43: Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368 CE)

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Rise of the Mongols

Reestablishing the historical narrative

Let us reestablish our political context. The Jurchen, a Manchurian forest-dwelling tribe, controlled northern China, calling their dynasty the Chin. The Tibetan Tangut tribe controlled the northwest silk route, calling their dynasty the Hsi Hsia. The Chinese Sung, who seemed more interested in culture than in fighting, only controlled southern China.

Meteoric rise of the Siberian Mongols

Then early in the 13th century the northern Mongolian tribes consolidated under Ghengis Khan. Feeling under divine influence, the Mongol rise was meteoric.

“In early Sung times the Mongolian-speaking peoples were scattered across the eastern Siberian plain in separate tribes or nations.”1

One of these tribes was called the Mongols and another was called the Tatars.2 The Mongol tribe arose to prominence giving its name to the collection of tribes.

Tangut and Jurchen vanquished by 1234; Chinese move north

In 1210 they attacked the Jurchen Chin dynasty, capturing Peking in 1215. They established control of the strategic Ordos Plain above the north China plain. By 1227 they had destroyed the Tangut Hsi Hsia Dynasty in the northwest. The Chinese imperial government was happy with these events. Their traditional enemies were conquered. Seeing an opportunity, they allied with the Mongols against the Jurchen Chin, conquering them by 1234. Celebrating, the Chinese moved across the Yangtze into the north China plain.

1279 abdication of the Sung; a Mongolian dynasty proclaimed

Their celebration, however, was short lived. Under the battle lust of Ghengis Khan, the Mongols attacked the imperial army of the Sung in 1235. The Chinese imperial army, while reluctant to fight, put up a stubborn, yet ultimately futile, resistance to the Mongol advance. Finally in 1273, with the help of siege specialists from the conquered Moslem empire of the Middle East, the Mongols finally broke through the Sung defenses, moving into the fertile Yangtze valley. By 1279 the Mongols had finished conquering of the Sung. (Note: the peasantry was just exchanging one military aristocracy for another.) The Mongols set up their own Chinese dynasty called the Yuan under Ghengis’ grandson Kublai.

The Nature of Nomadic powers

Let us talk a little about the nature of these nomadic tribes that were ravaging China during this period.

“The Ch’i-tan, Jurchen, and Mongol tribesmen who successively threatened China from the north after the collapse of T’ang did not significantly differ in their patterns of origin and evolution from their counterparts of the early imperial age, the Hsiung-nu, Hsien-pu and Turks. First appearing as forest hunters in eastern Siberia north of Korea, they moved down onto the steppes of northern Manchuria and Outer Mongolia, and there they gradually adopted the life-style of horse nomadism that was best suited to the terrain. Their tribal organization, herding economy, and battle tactics seem to have been essentially the same as those of the Hsiung-nu of Ch’in and Han times. The nomadic groups never numbered more than a minute few compared with the sedentary, agrarian Chinese masses to the south; but to the extent that they could confederate under strong leaders and effectively exploit their nomadic life-style, they were able to harass China and keep it on the defensive.”3

Roots of many nomadic tribes in Siberian forests

Thus these nomadic tribes find their roots in the Siberian forests of northeast Asia. This corresponds with both the Longshan migrations of Neolithic times, and the Xia and Shang dynasties of semi and historical times. The vitality of the warrior culture of the forest dwelling Beringians of the last Ice Age continued to fuel these aggressive militaristic cultures of the north, which have ravaged China for thousands of years. Sometimes, as in the case of the Tangut tribes, the aggression came from the northwest, or even in a minor level from the forests of the southwest. However, these hunters primarily came from the forests of Siberia.

This is the traditional cycle. The ferocity of the hunter/warriors enables them to conquer China. Then they are assimilated and tamed by Chinese culture. Finally the next military tribe that emerges from the cultural remnants of ancient Beringia conquers them.

Success of tribes had to do with assimilation

In many ways the success of these tribes in conquering and maintaining control of China was highly related to their willingness to assimilate. The T’o-pa were almost entirely assimilated because they decided to give up nomadic life for the settled imperial existence. The Liao were never able to permanently conquer northern China because they were not willing to use Chinese institutions to govern and instead held onto to their nomadic culture. Basically the nomadic culture had no methods for controlling and administering millions of agricultural peasants. They had to rely on Chinese institutions to accomplish this task. If they refused to listen or use Chinese administrators, then they were ultimately doomed to marginal influence and control.

