During the 13th century, Chingiz Khan united tribes in Central Asia and created the Mongol Empire. He conquered numerous empires and created the empire with the largest contiguous territory in history. The Mongol Empire made essential contributions to the transcontinental connection because all the countries that the Mongol Empire conquered are connected. The exchange of culture and commercial goods between East and West is substantially facilitated. Mongol Empire attached great importance to trading and incorporated diverse cultural backgrounds, enlarging trade, and exchanging culture from regional to intercontinental. The Mongols also created a complicated transportive system to sustain the high efficiency of transportation. Moreover, the transcontinental trade also contributed to the rapid growth of several cities and their economies. As stated in the article PAX MONGOLICA AND A TRANSCONTINENTAL TRAFFIC, Pax Mongolia represents the condition created by Mongol Empire’s conquest.[1] In this article, the positive impact of Pax Mongolia on trade will be discussed.

[1]Peter Jacson, 210





Figure 1: Mongol Empire’s Territory

Figure 2: Chingiz Khan


Nomadic Habits

The Mongol Empire’s trading system has a strong relationship with their living habits. The Mongols are nomadic people, also known as the people living on horses’ backs, living on the prairie. Nomadic people always transfer among different places to feed their herds and hunt. They will use their herds or hunted animals to trade with settled agricultural people for manufactured goods, such as clothes, tools, and weapons.[2] Therefore, nomadic people have the tradition of trading, leading to the result of a flourishing trading system in the Mongol Empire. Additionally, Chingiz Khan realized the need for bows, arrows, armors, and other logistic supplements as he founded his empire. Thus, he offered protections and privileges for merchants attracting merchants to join his kingdom. The Mongol Empire’s merchants can be protected traveling between different realms with their particular identity, “merchant passport” of Paiza, given by the Mongol Empire.[3] Merchants can also enjoy tax exemption. Besides Chingiz Khan, Qubilai Khan also appreciated trade. He built a few new trade routes providing merchants a more convenient path and involved in the trade. Ortaq merchants could sign contracts with Mongol Empire’s Khan, Prince, and Princess for loans and trade on their behalf.[4] Incorporating merchants into the empire did not only benefit Mongol economically but also technologically. Mongol learned techniques such as siege warfare and inventions from the Chinese. With the Mongol Empire’s countless benefits, the number of merchants in the Mongol Empire drastically increased, flourishing the inter-continental trade from Asia to Europe.

[2]Scott Michael Rank, 2019

[3]Marco Polo, 14

[4]Jackson, 217


Figure 3: Nomads


Yam Station

In the trading system of the Mongol Empire, the Yam System plays a vital role. The Yam network system is similar to the modern postal-office system. As stated by David Morgen’s book, The Mongols, Yam is introduced to facilitate envoys’ travels.[5] There are numerous Yam stations all around the Mongol Empire; every 25 to 30 miles, the distance of a normal envoy can travel in one day, there will be one Yam station and more in the desolate areas. In urgent circumstances, envoys can travel up to 200 to 300 miles in one day, according to Marco Polo and Rashid Al-Din.[6] For long-distance travels that require multiple days, Yam stations can provide envoys sufficient food, a place to reside, and stocks of horses that well-prepared horses would be ready for envoys to keep traveling without stops. Hence, long distances travel of commercial goods and orders can be delivered within a short time. Additionally, China had a greater density of Yam stations in the interval of three miles, and there are resident runners in Persia’s Yam station.[7] In brief, the complicated Yam system founded by the Mongol Empire promoted transcontinental trade and the delivery of messages remarkably.

[5] Morgan, Kindle, 1145

[6] Morgan, Kindle, 1146

[7] Morgan, Kindle, 1146


Figure 4: Yam Station


Euroasia Connection: Silk Road

Connecting Europe and Asia, there is a critical trade route called the Silk Road. The Silk Road has over 4,000 miles starting from China in Asia to Levent in Europe.[8] It has existed for centuries providing people a path to cross mountains and deserts. Many significant events happen on this majestic road: Marco Polo traveling through this road to China;[9] the plague of Black Death spread between Europe and Asia by this road;[10] East sold West silks for wools, gold, and silver; Religion such as Christianity and Buddhism also introduced to China alone this road.[8] The Silk Road was initially used for short-distance trade for nearby regions and gradually became an international trade route. However, as it connects two continents, the Silk Road has great length and is usually controlled by multiple empires.[11] In history, the Mongol Empire is the first empire to dominate the entire Silk Road, making the trade more convenient and safe. As the Silk Road only has one owner, merchants’ cost to travel has decreased because they only need to pay the taxation for once, and there will be less conflict along with the travel.[12]

