Mongol history and chronology from ancient times

If we are to follow the tracks through Mongol history, we will find ourselves along an exciting path into the ancient Siberian and Inner Asian world. Now meditate on Siberia, the Taiga, Tundra, the Bajkal sea, the steppe region to the east of Bajkal. The Siberian and inner Asian plain is endless. It is night. Cold, dark. This is the homeland of The Mongols. What do you feel, what do you see? Let us then go ahead and penetrate this realm.

The origin of The Mongols

The very first beginnings of the Mongol Phenomenon

When writing Mongolian history, there are a number of points from which one could conceivably start. One could choose to track the intricacies of Inner Asian tribal structure, and proceed to give an exposition of the demographic, economic and political conditions that constituted the outer circumstances around the emergence of the Mongols. This has been done many times over, and the scientifically treated facts about the Mongols are reasonably well-known. For this reason I have chosen another angle from which to approach Mongolian history.

Let it only be stated that new research has incontrovertibly demonstrated that earlier prejudiced notions of the Mongols as inferior barbarians have been so one-sided as to be wholly distorted. Especially noteworthy are the recent archaeological discoveries that have thrown light on the many-sided and complex interaction and interconnectedness between the Inner Asian nomads and the great state(s) of China.

When speaking about the Mongols proper, we refer to the people that originated in the region around Lake Bajkal, somewhat north of present-day Mongolia. Since prehistoric times, the Bajkal area has been a center of cultural exchange and development, due to its complex and fertile ecosystems, and its resultant significance as a source of fish and game, and also to its situation at the borderline between the Siberian regions in the North and the Turkic steppe cultures in South. Added to this is the importance of the ancient Chinese cultures, with which the people in this area were ever in sustained contact through trade, with all its accompanying social and cultural interactivity, as well as warfare. It will be understood that the Mongols thus are a people that came in contact with and learned from diverse cultures and civilizations. The wide experience that resulted gave the Mongols the knowledge, perception and versatility to understand the characteristics of different peoples. Shamanistic beliefs, symbols and practices are very similar among all traditional nomad societies from Siberia and the Bajkal area to the Turkic areas in the South, bespeaking an intimate interaction of long standing, which is hardly surprising in view of the many similarities in habits and lifestyle between the nomad peoples in Central Asia. Chinese influence also was significant, and the elements described above together constitute the outer components of the Mongol nation.

However, the Siberian element, that is the physical and spiritual realities and principles of the dark and cold areas of the Northern regions, stands out as the predominant one in the origin and creation of the Mongol phenomenon. This fact can be traced in the mythology, and let us never forget that mythology is the most important source of the self-understanding of any given people. We also know of some details in the construction of the framework of their felt tents, (the ger) and other equipment that point in the direction that the Mongols have their principal origins in ancient forest cultures on the Siberian Taiga.

Here it is noteworthy that the Mongols as a unified people did not exist as a political reality until the advent of Chingis Khan. The singularly important role of this historical personality in the development of the Mongol phenomenon in all its facets is established beyond doubt. We are then led into an old bone of contention among historians: That of the ultimate role of "great" personalities in the unfoldment of history. This is an issue never to be resolved, suffice it to say here that even though one subscribes to the view that great personalities are great because they appear in the milieux wherein there is an optimal interaction between their abilities on the one hand, and on the other the socioeconomically predetermined course of historical events, which finds the individual in question the most suitable for a leading role, powerful individuals at any rate serve as the foremost exponents and symbols of the movements, groups, or states they are the leaders of. Hence, it would seem that by studying these prominent individuals and their origin one might arrive to an understanding of the phenomena in which they play a key role.

There are sound reasons why the best point to start from is the only surviving genuinely Mongolian account of the events at the 1200’s, The Secret History of The Mongols, with the appropriate subtitle The Origin of Chingis Khan. This book, completed in the years following the death of Chingis Khan, relates the Mongolian ancestral myth as well as subsequent political events up to 1240 or 1241, when it is thought to have been completed. It is worthwhile to dwell a little with this work. Even if it was originally written in Mongolian, the version that has been preserved for posterity was its Chinese transcription, found in Peking under the name Yuan Ch'ao Pi Shih. The work was investigated and translated by scholars of many nations, and its content has been extensively compared to secondary sources. This research has convincingly established the authenticity of its content, so there is a general agreement that though some of the descriptions of events may show the influence of Chinese society and culture, the events themselves and their sequence are fully authentic. In this context it must not be forgotten that the Yuan Dynasty was Mongol, a fact which in addition to the effects of the long-standing contacts between the Chinese and the Mongol nations, would facilitate the writing of  a truthful translation of Mongol history. Thus; the Secret History is indeed the Mongols' own. Finally, in 1956 Francis Woodman Cleaves of Harvard University rendered the world the great service to give the Secret History its English translation. In his own words: "The Secret History of The Mongols is not only the capital monument of thirteen-century Mongolian literature, but it is one of the great literary monuments of the world."

I will now give the two immensely significant opening paragraphs of the work:


The Heritage and youth of Chingis Khan (Header)

There came into the world a blue-gray wolf
whose destiny was Heaven’s will.
His wife was a fallow deer.
They travelled across the inland sea
and when they were camped near the source of the Onon River
in sight of Mount Burkhan Khaldun
their first son was born, named Batachikan.

The seventh generation after Batachikan was Kharchu.
Kharchu’s son was named Borjigidai the Clever,
and Mongoljin the Fair was his wife.
Their grandsons were the two brothers,
Duua the one-eyed and Dobun the Clever.
In the middle of Duua’s forehead there was one great eye.
With this eye Duua could see a place so far away
it could take three days to reach it.

Doubtlessly the placement of these verses in the opening paragraph of the Secret History betrays their great significance. Note the deep symbolism inherent in the fact that the wolf and deer are mates. This signifies a symbolic union between the masculine attributes represented by the wolf: strength, courage and outgoing power, and the qualities imparted by the feminine nature of the deer: Softness, fine sensitivity and intuition. This setup, however, is much more complex than might be revealed by a superficial look. It is however clear that the wolf is seen as the primary active force in the Mongolian ancestry. Further: An extraordinarily significant message of the utmost subtlety is given to us in this Mongolian creation myth: Even though the wolf and the deer are the factual and archetypal predator and prey respectively, they here mate with each other. This is a unequivocal message to the world that the complexity of the relations of Universe and their meanings are much greater than what is visible at the surfaces. Our notions on "good" and "evil" and other similar categories need revision.

