Genghis Khan

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Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan portrait
Birth name: Temüjin
Family name: Borjigin
Title: Khagan of Mongol Empire
Birth: c. 1162
Place of birth: Hentiy, Mongolia
Death: 18 August 1227
Dates of reign: 1206 – 18 August 1227
Succeeded by: Ögedei Khan
Marriage: Börte Ujin, Kulan, Yisugen,
Yisui, many others
  • Borjigin Jochi, son
  • Borjigin Chagatai, son
  • Borjigin Ögedei, son
  • Borjigin Tolui, son
  • Others

Genghis Khan  or Temüjin by birthname, ( c. 1162– August 18, 1227) ( IPA: [ʧiŋgɪs χaːŋ], Mongolian: Чингис Хаан, Chinese: 成吉思汗 Chéngjísī Hán, Turkic: Chengez Khan, Chinggis Khan, Chinggis Xaan, Chingis Khan, Jenghis Khan, Chinggis Qan, Cengiz Han etc.), was a Mongol political and military leader or Khan (posthumously Khagan) who united the Mongol tribes and founded the Mongol Empire (Yeke Mongol Ulus, Екэ Монгол Улус), (1206–1368), the largest contiguous empire in world history. Born to the name Temüjin in the Borjigin family (Mongolian: Тэмүүжин, Traditional Chinese: 鐵木真; pinyin: Tiěmùzhēn), he forged a powerful army based on meritocracy to become one of the most successful military leaders in history.

While his image in most of the world is that of a ruthless, bloodthirsty conqueror, Genghis Khan is an iconic and beloved figure in Mongolia, where he is seen as the father of the Mongol Nation (see also Mongolia). Before becoming a Khan, Temüjin eliminated and united many of the nomadic tribes of north East Asia and Central Asia under a social identity as the " Mongols."

Starting with the invasion of Western Xia and Jin Dynasty in northern China and consolidating through numerous conquests including the Khwarezmid Empire in Persia, Mongol rule across the Eurasian landmass radically altered the demography and geopolitics of these areas. The Mongol Empire ended up ruling, or at least briefly conquering, large parts of modern day China, Mongolia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Moldova, and Kuwait.

Early life


The Onon river, Mongolia in fall, a site where Temujin was born and grew up.
The Onon river, Mongolia in fall, a site where Temujin was born and grew up.

Little is known about his early life, and the few sources providing insight into this period do not agree on many basic facts. He was likely born around 1162 to 1167 in the mountainous area of Burhan Haldun in Mongolia's Hentiy Province near the Onon and the Herlen (Kherülen) rivers. Folklore and legend stated that when Temujin was born he clutched a blood clot in his fist, an indication that he was destined to go on to do great things. He was the eldest son of Yesükhei, a minor tribal chief of the Kiyad and a nöker (vassal) of Ong Khan of the Kerait tribe, possibly descended from a family of blacksmiths (see below, name). Yesükhei's clan was called Borjigin (Боржигин), and his mother, Hoelun, was of the Olkhunut tribe of the Mongol confederation. They were nomads like almost all Central Asian Turkic and Mongol confederations.


Temüjin was related through his own father to Qabul Khan, Ambaghai and Qutula Khan who had headed the Mongol confederation under the Jin Dynasty until the Jin switched support to the Tatars in 1161 and destroyed Qabul Khan. Genghis' father, Yesugei (khan of the Borjigin and nephew to Ambaghai and Qutula Khan) emerged as the head of the ruling clan of the Mongols, but this position was contested by the rival Tayichi’ud clan, who descended directly from Ambaghai. When the Tatars, in turn, grew too powerful after 1161, the Jin moved their support from the Tatars to the Kerait.

Temüjin had three brothers, Khasar (or Qasar), Khajiun, and Temüge, and one sister, Temülen (or Temulin), as well as two half-brothers, Bekhter and Belgutei.

Genghis Khan's empress and first wife Borte had four sons, Jochi (1185–1226), Chagatai (?—1241), Ögedei (?—1241), and Tolui (1190–1232). Genghis Khan also had many other children with his other wives, but they were excluded from the succession, and records on what daughters he may have had are scarce. The paternity of Genghis Khan's eldest son, Jochi, remains unclear to this day and was a serious point of contention in his lifetime. Soon after Borte's marriage to Temüjin, she was kidnapped by the Merkits and reportedly given to one of their men as a wife. Though she was rescued, she gave birth to Jochi nine months later, clouding the issue of his parentage.

According to traditional historical accounts, this uncertainty over Jochi's true father was voiced most strongly by Chagatai. According to The Secret History of the Mongols, just before the invasion of the Khwarezmid Empire by Genghis Khan, Chagatai declared before his father and brothers that he would never accept Jochi as Genghis Khan's successor. In response to this tension and possibly for other reasons, it was Ögedei who was appointed as successor and who ruled as Khagan after Genghis Khan's death. Jochi died in 1226, before his father.


Mongolian ger (yurt) similar to the one Temüjin was born and grew up in.
Mongolian ger ( yurt) similar to the one Temüjin was born and grew up in.

Based on legends and later writers, Temüjin's early life was difficult. When he was only nine, as part of the marriage arrangement, his father Yesukhei delivered Temüjin to the family of his future wife Borte, members of the Onggirat tribe. He was to live there in service to Deisechen, the head of the household, until he reached the marriageable age of 12.

While heading home his father was poisoned by eating poisoned food from the neighbouring Tatars in retaliation for his campaigns and raids against them. This gave Temüjin a claim to be the clan's chief, although his father's clan refused to be led by a mere boy and soon abandoned him and his family including his mother Hoelun.

For the next few years, Temüjin and his family lived the life of impoverished nomads, surviving primarily on wild fruits, marmots and other small game. In one incident, Temüjin murdered his half-brother Bekhter over a dispute about sharing hunting spoils. Despite being severely reproached by his mother, he never expressed any remorse over the killing. The incident also cemented his position as head of the household. In another incident in 1182, he was captured in a raid by his former tribe, the Ta'yichiut, and held captive. The Ta'yichiut enslaved Temüjin (reportedly with a cangue), but he escaped with help from a sympathetic captor, the father of Chilaun, a future general of Genghis Khan. His mother, Hoelun, taught him many lessons about survival in the harsh landscape and even grimmer political climate of Mongolia, especially the need for alliances with others, a lesson which would shape his understanding in his later years. Jelme and Bo'orchu, two of Genghis Khan's future generals, joined him around this time. Along with his brothers, they provided the manpower needed for early expansion and diplomacy.

