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Muslim historians recorded the Mongol conquest of Baghdad. In order to evaluate potential bias in these records, it would be useful to compare them to other records of Mongol conquests. Since the Mongols didn't record their side of the story, do we have any other, more neutral records of Mongol conquest and their behavior towards conquered peoples?
In Russia Mongols usually demanded the cities to surrender. If a city surrendered without a major fight, the Mongols usually would not conduct much of mass killings. They would impose a heavy taxation and require the city to provide troops for their further conquests.
Other than that they usually did not intervene much in the internal affairs and customs. They did not impose their laws and did not try to win the popularity with the people either.
Particularly since they did not force people to convert into another religion, their conquests were not associated with much of religious bloodshed which accompanied the religious wars of the time, such as the Crusades.
On the other hand if a city would not surrender, they could proceed as far as killing all the inhabitants except a few people whom they then would instruct to go to the other cities in the area and spread the word about how the Mongols brutal to those who does not surrender so to advise them to give up without resistance.
"Contrary to popular belief, Mongol rulers were intensely interested in the culture of their sedentary subjects. Under their auspices, various commodities, ideologies and technologies were disseminated across Eurasia. The result was a lively exchange of scientists, scholars and ritual specialists between East and West." - Culture and Conquest in Mongol Eurasia, T.T. Allsen (Cambridge,2004)
Here is an interesting first-hand account of an Armenian cleric who experienced their behavior. Don't know for sure if his account is completely unbiased. Link
Terrifying: How the Mongols Overran China and Shook the World
Key point: The Mongols learned from any defeat, adjusting their strategy. Here's how they managed to smash their way into China.
In ad 1205, Mongol ruler Genghis Khan, having completed the unification of his Gobi Desert empire, began looking south toward China for further conquest. The ever-truculent Mongols had been a thorn in China’s side for more than 2,000 years. Their many raids were the main reason the Chinese had constructed a 1,500-mile-long Great Wall from the eastern coast on the Pacific Ocean to the very edge of the Gobi. Not without reason did the Chinese consider the Mongols barbarians—their very name meant “earth shakers.” At the head of a united army of fearsome nomads, Genghis Khan would soon make the earth shake again.
War With Xi Xia
Genghis’s first target was the western Chinese kingdom of Xi Xia. The Xi, known to the Mongols as the Tanguts, had emigrated east from the mountains of Tibet to the hilly grasslands centered on the Yellow River in the 7th century ad. The Mongols and the Xi, as wary neighbors, shared some of the same relatives one of Genghis’s own stepdaughters was the wife of a Tangut chieftain. Family ties meant little to Genghis Khan. His father, Yesugei, had been poisoned by grudge-bearing members of a Tatar clan when Genghis, then called Temujin, was eight. Five years later, Temujin killed his own half brother Begter in cold blood after the two quarreled over some birds and minnows that Temujin had caught. “Apart from our shadows we have no friends,” he had been taught from the cradle. It was lesson he never forgot. After he had consolidated his power, Genghis Khan killed every male member of the Tatar clan that had killed his father—any boy taller than a wagon wheel was struck down.
The Mongols attacked the Xi Xia in 1209, first taking the border settlements north of the Yellow River. The 75,000 Mongol invaders faced an army of 150,000 Xi Xia troops near their capital at Zhongxing. The Xi Xia had stationed 100,000 armored pikemen and crossbowmen in large phalanxes in the center of the battle line, with 25,000 Tangut cavalry on each wing. The Mongols were not accustomed to being outnumbered. As nomadic warriors they traveled fast, in huge columns of superbly skilled cavalry, often separated by many miles but knit together by an intricate system of signal fires, smoke signals, and flags, and a gigantic camel-mounted kettledrum to sound the charge. They were used to coordinating their forces on small settlements or camps whose residents could not move with anything like the same speed or decisiveness. The Mongols were interested not in a fair fight, but a victorious one.
In the Xi Xia, however, they ran into an opponent who fought much the same way they did. The Mongols had taken extensive casualties in an earlier battle with the Xi Xia pikemen by charging their pike wall they were determined to not repeat the mistake. The Mongol light cavalry rode parallel to the Chinese pikemen and crossbowmen, firing thousands of arrows into them while other Mongol forces fought with Tangut cavalry on the flanks. The Mongol and Tangut cavalry also rode parallel to each other, firing thousands of arrows and inflicting innumerable casualties on each side. Each side’s cavalry feigned retreat, but the other side wouldn’t fall for the ruse. Finally, the Mongols attacked the Tangut cavalry with their heavy cavalry. The Tangut cavalry broke and ran, leaving the huge phalanxes of the Xi Xia pikemen vulnerable to attack. The Chinese pikemen had formed a giant rectangle that faced in all directions, and they took repeated volleys of arrows that inflicted great damage while the Mongols themselves stayed mostly out of range of the Chinese crossbows. After the Xi Xia pikemen lost unit cohesion, the Mongol heavy cavalry attacked the remaining demoralized and exhausted Chinese from all sides to finish them off.
The Xi Xia capital of Zhongxing presented a new problem for the Mongols, who had little experience in siege warfare. In an earlier siege of the walled city of Volohai, the Mongols had attempted a series of suicidal assaults with scaling ladders that failed, and they suffered heavy casualties in the fighting. Genghis offered to lift the siege of the city provided the residents gave the Mongols 1,000 cats and 10,000 swallows in cages. The puzzled citizens of Volohai quickly granted the request—and just as quickly lived to regret it when the animals fled back into the city with tufts of flaming wool tied to each of them by the Mongols. Soon, the whole city was ablaze. While the defenders were occupied with putting out the fire, the Mongols scaled the now undefended walls and massacred the inhabitants.