The wolf, though it plays the masculine role in the union described above, has many distinctively feminine qualities, and in Siberian and Inner Asian Shamanistic belief it is believed to be an intrinsically feminine animal. Upon reflection, we also see that consistent with this, the wolf shares many qualities with the deer, the main difference is that in this canine child of the wilderness, the qualities that characterize an animal of prey have been developed to the utmost, an almost preternatural, degree. Since it is Universal Law that a predator is always more physically and mentally gifted than the animals on which it preys, it follows that the intrinsic symbolic meaning of the wolf's high endowments is that of awesome excellence. No animal has greater sensitivity or intuition than the wolf, and its ability to move and adapt itself to any circumstance is unsurpassed. The wolf's powers of discrimination and its unfailing ability to sense any weakness in the physical or psychological makeup of its prey is matchless in the world. In a split-second it can change from being carefree and playful to a frenzy of irresistible power. Its strength is great, but it is typically a shy animal. Its relentless stamina and its ability to endure pain is such that it is scarcely believable. True to its furtive, perceptive nature, for all its physical prowess it invariably moves forward more by using cleverness and stratagem than brute force. The wolf is an extraordinarily intelligent creature, cautious yet courageous, often viewed as cruel and brutal but this is wrong. The truth is that it knows neither mercy nor hatred, its soul has the unforgiving purity of a diamond. In the old saying, the eyes are the mirror of the soul. No one who has had an encounter with a wolf has ever forgotten its awe-inspiring eyes. Immediately, those eyes reveal the detached blankness of the supremely confident, an imperturbable calm devoid of any tension. In the next moment one senses the relaxed yet alert, uncannily penetrating quality of the spirit behind, and with venerating amazement one realizes that this perspicacious creature possesses a vigorous yet composed, unconquerable force that is incapable of being tamed or subdued. Its loftiness of character is unmistakable. A close look shows it as refined and with a high degree of togetherness, compassion and solidarity in its social behavior. Simultaneously, selection within the group is prominent, and the best individual wolves, the alpha individuals, exercise firm albeit always caring leadership. They alone are allowed to mate and reproduce, and represent a standard towards which the other wolves aspire. Thus, both cooperation and competitive selection can be seen to contribute to outstanding characteristics. Significantly, canis lupus possesses mental as well as physical qualities far above those of the domesticated dog canis familiaris. For that reason its existence serves as a perpetual reminder of the superior healthiness of a natural lifestyle wherein the organisms are constantly challenged by the environment into developing excellent qualities. 

Originally the wolf does not belong to the steppe, it is a forest animal. In spite of its unequaled ability to adapt to different environments, its true home is the deep forests. It is spiritually and physically connected with the Taiga, with the Dark, Cold, Northern and Feminine Siberian forces from which the Mongols drew so heavily and effectively. 

It should be understood that the deer is of no less importance than the wolf, the reddish-brown deer stands for the principles of Mother Earth, without which no fertilization, growth or birth of new things can take place. Those principles are receptive and less active, hence when it comes to active endeavor in history they do not command the same degree of attention as the male, active principle as represented by the wolf, and it is imperative to bear in mind that this does not imply any order of importance. Both principles are, according to the Old Mongol spiritual understanding, equally indispensable forces in Universe. 

We saw that the union of these two "travelled across the inland sea." To understand this, we need to know a little about the geographical location of the setting of the Mongolian ancestral myth. The "inland sea" or Tenggis as it is called in the original language, is the Old Siberian and Mongolian name for the Bajkal Sea, the world’s deepest lake, boasting unique qualities, in its depths live animals and plants not found anywhere else on Earth. When one travels across Lake Bajkal from Northern Siberia towards the East, one will reach the Onon some five hundred kilometers to the east of this sea. When the wolf and the deer are depicted as passing across the sea, a sea journey is described. A journey is always a symbol of transcendence and expansion of consciousness, all the more so when it takes place over this most fluctuating, changeable, life-giving element. Watery qualities are given consistent emphasis. This is strengthened because their destination was the river Onon. Here we must notice that it is the source of the water that was sought. Going to the source implies an added emphasis. Moreover, a source constitutes a real as well as a symbolic matrix, a place from where things are born. These symbolic images further illustrate the essential position of feminine qualities in the spiritual universe of the Mongols. We are told that the qualities of water are of the utmost importance for this people. Water, as already mentioned, stands for feminine principles, fertility, renewal and birth. At the same time, it possesses invincible destructive and transforming powers; water has the ability to dissolve and destroy virtually everything, hence it is also the supreme obliterator. The depth of water is universally symbolic of the deepest and most hidden secrets of existence itself. Unquestionably the symbolic and factual presence of the deep, inscrutable and mystic Lake Bajkal together with a total closeness to Nature that is the privilegium of natural people gave the Mongols a natural longing for and accompanying capability towards seeking the hidden and underlying forces of existence and Universe.

Thereafter Mount Burkhan Khaldun is introduced. The mountain is part of female Earth, but because it stretches itself to Heaven, it becomes a male aspect of the Earth, thus it represents highly masculine qualities: striving to reach high levels, the mountain is a prime symbol of the ultimate of endeavor, of the highest possible achievements. The Mountain with its lofty summit and difficulty of access is a symbol of the ultimate of attainment, archetypally it signifies the search for excellence within each and everyone of us. Its place in the Mongolian ancestral myth as a place where the first offspring of the wolf and the deer was born is indicative of a strong predisposition towards high endeavor and great achievements, something that found its culmination and confirmation in the work of Chingis Khan.

All this means that the Mongols possessed a spiritual treasury wherein was contained the insight in the need for joining the qualities of the feminine and of the masculine, or to put it in another terminology: Yin and Yang. The mystical qualities of water must have served as a source of inspiration for this people, teaching them about the endurance, softness, adaptability and resultant forcefulness and if need be, mercilessness, of the feminine principles. Nevertheless they also developed a strong masculine element, illustrated not only in their worship of mountains, but also shown by their reverence for Eternal Blue Heaven. (Mongolian: Koeke Moengke Tengri, the foremost of the spirits of Heaven) Heaven/air is by nature masculine, and in Mongolian spiritual belief, its ruling spirits are the masculine Tengri, as opposed to the other elements, that are all ruled by feminine spirits, called Etugen. Here we have another old symbolism. The masculine Heaven acts upon the feminine Earth, and initiates fruitful action and change.

