Succeeding the Song dynasty and preceding the Ming dynasty, the Yuan was ancient China’s first foreign-led empire. Under the leadership of Kublai Khan (grandson of Genghis Khan), the Mongols implemented regimes and a class system that marginalized the Chinese. They focussed on foreign trade, with the Venetian trader Marco Polo famously visiting Asia. Paper currency initially increased the Empire’s wealth, yet soon led to debt and inflation problems. There was a series of natural disasters – floods, droughts and famine – and an epidemic of the bubonic plague. The government became corrupt and there were dynastic power struggles and conflicts over succession. In 1351, the Red Turban Rebellion spread the belief that the natural disasters indicated that the Yuan had lost the Mandate of Heaven. The Chinese leader of the rebellion, Zhu Yuanzhang, went on to defeat the Mongol armies, seize the capital, overthrow the court, destroy the Yuan palaces and, in 1368, established the Ming dynasty.
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