Genghis Khan is one of history s immortals a leader of genius, driven by an inspiring vision for peaceful world rule Believing he was divinely protected, Genghis united warring clans to create a nation and then an empire that ran across much of AsiaUnder his grandson, Kublai Khan, the vision evolved into a complex religious ideology, justifying further expansion Kublai doubled the empire s size until, in the late th century, he and the rest of Genghis s Golden Family controlled one fifth of the inhabited world Along the way, he conquered all China, gave the nation the borders it has today, and then, finally, discovered the limits to growthGenghis s dream of world rule turned out to be a fantasy And yet, in terms of the sheer scale of the conquests, never has a vision and the character of one man had such an effect on the worldCharting the evolution of this vision, John Man provides a unique account of the Mongol Empire, from young Genghis to old Kublai, from a rejected teenager to the world s most powerful emperor


10 thoughts on “Mongol Empire: The Conquests of Genghis Khan and the Making of Modern China

  1. Paul Perry Paul Perry says:

    Author John Man takes us from the youth of Temujin, and how he became Genghis Khan and built an empire that crossed Asia into Europe, to his descendants not just Ogedai and Kublai, but all the branches of his family, taking us into the internecine feuds and jostling for power while the empire Genghis has founded doubled in size, and then caused it to fracture and split.He does a wonderful job of following the often tortuous paths of history with clarity, but also setting them in the context an Author John Man takes us from the youth of Temujin, and how he became Genghis Khan and built an empire that crossed Asia into Europe, to his descendants not just Ogedai and Kublai, but all the branches of his family, taking us into the internecine feuds and jostling for power while the empire Genghis has founded doubled in size, and then caused it to fracture and split.He does a wonderful job of following the often tortuous paths of history with clarity, but also setting them in the context and feel of time and place the attitudes of the lands and nations who faced the Mongols, well argued reasons for why they fell or resisted The canvas is vast, and he introduced me to many aspects of this history of which I was entirely unaware the facts that the Turks were a earlier wave of settlers from the same part of the world, the Mongol conquest of the entirety of Asian Islam, the fact that European Christian crusaders allied with the Mongols onthan one occasion from a belief that they represented the mythical Eastern Christian emperor Prester John to simple practicality of fighting the same opponent , the failed invasions of Vietnam and Japan, the off hand remark that modern Pakistan was part of the empire Each of these andcould fill volumes in their own right, and I hope I can find accounts written as well as this Not that this book is simply a brief overview, Man goes into detail that is substantial and in depth, but not overwhelming Early on I had been perhaps a little disparaging of his narrative style, but that was entirely unfair while quite different from the style of, say, Tom Holland, one of my personal favourites and a consummate writer of narrative histories While initially it seems that Man is rushing through events and piling up detail, he circles back and suddenly he is building a narrative picture that has drawn the reader right into the heart of the story His main achievement, though, is the way he connects the events to modern history, not only the China including how the Chinese claim Genghis for their own but Russia, the Stans, the Middle East and even how it moulded medieval Japan.I do have to say that one problem with the book is the way he deals or doesn t deal with rape This becomes especially apparent in a later section when he revisits the fact that one of Genghis sons was viewed possibly correctly as illegitimate as his mother had been held captive by an enemy tribe for several months, as well as the fact of Y chromosomes originating in Mongolia being widespread throughout Asia and Europe He states these matters as simply that, without acknowledging the sexual violence implicit in both I m sure the author would say something along the lines of it was a simple fact of how the world was then , but he doesn t say anything in the text and this omission, whether he feels it irrelevant, or is uncomfortable with the subject, leaves for me a troublesome gap that should at least have been recognised


  2. WarpDrive WarpDrive says:

    This is a quite interesting introductory overview of the character, life and rise to power of Genghis Khan, of the creation and subsequent expansion of the Mongol Empire through his meteoric series of conquests, and of the further equally dazzling expansion throughout the reign of his descendants, with special emphasis given to the conquest and unification of China carried out by his remarkable grandson Kublai Khan.


