This week: why did Kublai go to Japan? A quick overview of the tensions that led to the first invasion, and a look at the armies of Mongols and Chinese that would fight it.

Listen to the episode here.


Turnbull, Stephen. The Mongol Invasions of 1274 – 1281.

May, Timothy. The Mongol Conquests in World History.

Conlan, Thomas. In Little Need of Divine Intervention.


The reconstructed walls of Xiangyang. Though these walls are from a later time than the Mongol invasions, they give some sense of how imposing the original works were.

A Song dynasty river warship with a traction catapult attached to it. Warships like this one kept the Mongols out of south China for decades.

A basic schematic for a counterweight trebuchet. This design helped the Mongols break through the walls of the Chinese fortress of Xiangyang.

A reconstruction Mongol bow unstrung, strung, and at full draw. The bent horn tips add extra power by enabling the bow to flex more.

Lamellar armor from one of the predecessors of the Yuan (the Jin Dynasty). You can see how the loose arrangement of scales provides protection but also keeps the armor relatively light.