The Past Illuminates the Present: The Way Across the World Opens

Batu. Khan of the Golden Horde: The Mongol Khans Conquer Russia
Followers of current events may wonder why there are Tatars in the Crimea who wished to remain loyal to Russia. This was the pretext for the invasion by Vladimir Putin. What were these Tatars doing there and who are they? The answer is, they are the descendants of Chinggis Khan's armies.

The story of the Mongol conquest of Russia is backstory to modern times.

Batu Khan was the senior prince of the imperial family of the Mongol Empire after the death of Genghis Khan. He ruled the Russian Khanate, the furthest west that Mongol armies had conquered.

Batu was also a military hero in the campaign that brought Russia under Mongol rule. Russia was rich, Europe was a backwater. Europe had still not recovered from the fall of the Roman Empire and the onslaught of their own barbarians, Huns, Goths and Visigoths. Capitalism was in its infancy.

He lived in a vast military camp on the lower Volga River. He was growing rich from taxing the caravan traffic and the trade of the Europeans and others who had emporia on the Black Sea.

Batu was upset when an old enemy of his, his cousin Guyug, usurped the throne and threatened to make war in the Christian world and the Muslim world. War would interrupt the trade that was making him immensely rich.

Batu decided that the house of Ogodei Khan were unfit for rule. So he decided to remove one house of Chinggis Khan's descendants from the throne and put his candidate on the throne. He conspired with the most remarkable woman of her age, and they accomplished the deed. They put the sons of Princess Sorghagtani on the throne.

Though these events occurred eight centuries ago, they mark the end of the medieval period. The Abbasid caliphate headquartered in Baghdad ruled the banking and financial structures of the medieval world. The breakup of their monopoly marked the beginning of the rise of the West.

Russia was critical to the Empire. The Muslim powers wanted to take Russia from the Mongols. Batu had no intention of letting it go.

The result of the Mongol conquest of Russia has resonance in the current events reported in the global media to this day. Yet no one knows anything about it.

The conquest was brutal. The princes who elected their rulers in the medieval cities were forced to "go to the horde" to pay tribute to the Khan of Russia. The great hero Alexander Nevsky surrendered his city to the Mongols rather than have it put to the torch. For the Mongol Army was the greatest fighting force of the medieval world and the Russian princes were no match.

It was not that the Mongols conquered, but that they did not go away for two hundred years. They ruled until the time of Ivan the Terrible, the first of the Romanovs.

This is a fascinating era, with stories that are about big themes, like Shakespeare in Asia, about power, greed, betrayal, conspiracy, true love and its corruption, a meditation on the nature of rule.

An Offer He Could Not Refuse: The Man of Iron Recruits the Man of Letters
After the fall of the Tang Dynasty in the tenth century, for four hundred years, foreign dynasties ruled North China.

Imagine this: the glorious dynasty, the Tang, fell because the feudal military families that ran the country could not protect the frontier against the invaders, the mounted nomad warriors from beyond the Great Wall.

Tang possessed a brilliant culture. Its court was international. China by geography was at the center of many nations surrounding it. These were tribute nations who "came to the Celestial Court to be civilized."

It was a cosmopolitan age. The culture was magnificent, from the literary arts to the visual arts, from porcelain to textiles. This was truly a Golden Age.

The alien dynasties were herders of horses. They were not civilized, meaning, they did not live in fixed cities, with their economies based on agricultural. The nomads came from the Northeast, among them the Khitan and the Jurchen, semi-nomads, Manchurians who had wild tigers roaming in the palace and dancing girls gyrating, holding up mirrors to the faces of the courtiers that they might observe the slack look of lust upon their own faces.

None of these conquest dynasties was to have as great an effect on global history as the one founded by Genghis Khan and his successors.

Who was Genghis Khan? He was a young khan of the steppes who rose to power in the steppe wars, in open country. He unified the warring tribes of Mongolia, he gave them a Code of Laws and a written language. Now he had an army and he had to keep them from killing each other. He was a nomad khan and his power depended on providing his followers with riches in the form of booty. China was the richest and most advanced civilization on earth.

Then he declared a war of national vengeance against China for meddling in the affairs of his beloved steppes, the vast prairielands beyond the Great Wall. He was a military genius. This is the story of his campaign, of the strategy and tactics that allowed his army of 120,000 troops to breach the Great Wall. take the immense capital of Qungdu and do what no other nomad khan had ever done, eventually unify China to the borders of present-day China proper. This is the first chapter of global history.

The question is: if Genghis Khan was such a barbarian, how did he conquer the most advanced civilization on earth?

He rode at the head of his army in countless battles and he was victorious in all of them. He wore the same uniform as his men, he ate the same food that they did and he slept in the same felt tents as they did.

He was fond of saying that a man's greatest pleasure was to drive his enemies before him, to take what was theirs and to hold in his arms the loveliest of their women.

This was one of the most staggering feats in military history and yet it is obscured in the mists of history.

Chancellor Yeh-lu witnessed the horrors of the fall, and he went to a Buddhist monastery to meditate. Genghis Khan summoned him and demanded that he bring the Seal of State.

As a high official in the government of the defeated dynasty, Yeh-lu thought he was to be executed. Instead, Genghis Khan offered him the post of Secretary, Physician and Astrologer. The Supreme Khan was not educated, but he admired men of learning.

