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6 Interesting Facts About the Mongol Empire

Working towards a Bachelor of Arts, Simran writes articles on modern history, art theory, religion, mythology, and analyses of texts.


The Mongol Empire (1206–1368) was the largest empire in world history, which was made up of most of the territories from southeast Asia to eastern Europe. The empire was founded by Genghis Khan who has been criticized today for his violent tactics. The Mongols were known for their brutality, annihilating towns that refused to surrender to their reign. The tactics the Mongols used, such as beheading their enemies, killing about 10% of the existing population. This formed psychological terror to nearby towns causing some to surrender before the Mongols could use any force.

Map of the Mongol Empire


(Genghis) smashed the feudal system of aristocratic privilege and birth, he built a new and unique system based on individual merit, loyalty, and achievement.”

— Jack Weatherford 2004.

Genghis Khan (1162? – 1227)


Heaven grew weary of the excessive pride and luxury of China... I am from the Barbaric North. I wear the same clothing and eat the same food as the cowherds and horse-herders. We make the same sacrifices and we share... our riches. I look upon the nation as a new-born child and I care for my soldiers as though they were my brothers.

— Genghis Khan

An international group of geneticists studying Y-chromosome data concluded that almost 8 percent of the men living in the former Mongol empire have y-chromosomes that are nearly identical to Genghis Khan. That means 0.5 percent of the male population in the world (about 16 million living descendants) are related to him. This means that every day is roughly the birthday of 43,000 of them.

We have identified a Y-chromosomal lineage with several unusual features. It was found in 16 populations throughout a large region of Asia, stretching from the Pacific to the Caspian Sea, and was present at high frequency: ∼8% of the men in this region carry it, and it thus makes up ∼0.5% of the world total.

— The Genetic Legacy of the Mongols

Genghis Khan's Mass Killings Were Good For The Environment?

The first thing someone would think about a warlord probably wouldn't be that they are good for the environment, or to human life for that matter. Gengis Khan's violent campaigns had wiped approximately 40 million people off the face of the planet. However, studies have shown his conquest had surprisingly positive effects on the planet. According to the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Energy, Genghis Khan got rid of 700m tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere. That is approximately the amount of carbon dioxide we produce every year through global petrol consumption.

Wait For It...The Mongols!: Crash Course World History #17

Women Played a Significant Role In The Mongol Empire

In the Ancient world, it was common to see women suffering inequality within patriarchal societies. This was common in places such as Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome where women were systematically made to be dependent on males for survival, income, shelter, etc. This was not the case in the Mongol Empire. Unlike Greek and Roman societies, women took on jobs, ran businesses to keep the economy running and held high positions in their shamanistic religion. Mongol women also had several female rulers and political leaders;

  • Mandhuhai
  • Börte
  • Fatima
  • Töregene Khatun

Khatun (queen) is one of the most authoritative and magnificent words in the Mongolian language. It conveys regality, stateliness, and great strength. If something resists breaking no matter how much pressure is applied, it is described as khatun. The word can form part of a boy’s or girl’s names, signifying power and firmness combined with beauty and grace. Because of the admitted qualities of khatun, men ... borne names... Khatun Temur, literally ‘Queen Iron’, and Khatun Baatar, 'Queen Hero'

— Jack Weatherford

Mongol Society Artwork


The Mongols had the Best Postal System in the Ancient World

The Mongols created the largest system postal system in the ancient world called Yam (or Örtöö, meaning “checkpoint”). Foreign visitors such as Marco Polo were impressed by Yam’s size and reliability and became Kublai Khan's court official for a few years. After Kublai Khan's rule, there were over 1,400 postal stations in China alone, which in turn had at about 50,000 horses, 1,400 oxen, 6,700 mules, 400 carts, 6,000 boats, over 200 dogs and 1,150 sheep.

Despite his image as a bloody tyrant, Genghis was also forward thinking. His empire had the first international postal system, invented the concept of diplomatic immunity, and even allowed women in its councils. But more importantly, the Mongols were also unprecedented in their religious tolerance.

— James Rollins, The Eye of God

A Modern Depiction of Mongol Warriors in the Twelfth Century


Mongols Were Sometimes Referred to as Tartars

To the people they had conquered, Mongols were called Tartar. Originally, the Mongols called themselves tartas. However, when others realised the name sounded like Tartarus, known as part of the Greek Underworld, tartar was used as a derogatory term against the Mongols.

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Genghis Khan - Rise Of Mongol Empire - BBC Documentary - by roothmens

Was Mongol Empire as Barbaric as Media Portrays?

While Genghis Khan left a wake of destruction throughout his reign, his grandson, Kublai Khan established a period of Mongolian peace (Pax Mongolica), which led to economic growth, cultural diffusion, and developments. Accomplishments he made included during his dynasty, the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368);

  • Reforming China’s political structure to have a closed social hierarchy
  • Developed Chinese literature and architectural style
  • Established that poorer areas were not taxed and were given food
  • Reopened and enhanced trade routes
  • Kublai Khan extended the Grand Canal system substantially benefited China’s economy
  • He introduced new schemes to support the agriculture and economy of the Sung dynasty that he conquered
  • He treated the Sung nobility well and allowed most of them to keep their wealth

Kublai established a new hierarchy within his territory: the Mongols, Central China, North China, and South China. Since Mongol society was based on military principles; the military household, artisans, and craftsmen gained privileges, the literati was demoted.

According to Chinese Social History: Translations of Selected Studies, artisans in Yuan grew to 400 000. Mongols were under a strict rule to spare the artisans during battle. This showed how desired the status of an artisan was because of its privileges. This also meant “ordinary people would claim themselves as artisans to save their lives.”

The Mongols also allowed the areas they conquered to maintain their own cultural and religious beliefs. Tax benefits were offered to clerics of Daoism, Islam, Buddhism, and Nestorian Christianity to gain the support of those religions.

Kublai Khan broke the stereotype of Mongol rulers conquering through tyrannical and brutal means like his grandfather. Instead, after he conquered the Sung dynasty, he focused on developing the empire instead of oppressing the places he conquered. This shows while the Mongols were brutal to outsiders, they supported their people and created one of the most peaceful areas in history.

There are prophets who are worshipped and to whom everybody does reverence. The Christians say their god was Jesus Christ; the Saracens, Mohammed; the Jews, Moses; and the idolaters Sakamuni Borhan [that is, Sakiamuni Buddha, who was the first god to the idolaters]; and I do honor and reverence to all four, that is to him who is the greatest in heaven and more true, and him I pray to help me.

— According to Marco Polo, Khubilai Khan said this


ZERJAL, T. (2003). The Genetic Legacy of the Mongols The American Journal of Human Genetics, 72 (3), 717-721

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