Muslims in Time of Kublai Khan

By Wang Daiyu

“The Kublai Khan Hunting Trip,” by Vadim Gorbatov

While it is widely known that the Chinese were instrumental in inventing explosives and in advancing early rocket technology, it is less known that during the time of Kublai Khan Turkish Muslims were instrumental in helping the Mongols conquer China and advancing this technology and building siege weapons. According to Muslim Heritage, between 1271 and 1273 Kublai Khan employed two Turkish Muslim engineers Alaadin and Ismail (I-ssu-ma-yin in Chinese sources). They were instrumental in building ballistic weapons used in the siege and conquest of Hang-Chow and Hsiang-yang. The Chinese sources mention that when the weapons built by Ismail were fired “the earth and the skies shook and the cannons were buried seven feet into the ground.” The sons of both these engineers also worked for the Mongols.