The East has known only three great men. Sakyamuni was born a prince around 500 BC in what is now Nepal. Distressed by human suffering, he left his family, achieved enlightenment through meditation, and became the Buddha. Confucius was born at around the same time as the Buddha, into China`s lower aristocracy. Confucius wanted to restore China to a golden age of peace.
Temuejin, the personal name of Chinggis Qahan, was born on the sixteenth day of the fourth lunar month in the year 1162 into the family of a tribal leader.
The Mongols were a small nomadic tribe in the area of Ergoen and Koelen Na`ur. This Mongol tribe moved to the Kelueren, Onon, and Tula districts around the years following 970, and was one of the many tribal peoples shifting about nomadically during this period. The people of the felt walled tents were the Tatars, the Onggirads, the Kereyds, the Naimans, the Tayichi`uds, and the Merkids. All these groups spoke a language akin to that of the Mongols, but they were included in the category of Mongols after they had been conquered by, or pledged alliance to, the Mongol tribe. Chinggis Qahan`s ancestors belonged to the Kiyad group of the Borjigin clan of the Mongol tribe.
By the twelfth century, the nations surrounding the area of present-day Mongolia were growing weaker; this was especially so of the Jin Dynasty, which was at war with the Song Dynasty of southern China. At the same time the Mongols, along with the other nomadic tribes, were becoming stronger economically through their vast herds of livestock. To enjoy this new prosperity, they sought to put an end to tribal warfare and to live in peace with one another, and the same time to present a united front to external enemies. Chinggis Qahan, born in 1162, fulfilled a need for his people. The many tribes were strong, but lacked a leader to weld them into one.
Temuejin was raised first to the position of a tribal Qan in 1189, and then to the exalted role of Great Qahan of Mongolia in 1206, when he was given the title of Chinggis Qahan, confirmed as such by all the Mongols at a great gathering of Mongol nobles and high-ranking commanders of the Mongol cavalry on the Kelueren River. This gathering marked the unification of the Mongol tribes and the birth of the Mongol military machine, and was the first step towards the creation of a new order on the steppe.
The late Professor Owen Lattimore maintained that Chinggis Qahan was the greatest strategist the world has ever produced. He wrote: ‘As a military genius, able to take over new techniques and improve on them, Chinggis stands above Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Caesar, Attila and Napoleon.’ ( The Washington Post named Chinggis Qahan its Man of the Millennium, describing him as ‘an apostle of extremes who embodies the half-civilized, half-savage duality of the human race’. )
The map below shows the empires of Alexander the Great, Qubilai Qahan (1215-1294), and Napoleon. The Mongol Empire under Qubilai stretched from Java and Korea in the east, to Poland in the west, and from the Arctic Ocean in the north to Persia in the south. The Mongols opened a transcontinental road between East and West along which, for the first time in one thousand years, humans and cultural objects and influences could once again be safely exchanged. They linked Asia and Europe by horse relay stations that shortened the distance between the central places of the two continents.
This book, known to Mongols as the Tobchi`an or `History`, has appeared under a variety of names, including The Secret History of the Mongols, The Life of Chinggis Qahan, The True Record of Chinggis Qahan, and The Secret History of the Yuan Dynasty. It has been translated into many languages. Like Chinggis himself, the book is highly controversial. We cannot be sure when it was written or who wrote it. I myself argue below that it was written in 1228, but other scholars date it to 1240 or 1323. The book is unique, as the only available account of the life of Chinggis Qahan. The final section of the History, reads:
[We] finished writing [this History] at the time of the Great Assembly, in the Year of the Rat and the Month of the Roebuck, when the palaces were being set up at Dolo`anboldag of Koede`e-aral on the Kelueren [River] between two [places called] Shilginchek.
We do not know who wrote the History, but we do know that the author belonged to Chinggis` clan, the Borjigin. The History shows that 22 generations preceded Chinggis. After the History was written on Mongolian history, twelve of them on the Borjigin clan. The best-known of the fourteen is the Golden History of the Mongols, written between 1649-1736 or 1651-1675 by Lubsangdanjin.
I conclude that the History was written by a member or members of the Borjigin clan of Chinggis Qahan.The History was written in the Uighuro-Mongol script by Mongol scholars. The purpose of the History was to record the everyday private lives of Borjigin clan members, and especially of Chinggis Qahan. The History was a sort of diary of the Mongol court. It also covered great events of the day, to teach the descendants of the Great Qahan Chinggis how to consolidate the Empire.
Professor Urgunge Onon