Simultaneously the Mongols kept the feminine side of their spiritual consciousness, stemming from the period when their forebears lived in the forests of Siberia. The Mongolian ancestral myth is, like any myth, an intriguing blend of symbolism and actual historic fact. Since these passages are placed on the opening lines of the secret history of the Mongols, constituting the story of their creation, it reveals much about their spiritual foundation, and indeed of the spiritual foundations of Chingis Khan. These lines are a clue to the riddle of how the Mongols, this small people, could achieve what is normally deemed impossible. We are given an overview of the essence of their function in the world, their intuitive wisdom and knowledge of the guiding principles behind Universe itself. At the root of all this lies the awareness that the feminine and masculine principles and forces have to be united to fulfill their spiritual and practical potentials. In the case of the Mongols, this is seen most clearly: The essential feminine qualities, stemming from the dark, cold Siberian element of their origins, gave them their extraordinary intuitive insight, adaptability and endurance. On the other hand, without masculine energies and principles, corresponding to the Southern, Turkic steppe element, it would not have been feasible to initiate their political action in the world, because this initiatory action is a main function of the developed masculine principle.

Now a basis for discussion may be put forward: A crucial shift of spiritual emphasis took place, when the Mongols and other Inner Asian peoples gradually changed from mostly worshipping essentially female Earth and forest spirits/deities into becoming worshippers of the Tengri, that is masculine Air and Sky spirits, and this coincided with the development of aggressive energy and expansionist policies. This is of course a tendency that can be traced long back, one only need to recall the Huns' activities between 210 BC and 453 AD to get a general idea of the mechanism's manifestations. It is the spiritual aspect of this complex development that is handed down to us through the Mongolian ancestral myth. The Siberian element travels over the Bajkal, a transformation takes place, illustrated by the first Mongol, Batachikan, being born under the auspices of Burkhan Khaldun, thus representing the new, masculine principles while still also carrying the old, since Siberia remained the primordial source from where all began. Subsequent history was to provide superabundant attestation of how powerful a combination this is.

The account above is also demonstrated by the historical facts. In early Mongol history, that is before Chingis Khan's time, the tribes were basically divided into two main groups. These were: 

1. The Northern peoples of the forest, who inhabited the Taiga region, encompassing Siberia and its great rivers Yenisei, Irtysh and Lena down to and including the area around Lake Bajkal.

2. The pastoral nomads of the steppe/grassland, whose domain was precisely the area south of Lake Bajkal, that is the entire land between the westernmost part of the Altai range and lake Buir Nur at the Chinese border in the Southeast.

The first group of people, the forest tribes of Siberia, corresponds to the Siberian wolf and deer before the travelling across the sacred Bajkal, the second group, the pastoralists, live in the area where the wolf and the deer arrived; thus this people represents the transcendence and development signified by that crossing.

Thus we see a geopolitical illustration of the spiritual principles described before. These two main groups of Mongolian people represented respectively the feminine Siberian forest, and the masculine steppe element. It was the work of the genius of Chingis Khan to combine these two worlds, so as to harness the full power of that unification. The further connection with the world of science and learning, which Chingis also wanted to incorporate into his political ideal, would come later, with his campaigns in China and acquisition of Yeh-lu Chu'tsai as his shaman and most important counselor.

Another noteworthy detail is Duua the one-eyed, who was equipped with a great eye in the middle of his forehead. This is the third eye, also known as the third eye of Shiva and Buddha, (In Sanskrit: Urna.) because these were said to possess a third eye and the qualities that go with it. Not that the Mongols were Hindus or Buddhists, this parallelism reflects a shared collective unconscious within Asian cultures. It is stated that Duua was "one-eyed." Probably this is a literary effect, included to emphasize the predominance of the qualities of the Third Eye as a spiritual possession of the Mongols. The third eye manifests itself on sculptures of Shiva as a bony, almond-shaped appearance protruding exactly in the middle of the forehead. It symbolizes unity, balance, an ability to perceive phenomena in their whole, freedom from contradictions and splittings, the capability of looking beyond the present existence and instead see everything from the viewpoint of eternity, and in general all forms of transcendent knowledge. It is believed among spiritually minded people that a full development of our third eye corresponds to a state of universal consciousness that can lead Man to the highest state of Being which can be manifested in human form.

When the Third Eye is described as a component in the ancestry of the Mongols it tells us that the awareness of the necessity of, and the concomitant ability, to see everything from the viewpoint of Eternity is part of the heritage of the Mongols and of Chingis Khan.


Chronological overview over the Mongol history

Prehistoric times, the time before the advent of Chingis Khan

In 1991 the Mongols celebrated the 2000 year-anniversary of the first Hun (Hsiung-nu) state, established in 209 BC, or 1415 B.CK. (Before Chingis Khan), which really would be more appropriate in our Mongolian context. The Huns are considered the builders of the first state in Central Asia. Their state stretched from Lake Bajkal in the North to The Chinese Great Wall in the South. Hence it seems justified to regard the Huns the forerunners of the Mongols. (The term "Mongol" was not in widespread use before Chingis Khan, nor did there exist anything like a Mongolian self-identity.)

Between the forth and sixth centuries AD or fifth and sixth before Chingis, the former Hun territory was ruled by various Turkic tribes. Uighur and Kirghiz tribes also lived in the area. The relation between these and the tribes from the Siberian Taiga and Bajkal areas, which were the main origins of the Mongols, is unclear. It will be understood that it is far from easy to distill all the exact relations between the different Turkic and Mongol tribes at this stage of history, these details are shrouded in the mists of antiquity.

It is however established that the economic, political and spiritual contact between the Inner Asian peoples and the Chinese was much more extended and deep than had previously been thought. One cannot arrive to an adequate understanding of the culture of the Mongol Empire without delving into Chinese culture as well.

