Genghis Khan, Mongolia’s obsession

Mongolia is obsessed with Genghis Khan (also named Dzjengis Khan), having been denied the chance to celebrate their national hero under the Communist rule.

There are hotels, shops, brands of vodka, and even car tyres named after him…

It almost happened by accident. A poor boy from a once proud family, Temujin, returned from hunting to find his mother kidnapped by a rival clan. Calling in an old family debt of honour, he raised a small band of armed men, freed his mother and killed the kidnappers. Next, he returned the favour by eliminating some rivals of his new allies, simultaneously developing and expanding his own influence. Other men joined him who were tired of the old infighting between the clans. Finally he was summoned to the Kuriltai – The mid summer meeting of clan elders where he was crowned their chief.

“Know my name“ he said…”I am Genghis Khan”.

However if you are seeking the relics of the mighty empire that stretch from the Danube to the Sea of Japan, you will be disappointed. To his death, Genghis preferred to live in the traditional felt tent (Ger) of the Mongols – there were no stone buildings from that period at all. It is not (Shhhh but don’t tell the Mongolians) even certain that he was Mongolian – he might it seems have been a Siberian.

The site of his birth, death and burial are all unknown, but it is believed that it might have been somewhere near the modern town of Harhorim. Ironically, the best surviving relics from a time even remotely near this era are the city of Khan-Baliq. Built by the Mongols to rule over their eastern provinces and ruled by Genghis’s grandson Kubilai-Khan (“Kubla-Khan” in the poem) the poet Shelley called it “Xanadu”, but if you want to visit you should try using the name Beijing.

The irony is that the final destruction of the Mongol empire was planned from Beijing in a vicious internal dispute. If Genghis had a sense of humour (doubtful somehow) it would have pleased him to know that if he has a monument at all then it is the largest ever building project in the world – The Great Wall of China built to keep his army out and to demonstrate the terror of his name.

Some facts & figures about Genghis

Statue of Genghis Khan“The greatest joy a man can know is to conquer his enemies and drive them before him. To ride their horses and take away their possessions. To see the faces of those who were dear to them bedewed with tears, and to clasp their wives and daughters in his arms” – sound advice from Genghis Khan!

  • A recent study suggests Genghis Khan’s direct patrilineal descendants amount to 16 million living men who are carrying his Y-chromosome; Genghis Khan had about 800,000 times the reproductive success of the average man of his age!
  • Mongol warriors wore densely-woven silk undershirts, so that when an arrow pierced the material, it could be twisted out. Silk helped plug the wound and not tear the flesh
  • The Mongolian Empire was the second largest land Empire in human history.
  • The shrine of Genghis Khan, erected on the supposed spot where he dropped his horsewhip, is supposedly maintained and protected by men who claim direct descent.
  • In 1221 Genghis Khan ordered the killing of 1,748,000 people at Nishapur in one hour.

Tracking Ghengis Khan

Scientists from the University of Chicago say they believe they may have found the burial ground of the legendary 12th century Mongol leader, Genghis Khan.

The team discovered a walled burial ground 322km (200 miles) north-east of the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbataar, that contains at least 20 unopened tombs apparently connected with people of high status.

Professor John Woods, who directed an expedition organised by two amateur Chicago historians, said he had high hopes the Mongolian Government would allow a full archaeological excavation.

By the time he died in 1227 – either from a fall from a horse or a wound, or both – Genghis Khan’s conquests had created an empire which stretched across Asia from modern-day China to the Caspian Sea.

Significant location

“It is an exciting discovery because it’s located near where some other important events occurred in Khan’s life,” said Professor Woods.

The site, near the town of Batshireet in Hentii province, may lie near Khan’s probable birthplace, and also near where he was proclaimed emperor of all the Mongols in 1206.

Professor Woods has petitioned the prime minister and said preliminary work on the remote site near the Russian border could begin in April.

Legend has it that the servants that buried Genghis Khan were killed by soldiers, who were then themselves slaughtered in order to keep the location of his grave a secret.

Professor Woods said what is thought to be the unexcavated tomb of the soldiers is 50km (31 miles) from what he believes is Genghis Khan’s burial site.

Lawyer Maury Kravitz, an amateur explorer and Genghis Khan enthusiast who organised the trip called the discovery “the find of all finds”.

He speculated the site could present a massive treasure trove given the absence of the Mongol leader’s spoils of war from the world’s museums.

Significant conquests and movements of Genghis Khan and his generals
Significant conquests and movements of Genghis Khan and his generals