101 Facts… Mongols!


101 Facts… Mongols! WebBook by IP Factly

Over 101 amazing facts about the mighty Mongols. It contains facts, photos and awesome videos that show us more about the Mongol Empire and the people that built it.

101 mongols facts - history books Contents

Genghis Khan
Mongol Women
Postal System
Military and Conquests
Pax Mongolica
The Silk Road
Daily Life
Kublai Khan
Final Facts
Photo Credits

The Playlist:

  1. Wait For It…The Mongols!: Crash Course World History #17 by CrashCourse
  2. The History of The Mongol Empire by WatchMojo.com
  3. Mongol Empire by Randall Niles
  4. Growth of the Mongol Empire, 1206-1294 by by EarthDirect
  6. Genghis Khan Biography by CloudBiography
  7. The Lost Empire of Genghis Khan – Ancient Civilizations by impincusa
  8. Kublai Khan – The China History Podcast, presented by Laszlo Montgomery by LASZLO MONTGOMERY

Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan was the supreme Khan of the Mongols. Khan was a title given to rulers and officials in central Asia particularly among countries using Turkic or Mongolian languages.

An Artifact showing the great Mongol leader in Russia by William Cho CC2.0

Genghis Khan spent his childhood on the cold plains of Mongolia. He was known as Temujin when he was still a boy. Temujin in English meant “iron”.

Temujin was the second-oldest son of his father, YesugeI, who was the Khan or leader of their tribe. His mother’s name was Hoelun.

Yesugei (Father of Temugin) by Yondonjamts CC3.0

Horseback riding and hunting were among Genghis Khan’s childhood favorites. Later in his life, he would prove that he was indeed a skilful horseman and a ferocious fighter.

When he was nine years old, young Temujin was sent to live with an allied tribe. There he would meet his future wife, Borte, who was betrothed to him a few years later. Temujin did not stay long with Borte’s tribe. He went back right away to Kiyad upon hearing the news of his father’s death.

Temujin’s entire family was betrayed by a rival. They were kicked out of the tribe and were forced to live out a horrible winter season. Temujin did not lose hope and vowed that someday he would have his revenge.

Temujin spent several years building up his own tribe. He married Borte and created an alliance with her tribe. He built up an army, trained them and led them to battle against the Tatars.

Temujin’s leadership and fighting skills won him a victory over the Tatars. His victories against his rivals won him the support of the people and later, all Mongol tribes united under his name. It was during this time when Temujin became Genghis Khan, the “ruler of all”.

Genghis Khan was a great leader. Although he was cruel to his enemies, he was very loyal to his subjects. He promoted his soldiers based on their skills and not on their backgrounds or social status — his own sons were not even exempted.

A Sculpture of Genghis Khan by A. Omer Karamollaoglu CC2.0

Genghis Khan was merciless when it came to his enemies. During his campaign toward Eastern Europe, he and his 200,000 men destroyed every city on the way, leaving not a single soul alive.

Genghis Khan had four favorite sons. They were Ogedei, Tolui, Chagatai and Jochi. Tolui’s son would later become known as Kublai Khan, another great Mongolian ruler.

An Illustration of Temugin and his 3 sons by Sayf al-vâhidî

One of Genghis Khan’s most famous quotes was: “Conquering the world on horseback is easy; it is dismounting and governing that is hard.”

Genghis Khan had a group of men called Genghis Khan’s Inner Circle. It was made up of twenty men who swore allegiance to each other.

Genghis Khan’s Inner Circle was made up of men from different religions — Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and animists. Animists worshipped the Eternal Blue Sky and the God Mountain of Burkhan Khaldun.

Genghis Khan was also known as the “Defender of Religions”. At one point, he rode all the way to Central Asia to kill a Christian Khan named Guchlug who was persecuting the Muslims.

Genghis Khan went back to China in 1227 where he proclaimed Ogedei as his successor before his death.

A Portrait of Ogedei Khan, Son of Genghis by National Palace Museum in Taipei

Historians are not sure how Genghis Khan died. Some theorize that he fell from a horse, got injured and died from infection.