  3. Suzannah Suzannah says:

    It s telling that the chapter What the Mongols Did For Us begins by telling us about a 2003 study somebody did in which it was discovered that a mind boggling 8% of the Central and East Asian population was descended from a single ancestor who started out in Mongolia about 1000 years ago John Man explains that it may not actually have been Genghis Khan himself, but that his conquest of most of Asia certainly allowed some enterprising individual, orlikely a small family group, to consul It s telling that the chapter What the Mongols Did For Us begins by telling us about a 2003 study somebody did in which it was discovered that a mind boggling 8% of the Central and East Asian population was descended from a single ancestor who started out in Mongolia about 1000 years ago John Man explains that it may not actually have been Genghis Khan himself, but that his conquest of most of Asia certainly allowed some enterprising individual, orlikely a small family group, to consults notes scatter his genetic material across the length of the largest and most populous continent in the world Somehow, Man gets through this segment of the chapter without once using the word rape.It s not that John Man approves of everything Genghis Khan and his descendents did, precisely He makes occasional demurring sounds He definitely notes that the Mongols committed genocide on a scale never seen before or since, dispatching a quite possible 1.2 million men, women and children on a single day in today s Turkmenistan an event which was then repeated in other places Why Because Genghis was convinced it was his heavenly destiny to rule the entire world Adolf Hitler had nothing at all on this guy, I m telling you The book infuriated me According to John Man, Genghis united warring states Caused an explosion in east west trade Exemplified the habits of a highly effective leader Created the conditions in the war torn, depopulated, barren and brutalised moonscape left by his armies for a new, strong, centralised imperial state And get this contributed very, very slightly to the complex historical conditions under which Christopher Columbus was inspired to discover America Someone get that man a medal.But his greatest and most lasting achievement, per Man Genghis Khan and his descendents created the borders of modern China I m sure the Tibetans and Uighurs are thrilled It s a weird sort of thing to celebrate, and hardens a suspicion I ve harboured for a while, that modern historians see history as a glorious march towards evercentralised nationalist imperialist government If you want to know how this works, you really can t do better than read this book, and the weird way in which both Mongolia and China claim Genghis and his imperial destiny as their own.The book was well written, a narrative of immense scope and drama that I enjoyed hugely when I wasn t screaming and throwing things John Man tells a good story it s his interpretation of the story that irked me Earlier this year I ate up Megan Bannen s book The Bird and the Blade, a Turandot retelling set all over the Mongol Empire during the reign of Kublai Khan, and it was terrific to get the historical background to that story Moreover, Man did have some extremely enlightening things to say about how the Mongols used religion to justify their behaviour, such as the unexpected reveal that Kublai converted to Buddhism because it promoted the ideal of one world rule Phags pa revealed that Buddhism could give him what he wanted, offering something that did not exist in Chinese religions, or Islam, or Christianity It was the concept of the universal emperor , the chakravartin raja, who ruled over all and turned the wheel of the Law Here was an ideology that justified world conquest and world rule If you re interested in the Mongols, this book was a gripping and readable introduction to the topic As inexplicably laudatory biographies of genocidal maniacs go, it was fantastic


  4. Anna Anna says:

    The Mongol empire once ruled the largest land area that any other conqueror ever had under one hand The wave of flexible and unpredictable warriors whose only weakness lay in insufficient supply of grass, swept in all directions in search for submission You could survive a Mongol attack only by promptly giving up, any attempt to resist was an evidence of disrespect and punishable by death What made this conquest unique, was that, it wasn t directed at any one group or nation in particular, it The Mongol empire once ruled the largest land area that any other conqueror ever had under one hand The wave of flexible and unpredictable warriors whose only weakness lay in insufficient supply of grass, swept in all directions in search for submission You could survive a Mongol attack only by promptly giving up, any attempt to resist was an evidence of disrespect and punishable by death What made this conquest unique, was that, it wasn t directed at any one group or nation in particular, it was directed at absolutely everyone who has not yet accepted Mongol rule, and who had the misfortune of being within their reach Eventually, lack of sufficient grasslands stopped the expansion to the west, and the natural borders of climate, continent edges or high mountains, in all the other directions The empire in all its enormity did not last, but when Kublai Khan, Genghis grandson, conquered the rest of China and finally settled as an emperor of Yuan dynasty, the history of Mongolia and China became integrated forever It was Kublai that united China under his rule, not the other way round and yet, the common knowledge of who did what in the history remains unclear A guide in China once told me We are very proud of Genghis Khan, because he was the only Chinese to have conquered Europeans No point telling her that Genghis was not Chinese, that China was his prime enemy, that he never got as far as Europe himself It would be like denying Mary s virginity to a Catholic.It is a fascinating story of a conquest driven by the mandate of Great Heaven that as Mongols believed, has chosen them to rule the world For me, it is also a magnificent introduction to a part of history that I knew relatively little about, made eveninteresting by John Man s storytelling abilities


  5. Mark Mark says:

    Good overview of the rise of the Mongol Empire throughout the reign of Ghengis, Ogedei and Kublai Khan The emphasis of the book is the unification of China, other conquests and the fall of the empire are explainedsparingly.The book is best when describing events chronologically But it becomes a bit boring when the author tries to explain the grandeur of some of the historical sites and the lasting legacy of the Mongols by describing journeys he himself made to Mongolia The book never ma Good overview of the rise of the Mongol Empire throughout the reign of Ghengis, Ogedei and Kublai Khan The emphasis of the book is the unification of China, other conquests and the fall of the empire are explainedsparingly.The book is best when describing events chronologically But it becomes a bit boring when the author tries to explain the grandeur of some of the historical sites and the lasting legacy of the Mongols by describing journeys he himself made to Mongolia The book never manages to give a lively description Someillustrations would probably have remedied this and added to the narrative.Lastly, the brutality of the Mongols is described quite clinically The massacre of entire populations and the destruction of cultures and cities is often excused as a necessary instrument of conquest The author seems to be quite in awn of the Mongols and if you resisted, you got what you deserved is a prevalent theme throughout the book


