On This Day
1271 – Kublai Khan renames his empire “Yuan” (元 yuán), officially marking the start of the Yuan dynasty of Mongolia and China.
The Yuan dynasty (Chinese: 元朝; pinyin: Yuán Cháo), officially the Great Yuan (Chinese: 大元; pinyin: Dà Yuán; Middle Mongolian: ᠶᠡᠭᠡ
ᠤᠯᠤᠰ, Yeke Ywan Ulus, literally “Great Yuan State”[note 3]), was a successor state to the Mongol Empire after its division and a ruling dynasty of China established by Kublai Khan, leader of the Mongol Borjigin clan, lasting from 1271 to 1368. In Chinese historiography, this dynasty followed the Song dynasty and preceded the Ming dynasty.
Although Genghis Khan had been enthroned with the Chinese title of Emperor[note 2] in 1206 and the Mongol Empire had ruled territories including modern-day northern China for decades, it was not until 1271 that Kublai Khan officially proclaimed the dynasty in the traditional Chinese style, and the conquest was not complete until 1279 when the Southern Song dynasty was defeated in the Battle of Yamen. His realm was, by this point, isolated from the other Mongol khanates and controlled most of modern-day China and its surrounding areas, including modern Mongolia. It was the first non-Han dynasty to rule all of China proper and lasted until 1368 when the Ming dynasty defeated the Yuan forces. Following that, the rebuked Genghisid rulers retreated to the Mongolian Plateau and continued to rule as the Northern Yuan dynasty.
Some of the Yuan emperors mastered the Chinese language, while others only used their native Mongolian language and the ‘Phags-pa script.
After the division of the Mongol Empire, the Yuan dynasty was the khanate ruled by the successors of Möngke Khan. In official Chinese histories, the Yuan dynasty bore the Mandate of Heaven. The dynasty was established by Kublai Khan, yet he placed his grandfather Genghis Khan on the imperial records as the official founder of the dynasty and accorded him the temple name Taizu.[note 2] In the edict titled Proclamation of the Dynastic Name, Kublai announced the name of the new dynasty as Great Yuan and claimed the succession of former Chinese dynasties from the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors to the Tang dynasty.
In addition to Emperor of China, Kublai Khan also claimed the title of Great Khan, supreme over the other successor khanates: the Chagatai, the Golden Horde, and the Ilkhanate. As such, the Yuan was also sometimes referred to as the Empire of the Great Khan. However, while the claim of supremacy by the Yuan emperors was at times recognized by the western khans, their subservience was nominal and each continued its own separate development.
Born On This Day
1890 – Edwin Howard Armstrong, American engineer, invented FM radio (d. 1954)
Edwin Howard Armstrong (December 18, 1890 – February 1, 1954) was an American electrical engineer and inventor, who developed FM (frequency modulation) radio and the superheterodyne receiver system. He held 42 patents and received numerous awards, including the first Medal of Honor awarded by the Institute of Radio Engineers (now IEEE), the French Legion of Honor, the 1941 Franklin Medal and the 1942 Edison Medal. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and included in the International Telecommunication Union’s roster of great inventors.
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For The Man Who Hated Christmas
It’s just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years or so.
It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas–oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it–overspending… the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma—the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else.
Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.
Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears.
It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn’t acknowledge defeat.
Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.” Mike loved kids – all kids – and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That’s when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years.
For each Christmas, I followed the tradition–one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.
The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.
As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn’t end there.
You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more.
Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing to take down the envelope.
Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit will always be with us.
Nancy W. Gavin
This true story was originally published in the December 14, 1982 issue of Woman’s Day magazine. It was the first place winner out of thousands of entries in the magazine’s “My Most Moving Holiday Tradition” contest in which readers were asked to share their favorite holiday tradition and the story behind it. The story inspired a family from Atlanta, Georgia to start The White Envelope Project and Giving 101, a non profit organization dedicated to educating youth about the importance of giving.
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