How was Kubilai Khan different from his grandfather, Genghis Khan (either militarily or politically)?
The major differences between Genghis Khan and his grandson, Kublai Khan, can be explained by their different circumstances. Ghengis was able to unite various Mongol tribes into a single coalition which then conquered vast swaths of territory. He put governing systems in place that allowed this new empire to flourish and even expand after his death. Kublai inherited the system that his grandfather built but often struggled to hold it together. Unlike Genghis, he encouraged a certain degree of infighting amongst the Mongols in order to help himself maintain his own power. This served to sidetrack and weaken the Mongol forces and led to a halt in the expansion of the Mongol empire.
In some ways, it is difficult to fairly compare these two men. Genghis's legacy was conquering an empire, and Kublai's was governing it. These are two different challenges that required two different solutions. As one of Kublai's advisors is quoted as saying, "I have heard that one can conquer the empire on horseback, but one cannot govern it on horseback." Conquering was a Mongol way of life, and Genghis embodied this well. However, the Mongols had no experience with statecraft, and therefore Kublai adopted Chinese models of governance in order to maintain power in his dominion. As such, Kublai and his court became more and more assimilated into Chinese culture as time went by.
When viewed this way, we can see why Genghis was focused on maintaining Mongol power. He made sure that the core of his power was based on Mongol ethnicity and kept Mongolia as his seat of power. Kublai, on the other hand, made his empire more Chinese. He moved his capital to China and, although he kept many Mongols in the upper echelon of his power structure, he organized his political apparatus to be more focussed along Chinese models. He also brought in advisors and ministers from all corners of his empire to create a very multi-cultural state.
check Approved by eNotes Editorial