By David Wilson
This swirling tale of intrigue sets sail off Hong Kong in the waters of the Pearl River Delta. There, in 1279 after repeated engagements, the Mongol ruler routed the Song navy, completing the grand plan of his grandfather, Genghis Khan: the conquest of China.
In the wake of victory, the new Grand Khan ruled the largest empire ever seen, stretching from the China Sea to the plains of Hungary. His navy, the world's biggest, consisted of more than 700 top-notch ships born of the great rivers that bisect the Middle Kingdom.
"The craft that plied those rivers, the coastline and the distant oceans beyond were the technological marvels of the eleventh through fifteenth centuries, surpassing anything that Europe put into the water," writes prolific undersea chronicler James Delgado.
No wonder the Grand Khan felt emboldened to embark on a spot of maritime enterprise. Cue a series of doomed shock-and-awe assaults on Japan, Vietnam and Java.
Within 15 years, the visionary ruler adept at home affairs but a less able warlord than he originally looked, had frittered his fleet.