Temüjin married Börte of the Konkirat tribe around the age of 16, being betrothed as children by their parents as a customary way to forge a tribal alliance. She was later kidnapped in a raid by the Merkit tribe, and Temüjin rescued her with the help of his friend and future rival, Jamuqa, and his protector, Ong Khan of the Kerait tribe. She remained his only empress, although he followed tradition by taking several morganatic wives. Börte's first child, Jochi, was born roughly nine months after she was freed from the Merkit, leading to questions about the child's paternity.

Temüjin became blood brother (anda) with Jamuqa, and thus the two made a vow to be faithful to each other for eternity.

Uniting the Central Asian confederations

Eurasia in c. 1200. including Naimans, Merkits, Uyghurs, Mongols, and Keraits
Eurasia in c. 1200. including Naimans, Merkits, Uyghurs, Mongols, and Keraits

Main Central Asian confederations at the time of Temujin's unification were:

  • Naimans (also known as Naiman Mongols)
  • Merkits
  • Uyghurs
  • Tatars
  • Mongols
  • Keraits

The main opponents of the Mongols by around c. 1100 were the Naimans to the west, the Merkits to the north, Tanguts to the south, the Jin and Tatars to the east. By 1190, Temüjin and his advisors had united together the Mongol confederation only. As an incentive for absolute obedience and following of his code of laws, the Yassa code, he promised civilians and fighters wealth from future possible war spoils. However, the exact words of the Yassa are unknown because it was never found.

From Temüjin to Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan

Temüjin began his slow ascent to power by offering himself as a vassal to his father's anda (sworn brother or blood brother) Toghrul, who was Khan of the Kerait and better known by the Chinese title Ong Khan (or " Wang Khan"), which the Jin Empire granted him in 1197. This relationship was first reinforced when Borte was captured by the Merkits; it was to Toghrul that Temüjin turned for support. In response, Toghrul offered his vassal 20,000 of his Kerait warriors and suggested that he also involve his childhood friend Jamuqa, who had himself become khan of his own tribe, the Jajirats. Although the campaign was successful and led to the recapture of Borte and utter defeat of the Merkits, it also paved the way for the split between the childhood friends, Temüjin and Jamuqa.

Toghrul's son, Senggum, was jealous of Temüjin's growing power and he allegedly planned to assassinate Temüjin. Toghrul, though allegedly saved on multiple occasions by Temüjin, gave in to his son and adopted an obstinate attitude towards collaboration with Temüjin. Temüjin learned of Senggum's intentions and eventually defeated him and his loyalists. One of the later ruptures between Toghrul and Temüjin was Toghrul's refusal to give his daughter in marriage to Jochi, the eldest son of Temüjin, which signified disrespect in the Mongol culture. This act probably led to the split between both factions and was a prelude to war. Toghrul allied himself with Jamuqa, Temüjin's blood brother, or anda, and when the confrontation took place, the internal divisions between Toghrul and Jamuqa, as well as the desertion of many clans that fought on their side to the cause of Temüjin, led to Toghrul's defeat. This paved the way for the fall and extinction of the Kerait tribe.

The next direct threat to Temüjin was the Naimans, with whom Jamuqa and his followers took refuge. The Naimans did not surrender, although enough sectors again voluntarily sided with Temüjin. In 1201, a Khuriltai elected Jamuqa as Gur Khan, universal ruler, a title used by the rulers of the Kara-Khitan Khanate. Jamuqa's assumption of this title was the final breach with Temüjin, and Jamuqa formed a coalition of tribes to oppose him. Before the conflict, however, several generals abandoned Jamuqa, including Subutai, Jelme's well-known younger brother. After several battles, Jamuqa was finally captured in 1206 after several shepherds kidnapped and turned him over to Temüjin.

According to the Secret History, Temüjin generously offered his friendship again to Jamuqa and asked him to turn to his side. Jamuqa refused and asked for a noble death, that is, without spilling blood, which was granted by breaking his back. The rest of the Merkit clan that sided with the Naimans were defeated by Subutai (or Subedei), a member of Temüjin's personal guard who would later become one of the greatest commanders in the service of the Khan. The Naimans' defeat left Genghis Khan as the sole ruler of the Mongol plains. All these confederations were united and became known as the Mongols.

By 1206,Temüjin managed to unite the Merkits, Naimans, Mongols, Uyghurs, Keraits, Tatars and disparate other smaller tribes under his rule through his charisma, dedication, and strong will. It was a monumental feat for the "Mongols" (as they became known collectively), who had a long history of internecine dispute, economic hardship, and pressure from Chinese dynasties and empires. At a Kurultai, a council of Mongol chiefs, he was acknowledged as "Khan" of the consolidated tribes and took the title Genghis Khan. The title Khagan was not conferred on Genghis until after his death, when his son and successor, Ögedei took the title for himself and extended it posthumously to his father (as he was also to be posthumously declared the founder of the Yuan Dynasty). This unification of all confederations by Genghis Khan established peace between previously warring tribes. The population of the whole Mongol nation was around 200,000 people including civilians with approximately 70,000 soldiers at the formation of unified Mongol nation.

Military campaigns

First war with Western Xia

The Mongol Empire created by Genghis Khan in 1206 was bordered on the west by the Western Xia Dynasty. To its east and south was the Jin Dynasty, who at the time ruled northern China as well as being the traditional overlord of the Mongolian tribes. Temüjin organized his people and his state to prepare for war with Western Xia, or Xi Xia, that was closer to the Mongol border. He believed that the Jin Dynasty had a young ruler who would not come to the aid of Tanguts of Xi Xia. He guessed correctly. When the Tanguts requested the Jin Dynasty for help, they were refused.

The Jurchen had also grown uncomfortable with the newly unified Mongols. It may be that some trade routes ran through Mongol territory, and they might have feared the Mongols eventually would restrict the supply of goods coming from the Silk Road. Genghis Khan also was eager to take revenge against the Jurchen for their long subjugation of the Mongols by stirring up conflicts between Mongol tribes. The Jurchen had executed some Mongol Khans in the past.

Eventually, Genghis Khan led his army against Western Xia and conquered it, despite initial difficulties in capturing its well-defended cities. By 1209, the Tangut emperor acknowledged Genghis as overlord.

Defeat of the Jin Dynasty

In 1211, Genghis set about bringing the Nüzhen (the founders of the Qin Dynasty) completely under his dominion. The commander of the Jin army made a tactical mistake in not attacking the Mongols at the first opportunity. Instead, the Jin commander sent a messenger, Ming-Tan, to the Mongol side, who promptly defected and told the Mongols that the Qin army was waiting on the other side of the pass. At this engagement fought at Badger Pass the Mongols massacred thousands of Jin troops. Decades later, when the Taoist sage Ch'ang Ch'un was passing through this pass to meet Genghis Khan, he was stunned to still see the bones of so many people scattered in the pass. On his way back, he camped close to this pass for three days and prayed for the departed souls. In 1215 Genghis besieged, captured, and sacked the Jin capital of Yanjing (later known as Beijing). This forced the Jin Emperor Xuanzong to move his capital south to Kaifeng.

