Monday, 15 June 2009

Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire

Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire
by William Honeychurch (Author), William Fitzhugh (Editor), Morris Rossabi (Editor)

About the Book
His fame notwithstanding, Genghis Khan is widely mistaken to have been a barbarian. Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire presents a startling new view of Genghis as the world’s greatest civilizer, emphasizing his achievements in popularizing literacy and the printed word, the creation of the mail system, freedom of religion and culture, meritocracy, tax relief, ecological conservation, and even the wearing of pants. Genghis Khan’s profound influence on the very shape of the modern world and the aspirations of its societies is as stunning a revelation as is the craftsmanship and range of the artifacts of his reign. He was an historic figure of singular importance in Mongolia and much of China. Recent highly publicized studies indicate that one-quarter of the world’s population may carry Genghis Khan genes.

Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire, the most accessible and lavishly illustrated scholarly work on the world’s greatest conqueror—and one of its greatest statesmen—will be published coincident with the opening of a blockbuster international exhibition. Showcasing the most complete collection of artifacts related to Genghis Khan ever mounted, the exhibition is estimated to attract 10 million visitors during its five-year tour of science and natural history museums in North America. The exhibit and book will unveil internationally newsworthy archaeological discoveries, including the mummified remains of the thirteenth-century murder victims, found with nooses still attached. An IMAX film, National Geographic children’s book, television documentary, and national and regional publicity campaigns budgeted at $1.8 million will accompany the exhibition.

Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire, a 352-page large-format volume, is a landmark achievement in the study of the famed but little understood conqueror, an historic figure who has attained mythic stature but a tainted reputation because he is known primarily from histories written by those he conquered rather than those he led. More than 400 color photographs of landscapes and artifacts illustrate 30 concise and informative essays and two dozen sidebar stories on significant characters and events in the development of the Khan’s Empire.

Smithsonian anthropologist William Fitzhugh, who has studied Mongolia as an aspect of arctic cultures, is the lead editor, assisted by his Smithsonian colleague William Honeychurch who also lectures at Yale University, and Columbia University historian Morris Rossabi, the acknowledged world expert on Kublai Khan, Genghis’s grandson and founder of China’s Yuan dynasty. Its authors are leading archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, and art historians worldwide, including Mongolian, Chinese, German, Turkish, and Japanese authorities. Their essays reveal new details about Genghis’ dramatic life and the spectacular development of his empire, while examining the geography and history of pre-Genghis Mongolia and the results of recent excavations of his world of the twelfth to fourteenth centuries. His legacy of effective military tactics and cultural innovations is treated comprehensively, along with the decline of his empire. Full-color images of important artifacts, maps, historical photographs, and magnificent scenic images by prize-winning photographers complement this encyclopedic treatment of Genghis’s consolidation of Mongolian peoples and subsequent empire.

Genghis Khan’s life, his military and diplomatic tactics, and the recent searches for his mysterious burial site, are the subject of five documentaries (Discovery Channel, History Channel, and a five-part BBC series). Jack Weatherford’s best-selling (but not illustrated) book Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World has revealed the international interest in this iconic figure. A major movie, a serial in one of Japan’s leading newspapers and 26 books published in Japan in this past year profile Genghis Khan.

In the 1990s Genghis’s magnetic name attracted large audiences to twenty major U.S. venues to view scholarly exhibitions with different themes: the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History focused on archaeological evidence of regional cultures up to and including Genghis Khan; the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco looked at the legacy of Buddhism in the material culture of Mongolia; the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art jointly presented a survey of artistic production and influence across the far-flung empire. A 100,000 square foot exhibition organized by the Kunst-un Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepulik Deutschland, Bonn, German, toured major museums in Bonn, Munich, Niederosterreich and Turkey over the last two years and is now scheduled through September 2nd, 2007 at the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest, Hungary.

But public interest in the worldwide legacy of Genghis Khan has not yet been sated, and the treasure trove of artifacts has barely been opened. Many of the most telling objects pertaining to Genghis Khan and his thirteenth-century heirs—who expanded his empire to Persia, Russia, and India in the West and China, Manchuria, and Korea in the East—are illustrated for the first time in Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire, which draws on the wealth of knowledge published by its contributors, including Dr. Rossabi’s Kubilai Khan: His Life and Times (University of California Press), and work by David Morgan. In its scope, accessibility, and illustrative content the present volume is far more than just a book about Genghis Khan; Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire sets this remarkable era of world history in broad context for the first time for the English-reading world.

No comments: