The Mighty Manslayer, the Scourge of God, the Perfect Warrior and the Master of Thrones and Crowns, are some of his many names. Historically today, he is most often remembered as Genghis Khan.

Even the 'name' Genghis Khan is yet another title, originally, Genghis Kha Khan, meaning the Greatest of Rulers or the Emperor of All Men. It was bestowed in 1206 by a soothsayer, at the Kurultai, the Council of the Khans, held to select a single man to rule all the peoples of high Asia. The other name titles came later, after millions had died in his wars of conquest.

"God in Heaven. The Kha Khan, the Power of God, on Earth. The seal of the Emperor of Mankind."
                                                                                                                             The Seal of Genghis Khan

The story of Genghis Khan begins in the Gobi Desert, A.D. 1162, the Year of the Swine in the calendar of the twelve beasts.

Genghis Khan's birth name was Temujin. At the time of his birth, his father, Yesukai, was absent on a raid against a tribal enemy called "Temujin" by name. The affair went well, the enemy was made a prisoner, and the father, returning, gave to his infant son the name of the defeated foeman. Temuchin signifies "The Finest Steel", Tumur-ji. The Chinese version is T'ie mou jen, which has another meaning all together, "Supreme Earth Man".

Temujin was the first born of Yesukai the Valiant, Khan of the Yakka Mongols, master of 40,000 tents. His father's sworn brother was Toghrul Khan of the Karaits, the most powerful of the Gobi nomads, he who gave birth in Europe to the tales of Prester John of Asia.

The Gobi Desert, lofty plateaus, wind-swept, lying close to the clouds. Reed bordered lakes, visited by migratory birds on their trek to the northern tundras. Huge Lake Baikul, visited by all the demons of the upper air. In the clear nights of mid-winter, the curtain of the Northern Lights Aurora Borealis rising and falling above the horizon.

The Gobi Desert, as described by Friar Carpini, the first European to enter this desolate land, circa mid 12th century. "In the middle of summer there are terrible storms of thunder and lightning by which many people are killed, and even then there are great falls of snow and such tempests of cold winds blow that sometimes people can hardly sit on horseback. A man cannot see through the prodigious dust storms. There are often showers of hail, and sudden, intolerable heats followed by extreme cold".

The children of the northern Gobi steppes were not hardened to suffering, they were born to it. After they were weaned from their mother's milk to mare's milk they were expected to manage for themselves! The places nearest the fire in the family tent belonged to the grown warriors and to guests. Women, it is true, could sit on the left side, but at a distance, and the boys and girls had to fit in where they could. Everything went into the pot and was eaten. The able-bodied men taking the first portions, and the aged and the women received the pot next, finally the children had to fight for bones and sinewy bits. Very little was left for the dogs.

The end of winter was the worst of all for the Mongol children. No more cattle could be killed off without thinning the herd too much. At such a time the warriors of the tribe were raiding the food reserves of another tribe, carrying off cattle and horses. The children learned to organize hunts of their own, stalking dogs and rats with clubs or blunt arrows. They learned to ride, too, on sheep, clinging to the wool. 

The boys must fish the streams they passed in their trek from the summer to winter pastures. The horse herds were in their charge, and they had to ride far afield after lost animals, and to search for new pasture lands. They watched the skyline for raiders, and spent many a night in the snow without fires. Of necessity, they learned to keep the saddle for several days at a time, and to go without cooked food for three or four days, and sometimes without any food at all.

Houlun - Mother of Genghis Khan

For diversion they had horse races, twenty miles out into the prairie and back, or wrestling matches in which bones were freely broken. Mercy seemed to these nomad youths to be of little value, but retribution was an obligation among the Mongol tribes.
Temujin's mother, Houlun, was beautiful, and so had been carried off by his father from a neighboring tribe, on her wedding ride to the tent of her betrothed husband. Houlun, made the best of circumstances after some wailing, but all the yurt knew that some day men from her tribe would come to avenge the wrong.

Temujin received word his father had been poisoned by enemies. Many of his tribe then abandoned the standard of their chieftain and started off to find other protectors, rather than trust themselves, their families and herds to an inexperienced boy. "The deep water is gone," they said, "the strong stone is broken. What have we to do with a woman and her children?"

Temujin was now seated on the white horse-skin, Khan of the Yakka Mongols, but had only a remnant of the tribe. He faced the certainty that all the feudal foes of the Mongols would take advantage of his fathers death to avenge themselves upon the son.

Then the inevitable, a certain warrior, Targoutai, announced that he was now over-lord of the northern Gobi. Targoutai, chieftain of the Taidjuts, the fuedal foes of the Mongols.

As an older wolf seeks and slays a cub too prone to take the leadership of the pack, the hunt was launched without warning. Temujin and his brothers fled before the onset of the horsemen. Thus the hunt began with the Taidjuts close upon the heels of the boys. The chase lasted for many days through gorges and timber growths and upon the sides of mountains, and even into caves. Finally, Temujin was captured alone, the brothers having separated days earlier.

Targoutai commanded that a 'kang' be placed upon him. A wooden yoke resting on the shoulders and holding the wrists of the captive bound at each end. Later, left alone with a single guard he knocked the man senseless with the kang and escaped. Hearing the sound of pursuit he hid in a river with only his head above water. Temujin observed one warrior spot him but say nothing to the others. Following his trackers back to their camp he stealthily entered the tent of the warrior, a guest of his pursuers, and he assisted Temujin in escaping from the kang, and out of the camp to safety. "The smoke of my house would have vanished, and my fire would have died out forever had they found thee," the man remarked grimly to the fugitive, giving to him at the same time food and milk, and a bow with two arrows. "Go now to thy brothers and mother."

Temujin, riding a borrowed horse, tracked down his family. They were in hiding and hungry; the stern mother Houlun, his brave brother Kassar, and Belgutai the half bother who idolized him. They lived after a fashion, traveling by night, trapping game, and Temujin learned how to keep out of an ambush, and to break through the lines of men who hunted him down. Hunted he was and his cunning grew with each passing year. He was never in his lifetime captured a second time!

Cunning kept Temujin alive, and a growing wisdom kept the nucleus of a clan about him. Physical prowess he had, and watchfulness. The chieftains who raided into the fertile region between the Kerulon and Onon could drive him from the hills into the lower plain, but could not bring him to bay.

"Temujin and his brothers," it was said, "are growing in strength."

Amidst the ceaseless, merciless warfare of the nomad lands, Temujin sought to master his heritage. At this time, when he was seventeen, he went to look for his betrothed, Bourtai, to carry off his first wife. 

Bourtai - Wife of Genghis Khan

Bourtai was thirteen years old when Temujin arrived to claim her, accompanied by 200 Mongol horsemen. Bourtai was singled out for a destiny above that of other women. History knows her as Bourtai Fidjen, the Empress, mother of three sons who ruled in a later day a dominion greater than Rome's. But she was not long with her new husband before a tragedy occurred.

Unexpectedly, a formidable clan rode down from the northern plain and raided the Mongol camp. These were the Merkits. They were true barbarians descended from the aboriginal stock of the Tundra, people from the "frozen white world", where men traveled in sledges pulled by dogs or reindeer. These were the clansmen of the warrior from whom Temujin's mother, Houlun, had been stolen by his father some eighteen years ago. Most probably they had not forgotten their old grievance. They came at night, casting blazing torches into the Ordu (tent) of the young khan. The Khan's new wife, Bourtai, was carried off by the raiders.

Temujin, still lacking sufficient followers to retaliate, approached his foster father Toghrul Khan, and besought the aid of the Karaits. Mongol and Karait descended upon the raiders village during a moonlight night. Temujin called Bourtai's name and she came to him in the confusion of the attack.

He could never be certain if Bourtai's first born were his son, but his devotion to her was unmistakable. He named his eldest son Juchi, the "Guest", born under a shadow, but Temujin made no distinction among his sons by her. They would come to inherit an empire lager than any other ever to exist on Earth.

When the Mongols had grown to thirteen thousand horsemen, Temujin fought his first pitched battle, against thirty thousand Tiajuts led by Targoutai. There ensued one of the terrible steppe struggles - mounted hordes, screaming with rage, closing in under arrow flights, wielding short sabers, pulling their foes from the saddle with thrown lariats and hooks attached to the ends of lances.

Each squadron fought as a separate command, and the fighting ranged up and down the valley as the warriors scattered under a charge, reformed and came on again. It lasted until daylight left the sky. Temujin had won a decisive victory.

Temujin was accustomed to go to the summit of a bare mountain which he believed to be the abiding place of the Tengri, the spirits of the upper air that loosed the whirlwinds and thunder and all the awe-inspiring phenomena of the boundless Sky. He prayed to the quarters of the four winds, "Illimitable Heaven, do Thou favor me, send the spirits of the upper air to befriend me, but on Earth send men to aid me."

And men of courage and strength flocked to the standard of the "Nine Yaks Tails" in ever increasing numbers. These paladins of the Khan were known throughout the Gobi as the Kiyat, or "Raging Torrents". Two of them, mere boys at the time, carried devastation over ninety degrees of latitude in a later day. They were Chepe' Noyon, the Arrow Prince, and Subotai Bahadur, the Valient, of the Uriankhi, the reindeer people.

There was no end to the tribal warfare of the Gobi, the wolf-like struggle of the great clans, the harrying and the hunting down. The Mongols were still one of the weaker peoples, though a hundred thousand tents now followed the standard of the Khan. His cunning protected them, his fierce courage emboldened his warriors. Temujin was more than thirty years of age, in the fullness of his strength, and his sons now rode with him.
"Our elders have always told us," he said one day before the council, "that different hearts and minds cannot be in one body. But this I intend to bring about. I shall extend my authority over my neighbors." To mold the venomous fighters into one confederacy of clans, to make his feudal enemies his subjects, was his plan.

But then the twelfth century was drawing to a close, and Temujin in his infinite patience was still laboring at what his elders said could not be accomplished, a confederacy of the clans. He now realized it could only come in one way, by the supremacy of one clan over the others.

So Temujin approached Prestor John, known as Toghrul Khan of the Keraits, which were formed mostly of Nestorian Christians, who controlled the cities on the caravan routes from the northern gates of Khitai (China) to the distant west, and he formed a blood alliance between Mongol and Kerait.

In his compact Temujin remained faithful to his new father. When the Keraits were driven

out of their lands and cities by the western tribes, which were mostly Moslems and Buddhists who cherished a warm religious hatred of the Christian Shamanistic Karaits, Temujin sent his Mongol "Raging Torrents" to aid the discomfited chieftain, Prestor John.

Behind the Great Wall the "Golden Emperor" of Cathay (China) stirred in his sleep and remembered incursions of the Buyar Lake Tatars that had annoyed his frontiers. He announced that he himself would lead a grand expedition beyond the wall to punish the offending tribesmen, an announcement that filled his subjects with alarm! Eventually, a high officer was dispatched with a Cathayan army against the Tatars, who retired as usual unscathed and unchastened. The host of Cathay, being composed largely of foot soldiers, could not come up upon the nomad cavalry.

Tidings of this reached Temujin, who acted as swiftly as hard whipped ponies could carry his messages across the plains. He rallied all his clansmen and sent to Prester John, reminding his elder ally that the Tatars were the clan that had slain his father. The Keraits answered his call, and the combined hordes rode down upon the Tatars who could not retreat, because the Cathayans were in their rear.

The battle broke the Tatars power. The Cathayan general rewarded Prester John with the title of Wang Khan, or "Lord of Kings". He awarded the honor, "Commander Against Rebels", upon Temujin. The expeditionary force and it's general then returned to Cathay, where he laid claim to all credit for himself.

The Karaits offered a bride for Temujin's first born son, Juichi. A young woman

Tentengri, Mongol Wizard

from among the girls of the chieftain's family. But Temujin remained in his camp, keeping his distance warily from the Kerait ordus (tents), while his men went before him to see if the way were safe. News came, unwelcome and ominous. His enemies in the west; Chamuka the Cunning, Toukta Beg, the chieftain of the dour Merkits, also the son of Wang Khan, and Temujin's uncles, had determined to put an end to him. They had persuaded the aging and hesitant Prester John, now Wang Khan, to throw his strength in with theirs. The marriage overtures had been a ruse.

With a small contingent of 6000 horsemen, merely an honor guard for the marriage overtures, Temujin was heavily outnumbered, as he observed the approach of his enemies. He saw the clans were scattered, the best horses forging ahead of the slower paced. He led out his cavalry in close array from their concealment, their horses rested, unlike those of his former allies, which were hard pressed for speed. His initial charge scattered the vanguard of the Keraits, and his horsemen formed their lines across the rolling grassland, covering the retreat of his Ordu's woman and children. Then Wang Khan and his chieftains came up, the Keraits realigned, and the merciless battle of extermination began on the high steppes of Asia!

Never in his desperate life had Temujin been harder pressed. He had dire need then of all the personal valor of his "Raging Torrents", and the steadfastness of his household clans, the heavily armed riders of of the Urut and Manhut clans that had always served him faithfully. His numbers did not allow him to make a frontal attack, and so he was reduced to holding what little advantage his ground position gave him, which for Mongols was a last resort.

With his clans scattered and the Keraits and Merkits breaking through his lines, and darkness coming on, Temujin ordered the tulughma, the "standard sweep" that turns an enemy's flank and takes him in the rear. It held the opposing cavalry in restraint,
especially as the son of Wang Khan had been wounded in the face by an arrow. When the sun set, the forces of Wang Khan withdrew a little from the field, not the Mongols. Temujin waited only to cover withdrawal, so as to gather up his wounded warriors, two of his sons among them, many on captured horses and sometimes with two men on a single animal. Then he fled to the east and the Keraits took up the pursuit the next morning.

"We have fought," said Wang Khan, "a man with whom we should never have quarreled."
Temujin sent couriers and called a council of the khans. Each spoke in turn. The bolder chieftains called for battle against the forces of Wang Khan. They called for leadership from Temujin. This council prevailed. Temujin accepted the command position and declared that his orders must be obeyed in all clans, and his punishment immediate against those he chose.

