Friday, 1 May 2015

Changez Khan ( 1162-1227 ) and the Mongols

 Changez Khan ( also known as Chingiz Khan or Ghenghis Khan ) has often been vilified as a brutal, bloodthirsty barbarian who massacred millions of people.

I remember when I was in Switzerland many years ago to attend a conference, I was having a discussion with a young,white Australian. One of the topics we discussed was Changez Khan. He was very critical of Changez, calling him a monster, whereas I defended Changez.. What is the truth about him ?

 The truth is that the European imperialists could simply not accept an Asian as a great historical figure. So they downgraded Changez to the lowest level of barbarianism,although the truth is that their own compatriot, Adolf Hitler, who sent millions of Jews to gas chambers simply because they were Jews, and the British who made over a hundred million Indians to starve to death ( see my blogs' Dinner at the German Embassy ', and ' The Great Bengal Famine, 1943 on ) were at that level. In their self imposed mission to 'civilize' the world ( white man's burden ), the Europeans sought to 'rescue' Asians and Africans from the alleged horrible legacy of bloodthirsty savagery symbolized by Changez Khan.

 In 1964, Pravda, the official newspaper of the then Soviet Union, issued a stern warning against attempting ' to place the bloodthirsty barbarian Ghenghis Khan on a pedestal as a historical progressive personage '. The Chinese countered this attempt by stating that instead of vilifying Changez the Russians should appreciate him, because the Mongol invasion of Russia gave the Russians an opportunity to get acquainted with a higher culture.

Changez Khan united the warring nomadic Mongol tribes, and then began his conquests of much of China, Asia and Eastern and Middle Europe, which created an Empire larger than any the world has ever seen. an Empire stretching over 90 degrees of the globe, 4 times the size of the Roman Empire at its zenith, and twice the size of the Empire of Alexander the Great.

 The belief that Changez slaughtered people he had conquered is a totally one sided, biased view. It was a common practice in the medieval age that if a city was surrounded by an attacker, its inhabitants were spared if they surrendered. But if they refused, or if after surrender they again revolted, there would be a slaughter. In this respect Changez was no different from other conquerors. But ordinarily. Changez did not resort to slaughter, and the view to the contrary is false

Economic policy of the Mongols

The Mongols realized that if they spared the lives of people they had conquered, it would benefit them too, since these people produced valuable goods needed by the Mongol Empire and outside it.. Consequently, after the period of Mongol conquests ended, the era of Mongol Peace arrived. Western scholars designated the 14th Century as Pax Mongolica or Pax Tartarica, in which peaceful commerce thrived, protected by the Mongol armies and administration.

 Throughout the Mongol Empire, trade routes were built or maintained ( e.g. the Silk Route from China ), with shelters or inns for travelers interspersed every 20 to 30 miles. These stations or inns were like the modern motels, providing merchants and others rooms for rest, food, etc and also transport animals and guides for travel through difficult terrain. To promote trade along these routes, the Mongol authorities issued early forms of passports, which guaranteed the holder protection, accommodation, transport, and exemption from local taxes and duties.

 Marco Polo frequently used these Mongol relay stations in his travels. He described them as beautiful, having ' silk sheets and every other luxury suitable for a king '.

 Under the Mongol Empire, civilizations that had once been separate worlds unto themselves, became part of a single intercontinental system of communication, commerce and technology. The Mongols realized that goods which were commonplace and taken for granted in one place, were very valuable and marketable at high prices elsewhere. Consequently Mongol workshops began producing goods which were not merely traditional Chinese silk and porcelain,but also a host of entirely new items e.g. images of Madonna and Christ carved in ivory for export to Europe.

 Realizing that goods moved best on water, the Mongols built and expanded canals and water projects, for transporting grain and various products. Some of the dams and reservoirs they built have survived to this day.

 In view of this economic policy, people living in the Mongol Empire prospered greatly

 Religious Policy

Like the Mughal Emperor Akbar,  (whose grandfather Babur was said to be Changez' descendant from his mother's side ), Changez practised a policy of universal toleration of all religions. Like Akbar, who abolished jaziya and taxes on pilgrimages by Hindus, Changez granted tax exemptions to all places of worship. While Changez and his Mongols practiced the shaman religion, worshipping the sky, woods and mountains, his subjects, who belonged to diverse religions were totally free to practice their own religions--Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc. Like Akbar, Changez often invited religious leaders of different religions to teach him about their faith.