Jurchen success based upon assimilation

The relative success of the Jurchen in conquering and controlling all of Northern China was partially based upon their admiration for the Chinese way of life and their willingness to assimilate. While the Mongols under Ghengis Khan kept their distance from Chinese institutions, Kublai was thoroughly sinofied – becoming a somewhat classic Chinese Emperor. His willingness to listen to Chinese counsel, to maintain Chinese institutions, and live like a Chinese Emperor, was what allowed him to conquer all of China and to establish an authentic dynasty. While these Mongol tribes didn’t ultimately influence the Chinese experience, except as conquerors, at least they were able to maintain an effective political control over all of China for almost a century.

Taoist Watershed or the Rise & Fall of Political Taoism

Following is an alternate historical scenario from the Taoist perspective.

Taoist Master saves the day

The encroachment by the northern nomads followed its inexorable military course, and the Mongolian nomad, Ghengis Khan, invaded and threatened to devastate China. To defend the Chinese peasant agrarian-culture, a Taoist master pleaded with Ghengis Khan to respect Taoism and China would be his. Ghengis Khan followed his advice and China was spared the widespread devastation that the Mongols were renowned for.

“In 1222 the master Ch’iu Ch’ang-ch’un defended Taoism before Ghengis Khan as the national religion and put himself forth as the representative of the Chinese people: “If the conqueror respects Taoism, the Chinese will submit.” Ch’iu won this daring bet and was installed by Ghengis as head of the religious Chinese, including the Buddhists.”4

Backlash and book burning

The Taoists were put in charge of the religion in China to their detriment. Shortly after their rise to power, there was a peasant uprising that was blamed on Taoism. After the revolt was quashed, there was a Taoist book burning in 1282. This backlash permanently broke the back of institutional Taoism. Never again was the Taoist church a strong political force.

“This success, which conferred on Taoism a power unknown to it before, soon became detrimental. The encroachment upon Buddhist and Confucian domains provoke their vengeance and resulted in the first serious proscription of Taoism. In 1282 Taoist books, except for the Tao Te Ching, were burned. The loss was irremediable and even Taoism’s spirit seemed broken.”5

Taoism fades into the background

Although the political power of the religious structure of Taoism was broken, Taoist ideas were still important. In China after this book burning, the organization of Taoism was the religion of the people, not that of the ruling class. Taoism had never been the philosophy of the government, because its intent was personal power, not social power. It had always been the philosophy of those excluded from social power. The moral philosophy of the literati and aristocracy was Confucianism.

Secret Societies

Public Taoism also became less active politically. They yielded to the violence. Where before it had been the Taoist organization, which had provided leadership in resisting foreign regimes, now they took a back seat to “Secret Societies”. It was as if the Taoist organization had become tainted by its cooperation with the Mongols.

“National resistance was led henceforth by the sects (the “Secret Societies”) which often shared the theology and practices of Taoism, but which now became separate organizations. They worked hard for national restoration against the Mongols and eventually brought Chu Yuan-chang, the founder of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), to power.”6

It is important to emphasize that the secret societies ‘shared the theology and practices of Taoism.’ These secret societies were military and hence martial. The Taoist focus upon bodywork is intimately connected with the martial arts of the warrior. However in order to survive, the established Taoist church had to distance themselves from the secret societies due to their revolutionary nature.

During Yuan, all Chinese lower class

During the Mongol occupation of China, called the Yuan dynasty, the Chinese were discriminated against for the first time. During the T’ang, the conquering tribes were so sinofied that most histories don’t even think of them as invaders from the north. The rise of the Mongols was so rapid that the Chinese royalty didn’t have time to intermarry significantly enough to bind these nomadic tribes to their culture. Indeed the Mongols separated the Chinese from them legally. The Mongols were ranked first in privilege. Non-Chinese foreigners were second; the northern Chinese were third and southern Chinese were lowest. The southern Chinese had been servants of the Sung dynasty. Now they were the slaves of the Mongols.

