Posted by Selena Travel / 05 29, 2023
While Chinggis Khan, or Genghis Khan, is world famous as one of the most successful conquerors in history, there is more to him than that.
Despite the fact that he lived so long ago, there is a surprising amount we know about his life. Many of these are from The Secret History of the Mongols, and others are facts from modern Mongolia.
That’s right, Chinggis Khan is actually a title. Khan is like a king or lord, and Chinggis is a title for the head lord, though there is some debate over this. Temujin was his birth name, and it’s from the Turkic languages and means iron. Many of Temujin’s brothers also have names related to iron, probably indicating how tough they are.
In what was a relatively common occurrence, Temujin’s mother was abducted by raiding horsemen. It was on her way back home from the wedding ceremony. The raiders did respect her, and she was officially re-married to the head of the group, a rare honor in those days. She would teach Temujin to persevere through adversity, and he richly rewarded her throughout his military victories.
If you fly into Mongolia, you’ll probably be flying into Chinggis Khan International Airport. There, you can buy Chinggis vodka to celebrate your arrival. Then you can take a taxi to Chinggis Khan square and see a statue of the man in front of the Parliament building. From Parliament, you can take a taxi to stay in the Chinggis Khan hotel.
There are so many products named after Chinggis Khan in Mongolia, you can tell they love the most famous Mongolian.
When Mongolia was still under a Communist government, they were strongly influenced by the Russian. In an effort to prevent nationalism, they discouraged Mongolians from studying about Chinggis Khan. Mongolians weren’t allowed to go on pilgrimages to his birthplace and his memorial flag was lost.
In addition to his military skill, Chinggis Khan was an adept political leader. He united disparate tribes in Central Asia under his rule through force, cunning and good speeches. He used the kurultai to solidify his rule. This is where horsemen literally vote by showing up. Chinggis Khan would announce a meeting for all the leaders and if no one showed up, that would mean he didn’t have authority. He also promoted people based on merit, not just political considerations.
Despite an official tomb in Inner Mongolia, no one actually knows where Chinggis Khan is buried. It’s said that after he was buried somewhere in Khentii province, he had the people who buried him killed so they couldn’t spread the secret of his burial site. There are several treasure hunters who search for his body though, believing that the man was buried with enormous wealth.
In Khentii, you can go on the developing Chinggis Khan trail and explore the region where he spent many of the pivotal moments of his life. You can see the rivers where he was likely born, the Onon and Kherlen rivers meet, and visit the sacred mountain where he prayed. You can see monuments to the man and learn more about his life.
There was a sacred mountain where Chinggis Khan prayed for guidance. He believed in shamanism and felt that mountains were the home of spirits. In his life, Chinggis Khan was faced with many times when he wasn’t sure what to do. He often went to this mountain to pray and always chose the best option. If you want to climb it, it’s allowed, but only for men. Foreigners are also discouraged from climbing it as well.
Out near the Terelj National Park, there stands the largest statue of a man on a horse. A giant silver statue of Chinggis Khan rises out over the steppe. As you approach, it’s even more massive in person.
You can visit a museum of Mongolian life and Chinggis Khan, and even climb up to the horse’s head to get a great picture of Chinggis Khan himself. Inside there’s even a post office to send a postcard to your friends back home!
Despite being a shamanist, Chinggis Khan encouraged his followers to be religiously tolerant. He didn’t force anyone in his empire to convert to any religion. This continued throughout the Mongolian Empire, where the Khans met with many of the different religious leaders.
After his father was killed, Temujin grew up in poverty. He and his family no longer had the protection of the clan leader, and he was forced to provide for his family while he was still a kid. His older half-brother Begter was expected to marry Temujin’s mom, and Temujin was so angry about it, that he killed Begter. After he was married, he eventually came to power by making strategic alliances.
I hope all of these facts have interested you. There are many more facts about Chinggis Khan, but visit Mongolia to see the places themselves!