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The Court of the Great Khans

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John of Plano Carpini was among the first European travelers to visit the court of the Great Khan’s. Being a keen observer, Carpini noted the Mongol dwellings were covered with felt and their clothing was made exclusively from animal skin. Carpini also noted that the Mongols produced and liked fermented mare’s milk, also known as koumiss (Schulman, 2002).

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William of Rubruck observed that Karakorum consisted of two quarters, the first being the market where large number of traders gathered. Accordingly, these quarters were close to the camp that had several envoys and was mainly occupied by the Saracens. The Catalans, who were also great craftsmen, occupied the other quarters. Apart from these quarters, there were twelve idol temples, large palaces housing the court secretaries, two mosques and a Christian church located at the town’s far end. Karakorum was enclosed with a big mud wall with four entrances (Ruysbroeck, Rockhill, & Giovanni, 1998).

During their travel, John of Plano Carpini and William of Rubruck encountered people of various backgrounds. Carpini, for example, witnessed the proclamation of a new Great Khan. Carpini states that the Great Khan welcomed them and treated them nicely, even better than other ambassadors. The emperor and the chiefs went around guarded by armed men while the ordinary people were not allowed near the tent or even past the set bounds. Since they were the Great Khan’s visitors, they were hosted in the royal tent, red-purple in color, where they wined and dined with the Khan’s family. The wives lived in separate tents, white felt in color. The mother of the Emperor also lived separately and joined the Emperor in times of need (Ruysbroeck, Rockhill, & Giovanni, 1998). 

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