The Mystery of Genghis Khan: Books I and II


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For instance, one Mongol law forbade lying. Another made it illegal to commit adultery. Still another ordained that a person must treat a neighbor as he or she would want to be treated by that neighbor. In addition, there were humane statutes calling for people to respect and give aid to elderly and impoverished members of society. Several other laws Genghis Khan enacted were influenced by his own experiences as a young man. According to scholar Frank E. Smitha: The kidnapping of women had caused feuding among the Mongols, and, as a teenager, Temujin had suffered from the kidnapping of his young wife, Borte.

He made it law that no woman would be sold into marriage. The stealing of animals had caused dissension among the Mongols, and Genghis Khan made it a capital offense. Genghis Khan [also] regulated hunting—a winter activity— improving the availability of meat for everyone. Visiting foreigners were also subject to them, as illustrated by an incident that William of Rubruck, a European monk, witnessed. William and his companions managed not to touch the threshold on their way in; but as they exited, one of them accidentally brushed up against it.

But William himself went to the local judge and claimed that the translator had not explained the law well enough. If he had been convicted, he would have been executed. Indeed, the death penalty was prescribed for breaking several of the laws of the Great Yasa. Among the other capital offenses those punishable by death were murder, adultery, employing sorcery to harm someone, and declaring bankruptcy three times. As for the methods of execution, average citizens were usually beheaded or hacked to death with swords. A good many other crimes were punished by less drastic means.

One common penalty for minor crimes was paying a fine. The payment could be in the form of objects of value, as in the case of a horse thief, who was required to return the stolen horse along with nine A Mongol Leader Shows Mercy M ongol justice was frequently severe. Nevertheless, sometimes Mongol leaders, including Genghis Khan, showed mercy if they felt the situation called for it. Such a situation is cited in the writings of medieval Persian historian Ata-Malik Juvaini, who describes Mongol society at length.

Then Ogedei noticed a woman who was crying and asked what was bothering her. But for a brother there can be no substitute. Quoted in Bertold Spuler, History of the Mongols, trans. Another frequent punishment for lesser offenses was receiving a beating with wooden rods. But they were fitting for their time and place—the medieval Asian steppes, where life was tough and demanding and no police or prisons existed to maintain order.

More importantly, the Mongol justice system worked. It helped to keep the members of the scattered clans and tribes unified, conscious of shared community values, and civil to one another by making everyone in society subject to the same rules. The Great Yasa demonstrated that, despite his frequent brutality in war and other enterprises, Genghis Khan was at heart a remarkably enlightened ruler.

He had managed to unify the clans and tribes, a mixture of Mongolic and Turkic speakers, all with a shared nomadic culture. An unprecedented feat, this act of unification had brought at least 2 million people under his direct authority. He was not a king in the traditional sense. Historically and culturally, the Mongols did not recognize that office.

And they had no crown, throne, court, or other royal trappings. Yet as khan, he was a ruler who wielded considerable, in fact almost absolute, power, as long as his people did not feel that he had abused his authority.

Genghis: Birth of an Empire (Khan Dynasty Series #1) by Conn Iggulden, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

If the Great Khan did abuse his authority, he could expect to have his powerful position challenged. He might even be assassinated. Indeed, there was certainly no shortage of would-be khans among the Mongol elite. In addition to some strong military generals, including his own brother, Kasar, Genghis Khan had four tough sons. The eldest, Jochi, was about twenty-six when his father became Genghis Khan. Next in line came Chagatai, then about twentyone; Ogedei was roughly twenty, and Tuli was in his teens. All were fiercely loyal to their father. But they were Mongols first.

And if Genghis became corrupt and betrayed the people, family loyalty might be set aside for the greater good. The immediate question for him in Ogedei and Jochi, two of Genghis Khan's sons, were loyal to their father but would have set aside their loyalty and overthrown him if the khan ever abused his power. What makes you better than I am? Maybe your heart is harder than mine. Let the word of our father, the Khan, decide.

True, the Mongols were united and filled with energy and eagerness to achieve major goals. But most were unsure about what those goals should be and how to accomplish them. They needed guidance and a strong leader to channel their enormous energies and help them meet their potential. Genghis Khan realized that if he did not provide that guidance, those energies might well dissipate, or even worse be misdirected into internal rivalries and civil strife.

