The Legacy of Genghis Khan
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The Mongols

The Mongols were a pastoral, nomadic people occupying the eastern end of the Eurasian steppe, north of the Gobi Desert. United in 1206 under the rule of Genghis Khan (also Chinggis Khan, meaning “Oceanic Ruler”), the Mongols soon launched invasions of northwestern China and Islamic central and western Asia. Genghis Khan died in 1227 and it remained for his sons and grandsons to create a world empire through their subjugation of China in 1234, southern Russia and the Volga region by 1241, and all the Islamic lands west of the Oxus River by 1260. Khara Khorum, in central Mongolia, became the first capital of the new commonwealth, which was apportioned among the four sons of Genghis Khan.

The Mongols’ itinerant lifestyle engendered a taste for fine crafts, which they obtained initially through trade and later by taking control of the sources of production. As nomads, the Mongols were attuned to the concept of portable or wearable wealth. They especially seem to have craved sumptuous textiles, particularly silk woven with gold-wrapped thread. Other favored luxury goods included belts and belt ornaments of gold or silver, small drinking vessels that could be attached to the belt, and horse trappings and saddles of precious metal. While the Mongols did not have their own indigenous artistic traditions, their social and economic policies and their methods of patronage helped to form a fresh artistic identity in the lands they governed.



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