Genghis Khan, born as Temujin, was one of the greatest statesmen and military strategists in world history. He founded the Mongol Empire, which spanned most parts of Eurasia and after his death, his sons and grandsons expanded their territory to make it the largest empire in history.
After his grandson Kublai Khan conquered the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) and officially proclaimed the establishment of the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368) in today’s Beijing in north China, Genghis Khan was posthumously crowned as the first Yuan emperor, Emperor Taizu.
Temujin’s father was a chieftain of a Mongol tribe who was poisoned by his enemy when Temujin was only eight years old. After his father’s death, Temujin’s family was abandoned by their tribe and deprived of all their livestock, which could be fatal for a nomadic family. But Temujin’s mother was a strong-willed woman. She didn’t give up and tried all her best to raise her children by picking wild fruit and cooking small animals killed by Temujin and his younger brothers.
Abject poverty and a tough life had turned Temujin into a fierce fighter and survivor. When he was only 10 years old, he killed Behter, his half-brother, over a hunting dispute. This incident became a turning point in Temujin’s life as it helped establish his position in the family and even in future tribes.
Gradually, Temujin grew into a very tall and strong young man. After a few successful raids of tribes in remote areas, Temujin won himself a reputation as a great fighter and outstanding strategist. Some of his former tribe’s people rejoined his family.
As a son of a Mongol chieftain, Temujin had learned a lot about tribal warfare and politics. And he was ambitious. He wanted to unite all of Mongolia and establish a great empire.
With the constant expansion of his forces, Temujin began to plan his revenge against the powerful Tartar tribe, the sworn enemy of his father. In the fall of 1202, he grouped all his forces and routed the Tartars. In the following two years, Temujin conquered a number of other powerful rival tribes, laying down a solid foundation for the Mongol Empire.
During these years of constant tribal warfare, Temujin employed a series of schemes to create new allies, but he also suffered from many betrayals. He was very sharp and quick-witted. He learned to skillfully apply the stratagem of “knowing the enemy and knowing yourself,” by introducing an effective system of military intelligence and communications.
After having united all powerful tribes, Temujin proclaimed the establishment of the Great Mongol State and he himself became Genghis Khan, a universal king.
After the establishment of the empire, the universal king continued his military campaigns to expand his territory across Asia into the Middle East and Europe in the west, India and China in the south and Siberia and the Korean Peninsula in the east.
When Genghis Khan died in 1227, his empire was already twice the size of the Roman Empire and Muslim Caliphate.
In his later years, Genghis Khan also expressed a desire for longevity, like most Chinese emperors. One day he asked a Taoist monk and alchemist if there was an elixir of life. The monk answered: “I know only the way of keeping good health, but don’t believe in the existence of any elixir of immortality.”
Genghis Khan praised him for his honesty and frankness. He never asked anyone the same question again.