Genghis did not want to face a similar costly assault of the walls of Zhongxing. Instead, he decided to break the dikes on the Huang River and flood the city below. The plan backfired, however, when the Mongol camp itself was flooded and hundreds of troops were swept away by the raging waters. To make matters worse, the move left two feet of standing water for miles around the city, in effect creating a ready-made moat. The Mongols retreated into the surrounding hills but returned in force in 1210. Xi Xia Emperor Li Anquan, not wishing to face another siege, agreed to give his daughter Chaka to Genghis Khan as a wife and to pay tribute to the Mongols as a vassal state. Genghis demanded and received another 1,000 young men and women, 3,000 horses, and vast quantities of gold, jewelry, and silk. The Xi Xia later rebelled in 1218 and 1223 because they tired of providing the Mongols with so many men to fight in their wars of conquest, but these rebellions were brutally put down.
Routing the Jin
In 1210, an emissary of the newly installed Jin emperor, Prince Wei, appeared before Genghis and demanded his submission and a tribute paid to the Jin. An infuriated Genghis answered that it was the Jin who needed to pay tribute to him he spat on the ground as a gesture of defiance. With his flank secured by the conquest of Xi Xia, Genghis was ready to attack the mighty Jin Dynasty. In 1211, 30,000 Mongol troops under Genghis’s greatest general, Subedei, assaulted the Great Wall. The Mongols brought up groups of archers who cleared an area of wall while other Mongols scaled the wall with ladders and took possession of sections of it. The Jin rushed in reinforcements and recaptured the lost sections of the Great Wall. Thousands died on both sides as the fighting continued back and forth for several days.
The Jin brought most of their army to back up the forces defending the Great Wall. What the Jin didn’t know was that Subedei’s attack was merely a diversion. Some 200 miles to the west, Genghis and a force of 90,000 Mongols were crossing the Great Wall at its end in the Gobi Desert. The Onguts, a tribe similar to the Mongols, were supposed to be guarding the western end of the Great Wall for the Chin, but they defected to Genghis and allowed the Mongols to cross into China unmolested. After Genghis’s cavalry poured into China, Subedei’s force broke off its attack and crossed over into China from the end of the Great Wall as well.
The Jin forces were now out of position and moved to cut off the Mongols from Beijing. Genghis’s cavalry caught close to 200,000 Jin troops on open ground near Badger Pass, where the Jin hoped to block the Mongols from advancing any farther. The Jin formed for battle with the pike phalanxes and crossbowmen in the middle and armored heavy cavalry on the flanks. The outnumbered Mongol heavy cavalry engaged in a hotly contested battle on the flanks with the Jin cavalry as the densely packed Jin phalanxes and their crossbowmen held off the Mongol horse archers. Suddenly, Subedei’s remaining 27,000 Mongols (3,000 had died at the Great Wall) showed up on the battlefield on the flanks and rear of the Jin army. The rout was on.
After the Jin cavalry was defeated, the Jin pikemen, half of whom were militia conscripts, broke and ran. They were cut down by the Mongol cavalry or trampled by their own terrified horsemen. Bodies stacked “like rotten logs” littered the ground for more than 30 miles. Genghis then separated his army into three forces that burned, pillaged, raped, and murdered the populations of 90 cities over the next six months. Despite the awful destruction, the Jin would not surrender. Genghis became frustrated by the enormous size and scope of a nation-state like the Jin. He entered into negotiations with the emperor and agreed not to attack any more cities. The Mongols had already captured well over 100,000 Chinese prisoners to make a negotiating point, Genghis had them executed.
The Capture of Beijing
The next year the Jin moved their capital farther south, from Beijing to Kaifeng, and began rebuilding their armies. Genghis was angered by the move, which he considered a betrayal of trust, and looked for an opportunity to attack the Jin again. In the spring of 1213, the Jin attacked the Mongol-allied Khitan tribe in Manchuria. Genghis came to the aid of his Khitan allies and attacked the Jin armies in Manchuria, which fell back to their fortifications at Nankuo Pass. The Mongols were blocked from attacking Beijing by the well-fortified Jin positions at the pass and by the eastern sections of the Great Wall. The Mongols headed into the pass and then retreated. It was all a ruse. The Jin forces hurried to trap the fleeing Mongols, recklessly leaving their fortified positions to pursue them. The Mongols led the Jin forces into their own trap and destroyed most of the Jin army. Those Jin troops that had not pursued the Mongols fled their fortified positions and retreated to the Great Wall, with the Mongols in hot pursuit. The Mongols caught and destroyed the remaining Jin troops as they tried frantically to retreat through the Great Wall. The Mongols then passed through the open gates of the Great Wall.
Decline in the 14th Century and After After Kublai&rsquos death in 1294, the Mongol Empire fragmented. Many of his successors were inept, and none attained Kublai&rsquos stature. From 1300 on disputes over succession weakened the central government in China, and there were frequent rebellions.
Genghis Khan brought the writing system to Mongolia that is still used by many Mongolians. The Mongol empire spared teachers of taxation and led to the great spread of printing all over East Asia. They also helped the rise of an educated class in Korea.
