About Genghiz Khan And Mongolia

Genghiz Khan consolidated the Hun empire of Mongolia in the 1200s. Read about him and this once great Asian dynasty.

It is hard to imagine that the country of Mongolia, desert-like and sparsely populated as it is today, was once the center of a huge empire that stretched from China to Hungary. Even long before the Great Wall of China was constructed, in the third century BC, the Chinese were attempting to build defenses against the "Hsiung Nu", later called the Huns. These restless nomads were a terror to every civilization, no matter how strong they might be.

The Huns were merciless against resistors and unstoppable on the battlefield. Even into the heart of Europe, the Mongolians raided as far west as Italy and France during the fourth and fifth centuries AD. By 1300 the Mongol empire was the largest the world has ever seen. It is one of the great marvels and mysteries of history. No country or kingdom within 4,000 miles of Mongolia was safe from the attacks of the Mongol hordes.

These were not an industry or technology based people but nomads and farmers. Their way of life depended on animals and animal products. From their sheep, goats and cattle, they got food, clothing, tents and equipment for riding their horses. Horses and camels carried their belongings from one pasture to another. Mongol children learned early how to ride a horse and were often more comfortable on horseback than on foot.

Of non-animal products carried by the Huns were the wooden poles for the tents and a war armor of chest protection made of either wood or iron. Their main weapon was the bow and arrow. Young boys were trained to use small bows and as they grew older the size of their bow was increased. They were excellent marksmen and their aim with the arrows made their power devastating to enemies in battle.

They remained a fairly obscure people until about the 13th century, Previously their land was under Chinese sovereignty. But the Chinese dynasties found the ever-moving nomads difficult to tax and control. More often than not, the Chinese didn't bother with either.

In the early 1200's, a tribal leader named Temujin ("Ironsmith") united some of the tribes into a loose, cooperative military association. The remaining tribes were gradually assimilated into this association and Temujin built an efficient army from all of them. In 1206 Temujin gave himself a new name: Genghiz Khan (King of the Earth).

Khan first set his sights on northern China. Mongolia was part of the "territory" of the new Kin regime there. In the early twelfth century the Kin had developed an army and revolted against the Sung dynasty in the south. The Kin were known for their brutality and they had enslaved many Huns living in northern China.

Genghiz Khan began his assault on Northern China by withholding tribute (taxes) and signing a treaty with the south of China. He began is military campaign in 1211 by attacking the province of Hsi-Hsia. The Mongols overran the 1,000-year-old Great China Wall and slaughtered the Kin soldiers and civilians hiding out in the fortresses. They killed, they plundered and they burned everything in their path as they swept across northern China.

In 1215 they reached and conquered Yenching (Peking), the capital. The Chinese people welcomed the Huns as liberators from the oppressive Kin. Many of the people joined the Mongol army and instructed them in the use of Chinese weapons and explosives. Many of the ruling Kin stayed to serve under Genghiz Khan while others ran away to Manchuria. All of China, north of the Yellow River, was now Mongolian territory.

Genghiz Khan decided against attacking and aggravating the south. Instead he led his army west towards the Islamic kingdom of Persia. His tough, highly trained and mobile troops had no trouble traveling the difficult terrain of Siberia. Many famous cities were captured and looted such as Tashkent and Bokhara. Cities that surrendered were spared the Mongol brutality but those that resisted were left ruined and the people slaughtered. The Mongols conquered northern India and Afghanistan. In 1222, they defeated the Russian and Bulgarian armies.

At the time of Genghiz Khan's death, his empire stretched from China's Yellow River to the Dnieper, in Russia. Before his death in 1227, he divided the empire into four smaller parts. Each of his three surviving sons, Ogdai, Jagatai and Tule, ruled one part and the fourth was given to the family of another son, Juji, who had died. Ogdai became the new Khan and, with his brother Tule, resumed the conquests and pillaging in China. This campaign lasted until 1279.

Meanwhile another Mongol army was invading Europe led by Batu, Juji's son. They attacked Ryazan (near Moscow) and killed everyone. They captured Kiev, in the Ukraine, and burned the city to the ground. They advanced into Poland and Hungary where they killed 70,000 Hungarian soldiers on the battlefield. The destruction of the country continued until Ogdai died and Batu had to return home and help choose a successor. Batu later founded a new kingdom on the lower Volga known as the Golden Horde.

In the years leading up to 1259, succeeding khans maintained and strengthened the empire through sheer force. When Baghdad, the center of Islam, revolted, the Caliph was beaten to death and hundreds of thousands of citizens were massacred. The Huns then marched towards Syria and devastated Mesopotamia; it remained so for 600 years. Antioch and Damascus were subsequently conquered. The first defeat of the Mongols occurred at the hands of an Egyptian army commanded by Marmeluke Sultan Kutuz.

A new khan, Kublai Khan, was the emperor of China for 35 years and founded the Yuan dynasty. Kublai Khan was more interested in culture and trade than warfare. He only used force if he had to and always attempted to settle revolts with a minimum of bloodshed. He promoted Chinese culture, shipping, and trade, built roads and tolerated all religions though himself a Buddhist. It was to Kublai Khan that the famous Italian explorer and trader Marco Polo voyaged to seek trade. The relative peace and stability of the empire made his travels possible. Marco Polo was so impressed with the splendor of the Khan's palace that he brought many tales back to Europe. Through the writings of Marco Polo, the Khan became a famous and legendary figure.

After Kublai died in 1294, at the age of 78, the vast empire began to break up. The Golden Horde and the Persian Kingdom broke away from the main empire. Storms, floods and earthquakes brought poverty and suffering to China. A Buddhist monk, Chu Yuan-chang, blamed the situation on foreign rule. He formed the Red Turbans, armed peasants, to challenge the khans. Between 1355 and 1368 he gradually pushed the Mongols back to Mongolia and became the new Chinese emperor, first of the Ming Dynasty. He led his army into Mongolia itself and devastated them in their own country.

In fighting between other khans in Eastern Europe led to the Russians regaining their sovereignty at home. Tamerlane (Timur the Lame, because he limped) was the last of the great Mongol generals. He defeated the Ottomans as he swept south from his base in southern Russia to invade Persia, going as far as Delhi, which he sacked. In the meantime, the Egyptians and Ottomans of Turkey had united to recapture Persia. Tamerlane was successful in retaking Baghdad and took the Turkish Sultan prisoner in 1402. Europe was once again threatened but Tamerlane decided to return to China and died on the way in 1405.

The empire fell apart. A hundred years later, Babar, a descendant of Tamerlane, invaded India and established a Mongol state, Kingdom of the Great Mughals. His successor's tactics were a new twist for Mongol conquerors. Babar's grandson, Akbar, became the new ruler in 1556 and aimed to end the hostility between Hindus and Muslims. Akbar was a Muslim and he married a Hindu and elected Hindus to key government positions. He was a kind and generous leader, in contrast to all of his forebears.

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