Kublai's army is always referred to as a 'Mongol' army but I suspect that after the initial conquest of China, his army consisted largely of native Chinese. Is this correct? Did the Japanese and Burmese really fight actual Mongol warriors - born and raised on the Mongolian steppe?

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    Which sources have you already checked?
    – Steve Bird
    Jun 23, 2020 at 22:28
  • I've just finished reading 'Kublai Khan' by John Man but was unable to find an answer to my question. Jun 23, 2020 at 22:31
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    There seems to be a bit of a false dichotomy here (his army consisted of much more than just Mongol and Chinese). My guess is that the ethnic composition was dependent on the campaign that he was conducting, and I think we also need a clearer definition of "Mongol" and "Chinese". Do Turkic tribes count as Mongol? Do Khitans, Tanguts, and Jurchens count as Chinese?
    – dROOOze
    Jun 24, 2020 at 4:37
  • @ElliotChalmers - See it as steppe-warriors, and their techniques & tactics of warfare. Yuan Dynasty (Kublai’s) army was not based in steppe heartland. Neither was their operational theatre - invasion of Japan, of Souheast Asia, etc. So, yes, Chinese soldiers were used, lead by Noyans - Mongol generals.
    – J Asia
    Jun 24, 2020 at 15:40
  • Thanks for your answers. I was aware that most 'Mongol' armies were made up of many different steppe tribes and that sometimes only the leaders were actual Mongols but I'm guessing that Kublai's army consisted of very few steppe dwellers of any tribe. Does this mean his army was mostly infantry? Do we have any evidence of large amounts of Cavalry? Jun 24, 2020 at 19:59

1 Answer 1


It certainly consisted mostly of Chinese. Even at the time of initial invasions, Mongol armies did not consists of Mongol warriors, but mostly of the peoples conquered earlier. For example in East Europe, Mongol armies were caller Tatars. Tatar is the name of a tribe conquered by Mongols on an early stage (and according to Mongol chronicles, completely exterminated, which is evidently not true). Conquered Slavs made parts of Mongol armies everywhere. Original Mongols were a tiny fraction of their armies.

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    Any sources on this?
    – Brian Z
    Jun 24, 2020 at 13:34
  • I think a simple comparison of sizes of Mongol population vs "Mongol" armies is a sufficient proof that the armies could not have been ethnically pure.
    – sds
    Jun 24, 2020 at 16:01
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    @sds: this would be fine if we knew the size of Mongol population, or the size of their armies:-)
    – Alex
    Jun 24, 2020 at 17:07
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    Alex I did not ask you for sources, @BrianZ did. My reaction to his request was identical to yours.
    – sds
    Jun 24, 2020 at 17:09
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    @Alex If you can point to a specific book or two (especially one available online) and indicate where it gives this information, it would greatly improve the quality of this answer in my opinion.
    – Brian Z
    Jun 24, 2020 at 17:20

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