Interview with Genghis Khan
Interview with Genghis Khan
I know what you are thinking. Genghis died in the year 1227. That’s almost 800 years ago. True. But there have been many remarkable new developments in cryogenic research that you may not be aware of. I learned recently of Genghis’ defrosted re-emergence and was fortunate to get this one interview with him before the paparazzi descended. Herewith is our conversation verbatim.
me – Nice to meet you, Emperor Khan. (I know that sounds redundant but I didn’t know how else to address him). May I call you Genghis?
Genghis – If you like, although my real name is Temujin.
me – That’s an interesting name. What does it mean?
Genghis – Damned if I know. My father, Yesugei Borjigin, and my mother, Ho’elen, named me. But it was really hard for me growing up when my friends started with all those ‘Yo, momma,’ jokes. You can easily imagine how they shortened my momma’s name.
me – Oh, yes. It seems people had uncommon names in those days.
Genghis – Really? What about Lady Gaga? Duchess O’Blunt? frogdropping? de Greek? Sweetsusie? Epigramman? Prettydarkhorse? Are those common names?
me – Good point, Genghis. Where were you born?
Genghis – In Hentley province, Mongolia near the Onon River. Around 1162. I can’t be certain of the date since they didn’t keep very good records then. You could call Andy Rooney. He might remember.
me – Did you have any siblings?
Genghis – Any what?
me – Any brothers or sisters?
Genghis – Sure. I was the oldest with three brothers, Imaad, Khajiun, and Temüge, and one sister, Temulin, as well as two half-brothers, Bekhter and Belgutei.
It was pretty crowded growing up in that small yurt. We would all have been sleeping in one bed . . . if beds had been invented. But I knew I would own a bigger yurt one day.
If you read just one book about Genghis Khan, read the first one by Jack Weatherford
me – Why is that?
Genghis – When I was born I was holding a large blood clot in my fist – that’s a divine sign that I was destined to rule the largest world empire ever established. Like Rhode Island.
me – Good to know. I have read that the Mongol tribes were nomads. So you moved around a lot?
Genghis – yeah, my early years were difficult. Today, children play games like ‘Duck, Duck, Goose, Hide and Seek or Red Rover’. When I was young, we played ‘Duck, Duck, Kill the Goose, Hide and Stab, or Red Rover, Red Rover, Your Life is Over’.
My father delivered me to the family of my future wife when I was only nine years old as part of a pre-arranged marriage agreement. I was supposed to live there working for my future father-in-law until I reached the mature age of 12 and got married.
That didn’t happen because my father who was head of the Borjigin clan was poisoned on his journey home by the neighboring Tatars in retaliation for his raids against them. I think they served him a pizza with bad mushrooms. This gave me a legitimate claim to be my clan's chief, but the clan refused to be led by a pre-teen and abandoned me and my family.
me – That’s really tough.
Genghis – You have no idea! For the next few years, my family and I were very poor nomads living on wild fruits, fish, small game, and lots of marmots.
me – Marmots?
Genghis – We called them marmots. You call them large rats. I must admit that one time I ‘lost it” when we all were starving and my half-brother, Bekhter, didn’t want to share his hunting spoils with the rest of us. I fought him and he died. I did what I had to do and became head of the family.
me – Did your mother ever forgive you?
Genghis – Yes, she understood and she was the one who taught me how to survive in the harsh world we were living in. She taught me the importance of trust and independence. She used to say, “Temujin, remember you have no companions but your shadow.” That didn’t make much sense to me when I was young but later I realized she meant be your own man and don’t trust completely anyone but yourself..
She also explained the realities of the political climate in Mongolia with its many separate and antagonistic clans. Much like your Democrats and Republicans and the Coffee Party.
me – I think you are referring to the Tea Party. Moving on, what would you say is the most important lesson you learned from your mother?
Genghis – The importance of making alliances with others was a lesson I never forgot. Two of my future generals, Jeime and Bo’orchu, joined my family and together with my four brothers and the rest of my clan formed the beginning of my army.
me – Did you get married?
Genghis – Yes. I married Borte of the Konkirat tribe when I was 16. It was one of those tribal alliances. She was later kidnapped in a raid by the Merkit tribe and I rescued her from her new, temporary Merkit husband with the help of my friends. When I became Emperor she was my only empress but I had several other wives as well – tradition, you know. There was Ujin, Kulan, Yisugen,Yisui – I can’t remember them all.
I loved Borte the most but our first child, Jochi, was born less than nine months after I rescued her from the Merkits so there was always that little nagging doubt in my mind. We had three more sons too: Chagatai. Ögedei, and Tolui.
Note: Genghis Khan also had many other children with his other wives, but they were excluded from succession, and records on what daughters he may have had are scarce. No surprise.
me - When did you become a Khan?
