Today in History: May 5


[Portrait of Kublai Khan; National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan]



Kublai Khan* made his debut

As Mongol emperor

With his palace in Xanadu.


*Kublai succeeded his brother who had succeeded their father, Genghis Khan.  He technically ruled the sprawling Mongol empire, but his real base of power was in China.  He was an enlightened ruler under whom the arts and sciences were nurtured and flourished.  As one would expect from the name ‘Mongol’  he had an aggressive foreign policy that among other military ventures included an abortive naval invasion of Japan. He expanded the territory of what became in 1271 the Yuan Dynasty. At his death in 1290 the Mongol empire stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the Black Sea, and from Siberia to Afghanistan.   Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poetic fragment has indelibly imprinted Xanadu wherever English literature is taught.  I include below the beguiling opening stanza.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
   Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.



Filed under: History by day


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  • Thank you for a pleasure-dome of a post!

  • A wonderful combination of history and poetry--Thank you, AW!

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