states to worry about. Those states are far away and over time, they gained power and could not be tamed so easily.
The Mongol Empire began gradually fading because the allegiance forged became stale. Furthermore, Genghis’s descendants carved up major areas for themselves gaining power in their respective states while the empire kept stretching thin by expanding westward.
The different Hordes established by Genghis’s powerful descendants began to loosen their grip on regional power as a result of assimilation and thus we saw the decline over multiple areas beginning in the late 13th century. The Mongols at this point was without a powerful leader that Genghis was luckily able to be a powerful Khan that brought destruction and new world order.”
John Lue’s explanation is excellent, to which I will add another significant reason: the Mongol Empire’s disintegration resulted from the Bubonic Plague. It is hard to fathom, but in the 14th century, approximately 30% of the world population vanished due to the epidemic. Every powerhouse was affected; all communication and commerce stopped, which led to complete disintegration.