"From the beginning I have said to you that the lands between the three rivers must have a master. You would not understand. Now, when you fear Wang Khan will treat you as he has treated me, you have chosen me for your leader. To you I have given captives, women, yurts and herds. Now I shall keep for you the lands and customs of our ancestors."

During that cold dark winter the Gobi Desert divided into two rival camps, and this time Temujin was first afield, before snow left the valleys. With his new allies he advanced without warning upon the camp of Wang Khan. By nightfall the Keraits were broken and scattered, Prester John (Wang Khan) and his son both wounded and fleeing.

Temujin gave to his men the wealth of the Keraits. The tent of Wang Khan, hung with cloth of gold, he gave entirely to the two herders who had warned him of the Kerait advance upon him, that first night at Gupta.

Following up on the retreating Keraits, he surrounded them with his cavalry and offered them their lives if they would yield, "Men fighting as you have done to save your lord, are heroes. Be you among mine, and serve me." The remnants of the Keraits joined his standard, and Temujin pushed onward to their city in the desert, Karakorum, the Black Sands.

Prester John, once Wang Khan, who had entered into this war unwillingly, fled hopelessly beyond his lands and was put to death by warriors of a Turkish tribe. His skull was set in silver and remained in the tent of a chieftain, as an object of veneration. His son was killed in much the same manner.

"The merit of an action," Temujin told his sons, "is in finishing it to the end."

In the three years following the battle that gave Temujin mastery of the Gobi steppes, he thrust his veteran horsemen far into the valleys of the western Turks, from the long white mountains

of the north, down the length of the Great Wall, through the ancient cities of Bishbalik and Khoten his officers galloped, and Temujin consolidated power.

For the moment clan feuds were forgotten, as they were in awe of the Mongol Khan. Buddhist and shaman, devil-worshpper and muslim, and Nestorian Christian, sat down as brothers, awaiting events. And Temujin called his Kurultai, to select a single man to rule high Asia. And that night his name changed to Genghis Khan.

"When he conquered a province he did no harm to the people or their property, but merely established some of his own men in the country among them, while he led the remainder to the conquest of other provinces. And when those he had conquered became aware how well and safely he protected them against all others, and how they suffered no ill at his hands, and saw what a noble prince he was, then they joined him heart and soul and became his devoted followers. And when he had thus gathered such a multitude that they seemed to cover the earth, he began to think of conquering a great part of the world.", Marco Polo wrote concerning Temujin.                 

Genghis Khan chose his headquarters, to which he always returned, at Karakorum, the Black Sands, formerly the capital of the Kerait Khanate under Wang Khan (Prester John). A wind-swept place of bitter sand storms, Karakorum became a metropolis in a barren wasteland. Vast stables housed the Khan's chosen herds of the finest horses. Granaries guarded against famine. Caravanserais sheltered travelers and visiting ambassadors who flocked to the Khan. There was a district to house the ambassadors and a quarter for the religions. Buddhist Temples, stone Mosques, and small wooden churches of Nestorian Christians, all stood next to one another. Everyone was free to worship as they pleased.               

Visitors  were met by Mongol officers at the frontiers and forwarded to Karakorum with guides, and word of their coming was sent ahead by rapid couriers of the caravan routes. Once within sight on the treeless and hill-less plain that surrounded the city of the Khan, the travelers were taken in charge by the "Master of Law and Punishment". When the Khan signified, they were led into his presence.

Genghis Khan's court was in a high pavilion of white felt, lined with silk. By the entrance stood a silver table, set with mares milk, fruit and meat, so that all who came to him could eat as much as they pleased. In the center of the pavilion a fire of thorns and dung glowed. On a dais at the far end sat the Great Khan. Ministers, scribes and Mongol officers were about him in attendance. Utter silence would prevail when the Khan spoke. When he said anything, that subject was closed. No man might add a word to his. Words were few, and painstakingly exact. After a person had presented themselves at the Khan's Ordu, they must not depart until told to do so by the Khan.

With all merchants Genghis Khan established a method for dealing with them. The Khan did not haggle. If the merchant tried to bargain with him his goods were taken without payment. If, on the other hand, they gave everything to the Khan, they received in return gifts that more than paid them.   

To open up new roads between east and west, and remain in continuous communication with all parts of his empire, the Khan devised the yam or Mongol horse-post, the equivalent of the pony express of thirteenth century Asia. These messengers were accustomed to ride fifty or sixty miles a day. Past the yam stations plodded the endless lines of camels and caravans. The yam was telegraph, railroad and parcel-post, all in one. The Mongols were masters of the roads. In the large towns there would be a daroga, or road governor, with an absolute authority in his district. In this way the Khan could receive dispatches from places ten days journey off in one day and night. The post roads were the backbone of the Khan's administration.                            

For the first time in history the nomads were united into a permanent military force as organized as the Roman Legions, which was entirely because of Genghis Khan's efforts. The horde consisted of the wise and mysterious Ugurs, the stalwart Keraits, the hardy Yakka Mongols, the ferocious Tatars, the dour Merkits, silent men from the snow Tundras, and all the riders of high Asia. There was nothing haphazard about the Mongol Horde. It was composed of units of ten. It was expressly forbidden for any warrior of the horde to forsake his comrades, the men of his "ten". Or for the others of the ten to leave behind a wounded man.

Ten of these formed the 'hundred'. Ten of the hundred formed the 'thousand'. Ten of the thousand formed a 'Tuman', a Mongol cavalry division of 10,000. There were eleven divisions in all. Only 110,000 horsemen were the initial size of a highly mobile army that would conquer most of the known civilized world. In command of each division were the Orkhons, the Marshals of the Great Khan, drawn from the ranks of the veteran "Raging Torrents". Genghis Khan had command of a new force in warfare, a highly disciplined mass of heavy cavalry capable of swift movement across all kinds of terrain. There had been cavalry before, but not with the unique skills and tactics of the Mongols.

The Mongol cavalry remained invisible until the hour of battle and then maneuvered in terrible silence, obedient to signals given by moving the standards of the horde, signals repeated to the warriors of a squadron by the arm movements of an officer. This, during the day and in the clamor of conflict when the human voice could not be heard, and cymbals and kettle drums might be mistaken with the enemy's own instruments. At night, such signals were given by raising and lowering colored lanterns near the standard of a commander.

The standard of Genghis Khan was the pole with nine white yaks tails. It was forbidden for any of the horde to flee before the standard withdrew from battle. It was forbidden to turn aside to pillage before permission was given by the commanding officer. All men were entitled to all they found, without interference from their superiors. Father Carpini wrote, Mongols "never leaving the field while the standard was lifted, and never asking quarter if taken, or sparing a living foeman."    

The Mongol method of tempering steel arrow heads was by plunging them, while hot, into water mixed with salt, that they may be better able to penetrate armor. Friar Carpini's vivid impression of the devastating archery of the Mongol warriors, "Men and horses they wound and slay with arrows, and when men and mounts are shattered in this fashion, they then close in upon them."

The Kurultai was the summons that cannot be ignored. When the great Khan called upon his officials and officers, all must respond! It was the law. As Genghis Khan himself said, "Those who, instead of coming to me to hear my instructions, remain absent in their cantonments, will have the fate of a stone that is dropped into deep water, or an arrow among reeds . . . they will disappear."                     


The Turko-Mongol people were all united for the first time in many centuries, but they had lived too long governed by tribal customs as varied as the men themselves. To contain their wild nature, Genghis Khan used his already established military structure of veteran Mongols, and also placed all Mongols in all clans under one law, Yassa Law (a combination of his will and the most expedient of tribal customs). This was possible, because in their ecstatic enthusiasm they believed Temujin, now Genghis Khan, was in reality a "Bogdo", a sending from the Gods, endowed with the "Power of Heaven".

In Yassa Law, though himself a man of uncontrolled rages, Genghis Khan denied his people their most cherished indulgence, violence. Additionally, adultery and theft carried the death penalty. Spies, sodomites, false witnesses and black sorcerers were put to death. But a man could not be found guilty unless caught in the act of the crime, if he did not confess. Among the Mongols, an illiterate people, a man's spoken word was a solemn oath. An accused  nomad usually admitted guilt. Some came to the Khan and asked for punishment. The general of a division a thousand miles away from the court of the Khan, submitted to be relieved of his command and executed, at the order of the Khan, brought by a common courier!

The first law of the Yassa is remarkable. "It is ordered that all men should believe in one God, creator of Heaven and earth, the sole giver of goods and poverty, of life and death as pleases Him, whose power over all things is absolute."

Genghis Khan was a deist, raised among the ragged and rascally shamans of the Gobi, his code treated religious matters indulgently. An unlikely array of priesthoods trailed after the Mongol camps, on their way to war; leaders of faiths, devotees, criers of mosques, Nestorian Christians, shamans and magicians, 'Saracen' soothsayers. And, quote Father Rubruquis, "Wandering yellow and red lamas swinging prayer wheels, some of them wearing stoles, painted with a likeness of the true Christian Devil."

The Mongols worshipped the Blue Sky. The Yassa addressed a great weakness of the Mongol peoples. The Mongols had a terrible terror of thunder. During the severe storms of the Gobi Desert, this all powerful fear overwhelmed them sometimes, and they hurled themselves into lakes and rivers to escape the Wrath of the Sky. The Yassa therefore forbade bathing during a thunder storm, with or without clothes.

The success of the Yassa can be gleaned from a contemporary, Father Carpini, "They are obedient to their lords beyond any other people, giving them vast reverence and never deceiving them in word or action. They seldom quarrel, and brawls, wounds or slaying hardly ever happen. Thieves and robbers are nowhere found, so that their houses and carts, in which all their goods and treasures rest, are never locked or barred. If any animal of their herd goes astray, the finder leaves it, or drives it back to the officers who have charge of strays. Among themselves they are courteous and though victuals is scarce, they share then freely. They are very patient under privations, and though they may have fasted for a day or two, will sing and make merry. In journeying they bear cold or heat without complaining. They never fall out and though often drunk, never quarrel in their cups."

Father Carpini describes Mongol attitude, "Toward other people they are exceedingly proud and overbearing, looking upon all other men, however noble, with contempt. For we saw in the Emperor's court the great Duke of Russia, the son of the King of Georgia, and many sultans and other great men who had no honor or respect. Indeed, even the Tatars appointed to attend them, however low their own position, always went before these high born captives and took the upper places." 

Father Carpini finishes, "They are irritable and disdainful to other men, and beyond belief deceitful. Whatever mischief they intend they carefully conceal, that no one may provide against it. And the slaughter of other people they consider as nothing."

The Mongols were not of the same race as the Chinese proper. They were descended from the Tungusi of aboriginal stock, with a strong mixture of Persian and Turkish blood. These were the nomads of high Asia that the Greeks named Scythians. The Mongols were able to overcome the terrors of vast deserts, the barriers of mountains and waterways, the severities of climate, and the ravages of famine and pestilence. No dangers could appall them, no stronghold could resist them, no prayer for mercy could move them.

In 1206, the year Genghis Khan united the Turko-Mongol peoples, the Khitai (Chinese) "Warden of the Western Marches", whose duty was to watch over the barbarians beyond the Great Wall and collect tribute from them, reported that "Absolute quiet prevails in the far kingdoms."

The Golden Emperor, in the course of his continual warfare with the ancient house of Sung in the south, beyond the "Son of the Ocean", the great Yang-tze river, sent emissaries to his subject, the Mongol "Commander Against Rebels", to request the assistance of the nomad horsemen. Genghis Khan responded immediately with two tumans of his elite warriors. Chepe Noyon and other Orkhons commanded these cavalry divisions. While in Khitai they used their eyes and asked questions. They had the nomad ability to remember landmarks. They returned well versed in the geography of Khitai. They also brought back to the Gobi tales of wonders, such as the roads that ran clear across rivers.

High Asia was a troubled land. Along the ancient Nan-lu, the southern caravan route, existed the curious kingdom of Hia, the so-called "Robber Kingdom". Here were the lean and predatory Tibetan's, come down from the mountains to plunder with their allies, the criminal outlaws of Khitai. Beyond them extended the power of Black Cathy, in the T'ien Shan, a kind of mountain empire, where Gutchluk ruled. And to the west, the roving hordes of Kirghiz who had previously kept out of the Mongols path. Against all these troublesome neighbors, Genghis Khan sent mounted divisions, commanded by his veteran Orkhons. His war of raids in open country convinced them it would be well to make peace with him. The chieftains sent daughters to be wifes of the Khan, in order to strengthen the bond. All this was preparation, cautionary, clearing his flanks in military language.

Then the monarch of Khitai died and his son was seated on the Dragon Throne. Genghis Khan refused to pay the tribute demanded by the new Emperor Wai Wang, and sent an envoy to the imperial court with his message. "Our dominion," said Genghis Khan, "is now so well ordered that we can visit Khitai. Is the dominion of the Golden Khan so well ordered that he can receive us? We will go with an army that is like a roaring ocean. It matters not whether we are met by friendship or war. If the Golden Khan chooses to be our friend, we will allow him the government under us of his dominion; if he chooses war, it will last until one of us is victor, one defeated."

Emperor Wai Wang called the Warden of the Western Marches to stand before the 'Clouds of Heaven' imperial court and answer what the Mongols were about. He replied they were making many arrows and gathering horses. The Warden of the Western Marches was arrested and placed in prison.

Genghis Khan also sent envoys to the Liao-tung in the most northern region of Khitai. These warlike spirits had not forgotten their conquest by a previous Golden Emperor. The Liao Dynasty swore a compact with Genghis Khan, and blood was drawn and arrows broken to bind it. The men of Liao, means literally "Men of Iron". Liao would invade the north of Khitai in conjunction with the Mongol Horde. In return the Great Khan promised to restore all their previous power. Genghis Khan eventually kept his word to the letter, making the princes of Liao the rulers of Khitai, under himself.