Yeh-lu was a man of letters in a military government. He was to become the greatest statesman of the Mongol Empire. As he was fond of saying, "The empire may have been won on horseback, but it cannot be governed from horseback."

It might be said that he saved Chinese civilization, for the Mongol generals wanted to raze all of North China and turn it into pasture for their horses. A thrilling story.

Taifun: Khubilai Khan Invades Japan by Sea

Why had a man born to the horse taken to the sea? Khubilai Khan was the Emperor of Heaven. He was the first man to sit on the Dragon Throne and rule over all of China in 400 years. He had sent the general out to conquer the south and unify China, and he was the most powerful sovereign in Asia. He ruled over a magnificent court. He was wealthy beyond description. And yet, he was not satisfied.

This is the story told in "Taifun" when a kamikaze or Divine Wind saved Japan from the Mongol fleet of 2300 war junks. Not once, but twice.

Khubilai Khan became obsessed with invading Japan by sea. He tried twice and failed both times and the failure destroyed him.

He was like a character out of Shakespear, King Lear, a man undone. The failure to have Japan submit to him as a vassal, as it had to the greatest emperor of Tang, was a major factor in his descent into depression, alcoholism and obesity.

Princess Sorghagtani: The Woman Who Changed Global History
She was Chinggis Khan's favorite daughter-in-law. He had arranged her marriage to his youngest son, Tolui Khan.

As the niece of the most powerful khan in the steppes, Princess Sorghagtani was no stranger to political intrigue. Her youth was a time when tribal warfare turned the steppes into a seething cauldron of violence and a struggle for supremacy. Horse theft, bride theft, many were the causes of war.

Then the man who was to become the most powerful sovereign in Asia, her father-in-law Chinggis Khan, founded the vast empire that ruled from the Pacific to the Mediterranean. He issued a code of laws that brought peace for a century.

The designated successor of Chinggis Khan was a liberal ruler, but not a wise one. The empire was becoming bankrupt. He died and his son inherited the throne. The son was worse than the father. Her sons were the best of men, with intelligence and ability.

She was renowned for upholding the law when the nobility who ruled the central government spent their days violating the law. She was upright and was the most admired woman of her age, not only among the Mongol nobility but also by the Europeans at court, sent to spy on what type of threat the barbarians were for the West.

She watched her father-in-law build the empire and she watched the designated heir destroy it. Her husband had fought alongside The Conqueror in all the battles. Her sons were good men. She had reason to believe that she was entitled to put an end to the destruction.

Sorghagtani could not stand to watch the ruin. She made an alliance with the Khan of Russia, the great Batu, that put her sons on the throne.

How did she do it? Mongol women had more status and freedom than the women of China, or of Greece or Rome, for that matter. While the royal women of China were not allowed to own property and did not ride horses, Sorghagtani did both. She owned property. She was the counselor to khans.

This is why John of Plano Carpini, the envoy of the Pope of Rome to the Mongol court called her the most remarkable woman of her age.

Il-Khan: Why Hulegu Khan Destroyed the Assassins and the Caliphate
The entry of the Mongol Khans into the world of Islam was a disaster that brought about the fall of the caliphate. We live with this history today. It effects the events we see on the nightly news. Why did the Mongol Emperor give Orders of Submission to the Caliph of Baghdad?

In the year 1258, Hulegu Khan, the younger brother of the Mongol Emperor, acting on imperial orders, toppled the Muslim centers of power in the Middle East. A new power had risen in the East and it tolerated no insubordination, even from the Muslim Caliphate.

The caliphate was the Sunni government that had been ruling for five hundred years in Baghdad, a thriving center of commerce and the possessor of a brilliant culture.

The Order of the Assassins were the rival center of power, a breakaway rebel sect of the Shia, who had been unsuccessful in establishing a rival caliphate in Egypt. They had been committing murders for hire all over the Muslim world and the orthodox Sunni wishes to be rid of them.

Hulegu destroyed them both and founded the Persian Khanate. He himself was Christian, but his sons converted to Islam and were among the greatest rulers of Islam. How did this happen?

Hulegu did not ride against the Muslims because they were Muslims. He rode against them for political and financial reasons. Batu the Khan of Russia, Hulegu's cousin, thought that the twin power centers of Islam would plunge the whole region into war. The result would be the disruption of trade that was making Batu fabulously wealthy.

It was one of the most momentous events of the Middle Ages and even though it echoes down to us from the pulpits of mosques all over the region down to the present day, it has been forgotten to history. This is the story.

It was said that the Tigris and the Euphrates ran red with blood and black from the ink of the thousands of volumes pitched into the rivers from the great libraries of Baghdad.

Chinese Writing: An Introduction
This work explores the oldest picture-language in the world in narrative and photographs for young readers. It shows how Chinese artists, through the medium of the brush, have captured in their writing the abstract beauty of the line and the energy of nature. Gives an understanding of the art as well as a how-to guild.

Illustrated with photographs from the collection of the modern Chinese painting master, C. C. Wang.

Winner American Library Association Most Notable Book Award, in the year of its publication.


For students and young readers everywhere, as Chinese is widely studied as a foreign language in American high schools. Also for interior design professionals who wish to get a quick but authoritative illustration of the four major styles of Chinese calligraphy with images from masterpieces from the collection of a modern Chinese painting master.