Introduction

The Mongol expansion in the thirteenth century followed by a century of Pax Mongolica resulted in a vast transcontinental empire that connected the east to the west. At its peak, the Mongol empire was the largest contiguous empire in history, spanning from the Sea of Japan to the Danube River. The integration of Asia, Europe and parts of Africa promoted cultural interactions between different ethnic groups and facilitated the transmissions of technologies and ideas. Transcontinental connection can be seen in many fields, for example, trade, technologies, religions, medicine, and war. The page discusses five aspects of cultural contact in the Mongol empire, (i) globalization of medicine during Pax Mongolica; (ii) craftsmen as the agents of cultural contact; (iii) the spread of religion, focusing on Buddhism; (iv) Mongol’s contribution and hindrance of cross-continental transaction; and (v) cultural diffusion through military conquest, focusing on the first invasion of Hungary in 1240-1242.

Peter Gao: Mongol’s contribution and hindrance of cross-continental transactions

The Silk road linked Asia and Europe together and ushered in an era with extended cross-continental connections. It facilitated not only commercial transactions but also culture diffusion. Keeping their universalism in mind, the Mongols granted both local and foreign merchants with unprecedentedly high status and also treated them with hospitality. This page will firstly provide basic demographics of trading activities happening along the Silk road and then discuss Mongol’s contribution of cross-continental transactions.

Sherry Huang: Craftsmen as the agents of cultural contact

Moving across various cultural zones of Eurasia, craftsmen played a substantial role in the transmission of products and ideas. As the agents of cultural diffusion, craftsmen transferred their techniques and concepts which promoted the development of technology and arts in foreign places. This page discusses how the three types of craftsmen, siege engineers, artisans, and workmen who rebuilt destroyed cities, contributed to transcultural transmission. Specifically, the section examines the circulation of military technology in the Mongol empire and the occurrence of Eastern motifs in Iranian art due to the transmission of Chinese artisans and their crafts.

Haipeng Hu: Religion Communication: Buddhism

As one of the ancient systems that exist in human history, religion has played a main role in the development of culture. In this section, we could see the role of Buddhism, one of the main world religions, in the Mongols Empire. Prior to the conquest, most Mongols believed in Shamanism, which is a religion that focuses on “spiritual world” and “real world”, but after the conquest of China, the core Mongols Rulers converted to Buddhism and even encouraged the spread of Buddhism within Yuan Dynasty. As a result, Buddhism was the most influential religion during the Mongols Empire era.

Scarlett Huang: Globalization of medicine during Pax Mongolica

The revival of the Silk Road opened up venues for the exchange of scientific knowledge, and medicine was particularly benefitted as a result. Medical personnels travelled across Eurasia to spread their own knowledge while assimilating principles of others. Hospitals and medical academies were also built to further facilitate the development and exchange of medicine. This page will examine the evidence of this globalization in medical literation from China, Persian, Arabic, and European sources, as well as the contribution of prominent figures that fueled this movement. The open, receptive nature of Mongol communication and religious system also facilitated the spread of medicine.

Marco He: The Invasion of Hungary and Its Effects

Military conquests have tremendous effects in terms of facilitating cultural diffusions, as it causes the movement of large armies of people and, with them, the movement of crucial cultural components. One great example is the Mongols invasion of Hungary, which caused huge amounts of damage in a short span of time and left dramatic long term and short term impacts on the inhabitants of the region of Hungary. In this section, we will be discussing the Mongols invasion of Hungary and its effects in three subsections: the invasion, the withdrawal, and the short term and long term effects.

 

 
Kublai Khan as the first Yuan emperor, Shizu. Yuan dynasty (1271–1368). Album leaf, ink and color on silk. National Palace Museum, Taipei, 000324-00003. Photograph © National Palace Museum, Taipei.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, Pax Mongolica witnessed an unprecedented scale of transcontinental culturecrossing in human history, and Mongols were an undeniably important force behind this dynamism. Under the reign of Mongols, the Silk Road was revived, new routes were explored in Eurasia, and postal systems were used to grant travelers with safety, allowing merchants of different continents to trade commodities – not limited to silk, slaves, and horses – and mutually prospering the societies. The khans took the initiatives to invite skilled personnel in technology, crafts, and medicine from foreign lands to enrich their own culture and technology, and they at the same time commissioned and patronized projects that encouraged exchange of art, science, and religion, notably Buddhism. In parallel, the receptive, tolerant legal, religious, and communicational system of the Mongol empire helped the process of cultural cross-pollination to go without hindrance. Wars such as the first invasion of Hungary also served as another factor that accelerated the assimilation of foreign people into the Mongolian culture, albeit in a more forceful way. These transcontinental interactions changed the once isolated cultures forever.

 

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