Interaction illegal

As we will see, the Mongol occupation opened up China to the world in wondrous ways. However, this time period was degrading and humiliating for the Chinese aristocracy. In prior times, they had been able to cooperate and intermarry with the conquering tribes to establish some local control. Now during the Yuan, it was against the law for Mongols to even marry Chinese.

Traditional Mongols maintain autonomy

The old Mongol chieftains under Ghengis Khan realized the threat of assimilation to their traditional nomadic culture. They kept their capital in traditional Mongol territory and elected leaders in a semi-democratic fashion. When Kublai Khan moved his capital into China, the Mongols rejected him. While Kublai was able to control all of China, he didn’t control the rest of the Mongol empire, which split into four parts.

Chinese aristocratic warriors degraded to peasantry

This was the first time in history that the Chinese aristocracy was forbidden by law from having a major role in government. This forced the warriors of the military aristocracy out of government and into the Taoist-dominated agricultural countryside.

Internal martial arts of Chang Sen Fang

It was during this period that Chang Sen Fang established himself on Wu Tang Mountain and developed the internal style of martial arts based upon Taoist principles. According to legend, he developed both the Tai Chi form and the Wu Tang sword form taught by Master Ni. He is considered to be the legendary founder of the soft martial arts.

Chang Sen Fang first studied with the Buddhist monks of Shaolin Temple. It was these Buddhist monks who had taken the Chinese warrior training and turned it into a spiritual discipline. Of course, the Chinese warrior discipline had its roots in the military aristocracy of the shih class of the Shang and maybe before. The military training was institutionalized in the cultured ju class of which Confucius was part. Thus Buddhists spiritualized this Confucian warrior training and now Taoists were internalizing it.

Suppressed by the Mongols, the Chinese military aristocracy morphed into secret societies. In turn these underground societies developed the Chinese martial arts based upon Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucian thought. These secret martial societies have regularly fought to overthrow the rule of foreign invaders. During this period, they fought to overthrow the Mongols; later the Moguls; and finally the Europeans in the Boxer Rebellions.

A Taoist split: Ch’uan-chen Taoism & Heavenly Masters

Under the Mongols, Taoism split into two parts. One branch was the traditional organization of the Heavenly Masters; the other branch followed Ghengis Khan’s teacher. It was called Ch’uan-chen Taoism and is linked to alchemical Taoism.

“Henceforth, Taoism was comprised of two main schools which complemented each other without rivalry: that of the Heavenly Masters, passed on hereditarily since the Han, and that of Ch’iu Ch’ang-ch’un, Ghengis Khan’s teacher. The latter school was called the school of Total Perfection (Ch’uan-chen). It was based on the Buddhist model in monastic communities.”7

Ch’uan-chen: Taoism’s reaction to Zen Buddhism: Dual Cultivation.

Ch’uan-chen was Taoism’s reaction to Zen Buddhism. A major difference between it and previous forms of Taoism is contained in the notion of dual cultivation. Briefly speaking, the Taoists had previously emphasized the body at the expense of the mind. As Lao Tzu said in the 3rd song-poem of the Tao Te Ching,

“The Sage rules by emptying the hearts of the people and filling their bellies, weakening their wills and strengthening their bones, so that they remain without knowledge or desire.”

The Buddhists had stressed the mind at the expense of the body. They were exhorted to kill their senses. Simply speaking, the idea behind dual cultivation was to cultivate both the body and the mind. Taoism, instead of being rigidly fixed in their Way, was open to influence, evolution and growth.

Alchemy continued

Ch’uan-chen Taoism was linked heavily with the alchemical tradition. They looked upon the Triplex Unity, the classic book on Chinese alchemy written over thousand years earlier, as one of their books. However, it is unlikely that the author of the Triplex Unity considered himself a Taoist anymore than a modern American considers himself a materialist.

Although begun in the 11th century, Ch’uan-chen Taoism matured during the Yuan dynasty. Although this branch was a continuation of the alchemical tradition and similar to Ch’an (or Zen) Buddhism, it had important differences. Unlike Buddhism, their writings contained both male and female authors. Further the philosophy of Ch’uan-chen was written in explicit language rather than concealed as in the alchemical tradition.

