Mongolia

“An action committed in anger is an action doomed to failure.”

Genghis Khan

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By: Linda Ba

Coming up – Mongolia!

For centuries the Mongols have been portrayed as barbaric and brutal as they invaded Asia and Europe threatening civilizations. However, they brought peace and prosperity at the time of its ruling.

Mongolian Horse | Photo by Julia Volk on Pexels.com

Who were the Mongols?

The Mongols were nomads, which meant they relied heavily on their animals and the natural environment for survival. They herded domestic animals including sheep, cows, horses, dogs, and especially horses. (The Mongolian horse is although small but is known for its long-lasting stamina and build in extreme conditions.) The Mongols will set up their ger and migrate accordingly to season and needs.

Nomadic women held significant authority in migration, flock control, and trade, whereas the men were more focused on warfare.

Therefore, these nomad tribes or groups are scattered and separated and may come into conflict with one another. It was not until 2106 that Genghis Khan united these tribal groups.

The Rise of Genghis Khan

In 1162, Temujin was born, which was later known as Genghis Khan (this name simply meant ‘universal ruler’), who found the Mongolian Empire from 1206 until 1368. Khan was born into a royal clan, but his father was poisoned and murdered which led him to flee as he was held captive by his previous supporters. He then started his journey of forming alliances and uniting or conquering the tribes or nomadic groups that were scattered across the Mongolian Plateau and eventually rose to power. He successfully united these nomadic groups and gained chunks of the land.

Genghis Khan | Image from archaeology.org

Religion

Tengriism

The Mongols heavily believed in natural spirits and that their ancestors inhabit the world around them. Genghis Khan believed in ‘Tengriism’ which was a shamanistic religion most often practiced by those in Central Asia.

‘Tengri’ was known as the Sky God, and its followers believed that Tengri created the universe. Genghis Khan believed that Tengri wanted him to unite the world under his name, Khan once said that he became powerful not because he possessed strength and bravery but because of his love for Tengri.

Tengriism was tolerant of other religions, it was a non-dogmatic religion and it believed that there were many paths to God. The Mongols believed that they were sons of Tengri and could rule as long as they were upright and followed his laws.

Tengriism | Image from mongoliafaq.com

Pax Mongolica

The Mongolian Empire brought peace, stability, and protected travel, a man could travel across the Empire with a gold plate on his head and wouldn’t have the fear of being robbed. This time period was called ‘Pax Mongolica’ was the Latin word for ‘Mongol Peace’ where trade was highly promoted along the Silk Road, taxes were stabilized and laws were reinforced under the Empire.

The Mongol Empire | Image from britannica.com

The Four Khanates

After the passing of Genghis Khan in 1227, the heir to his succession was not simply given to the firstborn son, but it was a fight over the throne between his children. However, this lead to the division of the Mongol Empire and separated into the Four Khanates.

Golden Horde which controlled Russia and Eastern Europe, IIKhanate that ruled Iraq, Syria, Georgia, Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan, and Tajikistan, Chagatai Khanate ruled Uzbekistan, southern Kazakhstan, and western Tajikistan and the Yuan Dynasty ruled mostly in China.

Popular Culture

There have been various remakes of movies and documentaries filmed around the Rise of Genghis Khan, these media works have more detail about politics within that period of time.

Our recommendation would be the documentary by BBC, Genghis Khan – Rise Of Mongol Empire. This documentary outlines Temujin’s journey from the murder of his father to his marriage and the further connections he had that lead him to become ‘Genghis Khan’.

Keen to go on exchange to Asia?

Want to know more about the history of wider Asia and its other fantastical tales by applying for exchange to an Asian partner university? Check out UNSW’s list of partner universities spanning across Asia!

Check out our interviews with Asia Exchange Returnees for more interesting experiences around the region!

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