Kublai Khan and South East Asia

K.G. Tregonning traces the path of Mongol conquest to a lesser studied destination - the ancient kingdoms of the Indo-Chinese and Malayan peninsulas.

When a European thinks of Kublai Khan his recollections are of a monarch distant in space and time, a Mongol who became Chinese, a barbarian who became civilized. He remembers that the menace from the East, which under Kublai’s predecessors had been so close—with Mongol armies in western Europe and their horsemen but a few days’ ride from the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea—suddenly receded and came no more.

But to us here in South-East Asia, with our eyes turned northwards, up to the overhanging mass of China, Kublai Khan looms out as the man who planned a many-pronged South-East Asian invasion. Under him a threat that had seemed remote at last materialized, effecting momentous changes in the development of the states concerned. So far this is the last great Chinese invasion of South-East Asia, and, apart from a curious naval sweep a century later, China after Kublai’s death retreated inside its traditional boundaries. In the present state of the world it is an episode not without a certain topicality.

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