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The Mongols were primarily horsemen and fighters who preferred life on the steppes of Eurasia. This was quite different from many of the areas which they conquered which often had large cities. They showed little interest in Russia, which was heavily forested; although they did exact heavy tribute from them as the price of staying away. Although they conquered China, they had little use for Chinese culture or customs; in fact they frequently dismissed the Chinese people as "mere cultivators." They forbade intermarriage between Mongols and Chinese and would not allow the Chinese to learn the Mongol language. Interestingly, they allowed the Chinese people to maintain most of their customs; they simply would not allow anyone else to practice them with the Chinese.
There is strong argument that the Mongols despised and destroyed that which they did not understand; and cities were something they did not understand, as they were a steppe people. However, unlike many of the people they conquered, they tended to be very tolerant of religious differences, and allowed Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and others to worship as they wished. The Chinese, of course had little interest in religion other than a brief flirtation with Buddhism, and the Islamic and Christian people were not tolerant of religious differences.
It was their tolerance of local customs and religions and their distaste for cities and large settlements that distinguished the Mongols from those they conquered.
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