Yuan Dynasty - Mongols
In 1276 AD, when the Mongols invaded and took over China, they had already been ruling a large empire for about fifty years. Their empire stretched from India and Russia to northern China and Korea. In 1276 the Mongols captured the Sung capital at Hangzhou, and by 1279 the Mongols controlled all of China. Kublai Khan, the Mongol leader, moved the capital of the Mongol empire from Karakorum in Central Asia to Beijing, China. In 1271, when he was 56, Kublai Khan declared himself emperor of China.
Kublai Khan tried to conquer Japan in 1274 and 1281 AD, but was prevented by a great storm. He also tried to recapture northern Vietnam (Annam) and Burma, but without much success. Even in China, Kublai Khan's rule was not very successful. The Chinese were very angry that Kublai Khan gave foreigners like the Venetian Marco Polo all the jobs as governors and judges, instead of choosing Chinese people. But Kublai Khan did not trust the Chinese. And the Chinese were also angry that the Mongols kept their own language and customs, and didn't want to act like the Chinese.
Kublai Khan died in 1294 AD. By the 1330s, people all over the whole Mongol Empire were suffering from the Black Death - the bubonic plague. Millions of people died in China. The plague made it hard to keep the empire together.
During the 1350s AD, a revolutionary movement called the Red Turbans became active in northern China. In 1356, the Red Turbans, under the leadership of Chu Yuan-chang, captured Nanjing. Chu Yuan-chang gradually conquered China, and threw out the Mongols. In 1368 AD Chu Yuan-chang declared himself emperor of China, under the name Hung-wu, and then he finally captured the Mongol capital at Beijing, starting the Ming Dynasty.
This is a piece of a Korean movie set in 1375 AD, at the very end of the Yuan Dynasty. It's a true story about some ambassadors from Korea, who came to China to negotiate with the new Ming Dynasty emperor, Hung-Wu, and found themselves arrested and sent into exile instead, because Hung-Wu suspected them of being spies.
To find out more about the Mongol invasion of China, check out these books from Amazon.com or from your library:
Eyewitness: Ancient China, by Arthur Cotterell, Alan Hills, and Geoff Brightling (2000). For kids.
China (History of Nations), by Greenhaven Press (2002). For middle schoolers. The negative review on Amazon is actually for a different book - don't be alarmed!
The Mongol Empire, by Mary Hull (1998). For middle schoolers.
Khubilai Khan: His Life and Times, by Morris Rossabi (1990). A biography for adults, sticking closely to historical sources.
Main Mongol Empire page
The Ming Dynasty
Main Chinese History page
Main China page