Genghis Khan one of the greatest warlord of all time

Genghis Khan one of the greatest warlord of all time

Genghis Khan (1162-1227) started from humble beginnings later establishing the greatest empire in history. After unifying the nomadic tribes of the Mongolian plateau, he conquered much of Central Asia and China. His descendants expanded the empire even further, advancing to places as far away as Poland, Vietnam, Syria, and Korea.

At its peak, the Mongols controlled nearly 20 million sq km of land, an area which was another 10 million sq km the size of Africa. Genghis Khan died in 1227 during a military invasion against the Chinese empire of Xi Xia. His final resting place is still unknown.

Genghis Khan had a fearsome reputation but he was a capable leader, he introduced writing to the Mongols, created the first legal code, promoted trade, and granted religious freedom by allowing all religions to be practiced freely anywhere in the Mongol territory. In this way, Genghis Khan built the foundation of a very strong empire.

A statue of Genghis Khan adorns the presidential palace in Ulan Bator, Mongolia

Genghis Khan was originally named Temujin, which means "of iron" or "blacksmith." He earned the honorific name "Genghis Khan" in 1206 when he was declared leader of the Mongols at a tribal gathering known as "Kurultai." While "Khan" is a traditional title meaning "leader" or "ruler", "Genghis." translated as "supreme ruler".


Genghis Khan's date of birth is uncertain, some historians choose 1162 and others 1167. Temujin's mother was Hoelun and his father Yisugei, who was a tribal leader. Genghis Khan was born near the border between Mongolia and Siberia. Legend states that he came to the world holding a blood clot in his right hand. At that time, dozens of nomadic tribes in the steppes of Central Asia were constantly fighting and stealing from each other, and Temujin's early life was violent and unpredictable.

Autumn on the Onon River, Mongolia, the area where Temüjin was born and raised.

Before he was 10 years old, his father was poisoned to death by an enemy clan. Temujin who was only nine years old at that time he could not maintain the loyalty of his father's followers. As a result, he, his mother, and six siblings were left in the steppe of Asia to be left to die.

For an influential figure like Genghis Khan, very little is known about his personal life or even his physical appearance. Most historians describe him as tall and strong with long, bushy hair and beard. The Mongol leader Genghis Khan never allowed anyone to paint his portrait, sculpt his image, or engrave his face on coins. The first images of him appeared after his death.

One day, he was captured and enslaved by the clan that had abandoned him, but he was finally able to escape. In 1178 Temujin married Borte, after marriage he immediately began to form alliances, building a reputation as a warrior and attracting more and more followers. Temujin's leadership and martial talent led him to victory over local rivals and his army grew in size. Temujin proves unstoppable, he manages to unite most of the different nomadic tribes that roam the prairies of Central Asia, each made up of different clans, by creating a network of alliances between them.

Temujin established himself as a dominant leader through a mixture of diplomacy, generosity, and the cruel use of force and punishment. The defeated tribes were sometimes forced to join their army or killed. Temujin appreciated the courage shown by his defeated foes, notably, he made a man as one of his generals because he had withstood cavalry attacks and fired arrows that brought down Temujin's horse.

Genghis Khan had a keen eye for spotting a person's talent, he promoted his officers based on skill and experience not from class, ancestry, or even past allegiances. One famous example of this practice of meritocracy came during the 1201 battle against the Taijut Clan when Genghis Khan was nearly killed after having his horse shot. When he won the battle, he then spoke to the Taijut prisoners and found out who was responsible for his horse being shot, a soldier bravely stood up and claimed to be the shooter. Genghis Khan made him an officer in his army and later nicknamed him "Jebe," or "arrow," in honor of their first encounter on the battlefield. Along with the famous General Subutai, Jebe went on to become one of the greatest field commanders of the Mongols during their conquests of Asia and Europe.

Most of what we know about Genghis Khan's childhood comes from "The Secret History of the Mongols" which is the oldest work in Mongolian history and literature, written soon after Genghis Khan's death. The life of Genghis Khan is recounted in the Secret History of the Mongols, later derived from Chinese and Arabic sources.