The Massive (Fragmented) Empire
So, the Mongols had a fantastic looking empire, sure much of it was pastureland, mountains and desert but the Mongol armies did conquer a lot of people too. With the death of Genghis Khan the empire was really only getting started and his son Ogedei Khan expanded the Empire even further and Genghis’ grandson, Möngke was the Great Khan in 1258 when Baghdad, the fabulous capital city of the Abbasid Empire fell to the Mongol hordes. Another of Genghis’ grandsons, Kublai Khan, conquered the Song Dynasty in China in 1279, establishing the Yuan Dynasty which ruled China until it was ousted by the Ming Dynasty in 1368. If Mamluks had not stopped another of Genghis’ grandsons, Hulagu Khan, at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260 in southern Galilee then the Mongols probably would have taken the whole of North Africa too.
Unfortunately for the Mongol Empire its leaders were not always working in unison and although he may have been an incredible general Genghis Khan was not a great statesman and he failed to create one single political unit out of his vast empire. Instead, after his death the Mongols were left with four smaller empires called Khanates:
• Yuan Dynasty in China
• Ilkhanate in Persia
• Chagatai Khanate in Central Asia
• Khanate of the Golden Horde in Russia and Eastern Europe
If this seems a little familiar it is because this is what happened to the empire of another of history’s “Great Men”: Alexander the Great. Another great general who was not much for administration.
The Mongols were so successful primarily because of their military skills and Genghis Khan’s army, which never numbered more than 130,000, was built upon speed and archery. Compared to the foot soldiers and knights that they were up against, the Mongols were more like superfast modern mobile fighting vehicles, sniping their enemies from afar. So, the question begs: why did people not just hole up in castles and behind city walls when they knew the Mongols were approaching? Well, they did. However, the Mongols were incredibly adaptable and even though these nomadic peoples had never laid eyes upon a castle before they began invading foreign lands they soon became experts at siege warfare by interrogating prisoners and adapting gunpowder most likely introducing it to the Europeans.
As testament to their flexibility, the Mongols, those warriors famed for their horseback blitzkrieg tactics, even built ships with which to attack the Japanese. It may have worked too if it had not been for typhoons, or the “Divine Winds” (Kamikaze). These Divine Winds, incredibly, saved Japan not once, but twice. The First Mongol invasion attempt of Japan was in 1274 and they made a second attempt in 1281. Both spectacular failures which eroded further Mongol naval ambitions.
The blood thirsty reputation of the Mongol armies preceded them, and it must have been a truly terrifying experience to learn that a Mongol army was bearing down on your city. Often, cities would surrender the moment that the Mongols arrived in an effort to avoid the slaughter that usually accompanied them. It is estimated that the Mongol invasions directly killed anywhere between 20 and 60 million people. The vast majority of these deaths were not of enemy warriors, but rather stem from the wholesale elimination of civilian populations. Hundreds of thousands would be executed in a single day and the Mongols did not stop at killing the people, but all the living creatures of a town or city that put up resistance, right down to the cats, dogs and livestock.
The climate of Central Asia became dry after the large tectonic collision between the Indian Plate and the Eurasian Plate. This impact threw up the massive chain of mountains known as the Himalayas. The Himalayas, Greater Khingan and Lesser Khingan mountains act like a high wall, blocking the warm and wet climate from penetrating into Central Asia. Many of the mountains of Mongolia were formed during the Late Neogene and Early Quaternary periods. The Mongolian climate was more humid hundreds of thousands of years ago. Mongolia is known to be the source of priceless paleontological discoveries. The first scientifically confirmed dinosaur eggs were found in Mongolia during the 1923 expedition of the American Museum of Natural History, led by Roy Chapman Andrews.
During the middle to late Eocene Epoch, Mongolia was the home of many Paleogene mammals with Sarkastodon and Andrewsarchus being the most prominent of them.
Homo erectus possibly inhabited Mongolia as much as 800,000 years ago but fossils of Homo erectus have not yet been found in Mongolia. Stone tools have been found in the southern, Gobi, region, perhaps dating back as much as 800,000 years.  Important prehistoric sites are the Paleolithic cave drawings of the Khoid Tsenkheriin Agui (Northern Cave of Blue) in Khovd province,  and the Tsagaan Agui (White Cave) in Bayankhongor Province.  A neolithic farming settlement has been found in Dornod Province. Contemporary findings from western Mongolia include only temporary encampments of hunters and fishers. The population during the Copper Age has been described as "paleomongolid" in the east of what is now Mongolia, and as "europid" in the west. 
The Slab Grave culture of the late Bronze and early Iron Age, related to the proto-Mongols, spread over Northern, Central and Eastern Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, Northwest China (Xinjiang, Qilian Mountains etc.), Manchuria, Lesser Khingan, Buryatia, Irkutsk Oblast and Zabaykalsky Krai.  This culture is the main archaeological find of the Bronze Age Mongolia.