Chang Po-tuan & Understanding Reality

Chang Po-tuan, known as the founder of the southern sect, wrote Understanding Reality to clarify the enormous confusion created by misinterpretation of the original symbolic alchemical texts. Understanding Reality became an alchemical classic on the level with Triplex Unity. Additionally, he wrote a condensed version, Four Hundred Words on the Gold Elixir, now called The Inner Teachings of Taoism. Nowhere in this work does he refer to the popularizers of Taoism – Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, or the Tao Te Ching. The thrust of Alchemical Taoism is practice, not theory.

Secrets of Taoist Alchemy, not for everyone

“[Chang Po-tuan] is said to have been ‘punished by heaven’ three times for passing on secrets of alchemy to unworthy people.”8

We mention this to reemphasize that the secrets of personal power are not for everyone, only for the worthy. But just as Taoist alchemy wasn’t for everybody, there was a branch of Taoism that was for everyone - the organization of the Heavenly Masters. This popular tradition was based upon the teachings of Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, and the Tao Te Ching.

The Heavenly Masters continued

The Heavenly Masters remained at the head of the Taoist liturgical organization. The spiritual leaders participated in the rituals, acknowledged the power of these ceremonies on the common folk, and attempted to channel this power. Remember that there is no set tao, no set way – whatever works.

“As to the Heavenly Masters, they remained at the head of the liturgical organization. Installed on the Mountain of the Dragon and the Tiger … since the T’ang period (8th century), they became the “Taoist popes” - a derisive term bestowed on them by Western missionaries.”9

Annual agricultural ceremonies

The common folk were mostly farmers, not warriors or rulers. Even today in China, 80% of their billion people are still involved in agriculture.10 Recall that the agricultural rites and customs of China and Europe are very individualized, probably harking back to Neolithic fertility rites.

These rites of sympathetic magic are called superstitious by the rational academics of China and Europe. While superstitious, the ceremonies and rites had, until the 20th century, been retained. The rites had the function of breaking up the year and focusing the agricultural community upon the seasonal tasks at hand.

In Europe, the Catholic Church was the umbrella organization that presided over or at least blessed these ceremonies. In China the Heavenly Masters performed this function. While in Europe, the Catholic Church was intimately connected with political power on large and small levels, after the book burning, the organization of the Heavenly Masters, primarily wielded power locally, not nationally. They participated fully in all the Neolithic agricultural festivals.

Both practice and study important

Later Taoists, especially the Ch’uan-chen branch, stressed the cultivation of both body and mind. They stressed both practices and study. Physical practices, such as meditation and Tai Chi, came to be complemented by the mental practices based upon the study of Taoist classics. One without the other is incomplete. One is yin, the other yang – two sides of the same hand.

“Taoist thought perpetuated this notion of autonomy and liberty. It is thus legitimate to link the classic works (the book of Chuang Tzu and the Tao-te ching) as do the Taoists themselves, to the search for immortality (“To nourish the vital principle”) and to liturgy (the social body.).”11

Shamanism, direct antecedent of Taoism

 While the Taoist classics have great importance in stimulating us to transcend the verbal reality, we cannot forget the inspirational shamanistic practices that led to development of Taoism.

“The works of the mystics are among the most ancient documents to have come down to us, but they also, in fact, represent the culmination of the Taoist system. … Conversely, shamanism, which we know fully only thanks to the data of contemporary ethnography, actually correspond to an archaic level which, from an objective view, is to be placed among the antecedents of Taoism.”12

Ghengis Khan (1155-1227 CE) & the Mongol Warrior culture

The Mongols that Ghengis Khan ruled were a classic pastoral culture, which included war gods, ancestor worship, and warrior mentality.

The Mongols, a classic military pastoral Sky God culture

Their domination of Eurasia was the classic political mechanism in historical times of a warrior culture dominating the agrarian cultures surrounding them. The warrior tribes hone their skills fighting amongst themselves over land that they’ve destroyed by their pastoral methods. One ruler assumes ascendancy and leads the other tribes on a conquering mission throughout the world. They set themselves and their heirs up as a military aristocracy. A few examples come to mind: Alexander the Great in the Middle East, the Romans in the Mediterranean, the Normans of Europe, the Shang of pre-historic China, the Ch’in of historic China, the Angles and Saxons of England, and now the Mongols of Ghengis Khan.