Genghis Khan had a limited number of warriors, and a single defeat against Khitai could scatter the nomad clans back into their desert. Genghis Khan would for the first time, need to maneuver his divisions against armies led by masters of tactics.         

The Mongol Tatars called the great kingdom of civilization beyond the Gobi, Khitai (China). In Khitai existed a culture over five thousand years old, with written records extending back more than thirty centuries. The men of Khitai were not free and wild like the nomads of the steppes. The men behind the Great Wall were mostly slaves, beggars and peasants, with an aristocracy of scholars, soldiers, religious mystics, mandarins, dukes and princes. Since time immemorial there had always been an emperor, the "Son of Heaven", Tien Tsi, and a court, the "Clouds of Heaven". In the year 1210, the 'Year of the Sheep' in the calendar of the twelve beasts, the throne was occupied by the Chin or Golden Dynasty. The court was at Yen-King, near the location of modern Beijing.

Within the great cities of Khitai, in the thirteenth century, over the heads of high officials umbrellas were held, carried by slaves. Garments were of floss silk multiply colored brilliantly. Inside the entrances of dwellings, screens served to keep out wandering devils. Bamboo books written in forgotten ages were studied and discussed at endlessly long feasts. Within the cities were pleasure lakes and barges where men could sip rice wine, and listen to the melody of silver bells in a woman's hand. They might, perhaps, drift under a tiled pagoda roof, or hear the summons of a temple gong. The pursuit of perfection is a laborious process, but time did not have much meaning in Khitai. A painter contented himself with touching silk with a bit of color . . . a bird on a branch or a snow-capped mountain top. A detail, but a perfect detail. A vagabond Taoist poet, in drunken contemplation, chasing the moon's reflection in water, drowns, and is immortalized.  

Kwan-ti, the War God, never lacked devotees. The waging of war had been an Art in Khitai, since the days when the armored regiments and chariots maneuvered over the wastes of Asia, and a temple was erected on the battlefield, in the army camp, for the general commanding to meditate upon strategy undisturbed. War engines Khitai had, twenty horse chariots, ancient and useless, but also stone casters, crossbows the strength of ten men could not wind, and catapults which required two hundred artillerists to draw taut the massive ropes, which launched great stones and the "Fire That Flies".

The ancient history of Khitai is plagued by barbarian invasions from the Gobi. Long ago the Khitayan barbarians themselves had descended from the north, and later, during the Warring States Period, the desert tribes had been united, briefly, under the Hiung-nu monarchs who harried ancient Khitai until the Great Wall was built to shut them out, and only a century ago came the Chin incursion. These invaders had always been absorbed into the great multitude of peoples comprising the kingdom of Khitai. After a period the invaders fell into the manners of Khitai, clad themselves in it's garments and followed it's ancient rituals. 

The first of the Horde sent by Genghis Khan had long since entered the Kingdom of Khitai. Spies and warriors, ordered to capture and bring back informers to the tent of the Khan, had already been at work behind the Great Wall for some time.

Next infiltrated the advance points, two hundred riders scattered over the countryside in pairs, acting as scouts. Far behind these scouts came the advance, thirty thousand veteran warriors, three tumans (divisions), on the best horses, at least two horses for each cavalryman. These were commanded by Muhuli, Chepe Noyon and Subotai, chosen from the Khan's marshals.

In constant communication by courier horsemen with the advance forces, the main body of the horde rolled like thunder over the barren plateaus, out of the Gobi, a massive roiling cloud of dust surrounding it's advance.

A hundred thousand, mostly Yakka Mongols of long, loyal service, formed the center, with both the right and left wings half as many warriors each. Genghis Khan always commanded the center, keeping his youngest son, Tuli, at his side for instruction in war. The Khan himself was constantly protected by his "Imperial Guard", one thousand hand picked heavy cavalry, mounted on black horses with black leather armor.

The Horde approached the Great Wall unhindered, and passed through that barrier without delay or the loss of a single man. Genghis Khan had been tampering with the frontier tribes for some time, and so one of the great gates was opened to him by sympathizers.

Once the wall was behind them the Mongol divisions separated to carry out predetermined tasks. Highly mobile, they needed no base of supplies. Mostly infantry, the forces of Khitai guarding the frontier roads were decimated by arrows shot from the backs of fleet footed horses, into the close packed formations of the foot soldiers.

One of the Emperor's armies on the road to war with the Mongol invaders, lost it's way, and had to ask peasants for directions. Chepe Noyon remembered the roads and valleys of the area from his service to the previous Golden Emperor, by command of the Khan. He traversed the difficult terrain of the region in the black of night and came upon the Chin forces, unexpectedly from the rear, the next day. The Mongols broke the cohesion of the Chin, and the scattered remnants of it, fleeing east, brought fear to the largest army of Khitai, which was approaching. This fear turned into terror and the commanding general fled back towards the capital city.

Several cities were taken by the Mongols, but Taitong-fu, the Western Court, still held out. Genghis Khan advanced toward the reigning city, Yen-king itself.  The devastation wrought by the Mongol horde and it's near approach to the capital, filled Emperor Wai Wang with alarm.

Now the greatest power of the Empire rallied to the defense of Khitai; the innumerable multitudes, the devoted throngs, born from a line of warlike ancestors, they knew no higher duty than to die for the throne. The sleeping giant was shocked from slumber. New armies appeared, approaching along the great rivers, and the garrisons of cities seemed to multiply daily.

When Genghis Khan reached the capital at Yen-king, and beheld for the first time the magnificence of the high walls, and row upon row of citadel fortresses, he realized the war could last lifetimes. He drew back immediately from Yen-king, and in the autumn withdrew the horde to the Gobi.

In the spring, upon fresh horses, Genghis Khan appeared again, suddenly, inside the Great Wall. Those frontier towns that had previously surrendered were now garrisoned and defiant. The Khan set to work and laid siege again to the Western Court at Taitong-fu. As the Chin infantry armies approached to relieve the siege of the court, they were cut to pieces and scattered by the Mongol cavalry tactics that whirled around in circular patterns, and loosed clouds of arrows upon retreating. But the Mongol allies, the Liao princes, were sorely beset by a Chin  army of sixty thousand far up in the north of Khitai, and requested the aid of the Khan. Genghis Khan was forced to dispatch a division north, under the Orkhon marshal Chepe Noyon, who destroyed the enemy with his tuman, and the art of deception.

Meanwhile, the Kha Khan, pressing vigorously the siege at the Western Court, was wounded. The Mongol horde withdrew from Khitai, as the tide ebbs from the shore, bearing their wounded chieftain with it.

The Mongol cavalry could out maneuver and decimate the armies of Khitai in open battle, but did not have the siege warfare experience necessary to take walled heavily garrisoned cities.

In the north the Chin military expeditions were prevailing against the Iron Men of Liao-tung, and the riders of Hia, who guarded the flanks of the Khan.

Early spring of 1214, Genghis Khan launches three Mongol armies into Khitai. In the south, three sons of the Khan, Ogotai, Chatagai and Tuli cut a wide range of devastation. In the north, the eldest son, Juchi, crossed the Khingan range and joined forces with the Iron Men of Liao-tung. Genghis Khan forged the Mongol center of the Horde deep into Khitai, to the very shores of the great ocean behind the capital at Yen-king.

Genghis Khan ordered his divisions to wage war with a new strategy of terror.

As the Mongol tumans rode across the countryside, in approach of cities or garrisoned strongholds, they swept up the people and drove them before the approaching Horde, in the first wave of the onslaught. When a city resisted they settled down to a siege. When the citizens of a city opened their gates and surrendered they were spared their lives, even as everything in the open country was annihilated and driven off; crops trampled, herds rustled, men, women and children cut down. Refugees carried word of this far and wide across Khitai.

As the season of war drew to a close with autumn, and the Mongols would need to return to the Gobi, Genghis Khan, laying siege to Yen-king, sent a message to the Golden Emperor, besieged in Yen-king. "What do you think now of the war between us? All the provinces north of the Yellow River are in my power. I am going to my homeland. But could you permit my officers to go away without sending gifts to appease them?"

The Chin monarch, Wai Wang, a man in terrible fear, agreed to a truce. A lady of the reigning family was sent to Genghis Khan as a wife. A thousand young male and female slaves carrying silks and gold, and also a herd of the finest horses, were sent to the Khan. And so Genghis Khan turned back to the Gobi and when he reached it's edge he put to death the multitude of captives carried along by the Horde. They wouldn't have survived the trek through the wastelands, and human life had no value in the eyes of the Mongols. They desired only to depopulate fertile lands to provide grazing for their herds. It was the Mongol boast, at the long end of the war against Khitai, that their horses could be ridden without stumbling across the sites of what had been great cities. It was the custom of the Mongols to put to death all captives, except artisans and savants, when they returned home after a campaign.

The Golden Emperor was shaken, "We announce to our subjects that we will change our residence to the capital of the south." Wei Wang fled south. Rebellion followed upon his flight! Some troops escorting the Golden Emperor mutinied and abandoned the monarch. The defense of Khitai was left to hereditary princes, officials and mandarins.

In the face of danger the populace rallied, as the deep spirit of loyalty to Khitai manifested. The flame kindled stirred up a firestorm. Mongol garrisons and outposts were attacked. A relief army was sent to Liao-tung with great success. The sudden reversal became known to Genghis Khan. When his understanding was complete he acted immediately.

The Horde was at the end of a season of war. The horses were exhausted, sickness was within the camps, provisions were low, but the Khan chose the best division and ordered it south toward the Yellow River to pursue the fleeing Emperor. It was now winter, but the Mongols pushed on swiftly, forcing the lord of the Chins to cross the river into the domain of his old enemies the Sung Dynasty. Even there the Mongol division followed him, feeling their way among snow covered mountains, crossing ravines on spear shafts and the branches of trees bound together with chains.  The imperial fugitive appealed for aid to the Sung court.

Emperor Wei Wang

Couriers sent by Genghis Khan recalled the tuman, and they made a wide circle of the Sung cities, crossing the Yellow River surface on the ice of winter, to return to the Horde. Genghis Khan was at the center of the Horde, camped near the wall. Reports constantly arrived by couriers, riding hard pressed horses, and not dismounting to cook food or take sleep while en route. The Khan was now fifty five years of age. His sons were now grown men. Genghis Khan's favorite grandson Kublai had been born.

It was Muhuli, aided by Mingan, a prince of Liao-tung, who directed the thrust at Yen-king. With no more than five thousand Mongols under his command, he traveled eastward gathering up a multitude of Khitai's deserters and wandering bands of warriors. With Subotai covering his flank he pitched tents before the outer walls of Yen-king.

Yen-king could have endured, but it was a city in chaos. With the first breakout of fighting in the suburbs one of the Chin generals deserted. Looting began in the merchants district, and streets were filled with wandering, frightened soldiery. Fire followed, appearing in various parts of the city. In the palace itself, eunuchs and slaves flitted through the corridors, arms full of gold and silver ornaments. The 'Hall of Audience' was deserted, and the sentries left their posts to join the pillagers.

Wang-Yen, the commanding general, a prince of royal blood, considered matters as hopeless, and so prepared to die as custom required. He retired to his chambers and wrote a petition acknowledging he had been unable to defend Yen-king and was worthy of death. This was written on the lapel of his coat. His wealth he divided among his servants. Next, he ordered his attendant mandarin to prepare a cup of poison.

When Wang-Yen drank his poison Yen-king was in flames, and the Mongols rode in upon a scene of defenseless terror. The methodical Muhuli, indifferent to the passing of a dynasty, occupied himself  


with collecting and sending to the Khan the treasures and the munitions of the city.

Genghis Khan left the military government of Khitai, and the eventual conquest of the southern Sung Dynasty to Muhuli, praising him publicly and bestowing on him a banner embroidered with nine white yak-tails. "In this region," he explained to his Mongols, "the commands of Muhuli are to be obeyed as my commands."

No higher office could have been bestowed on the veteran Orkhon. Genghis Khan kept to his word and left Muhuli undisturbed, with his portion of the horde now under his iron will.

For the civil authority of Khitai Genghis Khan appointed governors from among the Liao-tung men.

The Khan admired the courage of the mandarins who had carried on the war after the desertion of their Emperor, and in the hardihood and wisdom of these men he discovered something useful to himself. Ye Liu Chutsai, for instance, could name the stars and explain their portents. When he carried back with him to Karakorum the golden treasures of Khitai, he took also members of the literati; scribes, scholars and philosophers.

Of all Genghis Khan's many sons he recognized only those born of Bourtai as his heirs. They had been his close companions, he had observed them continuously, bestowing early upon each of them a tutor, drawn from the ranks of his best veteran officers. His youngest son, Tuli, was carried beside his father to war upon a throne of human skulls. When the Khan had satisfied himself as to his sons different natures and abilities he made them "Orluks" (Eagles), princes of the imperial blood. Genghis Khan designated their duties. Juchi, the first born, was 'Master of Hunting'. Chatagai became 'Master of the Law and Punishment'. Ogotai was 'Master of Council'. The youngest, Tuli, nominally chief of the army, the Khan kept close, at the Mongol center.

And now, from the China Sea to the Aral Sea one master reigned. Rebellion had ceased. The couriers of the Great Khan galloped over fifty degrees of longitude, and it was said that a virgin carrying a sack of gold could ride unharmed from one border of the nomad empire to the other. Envoys of the Khan, bearded men of Khitai, intoned the new law of the conqueror, appearing everywhere, bringing order out of chaos. The shadow of the Yassa fell upon the conquered lands.

The "Master of Thrones and Crowns" was soon to become the "Scourge". His next war of conquest was terrible in its effect, and it was toward the west, toward the very heart of Islam.                                                

For the moment Genghis Khan was interested in trade. To the west was the great barrier of mid-Asia, a treacherous network of mountain ranges that extended northeast and southwest of the Taghbumbash, the "Roof of the World". From time immemorial this mountain obstacle had existed. It stood, vast and desolate, between the nomads of the Gobi Desert and the rest of the world. These mountains separated the plains-dwellers of Genghis Khan from the valley-dwellers of the west, which land was called Ta-tsin, the "Far Country".

