KaraKorum (the ancient capital of Mongolia)
Karakorum was founded by Chingis khaan in 1220 to serve as the capital of the Mongol Empire, its construction being completed in 1235 during the reign of his successor Ugedei Xaan. In its prime Karakorum served not only as the administrative centre of the Mongolian Empire, but also as a major trade and cultural link between east and west. The city declined in importance following the establishment of a new Mongolian capital in Beijing by khubilai khaan in 1271, coinciding with the founding of the Yuan dy nasty; yet during khubilai's reign Temür (who bore the title Ulziit khaan) occupied Karakorum as a military commander and minister. A century later Karakorum was substantially destroyed by Min dynasty soldiers, who invaded sometime in 1379 or 1380. Excavations of the city ruins have indicated that the royal palace was likely burned down at the time of the Min invasion, but it is not clear how completely the city was demolished.
Although there is no mention of Karakorum in known historical records of the following 87 years, it is quite possible that the city was never fully abandoned; in any event, Batmönkh khaan returned the Mongolian seat of government to Karakorum in 1467. Evidently retaining its political significance, the city was taken by the Oirads and subsequently retaken by Altan khan of the Tümed in 1552. Forty years later Abtai Sain khan erected his palace-yurt on the site of Karakorum, next to which, in 1586, he had Erdene Zuu Monastery constructed, using as construction materials stones recovered from the ruined buildings of the former imperial capital. Thereafter the importance of the site was primarily as a religious centre, although a military base was also established nearby in the early 18th century. Today very little remains of the former grand city, other than heaps of gravel indicating the outlines of former buildings and streets, and four granite turtles marking the corners of the ruin. Karakorum in the 13th century was home to more than ten thousand people, including royalty, noblemen, ministers, military leaders, craftsmen, traders, clergy, and foreign guests, in addition to nomads inhabiting compounds of gers. The remarkable size and diversity of the city’s population is reflected by the fact that there were, according to the count of William de Rubruck, "twelve idol temples of different nations, two mahummeries [mosques] in which is cried the law of Machomet, and one church of Christians in the extreme end of the city". In addition to possessing significant resident populations of Chinese, Alans, Ruthenians, Georgians, Hermenians and other non-Mongol peoples, Karakorum was also host to a stream of foreign emissaries and traders, receiving official delegations from as far away as India, Arabia, Armenia and Rome, as well as merchants from China, Persia, and other countries along the Silk Route.