The logical place to channel those national energies, Genghis Khan knew, was into war, more specifically conquest. The nomadic horsemen of the steppes were natural, exceptionally effective soldiers who had long been used to fighting among themselves. If his leadership and their skills could be properly utilized, he realized, the Mongols could potentially come to control large portions of Asia, if not all of it.

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Again applying logic and reason, another of his many talents, the new Mongol ruler concluded that the best place to begin his conquests was in his own backyard. The Mongol clans lived along the borders of China. An old and venerable land, it was very populous and filled with material riches and the comforts of civilization.

Genghis Khan also realized that it would not be necessary to conquer all of China, which was enormous. At the time, it was made up of a number of political states or kingdoms that periodically fought among themselves.

How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire

Of the three leading kingdoms the largest and most populous, but also the most distant from Mongolia, lay in southern China. It was ruled by the Sung dynasty family line of rulers. Northern China, meanwhile, which was more accessible to the Mongols, was largely divided into two large states.

In the east was the Jurched or Jurchen kingdom, a monarchy ruled by the Jin also Jinn or Kin dynasty. The arrogant and aggressive Jin had taken control of the region in about These kings, who would later give rise to the Chinese Manchus, had their royal court at Zhongdu, now the modern Chinese capital of Beijing. Finally, in the northwest lay the kingdom of the Tangut, a people related to the Tibetans, who dwelled in the Himalayas.

The southern Chinese called the Tangut the Xi-Xia. Militarily the weakest of the major Chinese peoples, the Tangut relied on the Silk Road, a major trade route that passed through their territory, for their wealth. The Silk Road not only connected and supported the economies of many Chinese and other central Asian cities, but it also kept open a small but crucial door to merchants and travelers from the Middle East and Europe.


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According to one modern authority, The Silk Road was the main artery for business and trade between China and the West. Eastern and Western string, wind, and percussion instruments also traveled between regions and had strong influences on one another over time. Resources, information and innovations were exchanged between so many cultures over so many hundreds of years that it is now often difficult to identify the origins of numerous traditions that our respective cultures take for granted. In this way, the Silk Road created an intercontinental think tank of human ingenuity. In return, many aspects of Western civilization that influenced Chinese society made their way back along this road.

Likely he reasoned that defeating the Tangut would give him control over key stretches of the Silk Road. In turn, this would bring him both wealth and a valuable overland connection to western Asian regions and peoples who might later become either his allies or his subjects. Genghis Khan launched his invasion of the Tangut kingdom in Now that we see him before our city walls, we are afraid of his greatness and power. Their ruler, Xuanzong, was so wealthy that he was popularly known as the King of Gold or Golden King. In terms of their military forces, the Jurched were considerably stronger than the Tangut.

However, the Mongol leader had an important advantage. Namely, his troops were more logically and effectively deployed, both on and off the battlefield. For example, like almost all other ancient and medieval armies, the Jurched soldiers marched along in columns with their food and other supplies behind them in a cumbersome baggage train. Such formations were slow moving and easy targets for enemy ambushes. In contrast, each Mongol horseman carried what he needed himself. Also, the traveling fighters spread out over a large area. That way they could more easily avoid enemy patrols and find pastures for their animals, as well as move swiftly toward their destination—either the battlefield or the next campsite.

In addition, the marching camps for all Mongol regiments or other large groups were Genghis Khan deployed his troops more effectively both on and off the battlefield, often giving him and his troops the advantage to win a battle. That way, as the soldiers reported in from various directions, they knew exactly where to set up their tents, where the officers were stationed, and so forth.

Other potent advantages for Genghis Khan and his forces were the wellconceived strategy and clever tactics he devised to defeat the Jurcheds. First, units of Mongol horsemen attacked and torched peasant villages, which were small and largely undefended. As their homes and crops burned, the terrified farmers swarmed onto the roads, which became clogged, slowing down Jurched messengers and relief troops. Hundreds of thousands of peasants also flooded into nearby cities.

There they consumed vast stores of food that the Jurched leaders needed to feed their families and soldiers. The Mongols also used large groups of local refugees as human shields by placing them in front of their advancing cavalry units, so that Jurched soldiers hesitated to fire for fear of killing their own people. Genghis Khan displayed other effective tactics designed to allow him to capture walled enemy cities quickly and with very minimal loss of his own troops. In one incident, the Mongols were besieging the Jurched city of Dading.

