The Yuan dynasty (n/;Chinese: 元朝; pinyin: Yuán Cháo), officially the Great Yuan (Chinese: 大元; pinyin: Dà Yuán; Middle Mongolian: ᠳᠠᠢ ᠦᠨ ᠦᠯᠦᠰ, Dai Ön Ulus, literally "Great Yuan State"[note 2]), was the empire or ruling dynasty of China established by Kublai Khan, leader of the MongolianBorjigin clan. It followed the Song dynasty and preceded the Ming dynasty. Although the Mongols had ruled territories including modern-day North China for decades, it was not until 1271 that Kublai Khan officially proclaimed the dynasty in the traditional Chinese style, and the conquest was not complete until 1279 when the Southern Song dynasty was defeated in the Battle of Yamen. His realm was, by this point, isolated from the other Mongol khanates and controlled most of modern-day China and its surrounding areas, including modern Mongolia. It was the first non-Han Chinese dynasty to rule all of China and lasted until 1368 when the Ming dynasty defeated the Yuan forces. Following that, the rebuked Genghisid rulers retreated to their Mongolian homeland and continued to rule as the Northern Yuan dynasty. Some of the Mongolian Emperors of the Yuan mastered the Chinese language, while others only used their native language (i.e. Mongolian) and the 'Phags-pa script.
In addition to Emperor of China, Kublai Khan also claimed the title of Great Khan, supreme over the other successor khanates: the Chagatai, the Golden Horde, and the Ilkhanate. As such, the Yuan was also sometimes referred to as the Empire of the Great Khan. However, while the claim of supremacy by the Yuan emperors was at times recognized by the western khans, their subservience was nominal and each continued its own separate development.
In 1271, Kublai Khan imposed the name Great Yuan (Chinese: 大元; pinyin: Dà Yuán; Wade–Giles: Ta-Yüan), establishing the Yuan dynasty. "Dà Yuán" (大元) is from the clause "大哉乾元" (pinyin: dà zāi Qián Yuán; literally: 'Great is Qián, the Primal') in the Commentaries on the Classic of Changes section regarding the first hexagram Qián (乾). The counterpart in the Mongolian language was Dai Ön Ulus, also rendered as Ikh Yuan Üls or Yekhe Yuan Ulus. In Mongolian, Dai Ön (Middle Mongol transliteration of Chinese "Dà Yuán") was often used in conjunction with the "Yeke Mongghul Ulus" (lit. "Great Mongol State"), resulting in ᠳᠠᠢ ᠦᠨ ᠶᠡᠬᠡ ᠮᠣᠩᠭᠣᠯ ᠦᠯᠦᠰ (Dai Ön Yeqe Mongɣul Ulus), meaning "Great Yuan Great Mongol State". The Yuan dynasty is also known by westerners as the "Mongol dynasty" or "Mongol Dynasty of China", similar to the names "Manchu dynasty" or "Manchu Dynasty of China" which were used by westerners for the Qing dynasty. Furthermore, the Yuan is sometimes known as the "Empire of the Great Khan" or "Khanate of the Great Khan", which particularly appeared on some Yuan maps, since Yuan emperors held the nominal title of Great Khan. Nevertheless, both terms can also refer to the khanate within the Mongol Empire directly ruled by Great Khans before the actual establishment of the Yuan dynasty by Kublai Khan in 1271.