Yuan (dynasty)

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The Yuan (Lanatai, Lao, Youanne, Youon, Yun) are Tai speakers who inhabit primarily the Chiang Mai region of northern Thailand. They numbered 6,000,000 in Thailand in 1983, and there were 3,000 to 5,000 in Laos in 1962. They share with the Lao, Khün, Lü, and Nüa a complex of cultural traits associated with northern Pali-language Buddhism (script, polite terms, temple architecture). Although assimilating to the national culture, the Yuan may be distinguished from other Thais by their long cultural and historical ties to the Mekong region. The Yuan may also be distinguished from the Lao of northeastern Thailand in that the former once tattooed their bellies, and by dialectal differences.

In the middle and late nineteenth century, although ostensibly under the rule of the king of Siam, the Yuan of Chiang Mai were actually under the absolute control of the Chiang Mai prince. The landed nobility came to his court once a year to offer their allegiance. Well into the twentieth century, the nobility imposed limitations on the property and personal rights of farmers and artisans, including corvée and military conscription. Also, farm products and manufactured items were taxed and requisitioned. (In one ironworking vil1age, for example, the tax was to be paid in the form of elephant chains and cooking pots). Slavery was still extant in the nineteenth century. Warfare and resettlement caused massive social dislocations. There was, as well, great exposure to external influences in the form of trade. Annual Chinese trade caravans ran from Yunnan to Chiang Mai, Moulmein, and back. The Yuan operated trade caravans, which included cattle, to Burma. In addition, the river was an important trade link with Bangkok and other downriver settlements.


Freeman, John H. (1910). An Oriental Land of the Free. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.

McGilvary, Daniel (1912). A Half Century among the Siamese and the Lao. New York and London: Fleming Revell.

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Sharp, Lauriston, Hazel M. Hauck, Kamol Janlekha, and Robert B. Textor (1953). Siamese Rice Village: A Preliminary Study of Bang Chan, 1948-1949. Bangkok: Cornell Research Center.

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Yüan (yüän), Mongol dynasty of China that ruled from 1271 to 1368. It was a division of the great empire conquered by the Mongols. Kublai Khan, who adopted the Chinese dynastic name Yüan in 1271, swept down from N China, which the Mongols had ruled since the 1230s, and finally defeated the Sung dynasty in 1279. The Mongols set up a government in some ways modeled on the traditional Chinese administrative system, kept key government positions to themselves, and hired people from Central Asia to serve in the government. The Mongols adopted policies that discriminated against the Chinese, and to prevent rebellion Mongol troops were deployed all over the country. In its early period the Yüan dynasty developed a fine postal system and an extensive network of roads and canals reaching to the distant Mongol domains of Turkistan, Persia, and S Russia. There was continuous overland contact with the West and exchange of products, and in this period gunpowder, the compass, and printing seem to have been introduced to Europe from China. The best known of the European travelers to Yüan China is Marco Polo. Tibetan Buddhism was officially patronized by the Mongol court, but other religions were tolerated. Resentful of alien rule, many talented Chinese withdrew from political life and turned to theater and other forms of artistic activity. As a result the Yüan dynasty was a period of great accomplishments in the theater, arts, fiction, and painting. The Yüan dynasty was overthrown by the messianic religious rebellions that broke out in the 1350s. One of the rebel leaders was Chu Yüan-chang, who founded the Ming dynasty in 1368.

See M. Rossabi, Khubilai Khan (1988); J. W. Dardess, Conquerors and Confucians (1973); E. Endicott-West, Rule in China: Local Administration in the Yüan Dynasty (1989).

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Yüan (1246–1368) Mongol dynasty in China. Continuing the conquests of Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan established his rule over China, eliminating the last Sung claimant in 1279. Kublai Khan returned the capital to Beijing and promoted construction and commerce. Chinese literature took new forms during the Mongol period. Native Chinese were excluded from government, and foreign visitors, including merchants such as Marco Polo, were encouraged. Among the Chinese, resentment of alien rule was aggravated by economic problems, including runaway inflation. The less competent successors of Kublai were increasingly challenged by rebellion, culminating in the victory of the Ming. See also Mongols

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Yu·an / yoōˈän/ a dynasty that ruled China ad 1259–1368, established by the Mongols under Kublai Khan. It preceded the Ming dynasty.

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yu·an / yoōˈän/ • n. (pl. same) the basic monetary unit of China, equal to 10 jiao or 100 fen.

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Yuan (yüän), river, 540 mi (869 km) long, rising in S Guizhou prov. and flowing generally NE to Donting lake, Hunan prov., SE China. Navigation above Changde is limited by rapids to small craft. The Yuan valley, a major north-south trade route, yields tungsten, iron ore, and tung yu (wood oil).