The site of two ruined cities in Mongolia
, on the river Orkhon
as it flows north out of the Khangaj
Mountains. Most Westerners
call the city Karakorum
In 744, the nomadic Uyghur people conquered Mongolia, and built their
capital on this site. We know little about it, as the Kyrgyz people
drove the Uyghur out in the year 840.
In the late 12th Century, this area was the center of a collection of
Mongol and Tatar tribes who were being united by a warlord named Temujin.
Temujin eventually went on to conquer most of the known world and take
the title "Universal Ruler", or "Genghis Khan".
Around 1220, Genghis Khan decided to build his Empire a capital, and
chose the site of Karakorum. The Great Khan collected the loot of
his empire here, and took every step to make his Imperial city the center
of the world: He rerouted all trade to China through Karakorum;
and whenever he conquered a city, he spared the lives of the best craftsmen
and architects, and transported them to his new city.
Geographically, however, this was infeasible, and Genghis Khan's successor,
Kublai Khan, moved the capital to Beijing and Shang-Tu (later
corrupted variously to (Xanadu, Ciandu, or Candy) in 1267. During
the reign of Kublai Khan, Karakorum was visited by Niccolo
and Maffeo Polo, and later by Niccolo's son Marco.
Karakorum was the capital of Mongolia for awhile again after Zhu Yuanzhang,a
former Buddhist monk turned general, drove the Yuan rulers
out of China in 1367.
In 1380, Zhu Yuanzhang, who had taken the name Hung Wu as the
first Ming emperor, began his final invasion of Outer Mongolia.
In 1388 he reached Karakorum and destroyed it.
A Russian explorer, N. M. Yadrinstev, discovered the ruins of Karakorum
in 1889. The Orkhon Inscriptions, which he found nearby, told of the
older city. These can be found near the town of Hotont in present-day
Mongolia. On this site sits the Lamaist Buddhist monastery Erdeni Dzu,
built in 1586.
As Mongolians view Genghis Khan as the father of their nation, as opposed
to the rapacious conqueror described by history, there has been talk
of moving Mongolia's capital back to Karakorum.