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Who was Genghis Khan?

Updated on December 3, 2016

Genghis Khan (1162-1227), founder of the Mongol Empire, was the son of Yesukai, chief or khan of one of the many nomad tribes which inhabited the plains of eastern Siberia. Yesukai was murdered and his son, then named Temujin, had to fend for himself and learn the military and political skills that were to make him leader of all the tribes.

By 1206 he had defeated all his rivals and was proclaimed the Great Khan at Karakorum, sacred meeting-place of the Mongols. He then took the name of Chinghis or Genghis Khan. At the head of hordes of well-mounted tribesmen, he swept into China as far as Peking and then, leaving one of his generals behind as viceroy, turned westwards to extend his conquests across Afghanistan and Persia to the shores of the Black Sea, where he decisively defeated the warlike Turks. In his old age he retired to Mongolia and devoted himself to ruling his vast empire through his four sons; he set up a system of staging-posts and royal messengers to keep himself informed and he issued a code of laws, the Yassa, which was obeyed by the Mongols for generations.

He died on campaign against a rebellion in northern China. His grandson, Kublai Khan, founded the Mongol (or Yuan) Dynasty of China.


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