Conquest of the Kara-Khitan Khanate

Meanwhile, Kuchlug, the deposed Khan of the Naiman confederation, had fled west and usurped the Khanate of Kara-Khitan (also known as Kara Kitay), the western allies who had decided to side with Genghis. By this time the Mongol army was exhausted from ten years of continuous campaigning in China against the Tangut and the Nüzhen. Therefore, Genghis sent only two tumen (20,000 soldiers) against Kuchlug, under a brilliant young general, Jebe known as "The Arrow".

An internal revolt against Kuchlug was incited by Mongol agents, leaving the Naiman forces open for Jebe to overrun the country; Kuchlug's forces were defeated west of Kashgar. Kuchlug fled, but was hunted down by Jebe and executed, and Kara-Khitan was annexed by Genghis Khan.

By 1218, the Mongol Empire extended as far west as Lake Balkhash, which bordored the Khwarezmia, a Muslim state that reached to the Caspian Sea in the west and Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea in the south.

Invasion of Khwarezmid Empire

Khwarezmid Empire (1190–1220)
Khwarezmid Empire (1190–1220)

After the defeat of the Kara-Khitais, the extensive Mongol Empire had a border with the Muslim state of Khwarezmia, governed by Shah Ala ad-Din Muhammad. Genghis Khan saw the potential advantage in Khwarezmia as a commercial partner, and sent a 500-man caravan to officially establish trade ties with Khwarezmia. However, Inalchuq, the governor of the Khwarezmian city of Otrar, attacked the caravan that came from Mongolia, claiming that the caravan was a conspiracy against Khwarezmia. The governor later refused to make repayments for the looting of the caravan and murder of its members. Genghis Khan then sent a second group of ambassadors to meet the Shah himself. The shah had all the men shaved and all but one beheaded. This was seen as an affront to Khan himself. This led Genghis Khan to attack the Khwarezmian Dynasty. The Mongols crossed the Tien Shan Mountains, coming into the Shah's empire.

After compiling information from many sources Genghis Khan carefully prepared his army, which was divided into three groups. His son Jochi led the first division into the Northeast of Khwarezmia. The second division under Jebe marched secretly to the Southeast part of Khwarzemia to form, with the first division, a pincer attack on Samarkand. The third division under Genghis Khan and Tolui marched to the northwest and attacked Khwarzemia from that direction.

The Shah's army were split by diverse internal disquisitions, and by the Shah's decision to divide his army into small groups concentrated in various cities — this fragmentation was decisive in Khwarezmia's defeats. The Shah's fearful attitude towards the Mongol army also did not help his army, and Genghis Khan and his generals succeeded in destroying Khwarizm.

Tired and exhausted from the journey, the Mongols still won their first victory against the Khwarezmian army. The Mongol army quickly seized the town of Otrar, relying on superior strategy and tactics. Once he had conquered the city, Genghis Khan executed many of the inhabitants and executed Inalchuq by pouring molten silver into his ears and eyes, as retribution for the insult.

Image:Mosque in Samarkand.jpg
A minaret in Samarkand.

According to stories, Khan diverted a river of Ala ad-Din Muhammad II of Khwarezm's birthplace, erasing it from the map. The Mongols' conquest of the capital was nothing short of brutal: the bodies of citizens and soldiers filled the trenches surrounding the city, allowing the Mongols to enter raping, pillaging and plundering homes and temples.

In the end, the Shah fled rather than surrender. Genghis Khan charged Subutai and Jebe with hunting him down, giving them two years and 20,000 men. The Shah died under mysterious circumstances on a small island within his empire.

By 1220 the Khwarezmid Empire was eradicated. After Samarkand fell, Bukhara became the capital of Jorezm, while two Mongol generals advanced on other cities to the north and the south. Jorezm, the heir of Shah Jalal Al-Din and a brilliant strategist, who was supported enough by the town, battled the Mongols several times with his father's armies. However, internal disputes once again split his forces apart, and Jorezm was forced to flee Bukhara after a devastating defeat.

Genghis Khan selected his third son Ögedei as his successor before his army set out, and specified that subsequent Khans should be his direct descendants. Genghis Khan also left Muqali, one of his most trusted generals, as the supreme commander of all Mongol forces in Jin China.

Attacks on Georgia and Volga Bulgaria

Georgia at the eve of reconnaissance by Subutai and Jebe generals
Georgia at the eve of reconnaissance by Subutai and Jebe generals

These campaigns were the start of Mongol invasion of Rus and Mongol invasion of Europe by almost two decades until 1240s.

After conquering the Khwarezmid Empire, the Mongols split into two component forces. Genghis Khan led a division on a raid through Afghanistan and northern India, while another contingent, led by his generals Jebe and Subutai, marched through the Caucasus and Russia. Neither campaign added territory to the empire, but they pillaged settlements and defeated any armies they met that did not acknowledge Genghis Khan as the rightful leader of the world. In 1225 both divisions returned to Mongolia. These invasions ultimately added Transoxiana and Persia to an already formidable empire.

While Genghis Khan gathered his forces in Persia and Armenia, a detached force of 20,000 troops, commanded by Jebe and Subutai, pushed deep into Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Mongols destroyed Georgia, sacked the Genoese trade-fortress of Caffa in Crimea, and stayed over winter near the Black Sea.

Heading home, Mongols assaulted the Kipchaks and were intercepted by the allied troops of Mstislav the Bold of Halych and Mstislav III of Kiev, along with about 80,000 Kievan Rus'. Subutai sent emissaries to the Slavic princes calling for separate peace, but the emissaries were executed. At the Battle of Kalka River in 1223, the Mongols defeated the larger Kievan force. The Russian princes then sued for peace. Subedei agreed but was in no mood to pardon the princes. As was customary in Mongol society for nobility the Russian princes were given a bloodless death. Subedei had a large wooden platform constructed on which he ate his meals along with his other generals. Six Russian princes, including Mstislav of Kiev, were put under this platform and they were crushed to death.

Subotai's army lost to Volga Bulgars in the first attempt in 1223, though they returned to avenge their defeat by subjugating all Volga Bulgaria under the Khanate Golden Horde. The Mongols learned from captives of the abundant green pastures beyond the Bulgar territory, allowing for the planning for conquest of Hungary and Europe.