The caravans of the ancient Silk Road traversed this massive, difficult, continental barrier regularly, and the merchants informed the Khan of many wondrous things. On the other side of Taghbumbash there existed fertile valleys where snow never fell. Here, also, were rivers that never froze. Here multitudinous peoples lived in cities more ancient than Karakorum or Yen-king. And from these people came the caravans that brought finely tempered steel blades and the best chain mail, also white cloth and red leather, ambergris and ivory, turquoise and rubies.

Ala-eddin Muhammad the Shah of Khwarezm

And so, Genghis Khan determined to trade with the west for the fine weaponry of the Moslem armorers. He encouraged his own merchants, subject Moslems themselves, to send caravans to the west. He learned that his nearest neighbor to the west was Ala-eddin Muhammad, the Shah of Khwarezm, himself a conqueror of a large kingdom. To this Shah the Khan sent envoys, and a message, "I send thee greeting. I know thy power and the great extent of thine empire, and I look upon thee as a most cherished son. On thy part, thou must know that I have conquered Khitai and many Turkish nations. My country is an encampment of warriors, a mine of silver, and I have no need of other lands. To me it seems that we have an equal interest in encouraging trade between our subjects."

The envoys of the Great Khan brought rich gifts to the Shah, bars of silver, precious jade, and white camel's hair robes. "Who is Genghis Khan?", demanded Muhammad Shah, "Has he really conquered Khitai?" The envoys replied that this was so.

"Are his armies as great as mine?", questioned the Shah. The envoys, in fear, replied that the horde of the Khan could not be compared to the host of Khwarezm. The Shah was satisfied and agreed to trade between kingdoms. For several years all was well between them and trade prospered.

Then one Inaljuk, governor of Otrar, a frontier citadel of the Shah, seized

a caravan of several hundred merchants from Karakorum. Inaljuk sent message to his Shah that the caravan carried spies. The merchants were put to death upon Muhammad Shah's order. News of this eventually reached the ears of Genghis Khan, who immediately dispatched envoys to the Shah Muhammad in protest. The Khitai emissaries were bearded, so the Shah slayed the chief envoy, burned the beards off the others, and sent them back to the Gobi.

And Genghis Khan went off alone, to a mountain, and did long meditate upon the events. "There cannot be two suns in the heavens," the Khan said, "or two Kha Khans upon the earth."

Now, truly, spies were sent in numbers through the treacherous mountain ranges and couriers traveled fast across the desert miles to summon men to the standard of the Khan. Genghis Khan sent an ominous message to the Shah of Khwarezm, "Thou hast chosen war. That will happen which will happen, and what it is to be, we know not. God alone knows."

Islam was a martial world. Centuries ago it's Prophet had lighted a fire that had been spread by his followers and their swords. An orphan of the Khoraish Clan in the desert near the Red Sea preached a new faith. He harangued the Arabs, telling them there was no more than one God. The Arab peoples had worshiped until then many gods and demons, and a great black stone. His name was Muhammad, son of Abdullah, and he made a multitude tremble at his description of the day of judgment. When Muhammad died in 632 A.D., as a result of being poisoned, the multitude accepted Islam (submission), and the Koran (recitation). There was one God, and Muhammad, the son of Abdullah, had been His Prophet.

Under the Companions, who had been the Disciples of the Prophet, the mad rush of conquest began. In less than a century the banners of Islam had been carried east as far as the Indus and the outposts of Khitai. The swords of Islam were flashing in the deep gorges of Caucasus. Egypt had fallen to them, and all of north Africa, and Andalus (Spain). Two obstacles checked the tide of the Muhammadans upon Europe. Charles the Hammer, king of the Franks, withstood them in the west. In the east they were flung back from the walls of Byzantium, the Eastern Roman Empire.

In time the military power of Islam passed from the Arabs to the Turks, but both joined in the Jihad holy war against the mailed host of Christian crusaders that came to wrest Jerusalem from them, empowered by the edict of the Pope.

Now, in the beginning of the thirteenth century Islam was at the height of it's military power. The weakening Christian crusaders had been driven to the coast of the Holy Land, and the first wave of the Turks were taking Asia Minor away from the soldiery of the degenerate Greek empire.

At the very center of Islam, Muhammad Shah of Khwarezm had established himself as war lord. His vast domain extended from India to Baghdad, and from the Sea of Aral to the Persian Gulf. Except for the Seljuk Turks, victorious over the crusaders, and the rising

Mamluk Dynasty in Egypt, his authority was supreme. He and his Atabegs or father-chieftains, were Turks. A true warrior of Turan, he had something of military genius, and a grasp of things political. He was called "Muhammad the Warrior". The core of his host of four hundred thousand was composed of Khwarezm Turks, but he had besides the armies of the Persians at his summons. War elephants, huge camel trains, and a multitude of armed slaves followed him. 

A main defense of the Khwarezm Sultanate was a chain of great cities along the rivers; Bokhara the center of Islam's academies and mosques, Samarkand of the lofty walls and pleasure gardens, Balkh and Herat, the heart of Khorassan. This world of Islam, with an ambitious Shah, multitudes of warriors, and mighty cities, was almost completely unknown to Genghis Khan, far away in the Gobi Desert.

Genghis Khan prepared for war. Muhuli continued his assault on Khitai, and the princes of Liao were busy restoring order behind him. From Karakorum the Khan scanned his empire through carefully chosen agents, looking for anyone, but especially men of family and ambition, who might cause trouble in his absence.

These received the kurultai, the summons that cannot be ignored, and were drafted into the war machine of the Khan. The government of the Empire itself, he determined to control wherever he traveled. He would communicate by courier messenger system in administration, as he had in war. A brother he left as governor in Karakorum.
Genghis Khan contemplated the transport of a quarter million warriors from Lake Baikul over the ranges of mid-Asia into Persia. A distance of two thousand miles direct, but the mountains he would traverse would add many miles more. Each rider was to bring a string of four or five horses. The Mongol "shock divisions" had their horses encased in lacquered leather of red or black. Every cavalryman had two bows, and a spare arrow case covered to protect from dampness. Heavy cavalry carried a saber, axes hanging from the belt, and a rope or cord lariat. Tens of thousands of Khitai's finest military formed their own divisions under the "Master of Artillery". They were men skilled in building and working the heavy siege engines, the ballista, mangonels and the dread Ho-pao "Fire Gun" flame throwers. Many non-combatants were conscripted; interpreters, merchants to act as spies later, mandarins to take over the administration of captured districts, etc.

Rivers had to be crossed. The horses, roped together by the saddle horns, twenty or more in a line, breasted the current. Sometimes the riders had to swim, holding to the tails. Soon the rivers could be crossed on frozen ice. "Even in the middle of summer," Ye Liu Chutsai wrote of the westward march, "masses of ice and snow accumulate in these mountains." Genghis Khan crossed the barrier during the height of winter.

Entering the western ranges beyond the Gate of the Winds, the Mongols cut down tall trees, hewing out massive timbers to be used in bridging the gorges. A quarter million men endured unimaginable hardships in the utter cold of high Asia. When food failed they merely opened a vein in a horse, drank a small amount of blood and closed the vein. The horde moved west, scattered over a hundred miles of dangerous mountain country, the sledges rolling in their wake, the bones of dead animals marking their path.

By the time the first grass showed, they were threading into the last barrier of the Kara Tau, the Black Mountain Range. The various divisions closed up ranks, liaison officers galloped back and forth between commands, the nondescript looking merchants rode off in small groups to gather information. A screen of scouts were thrown before the divisions. Through the forest scenery the Mongols could see below them the first frontier of Islam, the wide river Syr, swollen by spring freshets. Already the advance foragers were busy collecting supplies for the army, by driving off herds, gathering grain, and incidentally, setting fire to the frontier buildings.

Muhammad the Warrior was at the frontier even before the Mongols. Recently victorious at war on the Indian subcontinent, the Shah reassembled his army of four hundred thousand Turks, and organized his Atabegs, and added divisions of Arabs and Persians. His spies carried to him accounts of the approaching horde and he exclaimed, "They have conquered only unbelievers. Now the banners of Islam are arrayed against them."

The Shah deployed the mass of his army along the shores of the Syr River, and moved up river with a contingent of about 30,000 men. In a long valley with towering, forested cliffs on either side, Muhammad Shah's force met an approaching Mongol division. Juchi, first born son of Genghis Khan commanded the tuman. The forces of the Shah were three times the strength of the Mongol division. The Mongol general advising the prince said to retire at once and draw the Turks to the main body of the horde. The son of the Khan gave the order to charge. "If I flee, what then shall I say to my father?"

First charged the Mongol Mangudai, or "God-belonging" squadron, the pre-doomed "Suicide Squad". The shock cavalry units followed closely behind. Heavy cavalry came next with swords in rein hands, and long lances in the right hands. The lighter, faster squadrons covered the flanks. At least three times as many Turks than Mongols lay dead at day's end. The Shah himself, if not for desperate efforts of his elite household divisions, would have been killed. The enemy hosts separated for the night.


Sunrise found Muhammad the Warrior and his remaining squadrons in a valley filled eerily with only the bodies of the slain. The Mongols had vanished without a trace. In fact, the Mongols had withdrawn upon fresh horses, hidden for this purpose, and completed a march of two days in the single night.

No longer did the Khwarezm Shah think of searching for the horde in the high valleys. And a dread turned him back to his fortified towns. Re-enforcements were called for from the south. The Shah deployed his army on the western bank of the river Syr and awaited the arrival of the horde, intending to give battle when the Mongols attempted to cross the river. But the Shah did not realize the war was now raging across a front of one thousand miles, as the Mongol divisions descended from the mountain ranges at multiple locations. In the mountain region a host so huge was forced to break into segments, each wending it's own path westward, each under command of a veteran Orkhon. 

Muhammad Shah, encamped behind the Syr, was unable to learn where the Mongols were moving. Then came alarming news. Mongols had been seen descending from the high passes two hundred miles to his right, and almost in his rear. The Mongol tumans, under Chepe Noyon, had no more than twenty thousand men, but the Shah could not know this, and ancient Samarkand was directly in the Mongol path. Aroused by danger, Muhammad split up half his army among the fortified cities. The Shah then advanced the remainder of his host towards Samarkand.

Even as these events transpired, two sons of the Great Khan had appeared at Otrar, on the Syr, to the north. Otrar, whose governor had put to death Mongol merchants. Inaljuk, who had ordered the executions, was still governor of the city. In the great citadel of Otrar, surrounded by the finest warriors at his command, in utter desperation, they held out for five bloody months. Inaljuk, a man of war, took final refuge in the highest tower and fought to the end, when the Mongols cut down the last of his men. And when his arrows gave out he hurled stones down on his foes. Taken alive, as a prize, in spite of total desperation, he was sent to the Khan himself for judgement. Molten silver was poured into his eyes and ears, the "Death of Retribution". The walls of Otrar were razed to dust, and all inhabitants driven away.

While this was going on another Mongol force appeared at the Syr and stormed Tashkent. A third detachment scoured the northern end of the Syr, raiding the smaller towns. The Turkish garrison abandoned Jend, and the people surrendered to the Mongols. The Turkish garrisons were massacred by the merciless Mongols, but the city dwellers, mostly Persians, were only driven out of the cities. But in one instance, where a Moslem merchant envoy of the Khan had been torn to pieces by the men of the town, the terrible "Mongol Storm" was begun. This is the attack that is never allowed to cease. Without end, whether for days or months, fresh warriors forever take the place of the slain, until the place was carried, and it's people killed.

Genghis Khan never appeared along the Syr. The Mongol center had vanished from human sight. Perhaps he made a wide circle through the Red Sands Desert, because he appeared out of the barrens, marching swiftly on Bokhara, from the west. Chepe Noyon was advancing from the east, Genghis Khan was moving in from the west, and the Shah at Samarkand might well feel that the jaws of a trap were rapidly closing in upon him.

The Mongol tumans under the sons of the Khan, spreading fire, death and fear along the Syr River, had been no more than so many masks, for the real attack was by Chepe Noyon and Genghis Khan, advancing on Muhammad the Warrior at Samarkand.

Genghis Khan moved quickly upon Bokhara, a stronghold of Islam, honored by many an imam and sayyid, the savants of Islam. It was a city of academies with gardens and pleasure houses. The Turkish officers chose to abandon the inhabitants to their fate and escape to join the Shah. The elders of the city, judges and imans, consulted together and went out to yield the keys of the city. Genghis Khan promised to spare the lifes of the citizens.

As the Mongols looted the granaries and storehouses, Genghis Khan rode to the city square where orators were accustomed to assemble an audience to lecture upon matters of science and doctrine. Here, from the high speakers rostrum, in his black lacquer armor and leather curtained helmet, he addressed the crowd of mullahs, scholars, and common people of Bokhara.

The Moslems saw the Mongols as the "Anger of God" descended upon them. Genghis Khan, master of fear, deception and strategy, fanned the superstitious dread of the Muhammadans from this sacred Islamic pulpit. First he commented gravely that it was a mistake to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, "For the power of Heaven is not in one place alone, but in every corner of the earth."

"I am the wrath and flail of Allah," he told them. "The sins of your emperor are many," he assured them. "I have come to destroy him as other emperors have been crushed. Do not give him protection or aid."

Genghis Khan only spent two hours in Bokhara, hastening on to seek the Shah in Samarkand. Different areas of the city had been fired and the flames spread a pall of smoke rising over the city as the Khan rode out. The captives were driven toward Samarkand, and being unable to keep up with the Mongol horsemen suffered terribly during the brief march.

Mighty Samarkand was the strongest of the Shah's cities. The defenses were formidable. High walls and twelve iron gates flanked by towers. Twenty armored elephants and one hundred and ten thousand warriors, Turks and Persians, had been left to guard it.

With no more than his own attendant nobles, his elephants and camels and household troops, Muhammad the Warrior left Samarkand. The Shah took with him his treasure and his family. He intended to return at the head of a fresh army.