The period after the emergence of the greatest political leader in the history of Man

1155 or 1167: Temuchin, the future Chingis Khan, the Father and Founder of the Mongol nation, is born into the Borjigin clan to his mother Hoelun and his father Yesugei at the bank of the river Onon, east of Lake Bajkal. This momentous birth brought into earthly existence the man who was to establish the largest empire in all of human history, and in the process to conquer the most advanced civilizations of the era, those of China and Khwarezm. Remarkably, the Mongols showed no sign of being able to do so before Chingis. In the words of a Mongolian shaman, Teb-Tengri: "Before you were born the stars turned in the heavens. Everyone was feuding. Rather than sleep they robbed each other of their possessions. The Earth and its crust had moved. The whole nation was in rebellion. Rather than rest they fought each other. In such a world one did not live as one wished, but rather in constant conflict. There was no respite, only battle. There was no affection, only mutual slaughter." These words were meant to describe the situation before the ascension of Chingis Khan to the position of leader of the Mongols. More significantly, they testify to the magnificent Purpose of Chingis Khan, to put an end to useless hatred and destruction and to awaken the Mongolian people to their remarkable destiny. Let it be emphasized that Chingis Khan was no ignorant barbarian, but an inspired ruler of boundless wisdom who loved his people, and whose vision and ability to attract followers and to motivate them made it possible for him to create, together with his little nation of less than two million people, the greatest land empire our Earth ever saw.

1174/75: Temuchin becomes betrothed to Borte. The same year, Yesugei is poisoned to death by the enemy Tatar tribe. Temuchin's loss of his father by murder certainly strenghtened his determination to succeed in the world.

1182 (If we take Temuchin's birth year to be 1167): This was a very important year for the future Chingis Khan. First the marriage to his fiancee Borte was consummated. Later the same year he seeked and obtained the protection of Toghrul, the leader of the Kerait tribe. Toghrul was a vassal of the Chin emperor, on whose behalf he then ruled over a large area from the Onon river to the Chinese border. Toghrul had been the anda (blood-brother, the oath of anda is a spiritual brotherhood that according to Mongolian tradition is more binding than biological kinship.) of Temuchin's father Yesugei. Therefore Toghrul was obliged to accept to become Temuchin's patron. Temuchin would gradually rise in authority, and in 1196 he was given a modest Chinese title. Before long Toghrul would be overpowered by his young and ambitious vassal, and eventually the same fate would befall the Chin.

It is here worth elaborating upon the process by which Temuchin made himself Chingis Khan. Temuchin, in sharp contrast to other steppe conquerors, was not primarily guided by greed for material riches or other allurements of this world. His was a soaring political ambition, an almost supernatural ability to plan ahead and to let all his moves be directed at political aims that represented the formation of a political structure that was capable of being extended in time and space. Most striking was his determination to never attack China before he had subdued all the tribes in the Bajkal region and the areas southeast of it, and integrated them in his Mongol nation. Earlier nomad conquerors had always failed to eliminate the risk of rivalries before the raids against China, which made it easy for the Chinese to divide and rule, to play the rival tribes out against each other in order to disunite and finally break their power. Chingis Khan would not allow this to happen once more, hence his first and most important priority was to collect "all the tribes that live in felt tents." This has led some scholars to assume, rather rashly, that Chingis Khan himself did not plan to build an empire. However, all his priorities and actions indicate a grand plan to extend Mongol power to vast distances. For example, his mindfulness of the importance of trade between different civilizations as a way of promoting contact between the various parts of the world is a clear sign of a much wider political horizon than what has customary been ascribed to the Great Mongol. Another and even more telling sign of the same was the political sequence of events during his career, characterized by Temuchin's consistent endeavor to supplant loyalty to tribe and family with loyalty toward a more extended political structure. Significantly, his first move was to subdue his closest kinsmen, then his more remote ones. After that, the Kereyit, Naiman and Merkit peoples in Mongolia. Then the nomad Turks of Central Asia were conquered and included in his empire. Not before this process was completed would he attack the civilized states. Noteworthy is also the extraordinary policy he adopted in the army and society he built: Unlike what was the case in most other societies at the time, where birth and social origin usually determined rank, promotion to high positions in Mongol society was by ability and merit alone. All these facts unequivocally bespeak a masterful plan that is very far from the mistaken picture of the ferocious savage chief whose main attraction is short-term plunder and material riches. Chingis Khan was above all a master politician, an extraordinary mind who in all his actions closely followed the principle that would later be formulated in the Prussian general Karl von Clausewitz's words: "War is nothing but the pursuit of policy by other means." Temuchin's plans were always extended beyond present victories and the mere acquisition of wealth. In other words Chingis Khan was not a simple conqueror; he was above all a politician with a range of vision that stretched far beyond both those of his contemporaries as well as his successors, none of whom ever inherited his ability. 

1183: Borte was abducted by the Merkit tribe, and this led to a military campaign against the Merkits, by the combined forces of Toghrul, Temuchin and Temuchin's anda, Jamuqa. Jamuqa was another vassal of Toghrul. The Merkit is overcome, and this was a significant victory for Temuchin.

1185: Temuchin is elected khan of his clan the Borjigin.

1187: Temuchin is defeated in the battle of Dalan Balzhut, and from now there is a conspicuous gap in his biography. This has led to the speculation that he may have spent ten years in exile in China.

1196: Temuchin attacks and defeats the Tatar tribe.

1197: Toghrul is given the title Wang-khan by the Chinese.

1201: Temuchin falls out with his anda Jamuqa because of rivalry. Jamuqa is elected khan by his followers, and is given the title Gur-khan. Jamuqa builds up a coalition aganst Temuchin.

1202: Temuchin breaks with Wang-khan.

1202: Temuchin attacks the Tatar tribe a second time, and defeats the Tatars conclusively.

1203: War between Temuchin and the Kerait. Wang-khan is defeated and killed, and Temuchin now becomes the sole ruler of his area.

1204: Campaign against and victory over the Naimans. The Naimans were in league with a multitude of other tribes, among them the Merkits, the Jadirat under Jamuqa, the Dorbet, Katagin, Seljiut and remaining Tatars.