As his army grew larger, Temujin defeated rival clans such as the Tartars, Kereyids, Naiman's, and Merkids until the Mongol Confederation was formed. A large conference or Kurultai on the banks of the river Kherlen in 1206 and officially declared Temujin their leader.

Another goal of the meeting was to combine the power base with the Mongols' skills in horseback riding and archery, not only to overcome the power of a neighboring country but to build an empire that could then conquer Asia's richest country, China.

Genghis Khan may not have started with this plan, but that's what happened. Despite his higher position, Genghis Khan remained and continued to live in the tent. Indeed, nomadic people did not form villages or cities but still moved regularly between the grasslands according to the seasons. Genghis Khan continued to move forward, the only spoken Mongolian began to be made into a written language. So that the Yassa (Genghis Khan's rule) could be drawn up along with many other provisions, the punishments for certain prescribed crimes began to be written. Another innovation was the development of a postal system where horse couriers could quickly carry messages over long distances by providing places to eat, rest and change horses. This proved to be very useful during his invasion when information needed to be passed quickly.

Apart from bows and horses, the most powerful weapon of the Mongols was a vast communication network. One of his decisions was the establishment of a courier service known as "Yam." It consisted of a series of well-organized post offices and stopovers throughout the Empire. A place to stop and rest. The system that allowed goods and information to travel at an unprecedented speed also acted as Khan's eyes and ears. Thanks to Yam, he was able to easily keep up with military and political developments and maintain contact with his vast network of spies and scouts. It also helped protect foreign officials and merchants during their travels. In the following years, this service was famously used by Marco Polo and John of Plano Carpini.

Genghis Khan also made his army better off by avoiding the Mongol tradition of forming divisions based on tribes that might split due to rivalry. To further secure his own position, the Great Khan formed and expanded his elite guard, from 800 to 10,000 men. Later, its members swore complete allegiance to Khan. In addition, many of its members also acquired important administrative functions in conquered territories.
The Mongol army had several advantages over the enemy army. They were skilled archers who wielded long-range bows and extremely formidable warriors, capable of riding for days on end with little food and water. Their stocky and agile horses are their weapons that can withstand extreme temperatures.

The Mongols had both light and heavy cavalry, and each rider usually had up to 16 spare horses which gave them great maneuverability. In addition, the Mongols never "prestige" to use the tactics and technology of the enemy. Not only did they bring fierce mobility to warfare but they were also fast and proficient in other types of combat, such as sieges and the use of gunpowder catapults. Adopting other countries' skills and innovations became a general Mongol forte because Genghis Khan's ministers and commanders came from about 20 different countries.

Finally, the Mongol war motivation was designed for only one purpose, namely to obtain booty. Furthermore, the victorious commanders could expect to receive vast lands to rule as they pleased while the Great Khan himself received tribute from the rulers who were allowed to remain in power as Mongol vassals. In short, once the Mongols moved, they would prove very difficult to stop.

Song & Jin Country Map


Temujin placed competent allies rather than relatives in key positions and executed enemy tribal leaders while incorporating the remaining members into his clan. Although Temujin is an animist, his followers include Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists. By 1205 he had defeated all his rivals.

After unifying the clans, Genghis Khan ruled about 1 million people. He abolished the peerage, banned the sale and kidnapping of women, outlawed the slavery of the Mongols, and made the theft of cattle punishable by death. In addition, Genghis Khan ordered the adoption of a writing system, conducted regular censuses, granted diplomatic immunity to foreign ambassadors, and allowed religious freedom long before the idea spread elsewhere.

Genghis Khan embraced the diversity of his newly conquered territories. He passed a law declaring religious freedom for all and even providing tax exemptions for places of worship. This tolerance has a political side, Khan knows that happy people are less likely to rebel. While Genghis Khan adheres to shamanic beliefs that worship the spirits of the sky, wind, and mountains. The Great Khan also had a personal interest in spirituality. He prays in his tent for several days before important campaigns, and he often meets with leaders of different faiths to discuss the details of their religion.