Genghis Khan said, "The strength of a wall is neither greater nor less then the courage of the men who defend it."

The swift, methodical preparations of the Mongols alarmed the Moslems at Samarkand, who beheld in the distance the vast multitude of captives, and assumed  the horde was much larger than it actually was. The Turkish garrison sallied out once and was drawn into one of the usual murderous Mongol ambushes, and fared poorly, taking great losses. The imams and judges went out and surrendered the city the following day.

Thirty thousand Kankali Turks on their own account went over to the Mongols, were received amiably, given Mongol military dress and massacred a night or so later. The Mongols would never trust the Khwarezm Turks, especially those who turned traitor. 

Khwarezm Shah Escapes Genghis Khan

Not having found the Shah at Samarkand and hearing the story of his flight, Genghis Khan called for his Orkhons Subotai and Chepe Noyon. He ordered them, "Follow Muhammad Shah wherever he goes in the world. Find him alive or dead. Spare the cities that open their gates to you but take by assault those that resist. I think you will not find this as difficult as it seems." They were given two tumans, twenty thousand men. Every man of the two picked divisions had several horses in good condition. They could cover eighty miles a day, changing to fresh horses several times a day, and only dismounting at sunset to eat cooked food. It was then April, 1220, the Year of the Serpent, in the calendar of the twelve beasts.

Picking up the trail they followed the caravan route west toward the Caspian, and scattered remnants of the Shah's armies fleeing the Mongol terror. Near modern Teheran they met and defeated a Persian army, thirty thousand strong.

Muhammad Shah had sent away his family and hidden his treasure, and the numbers of his attendants and soldiers decreased each day. The Mongols eventually found the treasure and almost caught him at Hamadan. His men were scattered and ridden down. The Shah escaped, but some of his Turkish warriors were rebellious. The wary Shah slept in a small tent next to his own. One morning he found his own empty tent filled with arrows.

"Is there no place on earth," the Shah asked an officer, "where I can be safe from the Mongol thunderbolt?"

He was advised to take ship upon the Caspian to an obscure island where he could be hidden until his eldest son, Jalal ed-Din, a favorite of the Khwareszm army, could gather a host powerful enough to protect the Shah. This Muhammad did. Disguising himself, and with only a few nondescript followers, he passed through the gorges, seeking a small town he remembered on the western shore of the Caspian Sea. It was a tranquil place of fisherman and merchants.

But the Shah, a man of ego, though weary and ill, deprived of his court, his slaves and cup companions, would not sacrifice

the prestige of his name. He insisted on reading the public prayers in the mosque, and his identity did not long remain a secret. A Muhammadan, who had suffered oppression at the hand of the Shah, betrayed him to the Mongols who had scattered another Persian army at Kasvin, and were questing after the Shah through the hills. They rode into the town that had sheltered him, as he was preparing to board a fishing skiff bound for his island sanctuary. Arrows were given flight, but the boat drew away from the shore and some of the nomads in their rage actually urged their horses into the water. They swam after the skiff until the strength of men and beasts gave out and they disappeared in the waves.

The Khwarezm Shah, called Muhammad the Warrior, Overlord of Islam, weakened by disease and hardship, died on his island, so poverty ridden that his only shroud was a shirt off one of his last followers.

While the two divisions were raiding west of the Caspian Sea in close pursuit of the fleeing Shah, two sons of the Khan journeyed to the other inland sea, called the Aral. There they followed the wide Amu River to the native city of the Khwarezms, Urgench. The Mongols settled down to a long and bitter siege, in which, lacking large stones for their casting machines, they hewed massive tree trunks into blocks and soaked the wood until heavy enough for their purpose.

The desperate hand to hand fighting, once the walls were breached, lasted within the city for a week. No garrisons abandoned this citadel of fighters. The chronicles say the defenders used Flaming Naptha, a new weapon that had been used with devastating effect against the crusaders from Europe, the knights of the cross, in the Holy Land.

Urgench eventually fell, but Jalal ed-Din, the valiant son of the defeated Shah, escaped to lead fresh forces against them. When the Mongols abandoned the site of a city they trampled and burned whatever crops might be left standing so that those who escaped their swords would soon starve to death. But at Urgench, where the long, grueling defense had made the Mongols suffer much, they actually went to the engineering trouble to dam up the river above the citadel, altering it's natural course, so it flowed over the debris of houses and walls. This abrupt changing of the course of the Amu River puzzled geographers and scholars for centuries.                 

Genghis Khan was quite aware of his situation. He knew the real test of strength was before him. He faced a Moslem Jihad, a holy war was brewing. Perhaps a million men, good horsemen and exceedingly well armed, were preparing to move against him. They mustered under their natural leaders, the Persian princes and the sayyids, the descendants of a warrior prophet. For the moment they lacked a leader and they were scattered over a dozen kingdoms, but the Khan knew Jalal ed-Din was a likely choice.

Genghis Khan ordered the horde forth, no longer to maneuver and pillage with half indifferent contempt of the foe, but to destroy the man power of the enemy. When they arrived in a district they drove before them the peasantry, to the walls of a city they wished to take, then used them to work the siege engines. Chieftains and nobles were obliged to work beside their vassals at the war machines. Everyone who did not obey was, without exception, put on the point of the sword.

It was Tuli, the youngest son of Genghis Khan, "Master of War", who invaded the fertile provinces of Persia. He had been ordered by his father to search for Jalal ed-Din, but the prince of Khwarezm evaded him and the Mongol army marched against Merv, the jewel of the sands, the pleasure city of the Shahs. It stood on the River of Birds, the Murgh Ab, and sheltered in it's libraries many thousand volumes of manuscript. At Merv, Tuli launched storm after storm against the walls, building an embankment of earth against the rampart, covering the onslaught with fights of arrows. For twenty-two days this continued. During a brief lull, an iman went out from the city to parley. He was received with courtesy and safely returned.


The governor of Merv, a certain Merik, was reassured and went forth to the Mongol tents with rich gifts of silver vessels and jeweled robes. Tuli, the master of deceit, tutored by his father, had a robe of honor sent to Merik, and invited him to his own tent to dine. At dinner he convinced the Persian that he would be spared. "Summon then thy friends and chosen companions," Tuli suggested, "I will find work for them to do and will honor them."

Merik dispatched a servant to bring out his intimates, who were then seated beside the governor at the feast. Tuli then asked for a list of the six hundred richest men of Merv, and the governor and his intimates obediently wrote out the names of the wealthiest landholders and merchants. Then, before the horrified Merik, his companions were strangled by the Mongols. The list of six hundred names, in the governors handwriting, was taken to the gate of Merv by one of Tuli's officers, who demanded the persons in question. In due course they appeared and were placed under guard.

The Mongols made themselves masters of the gate, and their bands of horsemen pushed into the streets of Merv. All inhabitants were ordered out into the plain with such possessions as they could carry. This evacuation lasted four days. Tuli sat watching from his human skulls throne upon a gilded dais. The Mongol officers singled out the leaders of the Persian soldiery and brought them before him. While everyone looked on helpless, the heads were cut from the officers of Merv. Then the men, women and children were separated into three masses. The men were forced to lie down, their arms across their backs. The Mongols strangled or slashed the entire multitude to death, except four hundred craftsmen and some children to be raised as slaves. The six hundred wealthy citizens were tortured until they led the Mongols to where they had hidden their most precious possessions.  

The vacant dwellings were ransacked, the walls razed to the ground, and Tuli drew off. In this fashion, one by one, other cities were tricked and stormed. Genghis Khan now raged war carried to the utmost extant. He would allow no mercy. "I forbid you," he said to his Orkhons, "to show clemency to my enemies without an express order from me. Rigor alone keeps such spirits dutiful. An enemy conquered is not subdued, and will always hate his new master." Here, in the world of Islam, Genghis Khan showed himself to be a veritable scourge. In this manner he had quenched the rising tide of the Jihad holy war in it's infancy, before it could form against him.

Other cities flared up for a time when the youthful sultan prince Jalal ed-Din visited them and harangued them. But the squadrons of the Khan were soon at their gates. The fire of frenzy of the men of Islam had a leader, Jalal ed-Din, but the center of their world now lay in ruins. Jalal ed-Din, who alone could have held them together, and taken the field against the Khan, was pursued by the Mongols and given neither time nor opportunity for assembling an army. 

There was little time for anything except action that fateful autumn in 1221. The cities rose against the conquerors and Jalal ed-Din was reported to be mustering a new army in the east. Genghis Khan dispatched Tuli with several divisions to quell the uprising. The fate of Herat was not less hideous than that of Merv. Genghis Khan took the field with the Mongol center, sixty thousand strong, to find and destroy the new Khwarezm army. In the Khans path lay the city of Bamiyan in the Koh-i-Baba ranges. The Khan settled down to a siege, sending the greater part of his force under command of another Orkhon to meet Jalal ed-Din.

Battle of the Indus

Word came that Jalal ed-Din had sixty thousand warriors with him, and the Mongol general had avoided several attempts by Jalal ed-Din to ambush him. Scouts were watching the movements of the prince. The formidable Afghan Pathan warriors had joined with Prince Jalal ed-Din in this crisis, doubling his strength. Word came in shortly that the Turks and Afghans had defeated the Mongol general, driving his men into the mountains.

The Khan went into a terrible rage over the news and ordered upon Bamiyan the "Mongol Storm" that is not to be abandoned until the city is taken. One of the Khan's grandsons was killed in the attack. The Khan himself, then at the head of the attack, forced a breach and the city soon fell. Every living being was slain within it's walls, and mosques and palaces pulled down. Even the pitiless Mongols spoke of Bamiyan as Mou-baligh, the "City of Sorrow".

The Khwarezm Prince, Jalal ed-Din, was as weak in victory as he had been strong in defeat. He had his moment of exultation when his men tortured to death the Mongol prisoners and divided up the captured horses and weapons, but the Afghan warriors quarreled with his officers and left him.

Genghis Khan was on the march against him, after detaching divisions to watch the movements of the Afghans. Jalal ed-Din retreated east to Ghazna, but the Mongols were hard after him. He sent messengers to summon new allies, but these found that the Mongols had guarded the mountain passes. With his thirty thousand men Jalal ed-Din hurried down through the foothills and out upon the valley of the Indus.

He planned to cross the river and league himself with the sultans of Delhi. But the Mongols, who had been five days behind him at Ghazna, were now within a half a days ride. Desperate now, Jalal ed-Din discovered he had come to the Indus River at a location too swift and deep for crossing. The Khwarezm Prince turned at bay, his left flank protected by a mountain ridge, his right by a bend of the river.   

The chivalry of Islam, hunted out of it's own lands, prepared to measure it's strength against the inexorable Mongol. Jalal ed-Din ordered all the boats along the banks to be destroyed, so his men could not think of fleeing. His position was strong, but he must hold it or be annihilated.

The Mongols emerged at dawn, out of the darkness, in formation. Genghis Khan with his standard, and the ten thousand cavalry of the imperial guard, in reserve, behind the center. The Prince of Khwarezm was first afield, launching his strongest division, the right wing, under Emir Malik. They drove home a charge that forced the Mongol left flank back at that point. On their right the Mongols had been checked by the lofty, barren ridges.

Jalal ed-Din, determined to risk everything on one cast of fortune, and charged with the elite of his host straight into the Mongol center, cutting through to the standard, seeking the Khan. But Genghis Khan's horse had been killed under him, and he mounted another and went elsewhere. The Mongol center, badly shaken by the charge fought on stubbornly.

Genghis Khan had ordered a tuman commander, Bela Noyon, to execute the Mongol turning movement, against the Khwarezm left wing. Bela Noyon and his men followed guides into sheer gorges and ascended cliff paths that seemed impassable. Some warriors fell into the chasms. The greater part survived to the ridge late in the day, and descended on the men Jalal ed-Din had left to protect that point. Over the mountain barrier the Khwarezm flank was turned. Bela Noyon charged into the enemy formation.

Meanwhile,  Genghis Khan had taken leadership of his ten thousand imperial cavalry, and had gone not to the menaced center, but to the defeated left wing. His charge against Emir Malik's forces routed them. Wasting no time in following up, the Khan swung his squadrons about and drove them against the flank of Jalal ed-Din's troops at the center. The end came swiftly now, inexorably.

Jalal ed-Din made a last hopeless charge against the horsemen of the imperial guard, and tried to withdraw his own men toward the river. He was followed up, his squadrons broken, Bela Noyon pressed in upon him, and when at last he gained the steep band of the Indus he had no more than seven hundred followers. Realizing the end had come, he mounted a fresh horse, rid himself of armor, and with only his sword and bow, and a quiver of arrows, he forced his charger over the edge of the bank, plunging into the swift current, and making for the distant shore.

Genghis Khan had given orders that the prince was to be taken alive. The Khan lashing his horse through the fighting had seen the rider and horse leap from the twenty foot bank. The Khan watched Jalal ed-Din reach the far bank despite currents and waves. "Fortunate should be the father of such a man.", the Khan remarked. The Khan admired the daring of the prince but did not intend to spare him. The next day he sent a division in pursuit where the river could be crossed, giving the task to Bela Noyon, who ravaged Multan and Lahore, picking up the trail of the fugitive, but lost him in the multitudes upon the way to Delhi.

The oppressive heat astonished the men from the Gobi plateau and they turned back saying to the Khan, "The heat of this place slays men, and the water is neither fresh nor clear." So India, except for the north, was then spared the Mongol conquest.

The battle of the Indus was the last stand of the Khwarezm chivalry. From Tibet to the Caspian Sea all resistance had ceased, and the survivors of the peoples of Islam had become the slaves of the conqueror. Jalal ed-Din survived, but his moment had passed. He fought against the horde again, but as a partisan, an adventurer without a country.

Finally, in the early years of Ogotai's reign a Mongol general, Charmagan, defeated Jalal ed-Din and put an end to him forever. Charmagan went on to consolidate the regions west of the Caspian Sea, such as Armenia. At the same time, Subotai Bahadur and Tuli advanced far south of the Hoang Ho and subdued the remnants of the Chin Empire.