A week or two later, however, the disguised Mongol sent word to his master, the khan, who suddenly returned with his forces and easily captured the now unprotected city. Some modern scholars think Genghis Khan himself invented it and circulated it among the enemy population to make them believe he was far too clever for their leader, the King of Gold, to defeat.

One imagines the startled debate within the walls. Now the Khan set his Mongols to work, tying tufts of cottonwood to the tails of these beasts, setting [fire] to them and letting them go in one terrified, flickering stampede through air and over land. Like sparks blown by a gale, birds searched for their nests, cats for their haunts. But as Genghis Khan was invading China, he realized he needed to learn this aspect of war as quickly as possible.

According to a team of University of Calgary scholars led by Christon I. Archer, Genghis [Khan] conscripted Chinese craftsmen and engineers, who showed the Mongols how to operate the light Chinese-type catapult, which required forty men to pull back the ropes connected to the wooden arm under tension, while the heavy [Chinese] catapult required one hundred men. These catapults had limited ranges of to yards, and their missiles were small, ranging from two to twenty-five pounds.

However, after the fall of Samarkand in , Persian and Middle Eastern catapults were copied, meaning that the catapult operated via a Genghis Khan enlisted Chinese counterweight, like the western trebu- craftsmen and engineers to show the chet, and longer distances and heavier Mongols how to use siege warfare, stones could be used.

Christon I. Archer et al. The Battle of Beijing Not all of the cities Genghis Khan captured fell because of such stealth tactics. He also set about learning the art of traditional siege warfare, in part by capturing Chinese engineers and persuading them to teach him. These men and later several Persian engineers as well also built a number of large siege devices for him. They included catapults that hurled stones at or over city walls; the trebuchet, a device similar to a gigantic sling, which flung rocks even farther than a catapult could; and the ballista, essentially a big crossbow that shot huge arrowlike bolts.

Although the Mongols knew nothing about these machines at first, they swiftly became adept at operating them. Eventually, the Great Khan felt confident enough to lay siege to the Jurched capital of Zhongdu. This promised to be no easy task, for modern experts estimate it then had at least , houses and about a million inhabitants. Moreover, it was extremely well defended. Nevertheless, in the determined Mongol leader ordered his men to surround the city and prepared to do whatever was necessary to capture it.

The King of Gold, Xuanzong, at first hoped to outlast the besiegers. But as time went on, his military advisers warned him that the Mongols would not give up and would eventually overrun the city. According to the Secret History, a trusted general told the king: Destiny is with the Mongols.

According to the Secret History, He sent a message offering tribute to Genghis Khan, and gave him one of his daughters as a wife. The gates of Zhongdu were opened and they [the Jurched] set out great quantities of gold, silver, satins, and other goods, letting the men of the Mongol army divide it themselves, depending on how many beasts each had to carry the load. The [Mongol] army withdrew to the north. And it appears that one of the greatest cities of the medieval world would have been spared if the King of Gold had kept his side of the bargain. However, he did not.

Once the Mongols had withdrawn, he decided to get as far away from the Mongols as he could. Xuanzong, his family, his generals, and his leading courtiers fled southward to the city of Kaifeng. There, they hoped to be out of reach of the Great Khan. In this, the Jurched ruler was quite wrong. As Khan and his army entered China once more, large numbers of Jurched Chinese, soldiers and peasants alike, joined his cause. Either the people join his cause and live or oppose him and be destroyed. Other allies from the regions north of China also arrived to help the Mongols. Reaching the capital in June , these allies ransacked and looted it.

The aim of this tactic was twofold—to deprive the enemy of needed foodstuffs and to turn the plowed farmland back into pastures that could be used for grazing by Mongol horses, cattle, and other livestock. It was also an opportunity to enrich the Mongol soldiers and civilians.

When the campaign was over, Genghis Khan brought thousands of tons of Chinese goods back to the Mongolian camps on the steppes. Caravan after caravan, each with hundreds of carts, carried bolts of silk and other fine fabrics, tapestries and wallhangings, furniture, dinnerware, rugs, pillows, blankets, brass cooking pots, iron kettles, saddles, bronze knives, casks of wine, jugs of perfume, board games, bales of tea, jars of spices, suits of metal armor, and much more.

