XanaduThe Emperor Kublai Khan died on this day 719 years ago. He was the first non-Chinese Emperor to conquer all of China, and at the height of his power, his territory covered one fifth of the world’s inhabited land area, stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Black Sea. His grandfather Genghis Khan had been the founder and first Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, uniting the nomadic tribes of northeast Asia and conquering most of Eurasia.

Genghis Khan had been succeeded by his third son Ögedei Khan, who had continued the westward expansion of the Mongol Empire. Ögedei was in turn succeeded by his son Güyük who was followed by his cousin Möngke who was succeeded by Kublai, his brother. Kublai Khan was the last Mongol Emperor to conquer new territory, and he became Emperor of China, establishing the Yuan Dynasty.

Marco Polo travelled to China in the 13th Century and met Kublai Khan, whom he described in his book Il Millione. The summer garden of Kublai Khan at Xanadu is the subject of a famous poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

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.

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