Genghis Khan introduced to his people a written law called Yassa. The Yassa (or Yasak in some references) was also known as the Great Law of Genghis Khan. Its purpose was to maintain peace and order among Mongolian citizens.

The Yassa was written by Tatatungo, one of Genghis Khan’s most loyal advisors. If Genghis had not been illiterate, he would have written it himself. Even Genghis Khan was not exempted from the Yassa.

The Yassa was written on various materials — some were on clay tablets and others were engraved on iron. Despite this, no records of the Yassa have ever been found.

Mongol boys would begin their military career at the age of fifteen. They started with horses at a very young age. Hunting and herding were part of their early training routines.

Traditional Mongol families were patriarchal in nature. Usually, wives were brought for each of the sons while daughters were married off to other tribes.

Each son would inherit a part of the family’s herd, with the eldest receiving the lion’s share. The youngest son would stay with his parents until they died. He would then inherit the family tent as well as his part of the herd.

Like any other society, the family was also the most basic unit of the Mongol Empire.

After the family, the next social units of the Mongol Empire were the subclan and clan. These were groups of people whose lineage came from a common ancestor.

Mongols were very tolerant when it came to religion. Almost every religion (Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Shamanism) had found converts throughout the empire.

Mongol Women

Unlike their European counterparts, Mongol women were held in high regard in their society. As a matter of fact, most of them held high government positions, as the men were busy serving in the military.

Aside from their positions in the government, Mongol women also played a very important role in the Mongols’ shamanistic religion. Often they would serve as priests.

Mongol Shaman Women doing religious rituals by ??????? ??????? CC3.0

Mongolian women were not just adept in running businesses and religion, they could lead their own factions too! Some great examples of prowess were Genghis Khan’s daughters and daughters-in-law, who went through a series of power struggles in an effort to keep the empire intact after the Great Khan’s death.

One of the most famous female Mongolian rulers was Mandukhai Khatun, or Queen Manduhai the Wise. During her reign, she won battle after battle in an effort to reunite the broken Mongolian Empire.

Manduhai was a capable warrior and tactician. She married a seventeen-year-old prince with whom she had eight children. She continued to fight in battles despite being a wife and a mother.

Mongol Archer by Zoharby CC3.0

Postal System

The Mongols were nomadic by nature — that means they traveled from place to place. The vast expanse of their empire created a serious difficulty in communication between their officers and leaders. To solve this, the Mongols devised a postal system called Yam, which worked like the Pony Express in the American West.

The Yam, or “checkpoint”, was a vast collection of postal stations staffed by dedicated messengers whose only duty was to deliver mail, important news and intelligence reports from station to station.

Yam stations were usually 15 to 40 miles (24 to 64 kilometers) apart from each other. Can you imagine how long it would take a messenger to deliver a message to one station alone?

Records show that China alone had 1400 Yam stations. These stations were staffed by loyal men who had more than 50,000 fresh horses at their disposal!

Military and Conquests

In battles, Mongols would fight from horseback as much as they could. They considered the horse as a weapon itself.

Most Mongol weapons were designed for use while horseback riding. For example, they made their swords a little bit curved so it would be easier to handle when fighting from horseback or on foot.

An illustration of Mongol Horse riders by Andres

Other weapons like maces, lances and daggers were also common among the Mongols. At one point, they also used gunpowder in grenades and bombs.

The Mongols were also superb archers. Their long-distance weapon was called a composite bow. Although it was smaller than the English longbow, the composite bow had twice the longbow’s range and could deliver a more lethal force to the enemy.

Mongols used several types of arrows on the battlefield. Iron head arrows were used to kill an enemy at long distances while fire arrows were used to cause panic among the enemy army.

An illustrators of Mongol Soldiers by World Imaging

The Mongols also used specialized arrows in their campaigns. A great example was the whistle arrow that created a loud whistling sound when fired. It was used by the Mongols to scare the enemy.

Whistle arrows were also useful in communication, especially during battles. Mongol hordes were enormous and loud, making it difficult for each soldier to hear the leader’s commands. So instead of shouting, Mongol generals would usually use these arrows to signal and guide the troops.

