I’ve been feeling I need a break from present political reality. So, I’ve been reading about the Asian political reality of the 13th century with the above biography of Kubilai Khan.
The dude gets props for being an openminded ruler who embraced a pragmatic universalism to get the job done – which in his case was acquiring more lands and wealth.
I had expected endless tales of brutality but found that Kubilai was reluctant to destroy functioning towns and agricultural area, respected different religions, and tried to work things out before sacking a city. He just wanted to be acknowledged as the supreme ruler, receive tribute in the form of food and gold and silver, but otherwise leave locals alone.
When I read books about the ancient world, I often try to imagine what would happen if I inhabited that world, or in this case, found myself ruler of the Mongol empire. Kubilai had a liberal disposition and I found that I couldn’t fault him on many, if not most, of his decisions regarding the administration of his empire.
His folly was not recognizing his core competencies. He drained his treasury and spent a decade trying to invade Japan, the Mongol generals and soldiers not adept at seafaring.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.