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There is no precise data on Genghis Khan’s death. The famous 13th-century navigator Marco Polo wrote that Genghis Khan died from a poisoned arrow in the knee. The pope’s envoy to Mongolia, returning to Rome, informed the pontiff that the conqueror had been struck by lightning. The official version of the conquerer’s death is related to his serious illness after he fell from his horse during a hunt. No one knows where the great Genghis Khan was buried.

Marco Polo wrote in his book:

“All the great rulers, descendants of Genghis Khan, are buried on the great Altai mountain, and wherever one of the great leaders of the Tartars died, even if it would take a hundred days to bring to this mountain, to bury him, here they will bring him. A strange thing about this tradition is the fact that the soldiers who brought the bodies of the great innkeepers to the mountains were then killed, being told: “Go and serve our leader!”. The main sources from which we can find out details about Genghis Khan’s life and personality appeared after his death.

The upcoming of a Great Conquerer

A portrait of Genghis Khan by Arturas Slapsys 2015

The oldest written Mongolian document is the “Sacred Legend,” the writing details the appearance of the great ruler. He was not very tall, and had an athletic build and a long beard. All of this and more were described in great detail in the “Sacred Legend”.

He was the son of one of the rulers, but after his father’s death, the family was deprived of all wealth, suffering from poverty. He may have not been top of the class, but he was an excellent organizer, had a strong will, and had enviable self-control, which led him to become known, since his youth, as a talented army commander.

With a very successful military career, his comrades-in-arms esteemed him and valued him for his broad and gentle soul. He never denied the joys of life, but he did not fall into extremes, so he lived to old age, retaining his mental qualities. It is not without saying that, despite all of his good characteristics, he was a ruthless leader. The “Sacred Legend” relates that in 1225, Genghis Khan ordered the conquest of the Zhongxin capital of the Tango state, Xi Xia, and wiped these people off the face of the earth.

Mongol Archers 13th century (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

During the hunt not far from this city, he fell off his horse, injuring himself severely. All night, Genghis Khan had a fever. At dawn, a council met where the question was asked: “Should we continue the war with the tangos or not?”. Zuchi, the eldest son of Genghis Khan, in whom the father had lost trust, was absent from the council because the son always avoided obeying his father’s orders. Enraged, Genghis Khan ordered the soldiers to attack and kill Zuchi, but the attack did not follow, because soon after, the news came that Zuchi had died. After that, Genghis Khan lay in bed all winter from 1225–1226.

Many circumstances of Genghis Khan’s death are overlooked, the data is contradictory, and various chronicles indicate various reasons for his death — a sudden illness, illness due to unfavorable climate, and the consequences of the blow following the fall from the horse.

A plausible Theory about his Death

It can certainly be said that he died in the early autumn (or late summer) of 1227, on the territory of the Tangier state, immediately after the conquest of its capital, Zhongxin (now Yinchuan). According to another legend, at night, Genghis Khan was stabbed with a poisoned arrow by his young wife, whom he was making fun of the same night, for fear of terrible torture for her deed, she threw herself into the river, drowning.

No one knows where the army chief was buried. The enigma of the tomb of the great Genghis Khan stirs the imagination and hopes of treasure hunters, archaeologists, and historians. The place where the fearless Mongol ruler’s body rests is still sought after today, taking into account all the testimonies, assumptions, and legends, even if these are sometimes unbelievable.

According to one version, the great conqueror was buried in a place said to have a personal connection with the leader. One day, the leader was hunting down the Onon River, a six-day walk to Mount Burhan Khaldun. Near the top of the mountains, there was a big lonely tree that seemed out of place. Genghis Khan liked that place very much, feeling an inner joy and a deep peace of mind. That lonely tree growing there probably made him think of death. He said:

“This place is right for my grave. Mark it and remember it.”

One of the scholars specializing in the study of Mongol life denies this hypothesis. He believes that Genghis Khan’s body was not brought to Mongolia, because at that time the Mongols did not yet know the embalming technique. It follows that the tomb of the great conqueror must be sought elsewhere.

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