  6. Yasmin Yasmin says:

    This is adetailed version of John Man s Genghis Khan I still find the subject of the Mongols in history fascinating despite the peculiar look I got from my English B30 teacher While it is true that the Mongols did kill a huge amount of people in their conquering, however, they were noruthless than any other invading force One could argue numbers as a case in point, but I look at it from a humanist perspective, whether it s five, five hundred or five thousand these were still lives This is adetailed version of John Man s Genghis Khan I still find the subject of the Mongols in history fascinating despite the peculiar look I got from my English B30 teacher While it is true that the Mongols did kill a huge amount of people in their conquering, however, they were noruthless than any other invading force One could argue numbers as a case in point, but I look at it from a humanist perspective, whether it s five, five hundred or five thousand these were still lives I would also say that people should always be interested in history and to try to understand the why and how events happened in our history For history belongs not to one set of people, but to everyone Fortunately John Man keeps the reader s interest throughout the entire book and presentedinformation that was not in his previous book


  7. Pedro Pedro says:

    A great book that shows one of the most amazing empires Focusing on their golden ages, the author tries to provide the truth from the myth as few reliable sources are available Written in a easy and understandable way to most non english speakers, it helps explain the roots of the hordes that showed up at Europe s door If anything is missing isdetails and stories of each campaign The last decades of Mongol power could have beendescribed as well Still, to understand today s China A great book that shows one of the most amazing empires Focusing on their golden ages, the author tries to provide the truth from the myth as few reliable sources are available Written in a easy and understandable way to most non english speakers, it helps explain the roots of the hordes that showed up at Europe s door If anything is missing isdetails and stories of each campaign The last decades of Mongol power could have beendescribed as well Still, to understand today s China, we have to also remember their first lords, the Mongols Recommend


  8. Omar Amer Omar Amer says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book John Man takes us right to the start of it all, within 350 pages he manages to link the birth of Ghengis Khan to modern day China If you are looking for a detailed in depth history book on the Mongol empire, this may not be for you John focusses on the Yuan and China aspect of the empire Very little is talked about in regards to Ghengis own sons and grandsons and much emphasis on Kublai.


  9. Abhishek Abhishek says:

    Our history has created our present Be it the era of Alexander or the Republic of Rome so many centuries ago, or things as recent as the World Wars, after each such period, the human race takes a decisive turn to form a new reality Equally important to the formation of our present worlds were the 11th and 12th centuries, which some may argue were of muchsignificance than any other period in history It was the period of Genghis Khan and his heirs and the formation of the Yuan dynasty Jo Our history has created our present Be it the era of Alexander or the Republic of Rome so many centuries ago, or things as recent as the World Wars, after each such period, the human race takes a decisive turn to form a new reality Equally important to the formation of our present worlds were the 11th and 12th centuries, which some may argue were of muchsignificance than any other period in history It was the period of Genghis Khan and his heirs and the formation of the Yuan dynasty John Man s book The Mongol Empire is one of the most succinct and tightly worded narratives you could find on this empire It begins with a young Genghis Khan, and goes all the way to the exploits of his grandson, Kublai Khan three generations that are not only the key behind present day China but also shaped the histories of manynations An empire that believed it was meant to rule the world an Asian army that entered deep into Europe a kingdom which displayed tolerance for many religions the stories of the Mongol Empire could run into thousands of pages, but for a brief snapshot you need to get hold of John Man s well researched book The violence that these armies shed, the ideologies they followed, the inter personal enmities, the many victories and the few defeats, John Man takes you into a Mongol and China of yesteryears that is worth diving deep into for wherever you are in this world, chances are high that Genghis Khan or his heirs have had a role to play in your history


  10. Martijn Vsho Martijn Vsho says:

    In this book, John Man tells the story of the Mongol Empire It is a fascinating story about Gengis Khan, his empire, and what his descendants did with it One of the most interesting aspects of the Mongol Empire was their internationalism their acceptance and blending of people from all nations and beliefs, as long as they submitted to Mongol rule This impacted the Mongol Empire in many ways both positive and negative.There are a lot of details to get confused in, yet Man does a phenomenal j In this book, John Man tells the story of the Mongol Empire It is a fascinating story about Gengis Khan, his empire, and what his descendants did with it One of the most interesting aspects of the Mongol Empire was their internationalism their acceptance and blending of people from all nations and beliefs, as long as they submitted to Mongol rule This impacted the Mongol Empire in many ways both positive and negative.There are a lot of details to get confused in, yet Man does a phenomenal job telling the story I really liked his writing style, which made the history feel like a story Man knows how to captivate his audience, when to skip over details, and when digressions are helpful or interesting Before I read this book, I knew very little about the Mongols, yet I found them fascinating I wanted to learnabout them so when I came across this book at a bookstore I decided to buy it I learned a lot about the Mongols I also have forgotten much but it was well worth the read I feel like I know muchabout them and the golden years of their history Now when I hear about Mongolia or about Chiness Mongol relations, I will have a much better idea of what they are talking about