1205: Jamuqa is betrayed by his followers, and is led to Temuchin and executed. The Secret History describes how this happens upon Jamuqa's own request, he is insistent that he be executed even when Temuchin offers renewal of their brotherhood. Temuchin accepted delivery of Jamuqa, but executes those who had betrayed him. People who betray others merit the harshest punishment according to Temuchin, who could not trust unprincipled people who betrayed their master.

1206: Temuchin was chosen leader of the Mongols at a khuriltay, a general assembly where all minor and major leaders and shamans participated. There he became Chingis Khan - "Oceanic Khan" of the Mongols. Thus, he chose to associate himself with the element of water. It may be noted that the precise designation at the inaugural ceremony stated that Chingis Khan was to be the "Khan of all who live in felt tents." His personal qualities, notably his intelligence and pulsating intuition, his fresh and invigorating life-force, his intensely ambitious yet selfless nature, his endless capacity for devotion, secured his ascendancy.

1207: The Kirghiz tribe submitted to Chingis Khan and accepts his leadership.

1207: Chingis Khan begins war against China. (China was at this time divided into three parts: Chin and Tangut in the North, and Sung in the South. The Chin state, which was Chingis Khan's main target, was one of many states in the course of Inner Asian history that had been established by nomads from the North who had thereafter quickly been absorbed into Chinese culture.) 

1209: The Uighur tribe submitted to Chingis Khan. It is noteworthy that the script of the Uighur was the one that Chingis Khan chose as the written language for the Mongols. Chingis, ever a friend of learning, ruled that his people must have a written language.

1211: After a khuriltay at the river Kerulen, Chingis Khan invades the mighty Chin empire, whose capital was Peking. This marks a very important milestone in the history of Chingis Khan and his Mongol empire. When Temuchin became Chingis Khan in 1206, he was the leader of a traditional nomad army whose main weapon was the albeit very advanced compound bow described elsewhere in these pages. Later he and his Mongols would be able to do what former nomad warlords could not do; to actually defeat the great civilizations. During the Chinese war and even more during the later campaigns in Khwarezm, the Mongols were equipped with advanced siege weaponry like mangonels, battering-rams, and other of the technologically advanced weapons of the time. The Mongols even had sappers who organized the undermining and blowing up of the towns' fortifications. Thus we see that the genius of Chingis Khan allowed the Mongols to use the technology of the civilized states to conquer the same civilizations.

1214: Siege of Peking begins.

1215: Peking, then called Zhongdu, fell to Chingis Khan. The Chinese enjoyed numerical superiority, they had 600 000 defenders against the much more disciplined and morally strong Mongols, numbering no more than 75 000 men. This achievement of the Mongols defies the imagination, but it was a fact. When the Mongols succeeded in taking this large city, it marked a new level of ability on the part of the Mongols. Formerly, they had difficulty with successful warfare against fortified cities, although they had always been formidable in the field. Chingis Khan had been aware of this weakness, and had wisely enlisted Chinese siege engineers and their equipment, a strategy that would prove successful in China as well as in subsequent campaigns against the Khwarezmians.

1215: Chingis khan acquired Yeh-lu Chu'tsai, a Chinese of Mongol extraction, as his shaman and closest adviser. Yeh-lu Chu'tsai was descended from Mongols who, in the tenth and eleventh centuries had entered the service of the Liao state, which came into existence during the ninth century as an offspring of a culture which originated as a result of contacts between Mongol pastoralists and Chinese farmers. Soon the Liao began to embark on military conquest, and before long they had established a state that encompassed the steppe area between Manchuria and T'ien-shan mountains. The Liao gradually became sinicized, as could be expected. Yeh-lu was not a barbarian by any means; he was a supremely learned man of elevated culture, an academician with all the highest Chinese academic credentials, but as the divorce between religion and science had not yet taken place, he was also a shaman, a healer, herbalist, and astrologer. He also worked as a diviner specializing in reading sheep's shoulder blades to predict the future and determine the rightfulness of every Mongol campaign. Somewhat paradoxical to most modern minds for whom war and peace are considered absolute opposites, he also saw the need for healing in times of war. During subsequent Mongol campaigns he worked successfully with medical herbs to minimize the spread of epidemics after the destructions of the war. The relationship, which was actually a profound spiritual bond, between Chingis Khan and Yeh-lu Chu'tsai lasted for the rest of Chingis Khan's life. Ogodei, Chingis' son and first successor also wisely kept this Mongolian Shaman of State, who is rightfully said to have been one of the great statesmen of his century. Historians have generally overlooked his significance as a bridge between the Old World of the nomads and the New World of learning and science, represented by the Chinese element he was born into. They have also been largely oblivious of his combined role as academician and magician. Chingis Khan was the Son of Heaven, Yeh-lu Chu'tsai was then given to him by Heaven/the spiritual world to advise him. With the acquisition of Yeh-lu, the Mongol Empire finally and conclusively managed to bridge the gap between the old world of the nomads and the world of knowledge, learning and science. Thus, Chingis Khan's ideas and creation became even more relevant across space and time, now encompassing the civilized, educated world, and will forever do so.

1218/1219: Shah Mohammed of Khwarezm, which was an empire encompassing Afghanistan, present-day Persia, and Turkestan, that is the area between the Aral Sea and the Caspian, secretly ordered the murder of a caravan of Mongol merchants sent by Chingis Khan to the city of Otrar. Chingis Khan responded by sending an envoy, giving Mohammed the choice between handing Otrar's governor Inalchuq over to the Mongols, or accepting war. This envoy was put to death, and war was declared.

1219: Shah Mohammed collected about 400,000 men to oppose Chingis Khan. Chingis with Subedei as his chief of staff entered the Shah's domain with 90 000 men in from the north and sent Chepe, another of his great generals, with 30 000 over one of the world's highest mountain ranges in from the east. 180,000 were killed in the main battle, but the Shah escaped. After a series of fierce battles during which the Shah only narrowly escaped, the Mongols left during the dark night to join Chingis 1200 miles away, receiving replacements. Chingis, mindful of the need to kill and eliminate the leader to accomplish victory, sent Subedei and Chepe with 2 tuman (20 000 men) to hunt down the Shah. During this hunt, the two Mongol generals with their riders travelled across the whole of Persia, wiping out the population in large areas.

