Karakorum (käˌrəkōˈrəm) [key], ruined city, central Republic of Mongolia, near the Orkhon River, SW of Ulaanbaatar. The area around Karakorum had been inhabited by nomadic Turkic tribes from the 1st cent. A.D., but the city itself was not laid out until c.1220, when Jenghiz Khan, founder of the Mongol empire, established his residence there. As capital of the Mongols, Karakorum was visited (c.1247) by a papal mission under Giovanni Carpini. The city was abandoned (and later destroyed) after Kublai Khan, grandson of Jenghiz, transferred (1267) the Mongol capital to Khanbaliq (modern Beijing). The noted Lamaist monastery of Erdeni Dzu was built near Karakorum in 1586. The ruins of the ancient Mongol city were discovered in 1889 by N. M. Yadrinstev, a Russian explorer, who also uncovered the Orkhon Inscriptions (see Orkhon). Karakorum is also the name of a nearby site, which in the 8th and 9th cent. was the capital of the Uigurs.
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