Figure 5: Silk Road

Although it is called Silk Road, the goods being traded on this road are not only silk but also “chemicals, spices, metals, saddles and leather products, glass and paper.” [14] Trading on this road, the commercial goods are usually divided into three categories by their values:[11] the first category goods are valuable substances that are easily transportive such as jewelry and silks; the second category goods are less valuable substances with higher transportive cost, such as non-luxury clothes and timber; the third category is living goods such as human beings and animals.[13] As a result, the Mongol Empire’s reign provided merchants a safer routine for trade, made the trade among East and West more convenient, and increased the commercial and cultural exchange among empires.

[8] Zhihou Xia, 2008

[9] Marco Polo, 14

[10] Morgen, Kindle, 1411

[11] Jackson, 211

[12] Yule, 195


Figure 6: Silk

Figure 7: Timber

[13] Jackson, 212

[14] Pelliot, 508



Trade Center: Cities

From another perspective, many cities benefited from the prosper transcontinental trade. Because of the demand for trade, many cities located at the center of trade routes received larger flows of people, boosting the local economy, becoming trade centers. Here are some examples of cities growing because of trade: Tabriz was developing rapidly because it was the cross of trade routes in all the directions;[15] Constantinople had over half a million people because it is also one of the trading nexus;[16] the city of Baghdad was wealthy with countless treasures because there is a river connecting Indian River that merchants would travel.[17] Therefore, the trade of the Mongol Empire also helped the growth of cities and the economy.

Paper Money

During the 13th century, Sadr al-Din, Geikhatu’s minister, tried to use paper money, as the Chinese did, to replace precious metals.[18] However, he was not doing this to facilitate trade but replenish the deficit. This currency named Chao finally failed, making trade more inconvenient and eventually withdrawn.

[15] Prazniak (2014), 658

[16] Prazniak (2019), 56

[17] Marco Polo, 25

Paper Money

Figure 8: Paper Money (Chao)

[18] Morgan, Kindle, 1708





Although not all the Mongol Empire’s decisions stimulated transcontinental trade’s growth, it is undeniable that the Mongol Empire elevate international trade to a whole new level. Hence, The Mongol Empire positively impacted the transcontinental trade from serval aspects: The Mongol’s nomadic living habits drive them to favor and encourage trading; the Mongols provided protection and privileges such as tax exemption for merchants; the Mongols created the Yam network system connecting the whole empire and providing envoys places to rest; the Mongols’s continuous territory and the increasing amount of international trade routes, including Silk Road, provided merchants safer and shorter paths to travel; the flourishing trading system also led to the growth of cities and local economies further strengthening Mongol Empire’s power. All those factors caused the flourishing transcontinental trading system of the Mongol Empire.


Reference List

    • Primary Source:

      • Polo, Marco, and Paul Pelliot. The Description of the World. Translated by Sharon Kinoshita, Hackett Publishing Company, 2016. Kindle Edition

    • Internet Publications:

      • Rank, Scott Michael. “Mongol Trade: Linking East to West.” History, 22 Mar. 2018,

      • Xia, Zhihou. “Silk Road.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2016,

    • Journal Articles:

      • Jackson, Peter. “Pax Mongolica and a Transcontinental Traffic.” In The Mongols and the Islamic World: From Conquest to Conversion, 210-41. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017.

      • Morgan, D. The Mongols by David Morgan. Wiley-Blackwell, 2019. Kindle Edition, 1309-1334, 1316

      • Prazniak, Roxann. “Ilkhanid Buddhism: Traces of a Passage in Eurasian History.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 56. 3 (2014): 650–80. doi:10.1017/S0010417514000280.

____. “Constantinople in Rum (Byzantium).” In Sudden Appearances: The Mongol Turn in Commerce, Belief, and Art, 55-78. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2019.

      • Pelliot, P. Notes on Marco Polo. Paris: Imprimerie Nationale.1963.

      • Yule, Henry. Book of Ser Marco Polo, the Venetian. John Murray, Albermarle Street.1903.