1220: Bukhara and Samarkand are taken, and this was the decisive blow against the Khwarezmians. Mohammad had harbored high military ambitions, and even hoped to be able to conquer China, but when Chingis Khan took Peking in 1215 his hope was finally crushed. Even if the highest estimates of his army reckoned that he had 400 000 men under his command, his army was heterogeneous and of low morality. These men were mainly mercenaries of Turkish origin whose loyalty toward the Khwarezmian Empire and its ruler was very fragile. In addition to  that, the army was hated by the population, because its members, foreign to Mohammad's people in every respect, habitually plundered and terrorized them savagely. 

However, Mohammad had to rely upon this army for the maintenance of his power. That means, he alienated himself from his own people. Even worse, the loyalty of his army was further weakened by the emergence of a military aristocracy which mainly served its own interests. Worst of all, his own mother Terken Khatun belonged to one of these aristocratic clans. Terken Khatun proved a fateful influence. Among other things, she demanded that the one of Mohammad's sons who were closest related to her be made the crown prince. Mohammad's eldest son, Jalal al-Din, was also the most gifted of his sons, but due to the pernicious influence of Terken Khatun he could not make him his heir. Naturally, this created a serious split between father and Jalal al-Din, who saw that the way the empire was ruled spelled disaster. Jalal al-Din was governor of Afghanistan, whereas the favorite of Terken Khatun was not only made heir to the throne, but was given the main part of the empire. Further; Mohammad's wicked mother established her own court, and that undermined the authority of Mohammad seriously. 

Because of all this, Mohammad must resort to violence and killing in order to impose what little authority he could wield over his people. It was typical of his way of governing that he regularly killed the governors of the various regions. In addition to this, his army of disloyal mercenaries needed wages, which had to be covered by appallingly high taxes, which together with the irregular but frequent plundering regularly led to rebellions all over the area under his incompetent and disorganized rule. 

Thus, Shah Mohammad had no support in his people, and the loyalty of his army was shaky, to say the least. The combination of the disorganizing influence of his mother and his own incapability to win the support of his population effectively prevented him from any proper defence of his empire when disaster came. When the Mongols attacked, he could not do the obvious militarily correct thing; to meet the Mongols before they entered his area. Instead he chose to defend the biggest garrisons like Otrar, Bukhara and the capital Samarkand. The morale of his army was easily too low to mobilize any high-quality defence.  

1221: After less than half a year of flight across the Persian land the Shah died from pleurisy, poor, exhausted and in rags. Now the Khwaresmian Empire had ceased to exist. Chepe and Subedei then made a famous raid around the Caspian Sea and into Russia before returning to Chingis' main army. It is this raid that prompted Edward Gibbon to admiringly state that "Such a ride has never before been attempted, and has never since been repeated."

1222: The Chinese Taoist monk Changchun visits Chingis Khan, and extensively discusses philosophical matters with him.

1223: Subedei returned home after annihilating a large Georgian army, thereafter he, with his 20 000 men, almost completely wiped out a Russian army of 80,000 in the famous Battle of Khalka. Chepe died during this campaign or soon after. Subedei soon became the one survivor among Chingis Khan's four "dogs of war." (Chepe, Jelme, Khubilai and Subedei)

1227: Chingis Khan ascended to Heaven during campaign against China (in the Tangut territory). His people and all who appreciate him for what he was and is have revered him ever since.

1229: Ogedei, one of Chingis Khan's four sons by his principal wife Borte, was elected great khan, in accordance with the wish of Chingis. The war in China continued, because Chingis had left an order to subjugate the whole of China, and also a strategic plan for how to do so. Ogedei followed up this plan faithfully with Subedei as his main general.

1234: The former Chin emperor committed ritual suicide after being chased from town to town, and the Chin Empire is finally subjugated.

1234/1235: Subedei is given the task of reconnoitering into the West in order to prepare for the great Western campaign, which in all probability was planned by Chingis khan together with his faithful shamans and generals after Chepe's and Subedei's reconnoitering of the Western lands for the first time in 1222-23. The political and economic structures of the West were investigated in great detail. Even the family connections of the rulers of Russian and Europe were investigated in great detail, whereas the Europeans knew nothing about the Mongols. According to some, Subedei's plan was to conquer all of Christian Europe, and he estimated that it would take the Mongols eighteen years to do so. Some historians, quite rightly in my view, believe that Chingis Khan planned the conquest of Europe already in the 1220's, and that it was an old scheme that was now played out by Chingis' greatest general.

1236: Korea was reoccupied after a rebellion (was part of Chin)

1236: Subedei, with Chingis Khan's grandson Batu as the nominal leader, started the great 1236-1242 campaign with 150,000 men to subjugate all of Russia and Eastern Europe. "The Secret History of The Mongols" describe all the princes of the blood as "succorers of Subedei." Subedei determined that the campaign had to be started during winter. The Mongols were accustomed like no one else to the rigors of Winter. In the Mongolian mainland and around Lake Bajkal temperature temperatures of minus sixty degrees are not unknown. Mindful of this, and probably influenced by the primordial Mongolian connection to the principles of Cold, their foremost general now decided to open the campaign during the coldest season.

1237: The Mongols entered the Russian land during the coldest, darkest time of the year, entirely consistent with their physical and spiritual origins. Before they reached the Eastern Russian principalities, they defeated the Volga Bulgars.

1237, December 21: The Mongols took Riazan as the first Russian town. The Russian chronicles give a detailed description of the catastrophe.

1238: The Mongols eliminated all of the Northern Russian principalities one by one. The Mongols knew that the Russians must not be allowed to build strongholds in the forest regions, from which they could attack the Mongols in the rear. To overcome Russia conclusively, Subedei this time attacked from the North, rather than from Caucasus as in 1223.