Deer stones (also known as reindeer stones) and the omnipresent kheregsüürs (small kurgans) probably are from this era other theories date the deer stones as 7th or 8th centuries BC. Deer stones are ancient megaliths carved with symbols that can be found all over central and eastern Eurasia but are concentrated largely in Siberia and Mongolia. Most deer stones occur in association with ancient graves it is believed that stones are the guardians of the dead. There are around 700 deer stones known in Mongolia of a total of 900 deer stones that have been found in Central Asia and South Siberia. Their true purpose and creators are still unknown. Some researchers claim that deer stones are rooted in shamanism and are thought to have been set up during the Bronze Age around 1000 BC, and may mark the graves of important people. Later inhabitants of the area likely reused them to mark their own burial mounds, and perhaps for other purposes. In Mongolia, the Lake Baikal area, and the Sayan and Altai Mountains, there are 550, 20, 20, and 60 known deer stones respectively. Moreover, there are another 20 deer stones in Kazakhstan and the Middle East (Samashyev 1992) and 10 further west, specifically in Ukraine and parts of the Russian Federation, including the provinces of Orenburg and the Caucasus, and near the Elbe River (Mongolian History 2003). According to H.L. Chlyenova, the artistic deer image originated from the Sak tribe and its branches (Chlyenova 1962). Volkov believes that some of the methods of crafting deer stone art are closely related to Scythians (Volkov 1967), whereas Mongolian archaeologist D. Tseveendorj regards deer stone art as having originated in Mongolia during the Bronze Age and spread thereafter to Tuva and the Baikal area (Tseveendorj 1979).
A vast Iron Age burial complex from the 5th-3rd centuries, later also used by the Xiongnu, has been unearthed near Ulaangom. 
Before the 20th century, some scholars assumed that the Scythians descended from the Mongolic people.  The Scythian community inhabited western Mongolia in the 5-6th centuries. In 2006, the mummy of a Scythian warrior, which is believed to be about 2,500 years old was a 30-to-40-year-old man with blond hair, was found in the Altai Mountains, Mongolia. 
In historical times Eurasian nomads were concentrated on the steppe lands of Central Asia.  Furthermore, it is assumed that the Turkic peoples have always inhabited the western, the Mongols the central, and the Tungusic peoples the eastern portions of the region. 
By the 8th century BC, the inhabitants of the western part of Mongolia evidently were nomadic Indo-European migrants, either Scythians  or Yuezhi. In central and eastern parts of Mongolia were many other tribes that were primarily Mongol in their ethnologic characteristics. 
With the appearance of iron weapons by the 3rd century BC, the inhabitants of Mongolia had begun to form clan alliances and lived a hunter and herder lifestyle. The origins of more modern inhabitants are found among the forest hunters and nomadic tribes of Inner Asia. They inhabited a great arc of land extending generally from the Korean Peninsula in the east, across the northern tier of China to present-day Kazakhstan and to the Pamir Mountains and Lake Balkash in the west. During most of recorded history, this has been an area of constant ferment from which emerged numerous migrations and invasions to the southeast (into China), to the southwest (into Transoxiana—modern Uzbekistan, Iran, and India), and to the west (across Scythia toward Europe).
The area of modern Mongolia has been inhabited by groups of nomads since ancient times. The ancient population had a nomadic and hunter lifestyle and lived a fairly closed life. [ citation needed ] While most of Central Asia had a fairly similar nomadic lifestyle where moving in and around national boundaries and mixing with different settlements was common, the situation in the Mongolian steppes was unique because migration was limited by natural barriers such as the Altai Mountains in the west, the Gobi Desert in the south and the freezing wastelands of Siberia in the north, all unsuitable for nomadic-based living. These greatly limited migration, although they also kept out invaders. The clans in Mongolia only allied with other Mongolian clans, with which they shared the same language, religion, and way of life. This would later be a huge advantage in uniting the people in Mongolia against the threat of the expanding Chinese empires. There were repeated conflicts with the Chinese dynasties of Shang and especially Zhou, which had begun conquering and enslaving the Mongolic people in an expansive drift. During the Warring States Period (475–221 BC) in China, the northern states of Zhao, Yan, and Qin had begun to encroach into and conquer parts of southern Mongolia. By the time the Qin dynasty had united all of China's kingdoms into one empire in the 3rd century BC, the Xiongnu confederacy had formed in the Mongolian plains, transforming all of the independent clans into one single state that reassured their safety and independence from an expanding Qin.
Xiongnu state (209 BC–93 AD) Edit
The establishment of the Xiongnu empire in Mongolia in the 3rd century BC marks the beginning of statehood on the territory of Mongolia.
The identity of the ethnic core of Xiongnu has been a subject of varied hypotheses and some scholars, including Paul Pelliot and Byambyn Rinchen,  insisted on a Mongolic origin.
The first significant appearance of nomads came late in the 3rd century BC, when the Chinese repelled an invasion of the Xiongnu (Hsiung-nu in Wade–Giles romanisation) across the Yellow River from the Gobi. A Chinese army, which had adopted Xiongnu military technology—wearing trousers and using mounted archers with stirrups—pursued the Xiongnu across the Gobi in a ruthless punitive expedition. Fortification walls built by various Chinese warring states were connected to make a 2,300-kilometre Great Wall along the northern border, as a barrier to further nomadic inroads.
The founder of the Xiongnu empire was Toumen. He was succeeded violently by his son Modu Shanyu, who then conquered and unified various tribes. At the peak of its power, the Xiongnu confederacy stretched from Lake Baikal in the north to the Great Wall in the south and from the Tian Shan mountains in the west to the Greater Khingan ranges in the east. In the 2nd century BC the Xiongnu turned their attention westward to the region of the Altai Mountains and Lake Balkash, inhabited by Indo-European-speaking nomadic peoples, including Yuezhi (Yüeh-chih in Wade–Giles), who had relocated from China's present-day Gansu Province as a result of their earlier defeat by the Xiongnu. Endemic warfare between these two nomadic peoples reached a climax in the latter part of the 3rd century and the early decades of the 2nd century BC the Xiongnu were triumphant. The Yuezhi then migrated to the southwest where, early in the 2nd century, they began to appear in the Oxus (the modern Amu Darya) Valley, to change the course of history in Bactria, Iran, and eventually India.
