It is said that today's Italians are not ancient Romans, today's Greeks are not ancient Greeks, and today's Chinese are ancient Chinese. This may be true because the Chinese civilization that first arose around the Yellow River still exists in China today. Even the Chinese scattered worldwide still retain their part of ancient Chinese civilization. But the ancient Roman civilization was utterly extinct by the 4th century, and today's Italians are the embryos of the European civilization of the Renaissance. The Greek, Aegean, and Cretan civilizations died two thousand years ago.

The Chinese like to explain their five thousand years of civilization as a continuous succession of dynasties. The Chinese claim that their state's history has more than four thousand years, and they call different legendary dynasties. It is now confirmed that the Shang Dynasty, who lived in the Yellow River area, was the first. Historians claim that this country was founded in 1554 BC. Since then, many minor dynasties have existed and disappeared at different times, and only in the 2nd century BC did Qin Shi Huang founded the first unified Chinese dynasty. The history of the Chinese state dates back to the Shang Dynasty, if not the Qing Dynasty. But the Chinese people, not the dynasties, inherited four or five millennia of Chinese civilization. The state and the people are two different concepts. The Chinese nation has inherited its early civilization from generation to generation. It is highly doubtful that the many dynasties that have lived and died in China have succeeded one another.

During the late Qing Dynasty, the notion was that China was repeatedly invaded by foreigners in history but never became part of the conquered countries, but instead assimilated them and made them part of China. For this reason, it has been explained that although they were under the rule of foreigners, there were, in fact, successor states, not much different from previous and later states. The comment that "the fact that China is made up of many nations has become compatible with the national consciousness of Chinese citizens" is widely circulated.[1][i]

Many conquests should be seen as "non-selective" statehood. If this view prevails in historiography, then the history of many empires will have to be looked at in a completely different way. For example, what do you think about the Arab world during the Ottoman Empire, the Golden Horde? The question arises whether this is Mongolia.

There were many cases when northern nomads usurped the Chinese state. Tobei, Khitan, and Jurchen ruled the northern part of China. In the 13th century, the Mongols and in the 17th century, the Manchus ruled the whole of China. The Mongols occupied the Northern Song after 20 years of struggle and conquered the Southern Song country after 40 years of struggle. A total of 60 years have passed. The Chinese sometimes still refer to the Yuan dynasty as the "Mongolian Yuan dynasty." They say that this is not much.

The Mongol invasion was not only about invading and capturing the country. An estimated 20-30 million Chinese died in this long war.[2] Many became victims of the terrible epidemic the Mongols spread. Dozens of cities were wiped off the face of the earth. As a result, most of the cultural heritage was irretrievably destroyed.

Chinese society was a relatively open world before the Mongols. The Silk Road connecting China with Ancient Rome has a long history. All Western and Eastern religions have freely entered China throughout history. Xi'an is the first city in the world with a population of one million. During the Tang Dynasty, China alone accounted for two-thirds of the world's production. The war of the barbarians who invaded China did not cause much damage to the social life of the entire Chinese. But the Mongols' 60-year war to conquer them fundamentally changed Chinese society. Without the Mongol invasion, the Industrial Revolution would have started in Xi'an 500 years before England.[3]  After the Yuan, China became a closed society. Because of this, she lost her potential to become a maritime power. In fact, because of its contagion, Japan has become a society that is closed on all sides.

After the founding of the Yuan Dynasty, the Han were considered the lowest of the four categories of people belonging to the main population. There is a big difference between the punishment for a Mongol and a Chinese who has committed the same crime. This is statutory discrimination, not discretionary discrimination. Although Confucianism and Taoism, the main religions of China, were not banned, many other religions were imported and placed on the same level. In particular, about 70 years after the reign of Kublai Khan, the outside oppression of the Chinese nation by the ruling Mongols reached its climax. Although the traditional Chinese state machine owned by the Mongols operated according to the old established mechanism during the Yuan Dynasty, the Chinese were kept from approaching the highest positions in the government. However, it was common for them to be friendlier to non-Chinese such as Persians, Arabs, Tibetans, Uyghurs, and Koreans, and promote them to the top. In less than a hundred years of the Yuan Dynasty, many Mongol emperors were born, but none of them took Chinese wives or concubines, which was very common for non-Chinese, especially Korean, brides. Is such a state a continuation of Chinese civilization? Is such a state the successor of the Tang and Song dynasties? There is a widespread belief that the rule of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty was the darkest period in Chinese history and that it was a dark barbarian state imposed by foreigners against the heritage and civilization of the Chinese people.

The Chinese rebelled against the Yuan government many times. Eventually, an ordinary monk led a rebellion, overthrew Yuan, and drove the Mongols out of the country. As soon as the Ming dynasty was established in China, Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang began to avenge the past century. In his first few years on the throne, he killed 100,000 people, most of whom were new civil servants. The main thing is the suspicions associated with the state of the Yuan. Everything that concerned the Yuan was destroyed as suspicion. The Pagba script, which combined the dialects of China's many ethnic groups, was banned. They stopped using the name "Mongol" and began to use the word "Tatar" as before. It's a nickname for life.

Even now, the reputation of the Ming Dynasty among the Chinese is very high. Mao Zedong is considered the greatest reformer in Chinese history compared to Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty. The founders of the Ming Dynasty were not considered heirs or successors of the Yuan Dynasty but national heroes who liberated their country from foreign invaders.

On the other hand, Kublai Khan was not only the emperior of China. Great Mongolia, founded in 1206, literally ended with the death of Kublai Khan. The clan of Genghis Khan, who had ruled the world since the time of Khubilai, was dispersed and divided into independent and even hostile states. Khubilai was the last Khan of Great Mongolia. The Yuan was only part of the great empire that Kublai Khan appropriated for himself. The Golden Horde, Ilkhanate, and the Chagadai`s khanate recognized Kublai and paid or collected tribute. Khubilai was, in fact, the supreme ruler, ruling over the vast world from the Pacific Ocean to the Adriatic Sea. Because of this, no one says or thinks that China's borders extend to the Adriatic Sea. This is the other side of the logic of inheritance and succession.

The China of Kublai Khan is the China of today. But Kublai's state is not the heir or successor of the traditional Chinese state. The legacy of Kublai Khan in China was the land that united the entire Han race. After the Yuan, all non-Chinese peoples who were dependent on Kublai seceded. The Ming dynasty did not include states dependent on the Yuan, such as Tibet, Mongolia, and the Uighurs. However, they left to the later Chinese states that these lands should be theirs.

[1] Zhao G. Reinventing China: Qing Imperial Ideology and the Rise of Modern Chinese National Identity in the Early Twentieth Century (Modern China. 2006, vol. 32, no. 1), p. 14

[2] 1996 Guinness World Records (Guinness Publishing Ltd., London, 1995), p. 391.

[3] Waterson, James. Protecting Heaven: The Mongol Wars in China. 1209-1370 (Pen and Sword Books Limited. 2011)