Another type of specialized arrow used by the Mongols was the scare-tactic trap arrow. When fired on the enemy, these arrows created a terrifying wound that left the wounded soldier wailing and useless on the battlefield.

An illustration of Mongol Archers by Rashid al-Din

Mongol warriors seldom used chainmail armors. Instead, they used light leather armors made by soaking horse skin in urine!

In the Mongol military, if the soldier was found missing his weapons, he would be severely punished by his superiors. Whipping, doing very hard physical activities or leaving the army were some of these punishments.

Mongols were renowned for their battle tactics and skills, which they perfected by constant fighting. Because of this, the Mongols became the premier fighting force of their era.

The Mongols were fond of using shock tactics against the enemy. Sometimes they would make fake withdrawals to lure the enemy army toward a trap.

Mongol warriors were also adept at attacking in wide fronts in an attempt to surround the enemy. They would usually use their Yam stations to communicate and coordinate these massive attacks.

Mongols were so skilled in siege technology that they could take down a heavily fortified city in just a day or two! They were also brutal and merciless to the people who were against their rule.

Aside from highly organized military tactics, Mongols were also fond of taking hostages and using them as human shields!

An artifact showing Genghis Khan with his solider weirign armour by Walter Lim CC2.0

The Mongols were otherwise very tolerant people. Unlike other great empires, the Mongols didn’t want to force their culture on their subjects. They accepted the habits of the people they conquered.

The Mongols believed in the freedom of religion, although they were not a very religious people themselves. Conquered cities could worship whomever they wanted. Mongol rulers would even encourage these practices by providing tax reductions to priests.

Many historians believe that Subutai (or Subedei) was one of the greatest people behind Genghis Khan’s success. He was considered to be the Mongol’s chief military strategist and one of the most brilliant generals in history.

A Chinese drawing of General Subudei by Bahatur

Subutai was one of those who pioneered the use military intelligence and siege technology. He was so good at gathering information that he already knew his enemies’ tactics before the battle started.

At seventy-two years of age, Subutai continued serving the Khans in China for a year before retiring. He died of old age.

Mongol warriors were usually organized into groups of a thousand, called gurans. They would train every day in battle tactics and weapons. Each soldier was also skilled in using smoke signals, flags and drums to send signals throughout the army.

Genghis Khan’s first military goal after uniting the Mongol tribes was to attack the Xi Xia people and gain control of their rich lands in the south. He launched his first offensive in 1207 and the Xi Xia surrendered two years later.

Genghis Khan started his conquest of China (Jin Dynasty) in 1211. Four years later, he captured Zhongdu (now called Beijing), putting the entire northern China under Mongol control.

The Siege of Zhongdu by Genghis illustrated by Sayf al-Vâhidî.

Pax Mongolica

Ironically, it was the fearsome Mongols who created one of the most peaceful periods in history. This period is known as Pax Mongolica. It took place after the Mongol conquests in the 13th and 14th centuries.

It was also during this period that the Mongols reached the peak of their power. An efficient single government, booming international trade and a very efficient communication system made people in the empire happy and contented.

An illustration depicting Marco Polo traveling to the East during the Pax Mongolica by Abraham Cresques

At its peak, the Mongol empire covered more than 9.3 million square miles (15 million square kilometers). That’s almost twice the land area of the United States!

At its greatest, the Mongol Empire was also the home to more than 100 million people! Isn’t it amazing how the Mongols united that many people in such a very, very vast country?

The Silk Road

The Silk Road was the main trade route between Europe and Asia. It was one of the largest sources of income for the Mongol Empire. However, conquering it was not that easy.

The Silk Road was 4000 miles (6437 kilometers) long, and in order to fully conquer it, Genghis Khan had to destroy or subdue all the Arabic and Turkish settlements along it.

A modern day Image of Silk Road (1992) by fdecomite CC2.0

After a very long time, the entire Silk Road came completely under Mongol control during 14th and 15th centuries. Genghis Khan did not live to see it conquered and controlled by the Mongols.

Daily Life

The Mongols had two types of food — “white food” and “brown food”. “White foods” were mostly made up of dairy products like fermented milk, cheese and yogurt. These were their main food source during the summer.

