The site of two ruined cities in Mongolia, on the river Orkhon Gol as it flows north out of the Khangaj Mountains.  Most Westerners call the city Karakorum.

In 744, the nomadic Uyghur people conquered Mongolia, and built their capital on this site.  We know little about it, as the Kyrgyz people drove the Uyghur out in the year 840.

In the late 12th Century, this area was the center of a collection of Mongol and Tatar tribes who were being united by a warlord named Temujin.  Temujin eventually went on to conquer most of the known world and take the title "Universal Ruler", or "Genghis Khan".

Around 1220, Genghis Khan decided to build his Empire a capital, and chose the site of Karakorum.  The Great Khan collected the loot of his empire here, and took every step to make his Imperial city the center of the world:  He rerouted all trade to China through Karakorum; and whenever he conquered a city, he spared the lives of the best craftsmen and architects, and transported them to his new city.

Geographically, however, this was infeasible, and Genghis Khan's successor, Kublai Khan, moved the capital to Beijing and Shang-Tu (later corrupted variously to (Xanadu, Ciandu, or Candy) in 1267. During the reign of Kublai Khan, Karakorum was visited by Niccolo and Maffeo Polo, and later by Niccolo's son Marco.

Karakorum was the capital of Mongolia for awhile again after Zhu Yuanzhang,a former Buddhist monk turned general, drove the Yuan rulers out of China in 1367.

In 1380, Zhu Yuanzhang, who had taken the name Hung Wu as the first Ming emperor, began his final invasion of Outer Mongolia.  In 1388 he reached Karakorum and destroyed it.

A Russian explorer, N. M. Yadrinstev, discovered the ruins of Karakorum in 1889. The Orkhon Inscriptions, which he found nearby, told of the older city.  These can be found near the town of Hotont in present-day Mongolia. On this site sits the Lamaist Buddhist monastery Erdeni Dzu, built in 1586.

As Mongolians view Genghis Khan as the father of their nation, as opposed to the rapacious conqueror described by history, there has been talk of moving Mongolia's capital back to Karakorum.

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