In the year 1227, the "Year of the Mouse" in the calendar of the twelve beasts, like the nomad chieftain he was, Genghis Khan died without complaining. A long sickness had drained his life away. He dispatched couriers to his nearest son, Tuli. When the Master of War reached the yurt of the Khan his father greeted him, "It is clear to me that I must leave everything and go hence from thee."

Tuli, was to take dominion over all lands in the east and complete the on-going conquest of the southern Sung Dynasty in Khitai (China). Chatagai  was to administer and complete the conquest of the west. Ogotai was placed supreme over all, the Kha Khan at Karakorum. A nomad to the end, he left to his sons the greatest of Empires and the most destructive military force, as if his possessions had been no more than tents and herds. His first born son, Juchi, had died shortly before the death of the Great Khan himself.

Genghis Khan clearly understood that his new Empire could be held together only by submission to the authority of one man. He had chosen not the warlike Tuli, or the inflexible Chatagai, but instead the generous and guileless Ogotai as his successor. Keen understanding of his sons had dictated this choice. Chagatai, now the eldest, would never have submitted to the youngest son, Tuli, and the Master of War would not have long served his harsh older brother. 

Genghis Khan took from the world what he wanted for his sons and his people. He did this by war, because he knew no other means. What he did not want he destroyed, because he did not know what else to do with it.

Genghis Khan's Tomb at his Palace (pictured)
on the Ordos Plateau, but it only contains his personal effects, not his remains 

Legend has it that Genghis Khan is entombed in a spot so secretive that anyone who even came near his funeral procession was killed. The 800 horsemen who trampled his gravesite to keep its location secret were, in turn, executed, along with the 1,000 laborers who escorted his body and dug his final resting place.

Yet the search for his remains continues, using advanced ground visualization techniques that not even the Great Khan, renowned for incorporating the technologies of the countless people he conquered into his war machine, could not have imagined.


Ogotai Kha Khan

Ogotai Kha Khan, the son that succeeded to the throne of the conqueror found himself an almost unwilling master of half the world. Ogotai had all the Mongol's good humor and tolerance, without the cruelty of his brothers. He could sit in his tent-palace at Karakorum and do nothing except listen to the throngs who came to bow down at the throne of the Khan. His brothers and officers carried on the wars, and Ye Liu Chutsai saw to the gathering of the revenues.

Ogotai, broad of body and placid of mind, presents a curious picture. He was a benevolent barbarian in possession of the spoils of empires. His actions were uniquely un-king-like. When his officers protested at his habit of giving away whatever he happened to see, he replied that he would soon be gone out of the world and his only abiding place would be in the memory of men.

He did not approve of the treasures amassed by the Persian and Indian monarchs. "They were fools," he said, "and it did them little good. They took nothing out of the world with them."

Muhammadan merchants presented inflated bills of account before the

Khan every evening. Once the nobles in attendance protested to Ogotai that the merchants were overcharging him ridiculously. Ogotai agreed, "They came expecting to profit from me, and I do no wish them to go away disappointed."

Once, a certain Buddhist came to the Khan with a story that Genghis Khan had appeared before him in a dream, and had voiced a command, "Go thou and bid my son exterminate all believers in Islam, for they are an evil race." The severity of the dead conqueror toward the followers of Muhammad was well known, and a "Yarligh", a command from the Great Khan delivered in a vision was an important matter.

Ogotai meditated. "Did Genghis Khan address thee by the words of an interpreter?", he asked at length. "Nay O Khan, he himself spoke." And thou knowest the Mongol speech?", persisted Ogotai. It was evident the man of vision spoke only Turki.

"Then thou hast lied to me," retorted the Khan, "for Genghis Khan spoke only Mongol." And Ogotai Khan ordered the antagonist of the Muhammadans to be put to death.

The sons of the Orluks would constitute the second and third great waves of Mongol conquest. Batu, son of Juchi, founded the "Golden Horde" that crushed Russia. Chatagai, inherited Central Asia, and his descendant, Babar, the "Tiger",  was the first of the great Moghuls of India. Tuli's son Kublai reigned from the China Sea to mid-Europe. Genghis Khan once remarked upon his young grandson Kublai, "Mark well the words of the boy Kublai, they are full of wisdom."

In 1235 Ogotai held a council, and it resulted in the second wave of Mongol conquest. Batu, first Khan of the Golden Horde, was sent with Subotai into the west, to the sorrow of Europe as far as the Adriatic and the gates of Vienna. Other armies took the field in Korea, China and southern Persia. This wave withdrew upon the death of Ogotai in 1241.           

The test of strength between Mongol and European did not come during the lifetime of Genghis Khan. It followed the great council of 1235, in the Khanship of Ogotai. Batu, the son of Juchi, marched west with the Golden Horde. From 1238 to 1240 Batu the "Splendid" overran the Volga Clans, Russian cities and the steppes of the Black Sea, finally storming Kiev. Raiding columns entered Ruthenia (Poland).  

Subotai  Bahadur

When the snows melted in March, 1241, the Mongol headquarters was north of the Carpathians between modern Lemberg and Kiev. Subotai, the directing genius of the campaign, was confronted by several enemies.

In front of him Boleslas the Chaste, overlord of Poland, had assembled his host. Beyond, to the north, in Silesia, Henry the Pious was gathering an army thirty thousand strong of Poles, Bavarians, Teutonic Knights and Templars out of France, who had volunteered to repel this invasion of barbarians. A hundred miles or so behind Boleslas, the king of Bohemia was mobilizing a still larger force, receiving contingents from Austria, Saxony and Brandenburg.

On the left front of the Mongols, Mieceslas of Galicia and other lords were preparing to defend their lands in the Carpathians. On the Mongol left, further away, the Magyar host of Hungary, a hundred thousand strong, was mustering under the banner of King Bela IV, beyond the Carpathian Mountains.

Boleslas the Chaste

Batu acted as soon as the ground was dry enough for his horses to move over. He divided his host into four army corps. He sent the strongest against the Poles, under two reliable generals, grandsons of Genghis Khan, Kaidu and Baibars.

This division moved rapidly west and encountered the forces of Boleslas on March 19th, 1241, as the Poles were pursuing some scouting contingents of the Mongols. The Poles attacked with their usual bravery and were defeated. Boleslas fled into Moravia and the remnants of his army ran north.

Cracov was burned, and the Mongol forces of Kaidu and Baibars hastened on to meet the Duke of Silesia before he could join forces with the Bohemians.

They encountered this army of Henry the Pious near Liegnitz, on April ninth.

Batu Khan

Battle of Liegnitz

Mongol Heavy Cavalry, Liegnitz, 1241

The German and Polish forces broke before the incredible onset of the Mongol standard, and were almost exterminated. Henry the Pious and his Barons died to a man, as did the Knights Hospitalers of Saint John. It is said the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights perished on the field, with nine Knights Templars, and five hundred men-at-arms. Liegnitz was burned by its defenders, and the day after the battle Kaidu and Baibars, and their division, confronted the larger army of Wenceslas, King of Bohemia, fifty miles away.  

Wenceslas moved slowly from place to place, as the Mongols appeared and disappeared. His cumbersome host, too strong to be attacked by the Mongol division, could not come up with the horsemen from the Gobi. The Mongols ravaged Silesia and Moravia before his eyes, and finally tricked him into marching north while they turned south to rejoin Batu.

Ponce d'Aubon, the Master of the Templars, wrote to Saint Louis of France, "All the barons of Germany and the King, and all the

clergy and those in Hungary have taken the cross against the Tatars (Mongols). And if they are vanquished by the Tatars, there is no one to stand against them as far as your land." The Templar Master did not realize that as he wrote his message the Hungarian army was already destroyed.

Subotai and Batu threaded through the Carpathian Mountains in three divisions. The right flank entering Hungary from Galacia, the left, under command of Subotai, swinging down through Moldavia. The smaller armies in their path were wiped out, and the three columns joined forces before King Bela and his Hungarians, near Pesth.

King Bela IV of Hungary

King Bela began to cross the Danube River with his massive army of Magyars, Croats and Germans, with the French Knights Templars who had been posted in Hungary. Roughly one hundred thousand strong in all. The Mongols retreated slowly before the host at a regular pace. Batu, Subotai and Mangu, the "Conqueror of Kiev", had left the army to inspect the site chosen for the battle. The plain of Mohi, hemmed in on four sides, by the river Sayo, by the vine-clad hills of Tokay, by dark woods, and by the great hills of Lomnitz.

The Mongols retreated across the Danube, leaving intact a wide stone bridge, and pushing into the brush on the far side for some five miles. Blindly the vast host of King Bela plodded behind them, and camped upon the plain of Mohi. Camped with the heavy baggage, it's sergeants-at-arms, it's armored chivalry and the multitude of followers. A thousand men were posted on the far side of the bridge, and other troops explored the woods without seeing a sign of the enemy.

The blackness of the night arrived and Subotai took command of the Mongol Right Wing, led it in a wide circle back to the river where he had observed a ford, and set to work building a bridge to aid in the crossing.

The break of dawn. Batu's advance moved back toward the bridge, surprised and annihilated the detachment guarding it. Batu's main forces were thrown across, while seven catapults played havoc on King Bela's knights, who tried to stem the rush of horsemen across the bridge.

The Mongols surged steadily into the disordered array of their foes, the terrible standard of the nine yak-tails surrounded by the smoke of fires carried in pans by shamans. "A great gray face with a long beard," a European survivor described it, "giving out noisome smoke."

There is no doubting the stout bravery of King Bela's paladins. The battle was stubborn and unbroken until

near mid-day. Then Subotai completed his flank movement, and appeared behind King Bela's formations. The Mongol cavalry charging in broke the Hungarians. Like the Teutonic Knights at Liegnitz, the Knights Templars died to a man on the battlefield.

The Mongol ranks parted in the west, leaving open the road through the gorge by which the host of King Bela had advanced to the plain of Mohi. The Hungarians fled, and were pursued at leisure. For two days journey the bodies of Europeans strewed the roads.

Forty thousand had fallen. King Bela separated from his remaining followers, leaving his brother dying, the Archbishop slain. By sheer speed of desperation and horse he freed himself from the pursuit, hid along the bank of the Danube River, was hunted out and fled into the Carpathian Mountains. There, in time, he reached the same monastery that sheltered his brother monarch from Poland, Boleslas the Chaste.

The Mongols stormed Pesth, and fired the suburbs of Gran. They advanced into Austria as far as Nieustadt, avoided the sluggish host of Germans and Bohemians, and turned down to the Adriatic Sea, ravaging the towns along the coast.

In less than two months the Mongols under Subotai and Batu had overrun Europe from the headwaters of the Elbe to the sea. They had defeated three great armies and a dozen smaller ones. They had taken by assault all the towns except Olmutz, which made a good defense under Yaroslav of Sternberg with twelve thousand men.

Europe faced inevitable disaster. It's armies, capable only of moving in a mass, led by reigning monarchs as incompetent as King Bela or Saint Louis of France, were valiant enough but utterly unable to prevail against the rapidly maneuvering Mongol contingents. These divisions were led by marshals and generals such as Subotai and Mangu and Kaidu, veterans of a lifetime of war on two continents.

Ultimately, the war never came to a conclusion. A courier arrived from Karakorum, the Black Sands, the Mongol Capital of an Empire. The courier carried the "Kurultai",  

the summons that cannot be ignored, calling them back to the Gobi Desert. The courier also carried grim tidings, Ogotai, the Kha Khan, was dead and a council was to be convened. And so the horde withdrew and traveled thousands of miles on the journey home.
After the Mongol invasion of Europe Pope Innocent the IV sent envoys to the Baichu near the Caspian. These emissaries offended the Mongols very much because they did not know the name of the Khan, and because they lectured the pagans on the sin of shedding blood.

The Mongols said the Pope must be very ignorant if he did not know the name of the man who ruled all the world, and as for slaughtering their enemies, they did that at the command of the son of Heaven himself.

At Nieustadt in Austria, the Mongol horde had advanced nearly six thousand miles from their homeland. Subotai and the fierce Tuli died not long after their return to the Black Sands. Batu was content with his golden city on the Volga. The westward march of the Mongols came to an end.

Kublai Khan was the greatest of the Mongol emperors after Genghis Khan himself
and was the founder of the Yüan Dynasty

Kublai Khan was the fourth son of Genghis Khan's youngest son, Tuli, and brother of the fourth Great Khan, Mangu, and the grandson of Genghis Khan (1165–1227), the founder of the Mongol Empire. Kublai's mother was a fervent Nestorian Christian. Strong, brave, and intelligent, Kublai was Genghis Khan's favorite grandson. Kublai had accompanied his father, Tuli, in battles as a child and by the age of twelve he was a skilled horseman, and his reputation as a warrior grew as he became older.

Kublai Khan (1215-1294)

Upon the death of the Kha Khan Ogotai, in 1241, there followed ten years of cross-purposes and a growing feud between the house of Chatagai and that of Ogotai. Then the rule passed from the house of Ogotai to the sons of Tuli - Mangu and Kublai. And the third and most extensive wave of Mongol conquest swept the world!

When Kublai was in his 30s, his brother, the emperor Mangu, gave him the task of conquering and administering the Sung Dynasty. Kublai was still on the banks of the Yang-tse River when the report of Mangu's sudden death, in a religious battle between Buddhists and Taoists, spread through China, in that hot midsummer of 1259. Kublai had with him the Sage Yao Chow and the famous Left Wing of the army. Kublai then attained the throne and became Great Khan or Kha Khan, the ruler of the Mongol Empire. A red hat lama, called out of Tibet to preside at the coronation of Kublai, brought with him out of his mountains the hierarchy of the priests of Lhassa. Kublai Khan's reign was the golden age of the Mongols.

