Established by Genghis Khan’s son in 1220 as the capital of the Mongol Empire, Karakorum was in its heyday a multi-cultural and cosmopolitan city filled with traders from all over the world. Many foreign envoys travelled to Karakorum to meet with the Mongol khan (ruling King), such as William of Rusbruck who was in search of a group of catholic monks who had been abducted by the Mongols.

The centrepiece of the city was the Imperial Palace of Worldly Peace with its large silver fountain, designed by captured Parisian jeweller Guillame Bouchier, which dispensed fermented mare’s milk and rice wine. It was one of the biggest cities on the original Silk Road but in 1261 the capital was moved to what is now Beijing.

In 1380 the city was razed to the ground by Manchu soldiers, and very little survived except for a few sculptures of turtles that are said to have been the guardians of the ancient city. However, many of the building materials used for nearby Erdene Zuu Monastery came from the destroyed city of Karakorum.

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