1240, December 6: The Mongols captured Kiev, the largest city in Russia, having at their disposal catapults, mangonels, poisoned arrows, naphtha, simultaneously bowmen ascended the rooftops and lancers in the streets. Kiev was reduced to ashes. The Russian land would now be dominated by the Mongols until 1480, and  Russian princes would be satraps of the Mongols during this Mongol period. It is noteworthy that it was Russia that was the part of the Mongol Empire that survived longest. Subsequently the Russian land would be called "The Golden Horde." What does that mean? What most people do not know is that it were the Russians themselves who gave their part of the Empire this name. It has been assumed that the designation "Golden Horde" is derived from the golden color of the Mongol Khan's tent. This is mistaken, but needs a little explanation. We can start by asking why the Khan's tent was golden. The reason for this stems from age-old Inner Asian (and Chinese) symbolism. According to this symbolism, the color of Black designates North, Blue indicates East, Red is the color of South, and White is the color symbolizing West. The middle, or central area is represented by the Golden or yellow color. Traditionally, all Mongols of the line of Chingis Khan were said to be members of the Golden Family. The reason for this is that Golden, the color of the middle, is also the color of the political concept of Central Authority, hence all partakers of this Chingisid authority are by definition members of the Golden Family. The meaning of the Golden Horde is then the "horde (= political-social unit) in the middle." The correctness of this interpretation is demonstrated by the fact that the Mongol peoples in Russia called the Russian tsar "the White Tsar," which of course means "The Tsar (Ruler) of the West." (the white area) When the Russians called themselves the Golden Horde it therefore proved that the Russians at one stage considered themselves not only part of the Mongol Empire, but also that they regarded the Russian part of that empire the primary, central (Golden) area. Of course this was partly an expression of blatant Russocentrism, but the assertion that the Russian Land is the real Golden Horde is not entirely without justification: The Mongols trace their origins in Dark and Cold Siberia, and both Chingis Khan and his foremost general Subedei were born close to the Siberian Bajkal Sea.

1240: After the victory over Russia, after having dividing the great Mongol army into 3 parts, Subedei invaded Hungary and Poland.

1241: April: The Mongols fought with most excellent skill against several Hungarian armies, which were all defeated, 80,000 died in one battle and another 100,000 in consequent battles for Pest at the Sajo river, where Batu feigned a crossing during the evening of April 10, while Subedei crossed the river elsewhere covered by the dark of night. At Liegnitz 20,000 were killed including the Teutonic knights. This means that the victorious Mongols wiped out several large armies and killed more than 200 000 of the finest European warriors during some few weeks in 1241.

1241, December: The Mongols Crossed Danube but consolidated gains before invading Austria. During the whole campaign, the European countries were incapable of resolving their differences to fight a common enemy (Austria seized parts of Hungary and the pope was rumored to be trying to induce the Mongols to attack his rivals and enemies)

1241, December 11: Ogodei, Chingis Khan's son and first successor, dies in Mongolia. The regency is taken over by his widow Toregene. Toregene was to be the ruler of the Mongol Empire from 1241 to 1246, when her son Guyuk was elected Grand Khan.

1242, February: A messenger arrives with news that Ogodei had died in Mongolia on December 11, 1241. With Ogodei dead, the position of Great Khan was vacant, and the Mongol custom was to return in order to face the new political situation, that is to elect a new khan. This was a decision that proved to be fateful for the Mongols. If the Mongols had not been bound by tradition, but continued the European campaign in accordance with the original guidelines of Subedei (and as already mentioned it is very likely that Chingis Khan himself had masterminded the plan), Batu and Subedei might have conquered all of Europe to the Atlantic Ocean. As it happened, the adherence to custom prevented that from happening. Because of subsequent disruptive developments, the Mongols never returned to fulfill their European mission. However, Batu soon established at Sarai at Volga the capital of what became known as the Golden Horde. (Russian: Zalatája Ardá) The Mongols remained the rulers in Russia for close to 250 years. It should be noted that Russia at the time of the campaign of Subedei and Batu consisted of numerous independent princedoms that were more often than not in war with each other. The Mongol occupation put an end to this, and were consequently the orchestrators of the unification of the Russian Empire. There has been much discussion between historians about whether or not the Mongols really intended to attack and subjugate the whole of Europe. The fact that Mongol reconnaissance troops penetrated the German Empire and reached the outskirts of Vienna lends probability to such an assumption.

1243: Yeh-lu Chu'tsai, Chingis Khan's forever faithful shaman and foremost spiritual adviser, died. This man ought to be honored for his work, which continued after the death of Chingis Khan. According to Leo deHartog, in the immediate period following the death of Chingis, the shaman Yeh-lu Chu'tsai, together with Chingis' favorite general Subedei, were the two brains who were "chiefly responsible for continuing the principles of leadership laid down by Genghis Khan."

1246: Subedei, Chingis Khan's greatest and most brilliant general, died at the age of 70. Some few years beforehand, he had returned to his Urianqai homeland at the east of Lake Bajkal, in great disappointment over the spiritual decay of the Empire.

1246: Guyuk, son of Ogodei and Toregene, was elected as Great Khan.

1248: Guyuk died. The leadership of the Mongol Empire is taken over by his widow Oghulgamish. 

1251: Mongke, son of Tolui, elected as Great Khan.

1255: Batu, the first khan of The Golden Horde, died.

1256: Hulagu, grandson of Chingis Khan, overcomes the Persian Ismaili's. 

1258: Baghdad is taken by Hulagu.

1259: Mongke died, and he was to be the last Mongolian Great Khan who resided in Mongolia.

1260: Kubilai Khan is about to win the quest for supremacy among the Mongols, and moves his headquarters to what he felt to be his natural homeland: China. He thereby moved the Mongolian capital from Karakorum in Mongolia to Beijing in China. (Later, in 1267, another town meant to serve as Mongol capital, kalled Tatu or Khanbaligh, "the town of the Khan," would be erected northeast of Beijing, but the Mongol capital was already moved before this happened.) Even though the full conquest of China was an ultimate triumph of the Mongols, signifying their indisputable superiority over the sedentary civilization, the long-term moral effect of moving the capital out from Mongolia must have been detrimental, and contributed to the general split-up among the Mongols. After 1260, we can no longer speak about a unified Mongol nation. More and more signs of degeneration made themselves visible. This was a process that in reality started very soon after the departure of Chingis Khan. Regarding Kubilai, he tended to be more prejudiced than his grandfather, and failed to a large extent to see the need for integrating traditional Mandarin Chinese customs and procedures in his state. This greatly exacerbated the conflict between the Chinese and Kubilai's Mongols. To some it may seem paradoxical that the man who started the Mongol conquest of China was actually more insightful than his grandson showed himself to be nearly five decades later, but that was the way it was, and it serves as another reminder that there is no natural law that makes the world improve with time. As we remember, Chingis Khan actually chose a Chinese as his closest adviser in 1215.

