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History Lessons by Jonathan Gifford

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GENGHIS KHAN

(c. 1162–1227)

The Mongols were nomadic steppe-dwellers from northeast Asia, similar to (and possibly related to) the Native Americans and closely related to the Huns or Xiongnu who had plagued China some 1,400 years before. They worshipped the Eternal Blue Sky and a pantheon of lesser gods, and were entirely tolerant of, and even embraced, other religions alongside their essentially shamanistic beliefs. They left no architecture or manufactured goods; they painted no pictures and carved no statues. At first glance, Genghis Khan’s armies seem to us to have brought only death and destruction, and to have left nothing behind.

There were occasions when the Mongol hordes would not simply capture and sack a city, but would reportedly ...

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