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Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan , more correctly transliterated "Chinggis Khan", (pinyin: cheng1 ji1 si1 kang1) (about 1165 - 1227) was a Mongolian khan, i.e., emperor, and military leader who unified the Mongolian tribes and then founded a Mongol empire by conquering much of China, Asia and Eastern Europe. He is also regarded as the first emperor of the Yuan Dynasty in China.

Genghis was originally born by the name of Temüjin (鐵木真 TieMuZhen in Chinese) sometime between 1162 and 1167, the first son of Yesügei, a tribal chief of the Kiyad (singular: Kiyan). Yesügei's clan is called Borjigin (pl. Borjigid).

Whilst still a boy, his father was murdered by the neighboring Tartars in 1175, and Temüjin was inducted as the clan's chief. His clan abandoned him and his mother, refusing to be led by a mere boy. For the next few years, he and his family lived the way of life of poor nomads. In one instance he was captured by a rival tribe, but later escaped with some assistance from a sympathetic captor.

Around the age of 20, Temujin visited his future wife Borte, and received a black sable coat from her tribe; this was the foundation for his increased wealth from conquest.

Uniting the Tribes

Temüjin marrys Börte (after she's kidnapped and he rescues her - all the callings of a fairy tale).

The Foundations of an Empire

In 1206 Temüjin had successfully united the formerly fragmented tribes of what is now Mongolia, and at a kuriltai (kurultai) (a council of Mongol chiefs) he was titled "Genghis Khan" (also Chinggis, Jenghiz and Tsingis) or "Universal Ruler".

As the great Khan, he developed a new military system that was based on the decimal system, with armies being split into groups of 10, 100, 1000 and finally a tumen (10,000). The army took their families and horses with them, with each rider having about 3-4 horses apiece, so they always had fresh means of transport.

At the time of the kuriltai, Genghis was involved in a dispute with Western Xia, the first of his wars of conquest, and despite problems in taking well defended Western Xia cities, and by 1209 when peace with Western Xia was made, he had with substantially reduced the Western Xia dominion, and was acknowledged by their emperor as overlord.

A major goal of Genghis was the conquest of Jin, both to avenge earlier defeats and to gain the riches of northern China. He declared war in 1211, and at first the pattern of operations against the Jurchen Jin Dynasty was the same as it had been against Western Xia. The Mongols were victorious in the field, but they were frustrated in their efforts to take major cities. In his typically logical and determined fashion, Genghis and his highly developed staff studied the problems of the assault of fortifications. With the help of Chinese engineers, they gradually developed the techniques that eventually would make them the most accomplished and most successful besiegers in the history of warfare.

As a result of a number of overwhelming victories in the field and a few successes in the capture of fortifications deep within China, Genghis had conquered and had consolidated Jin territory as far south as the Great Wall by 1213. He then advanced with three armies into the heart of Jin territory, between the Great Wall and the Huang He. He defeated the Jin forces, devastated northern China, captured numerous cities, and in 1215 besieged, captured, and sacked the Jin capital of Yanjing (later known as Beijing). The Jin emperor, Emperor Xuan Zong of Jin, did not surrender, however, but removed his capital to Kaifeng. There his successors finally were defeated, but not until 1234. Meanwhile, Kuchlug, the deposed khan of the Naiman Mongols, had fled west and had usurped the state of Kara-Khitan Khanate, the western allies that had decided to side with Genghis.

By this time, the Mongol army was exhausted by ten years of continuous campaigning against Western Xia and Jin. Therefore, Genghis sent only two tumen under a brilliant young general, Jebe, against Kuchlug. An internal revolt was incited by Mongol agents; then Jebe overran the country. Kuchlug's forces were defeated west of Kashgar; he was captured and executed, and Kara-Khiatn was annexed. By 1218 the Mongol state extended as far west as Lake Balkash and adjoined Khwarizm, a Muslim state that reached to the Caspian Sea in the west and to the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea in the south.

In 1218 Genghis sent some emissaries to an eastern Province of Khwarizm to hold some talks with the governour. The governour of the province had them killed, and Genghis retaliated with a force of 200,000 troops. By 1220 Khwarizm was eradicated.

The Final Campaign

The vassal emperor of Western Xia had refused to take part in the war against the Khwarizm, and Genghis had vowed punishment. While he was in Iran, Western Xia and Jin had formed an alliance against the Mongols. After rest and a reorganization of his armies, Genghis prepared for war against his foes.

By this time, advancing years had led Genghis to prepare for the future and to assure an orderly succession among his descendants. He selected his third son Ogedei as his successor and established the method of selection of subsequent khans, specifying that they should come from his direct descendants. Meanwhile, he studied intelligence reports from Western Xia and Jin and readied a force of 180,000 troops for a new campaign.

In AD 1226, Genghis Khan attacked the Tanguts on the pretext that the Tanguts received the Mongols' enemies. In February, Genghis Khan took over Heisui city, Gan-zhou and Su-zhou. In autumn, took over Xiliang-fu. A Xixia general challenged the Mongols for a battle near Helanshan Mountain. (Helan means great horse in northern dialect.) Xixia armies were defeated at Helanshan. In November, he laid siege of the Tangut city of Ling-zhou and then crossed the Yellow River and defeated the Tangut relief army. Five stars, in a row, were noted in the skies.

In AD 1227, Genghis Khan attacked Tanguts' capital, and in February, took over Lintiao-fu. In March, he took over Xining prefecture and Xindu-fu. In April, he took over Deshun prefecture. At Deshun, Xixia General Ma Jianlong resisted the Mongols for days and personally led charges against them outside of the city gate. Ma Jianlong later died of arrow shots. Genghis, after taking over Deshun, went to Liupanshan Mountain (Qingshui County, Gansu Prov) for shelter from the severe summer. On the mountain, he stated that he had said one year ago, when five stars converged onto one line, that the Mongols should not kill people at random and made it a decree not to kill at random.

On his deathbed in 1227, Genghis Khan outlined to his youngest son, Tului, the plans that later would be used by his successors to complete the destruction of the Jin empire.

His body was returned to Mongolia, the escort killing anyone that strayed across their path on the return trip, so as not to reveal where he was finally laid to rest. The Genghis Khan Mausoleum is his memorial, not his burial site.

The new Xixia emperor, being attacked by the Mongols, surrendered to them. The Tanguts officially surrendered in AD 1227, after being in existence for 190 years, from AD 1038 to AD 1227. The Mongols killed the Tangut emperor and his royal family members.

Point of Interest: Genghis Khan has become a symbol of a Mongolia trying to regain its identity after many long years of Communism. Genghis Khan's face appears on Mongolian banknotes and vodka labels.

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