Genghis - When I was 27 I was elected Khan by my clan and I gave the best jobs to my relatives and most loyal followers. As we conquered more and more people I didn’t follow custom by looting and leaving. Instead I assimilated them into my growing Mongol army I was listening to television recently and heard your president say,” Punish your enemies and reward your friends." He got that line from me. That was my philosophy.
A few years later I was confirmed as Chingis Khaan (Genghis Khan) or leader of all Mongolia. My army grew and grew to the point where they were unbeatable. I united the Mongol tribes and forged a powerful army based on meritocracy, and became one of the most successful military leaders in history.
We went on to conquer central Asia, the Middle East and the Caucasus. In fact – a little PR here – in a span of just 25 years, my horsemen conquered a larger area with greater population than the Romans did in 400 years.
The movie, "Mongol" was nominated for an Oscar in 2007
me – That really is remarkable. Genghis, are you aware that some historians have characterized you as a barbarian who was evil, cruel and brutal? They say you slaughtered the inhabitants of entire villages if they resisted you.
Genghis - I behaved no differently than other conquerors at that time. I was no more cruel, just more successful. And the people in the villages and towns were warned beforehand by my advance publicity crew not to resist.
me - You had an advance publicity crew? Like the one used by the circus?
Genghis - Yes, where do you think P. T. Barnum learned that strategy? My crew spread gossip and scare tactics in advance so that villagers would be more frightened, surrender quickly and less bloodshed would take place.
I knew what my people wanted - they wanted everything in life that is good and nothing that is bad. I knew I could not promise that so instead I pledged to share both the sweet and the bitter of life with them. I constantly made alliances – I didn’t want to end up being poisoned like my father. And I attacked anyone who posed a serious threat. Just like the politicians today do on television. They learned that from me, too.
me - Which are your proudest achievements?
Genghis - Well, recently I met George Bush. That’s him in the photo with me.
me - No, I meant back in the day.
Genghis - Most people don't know this but I helped create a writing system for the Mongolian language based on the existing Uyghur script, developed a paper currency, and created the first ever Pony Express to communicate with my warriors in the field.
As I encountered new cultures, I adopted or adapted their best practices, and constantly updated my tactics and strategies. Steve Jobs learned that from me.
Who was Genghis Khan?
How would you characterize him?
Great Yasa Code
I was responsible for bringing Law to my people. I never learned to read and write, too busy catching marmots for food. So I had one of my teacher-followers inscribe on scrolls a code of laws known as the Great Yasa. Roughly translated, this Mongol code included the following:
• The spoils of war - we used to call it booty although I discovered it has a new meaning now - were divided evenly among all my warriors regardless of their status.
• A soldier may get drunk no more than three times a month.
• After the death of his father, a son may dispose of the father's wives, all except his mother; he may marry them or give them in marriage to others.
• An adulterer is to be put to death without any regard as to whether he is married or not.
• Whoever is guilty of sodomy is to be put to death.
• All Mongols are ordered to present all their daughters to the Khan at the beginning of each year that he might choose some of them for himself and his children. (January was my favorite month).
• Children born of a concubine are to be considered as legitimate
• Whoever urinates into water or ashes is also to be put to death.
• The kidnapping of women is forbidden. (Borte, my bride, had been kidnapped and my mother, Ho'elen, had been kidnapped from her husband by Yesugei, my father!)
• Respect all religions, the aged and the poor. (I myself worshipped the sky).
• Whoever takes goods on credit and becomes bankrupt, then again takes goods and again becomes bankrupt, then takes goods again and yet again becomes bankrupt is to be put to death after he third time. (No sissy credit cards in my kingdom).
There were many more laws as well and whoever violates these commands is put to death.
Secret Burial Site
me – Speaking of death, the mystery of where you were buried has long intrigued historians. Do you know where that secret burial site was?
Genghis – I’m not certain but I did meet Jimmy Hoffa. He was buried right next to me.
me - you met Jimmy Hoffa? Where? Where?
. . . and then I woke up!
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Genghis Khan's descendants extended the empire and maintained power in the region for several hundred years, in civilizations in which harems and concubines were the norm. And the males were extremely prolific. His eldest son is reported to have had 40 sons. His grandson, Kublai Khan, who established the Yuan Dynasty in China, had 22 legitimate sons, and was reported to have added 30 virgins to his harem each year.
Genghis may have done more than rule the largest empire in the world. According to a recently published genetic study, he may have helped populate it, too. Almost 8% of the men living in the former Mongol empire carry y-chromosomes that are nearly identical. That translates to roughly 16 million descendants living today.
Sources: Mayell, Hillary, "National Geographic News." 2003.
Ratchnevsky, Paul. ''Genghis Khan: His Life and Legacy.'' Blackwell Publishing, 1991.
Weatherford, Jack. "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World." Three Rivers Press, 2005.
© Copyright BJ Rakow Ph.D. 2010, 2011. All rights reserved. Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So." How to write a dynamic resume and cover letter, network effectively, interview professionally, and negotiate assertively. Includes chapter for older workers.