Like all nations, Mongolia has seen its share of violent days. After all, if you’ve got building an empire on your mind, politeness is likely to fall away. The Mongolian Empire, largely bookended by Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan, blossomed throughout the 13th century, reaching as far west as today’s Poland, south to Pakistan and South China, and east all the way to Pacific shores. It was the largest contiguous land empire in human history, comprising 16% of the earth’s land surface. Herewith, the niceties of war, Khan-style:
- Genghis Khan did not allow looting of his enemies without his prior approval, preferring to split acquired wealth among his warriors and their families.
- He codified all laws, including prohibitions against selling women, stealing, fighting among Mongols, and hunting during the breeding season.
- Genghis Khan declared religious freedom, international trade, and literacy for all, thus forming many alliances.
- Genghis Khan saw his son and heir Ogedei as courteous, generous, and charismatic. Ironically, this kept the Empire on the path originally laid by Genghis, and Ogedei Khan expanded it to its farthest points west and south.
- By the time of the third Khan’s enthronement at Karakorum in 1246, the reach of the Empire’s power was apparent: many foreign ambassadors attended Guyuk Khan’s coronation, including Pope Innocent IV, the Grand Duke of Moscow, a Seljuk Sultan, and the Emperor of India.
- Khan #4, Mongke Khan, built Buddhist monasteries, mosques, and Christian churches in the Mongol capital. One prized installation in Karakorum was a silver tree whimsically adorned with pipes that dispensed various drinks. A replica of its stands before a Chinese temple today.
- After Mongke Khan’s death, his two brothers Ariqboke and Kublai fought over the throne, stirring up a civil war in the once-united empire. Kublai emerged victorious.
- Kublai Khan, after conquering all of China, became the first non-Chinese Emperor of that country. He grew the economy there and opened more than 20,000 public schools.
- As the Mongol Empire grew, it broke into disparate factions who held allegiances to different ancestral brothers. By the time Kublai Khan died, southern expansion had reached its limit and over the following decades, the empire crumbled.