In 200 BC, the Han dynasty of China launched a military campaign into the territory, attempting to subjugate the Xiongnu. However the Xiongnu forces ambushed and encircled the Han Emperor Gaozu at Baideng for seven days. Emperor Gao was forced to submit to the Xiongnu, and a treaty was signed in 198 BC recognising all the territories to the north from the Great Wall should belong to the Xiongnu, while the territory to the south of the Great Wall should belong to the Han. In addition, China was obliged to marry princesses and pay annual tribute to the Xiongnu. This "marriage alliance" was far from peaceful, as Xiongnu raids into the fertile southern land never ceased. During the period of Emperor Wen, Xiongnu raids advanced into China Proper, ravaged and even besieged near its capital Chang'an. This continued for 70 years until the reign of Emperor Wu, whose massive counteroffensives devastated the Xiongnu and sent them towards the road of decline.
The Xiongnu again raided northern China about 200 BC, finding that the inadequately defended Great Wall was not a serious obstacle. By the middle of the 2nd century BC, they controlled all of northern and western China north of the Yellow River. This renewed threat led the Chinese to improve their defences in the north, while building up and improving the army, particularly the cavalry, and while preparing long-range plans for an invasion of Mongolia.
By 176 BC, domain of the Xiongnu was 4,030,000 km 2 (1,560,000 sq mi) in size.  Xiongnu capital (Luut Dragon) located on the beach Orkhon River, Central Mongolia. 
Between 130 and 121 BC, Chinese armies drove the Xiongnu back across the Great Wall, weakened their hold on Gansu Province as well as on what is now Inner Mongolia, and finally pushed them north of the Gobi into central Mongolia. Following these victories, the Chinese expanded into the areas later known as Manchuria, Mongolia, the Korean Peninsula, and Inner Asia. The Xiongnu, once more turning their attention to the west and the southwest, raided deep into the Oxus Valley between 73 and 44 BC. The descendants of the Yuezhi and their Chinese rulers, however, formed a common front against the Xiongnu and repelled them.
During the next century, as Chinese strength waned, border warfare between the Chinese and the Xiongnu was almost incessant. Gradually the nomads forced their way back into Gansu and the northern part of what is now China's Xinjiang. In about the middle of the 1st century AD, a revitalized Eastern Han dynasty (AD 25-220) slowly recovered these territories, driving the Xiongnu back into the Altai Mountains and the steppes north of the Gobi. During the late 1st century AD, having reestablished the administrative control over southern China and northern Vietnam that had been lost briefly at beginning of this same century, the Eastern Han made a concerted effort to reassert dominance over Inner Asia. The concept of Mongolia as an independent power north of China is seen in the letter sent by Emperor Wen of Han to Laoshang Chanyu in 162 BC (recorded in the Hanshu):
The Emperor of China respectfully salutes the great Shan Yu (Chanyu) of the Hsiung-nu (Xiongnu). When my imperial predecessor erected the Great Wall, all the bowmen nations on the north were subject to the Shan Yu while the residents inside the wall, who wore the cap and sash, were all under our government: and the myriads of the people, by following their occupations, ploughing and weaving, shooting and hunting, were able to provide themselves with food and clothing. Your letter says:--"The two nations being now at peace, and the two princes living in harmony, military operations may cease, the troops may send their horses to graze, and prosperity and happiness prevail from age to age, commencing, a new era of contentment and peace." That is extremely gratifying to me. Should I, in concert with the Shan Yu, follow this course, complying with the will of heaven, then compassion for the people will be transmitted from age to age, and extended to unending generations, while the universe will be moved with admiration, and the influence will be felt by neighbouring kingdoms inimical to the Chinese or the Hsiung-nu. As the Hsiung-nu live in the northern regions, where the cold piercing atmosphere comes at an early period, I have ordered the proper authorities to transmit yearly to the Shan Yu, a certain amount of grain, gold, silks of the finer and coarser kinds, and other objects. Now peace prevails all over the world the myriads of the population are living in harmony, and I and the Shan Yu alone are the parents of the people. After the conclusion of the treaty of peace throughout the world, take notice, the Han will not be the first to transgress. 
The identity of the ethnic core of Xiongnu has been a subject of varied hypotheses and some scholars, including A.Luvsandendev, Bernát Munkácsi, Henry Howorth, Rashpuntsag,  Alexey Okladnikov, Peter Pallas, Isaak Schmidt, Nikita Bichurin and Byambyn Rinchen,  insisted on a Mongolic origin.
There are many cultural similarities between the Xiongnu and Mongols such as yurt on cart, composite bow, board game, horn bow and long song.  Mongolian long song is believed to date back at least 2,000 years.  Mythical origin of the long song mentioned in "Book of Wei (Volume 113).
In AD 48, the Xiongnu empire was weakened as it was divided into the southern and northern Xiongnu. The northern Xiongnu migrated to the west. They established Üeban state (160–490) in modern Kazakhstan and Hunnic Empire (370s–469) in Europe. The Xianbei that were under the Xiongnu rebelled in AD 93, ending the Xiongnu domination in Mongolia.
