SINO-WESTERN CONTACTS UNDER THE MONGOL EMPIRE
By Herbert Franke
Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch, Vol.6 (1966)
Introduction: Contacts between Chinese civilization and that of the West — whatever we take “West” to mean in this context — have a long and tortuous history which for some periods is still far from sufficiently studied. All historians, however, even the most Europecentered ones, do agree that these contacts reached a pre-modern, all-time high under the Mongol empires in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and even the most superficial or condensed textbooks of world history have a few words to say about East- West relations following the conquests and campaigns of Chingis Khan. In such books we frequently encounter the statement that this period facilitated intercourse and exchange because of the so-called Pax Mongolica, “Mongol Peace”, when the Mongol domination of East and Central and even great parts of West Asia crystallized into an empire stretching from the Yellow Sea to Southern Russia. Like so many historical tags, this is, however, a statement that loses much of its seemingly uncontrovertible truth when one considers the historical facts. If it is really the task of the historian to reconsider from time to time historical writings and historical dicta, and to debunk history if necessary, then this notion of Pax Mongolica requires qualification.