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Genghis Khan

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  • Born: c. 1167
  • Died: 1227
  • Other Names: Temujin

Genghis Khan, also rendered as Chinggis Khan, is the Persian name for the founder of the Mongol Empire.

Named Temujin as a child, he was the son of a Mongol tribal chieftain. After his father was killed in a raid by members of another tribe, young Temujin fled and lived a wandering life alone for some time. He returned to his own tribe some years later, and was soon successful in avenging his father. Gathering followers around him, he rose through the hierarchy of chiefs, eventually forming his own federation of clans under his leadership, and incorporating all his followers (regardless of their origins) into the Mongol identity. At the core of his armies was a group of personal companions, his nökhör, who were loyal to no family, clan, or tribe, but only to Temujin.

In a grand meeting in 1206, the leaders of the great Mongol tribes elected Temujin the Great Khan, or Khagan. That same year, a law code, or jasagh, was declared, binding all Mongols under Genghis Khan's rule. The army, consisting at that time of some 130,000 Mongols and an equal number of non-Mongol allied warriors, was organized into groups of ten, a hundred, and a thousand warriors, with a particularly elite corps of 10,000 at its core.

Mongol hordes under Genghis Khan's leadership swept across Asia, quickly felling most resistance and forming the largest contiguous land empire the world has ever seen. Those who were willing to submit were allowed a degree of autonomy within the Mongol Empire, and the Mongols freely incorporated technologies, skills, and religion of many of the peoples they conquered, often capturing artisans and craftsmen even where they left communities otherwise relatively intact. Where they met resistance, however, the Mongols took a scorched earth approach, burning cities to the ground and slaughtering their inhabitants.

By the time of Genghis Khan's death in 1227, his forces had destroyed the Tangut state of Xi Xia, clashed with the Jurchen Jin Dynasty, captured Beijing, conquered much of Central Asia, and clashed with peoples as far away as Europe proper. Throughout this time, the Mongol capital remained at Karakorum in Mongolia, but it was only under Genghis Khan's successor, Ogodei Khan, that the city would be built up with city walls and so forth. Genghis Khan's successors continued to control vast swaths of Asia for many generations, but as early as the time of his grandson Kublai Khan had split into four separate states, with Kublai heading the Yuan Dynasty which controlled China, Korea, and certain surrounding territories; Central Asia, the Middle East, and Russia fell under separate Khans or Ilkhans.

Genghis Khan was posthumously named Emperor Taizu of the Yuan.

Preceded by
None
Great Khan of the Mongol Empire
1206-1227
Succeeded by
Ogodei Khan

References

  • Conrad Schirokauer, et al, A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations, Fourth Edition, Cengage Learning (2012), 220-222.
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