1260: On September 3th, a weak Mongol force is defeated by the Mamluks in the battle of Ayn Jalut.

1264: Kubilai finally defeats Ariq-boeke, his rival for the throne of Grand Khan.

1274: Kubilai sends a fleet of 150 boats against Japan, but is beaten back.

1279: The Sung was conclusively subjugated, and the whole of China is won and the Mongol Yuan dynasty, lasting until 1368, is established. The Mongols were, even though their own nation went into decline, thus the unifiers of China. In this context it should be pointed out that this sequence of events was a recurrent pattern through Chinese history; many times over the Chinese separated into several independent states and dynasties, then they reunited under the influence of a new, stronger dynasty. The Mongol establishment of their Yuan dynasty may also be seen in the light of this ancient historical pattern. 

1281: Kubilai sends another, larger expedition with more than 160 000 warriors to Japan, but this also meets failure, and a typhoon seals its doom.

1283: The fact that the Mongols were not a naval power is demonstrated once more in Indochina. This year Kubilai sent by the sea a force to Champa, which is part of present-day Vietnam. The Champa troops beat the Mongol forces and forced them to retreat.

1285: Kubilai sends another army to the kingdom of Annam, also part of present-day Vietnam. His force came as far as to Hanoi, but it was defeated and had to retreat.

1287: Kubilai sends a third army against Hanoi, but again fails, and the army must retreat again.

1288: In spite of the fact that the Vietnamese had won three consecutive military victories over the forces of Kubilai, Tran Nhon-ton, the king of Annam, in the end acknowledged himself Kubilai's vassal.

1293: In January, Kubilai sent an army of 30 000 to Java. The Mongols won initial victories, but soon had to leave the country.

1294: On february 18, 1294, Kubilai dies at the age of seventy-nine.

1380: The Russians, led by the famous Dmitrii Donskoi, win over the Mongol army (now predominantly composed of Turkish warriors) led by Mamay, at Kulikovo Pole (Snipes' field) at Don.

1368: The last Mongol emperor of the Mongol Yuan dynasty of China, Toghan Temur, is driven out of China.

1480: The Russians stop paying tribute to the remnants of the Mongol rulers of Russia. It will be understood that the Mongols also unified Russia by subjugating all the Russian principalities under one single authority. Thus, the Mongols were the indirect creators of the Russian Empires, both that of the Romanovs and the 20th-century Bolshevik Empire.

1502: The Russian Tsar, Ivan Vasilevitch (the third), finally declared full and unlimited Russian independence from the Mongols, and the last and most enduring part of the Mongol Empire ceases to exist. 

What became of the Mongols?

After the death of Chingis Khan, the Mongols rapidly went into decline. None of his successors inherited his genius, let alone his spiritual integrity. They had greed and lust as their foremost motivations. The Great Yasa of Chingis Khan was a code of honor and dignity, and that was not what Chingis' lesser descendants pursued. They were much more concerned with the riches of this world, and did not care about the eternal spiritual principles that had been the foundations of the rule of Chingis Khan, thus the rulers gradually abandoned the ideas and teachings of the Founder. Significantly, the principle of Chingis Khan of appointing leaders to their positions on the basis of ability alone was soon regularly violated. There must have been some able men among the descendants of Chingis, but they could do little to halt the corruption and demise of the old sapience and solidarity, thus the general development was a rapid decline. The tragic alcoholism and depravity that marked the Mongol leaders after Chingis is well documented. Before long, the Mongols reverted to their old habits of internecine warfare and rivalry. However, the difference just testifies to what enormous authority and positive influence Temuchin had wielded.

Other factors contributed to the downfall, notably the very nature of the nomad economy. A nomad economy is self-sufficient and eminently sustainable, but does not have the potential for expansion found in sedentary civilizations, with their trade, agriculture, and faculties of production. Economic competition thus put the Mongols at a disadvantage, and the nomads became technologically and militarily outpaced.


The establishment of the Mongol empire contributed to the opening up of contact between the oriental and the occidental to an unprecedented degree, and it is possible to discern, albeit not prove, in the lifework of Chingis Khan and his Mongols the grand purpose of bringing together the principles of East and West and so unifying Mankind into a higher stage of culture, marked by mutual understanding, cooperation and awareness of the interconnected and interdependent nature of all principles in Nature and Universe, as well as an undying quest for quality and excellence in every area of human experience, which necessitates inclusion of competition, selection, polarity and complementarities.

Many humans believe that there is an unbridgeable contradiction between solidarity, love and compassion on the one hand, and competition, selection and polarized complementarities on the other. Further, throughout history humans have constructed thought systems that mistakenly dictate that there is a basic contradiction between culture and nature, and that people must alienate themselves from Nature and its forces and characteristics in order to be "true humans." That it needs not be so, is a fundamental element of the Mongolian spiritual principles. It was the aim of Chingis Khan to create societies in which humans could enjoy the thrill of intense quality (the concept of quality cannot be explained satisfactorily, it has to be felt) and true togetherness at the same time. An unbiased look at the message from their spiritual foundations points in this direction, and we should not dismiss this aspect of the Mongol Phenomenon. It may well be the most significant one.

Moreover: Their military activities had positive long-term effects that should not be overlooked. As a result of the Mongol campaigns and the unifying effects of the Empire, scientific discoveries and many forms of knowledge were made available to Mankind as a whole. The well-known Mongolist Sir Henry Howorth once said: "I have no doubt myself, that the art of printing, the mariner's compass, firearms, and a great many details of social life, were not discovered in Europe, but imported by means of Mongol influence from the furthest East."

More subtle influences of a spiritual nature also had and have profound and long-lasting effects. We should always bear in mind that everything that happens in Universe has a Purpose, something that the Mongol Phenomenon certainly had and has. In other words: Its Purpose is still unfolding. The lasting memory of the unique Mongol Phenomenon, which forever continues to inspire and fascinate people, is testimony to this. 

For further reading, I recommend the works I have used, which can be found in the bibliography section:

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Last Updated February 24, 2001 by Per Inge Oestmoen