 Changez is quoted as having said " It is proper to keep the commandments of God. But the Jews say they have received these commandments from Moses, the Muslims say they received them from Mohammed, and the Christians from Jesus. There are other nations who honor their prophets through whose hands they assert they received the divine precepts. Therefore how shall we arrive at concord ? It can only be by respecting all religions. ". This was precisely the policy of the great Emperor Akbar, his descendant.

 This policy of religious freedom can be contrasted to the religious bigotry prevailing in Europe at that time. In 1287-88 Rabban bar Sawna, the envoy of Kubilai Khan, grandson of Changez, came to the Court of the English King Edward 1 ( at the time Marco Polo had travelled to China ). On the way Rabban had visited Jerusalem, Baghdad, Persia, Constantinople, Rome and France. As contrasted to the total religious freedom in the Mongol Empire, Rabban was surprised to see that in all European countries, only a single religion was tolerated, and that priests exercised tremendous power over the common people. Accounts of his Rabban's travels have been recorded in ' The History of the Life and Travels of Rabban bar Sawna '.


The Taoist philosopher Qiu Chuji, also known as Changchun zi ( 1148-1227 ) was invited by Changez to his Court. He advised Changez to love his people and work for their welfare, have a pure heart, and few desires for himself. Changez was greatly impressed by Qiu, and honoured him with the title ' The Great Master '. Following his advice, Changez always wore the same clothes and ate the same food as the cow herds and horse herders, and hated luxury. He treated all his subjects as his children, and promoted talented men no matter what their origin. He told his sons " You may conquer an army with superior tactics, but you can only conquer a nation by winning the people's hearts by your good deeds. A king can never be happy unless his subjects are happy "

Most Empires of conquest in history tried to impose their own culture and civilization on the conquered. Thus, the Romans imposed their language Latin, their gods, etc. Each Roman city from Ephesus in Turkey to Cologne in Germany had the same urban design and architectural style, from markets and baths to the smallest details in columns and doorways. Similarly, the British erected Victorian style buildings in Bombay, Madras and Calcutta, so much so that in some of these cities one feels one is in Central London. The Spanish constructed their own style of cathedrals and plazas in Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina. Wherever the British established colonies, the elite among the natives learnt to speak English.e.g. in India. French is still spoken by the elite in Algeria, Vietnam, etc, and Spanish in Latin America ( except in Brazil where they speak Portuguese ).

 In contrast, the Mongols never tried to impose their culture, language, religion and customs on the people they had conquered.

Communications System

Since they had set up a vast Empire, Changez and the Mongols needed an efficient communications system to govern it. Hence they created the ' Yam ', or mounted courier service. this consisted of post houses or stations strung on roads across the whole Empire.  By stopping to rest or take on a fresh mount every 20 miles or so, official riders could travel over 200 miles a day. Goods and information could travel at unprecedented speeds. This was also the eyes and ears of the Emperor, who could easily keep abreast of the latest military and political developments.

 Assessment of Changez Khan and the Mongols

 From the above discussion it is obvious that far from being barbarians, Changez and the Mongols have been vilified and demonized by Europeans. The truth is that they were progressive in history, having established religious tolerance ( at a time when most Europeans were religious bigots ), and by promoting commerce and communications, which led to prosperity of people in their Empire.


  1. you gave a very knowledgeable thing to us Katju Sir........Thankyou!!!!!

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  4. Justice Katju, I think it's Rabban bar Sawma, not Rabban bar Sawna.

  5. Historian Steven R. Ward writes: "Overall, the Mongol violence and depredations killed up to three-fourths of the population of the Iranian Plateau, possibly 10 to 15 million people. Some historians have estimated that Iran's population did not again reach its pre-Mongol levels until the mid-20th century."...The invasions of Baghdad, Samarkand, Urgench, Kiev, Vladimir among others caused mass murders, such as when portions of southern Khuzestan were completely destroyed...According to Persian historian Rashid-al-Din Hamadani, the Mongols killed more than 70,000 people in Merv and more than 190,000 in Nishapur. ...Although the famous Mughal Emperors were proud descendants of Genghis Khan and particularly Timur, they clearly distanced themselves from the Mongol atrocities committed against the Khwarizim Shahs, Turks, Persians, the citizens of Baghdad and Damascus, Nishapur, Bukhara and historical figures such as Attar of Nishapur and many other notable Muslims.

  6. the write up appears based on erudite reading of facts & their compilation. History as served by Britishers carries gaping holes & hollowness having been written with a purpose of following bias & prejudice against non europeans. Thanks sir,

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