September 23, 1215: Kublai Khan is born.

Born Kublai, this grandson of Genghis Khan served as the fifth Khagan of the Mongol Empire, succeeding his brother Möngke, and defeating another brother, Ariq Böke, for the title in a war of succession. The Mongol Empire at the time of Kublai’s accession was large - but also largely disunified, due in part to the nature of the Mongol leaders’ style of ruling, which emphasized conquest over maintenance. One adviser reportedly told him, with this very problem in mind:

I have heard that one can conquer the empire on horseback, but one cannot govern it on horseback.

As Khagan, Kublai’s most famous exploit was the completion of the Mongol conquest of China, which had begun with the conquest of the Jin and Xia dynasties under Ögedei Khan, and ended with the conquest of the Song and proclamation of the Yuan Dynasty in 1271. Even before that time, Kublai adopted many Chinese customs and naming systems and developed an appreciation for Chinese culture and philosophy, though most of his high officials were typically not actually Chinese. Afterward, he attempted to consolidate power and establish a centralized government in China, a mode of rule unlike that of his nomadic predecessors and an exceptionally difficult task given the fact that he was a foreigner and that China had been fragmented for several centuries. In 1274 and 1281, the Khagan also attempted to conquer Japan, but his naval invasions were repelled by fierce ocean storms. 

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