Genghis Khan recalled this force back to Mongolia soon afterwards, and Jebe died on the road back to Samarkand. This famous cavalry expedition of Subutai and Jebe, in which they encircled the entire Caspian Sea defeating every single army in their path, remains unparalleled to this day.

Second war with Western Xia and Jin Dynasty

Western Xia, Jin Empire (yellow), Song China (red) and Dali (purple) in 1142.
Western Xia, Jin Empire (yellow), Song China (red) and Dali (purple) in 1142.

The Mongol Empire campaigned six times against the Tanguts in 1202, 1207, 1209–1210, 1211–1213, 1214–1219 and 1225–1226. The vassal emperor of the Tanguts ( Western Xia) had refused to take part in the war against the Khwarezmid Empire. While Genghis Khan was busy with the campaign in Persia against the Khwarezmid Empire, Tangut and Jin formed an alliance against the Mongols. In retaliation, Genghis Khan prepared for the last war against the Tanguts and their alliance.

In 1226, Genghis Khan began to attack the Tanguts. In February, he took Heisui, Ganzhou and Suzhou, and in the autumn he took Xiliang-fu. One of the Tangut generals challenged the Mongols to a battle near Helanshan (Helan means "great horse" in the northern dialect, shan means "mountain"). The Tangut armies were soundly defeated. In November, Genghis laid siege to the Tangut city Lingzhou, and crossed the Yellow River and defeated the Tangut relief army. Genghis Khan reportedly saw a line of five stars arranged in the sky, and interpreted it as an omen of his victory.

In 1227, Genghis attacked and destroyed the Tangut capital of Ning Hia, and continued to advance, seizing Lintiao-fu in February, Xining province and Xindu-fu in March, and Deshun province in April. At Deshun, the Tangut general Ma Jianlong put up a fierce resistance for several days and personally led charges against the invaders outside the city gate. Ma Jianlong later died from wounds received from arrows in battle. Genghis Khan, after conquering Deshun, went to Liupanshan ( Qingshui County, Gansu Province) to escape the severe summer.

The new Tangut emperor quickly surrendered to the Mongols. The Tanguts officially surrendered in 1227, after having ruled for 187 years, beginning in 1038. Tired of the constant betrayal of Tanguts, Genghis Khan executed the emperor and his family. By this time, his advancing age had led Genghis Khan to make preparations for his death.

Mongol Empire

Politics and economics

The Mongol Empire was governed by civilian and military code, called the Yassa code created by Genghis Khan.

Among nomads, the Mongol Empire did not emphasize the importance of ethnicity and race in the administrative realm, instead adopting an approach grounded in meritocracy. The exception was the role of Genghis Khan and his family. The Mongol Empire was one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse empires in history, as befitted its size. Many of the empire's nomadic inhabitants considered themselves Mongols in military and civilian life, including Turks, Mongols, and others and included many diverse Khans of various ethnicities as part of the Mongol Empire such as Muhammad Khan.

Drawing of Marco Polo at the court of Genghis' grandson Kublai Khan, c.1280.
Drawing of Marco Polo at the court of Genghis' grandson Kublai Khan, c.1280.

There were tax exemptions for religious figures and so to some extent teachers and doctors. The Mongol Empire practiced religious tolerance to a large degree because it was generally indifferent to belief. The exception was when religious groups challenged the state. For example Ismaili Muslims that resisted the Mongols were exterminated.

It is claimed that the Mongol Empire linked together the previously fractured Silk Road states under one system and became somewhat open to trade and cultural exchange. However, the Mongol conquests did lead to a collapse of many of the ancient trading cities of Central Asia that resisted invasion. Taxes were also heavy and conquered people were used as forced labour in those regions.

Modern Mongolian historians say that towards the end of his life, Genghis Khan attempted to create a civil state under the Great Yassa that would have established the legal equality of all individuals, including women . However, there is no contemporary evidence of this, or of the lifting of discriminatory policies towards sedentary peoples such as the Chinese. Women played a relatively important role in Mongol Empire and in family, for example Torogene Khatun was briefly in charge of the Mongol Empire when next male Khagan was being chosen. Modern scholars refer to the alleged policy of encouraging trade and communication as the Pax Mongolica ( Mongol Peace).

Genghis Khan realized that he needed people who could govern cities and states conquered by him. He also realised that such administrators could not be found among his Mongol people because they were nomads and thus had no experience governing cities. For this purpose Genghis Khan invited a Khitan prince, Chu'Tsai, who worked for the Jin and had been captured by Mongol army after the Jin Dynasty were defeated. Jin had captured power by displacing Khitan. Genghis told Chu'Tsai, who was a lineal descendant of Khitan rulers, that he had avenged Chu'Tsai's forefathers. Chu'Tsai responded that his father served the Jin Dynasty honestly and so did he; he did not consider his own father his enemy, so the question of revenge did not apply. Genghis Khan was very impressed by this reply. Chu'Tsai administered parts of the Mongol Empire and became a confidant of the successive Mongol Khans.


Genghis Khan and his generals practiced advanced military disciplines, such as mobility, psychological warfare, intelligence, military autonomy, and tactics.

Genghis Khan and others are widely cited as producing a highly efficient army with remarkable discipline, organization, toughness, dedication, loyalty and military intelligence, in comparison to their enemies. The Mongol armies were one of the most feared and militarily ruthless forces ever to take the field of battle. Operating in massive sweeps, extending over dozens of miles, the Mongol army combined shock, mobility and firepower unmatched in land warfare until the modern age. Originally consisting of purely cavalry units, the Mongols learned and absorbed the war technology and strategies of the empires and kingdoms they invaded and conquered. Most notable contribution in their military campaigns was the absorption of Chinese siege warfare and engineers; prior to this the Mongols lacked skills to take walled cities. The Mongol cavalry was more used to the open-space steppe warfare. With the introduction of siege warfare and fighting ships from both China and Korea, the Mongol capability was enhanced greatly.