Recent excavations of Xiongnu graves at the site Gol Mod in the Khairkhan of Arkhangai province, discovered bronze decorations with images of a creature resembling the unicorn and images of deities resembling the Greco-Roman deities. These discoveries lead to a hypothesis that the Xiongnu had relations with the Greco-Roman world 2000 years ago. 
Xianbei state (147–234) Edit
Although the Xiongnu finally had been split into two parts in AD 48, the Xianbei (or Hsien-pei in Wade–Giles) had moved (apparently from the east) into the region vacated by the Xiongnu. The Xianbei were the northern branch of the Donghu (or Tung Hu, the Eastern Hu), a proto-Mongol group mentioned in Chinese histories as existing as early as the 4th century BC. The language of the Donghu is believed to be proto-Mongolic to modern scholars. The Donghu were among the first peoples conquered by the Xiongnu. Once the Xiongnu state weakened, however, the Donghu rebelled. By the 1st century AD, two major subdivisions of the Donghu had developed: the proto-Mongolic Xianbei in the north and the Wuhuan in the south.
The Xianbei gained strength beginning from the 1st century AD and were consolidated into a state under Tanshihuai in 147. He expelled the Xiongnu from Jungaria, and pushed the Dingling to the north of the Sayans, thus securing domination of the Mongolic elements in what is now Khalkha and Chaharia.  The Xianbei successfully repelled an invasion of the Han dynasty in 167 and conquered areas of northern China in 180.
There are various hypotheses about the language and ethnic links of the Xianbei and most widely accepted version suggests that the Xianbei were a Mongolic ethnic group and their branches are the ancestors of many Mongolic peoples such as the Rouran, Khitan and Menggu Xibei, who are suggested to be the proto-Mongols.  The ruler of the Xianbei state was elected by a congress of the nobility. The Xianbei used woodcut tallies called Kemu as a form of non-verbal communication. Besides extensive livestock husbandry, the Xianbei were also engaged on a limited scale in farming and handicraft. The Xianbei fractured in the 3rd century.
The Xianbei established an empire, which, although short-lived, gave rise to numerous tribal states along the Chinese frontier. Among these states was that of the Toba (T'o-pa in Wade–Giles), a subgroup of the Xianbei, in modern China's Shanxi Province.
The Wuhuan also were prominent in the 2nd century, but they disappeared thereafter possibly they were absorbed in the Xianbei western expansion. The Xianbei and the Wuhuan used mounted archers in warfare, and they had only temporary war leaders instead of hereditary chiefs. Agriculture, rather than full-scale nomadism, was the basis of their economy. In the 6th century, the Wuhuan were driven out of Inner Asia into the Russian [ clarification needed ] steppe.
Chinese control of parts of Inner Asia did not last beyond the opening years of the 2nd century AD, and, as the Eastern Han dynasty ended early in the 3rd century AD, suzerainty was limited primarily to the Gansu corridor. The Xianbei were able to make forays into a China beset with internal unrest and political disintegration. By 317 all of China north of the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang) had been overrun by nomadic peoples: the Xianbei from the north some remnants of the Xiongnu from the northwest and the Chiang people of Gansu and Tibet (present-day China's Xizang Autonomous Region) from the west and the southwest. Chaos prevailed as these groups warred with each other and repulsed the vain efforts of the fragmented Chinese kingdoms south of the Yangtze River to reconquer the region.
Tuoba, a faction of the Xianbei, established the Tuoba Wei empire beyond Mongolia proper in northern China in 386. By the end of the 4th century, the region between the Yangtze and the Gobi, including much of modern Xinjiang, was dominated by the Tuoba. Emerging as the partially sinicized state of Dai between AD 338 and 376 in the Shanxi area, the Tuoba established control over the region as the Northern Wei (AD 386-533). Northern Wei armies drove back the Rouran (also referred to as Ruru or Juan-Juan by Chinese chroniclers), a newly arising nomadic Mongol people in the steppes north of the Altai Mountains, and reconstructed the Great Wall. During the 4th century also, the Huns left the steppes north of the Aral Sea to invade Europe. [ dubious – discuss ] By the middle of the 5th century, Northern Wei had penetrated into the Tarim Basin in Inner Asia, as had the Chinese in the 2nd century. As the empire grew, however, Tuoba tribal customs were supplanted by those of the Chinese, an evolution not accepted by all Tuoba. Tuoba Wei existed until 581.
Where did the Mongols conquer?
Lot more interesting detail can be read here. In this regard, how did the Mongols conquer?
The Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan started the conquest with small-scale raids into Western Xia in 1205 and 1207. By 1279, the Mongol leader Kublai Khan had established the Yuan dynasty in China and crushed the last Song resistance, which marked the onset of all of China under the Mongol Yuan rule.
Similarly, how far did the Mongols conquer? The Mongols conquered, by battle or voluntary surrender, the areas of present-day Iran, Iraq, the Caucasus, and parts of Syria and Turkey, with further Mongol raids reaching southwards into Palestine as far as Gaza in 1260 and 1300.
Also, where did the Mongols not conquer?
Led by Genghis Khan and his sons and grandsons, the Mongols briefly ruled most of modern-day Russia, China, Korea, southeast Asia, Persia, India, the Middle East and eastern Europe.
Where did Genghis Khan conquer?
Mongol leader Genghis Khan (1162-1227) rose from humble beginnings to establish the largest land empire in history. After uniting the nomadic tribes of the Mongolian plateau, he conquered huge chunks of central Asia and China.
