At the end of the twelfth century, the Indian Ocean rim could be divided into two zones of civilizational influence. There was Islamic zone that ran from central Asia to Swahili coast, and an Indic zone that ran from eastern Afghanistan to southern Vietnam. Further east there was the Chinese civilizational zone that ran from the Gobi desert to the Pacific Ocean and included Japan, Korea, and northern Vietnam.
Although the exact borders of these zones shifted back and forth, it would have seemed to a casual observer of that time that a sort of equilibrium had been established. Unfortunately, this was about to unravel and all three civilizational would soon face a major shock. The source of their trouble was same – the steppes of Central Asia.