Reflex bow, the design similar to the Mongol bow, main and basic weapon used by Mongol armies
Reflex bow, the design similar to the Mongol bow, main and basic weapon used by Mongol armies

In contrast to most of their enemies, almost all Mongols were nomads and had experience in riding and managing horses from a very young age. Mongol military structure was based largely on meritocracy. For example if a Khan was not fit for military command, the troops would be led by someone with more experience and victories an example being Subedei. Genghis Khan refused to divide his troops into different units based on ethnicity, instead he mixed tribesmen from conquered groups, like the Tatars and Keraits, which fostered a sense of unity and loyalty by reducing the effects of the old tribal affiliations and preventing any one unit from developing a separate ethnic or national character. Discipline was strictly maintained, with severe punishments provided for even small infractions. The armies were also divided based on the traditional Inner Asian decimal system in units of 10 ( arban), 100 ( jaghun), 1,000 ( mingghan), and 10,000 ( tumen) men. They were extremely ruthless when in battle based on others' standards (see below). These units of 10s were like a family or close-knit group, every unit of 10 had a leader who reported up to the next level, and men were not allowed to transfer from one unit to another . Discipline was severe - if one member of an arban disappeared, all the arban were executed; if the whole arban disappeared, the entire jaghun would be executed. Leaders of the tumens were mostly Mongol nobility, or those who had been granted noble status, while the leader of the 100,000 (leader of 10 tumens) was the Khagan himself.

Mongols in general were very used to living through cold, harsh winters, in fact often preferring to campaign in winter in order to facilitate river crossings, and they were used to travelling great distances in very short time without difficulty, since their nomadic lifestyle already involved bi-annual migrations from summer to winter pastures. For instance, the journey from Mongolia to the Caspian sea was considered a hundred days' ride for the army.

Genghis Khan expected unwavering loyalty from his generals, and granted them a great deal of autonomy in making command decisions. Muqali, a trusted general, was given command of the Mongol forces against the Jin Dynasty while Genghis Khan was fighting in Central Asia, and Subutai and Jebe were allowed to pursue the Great Raid into the Caucausus and Kievan Rus, an idea they had presented to the Khagan on their own initiative. The Mongol military also was successful in siege warfare, cutting off resources for cities and towns by diverting certain rivers, taking enemy prisoners and driving them in front of the army , and adopting new ideas, techniques and tools from the people they conquered, particularly in employing Muslim and Chinese siege engines and engineers to aid the Mongol cavalry in capturing cities. Also one of the standard tactics of Mongol military was the commonly practiced feigned retreat to break enemy formations and to lure small enemy groups away from larger group and defended position for ambush and counterattack.

Renactment of Mongol military movement.
Renactment of Mongol military movement.

Another important aspect of the military organization of Genghis Khan was the communications and supply route or Yam, adapted from previous Chinese models. Genghis Khan dedicated special attention to this in order to speed up the gathering of military intelligence and official communications. To this end, Yam waystations were established all over the empire.

Division of the Empire into Khanates

Before his death, Genghis Khan divided his empire among his sons Ögedei, Chagatai, Tolui, and Jochi (Jochi's death several months before Genghis Khan's meant that his lands were instead split between his sons, Batu and Orda) into several Khanates designed as sub-territories: their Khans were expected to follow the Great Khan, who was, initially, Ögedei.

Modern day location of capital Kharakhorum
Modern day location of capital Kharakhorum

Following are the Khanates in the way in which Genghis Khan assigned after his death:

  • Empire of the Great Khan - Ögedei Khan, as Great Khan, took most of Eastern Asia, including China; this territory later to comprise the Yuan Dynasty under Kubilai Khan.
  • Mongol homeland (present day Mongolia, including Karakorum) - Tolui Khan, being the youngest son, received a small territory near the Mongol homeland, following Mongol custom.
  • Chagatai Khanate - Chagatai Khan, Genghis Khan's second son, was given Central Asia and northern Iran.
  • Blue Horde - Batu Khan, and White Horde - Orda Khan, both were later combined into the Kipchak Khanate, or Khanate of the Golden Horde, under Toqtamysh. Genghis Khan's eldest son, Jochi, had received most of the distant Russia and Ruthenia. Because Jochi died before Genghis Khan, his territory was further split up between his sons. Batu Khan launched an invasion of Russia, and later Hungary and Poland, and crushed several armies before being summoned back by the news of Ögedei's death.

In 1256, during the rule of Ögedei, Hulagu Khan, son of Tolui, was charged with the conquest of the Muslim nations to the southwest of the empire. These included modern day Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, and the new khanate was named the Il-Khanate. Since, after Tolui's death and the accession of his descendants to the office of Great Khan, his ulus were merged with the Yuan Dynasty, the Il-Khanate is considered, along with the Yuan Dynasty, Chagatai Khanate, and the Golden Horde, to be one of the four divisions of the Mongol Empire.

After Genghis Khan

Next Khagan, Ögedei Khan, son of Genghis Khan
Next Khagan, Ögedei Khan, son of Genghis Khan

Contrary to popular belief, Genghis Khan did not conquer all of the areas of Mongol Empire. At the time of his death, the Mongol Empire stretched from the Caspian Sea to the Sea of Japan. The empire's expansion continued for a generation or more after Genghis's death in 1227. Under Genghis's successor Ögedei Khan the speed of expansion reached its peak. Mongol armies pushed into Persia, finished off the Xi Xia and the remnants of the Khwarezmids, and came into conflict with the imperial Song Dynasty of China, starting a war that would last until 1279 and that would conclude with the Mongols gaining control of all of China.

In the late 1230s, the Mongols under Batu Khan started the Mongol invasions of Europe and Russia, reducing most of their principalities to vassalage, and pressed on into Central Europe. In 1241 Mongols under Subutai and Batu Khan defeated the last Polish-German and Hungarian armies in two days that came in for defense at the Battle of Legnica and the Battle of Mohi that included the elite of European military order at the time, namely Teutonic Knights, Knights of the Hospital and Knights Templar.

During the 1250s, Genghis's grandson Hulegu Khan, operating from the Mongol base in Persia, destroyed the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad as well as the cult of the Assassins. It was rumoured that cult of the Assassins had sent 400 men to kill the Khagan Mongke Khan. The Khagan made this pre-emptive strike at the heart of the Islamic kingdom to make sure that no such assassination would take place. Hulegu Khan, the commander in chief of this campaign, along with his entire army returned to the main Mongol capital Karakorum when he heard of Khagan Mongke Khan's death and left behind just two tumen of soldiers (20,000). A battle between a Mongol army and the Mamluks ensued in modern-day Palestine. Many in the Mamluk army were Turks who had fought the Mongols years before as free men but were defeated and sold via Italian merchants to the Sultan of Cairo. They shared their experiences and were better prepared for Mongol tactics. The Mongol army lost the Battle of Ayn Jalut near modern-day Nazareth in part because a majority of the Mongol army had returned to Mongolia but also because this war was fought in summer when the land was parched and the Mongol armies could not keep enough mounts fed in the absence of pastures. This was the first defeat of the Mongol Empire in which they did not return to seek battle again.