Genghis Khan's first campaign outside of Mongolia was against the Xi Xia empire in northwestern China. After a series of sieges, the Mongols launched a major initiative in 1209 that brought them to the doorsteps of Yinchuan, the capital of Xi Xia. Unlike other armies, the Mongols traveled without food carts but carried large reserves of horses. The army consisted almost entirely of cavalry, who were skilled and deadly riders with bows and arrows.

The Mongols next attacked the Jin Dynasty in northern China, from 1211 to 1214 outnumbered Mongols destroyed the countryside and forced the villagers to flee to the cities. As a result of food shortages became a problem for the Jin Dynasty, the Jin Dynasty soldiers ended up killing tens of thousands of their own farmers. In 1214 the Mongols laid siege to the capital city of Zhongdu (now Beijing), and the Jin Dynasty agreed to hand over large quantities of silk, silver, gold, and horses.

Map image and movement of Genghis Khan

It was a temporary respite before worse came when the Mongols attacked Jin again in 1215 after the leaders of the Jin Dynasty moved their capital to the south, and Genghis Khan saw this as a denial of vassal status. The Mongols continued their assault on China over the next decade, with about 90 historical sites destroyed in 1212-1213. Song launched a counterattack against Mongol territory in 1215 but failed and the Chinese general P'eng I-pin was captured, in 1215 Beijing was captured and the city burned.

Genghis Khan was satisfied with the imminent fall of China, and directed his troops to the southwest and invaded what is now Turkistan, Uzbekistan, and Iran between 1218 and 1220. His target was the Khwarazm Empire. Genghis Khan had sent a diplomatic mission, but the ruler of Khwarazm had the ambassadors executed. Genghis Khan responded by dropping about 100,000 troops. Despite being outnumbered, the Mongols swept through one city after another of Khwarazm, including Bukhara, Samarkand, and Urgench. Skilled workers such as carpenters and jewelers were rescued, while nobles and resisting soldiers were killed.

While it is impossible to know for sure how many people died during Genghis Khan's invasion, many historians put the number at around 40 million. Censuses from the Middle Ages show that China's population fell by the tens of millions during Genghis Khan's lifetime, and historians estimate that he may have killed three-quarters of Iran's population during his war with the Khwarazm Empire. The Mongol invasion may have reduced the entire world population by as much as 11 percent.

Meanwhile, unskilled workers are often used as human shields in subsequent attacks. No one knows for sure how many people died during Genghis Khan's invasion, partly because the Mongols propagated their cruel image as terror. The Mongols' fearsome reputation as a military grew in prominence.


When Genghis Khan returned to Mongolia in 1225, he had controlled most of the territory from the Sea of ​​Japan to the Caspian Sea. In early 1227 Genghis Khan fell from his horse causing him to be injured. He continued to campaign, but his health was deteriorating. He died on August 18, 1227, just before Xi Xia was destroyed.

His remains were then transported back to Mongolia for burial but the location of his grave is kept secret. Medieval sources say the tomb is in the vicinity of the sacred mountain Burkan Kuldun.

The Statue of Genghis Khan in Ulaanbaatar

The next major step came during the reign of Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan who conquered most of China's remaining territories from 1275 and thereby led to the collapse of the Song Dynasty in 1279. Kublai proclaimed himself emperor of the new Yuan Dynasty in China. Over the next two decades, China would be completely dominated by the Mongols. The Mongol Empire then carried out more invasions, including in the Middle East, Korea, and Japan with varying success.

Genghis Khan conquered twice as much territory as any other person in history, bringing both Eastern and Western civilizations in the process. The Mongols even invaded Japan before their empire broke up in the 14th century.

Genghis Khan had left a much bigger shadow than his empire, as he had been seen as a godlike figure in the region and the father of the Mongolian people. And today he continues to be honored with a special ceremony in the modern Mongolian capital, Ulan Bator.