Great Wall of China

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China; from 1449

Nomadic warrior tribes from Mongolia established a great empire under their leader Genghis Khan (1206–27). It stretched from eastern Europe across the north of India into China – the Mongols destroyed Beijing – and as far north as anyone wanted to live. Genghis’s grandson Kublai Khan (1215–94) took control of China as the founder of the Yuan Dynasty.

Traditionally, the achievements of civilizations such as the Mongols have been marginalized by architectural historians. Being nomadic, they built no monuments, but they clearly had the upper hand. The Mongols’ great invention was the stirrup, and their skill at ...

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