2.2D: The Mongols and and Technological and Cultural Transfer


AP Theme

Cultural Developments and Interactions

Learning Objective 2D

Explain the significance of the Mongol Empire in larger patterns of continuity and change.

Historical Development 1

Mongol rule increased technological transfer. 

Historical Development 2

Mongol rule increased cultural transfer. 


The Mongol Empire Increased Technological Diffusion Across Afro-Eurasia

The Mongol’s increased the diffusion of technology and culture. This diffusion resulted from the increased movement of Mongol leadership and military units, traders, diplomats, and political advisors across the Mongol Empire. As these people traveled, they brought their native technologies and cultures to new locations. The largest beneficiary of the increased transfer during this period was Europe, which best capitalized on the newly arrived technological and cultural knowledge to fuel their growth and power over the succeeding centuries.

Significant Technological Transfers Through Mongol Lands


Gunpowder originated in China as early as the 9th century. Knowledge of how to produce and weaponize gunpowder spread with Mongol conquests during the 13th century. Gun powder reached the Middle East between 1240 and 1280. Its first significant mention in Europe was in Opus Majus, a book on science by Roger Bacon written for Catholic Pope Clement IV in 1267.


Along with gunpowder, the Mongols introduced guns into the western world. The first gunpowder weapons, called hand cannons, were developed in China in the 12th century. These early guns were a cross between a run and a cannon. Records record the Mongols using these in both the Middle East and Eastern Europe in the 13th century.


Various printing practices developed in China moved west with the Mongols. It first spread to Central Asia, where the Uyghurs used it to print in their language script. The Mongols had previously adopted the Uyghur script to write their own Mongol language. As a result, it was easier for the Uyghurs to adopt printing for their language. After the Mongols conquered Persia in the middle of the 13th century, the Mongols printed paper money. It took nearly 200 years before printing became common across Europe in the middle of the 14th century.

Historical trend: Increased movement of people across geographic space increased diffusion of culture and technology . 

Significant Technological Transfers Through Mongol Lands

Medical knowledge

The Mongols spread medical knowledge from various civilizations across Eurasia. 

  • Mongol knowledge of medicine brought together different cultures’ medical knowledge, including the Chinese, Korean, Tibetan, Indian, Uyghur, and Islamic. 
  • On their journeys throughout Asia, the Mongols brought with them a team of doctors. Usually foreign, these doctors themselves had brought medical knowledge from other people in Asia to the Mongol court (royal family). 
  • The Mongols were also able to contribute new or more advanced knowledge on bone setting and treatments of war wounds. The Mongols were the first people to establish a link between diet and health.
  • Yuan Dynasty leader Kublai Khan founded an institution in China for the study of Western medicine.
  • Persian historian and Mongol political advisor Rashid al-Din (1247-1318) published the first known book on Chinese medicine outside China in 1313.

Uyghur script

Uyghur Script was a common form of communication across the Silk Road, especially during the era of Mongol rule when Uyghur became the official script of the Mongol Empire. The Mongols adopted the Uyghur script around the 12th century and selected well-educated Uyghurs as civil servants (people to run the daily operations of the government), scribes (those who could read and write), and administrators to most of Central Asia.