But Kublai Khan departed from the customs of his fathers, moved the court to Cathay (China), and made himself more a Chinese in habits than a Mongol. As a result, his other brothers did not recognize his position, because he had adopted the Chinese culture. They disregarded Genghis Khan's warning to his heirs to remain united under one Great Khan, and the unity of the Mongolian Empire soon ended. The seeds of the Mongol Empire's dissolution were already prevalent. The Il-Khans of Persia (Hulagu's descendants, who reached their greatest power under Ghazan Khan about 1300), were at too great a distance from the Kha Khan Kublai to be in touch with him. Besides, they were fast becoming Muhammadans. Such, also, was the situation of the Golden Horde up Russia way. Meanwhile, Kublai's Mongols were being converted to Buddhism.

In 1276, not long after the founding of the Yuan Dynasty, the only foreign dynasty that ever ruled all of China, Kublai Khan led his army against the capital of the southern Sung Dynasty. Kublai Khan defeated the Sung Dynasty by 1279, completing the conquest of China, a task begun when his grandfather, Genghis Khan, in 1211, began raiding the Chin Dynasty in Northern China. After forty years of warfare, Kublai Khan's armies finally ended the more than three hundred year reign of the Sung Dynasty in China. For the first time since the fall of the Tang Dynasty in the tenth century, the whole of China was united under a single ruler. For the first time in China's entire history, the Middle Kingdom was under foreign rule. The territory of the Yuan Dynasty now stretched to Mongolia and Siberia in the north, the South Sea in the south, Yunnan Province and Tibet in the southwest, eastern part of Xinjiang Province in the northwest and the Stanovoi Range in the northeast. The total area of the country was over 4.6 million square miles. Kublai Khan had destroyed the Sung Dynasty and was now the unquestioned leader of an empire that stretched across two continents.

The History of Japanese and Chinese animosity is very old. Over the centuries the Chinese have always been at the receiving end of the Japanese swords. But there was a time when China did attempt an invasion of Japan. This was the period when the Mongols ruled China.

In the 13th century, Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan, known as the Mongol Emperor (Yuan Shi-zu) who founded the Yuan Dynasty of China, envisioned to succumb Japan and incorporate it as a tributary state. In 1274 and 1281 armies were dispatched from the Korean peninsula and China in attempts to land on Japan. The Yuan armies were made up of Mongol, Korean and Chinese soldiers.

The two Mongol invasions of Japan of represent a defining moment in Japanese history - the 'finest hour' of the Samurai, and the birth of the legend of the kamikaze, or 'Divine Wind', the typhoons that swept away the Mongol invasion fleets.
In 1268 a group of islands, little-known, were called the "Place of the Sun's Rising" (Jih pen kuo in Chinese, which we now pronounce as "Japan"), and 'Nippon' in the native speech of the islanders. Korean merchants told Kublai Khan that the palaces of Nippon were plated with gold, while large rose-tinted pearls were drawn form the Nippon seas. Kublai Khan dispatched envoys from Tai-tu to the Japanese Islands with a conciliatory message: "The Mongol power will be kind to you. It does not desire your submission, more than that you should become part of the great Mongol Empire." The feudal and courageous warriors of Nippon did not even receive the envoys of the Khakhan. Again in 1271, envoys were sent to Nippon with similar messages and results.

At this time, Kublai Khan was waging war simultaneously against the southern Sung Dynasty and Koryo (modern Korea). When Koryo's King Kojong died in 1274, Kublai Khan was holding the Koryo crown prince as hostage. The Khan gave one of his many daughters to the prince as his wife and sent him home as the 25th king, Chung-ryol, of Koryo. The Mongol princess brought with her an army of Mongol attendants, cooks, and guards, and turned the Koryo court into a virtual Mongol palace. The allied armies of Koryo (Korea), now a Mongol vassal state, and Kublai Khan, invaded Nippon (Japan) in both 1274 and 1281. 

Mongol Invasion of Japan - circa 1274 AD

With the Mongol entry into the Korean court by marriage of the Korean crown prince to Kublai Khan's daughter, a mass construction of ships began on Korea's south-eastern shores. Kublai Khan ordered over 700 ships to be built in Korea, specifically for the campaign to be waged upon Japan. These ships were to carry 5,000 Mongol and 8,000 Korean advance troops, as well as the main body of 15,000 Mongol, Chinese and Jurchen troops. The crew would have numbered a further 15,000, making a total of around 43,000 men for the campaign.

The Mongols set off from Busan, in October, 1274, on the two week crossing of the 120 mile wide Tsushima Strait. Upon arrival at Japan, the Mongols ravaged the islands of Tsushima and Iki, where their cruelty was unleashed, piercing the hands of women and hanging them on their boats. They landed on November 19, 1274, in Hakata Bay. The Mongols were met by a small contingent of Samurai.

Warfare, customary within feudal Japan involved man-to-man duels of sorts, even on large open battlefields. The Samurai ritual of fighting involved calling out a challenge to someone among the enemy. Then, basically, a single combat duel ensued between the two. The Mongols fought an altogether different type of war. They charged forward together with military discipline, killing everything they could reach. If a Samurai horseman came out alone from their position and yelled out in a foreign tongue, shot a whistling arrow toward the sky, then charged towards the Mongols, he fell under a veritable hail of Mongol arrows. Not an unusual tactic for the Mongols, but not part of the mind set of feudal Japan.

The Mongol method of murderous tactical advances and insidious ambush withdrawals, accompanied by their ringing bells, beating drums and Mongolian Steppes war cries, was not before experienced in Japan. Also unfamiliar was the technique of the Mongol archers, which involved shooting a storm of arrows into the air. As opposed to the Samurai's long-ranged, one-on-one combat, deadly archery competitions. The difference in fighting methods between the military forces confused the Samurai. The Samurai of the Kamakura period were used to fairly rigid conventions governing the actions and behavior of warriors, but now they faced a highly disciplined and utterly ruthless foe, that controlled tactical manoeuvres and fought en-masse!

The Mongols brought an advanced technology weapon that terrified the Samurai. It was an early form of "shock and awe". In addition to their clouds of arrows fired continuously, the Mongols also brought explosive Chinese bombs. These bombs were flung from Trebuchets (photo right). An account from Hachiman Gudokun reads, "The commanding general kept his position on high ground, and directed the various detachments as need be with signals from hand drums. But whenever the Mongol soldiers took flight they sent iron bomb shells flying against us which made our side dizzy and confused. Our soldiers were frightened out of their wits by the thundering explosions, their eyes blinded, their ears deafened, so that they could hardly distinguish east from west." These "mighty iron balls" were flung and "rolled down the hills like cartwheels", they sounded like "thunder" and when they exploded "looked like bolts of lightning". The Mongol shock tactics definitely worked in the opening engagement between the two armies.

An example (picture right) of Tetsuhau, the world's oldest anti-personnel explosive, excavated from a ship wrecked during the battle. Tetsuhau is a primitive Mongol grenade. Ceramic bombs found on the 1281 shipwreck, prove the existence of these early explosive shells. Some historians had speculated that their depiction on scrolls recording the invasions was a later addition.

Besides catapult-launched explosive shells, the Japanese defenders also had to face poison-tipped arrows and shorter bows accurate at twice the range of the samurai's longbows - all this precisely orchestrated as drumbeats relayed the Mongol orders to attack.

Around nightfall, a terrible storm caused the Mongol ship captains to suggest that the land force re-embark on the sailing vessels in order to avoid the risk of being marooned. By daybreak, only a few ships had not set out to sea and therefore survived. That night, a fierce, powerful Typhoon raged and severely damaged the Yuan Fleet. Some Mongol soldiers who were left on the Japanese coast were either captured or killed. The first Mongol invasion on the Japanese mainland had lasted one day and resulted in the loss of 13,000 soldiers, and 200 ships. But Kublai Khan never saw the first invasion as a disaster. He was, however, already preoccupied with the final conquest of Sung China, so Japan was not then his priority.

Mongol Invasion of Japan - circa 1281 AD

In 1279 the Mongols completed their conquest of China, crushing the military might of the southern Sung Dynasty in it's last bastion in Canton. The island of 'Nippon' (Japan) was once again in Kublai Khan's sights. Seeing his dream of empire coming true, Kublai Khan sent a final contingent of envoys, in 1279, to Nippon, which were permitted to land and were taken before the Kamakura Emperor. They were eventually beheaded and their severed heads sent back to the Khakhan.

The second invasion was staged on a far grander scale than the first, for the Khakhan Kublai absolutely expected there would be another divine typhoon, and prepared for that eventuality with a much larger assault, broken into two fleets. Over 900 ships were ordered from Korea alone, with another order of war ships being constructed in the southern China shipyards. The Mongol forces were divided into the Yuan (launched from southern China), and Korean (launched from Koryo), fleet armies. The fleets would converge before attacking. The mammoth size of the Yuan Southern Fleet, composed of combined Chinese Yuan military and Mongols, made the second Mongol invasion of Japan one of the largest naval assault operations in the history of warfare! It was second only to the Normandy Invasion of Europe during World War II.

Yuan Heavy Cavalry

In 1281, Kublai Khan formed his two mighty fleet armies, and this time the Mongols took their horses with them too. Setting out from Mason, Korea, was the Eastern Fleet Army aboard 900 ships, made up of 30,000 elite troops led by a Mongol general, and augmented by a Korean army of 10,000. Also, the Southern Fleet Army aboard 3,500 ships, sailing from the South of China, composed of 100,000 former Sung Chinese soldiers pressed into Kublai Khan's service, and led by a Chinese general.

The invasion strategy envisioned the fleets joining forces in the spring, before the dreaded summer typhoon season. The Mongols' plan called for an overwhelming coordinated attack from the combined imperial Yuan fleets. But the South China fleet arrived late due to logistical problems involving provisioning and manning the large armada of ships, which delayed implementation of the full invasion. The Eastern Fleet contingent arrived early and suffering heavy losses at Tsushima, backed off to await the Southern fleet. The huge Southern armada (four times more powerful than the Eastern fleet) began arriving in various parts around the Japanese coast in early August, 1281.

The two naval fleet armies finally met up at Takashima island. There the Japanese launched a bold raid on the Mongol fleets which lasted all the day and night without stop! Eventually the Japanese were driven off by the sheer weight of the Mongol armies. A massive Mongol assault on Hakata Bay was inevitable. 

Wave after wave of Mongol warriors, unfolding their second invasion of Japan, swept continuously ashore at Hakata Bay on the tip of the island of Kyushu. Since their first invasion there in 1274 the Japanese had built a high wall. When Kublai Khan's advance assault forces landed again at the same exact location, outside that defensive wall, at the water's very edge, the Mongols met fierce resistance from Japan's Samurai Warriors, who were now better prepared and knew what to expect from the Mongols.

The Mongols hurled stones at any Japanese vessels that approached their ships, using catapults. The Mongols attacked on land with poisoned arrows, maces, lassoes, and javelins that could be hurled great distances, while the Japanese fought back with bows and arrows, spears, swords, and wooden shields. But they also fought with the fury of men protecting their home from ruthless invaders. The Japanese had learned their lesson in 1274 and changed their tactics, meeting the Mongol enemy's mass attack with a mass defense of their own.

The Japanese defenders showed great courage and fighting skill. They would retaliate upon each attack with stealthy night raids. The Japanese ships were smaller, more maneuverable vessels, and would close on the Mongol ships in the black of night.. The ship's mast could be lowered to act as a bridge and the Samurai would climb aboard the Mongol ship silently. The Samurai were trained in close-quarter melee fighting. On one occasion 30 Samurai swam out to a Mongol vessel, decapitated the entire crew and swam back. Kusano Jiro led an attack in broad daylight and set a ship on fire even though he had his left arm cut off in the process.    

On August 15 and 16, 1281, the now-famous Kamikaze, a massive typhoon, assaulted the shores for two days straight, and destroyed much of the Mongol fleet, scattering the remainder. Possibly 4,000 vessels were sunk. Mongol and Chinese casualties were between 60 - 90 %. These cyclonic winds, which likely saved Japan from a crushing defeat, came to be called Kamikaze (Divine Wind), and this victory supported the belief that lasted until the end of the Pacific War (World War II) that Japan was protected by the gods and could not be subjugated by a foreign power.

The surviving Mongol generals and army, fearing severe punishment by Kublai Kahn, went into hiding in Koryo (Korea). Tens of thousands of men were left behind with the wreckage as the remains of the fleet sailed home. These marooned troops were hunted down by the samurai and killed. Many of the Sung Chinese conscripts were not executed, but were instead kept as slaves by the Japanese.

It has been postulated that the destruction of the Mongol Yuan fleet was greatly facilitated by two additional factors. Most of the southern invasion force was composed of hastily-acquired flat-bottomed Chinese riverboats. Unlike ocean-going ships, which have a curved keel to prevent capsizing, these river boats had flat bottoms. Such ships cannot deal with the high seas let alone a massive typhoon. In addition, the true ocean-going ships in Kublai Khan's fleet which had been constructed by the Koryo (Koreans), may have been deliberately sabotaged. Fatal flaws such as poorly constructed joints and weak nails have been found in many of these ships.

For the first time in their history the Samurai had put aside their differences and united to drive away a common enemy. After the coastal defenses were put off alert in 1312 the Samurai went back to their time-honored tradition of fighting each other, and it was not until several centuries later that the notion of a unified Japan was raised again.

Kublai Khan, undaunted, sought yet a third invasion fleet to subdue 'Nippon', and asked Koryo (Korea) to build more ships in preparation. Once again, the Khan fully expected another divine typhoon and would certainly have launched an even greater mighty armada, but a major rebellion at home delayed him and the plan was forgotten when Kublai Khan died.

The Mongols were the greatest cavalry the world has ever seen, which was the source of their legacy as world conquerors. But their inability to fight sea battles and the poor quality of their naval construction, reflect a nomadic steppes horse-people who had wandered far out of their element. It would not be long before the "Golden Age" of the Mongol Empire disintegrated much more rapidly than the Great Khan Genghis himself could ever have dreamed possible. Their Mongolian heritage had become a dim memory, and they were being absorbed into the religions and cultures of the peoples they had conquered.

