Today is a national holiday in Mongolia. It’s to celebrate Chinggis Khan’s 850th birthday. Of course, no one actually knows when he was born (or where he is buried, but that’s another story), so the 14th November seems as good a date as any to start with. This is the first year his birthday has been a national holiday. From next year, the date will be floating, and calculated on the lunar calendar year.
None of us, Mongolian colleagues included, really know what to do or expect from this holiday. Will there be fireworks? Will there be a giant, inflatable Chinggis Khan as part of some spectacular parade? Not sure.
So I thought, at the very least, big Chinggy (as I like to call him) deserves a Shantasia post.
Now, I’m not the first to dedicate something to this Mongolian hero. His name can be seen on beer, vodka, fertiliser and shoe polish (actually, not sure about the last two, but I am sure there are many more products than just beer and vodka with his name on them).
There are also monuments galore, including one outside of Parliament House and the biggest equestrian statue in the world.
And of course his name greets you and farewells you at the airport.
There’s a lively debate in the country as to whether his name is being used too much, or more to the point, frivolously. Just as everything in Charters Towers is Gold City, everything in Mongolia is Chinggis Khan.
I guess I don’t really have an opinion either way. But maybe I’m sympathetic to the cause because during the Soviet rule, they were not allowed to even whisper this man’s name without retribution, let alone praise the man publicly. Let’s never take for granted our freedom of thought and speech.
Although, there is that one history class where we learnt about his barbaric military tactics. I suppose you can’t really ignore that, or the fact the the mere mention of his name to the Poles makes them twitch very nervously.
But I guess another way to look at him is he was fearless, and he was a strong leader. It takes a pretty impressive person to unite the nomadic tribes from across North-East Asia, have them put their cultural differences aside, and join a mega army fighting for one cause. I think what I like best about Chinggy, is that he promoted religious tolerance.
He was an astute businessman, and opened up trade between China and Europe. He introduced a groundbreaking communication method, with a system similar to what we know as the Pony Express. And he was also responsible for developing the Mongolian language.
Not bad for a man who today we would consider uneducated (he was illiterate) and he’d probably never get a job.
Of course, I still wouldn’t have wanted to get on his bad side.
He may not have been as peaceful as Ghandi, or as righteous as Mandella, or as great a cricketer as Don Bradman, but I can understand why he’s considered Mongolia’s founding father (and the founding father of half the world’s population thanks to his insatiable sexual appetite) and a national hero.
Happy birthday Chinggy – you don’t look a day over 850!