Throughout these years, most Mongols would go on living in makeshift tents, as their ancestors had. But those dwellings often became larger and more comfortable, and in some cases even luxurious. Because the Mongols had been unused to such extravagances in the past, the sudden availability of these products changed not only their lifestyle but also their attitudes about owning material things. As has happened in numerous other societies both before and after that time, having more than they were used to inspired a desire for still more.

The more he conquered, the more he had to conquer. The solution was to build permanent storage facilities, which had never before existed in their society. The time the Mongols spent in foreign cities and countries while conquering and occupying them also exposed them to new ideas.

As a result, over time at least some Mongols converted to other faiths. The khan, who had an open and quite sophisticated toleration for any and all belief systems, granted complete religious freedom to all the peoples he conquered. He even gave tax exemptions to their churches, mosques, and temples. Scholar J. Saunders explains, Christians, Muslims, Jews, [and] Buddhists, all acquired perfect liberty to worship as they pleased and to propagate [spread] their tenets [ideas] anywhere in the Mongol realm, provided they did not encroach on the freedom of others.

Never had the continent of Asia enjoyed so complete a liberty of conscience, never had it been filled with so many ardent missionaries seeking to push their doctrines. Thus, the clergy of all competing religions tended to preach loyalty to the Mongols, a circumstance which helped to perpetuate their rule. When foreigners praised the Great Khan for his wisdom in adopting such enlightened attitudes toward religion, he usually reacted with modesty.

He was only a humble man with limited abilities, he claimed, who had been thrust into an important position of responsibility and special destiny. I have only one coat and one food. I eat the same food and am dressed in the same tatters as my humble herdsmen. In fact, he felt that the great god Tengri had endowed him with special abilities and a singular destiny—to rule the known world.

The proof of this is that as soon as he had secured the Chinese territories he had overrun, he turned his armies westward, intent on bringing the vast Middle East into the Mongol fold. He had also made sure to pass on much of the loot he had captured in war to his people. However, he knew that there were many more riches to be had in western Asia. The Silk Road continued into the region, which was crisscrossed by several other lucrative trade routes.

If he could tap into that trade, the Mongol realm could conceivably become the wealthiest state in all of Asia. This enormous Muslim-controlled realm encompassed most of Persia presentday Iran , Afghanistan, and Transoxiana the region lying east of the Caspian Sea near modern-day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. In sheer numbers of soldiers and support personnel, it was then the strongest military power in Asia. It was also very wealthy thanks to the trade routes that passed through it. When Muhammad, who held the exalted title of Khwarizm shah, or sultan, read the letter, he saw that Genghis Khan was offering peace.

So he had no need to launch conquests against Khwarizm. Instead, he desired to forge a friendship with Muhammad and to initiate trade between the two empires so that both would benefit. But later events show that, for reasons of his own, Muhammad was not sincere and planned to turn on the Mongol leader. He loaded them down with silk, jade, silver, and other valuable commodities and ordered them to travel to Khwarizm and give these gifts to the shah.

Not long after the merchants entered Khwarezmid territory, however, a local governor killed them and seized the goods. The governor had no idea that this act was destined to set into motion the terrifying wrath of the Mongol hordes. He sent three envoys to the shah to demand that the governor who had slain the merchants be turned over to the Mongols for punishment.

Proof of this includes an incident that occurred while he and his sons were campaigning in the western Asian region of Persia. Let them come see you face to face. Then he burned the beards off the faces of the other two and sent them back to Khan with a message of mockery and defiance. At this disrespectful rebuke, Genghis Khan was even more enraged than before. It had formed only a little more than a decade before his own. Moreover, in addition to being large—it stretched from west-central Asia into the Middle East—it had a huge and diverse population.

Included were Arabic, Turkic, Persian, and other speakers. There were also numerous minority faiths, among them Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism Old Persian , in addition to Islam, the religion of the ruling classes. Frequent tensions and rivalries existed among these linguistic and religious groups. What is more, Muhammad had been unable to end these divisions because he lacked the talent and wisdom to rule effectively. To him must be ascribed much of the blame for the hideous calamities which [followed]. This would work to his advantage, he decided, as he began to devise his strategy for the upcoming campaign.

