Eurasia is Europe and Asia combined, a vast territory that hosted many civilizations. Passing through Eurasia is the famous Silk Road where trade and cultural exchange flourished. A formidable army emerged and terrorized Eurasia in the 13th century; they siege, sack, and burn! Less mentioned were their military genius that led to the formation of the biggest land empire in history stretching from the Pacific to the Mediterranean: The Mongol Empire. The politically stable period saw the Silk Road trade flourishing once again under a single administration. Traders and Artisan exchanged and moved, and Eurasia became more connected than ever before. Lands from the Mongol Empire presents the compilation of visual stories that connect the land, culture, and people that were linked by the Mongol Empire.


The Mongol Empire started when Temujin became Chinggis Khan, the Universal Khan, proclaimed at the Siberian Taiga in Eastern Mongolia. Many of his conquests were accompanied by his sons, eldest was Jochi, followed by Chagatai, Ogedei, and Tolui. He died in 1227, and the empire expanded to its greatest at the end of the 13th century, stretching from the Pacific to the Mediterranean, the biggest land empire in history. Ironically, civil wars had disintegrated the empire into four khanates: The Great Khan Khanate (Yuan Dynasty, China and Mongolia), Chagatai Khanate (Central Asia), Il-Khanate (Persia), and the Golden Horde (Russia and Siberia). Yuan Dynasty under Kublai Khan was an unprecedented period for the Mongols; trade flourished throughout Eurasia, and when Marco Polo traveled to China and eventually served the great khan. This is also the period when Kublai attempted seafaring and jungle warfares to Japan, Pagan, Dai Viet, Cham, and Java, albeit with little success. The growth and death of the empire were dramatic, and its influences on Eurasia are evident.


Mongolia is the cradle of nomadic civilization: Turkic, Uyghur and Yenesei Kyrgyz khaganate predates the Mongols. Temujin emerged in the chaos of late 12th century to unify the Mongol tribes to be conferred as Chinggis Khan, the universal ruler. The rise of fall of the Mongols Empire was dramatic, and the Mongols are back in their land of the blue sky, where semi nomadic lifestyle is prevalent and their legacy as a people on horseback continues.


Chagatai is Chinggis Khan’s second son and he inherited Central Asia. He died in 1242, and the khanate fell to Ogedei’s grandson Kaidu who opposes Kublai.  The western half of the khanate fell to Tamerlane in 1380, and the eastern Chagatai Khanate took on the name of Moghulistan and it resisted Turkic assimilation. The Sheibanids then ousted Tamerlane’s successors. They were descendants of Jochi, and they later called themselves the Uzbeks. Tamerlane was also the ancestor of Babur, who founded the Mughal Empire that rule India until late 19 century.


Ilkhanate translates in Persian as “Subordinate Khanate” of the Great Khan Khanate.  Founded by Hulagu, son of Tolui and brother of Kublai, he was tasked to establish Toluid control and to subdue Muslim kingdoms. Batu Khan from the Golden Horde was a divulged Muslim and Hulagu’s capture of the the Baghdad Caliphate led to civil war. The two khanates were also constantly wrestling for Syria, and Batu allied the Mamluks of Egypt against Ilkhanate. The Armenians, Georgians, Anatolian Turks were on either side. The Mongols from Ilkhanate were highly Persianized, leaving almost no traces from the Mongol occupation.


The Golden Horde was also known as the Kipchak Khanate or the Ulus of Jochi. Jochi predeceased his father in 1227,  and his son Batu inherited the khanate. Batu led the Mongols to invade Russian cities including Moscow and Kiev. By 1241 the Mongols reached Poland and Hungary. News of Ogedei’s death led to the Mongol’s immediate withdrawal from Europe. Batu built a capital, Sarai, on the Volga River, and he named his empire the Golden Horde. It was gradually Turkified and Islamized, and the horde broke up into separate Khanates: Tyumen Khanate (1468, later Siberia Khanate), Khanate of Kazan (1438), Khanate of Crimea (1441), Nogai Horde (1440s), Kazakh Khanate (1456) and Khanate of Astrakhan (1466).


The heart of the Mongol Empire where Kublai Khan, son of Tolui ruled. He conquered, unite and rule China, to become the 5th Great Khan and emperor of the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368).  He ruled from Dadu (Beijing), imported artisans from Central Asia, Persia, and Kipchak (Golden Horde), welcomed missionaries like Marco Polo from the west, and trade flourished. The society was ordered with Mongols at the top, Semu (coloured eye) and Han Chinese at the lowest. Tibetans belong to Semu class, and Tibetan Buddhism was the state religion. Northern Yuan in Mongolia continued after the fall of Yuan until 1634. Jurchen united China, renamed Manchu and the start of Qing Dynasty (1638-1911).


Khublai and the Yuan Dynasty diverted from their familiar warfare on horse back to sea voyages and jungle warfare with elephants! They invaded Japan in 1274 and 1281, Pagan (Myanmar) in 1277, 1283 and 1287, Dai Viet and Champa  (Vietnam) in 1288 and Java in 1294. While Pagan was marginally successful, the rest were disastrous. These wars bore financial burden on the khanate, and setbacks to Kublai, who was already depressed by the loss of his favorite wife and heir.


Kim’s photographic documentation of Asia started in 2005. His explorations continue thereafter, progressing from the Silk Road to wider coverage of Asia East To West. Realizing that the historical Mongol Empire encompassed a large area of the Asian continent, Russia, and Eastern Europe, he set out for a 13 months journey in September 2013, supported by Olympus Corporation. The project currently covers 25 countries, clocking tens of thousands kilometers in land travels. For more comprehensive coverage, Kim expects more travels to Eastern Europe, Crimea, Ural, Siberia , Kazakhstan, Israel and Lebanon, Hexi Corridor, Central China, Vietnam, Shan (Myanmar), Korea and Japan.

Captured with OLYMPUS digital systems camera, E-systems from 2004, mirrorless PEN from 2009 and the OM-D from 2013