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To clear things up, by the time Genghis Khan lived his reign of terror in the 13th century CE, China had already been in existence for more or less than 800 years. But history has shown that the Mongol Empire had created culture as much as destroyed it.

But in this alternate history scenario, Genghis Khan (or a similarly ambitious Mongol shepherd) united the tribes of Central Asia and later Eastern Asia in the third century BCE, creating the great nation of China (or whatever the Mongols would have called it). Trade, technology, and culture would be more prosperous and successful in this ancient Mongol empire than its Mediterranean contemporaries.

Would this have worked?

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closed as too broad by Aify, Mołot, Hohmannfan, Bellerophon, AlexP Jan 9 '17 at 8:30

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ You're essentially suggesting the formation of the Mongolian Empire about 4000 years early. That doesn't seem plausible, and we have no way of giving an objective answer. You're also assuming a great deal in your question, by saying that it would automatically be more successful than the Romans or Greeks or anything else in Europe. Unless you rewrite the question, this is probably going to get closed. $\endgroup$ – Palarran Jan 7 '17 at 6:26
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think the question is too broad because it asks "possible" not "impacts of". It can be answered either yes or no -- with the resounding "no" demonstrated by the bulk of answers thus far. $\endgroup$ – SRM Jan 7 '17 at 13:45
  • $\begingroup$ You just moved the time of the hypothetical conquest from the 3rd millenium BCE to the 3rd century BCE and think that this is the same question? $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 9 '17 at 8:29
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EDIT: This answer refers to the initial version of the question. After this answer was written, user JohnWDailey modified his question moving the date of the hypothetical conquest from the 3rd millenium BCE to the 3rd century BCE. This answer is of now of course obsolete.

In the 3rd millenium BCE there were no Mongols and no Chinese, and there was nothing for the ancestors of the Mongols to conquer in the lands which would eventually belong to the empire we call China.

The Chinese do not call themselves Chinese (the most numerous ethnic identity is Han) and they do not call their country China; see names of China. The most common native name is Middle Kingdom or Middle State, pronounced in Modern Standard Mandarin Zhongguo (in Pinyin Romanization) or Chung-kuo (in Wade-Giles Romanization); in the 18th and 19th century the preferred name was the Celestial Empire. In European languages we use either a name derived from Qin (Ch'in in Wade-Giles), a state which existed in the western part of what is now China from the 9th to the 3rd century BCE, or a name derived from Khitan, a people which conquered the northern part of what is today China in the 10th century CE, and later established a state in Central Asia. From Qin we have China and Chinese in English and similar names in Frech, German, Italian, Romanian, etc. From Khitan we have Cathay in English, and similar names in Portuguese, Spanish, Russian etc.

Nations are not natural phenomena, they are purely political and historical constructions, emerging from a community of language, history and economy over a long period. In the real history the first recognizable "Chinese" state was created at the end of the 3rd / beginning of the 2nd millenium BCE: the Xia (Hsia in Wade-Giles), which ruled over an ill-defined territory we believe was somewhere on the lower course of the Huang He / Yellow River. The earliest Chinese state for which there is solid evidence emerged towards the middle of the 2nd millenium BCE in the Yellow River valley: the Shang dynasty. The first emperor of a unified state was Qin Shi Huang in the 3rd century BCE; he conquered (or united, if one prefers the nationalistic view) and ruled over what is today northern China.

The middle-of-the-3rd-millenium BCE conquest proposed by the question would have happened during the mythical period of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors; the mythical history of China begins with the Yellow Emperor, Huangdi (Huang-ti in Wade-Giles), a figure about as historical as Hercules or Perseus.

It is also important to note that the Mongol "conquest" of China in the 13th century was more in the nature of a struggle for power. For the vast majority of the people is was of limited importance whether the emperor belonged to the Song (native) or Yuan (Mongol) dynasty. It was not Genghis who did it, but rather his grand-grandson Kublai Khan (in Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree...), who promptly declared himself Chinese emperor (in Chinese terms, he "proclaimed the mandate of Heaven") and founded the Yuan dynasty. The influence of Mongol culture over the Chinese culture is somewhere between none and almost none.

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  • $\begingroup$ Excellent answer! Minor side-note: While Zhongguo is often translated as the "Middle Kingdom" or "Middle State", it can be, I suspect, more accurately be translated as "Central State". The gist of your answer is spoton. There was no China for the Mongols to conquer, because there was no China or no Mongols in the third millennium BCE. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jan 7 '17 at 11:24
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, found out that China was founded in the third CENTURY BCE. $\endgroup$ – JohnWDailey Jan 9 '17 at 4:22
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No.

The Mongolians were successful because they hi-jacked an existing Chinese empire and culture. There was a written language, administrative and bureaucratic institutions, other State institutions, and a body of people who had the skills and knowledge to run an empire. Mongolian culture didn't bring anything to the table that would have sustained a Mongolian equivalent of China. The Mongols had none of the institutional structures or personnel to build or run an empire in themselves.

That was in the 13th century CE, essentially 4,000 years earlier a Mongol invasion and occupation of the lands that were to become China wouldn't create an earlier version of China. The Mongols were horseback barbarians, certainly this was something they were extremely good at, but they lacked the capacity for running settled communities over large areas of territory.

The institutions, agriculture and population weren't there four millennia for them to build Mongolized China.

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  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, found out that China was founded in the third CENTURY BCE. $\endgroup$ – JohnWDailey Jan 9 '17 at 4:22
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Unlikely, since that'd be early for large-scale horse use in conquest.

The historical Mongol Empire(s) were created, in substantial part, via armies using horses, both to ride and to pull carts and chariots. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestication_of_the_horse#Botai_culture

Although the first horse domestication evidence is from roughly that time period (see cited article above), you're talking truly large scale use (breeding stock, stables, saddles, stirrups{?}) -- which is possible then and there, but unlikely.

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  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, found out that China was founded in the third CENTURY BCE. $\endgroup$ – JohnWDailey Jan 9 '17 at 4:22
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Maybe ...

There were people living in Central Asia at the time, the Afanasevo culture. China had early agricultural cultures like the Majiayao.

I cannot say how difficult it would have been to unite the steppe people, and what population density they would have. Early Chinese people would be less capable of resistance to that attack, but it would also be harder to decapitate an existing administration.

Imagine the steppe people had conquered all of China, replaced the existing ruling classes, and united their conquests under one ruler. Would that have lasted more than a generation? Compare what happened to the Carolingians after the death of Charlemagne.

My guess is that the third millenium BCE is too early to unite China and make it stick. The time wasn't ripe for large empires in that part of the world.

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    $\begingroup$ The time wasn't ripe for large empires anywhere - without a relatively advanced agriculture (which didn't exist in third millenium BCE) you can't sustain a sufficient "administrative class" and institutions that enable you to effectively govern places you can't personally visit often. $\endgroup$ – Peteris Jan 7 '17 at 13:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Peteris, how about the Akkadian and Assyrian empires? Not great empires, compared to subsequent millenia, but a start. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Jan 7 '17 at 15:28
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, found out that China was founded in the third CENTURY BCE. $\endgroup$ – JohnWDailey Jan 9 '17 at 4:22
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnWDailey, there were people in the area before that time. American history didn't start in 1776, either ... $\endgroup$ – o.m. Jan 9 '17 at 6:19
  • $\begingroup$ @o.m. It still makes all the difference. $\endgroup$ – JohnWDailey Jan 9 '17 at 6:25

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