“Brown foods” were usually boiled meat served with garlic or onions. This was the Mongol’s staple food during winter season.

Airag was a common alcoholic beverage among the Mongols. It was made from fermented mare’s milk!

Mongols had a peculiar way of slaughtering animals. After laying the animal on its back, the butcher would open its chest and cut the aorta to cause a deadly internal bleeding. The blood from dead animals would then be used to make sausage.

Liquor was among the Mongol’s favorite drink. The most popular ones were Chinese rice wine and Turkestani grape wine.

Genghis Khan was first presented a bottle of grape wine in 1204, but he did not like it because it was too strong for him!

Before his death, Genghis Khan authorized the use of paper money in the empire. Each bill was backed by precious metals and silk. The Mongols used Chinese silver ingots for their public accounts.

There were five really important animals in the Mongol Empire: horses, cattle, camels, sheep and goats. All of these animals were proven to be able to survive hard conditions like cold weather and food shortages.

Of these five animals, the horse was the most important to the Mongols. They used horses for transportation and war. Without the horse, the Mongols would not be have been able to expand their empire to its greatness.

Mongol riders would also drink the blood of their horses during long, harsh rides. To do this, they would usually cut into a vein in the neck and drink from it.

A depiction of Mongol Horse Riders by Sayf al-Vâhidî.

Dead horses were usually buried with their masters. The Mongols believed that these horses would still serve their masters in the afterlife.

Camels were also among the Mongol’s favorites. They would usually use them for land-based trade in Asia. Camels could carry a load of up to 500 pounds (227 kilograms) and did not require much water for long journeys.

Along with sheep’s wool, Mongolians would also use camel’s hair as fiber for their textiles.

There was a uniform dress code throughout the Mongol Empire, although some variations may have existed depending on wealth, gender and social status.

Typical Mongol clothing consisted of a long ankle-length robe called a caftan. Men and unmarried women used two belts to tie their caftans. When a woman got married, she would stop wearing the belts and would use a full caftan instead.

The Mongols did not believe in washing their clothes or bathing themselves. They were afraid that doing so would pollute the water and anger the dragons that controlled its flow.

Because Mongols did not believe in washing, they would wear their clothes until they fell off or fell apart. The only exceptions were during holidays, when special robes had to be worn.

The smell of the outfit was very important to the Mongols. For instance, when a great leader like Genghis Khan gave his clothes to a loyal subject, it was considered a great honor to have not only the outfit but the smell!

Color was very important and symbolic in Mongol culture. The Khan would usually give his guests robes with specific colors that were connected to a festival. Anybody caught wearing these colors on normal days would be severely punished.

The Mongols used boots or leather sandals made from cow fur. Both the left and right feet were identical and the sandals would usually smell like cow dung.

Mongols lived in dwellings called gers. They were made from collapsible wooden frames covered in felt. Mongols also used sheep skin to insulate their dwellings.

The word ger was a Turkish word that meant “home” in Mongolian. They were always set up with the door facing toward the south.

A mongol Home by Adagio CC3.0

The first known ger was found engraved on a bronze bowl that was uncovered in the Zagros Mountains of southern Iran. Experts believe that it is over a thousand years old.

Mongolian gers were designed for mobility. Its wooden frames could be taken down if the need arose. Mongols would usually bring their homes with them during long campaigns.

Kublai Khan

Kublai Khan was another important figure in Mongolian history. He was the grandson of Genghis Khan. Kublai’s father was Tolui, one of Genghis Khan’s favorite sons.

As one of Genghis Khan’s grandsons, Kublai was given a small region in northern China to rule over. It was there that his interest in Chinese culture flourished.

Kublai became the Great Khan after fighting a civil war for almost four years. His rival was his brother, Ariq Boke.

A portrait of Kublai Khan by Anige

Kublai Khan moved on to conquer southern China soon after his ascension to the throne. His army laid siege to the great cities of the Song Dynasty until they were defeated.

During this siege, the Mongols used an advanced type of siege weaponry — the trebuchet. These large catapults, capable of hurling huge rocks, were adapted from the Persians.