Mongol Empire and Religious Freedom
The Mongol people were Tengerians, which is a shamanist belief system. Tengerism means to honor the spirits. Shamanism is a form of animism, which holds that everything has a spiritual essence, including rocks, water and plants—everything. Humans are living spiritual creatures in a world of other spirits/forces/gods, with the Greatest Spirits being Koke Mongke Tengri, the Eternal Blue Heaven, and Mother Earth. These spirits of the sky, land, water, plants, rocks, ancestors and animals are honored. Tengerism has three main tenets: to take care of and honor the spirits, to have personal responsibility and to keep harmony among all elements of the environment, the community, and oneself. When trouble or illness came, it meant things were out of balance and a holy man or woman, a shaman, was called to rectify the situation.
Genghis, the man, was interested in all religions. In fact, many Mongols were shamanists at the same time they practiced other religions. Genghis’ sons married Nestorian Christian women, for example, although they also held shamanist beliefs. As the Mongols swiftly began conquering the lands around them, Genghis and his advisors decided on religious tolerance as a policy. Rather than antagonize conquered peoples by suppressing their religion, the Mongols exempted religious leaders from taxation and allowed free practice of religion whether it be Buddhism, Nestorian Christianity, Manichaeism, Daoism or Islam. This policy ensured an easier governance of conquered territories.
Genghis Khan and his descendants employed Buddhists and Muslims in their administration of the empire. Genghis even had close advisors who held to other religions. To the Mongols, then, religious tolerance wasn’t only an imperial policy, it was the way they lived. Mongol leaders occasionally invited religious leaders to come and debate each other as a way of exploring and learning about the various religions under their rule. When Ogedai built the Mongol’s capital city Karakorum, he allowed religious leaders to build mosques, churches, lamaseries and temples for their worshippers.
At its height, the Mongol Empire stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and incorporated many nations and religions. The governance of this huge area would not have been possible without the Mongols’ policy of religious tolerance. The Great Khans and minor khans all kept this policy, even if they themselves converted to one religion or another. Gazan, khan of the Ilkhanate division in Iran, for example, converted to Islam in 1295. Kublai Khan practiced Buddhism, but allowed all peoples he ruled to practice their own religion. Religious tolerance is one of the positive legacies of the Mongol Empire, which was rare then as it is today.
While the Mongols conquered people, they took over the Silk Road and turned it into a unified trade route of cultural diffusion and assimilation. Their presence in China was particularly influential as it culture-shocked the Chinese and their traditional ways.
Despite its reputation for brutal warfare, the Mongol Empire briefly enabled peace, stability, trade, and protected travel under a period of “Pax Mongolica,” or Mongol peace, beginning in about 1279 and lasting until the empire’s end. But Genghis Khan’s death in 1227 ultimately doomed the empire he founded.
Clothing in the Mongol Empire
The clothing worn by the Mongols in the 13th and 14th century CE, like most other aspects of their culture, reflected their nomadic lifestyle in the often harsh climate of the Asian steppe. Typical items included felt hats, long jackets with loose sleeves, and practical baggy trousers. As the Mongol army was based on fast-moving, lightly armed cavalry, recruiters usually had a relaxed 'come-as-you-are' approach to uniforms so that clothes in both war and peace were often very similar. Heavy cavalry units did wear armour made from padded materials, hardened leather and pieces of metal. Many of the Mongol clothes of the medieval period are still worn by nomadic peoples today across Eurasia.
Climate & Significance
The typical weather of the Asian steppe is cold, dry, and windy. Winters can be long - from September to May - and bitterly cold (down to -34 degrees Celsius or -30 degrees Fahrenheit). Summers are short but can be hot, reaching a temperature over 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). Clothing needed, then, to be warm and durable but also layered for the rare moments when temperatures soared. As Mongols were often on the move and rode horses, their clothing also had to be unrestrictive.
Another consequence of nomadic life was the absence of a large number of material possessions, thus, cloth and clothing were one of the important assets of a family and were given as gifts and as part of a bride's dowry. Male friends and blood brothers often exchanged a leather belt while rulers gave sumptuous clothing to fellow rulers as diplomatic gifts and to senior officials on special occasions such as royal births and weddings, or to reward loyal service. Even the absence of clothing had a significance such as when belts and hats were removed before making prayers (including by the khans), belts of onlookers had to be removed and slung over the shoulder during succession ceremonies to demonstrate obedience, and sometimes the accused in a law court was stripped before sentence.
Sheep provided fleeces and wool to make felt, which does not need to be weaved but is made by pounding the wool and causing its microscopic barbs to form interlocking sheets. Felt was used for clothing, blankets, and the yurt tents which are still used today by Asian nomads. Goats were herded in large numbers and the principal source of leather.
Through hunting, trade, or tribute from conquered peoples, the Mongols acquired furs such as sable, squirrel, rabbit, fox, monkey, dog, goat, and wolf. Exotic or difficult to obtain furs like snow leopard and lynx were especially prized and reserved for the elite members of society. In the coldest periods, fur garments were worn in a double layer with the inner layer having the hair on the inside and the outer layer the opposite way around. Such materials as silk could be acquired through trade and became much more easily available once the Mongols had conquered China undergarments were worn by both men and women made from this material.
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Making felt, leather, and clothes, and then repairing them were all the tasks expected of Mongol women. Washing was one chore that did not happen very often due to the lack of water in the usually arid steppe environment. Foreign travellers of the period frequently comment on the dirtiness of the Mongols and their clothing and such habits as wiping their hands on their trousers after eating. In any case, regular washing was not desirable for nomadic outer clothing because it was often greased with animal fat to make it wind and waterproof.
