The Peak of China’s Long-Distance Maritime Connections with Western Asia During the Mongol Period: Comparison with the Pre-Mongol and Post-Mongol Periods
This paper will explore the expansion of Chinese knowledge about the Islamic World through maritime contacts that flourished during the Mongol-run Yuan dynasty in China. Studies have focused on expanded overland contacts between China and West Asia created by the Mongol conquest in the thirteenth century. However, Sino-Islamic maritime contacts also peaked during the period thanks to the expansion of routes and commercial connections in the Indian Ocean. While overland routes remained precarious due to wars among feuding khanates, maritime routes suffered fewer obstacles. Maritime trade policies enacted by Mongol rulers in the Yuan Dynasty tied Yuan China and the Il-Khanate in Iran and further west. Booming maritime contact enabled Chinese learning about West Asia and North Africa to grow more dynamic, extensive, and flexible.