To decide who the next khan would be while Kublai was still in China, a secret council was held in Mongolia’s capital Karakorum, and a rebellion was plotted by Kublai’s rivals.
After his mother warned him of the plot, he had no choice, and Kublai broke off the war with the Song Dynasty and led his army north to Shang-Tu. where he gathered supporters and was elected the great Khan of the Mongols at the age of 44.
Deciding he wanted a new capital, construction was started on the site where Beijing stands today. It would take 30,000 men five years to complete the new city. This is the city Marco Polo reached in 1266.
Kublai received Marco and his brother with hospitality and asked them many questions regarding the European legal and political system. He also inquired about the Pope and Church in Rome. After the brothers answered his questions, he tasked them with delivering a letter to the Pope, requesting 100 Christians acquainted with the Seven Arts (grammar, rhetoric, logic, geometry, arithmetic, music and astronomy).
Kublai Khan was now ready to wage war with the Song Dynasty again. At first, he tried diplomacy but the Song Dynasty refused to surrender. To fight the Song, Kublai Khan knew he had to build a navy and learn naval warfare. The Mongols had never been a seafaring race but this didn’t stop him.
Kublai’s army was now up against the great fortress city of Xiangyang. On the other side of this city was the Yangtze River and on the other side of the river was the heart of the Song Empire. He had to take the city before he crossed the river.
The siege lasted for five years before taking the city of Xiangyang and then Kublai’s army crossed the Yangtze.
At the time, the Song emperor was only four years old, and his aging mother handled affairs of state ruling China as the Empress Dowager. In 1276, she admitted defeat and the Song Dynasty surrendered.
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