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ENCYCLOPEDIA: GENGHIS KHAN,

original name Temujin (1167?–1227), Mongol conqueror, whose nomad armies created a vast empire under his control, from China to Russia. He was born near Lake Baykal in Russia, the son of Yesukai (d. 1180?), a Mongol chief and ruler of a large region between the Amur River and the Great Wall of China. At the age of 13, Temujin succeeded his father as tribal chief. His early reign was marked by successive revolts of his subject tribes and an intense struggle to retain his leadership, but the Mongol ruler soon demonstrated his military genius and conquered not only his intractable subjects but his hostile neighbors as well. By 1206 Temujin was master of almost all of Mongolia. In that year, a convocation of the subjugated tribes proclaimed him Genghis Khan (Chin. chêng-sze, “precious warrior”; Turk. kh[amacr ]n, “lord”), leader of the united Mongol and Tatar tribes; the city of Karakorum was designated his capital.

The khan then began his conquest of China. By 1208 he had established a foothold inside the Great Wall, and in 1213 he led his armies south and west into the area dominated by the Juchen Chin (or Kin) dynasty (1122–1234), not stopping until he reached the Shantung Peninsula. In 1215 his armies captured Yenking (now Beijing), the last Chin stronghold in northern China, and in 1218 the Korean Peninsula fell to the Mongols.

In 1219, in retaliation for the murder of some Mongol traders, Genghis Khan turned his armies westward, invading Khoresm, a vast Turkish empire that included modern Iraq, Iran, and part of Western Turkestan. Looting and massacring, the Mongols swept through Turkestan and sacked the cities of Bukhara and Samarqand. In what are now northern India and Pakistan, the invaders conquered the cities of Peshawar and Lahore and the surrounding countryside. In 1222 the Mongols marched into Russia and plundered the region between the Volga and Dnepr rivers and from the Persian Gulf almost to the Arctic Ocean.

The greatness of the khan as a military leader was borne out not only by his conquests but by the excellent organization, discipline, and maneuverability of his armies. Moreover, the Mongol ruler was an admirable statesman; his empire was so well organized that, so it was claimed, travelers could go from one end of his domain to the other without fear or danger. At his death, on Aug. 18, 1227, the MONGOL EMPIRE, (q.v.) was divided among his three sons and gradually dissipated. Four of his grandsons, however, became great Mongol leaders in their own right. Genghis Khan’s invasions were of great historical importance long after his death, for the Turks, who fled before him, were driven to their own invasion of Europe.

An article from Funk & Wagnalls® New Encyclopedia. © 2005 World Almanac Education Group. A WRC Media Company. All rights reserved. Except as otherwise permitted by written agreement, uses of the work inconsistent with U.S. and applicable foreign copyright and related laws are prohibited.

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