Kublai (or Khubilai) Khan, also known as "the last of the Great Khans," was born on 23 September 1215 into the family of the legendary Genghis Khan, the man who founded the Mongol Empire. Being born into a powerful family set the path for Kublai Khan and his brothers Möngke, a famed warrior, and Hulagu, who conquered Persia.
Kublai Khan crowned himself Khan, the Chinese equivalent to emperor, in 1260. Miles away, his brother Möngke did the same thing, confident that his military past would make him a more likely candidate to rule the empire. Kublai didn't take to the news well, and the brothers battled for years before he finally won the right to holding the title and consequently created the Chinese Yuan Dynasty.
Kublai Khan is credited with unifying China by destroying the remnants of previous dynasties. While his tactics were often bloody, the result was an empire with great economic and scientific growth, better buildings and a network of public highways far superior to anything the country had ever seen before. He was also the first emperor to use paper currency for all official affairs; and a believer on the importance of the arts in the development of an empire. Kublai Khan was less successful on his efforts at conquering Asian countries, including Japan and Vietnam, and thus had to endure inflation problems and great casualties in his military.
Kublai personally oversaw the design and building of Xanadu, his legendary summer residence in the province of Shangdu. Xanadu served as a setting for the development of an advanced water irrigation system, used later in different parts of the country to advance agriculture and to repair the damage caused during the Mongolian war.
Kublai Khan died on 18 February 18 1294, at the age of 78. His death is surrounded in mystery, as some ancient texts claim different causes. The most likely scenario is that he died from complications of gout, which he had developed because of his passion for eating organ meats. Khan's favorite wife and his heir also died from gout, years before him.