An illustration of the seige weapon Trebuchet by OgreBot

By 1271, Kublai Khan established and crowned himself as the first emperor of the Yuan dynasty in China. He was able to unite all of China under his government by 1276.

Kublai Khan set the capital of the empire at Dadu or Khanbaliq (now known as Beijing). He built a huge walled palace in the center of the city. It was there where he met with the Italian explorer, Marco Polo.

Like his grandfather, Kublai Khan was also a great leader. He combined various aspects of Mongol and Chinese governance and used them to run a very large empire. He initiated the building of roads, canals, trade routes and other infrastructures in China.

White stupa in dadu by yongxinge CC3.0

Kublai Khan also established a social hierarchy during his rule. He put the Mongols on top to make sure they remained in power. The southern Chinese were at the bottom of the social strata.

Trade along the Silk Road reached its peak during the Yuan Dynasty, thanks to Kublai Khan’s guaranteed protection for the merchants and his economic policies that encouraged foreign trade.

After conquering China, Kublai Khan went on to subdue other countries as well. He was successful in capturing some of Vietnam and Burma. However, his military efforts against Japan failed tremendously.

Only two of Kublai Khan’s daughters were known by name. Some historians report that one of his daughters became the queen of Korea through marriage.

Kublai Khan died in 1294. He was sickly and overweight before his death. Temur, his grandson, succeeded him as the next Yuan Emperor and Mongol Great Khan.

Temur the Yuan Emperor by Yaan

In 1797, Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote a famous poem titled “Kubla Khan” to honor one of the greatest leaders of the Mongol Empire.

Final Facts

Despite all the riches he acquired in his conquests, Genghis Khan preferred to live a simple and humble life. While the world’s other powerful leaders lived in palaces, Genghis Khan decided to live in a Mongolian tent called a yurt or ger.

Jebe was one of Genghis Khan’s greatest generals. He had actually been an enemy who had shot Genghis with an arrow. Genghis Khan was so impressed that he spared Jebe’s life and made him one of his generals.

Jebe’s nickname became “The Arrow” because of the one decision that changed his life forever — shooting Genghis Khan with an arrow in a battle.

People sometimes call the Mongols “Tatars”. The original meaning of the word came from the word Tata, another name for the Mongols.

It was not long before people started to realize that the word “Tatar” sounded like “Tartarus”, the Roman variation of hell. From then on, they started calling the Mongols “Mongols Tatars” or “people from Tartarus”, which meant demons from hell.

The name Tatar is still being used today. It refers to a Turkish ethnic group found mainly in Russia, Siberia and Kazakhstan.

Historians credit the Mongols for the concept of zero, and for spaghetti!

Photo Credits

An Artifact showing the great Mongol leader in Russia by William Cho CC2.0

Yesugei (Father of Temugin) by Yondonjamts CC3.0

A Sculpture of Genghis Khan by A. Omer Karamollaoglu CC2.0

An Illustration of Temugin and his 3 sons by Sayf al-vâhidî

A Portrait of Ogedei Khan, Son of Genghis by National Palace Museum in Taipei

Mongol Shaman Women doing religious rituals by Аркадий Зарубин CC3.0

A Mongol Women Archer by Zoharby CC3.0

An illustration of Mongol Horse riders by Andres

An illustrators of Mongol Soldiers by World Imaging

An illustration of Mongol Archers by Rashid al-Din

An artifact showing Genghis Khan with his solider weirign armour by Walter Lim CC2.0

A chinese drawing of General Subudei by Bahatur

The Siege of Zhongdu by Genghis illustrated by Sayf al-Vâhidî.

An illustration depicting Marco Polo traveling to the East during the Pax Mongolica by Abraham Cresques

A modern day Image of Silk Road (1992) by fdecomite CC2.0

A depiction of Mongol Horse Riders by Sayf al-Vâhidî.

A mongol Home by Adagio CC3.0

A portrait of Kublai Khan by Anige

An illustration of the seige weapon Trebuchet by OgreBot

White stupa in dadu by yongxinge CC3.0

Temur the Yuan Emperor by Yaan


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