First comes unification

Ghengis Khan, a great warrior and brilliant commander, united the diversity of Mongol tribes by battle and by destroying traditional tribal boundaries in vicious ways. In a similar way to the Ch’in First Emperor, he assimilated by executing competing rulers or khans. He did not permit dissent.

“His overall aim was to destroy traditional divisions and unite the Mongol world under his supreme control, and he sought to achieve it by eliminating all rivals capable of challenging his authority.”13

Then comes expansion

After unifying the Mongols, the stage was set for the conquering of Eurasia. The ecological disaster of the pastoral lifestyle gave an inherent impetus for expansion that was lacking in the agricultural societies. Additionally, being a warrior culture they glorified war and battle. Having honed their battle skills with infighting, they were ready to move onto the global arena.

“That year [1207 CE] driven to expansion by the inadequate pastures of their homelands and by their inbred love for war, the newly organized Mongol hordes burst out of the steppes.”14

Inherent advantages, lack of location

Besides the battle practice they had from fighting amongst themselves, the pastoral cultures had other advantages as well. First, because of the nomadic nature of their lifestyle, they are unencumbered by location. They don’t need to go home to harvest crops because they can live anywhere. Agricultural societies must perform certain tasks seasonally in order to ensure a bountiful harvest. Nomadic cultures are unbound by season for survival. When they go conquering, the agrarian cultures must still maintain contact with the supply lines from home. In contrast, the nomadic cultures bring their homes with them. Home is where their horse and tent are.

“Warriors by nature, these people [the Mongols] were unencumbered by material possessions and never needed to allow time for the planting and harvesting of crops. And a history of constant feuding made warfare an integral part of their lives.”15

A second advantage: the Mongols and many other pastoral cultures glorify war. As with the Vikings, Normans, Plains Indians, and many others, war was considered the perfect arena to test a man’s virtues. The goal of the warrior culture is not to possess as much as it is to battle. If in the process of battle one conquers, all the better, but the primary focus is the battle itself. This explains why many of the great armies kept conquering rather than stopping, assimilating and enjoying their conquests. Alexander the Great, Napoleon, and Hitler could have all stopped after their initial successes. Consumed by battle lust, they continued until they and their armies were vanquished.

Wars of materialism for possession

The wars of materialism are much different. When the object is possession, then that possession must be protected. In materialist wars, the populace is enslaved, the land is occupied, or the conquered culture is required to pay tribute.

Warriors glorify domination

Because the object of the warrior cultures is battle, not possession, war is plunder, rape and destruction. The blood lust is addicting, leading Ghengis Khan to say:

“The greatest joy a man can have is victory: to conquer one’s enemy’s armies, to pursue them, to deprive them of their possessions, to reduce their families to tears, to ride on their horses, and to make love to their wives and daughters.”16

Warriors scorn possession

Bent on warfare, the Mongols thought nothing of destroying cities of a million or more inhabitants. If a city offered resistance they would destroy all the inhabitants and level the town, leaving nothing there but rubble.

“The Mongols, steeped in nomadic tradition, gave no thought to the advantages of occupying such a bountiful land [China]. Life in permanent settlements was alien to them. They conquered for conquest’s sake, for the harvest of immediate booty.”17

Merit over Privilege

A third military advantage of these nomadic cultures is that ability is rewarded over family connections. Because the warrior is glorified, battle skills are of utmost importance, but self-limiting. If the warrior is no good, he perishes. In civilian life, mistakes are not fatal. Furthermore, good and bad are somewhat subjective. In military life, good and bad are determined by the objective standards of victory and survival.

“Beyond the immediate royal family, promotion was by merit alone, and that merit judged by martial ability.”18

Sounds like Confucius. Merit over privilege. Recall that Northern China, the birthplace of Confucian ideals, has always been a more militarily based culture. As such, it makes sense that they would talent over bloodline.

Mongol religion

Military Sky Gods

A deeply religious people, the Mongols worshipped a god named “Eternal Blue Sky”. Upon being elected to supreme leadership, Ghengis Khan was proclaimed the representative of the ‘Eternal Blue Sky’ on earth. As with all war gods including Jehovah, this military deity was associated with the sky.