The most recognisable piece of outer clothing for Mongol men and women, still widely worn today, was the short robe or deel. This one-piece long jacket was folded over and closed on the left side of the chest (left breast doubled over the right) with a button or tie positioned just below the right armpit. Some deel had pockets and the sleeves typically went only down to the elbow. The outer lining of the robe was of cotton or silk and heavier versions had an additional fur or felt lining or a quilt padding. The inner lining was typically turned over a little to the outside of the garment at the sleeves and hem. For those who could afford it, the robe might have some exotic fur trim at the collar and edges.
A wide leather belt was worn which had useful hanging pouches and which might be decorated with ornate metal pieces (metal of any kind being a rarity for nomadic peoples). The belts of women were even more decorative than those of the men. In winter a heavy coat of fur or felt was worn over the deel robe. Under the robe another thin robe might be worn or a simple cotton or silk undershirt. Trousers were worn under the ever-present robe. Winter trousers could be made entirely from fur or have cotton, wool or silk padding, the latter being an excellent light insulator.
Hats & Boots
Boots were made from felt or leather with the sole usually being a thickened layer of felt and the boots high enough to tuck in the trousers. Boots had no heels and were fastened tight using laces. The feet were kept warm with thick felt stockings. The classic Mongol hat was conical and made from felt and fur with flaps for the ears and an upturned brim at the front. Sometimes the brim was divided in two. In summer a light head-cloth might be worn to keep off the sun.
Elite men and women distinguished themselves by sporting a few peacock feathers in their hats. One of the few areas where women distinguished themselves from men, and then only elite women, was the elaborate boqta headdress which had pearls and feathers decoration. One can still see these headdresses today when, for example, Kazakh women attend traditional festivities. While both men and women wore earrings, women also added metal, pearl, and feather decorations to their hair. Men, on the other hand, did not have much opportunity to do the same as they seem to have shaved the crown of their head, sometimes leaving only a thin strip of hair at the front of the head and with locks dangling down to the eyebrows. The hair left on the back of the head was commonly grown long and tied into two braids. Mongol men often have a wispy goatee beard and drooping moustache in medieval illustrations.
The Imperial Court
When the Mongols conquered Song Dynasty China (960-1279 CE) some of the rulers and elite adopted Chinese-style clothing such as richly-embroidered silk robes. Marco Polo (1254-1324 CE), the Venetian traveller who served Kublai Khan (r. 1260-1294 CE) and wrote of his experiences in his Travels (circulated from c. 1298 CE), gives the following description of the sumptuous clothes worn at the Mongol Yuan Dynasty court during important religious festivals:
…the grand khan appears in a superb dress of cloth of gold, and on the same occasion full twenty thousand nobles and military officers are clad by him in dresses similar to his own in point of colour and form but the materials are not equally rich. They are, however, of silk, and the colour of gold and along with the vest they likewise receive a girdle of chamois leather, curiously worked with gold and silver thread, and also a pair of boots. Some of the dresses are ornamented with precious stones and pearls to the value of a thousand bezants of gold.
(Book II, Ch. XI)
The account clearly shows that traditional Mongol dress had not changed all that much, only the materials with which it was made. At the other end of the wardrobe scale, Marco Polo also mentions that monks he came across in Mongolia wore hemp clothing of a black a dark colour.
While warriors wore pretty much their peacetime clothes some sensibly added armour to better protect themselves. Mongol armour was usually light so as to not impede the speed of cavalry riders or the use of a bow. A quilted robe or leather jacket offered some protection against arrows and the traditional robe could be reinforced with strips of hardened leather, bone or metal. Learning from the Chinese, a silk undershirt might be worn as this had the handy consequence of wrapping around the arrowhead if one was struck, protecting the wound and making the arrow easier to withdraw.
Plate armour and chain mail were rare but using small plates of metal or pieces of hardened leather which were then stitched together to make a suit were more common. Leather pieces were often given a layer of crude black lacquer to make them waterproof. Stitching was done using leather ties and one medieval chronicler noted that Mongol metal armour was so highly polished you could use the pieces as a mirror. Armoured coats, like the deel, hung down to the knees and covered only the upper arms. Some contemporary descriptions mention a silk surcoat worn over the armour which could be intricately embroidered. Warriors typically wore heavy leather boots. At the other end of the body, the head was protected by either an iron or hardened leather helmet, sometimes with a neck guard and a central top spike or ball and plume.
The Mongol invasions were among the most devastating invasions in global history. Few recorded events in history caused by human actions have been as destructive, and wars may not have reached a comparable scale until the 19th and 20th centuries. However, there were greater impacts based on invasions. Mainly it also created opportunities for some regions while others saw their fortunes fall. Perhaps Europe benefited from the invasions as it helped lower prices in trade goods that now began to flow more greatly. The new knowledge also flowed to Europe that helped to combine with shifting attitudes, which eventually launched the Renaissance.
Other regions, particularly in the Middle East, declined in political and economic power, as depopulation had major consequences. In part, China's policies also adjusted based on experiences with the Mongols, which then led to new rulers in China becoming more isolationist over time. Demographic changes occurred as new migrations became possible that have now subsequently affected today's populations in the Middle East and Central Asia in particular. More Turkish based influences have subsequently replaced many Indo-Arayan languages across Central Asia.