Mongol armies under Kublai Khan attempted two unsuccessful invasions of Japan and three unsuccessful invasions of modern-day Vietnam.

Khagans of the Mongol Empire

<!- Note: one of the defeats of the Mongols was in the hands of Alauddin Khilji's general (Delhi Sultanate): "In 1299, a horde of 200,000 Mongols entered India with the intention of conquest. His general Zafar Khan showed desperate valor in battle. The Mongols were defeated, but Khan did not survive." -->

Military destruction and casualties

Drawing of Mongol siege of Baghdad in 1258.
Drawing of Mongol siege of Baghdad in 1258.

There are very many differing views on the amount of destruction Genghis Khan and his armies caused and about Genghis Khan and the Mongols. The peoples who suffered the most during Genghis Khan's conquests, like the Persians and the Han Chinese, usually stress the negative aspects of the Mongol conquests and some modern scholars argue that their historians exaggerate the numbers of deaths and the extent of material destruction; however, such historians produce virtually all the documents available to modern scholars, making it difficult to establish a firm basis for any alternative view.


Invasion of Japan against samurai Suenaga using arrows and bombs, circa 1293.
Invasion of Japan against samurai Suenaga using arrows and bombs, circa 1293.

In military strategy, Genghis Khan generally preferred to offer opponents the chance to submit to his rule without a fight and become vassals by sending tribute, accepting residents, contributing troops and supply. He guaranteed them protection only if they abided by the rules set forth, but his and his successor leaders' policy was widely written in historical documents as causing mass destruction, terror and deaths if they encountered a resistance. For example David Nicole states in The Mongol Warlords, "terror and mass extermination of anyone opposing them was a well tested Mongol tactic." In such cases the Mongol leaders would not give an alternative choice but ordered massive collective slaughter of the population of resisting cities and destruction of their property. Only the skilled engineers and artists were spared from death and maintained as slaves if they agreed to surrender. Documents written during or just after Genghis Khan's reign say that after a conquest, the Mongol soldiers looted, pillaged, and raped while the Khan got the first pick of the beautiful women. Some troops who submitted were incorporated into the Mongol system in order to expand their manpower; this also allowed the Mongols to absorb new technology, manpower, knowledge and skill for use in military campaigns against other possible opponents. These techniques were sometimes used to spread terror and warning to others (see above).

There also were instances of mass slaughter even where there was no resistance, especially in Northern China where the vast majority of the population had a long history of accepting nomadic rulers. Many ancient sources described Genghis Khan's conquests as wholesale destruction on an unprecedented scale in their certain geographical regions, and therefore probably causing great changes in the demographics of Asia. For example, over much of Central Asia speakers of Iranian languages were replaced by speakers of Turkic languages. According to the works of Iranian historian Rashid al-Din, the Mongols killed more than 70,000 people in Merv and more than a million in Nishapur. China reportedly suffered a drastic decline in population during 13th and 14th centuries. Before the Mongol invasion, unified China reportedly had approximately 120 million inhabitants; after the conquest was completed in 1279, the 1300 census reported roughly 60 million people. Whether these deaths are directly attributable to Genghis Khan and his forces or by other causes is unclear and speculative.

Property and culture

His campaigns in Northern China, Central Asia and the Middle East caused massive property destruction for those who resisted his invasion according to the regions' historians; however, there are no exact factual numbers available at this time. For example, the cities of Herat, Nishapur, and Samarkand suffered serious devastation by the armies of Genghis Khan. There is a noticeable lack of Chinese literature that has survived from the Jin Dynasty, due to the Mongol conquests.

Death and burial

Mongol Empire in 1227 at Genghis Khan's death
Mongol Empire in 1227 at Genghis Khan's death

On August 18, 1227, during his last campaign with the Western Xia Empire of the Tanguts, Genghis Khan died. The reason for his death is uncertain. Many assume he fell off his horse, due to old age and physical fatigue; some contemporary observers cited prophecies from his opponents. The Galician-Volhynian Chronicle alleges he was killed by the Tanguts. There are persistent folktales that a Tangut princess, to avenge her people and prevent her rape, castrated him with a knife hidden inside her and that he never recovered.

Genghis Khan asked to be buried without markings. After he died, his body was returned to Mongolia and presumably to his birthplace in Hentiy aymag, where many assume he is buried somewhere close to the Onon River. According to legend, the funeral escort killed anyone and anything across their path, to conceal where he was finally buried. The Genghis Khan Mausoleum is his memorial, but not his burial site. On October 6, 2004, "Genghis Khan's palace" was allegedly discovered, and that may make it possible to find his burial site. Folklore says that a river was diverted over his grave to make it impossible to find (The same manner of burial of Sumerian King Gilgamesh of Uruk.) Other tales state that his grave was stampeded over by many horses, over which trees were then planted and the permafrost also did its bit in hiding the burial site. The burial site remains undiscovered.

Genghis Khan left behind an army of more than 129,000 men; 28,000 were given to his various brothers and his sons, and Tolui, his youngest son, inherited more than 100,000 men. This force contained the bulk of the elite Mongolian cavalry. This was done because by tradition, the youngest son inherits his father's property. Jochi, Chagatai, Ogedei and Kulan's son Gelejian received armies of 4000 men each. His mother and the descendants of his three brothers received 3000 men each.

Genghis Khan's practices


It is not entirely clear what Genghis Khan's personality was truly like, as with any historical person without an autobiography, but his personality and character were moulded by the many hardships he faced when he was young, and in unifying the Mongol nation. Genghis Khan fully embraced the Mongol people's nomadic way of life according to his quotations, and did not try to change their customs or beliefs. As he aged, he seemed to become increasingly aware of the consequences of numerous victories and expansion of the Mongol Empire, including the possibility that succeeding generations might choose to live a sedentary lifestyle. According to quotations attributed to him in his later years, he urged future leaders to follow the Yasa, and to refrain from surrounding themselves with wealth and pleasure. He was known to share his wealth with his people and awarded subjects handsomely who participated in campaigns in the book The Secret History of the Mongols.

Honesty and loyalty

Genghis Khan seemed to value honesty and loyalty to himself highly from his subjects. Genghis Khan put some trust in his generals, such as Muqali, Jebe and Subudei, and gave them free rein in battles. He allowed them to make decisions on their own when they embarked on campaigns on their own very far from the Mongol Empire capital Karakorum. An example of Genghis Khan's perception of loyalty is written in The Secret History of the Mongols that one of his main military generals Jebe had been his enemy and shot his horse. When Jebe was captured, he said he shot his horse and that he would fight for him if he spared his life or would die if that's what he wished. Genghis Khan spared Jebe's life, Jebe betrayed his former commander, and he became one of the powerful, successful generals of Genghis Khan.

