• 2006-03-11

    Genghis Khan & Kublai Khan


    A friend of mine,Mark Byers,who is a Hollywood indi producer and screenwriter(credits including Guasha treatment and Dragon squad) sent me an email requesting my help.He is now writing a screenplay about a story that transpired in Yuan Dynasty.So he wants my opinions about Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan,as a modern Chinese.Probably he just wants to write something more true-to-history and accurate.Anyway,I just wrote back this long reply mail,and hopefully it will represent accurately what modern chinese are thinking of Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan and truly help my friend out.Here goes:


    Genghis khan now is generally viewed by Chinese people as one of our historical heroes.For as is witnessed by the historical record,his invincible troops,mainly cavalry formations demonstrated  to the fullest possible our military valor,ingenuity and tenacity when they aggressively expanded their “turf” and succeeded in foraying as far as into the Danube River areas in Europe.The territory expanse in Yuan Dynasty(which was founded by The grandson of Genghis Khan,Kublai,as you must have known) is among,if not the single,largest ones in the Whole Chinese history.Chinese people ‘s  admiration  for Genghis Khan was so well captured and encapsulated in one line of Chairman Mao’s 1936 poem”snow”:That proud son of heaven,Genghis Khan……

    As for Kublain,he was the worthy torch holder of his grandfather and as is noted above,the founder of the great Yuan Dynasty.Since Yuan was founded and ruled by The Mongolian ethnic minority(as opposed to Han people), and the two nationalities had so little in common at first(different languages,different customs..),there was always some dark side to the meaning of being under the reign of the Mongolians for Han people,which is the most populous component of Chinese people.Quite predictably They were suppressed economically,culturally and even physically. For thousands of years,Han people had been the superior nationality in China,but during Mongolians’ reign their status plummeted, quite abruptly and unceremoniously I’d say,to that of servants to a whole new noble class—the Mongolians.Needless to say,they were very disgruntled and bruised.And some of them did rebel.Another historical figure we Chinese people also eyed as hero is a Yuan rebel who fighted the Yuan troops to his last breath;His name is “Wen Tian Xiang”.In one of his poems,he showed his conviction of rebelling against The Mongolians by writing the lines “Since death is unavoidable to everyone throughout history, what one should strive for is a loyal heart, gloriously recorded in the historic books.”.

    Now you may wonder what is the attitude we Chinese people are holding towards Genghis Khan and his offspring’s dynasty after all.    It seems all too ambiguous.Actually as far as the suppression and insults suffered by we Han people back in Yuan dynasty is concerned,let’s just say,philosophically, that is all past.And those throes were just an integral part of the birth of a new era,which is the greatest ever integration of nationalities in Chinese history.Jumping out of all these historical contexts,we can always rely on the anthropological knowledge to remind ourselves that we Han people and Mongolian people actually share the same ancestry:Mongolian race.And since now Mongolian people mainly lived in China(the republic of Mongolia once was part of China),or shall we say,mainly originated and once thrived in China,we can just call them(Genghis Khan the proud son proudly included) Chinese people.And hence when Genghis Khan and his offsprings fighted and reigned,they fighted and reigned as representatives of The whole Chinese people,with Han people disgruntled or not.

     Now it’s clear.We Chinese people,as a nation or a race, are proud of what Genghis Khan and his offsprings did to our Chinese history and historical progress.His suppression of Han people is truly a shame,but his greater good has certainly prevailed.And here I think it noteworthy that Mongolian people during Yuan dynasty were not necessarily Teflon rulers,so to speak.I mean they were very humbled by Han culture and in some cases even showed interest and ardor and absorbed some of it.So in a larger sense,the culture we now proudly label as Chinese is actually an alloy of different sub-cultures,including the Mongolian one.This cultural integration commenced upon the very founding of Yuan dynasty;Before it actually.The Title of Yuan dynasty, “Yuan”,was taken out of a Confucian scripture—the I-Ching and determined by Kublai himself.Quite an Irony huh?

     But anyway,is my long answer above satisfying to you?Will it help your screenwriting proceed more smoothly?And if you still have any questions,feel free to challenge or ask.Always with pleasure.

                                                                                           Take care,mentor.





  • A couple months ago I saw this report on TV about this society in Shanghai that is trying to revive traditional Han, pre-Yuan dynasty clothing. I didn't realize clothes changed so much due to the Mongol influence. The old Han-style women's clothes looked a lot like Korean clothes, but were monochromatic. Men's clothes looked like what we think of as traditional Japanese clothing.