One part of the plan was, when possible, to break down the Mongol army into separate units and attack from two or more directions at once. This approach was designed to make it look like Khan had larger forces than he actually did. These forgeries gave that leader the impression that his nobles were on the verge of deserting him. These shrewd moves further weakened an empire that was already resting on shaky foundations. The total army consisted of , to , Mongol horsemen and another 60, or more Chinese and other allies.

The shah was able to muster much larger forces, numbering , or more. However, many of these were mercenaries paid fighters who felt little or no loyalty to their commanders. These factors more than nullified the significant numerical advantage the Khwarezmid forces enjoyed. The Mongol general Jebe or Chepe led a second group on a more southerly route. Finally, the Great Khan himself commanded the primary attack force, which moved through the Kizil Kum desert, northwest of Otrar.

The common wisdom was that no army could successfully cross this vast wasteland.

Explore the Secret History of the Mongols

So when the khan and his men emerged from the desert north of the important Khwarezmid city of Bukhara, the residents were taken completely by surprise. Swooping down on the city, the Mongols easily overcame the soldiers guarding it. They then entered and killed several thousand of its thirty thousand inhabitants.

The attackers then herded close to three hundred of the leading citizens into a large mosque. As the terrified people gazed toward the front, they saw an imposing, well-armed man appear and mount the pulpit. Some likely guessed correctly that he was the renowned Mongol leader himself. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you. Soon afterward, the Mongols burned Bukhara and moved on to the Khwarezmid capital of Samarkand, lying several miles to the southeast.

The large, populous city had strong walls and was heavily guarded. But it took the Mongols only ten days to capture it, after which they fanned out across the empire, destroying towns and massacring large numbers of people as they went. One common tactic was to kill most or all of the aristocrats and other upper-class people in each city.

That, the reasoning went, would eliminate most of the local leaders who might later organize rebellions against the Mongols. The Benefits of Renewal T he Mongol conquest of Khwarizm, followed by its revolution, demonstrated that, no matter how destructive the Mongols were during their military campaigns, they always looked ahead to rebuilding and the political, administrative, and cultural rewards that came from it.

In particular, they knew that such renewal encouraged trade, which was essential to their economic well-being. According to scholar J. Saunders, Their material interest was never lost sight of. As his empire crumbled around him, Shah Muhammad fled northwestward to the shores of the Caspian. The shah ended up dying on an island in the Caspian. In the next three years they covered an incredible 8, miles 12,km , entirely circling the sea and even reaching the shores of the Black Sea.

Amazingly, the two capable and unrelenting Mongol generals defeated this enormous throng and eventually made it back to Persia, where they rejoined the Great Khan. This bold venture proved important because it gave the Mongols a glimpse of what lay farther to the west—the fertile steppes of Russia and beyond them eastern Europe. A few of the cities he had burned were already partially rebuilt. Others, however, were not only left in ruins, but their very foundations were also dug up, broken up, and covered over with dirt.

The Great Khan also moved through the countryside, ordering the residents of some villages and towns to abandon their homes and rebuild elsewhere. There were two principal reasons for this wholesale reordering and relocation of towns and local populations. First, Genghis Khan wanted to create large new areas of grasslands where few or none had existed for many centuries.

Scholar Jack Weatherford explains, He depopulated expansive areas of land [and when] the villagers and farmers left, [the] fields reverted to grazing land. This allowed large areas to be set aside for the herds [of horses] that accompanied the army and were kept as reserves for future campaigns.

Just as when he churned up the agricultural land when he left northern China, [Genghis Khan] always wanted a clear area of retreat or advancement where his army could always find adequate pasturage for the horses and for the other animals on which their success depended. He felt that doing so would make it easier for his governors and other officials to control them.

As had always been the case, he fully recognized the importance of having a strong, bustling economy that produced as much revenue as possible. Among other things, this required trade goods to flow unimpeded through the territories making up his empire. Indeed, Saunders says, Everything was done to encourage a brisk commercial traffic. The roads were policed, post-houses [rest stops and inns] established, caravans given armed protection, [and] thieves and robbers put down.