Yet, accounts of Genghis Khan's life are marked by claims of a series of betrayals and conspiracies. These include rifts with his early allies such as Jamuqa (who also wanted to be a ruler of Mongol tribes) and Wang Khan (his and his father's ally), his son Batu, and problems with the most important Shaman who was allegedly trying break him up with brother Qasar who was serving Genghis Khan loyally. Many modern scholars doubt that all of the conspiracies existed and suggest that Genghis Khan was inclined to paranoia.

Military strategy

His military strategies showed a deep interest in gathering good intelligence and understanding the motivations of his rivals as exemplified by his extensive spy network and Yam route systems. He seemed to be a quick student, adopting new technologies and ideas that he encountered, such as siege warfare from the Chinese. The book Secret History makes it clear he was not physically courageous and even says he was afraid of dogs. Many legends claim that Genghis Khan always was in the front in battles, but these may not be historically accurate.


Genghis Khan's religion is widely speculated to be Shamanism, which was very common among nomadic Mongol- Turkic tribes of Central Asia. Genghis Khan towards the later part of his life became interested in the ancient Buddhist and Tao religions from China. The Taoist monk Ch'ang Ch'un, who rejected invitations from Song and Jin leaders, travelled more than 5000 kilometres to meet Genghis Khan close to the Afghanistan border. The first question Genghis Khan asked him was if the monk had some secret medicine that could make him immortal. The monk's negative answer disheartened Genghis Khan, and he rapidly lost interest in the monk. He also passed a decree exempting all followers of Taoist religion from paying any taxes. Genghis Khan was by and large tolerant of the multiple religions and there is no cases of him or the Mongols engaging in religious war against people he encountered during the conquests as long as they were obedient. However, all of his campaigns caused wanton and deliberate destruction of places of worship if they resisted.

By others

The chronicler Minhaj al-Siraj Juzjani left a description of Genghis Khan, written when Genghis Khan was in his later years:

[Genghis Khan was] a man of tall stature, of vigorous build, robust in body, the hair on his face scanty and turned white, with cat's eyes, possessed of dedicated energy, discernment, genius, and understanding, awe-striking, a butcher, just, resolute, an overthrower of enemies, intrepid, sanguinary, and cruel.

By himself

Perhaps a rare insight into Genghis Khan's perspective of himself was recorded in a letter to the Taoist monk Ch'ang Ch'un. The letter was presumably not written by Genghis Khan himself, as tradition states that he was illiterate, but rather by a Chinese person at a later point and recorded as his in the Chinese histories. A passage from the letter states:

Heaven has abandoned China owing to its haughtiness and extravagant luxury. But I, living in the northern wilderness, have not inordinate passions. I hate luxury and exercise moderation. I have only one coat and one food. I eat the same food and am dressed in the same tatters as my humble herdsmen. I consider the people my children, and take an interest in talented men as if they were my brothers. We always agree in our principles, and we are always united by mutual affection. At military exercises I am always in front, and in time of battle am never behind. In the space of seven years I have succeeded in accomplishing a great work, and uniting the whole world in one empire. (Bretschneider)

Perceptions of Genghis Khan today

Positive perception of Genghis Khan

Negative views of Genghis Khan are very persistent with histories written by many different people from various different geographical regions, but some historians are looking into positive aspects of Genghis Khan's conquests. Genghis Khan is sometimes credited with bringing the Silk Route under one cohesive political environment. Theoretically this allowed increased communication and trade between the West, Middle East and Asia by expanding the horizon of all three areas. In more recent times some historians point out that Genghis Khan instituted certain levels of meritocracy in his rule and was quite tolerant of many religions.

Genghis Khan as an icon in Mongolia

Chinggis Khan portrait on Ulan Bator hillside, done for 2006 Naadam festival
Chinggis Khan portrait on Ulan Bator hillside, done for 2006 Naadam festival
Mongolia today
Mongolia today

Genghis Khan was a taboo topic and was officially and heavily suppressed by the Soviet backed communist government of Mongolia, People's Republic of Mongolia, and he was described as a bad person. However, after the fall of People's Republic of Mongolia and with onset of democratic Mongolia, the memory of Genghis Khan has catapulted to legendary status and became Mongolians' pride. Genghis Khan is now regarded by many modern Mongolian observers and by general public of Mongolia as one of Mongolia's greatest, legendary and cherished leaders. He was to a large extent responsible for the emergence of Mongolia as a political and ethnic identity. There is also a chasm in the perception of his brutality - Mongolians often feel that the historical record, written for the most part by non-Mongolian observers, is unfairly biased against Genghis Khan and exaggerates his barbarism and butchery while underplaying his positive role, for example in founding the Mongol nation. He reinforced many Mongol traditions and provided stability and unity for the Mongol nation at a time of great uncertainty as a result of both internal factors and outside influences. He also brought in cultural change and helped create a writing system for the Mongolian language based on existing Uyghur script.

In the early 1990s, when Mongolia repudiated communism and withdrew from the Russian bloc, Genghis Khan became a symbol of the free nation's identity. It's not uncommon for Mongolians to refer to Mongolia and themselves as "Genghis Khan's Mongolia," "Genghis Khan's children" and "father of the Mongols." Mongolians have given his name to many products, streets, buildings, and other places. For example his face is on the largest denominations of ₮ 500, ₮ 1000, ₮ 5000 and ₮ 10,000 Mongolian tugrug, the official currency of Mongolia. Mongolia's main international airport in the capital Ulaanbaatar, for example, is known as Chinggis Khaan International Airport and he is viewed with great respect by virtually all Mongolians and Mongol-related ethnic groups, such as Buryats and Evenkhei, while the destructions, deaths and conquests that occurred on other people are not lauded nor bluntly ignored by the general public of Mongolia. He is talked about with great pride and reverence by Mongolians, because of his strong presence and "Mongol" identity that he helped shape that lasts until today . Mongolia created a statue of Genghis Khan, his sons and main generals in main plaza of capital Ulaanbaatar in commemoration of the 800th anniversary of founding the Mongol Nation in 1206 . His name is often mentioned in modern day by historians, politicians and by the general public that supports unified, stable and powerful Mongolia as the representation of unified "Mongol" people and country . The Mongolian parliament has gone to try to preserve and regulate the usage of the name "Genghis Khan" so that it remains symbolic and powerful representation of Mongolia .

