Fun Facts about Chinese Culture and History

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Genghis Khan -- King of Extraordinary Military Achievement

Genghis Khan (1162 -- 1227), named Temujin, a very famous King around the world, was respected as Emperor Yuan Tai Zu when his grandson established the Yuan Dynasty in the history of China. 

 

From A Banished Child to A Powerful King

 

Temujin was born into a noble clan of Mongolia, his father was poisoned to death when he was 9 years old. He and his mother then were expelled, and their clan was dismissed soon.

He survived, and together with his father’s good friend, they rebuilt their clan and started seeking for revenge.

 

Based on his braveness and extremely talent in military, he killed his enemy who murdered his father. 

 

Soon Temujin unified all of the clans in the Mongolia Plateau and was honored as Khan, the king of the Mongolia. 

 

Genghis Khan created characters and published the first law within Mongolia. He established an administration system which combined military, politics and economy as a whole.

 

Generals with great contributions were nominated and rewarded as the ruling class; they were responsible for their own areas’ military activities, politics and economy. This system made his army efficient, organized and powerful. 

 

He also respected religious freedom, as all the people under his rule could choose whatever they would like to believe in, which encouraged communication of different religions.

Genghis Khan and His Aggressive Wars

Genghis Khan's management system made his kingdom progress, while his fighting gene in his blood enlarged his territory through many wars.

 

Battles in his early stages were aimed at revenging his father, unifiing Mongolia and perishing Kingdom Jin, all of which were searching for justice and better lives for his own people.

 

However, wars that he initiated afterwards were purely for obtaining more lands and people, which looked like he just enjoyed fighting in wars.

 

He and his army occupied large numbers of lands and people during that period; and in those expanding battles, he was always the winner. 

 

As an influential and talented monarch, Genghis Khan was eulogized for his military achievements, by his people; however, he was also criticized for being cruel, because he had initiated many wars, destroyed many cities and killed large numbers of lives.

Mysterious Departure and Mausoleum of Genghis Khan

There were many different versions about the way he died.

 

Some said he was murdered by a queen from a country he conquered; some said he was poisoned by one of his sons who wanted the throne.

 

The most well accepted was that he got shot during a war; as a king with remarkable military achievements, died in a war probably was the best way to say goodbye to the world. 

 

His burial place was a secret as well.

 

A famous saying was that one day, Genghis Khan once sat under a big tree for a long time, then he commanded this as the place to bury him after he passed away.

 

Another version was that he was buried secretly in a grave inside a mountain; everyone who had involved in the grave’s construction was buried with him later. 

 

The most poetic version was that he was buried in the place he died, not in a chosen place or a fancy grave. After being deeply buried in the earth, his cavalry army trampled that place to be flat again, honored him for the last time, and left.

 

When the ground was covered with grass and other vegetation again, his secret graveyard keepers left. Since then, no one knows where this famous king was ended. 

 

After his grandson Kublai Khan built the Yuan Dynasty, a graveyard that only buried some of his clothes was built to memorize him.

 

Yelv Chucai -- Genghis Khan’s Most Trusted Minister

Yelv Chucai (1190 -- 1244) was the most trusted, respected and influential minister, by Genghis Khan and his sons whom he served for over 30 years. 

 

He made great contributions in establishing of the Yuan Dynasty, and the combination of Confucianism with Mongolian regime. 

Noble Prince Serving for His Enemy

Yelv’s father was a noble lord of the nomadic Kingdom Jin and his mother was a Han people of the Song Dynasty.

 

His father passed away young, and he was raised by his mother; therefore, Yelv was knowledgeable of Han culture and Confucianism, also an expert on poetry, astronomy, math, Taoism, Buddhism, Fengshui, Medication, etc.

 

He refused to accept a position which was given only because of his noble family name; he insisted on taking the Imperial Examination of the Kingdom Jin and achieved the first place. 

 

Years later, the Kingdom Jin that Yelv was serving was perished by Mongolia and Song Empire together.

 

Yelv then was chosen as a consultant by Genghis Khan, because of his talent and willingness to be supportive; according to historical documents, he was a very handsome man as well.

 

Genghis Khan found Yelv very insightful and trustworthy, so he took Yelv with him wherever he went, so did his sons and grandsons, who truly trusted and listened to Yelv and followed many of his political suggestions. 

 

Terminating of Large Scale Massacres 

Normally, Genghis Khan’s army would slaughter all the people who had fought against them.

Fortunately, few years later, Yelv persuaded him not to, and created an efficient policy in regard to the management of the former enemies and surrendered people. 

 

Millions of lives were saved thanks to Yelv.

 

Before, Genghis Khan and his sons were more interested in defeating more cities and occupying more lands; Yelv convinced them to pay more attention to the management of their existing realm well, by protecting local agriculture and economy. 

 

Preserving of Agriculture and Establishing of Etiquettes

Another remarkable contribution of Yelv was that he successfully persuaded Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan not to turn the whole of China into a huge pasture for their horses and cows; moreover, he promoted many efficient policies to preserve and develop agriculture and economy.

 

Because of him, most places in China were protected from being completely destroyed.  

 

Yelv also helped Genghis Khan and his sons apply proper etiquettes among emperors and officers, create basic laws, centralize power, refine political system, establish educational institutions, public tax and agriculture policies, etc., inspired by Confucianism and Han culture.

 

Years later, his policies were further progressed and extensively implemented by Kublai Khan. 

This handsome and brilliant prince of the Kingdom Jin, and Genghis Khan and his sons’ most trusted minister and friend, was highly respected by Mongolian, Han and other minority people in the history of China.

 

When Yelv passed away, his current emperor provided him a very solemn burial ceremony, and buried him in a beautiful place in his hometown (it is The Summer Palace now), as he wished; large numbers of civilians grieved for him. 

 

Besides his remarkable political achievements, which built a solid foundation for the Yuan Dynasty, having successfully convinced Genghis Khan and his sons to stop killing civilians of their defeated cities already made Yelv a great saint.

 

Based on the military achievement of the Mongal Army during that period, it is really not easy to calculate exactly how many lives that he had saved.