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I was under the impression that Genghis Khan was an invader while Kublai was more of a patron of fine arts; but reading Wikipedia it mainly mentions his campaigns for the Mongol throne and the unification of China.

Did he actually contribute significantly to world culture, and if so in what ways?

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It may determine on how you define "world culture" but I also think that is not going to really be answerable, especially when looking at things from his time. He may have contributed but "significant" and "world culture" are going to be subjective. –  MichaelF Aug 2 '12 at 11:49
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He, along with copious amounts of opium, did inspire Coleridge to write a rather famous poem of that name. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kubla_Khan . This in turn inspired many generations of poets to become opium addicts. –  T.E.D. Aug 2 '12 at 16:24
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up vote 5 down vote accepted

The most important thing Kublai Khan did for culture was to found the Yuan Dynasty, which sought to rule what Genghis had conquered. It initiated trade between east and west, cross-pollinating ideas and culture. Specifically in China, this resulted in advancements in the arts - painting, calligraphy and poetry combined into a new discipline similar to Persian art, and poetry likewise was introduced to theater, along with western instruments, in zaju and sanqu.

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Pax Mongolia pretty much re-established the entire Silk Road that previously languished due to wars and inconsistent tariffs.

The cultural impact of Marco Polo is strongly linked with Kublai Khan as this was who Marco Polo was said to have visited as a high point of his Asian journey.

What the Mongols may have taken in lives and bubonic plague is perhaps offset by a long step forward in international trade and globalisation; or at least accelerated thereby.

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