In China

The People's Republic of China considers Genghis Khan to be a Chinese national hero. There are by far more ethnic Mongols living in the PRC than anywhere else, including the nation state Mongolia. This is the basis of the PRC's claim on Genghis Khan’s heritage. However, historians, especially those in the West, see mixed feelings towards Genghis Khan's legacy. Although his successors completely conquered or reunified China (and in the course became Chinese themselves) with military force, there has also been much artwork and literature praising him as a great military leader and political genius. Genghis Khan himself was technically not ethnic Han, but he and mainly his successors saw themselves as legitimate Chinese emperors by establishing the Yuan Dynasty. He was also on official record as the founder or Taizu 太祖 of Yuan. Like other non-Han dynasties, they were assimilated by the mainstream Sino dynastic political culture, and left a significant, lasting, but debatable, imprint on Chinese political and social structures for subsequent generations.

Recognitions in publications

Genghis Khan is recognized in number of large and popular publications and by other authors, which include the following:

  • Genghis Khan is ranked #29 on Michael H. Hart's list of the most influential people in history.
  • An article that appeared in the Washington Post on December 31, 1995 selected Genghis Khan as "Man of the Millennium".
  • Genghis Khan was nominated for the "Top 10 Cultural Legends of the Millennium" in 1998 by Dr G. Ab Arwel, voted by the five Judges, Prof. D Owain, Mr G Parry OBE, Dr. C Campbell of Oxford University, and Mr S Evans and Sir B. Parry of the International Museum of Culture, Luxembourg.
  • National Geographic's 50 Most Important Political Leaders of All Time.

Negative perception of Genghis Khan

In much of modern-day Turkey, Genghis Khan is looked on as a great military leader and even many male children are named after him with pride. In contrast, in Iraq and Iran, he is looked on as a destructive and genocidal warlord who inflicted enormous damage and destruction . Similarly, in Afghanistan he is not looked with favour though some are ambivalent. It is believed that the Hazara of Afghanistan are descendants of a large Mongol garrison stationed therein. Nevertheless, the invasions of Baghdad and Samarkand caused mass murders, for example, and much of southern Khuzestan was completely destroyed. His descendant Hulagu Khan destroyed much of Iran's northern part. Among the Iranian peoples he is regarded as one of the most despised conquerors of Iran, along with Alexander and Tamerlane . In much of Russia, Ukraine, Poland and Hungary, Genghis Khan, his descendants and the Mongols and/or Tartars are generally described as causing considerable damage and destruction. Presently Genghis Khan, his descendants, his generals and in general the Mongols are remembered for their ferocious military, toughness, ruthless and destructive conquests in much of the world in history books.

Claimed descendants of Genghis Khan

Zerjal et al [2003] identified a Y-chromosomal lineage present in about 8% of the men in a large region of Asia (about 0.5% of the men in the world). The paper suggests that the pattern of variation within the lineage is consistent with a hypothesis that it originated in Mongolia about 1,000 years ago. Such a spread would be too rapid to have occurred by genetic drift, and must therefore be the result of natural selection. The authors propose that the lineage is carried by likely male-line descendants of Genghis Khan, and that it has spread through social selection.

In addition to the Khanates and other descendants, the Mughal emperor Babur's mother was a descendant and also Timur, the 14th century military leader claimed descent from Genghis Khan.

Name and title

There are many theories for the origins of Temüjin's title; this uncertainty is fueled by the fact that later members of the Mongol Empire associated the name with the Mongol word for strength, ching, though this does not fit the etymology. One theory about the etymology suggests the name stems from a palatalised version of the Mongolian and Turkish word tenggiz, meaning "ocean", "oceanic" or "wide-spreading". Lake Baikal and ocean were called tenggiz by the Mongols. However, it seems that if they had meant to call Genghis tenggiz they could have said (and written) "Tenggiz Khan", which they did not. Zhèng (Chinese: 正, pron. "jung" in English) meaning "right", "just", or "true", would have received the Mongolian adjectival modifier -s, creating "Jenggis", which in medieval romanization would be written "Genghis". It is likely that contemporary Mongols would have pronounced the word more like "Chinggis". Chingis Khan is the spelling used by the modern Republic of Mongolia. See Lister and Ratchnevsky, referenced below, for further reading.

According to legend, Temüjin was named after one of the more powerful chiefs of a rival tribe which his father, Yesükhei, had recently defeated. The name "Temüjin" is believed to derive from the Mongolian word temur, meaning iron. This name would imply skill as a blacksmith, and like any nomad of the time he was familiar, at least partially, with the working of iron for horse-shoeing and weaponry.

More likely, as no evidence has survived to indicate that Genghis Khan had any exceptional training or reputation as a blacksmith, the name indicated an implied lineage in a family once known as blacksmiths. The latter interpretation is supported by the names of Genghis Khan's siblings, Temulin and Temuge, which are derived from the same root word.

Short timeline

  • c. 1155-1167 - Temüjin born in Hentiy, Mongolia.
  • c. 1171 - Temüjin's father Yesükhei poisoned by the Tatars, leaving him and his family destitute
  • c. 1184 - Temüjin's wife Borte kidnapped by Merkits; calls on blood brother Jamuqa and Wang Khan (Ong Khan) for aid, and they rescued her.
  • c. 1185 - First son Jochi born, leading to doubt about his paternity later among Genghis' children, because he was born shortley after Borte's rescue from the Merkits.
  • 1190' - Temüjin unites the Mongol tribes, becomes leader, and devises code of law Yassa.
  • 1201 - Wins victory over Jamuqa's Jadarans.
  • 1202 - Adopted as Ong Khan's heir after successful campaigns against Tatars.
  • 1203 - Wins victory over Ong Khan's Keraits. Ong Khan himself is killed by accident.
  • 1204 - Wins victory over Naimans (all these confederations are united and become the Mongols).
  • 1206 - Jamuqa is killed. Temüjin given the title Genghis Khan by his followers in Kurultai (around 40 years of age).
  • 1207-1210 - Genghis leads operations against the Western Xia, which comprises much of northwestern China and parts of Tibet. Western Xia ruler submits to Genghis Khan. During this period, the Uyghurs also submit peacefully to the Mongols and became valued administrators throughout the empire.
  • 1211 - After Khuriltai, Genghis leads his armies against the Jin Dynasty that ruled northern China.
  • 1215 - Beijing falls, Genghis Khan turns to west and the Khara-Kitan Khanate.
  • 1219-1222 - Conquers Khwarezmid Empire.
  • 1226 - Starts the campaign against the Western Xia for forming coalition against the Mongols, being the second battle with the Western Xia.
  • 1227 - Genghis Khan dies leading fight against Western Xia. How he died is uncertain, although legend states that he was thrown off his horse in the battle, and contracted a deadly fever soon after.
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