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About Great Chinggis Khan (Genghis Khan) and his Mongol empire

Updated: Nov 22

All about Great Chinggis Khan (Genghis Khan)

Chinggis Khan
Chinggis Khan (Genghis Khan) - traditional Mongolian art

Chinggis Khan (Genghis, Jenghiz, Chingiz)

(1162?– 1227) Founder of the Mongol Empire and national hero of the Mongol people

Like that of most great conquerors, the legacy of Chinggis Khan has been very controversial. In his day many non-Mongols called him an accursed bandit and killer destined for hell, while others described him as a man of tremendous gifts and charisma who had received his mission of rule from God. The Mongols themselves traditionally called him the “Holy Lord,” and his cult became a cornerstone of Mongol civic and religious traditions.


Chinggis was the son of YISÜGEI BA’ATUR and so a member of the Mongols’ ruling BORJIGID lineage. His birthplace of Deli’ün Boldaq on the Onon River is placed sometimes in Dadal Sum in Mongolia’s Khentii province and sometimes on the southern border of Aga Buriat Autonomous Area, in Russia. Yisügei himself was a grandson and nephew of two of the first Mongol khans.

When his first son by his principal wife, Ö’ELÜN, was born, Yisügei was returning to his camp from the battle against the hostile Tatar tribe with a captive named Temüjin (blacksmith). Yisügei thus named his son, the future Chinggis, Temüjin. The fact that he was born with a blood lot in his hand was later taken as an augury of his violent rise to universal rule. When Temüjin was only nine years old, his father was poisoned while at the camp of some TATARS.

The SECRET HISTORY OF THE MONGOLS, the earliest monument of Mongolian literature, presents the following period as one of almost total isolation and deprivation for Yisügei’s two widows and their sons. The Persian historian RASHID-UD-DIN and the SHENGWU QINZHENG LU (a Mongolian chronicle preserved only in Chinese translation), however, imply that Yisügei’s brothers stood by their sister-in-law. The sources do agree, however, that most of Yisügei’s subject tribesmen deserted him and that dominance over the Mongols passed to the rival TAYICHI’UD clan.

Mongol warriors.jpg
Mongol warriors of Chinggis Khan (Genghis Khan)

Early Life and Challenges of Temüjin: Formative Years, Family Conflicts, and Alliances in the Making of Genghis Khan

As a child, Temüjin spent some time with Dei Sechen of the QONGGIRAD and his daughter BÖRTE; before his death, Yisügei and Dei Sechen had betrothed the children to each other. He also formed a blood brotherhood (ANDA) with JAMUGHA, who later grew up to be his rival. As he entered adolescence, Temüjin’s life became dangerous. Ö’elün’s older sons, emüjin and Qasar, came into conflict with Begter and Belgütei, the sons of Yisügei’s other wife.

Eventually, Temüjin and Qasar murdered Begter but spared Belgütei. Temüjin faced repeated threats from the hostile clans and tribes, horse thieves, and other dangers of the steppe. The rival Tayichi’ud clan at one point imprisoned him, perhaps for his murder of Begter, but he escaped. Probably shortly after this episode, Temüjin went to claim his betrothed bride, Börte, bringing her to his camp. The MERKID tribe had long desired vengeance for Ö’elün, who had been stolen by Yisügei from one of their tribesmen.

Now, hearing that Temüjin had a new wife, the Merkid raided his camp, kidnapping Börte and Yisügei’s other wife, while Ö’elün and the brothers fled. With the aid of Toghril Khan of the KEREYID and his blood brother Jamugha, Temüjin and his brothers succeeded in rescuing Börte. Soon after, Börte gave birth to a son, whom Chinggis named JOCHI, or “guest.” The name reflected Temüjin’s doubts about his son’s paternity, doubts that later caused family conflict. Börte later gave birth to three other sons and five daughters. Chinggis had four other major wives, but of these four most were childless, and only one son, Kölgen, by his second wife, Qulan, survived to adulthood.


Chinggis Khaan - Tallest Horseman Mounment Complex
Chinggis Khan - Tallest Horseman Mounment Complex

The counterattack against the Merkid, perhaps around 1180, marked Temüjin’s entrance onto the larger Mongolian stage. Toghril Khan, the ruler of the Kereyid Khanate occupying central Mongolia, had been Yisügei’s blood brother, and now he took Temüjin under his wing. Soon after, he and Jamugha had a falling out, after which Temüjin’s uncles, together with a significant part of the MONGOL TRIBE, declared Temüjin khan of the Mongols.

The details of Temüjin’s subsequent rise to the chief of the Mongol tribe are told in the Secret History of the Mongols, the Shengwu Qinzheng Lu, and in Rashid-ud-Din’s COMPENDIUM OF CHRONICLES. While often sharing episodes, they also diverge on many points, particularly chronology, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to reconstruct a synoptic narrative of his political vicissitudes before 1201. The only incident that can be firmly dated is his 1196 participation in an attack on the Tatar tribe, his hereditary enemies.

This attack had been planned by the JIN DYNASTY in North China, and for his participation, the dynasty gave Temüjin the Chinese title of Zhaotao, or “Pacification Commissioner,” and Toghril the title of ONG KHAN, or “Prince Khan.” By 1201 Temüjin had fought his way to dominance among the Mongol clans. The Tayichi’ud and other remaining opponents within the Mongols, with the support of the Tatars, the NAIMAN, the Merkid, and other tribes, elected Jamugha khan in an attempt finally to block Temüjin’s rise.