Like the Chinese, the Mongols were tolerant religiously. In similar fashion to the Chinese, the Mongols also demanded that all peoples under their sway had to recognize their leader, in this case Ghengis Khan, as the supreme leader of the earth.

One Mongol decree stated: “No man was to be persecuted for his religion, provided that he acknowledge the ultimate authority of the great khan.”19

This concept is identical with the Chinese Imperial philosophy. It allowed the great khans, first Ghengis and later Kublai, to easily become the Emperor of China. Part of the position included taking on Chinese advisors to assist in the management of the country.

An earth goddess: remnant of earlier times?

The Mongols also worshipped idols, most commonly an earth goddess. Could this deity be a remnant of the great Goddess cults that used to be spread through Eurasia?

Ancestor Worship

The Mongols also worshipped the spirits of their ancestors. They were made to memorize the names and were exhorted to honor them by achieving great things. Ghengis Khan’s great grandfather had united the Mongols a century before. Ghengis was driven to repeat this accomplishment and then extend it to the whole world.

Again the idea of ancestor worship blends easily with Chinese values. Again this reflects the common patriarchal roots of both cultures. While the nomads were not agricultural of necessity, they still had a cultural link with China from centuries of military interaction. Could this ancestor worship have been transmitted from the steppes rather than vice versa? Remember that patriarchal ancestor worship was probably an import from the west overlaid upon the matriarchal succession of the prior fertility cultures of prehistoric times.

Kublai Khan, a classic Chinese Emperor

Warrior cult to cult of materialism

Another transformation that occurred to the Mongols due to their cultural assimilation was that the warrior cult of the first generation was softened in later generations, eventually becoming a cult of materialism. Typically, nomadic warriors began to enjoy the advantages of wealth and possession. Enjoyment of civilization’s pleasures replaced their love of war.

Mongol manifestation

With Ghengis in command, the center of their empire remained in Mongolia. By the time of his death, his Empire had spread into China in the east and into Persia in the west. After his death, the unwieldy empire split up into independent states, which were hostile to one another.

From Genghis to Kublai Khan

Traditional Mongols favored the time honored nomadic warrior traditions, while the newer generation favored assimilation. This was especially true in the Persian and Chinese parts of the empire. Kublai Khan, Ghengis’ grandson, did not control the vast empire that Ghengis did. However, he was able to conquer all of China 70 years after Ghengis’ initial invasion.

Although he was voted great Khan of the Empire, he cared little for the Mongolian Empire and its people. He focused his energies upon China and ruled as a Chinese emperor. He had been educated in China as nobility, rather than in Mongolia as a nomadic warrior.

The Mongols had been assimilated in but three generations. This classic mechanism that has been repeated countless times throughout world history. In some ways, the threat of barbarian invasion is a major reason behind maintaining a strong military in peacetime.

Divine Mission or Mandate of Heaven

Genghis, divinely inspired

Ghengis Khan felt driven by a divine mission. “I am the flail of God. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.” said Ghengis Khan to the refugees of a Middle Eastern city conquered by his hordes.

If God didn’t will it, I wouldn’t be here

The Mongols consider themselves God’s weapon or tool. “Why would I be in this position if the supreme God had not willed it?” This notion meshes neatly with the Chinese concept of the Mandate of Heaven. He who is in charge has the Mandate of Heaven because he is in charge. The common cultural background of the Mongols and the Imperial government provides an explanation for these similarities.

Yuan dynasty opens China to Europe

The Chinese tend to be overly self-absorbed. As a culture they tend to cloister themselves. Before and after the Mongolian Yuan dynasty, the Chinese secluded themselves inside their borders.

Chinese isolation has a long Tradition

Indeed during the early Chou dynasty, an emperor received a dog from a conquered kingdom, which he took an immediate liking to. His prime minister counseled him not to become attached to foreign things because then they would have control over him.

Traditionally, Chinese economic isolation began at this point. Even unto the 20th century, the Chinese have resisted foreign goods. As we will see, the only foreign product that ever gained widespread acceptance in China was opium. Opium fulfilled the prophecy of foreign dependence to a greater degree than ever imagined.

