Mobility, Empire and Cross Cultural Contacts in Mongol Eurasia

Vered Shurany

Vered Shurny

Vered Shurany

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Department of Asian Studies

PhD dissertation: The Yuan Army (1271 – 1368)

The Mongol army played a major role in the conquest and unification of China after centuries of disunion. The Army was a heterogenous body that was accumulated throughout the long conquest and was comprised of units from different parts of Eurasia. The main aim of my dissertation is to explain what enabled the Mongol army, on the one hand to conquer and unify China and on the other hand, what caused it ninety years later to fail in suppressing the Chinese rebels, thereby bringing the end of the Yuan Dynasty. My research attempts to better understand the organization, administration and structure of the Yuan army, and the people who led it.

In terms of methodology, I am studying the biographies of Yuan commanders, using prosopographic tools to build a profile of these generals. Such a prosopographic analysis will assists me in gaining insights on various aspects of the army such as its functioning, focusing on topics such as logistics, tactics, guard units, navy and rebellions.

MA thesis: The Islamization of Ningxia under Mongol Rule: The Life and Times of Prince Ananda

Qubilai Khan's grandson, prince Ananda 阿难答 (d. 1307), was the ruler of the Anxi province and headed the Yuan garrison in the Hexi region (modern Gansu and Ningxia). The region was formerly under the rule of the Buddhist dynasty of the Xi Xia, (1038-1227). Ananda was born a Buddhist; however, in 1295 he chose to embrace Islam influenced, among others, by his Turkestani wet nurse. Ananda's conversion allegedly led to the conversion of most of his troops, estimated at 150,000 soldiers.

In spite of being a devoted Muslim, Ananda had a Korean Buddhist wifmself had a close relation with this monk. Yet in the long run, the region over which he ruled became one of the centers of the Chinese Muslims (the Hui).

My thesis examines the reasons for Ananda's Islamization and the impact of his conversion on this primarily Buddhist region. Among the questions I examine are the role of the former Muslim community in pre-Mongol Hexi; and the forced migration of Muslims to the regions in the United Mongol Empire period: after the conquest, many Muslims, especially artisans and soldiers, were transferred eastwards, while others, especially merchants, chose to migrate. I will also examine the role of the army in determining Ananda's religion. While Rashid al-Din presents his conversion as promoting that of his troops, the Yuanshi  gives the impression that most soldiers were Muslims before him. Their religious affiliation might have stimulated his conversion and not vice versa.

It is interesting to examine what role, if any, the simultaneous Ie and moreover, he summoned a Buddhist monk probably for his wife. Furthermore, Ananda hislamization of the Ilkhanate and of Ghazan Khan played in Ananda's conversion. How did his new religious identity affect his chances to gain the Yuan throne after the death of Temür Khan (d. 1307)? What was the importance of religion (Islam and Buddhism) during Ananda's life and what was the relationship between the Buddhists and Muslims in Ananda's time and afterwards?


  • 2014 – Present – PhD student at the Department of Asian Studies, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
  • 2012 – 2014 – Studies as a graduate student in the Asian Studies Department, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
  • 2011 – 2012 – Chinese studies at Tianjin Normal University, in Tianjin, People's Republic of   China.
  • 2010 – 2011 – Graduate student in the Asian Studies Department, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
  • 2007/8 – 2010 – B.A: East Asian Studies and International Relations, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
  • 2004 – Graduated the May Boyar High School in Jerusalem with honours – majoring in Biology and Arabic.

Forthcoming papers

  • “Prince Manggala – The Forgotten Prince of Anxi” forthcoming in Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques 71:4 (2017)


  • 2012-2013 – Working in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as Teaching Assistant in the course "Late Imperial China"; Working at "The Louis Frieberg Center for East-Asian Studies" 2011 – Working as a member of the Organizing Committee of the 10th Annual Conference of Asian Studies in Israel.
  • 2010 – 2011 – Working at "The Louis Frieberg Center for East-Asian Studies", the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
  • 2009 – 2010 – Internship in the office of the Mayor of Jerusalem, in the Foreign Relations Department, as part of the "New Spirit" Internship program.


  • 2017: “The Tanguts: A Non-Mongol Military and Civil Elite in Yuan China”, Migrations in Mongol Eurasia, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel on December.
  • 2017: “The War between the two Capitals Revisited”, 8th International Conference of Digital Archives and Digital Humanities, 第八屆數位典藏與數位人文國際研討會, Taipei, Taiwan, (panel organizer) on November-December.
  • 2017: “Traitors” and Conquerors: Reexamining Biographies of Commanders who Chose to Serve in the Yuan Army”, The Second Conference on Middle Period Chinese Humanities, Leiden, The Netherlands September.
  • 2017: “In the Service of Qa’an and the Ilkhan: Movements of Military Commanders in the Mongol Empire” (presented in Hebrew), The 41st conference of The Middle East & Islamic Studies Association of Israel (MEISAI), The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel on June.
  • 2017: “From Conquest to Collapse: Reexamining Biographies of Yuan Commanders”, Mongol Warfare between Steppe and Sown: Military and Cultural Perspectives, Sofia, Bulgaria on May.
  • 2017: “Between the Yuan and the Ilkhanate: Exchanging Military Personnel and Its Impact”, 2017 Annual Conference of The Chinese Military History Society, Jacksonville Florida, USA on March.
  • 2017: “Naval Success – Reexamining the biography of Liu Zheng (劉整1213-1275)”, The 26th Columbia University Graduate Conference on East Asia, Columbia University, New York, USA on February.
  • 2016: “Muslims, Islam and the Local Mongol Elite in Northwest China during the Early Yuan Period”, AAS-in-Asia Conference 2016 on “Asia in Motion: “Horizons of Hope”, Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan.
  • 2016: “Studying the Yuan Army Using Digital Databases: A Prosopographic Perspective”, Stanford-Berkeley Graduate Student Conference On Premodern Chinese Humanities, Stanford University, California, USA.
  • 2015: “Expansion of Islam into Northwest China: The Court of Manggala and the conversion of Ananda”, The Second Biennial Graduate Conference on Iranian Studies, University of Cambridge, England.
  • 2014: “Conversion to Islam in Mongol-ruled Hexi (China):The Life and Times of Prince Ananda”, The tenth Biennial Iranian Studies Conference, Montreal, Canada.
  • 2014: “Conversion to Islam in North West China under Mongol Rule”, The China and the Islamic World: Trade and Knowledge” Conference, Istanbul, Turkey.
  • 2014: “Islam and Buddhism in Mongol-Rules Hexi” poster publication, part of the Poster Session: Mobility and Transformation, within the “Mobility and Transformation: New Directions in the Study of the Mongol Empire” Conference, Jerusalem, Israel.

Awards and Scholarships

  • 2016 The Aboulker Foundation Scholarship
  • 2015 - present: Hanban PhD Fellow, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
  • 2013 – Ida and Charles Wechslar scholarship for M.A Students [A part of the Gutwirth Scholarships].
  • 2012 – Chinese Government Scholarship to study Chinese in Tianjin Normal University.
  • 2011 – Ida and Charles Wechslar scholarship for M.A Students [A part of the Gutwirth Scholarships].
  • 2010 – A scholarship from the East Asian Department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for academic achievements.


English, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese and French.


  • 2012 – Present – "High School Project": Meetings with high school students, at their schools, and teaching them about China.
  • 2000 – 2003 – Worked and volunteered at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo as a volunteer – took care of small animals and was part of the Zoo’s Youth Program.