The peasants tilling their fields in the fertile oases of central Asia were guarded against the old curse of peaceful cultivators—raids by nomadic tribes. Mongol military power, perhaps we may add Mongol terror [tactics], made the highways of Asia safer than they had ever been. Profits must have been high and the influential moneyed men were long among the strongest props of the Mongol Empire.

He chose skilled, trusted men to run the cities and provinces of the now defunct Khwarezmid realm. These officials were expected to collect taxes from the local inhabitants and make sure the accumulated money or goods made it back to the Mongolian heartland intact. The administrators also oversaw public works. This included not only building and maintaining structures in towns, but also making sure that mounted messengers and rest stops for them were always in operation. In addition, the local officials chosen by the khan had the task of levying troops from their territories when Mongol generals needed them.

This reasonably inexpensive practice was so effective that it paid for itself many times over. The fact was that the presence of even small numbers of Mongol warriors in a given area was a potent deterrent to rebellion and corruption there. The Matter of the Succession When he was satisfied that his new imperial lands in western Asia had been put into good running order, Genghis Khan, now almost sixty, headed back to This illustration shows Genghis Khan and his soldiers storming a Tangut fortress.

Khan's second attack against the Tangut caused him injuries which later led to his death. It was at about this time that he chose a successor in the event that he died. Sixty was considered to be fairly old in a world in which average life expectancy was not much over thirty. Although Khan hoped he had many years left, he realistically faced the fact that he might meet his end unexpectedly at any moment. After much thought and soulsearching, he selected his third son, Ogedei, to be the next Great Khan.

True, as the oldest, Jochi technically had seniority. But after the sons met and discussed the matter, they agreed, probably reluctantly on the parts of Jochi and Chagatai, that Ogedei had the best skills and personality for the position. As it turned out, it was fortunate for the family, and the Mongols as a whole, that the matter of succession was resolved at that time. On returning to his homeland, Genghis Khan learned that the Tangut, whom he had defeated years before, had become troublesome.

Their leader, Burkhan Khan, was no longer living up to all the terms of the agreement he had earlier made with the Mongols. So in , Genghis Khan once more led his soldiers against the Tangut. Jochi was his great huntsman, Chagatai his judge, Ogedei his minister [administrator], and Tuli his general. And their names and actions are often conspicuous in the history of his conquests. Firmly united for their own and the public interest, [the] brothers and their families were content with dependent [positions of power]. David Womersley, New York: Penguin, , p.

Both his doctors and generals begged him to retire to the steppes and take a long rest. But he refused. He continued to manage the operations against the Tangut, and in the spring of their capital fell. At that point, while still in considerable pain from his recent injuries, Genghis Khan contracted a grave illness. Exactly what it was remains unclear, but the best guess of modern medical experts is either malaria or typhus.

After that, he was bedridden for a few months. Whatever the fate of his soul, no one could argue about the results of his accomplishments. At that moment, the imperial realm he had created stretched from eastern China westward across Asia to Persia. Chapter Six The Mongols After Genghis Khan T he death of Genghis Khan was a tremendous emotional blow to the Mongols, for they had regarded him as a leader sent and supported by their great god Tengri.

There were no worries or disputes about who would succeed him, however. Ogedei had already been chosen by his father to become the new Great Khan after his death.

The search for Genghis Khan’s tomb

Thus, the transfer of power went smoothly, as Ogedei immediately assumed authority in and the Mongols officially proclaimed him their ruler two years later. He and his own successors were destined to bring the Mongol Empire to its zenith. Almost as quickly, though, they would allow it to fall into division and decline, the fate of all empires in human history. The Assault on Europe As khan, Ogedei was a vigorous leader who initiated a number of ambitious projects in the s. One that rapidly achieved completion was the creation of a new, permanent Mongol capital at Karakorum, in central Mongolia.

Ogedei also launched invasions of southern China, still ruled by the Sung dynasts, and Korea, lying east of China. Mongol successes in Russia left the way open for an incursion into eastern Europe. The invaders swept through what is now Hungary while a group of eastern European dukes and princes hastily formed a coalition to try to meet the threat. April at Liegnitz, in Poland. The European commanders, among them Duke Henry II of the Polish realm of Silesia, swiftly fell prey to Mongol stealth tactics, for which they were woefully unprepared.