The heirs of Ghengis Khan ruled the Mongolian Yuan dynasty. During their reign, China was opened to outside influence due to the Mongol’s far-flung empire. This window of opportunity changed European history in a major way.

While the trade routes were open due to the Mongols, Marco Polo journeyed to China with his uncles. Kublai Khan took a liking to the boy and sent him on travels throughout the Empire for 17 years. Marco Polo wrote of his adventures. His relatives brought back exotic goods, including silk, spices and other luxurious items. The European nobility acquired a taste for the opulence of the Orient. Trade brought spices and silk. Spices and silk brought status.

Spice and status connected

The kingdoms of feudal Europe had first been introduced to a more refined civilization in the prior centuries through a variety of sources, including the Crusades, the Near and Middle East, and the Moslem Empire. But their taste for the exotic was enhanced with this opening of trade with the Far East, primarily China, through the Mongols. One’s status became determined by the ability to afford the fabulous luxuries of the Orient. Spice was the major import. The royalty would serve spices as a course to flaunt their wealth.

Chinese Ming dynasty closes the door initiating the Age of Exploration

During the Ming Dynasty, the Chinese reassumed control, foreigners were once again excluded. The trade routes closed. The European aristocracy was in danger of losing their status symbols. They either had to pay exorbitant prices or find new trade routes. This privation initiated the great Age of Exploration from Europe, which inevitably led to the discovery of the New World.

In brief, the brutal devastation of eastern Eurasia by the Mongols in the 1200s exposed Chinese civilization to the Western world. The door was closed again by the Ming dynasty, but the European status addict was hooked and needed his fix. The drive for status powered a movement of exploration, which eventually transformed global politics completely.

Genghis a divine manifestation

Viewed from this perspective, Ghengis Khan was a divine manifestation. Ghengis Khan could be thought of as consummate example of a man who had self-actualized his divine potentials. He belongs in the same category as Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Julius Caesar, Constantine and the First Emperor. They were all military autocrats, who transformed the world with their destructive frenzies. If Nature likes intermixture, then these barbaric conquerors must be considered as part of the Plan.

Mao also

In the 20th century Mao, for similar reasons, could also be considered part of the Divine Plan – having Heaven’s Mandate. If Mao hadn’t taken over China, then Master Ni would not have come to the United States and I would not be writing this paper. While major ‘moral’, ‘inhumane’, atrocities have been committed by the Chinese Communists under Mao, while civil liberties have been limited, while peaceful Tibet was crushed culturally by the Chinese, while Taoist temples were desecrated at the highest level ever, while all of these things and more, it initiated the spread of Chinese spirituality throughout the world.

Without Mao’s aggression, many of these Tai Chi Masters would have remained home in beautiful China. Why leave? Master Ni would not have left; Cheng Man-ching would not have left. We are sorry and compassionate for the pain that was caused, but bless the Tao of Heaven and Earth, that we in the rest of the world could benefit from interaction with the Chinese. The Chinese experience has certainly added incredible dimensionality and meaning to my existence.


1 Charles Hucker, China to 1850, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, 1978, p. 125

2 One of the many tribes became the Mongols proper (Meng-ku in Chinese); another bore the name Tatar (Ta-ta) which outsiders eventually applied to all the non-Chinese of Mongolia, Manchuria, and Central Asia indiscriminately, even non-Mongolian speakers such as the Manchus.” China to 1850, p. 125

3 China to 1850, p. 122

4 The Taoist Body, Kristofer Schipper, University of California Press, 1993, p. 14

5 Schipper, p. 15

6 Schipper, p. 15

7 Schipper, p, 15

8 The Inner Teachings, p. xv

9 Schipper, p15

10 China to 1850, p. 12

11 Schipper, p. 15

12 Schipper, p. 15

13 TimeFrame Ad 1200-1300 – The Mongol Conquests, Time-Life Books, 1989, p. 12

14 The Mongol Conquests, p. 14

15 The Mongol Conquests, p. 14

16 The Mongol Conquests, p. 13

17 The Mongol Conquests, p. 14

18 TimeFrame Ad 1200-1300 – The Mongol Conquests, Time-Life Books, 1989, p. 14

19 The Mongol Conquests, p. 14


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