Yuan Dynasty - Administration, Public Works and Religious Tolerance

Kublai Khan completed some great works during his lifetime. He extended the Grand Canal all the way to his new capital in Ta-tu, what is now modern day Beijing. He repaired public granaries, extended highways, made paper currency, started aid agencies, postal stations and allowed religious freedom. Although Nestorians had been largely expelled from China in the 9th century, their return was encouraged by Kublai who enjoyed hearing debates among various religions. He gained loyalty from many of his Chinese subjects, because of the freedom he allowed, and the improvements he made.

Kublai Khan assigned endless projects, not all set on such a magnificent scale. For instance, he commissioned a group of Han-lin scholars to write the history of the Yuan Dynasty. And it seemed fitting to order an astronomer, Jamal ad-Din, to make a new calendar to inaugurate his reign. And, to increase the skill of his scientists, Kublai Khan ordered the casting of new bronze instruments for the astrologers' tower, including a globe of the sky, an armilary sphere. This task kept his chosen scientists occupied for years, for Kublai Khan was ever hungry of omens that had a mathematical basis. It was a great convenience to know the fortunate moons and lucky days, and also the hours when the Star of evil omen was ascendant. Additionally, he put scholars to work requesting them in their wisdom to devise a universal alphabet, in which the spoken Mongolian could be combined with the written Chinese and Tibetan, to relieve the plague of tongues and scripts at the Mongol court.

In his system of government the Kublai Khan shrewdly devised to extend to all classes of his subjects. He gave no race a controlling hand. The Mongols held the commanding positions in the army, and over the judges, provincial commands and heads of departments. The more subtle Moslems were appointed to secondary authority, and served also as financial agents. The Chinese controlled the schools and were the heads of businesses. So, in rough outline, Kublai kept the police power in the hands of the Mongols, the treasury under the aegis of the foreigners, and the education under the Chinese.

   Marco Polo

Under Kublai Khan, the first direct contact and cultural exchange between China and the West had occurred. There were several exchanges of missions between the Pope and the Great Khan. In 1266 Kublai entrusted the Polo brothers, two Venetian merchants, to carry a request to the pope for one hundred Christian scholars and technicians. The Polos met with Pope Gregory X (1210–1276) in 1269 and received his blessing but no scholars.

Kublai Khan established his summer capitol in Shangdu, which was referred to as Xanadu. In 1275, Marco Polo, a Venetian explorer, visited Xanadu and a relationship of trust was formed between the two. Polo’s reports on Xanadu and China were new to Western Europeans and sparked further interest in eastern world exploration. This was the inspiration later for the classic poem “Kubla Khan”, written in 1816, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Marco Polo (1254–1324), who accompanied his father on this trip, was probably the best-known foreign visitor ever to set foot in China. It is said that he spent the next seventeen years under Kublai Khan, including official service in the administration.

Kublai Khan shocked the ritual minded Marco Polo by the freedom of his reasoning. "There are four prophets," he declared, "to whom people pray and give reverence to on earth: Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Moses, and Sakya-muni. I bow to all of them, and also before Him who of all is the most great in the Sky."

Kublai Khan gave Marco Polo a demonstration of the miracle working of the Tibetan Lamas, who moved a goblet of wine through the air and into Kublai's hand. "They can conjure up storms," the Khakhan added, "and direct them where they please. They can speak to their Pagan Gods."

Last Days of Kublai Khan and the Mongol Legacy

Upon the death of both his favorite wife, Chabui, and his beloved son and successor, Chin-chin, Kublai Khan fell into a deep depression. In his grief he resorted to food and alcohol for surcease of sorrow. And so, in deep mourning, Kublai Khan became an obese drunkard and died at the age of 79, in the first moon of 1294, in the eightieth year of his age, and the thirty-fifth year of his reign.

To Marco Polo and the westerners Kublai Khan had been a glorious monarch, knowing and courageous, and a friend to men of letters. The Chinese say of him that he was influenced by excessive superstition, by love of women and silver, by his ridiculous attachment to the lamas of Tibet. His failing was to have sacrificed such multitudes in the wars. In fulfilling his personal ambition to become the master of the Chinese, he alienated himself from the old clan life and from the Mongol ties. At his death he was alone. He may not have realized, or he may not have cared, that in uniting China he had brought the empire of the steppe dwellers to it's end.

Following Kublai Khan's death, Secret Buddhist Societies, like the White Lotus and Red Turbans, emerged and plotted insurrection, which was met with oppression at the hands of Kublai’s inept successors, but this only led to more sustained resistance. Finally a full-scale uprising under the monk turned rebel leader, Zhu Yuanzhang, usurped the throne from the child emperor in 1368 and instilled the Ming Dynasty.

Genghis Khan, the Kha Khan, Emperor of Kings, called the Destroyer, had broken down the barriers of the Dark Ages. He had opened up roads. Europe came into contact with the arts of Cathay. At the court of his son, Armenian royalty and Persian grandees rubbed shoulders with Russian princes. A general reshuffling of ideas followed the opening of the roads. An abiding curiosity about far Asia stirred Europeans. Marco Polo followed Fra Rubruquis to Kambalu. Two centuries later Vasco da Gama set forth to find his way by sea to the Indies. Columbus sailed to reach not America, but the land of the Great Khan!

Mongolian 'Kamikaze' Victim Found Off Japan Coast

The 13th century wreck of an invading Mongolian ship that fell victim to a famous typhoon known in Japan as the "Kamikaze" or "Divine Wind" has been found off the country's southern coast. A long section of the keel of a wooden vessel, thought to have been one of more than 4,000 sent by Kublai Khan to conquer Japan, was discovered beneath the sea bed near Nagasaki, the Mainichi Shimbun and other media reported.

The huge invading fleet of 1281 is believed to have been sunk by a powerful typhoon that became known in Japan as the "Kamikaze" -- a "Divine Wind" that protected a chosen nation.

The wreck, which is buried in a meter (three feet) of mud, was found by a team led by Yoshifumi Ikeda, professor of archaeology at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa. The team found a 12-metre section of the keel with several long pieces of wood attached. Experts estimate the vessel was at least 20 meters long before it sank off the island of Takashima in northern Nagasaki prefecture. Ikeda said a number of pieces of Chinese pottery dating from the 12th and 13th centuries were also found at the site, helping to pinpoint the age of the boat.

The Mongolian-ruled Yuan dynasty of China, led initially by Genghis Khan's grandson, Kublai, tried to conquer the samurai warriors of Japan on two occasions, in 1274 and 1281. About 900 ships were sent in the first attempt. Battles were fought in Kyushu, Japan's main southern island, but the invasion attempt failed. The much bigger, second fleet of 4,400 ships was largely sunk by the huge typhoon that the Japanese attributed to divine intervention, giving currency to the notion of "Kamikaze", a word now largely associated with the suicide pilots of World War II.

Around 4,000 artifacts from the wreck, including the anchor, were previously known about, but researchers hope the discovery of such a large and well-preserved section of the boat will help them to understand more about the invading fleet. "This discovery was of major importance for our research. We are planning to expand search efforts and find further information that can help us restore the whole ship," Ikeda said

Researchers studying the rings of ancient trees in mountainous central Mongolia think they may have gotten at the mystery of how small bands of nomadic Mongol horsemen united to conquer much of the world within a span of decades, 800 years ago. The rise of the great leader Genghis Khan and the start of the largest contiguous empire in human history was propelled by a temporary run of nice weather.

The rings show that exactly when the empire rose, the normally cold, arid steppes of central Asia saw their mildest, wettest weather in more than 1,000 years. Grass production must have boomed, as did vast numbers of war horses and other livestock that gave the Mongols their power. But the tree rings, spanning 1,112 years from 900 to 2011, also exhibit an ominous modern trend. Since the mid-20th century, the region has warmed rapidly, and the rings show that recent drought years were the most extreme in the record -- possibly a side effect of global warming. In a region already pressed for water, the droughts have already helped spark a new migration in a vast region where people until now have lived the same way for centuries, moving herds from place to place and living in tents. Now, those herders are being driven rapidly into cities, and there could be greater future upheavals. The study appears in this week's early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Before fossil fuels, grass and ingenuity were the fuels for the Mongols and the cultures around them," said lead author Neil Pederson, a tree-ring scientist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. "Energy flows from the bottom of an ecosystem, up the ladder to human society. Even today, many people in Mongolia live just like their ancestors did. But in the future, they may face serious conditions."

In the late 1100s, the Mongol tribes were racked by disarray and internal warfare, but this ended with the sudden ascendance of Genghis (also known as Chinggis) Khan in the early 1200s. In just a matter of years, he united the tribes into an efficient horse-borne military state that rapidly invaded its neighbors and expanded outward in all directions. Genghis Khan died in 1227, but his sons and grandsons continued conquering and soon ruled most of what became modern Korea, China, Russia, eastern Europe, southeast Asia, Persia, India and the Mideast. The empire eventually fragmented, but the Mongols' vast geographic reach and their ideas -- an international postal system, organized agriculture research and meritocracy-based civil service among other things--shaped national borders, languages, cultures and human gene pools in ways that resound today. Genghis Khan's last ruling descendants ran parts of central Asia into the 1920s.
Some researchers have postulated that the Mongols expanded because they were fleeing harsh weather at home--but Pederson and colleagues found the opposite. In 2010, Pederson and coauthor Amy Hessl, a tree-ring scientist at West Virginia University, were studying wildfires in Mongolia when they came across a stand of gnarled, stunted Siberian pines growing out of cracks in an old solid-rock lava flow in the Khangai Mountains. They knew that on such dry, nearly soil-less surfaces, trees grow very slowly, are exquisitely sensitive to yearly weather shifts, and may live to fantastic ages.

In a series of expeditions, Pederson, Hessl and colleagues sampled the pines' rings, sawing cross-sections from dead specimens, and removing harmless straw-like cores from living ones. They found that some trees had lived for more than 1,100 years, and likely could survive another millennium; even dead trunks stayed largely intact for another 1,000 years before rotting.

One piece of wood they found had rings going back to about 650 B.C. These yearly rings change with temperature and rainfall, so they could read past weather by calibrating ring widths of living trees with instrumental data from 1959-2009, then comparing these with the innards of much older trees. The trees had a clear and startling story to tell. The turbulent years preceding Genghis Khan's rule were stoked by intense drought from 1180 to 1190.
Then, from 1211 to 1225 -- exactly coinciding with the empire's meteoric rise--Mongolia saw sustained rainfall and mild warmth never seen before or since.

"The transition from extreme drought to extreme moisture right then strongly suggests that climate played a role in human events," said Hessl. "It wasn't the only thing, but it must have created the ideal conditions for a charismatic leader to emerge out of the chaos, develop an army and concentrate power. Where it's arid, unusual moisture creates unusual plant productivity, and that translates into horsepower. Genghis was literally able to ride that wave." (Each Mongol warrior had five or more horses, and ever-moving herds of livestock provided nearly all food and other resources. The rest probably depended on the Mongols' brilliant cavalry skills, smart political maneuvering and savvy adaptions of urbanized peoples' technologies.)

The tree rings show that after the empire's initial expansion, Mongolia's weather turned back to its more normal dryness and cold, though with many ups and downs over the hundreds of years since. The 20th and early 21st centuries are the exception. In the last 40 years, temperatures in parts of the country have gone up by as much 4.5 degrees F -- well over the global mean rise of 1 degree. And, since the 1990s, the country has suffered a series of devastating summer droughts, often followed by a dzud -- an unusually long, cold winter.

The tree rings show that the most recent drought, from 2002-2009, compares in length and paucity of rainfall only to those of the pre-empire 1120s and 1180s. Perhaps more important: the drought of the 2000s was the hottest in the entire record. The heat evaporated water stored in soil, lakes and vegetation, and, in combination with repeated dzuds, devastated livestock. The last dzud alone, in 2009-10, killed at least 8 million animals and destroyed the livelihoods of countless herders. Now, displaced Mongol herders have formed a new invasion force -- this time all headed to the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, which has swollen to hold nearly half the country's population of 3 million.

Climate models predict that as the world warms, heat in inner Asia will continue to rise substantially faster than the global mean. Pederson says this means that droughts and other extreme weather will probably worsen and become more frequent. This could further reduce livestock and hurt the few crops the region grows (only 1 percent of Mongolia is arable land). New mining ventures and other industrial activities may employ some of the many people fleeing the countryside -- but these also consume water, and it is not clear where that will come from.

"This last big drought is an example of what may happen in the future, not just in Mongolia but in a lot of inner Asia," said Pederson. "The heat is a double whammy -- even if rainfall doesn't change, the landscape is going to get drier."

Previous studies by others have advanced the idea that climate swings can change history. These include events such as the disappearance of the Maya, the expansion and fall of Roman imperial power, and, in a separate Lamont-led study, the 13th-century collapse of southeast Asia's Angkor civilization. Most focus on droughts, floods or other disasters that arguably have cut off empires; the new study is one of the few to explore the more complex question how climate might have invigorated one.
The researchers "make a compelling argument that climate played a role in facilitating the Mongol migration," said David Stahle, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Arkansas who has studied the mysterious disappearance of the English Roanoke colony off North Carolina, coinciding with what tree rings show was a disastrous drought. "But," said Stahle, "we live in a sea of coincidence -- something like that is hard to prove. There could be a lot of other factors. They've provided an incredibly important climate record, and put the idea out there, so it will stimulate a lot of historical and archeological research."

In coming months, Avery Cook Shinneman, a biologist at the University of Washington, plans to analyze sediments taken from the bottoms of Mongolian lakes. These can be read somewhat like tree rings to estimate the abundance of livestock over time, via layers of fungal spores that live in the dung of animals; this would confirm whether animal populations did indeed boom. The conquering Mongols left very few written records of their own, but Nicola Di Cosmo, a historian at the Institute for Advanced Study in New Jersey and coauthor of the current paper, will study accounts of the time left in China, Persia and Europe that might provide further clues.