Genghis Khan, known for rampaging across much of Asia, Europe and the Middle East to create one of the world's greatest empires, also brought along the essence of Asian culture and promoted cultural progress in Europe, Chinese historians say.
"Genghis Khan introduced papermaking and printing technologies to Europe and pioneered cultural exchanges between Asia and Europe," said Prof. Zhu Yaoting, a specialist on Mongolian history at Beijing Union University.
"He brought cultural progress that helped liberate the Europeans from the bondage of theology -- in this sense, his expeditions served as catalyst for the Renaissance," he said Thursday at a seminar on Genghis Khan studies held in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
Genghis Khan expanded from central China to northwest Xinjiang and Central Asia, a comprehensive communication network with messengers commuting between many relay stations to send messages, said Prof. Zhu.
"This network served as an important link between the east and the west. It brought to Europe gunpowder, firearms and compass that later helped Christopher Columbus in his voyage to the new continent," he said.
The Chinese, in return, got drugs, knitwear and the Western calendar, he said.
Between 1219 and 1225, Genghis Khan's troop went on several expeditions to the Black Sea.
"Despite the harm they caused along the way, these expeditions were intertwined with some milestones of Chinese and world history and in a sense facilitated some major events," said Ma Ji, an Inner Mongolia University professor.
The expeditions also reopened the Silk Road that linked China via Central Asia to Europe but had been out of service in many parts before Genghis Khan's troops set off on the first expedition in 1219, said Prof. Chen Yuning with Ningxia University.
"The expedition revived the ancient trade link and made economic and cultural exchanges possible again between the isolated civilizations," he said.
It was also along Genghis Khan's path that Marco Polo came to China and presented the oriental world to the Europeans, he added.
This year marks the 800th anniversary of Genghis Khan's Mongolian Empire.
Genghis Khan was born in 1167 into an aristocratic family near the Onon River in Mongolia.
In 1206, he unified Mongol tribes and became the Great Khan of the Mongol Empire. He was later conferred the title of "Genghis Khan", meaning the "universal ruler".
Genghis Khan conquered most of Eurasia and fathered many children. Kublai, one of his grandsons, later became the first emperor of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).
China is rich in research resources on Genghis Khan and the Mongolian Empire, many of which are based on the legendary Secret History of the Mongols, according to sources with the Center of Mongolian Studies under the country's leading think tank, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.