University of Swansea scholar John France recalls, from China. Duke Henry was killed in the rout of his army and most of his troops were slaughtered. The Mongols cut off ears to count enemy dead and after Liegnitz are said to have sent home nine bags full of this gory evidence. Accounts refer to the Mongols using smoke to confuse the westerners and this may be true, since gunpowder was known to the Mongols With the eastern European alliance shattered by the invaders, there seemed little hope for the rest of Europe. Yet, suddenly, as quickly as the Mongol menace had appeared, it receded.

Ogedei's death in December, however, resulted in the withdrawl of Mongol troops from Europe. To the Europeans it seemed they had been saved by a miracle. A myth was to rise among the Poles that their brave warriors saved Europe from the Mongols. High ranking Mongol army leaders believed they had to return to confirm the selecting of a new ruler. That expedition was publicly condemned by a former Mongolian prime minister but Kravitz continued his efforts until he died of heart disease, aged 80, in Hope has been revived in recent years by technological advances.

California-based research scientist Albert Lin Yu-Min has been leading a crowdsourcing effort to analyse satellite imagery and employ non-invasive tools to search for anomalies underground near Burkhan Khaldun. A few weeks after our initial phone call, I meet Nichols and his crew over breakfast in Yinchuan. While on the road, I receive an email from Hong Kong-based Swiss adventurer and Mongolia expert Marc Progin, who read my first article, announcing the expedition. We have all sorts of things, both from military and from mineral research. We spend the first few days driving along backroads, studying terrain, looking for places that would be impassable for a horse- or oxen-drawn cart carrying a corpse.

Over the week, Nichols narrows down his hypothetical route by a process of elimination. We follow a railway line that heads north to Zhongwei. He wants to test how far a camel can travel across desert sands in a day. We become hypnotised by the alien landscape of the Tengger Desert and the lurching movements of the camels. We set up camp just before nightfall and, watching him walk up the dunes, his feet sinking into the sand, for the first time I worry that Nichols looks tired.

For his part, Nichols, whose motto is that anything can be done at any age it just takes a little longer , says he feels exhilarated. The procession would have travelled along the outskirts of the desert, he suggests. A camel can go a week without water or food. But just camels like this — and he would have had warrior camels — can travel 60km to 80km a day. Add to that the fact that Mongol warriors would be moving day and night.

That night we eat by a fire, Nichols serenading us with s campfire songs while the cameleers teach the film crew raucous drinking games. In the morning, the sand is smooth except for snake trails and the footprints left by lizards and small mammals. While we ride, a large grey fox sprints away from us across the dunes. Leaving the desert the next day, we detour to the swampy banks of the Yellow River, in Yinchuan, before heading out on a long, dusty drive towards Ordos, in Inner Mongolia.

And then, Jalair, the Mongols will come and slay you! With this warning from his grandfather Kurush, the summer of in Samarkand begins for young Jalair. He has always been told that Mongols slew his father Darien—the greatest hawker of the Empire—and robbed him of a spectacular breed of hunting bird that Darien had perfected. Since then, the Mongols have searched relentlessly for the son of the slain hawker. A broken promise and mysterious circumstances cause Jalair to risk the journey eastward to recapture the Golden Hawks.

Striving at all costs to conceal his identity, the boy arrives at Karakorum, the city of Genghis Khan. Here he not only finds the Golden Hawks, but also a deepening of the mystery surrounding them and his father.

The Mystery of Genghis Khan: Books I and II The Mystery of Genghis Khan: Books I and II
The Mystery of Genghis Khan: Books I and II The Mystery of Genghis Khan: Books I and II
The Mystery of Genghis Khan: Books I and II The Mystery of Genghis Khan: Books I and II
The Mystery of Genghis Khan: Books I and II The Mystery of Genghis Khan: Books I and II
The Mystery of Genghis Khan: Books I and II The Mystery of Genghis Khan: Books I and II
The Mystery of Genghis Khan: Books I and II The Mystery of Genghis Khan: Books I and II
The Mystery of Genghis Khan: Books I and II The Mystery of Genghis Khan: Books I and II
The Mystery of Genghis Khan: Books I and II The Mystery of Genghis Khan: Books I and II

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