Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Genghis Khan: The Exhibition

William and I went to Genghis Khan: The Exhibit at the Tech Museum of San Jose on Saturday. We were hoping that it would be as good as the Leonardo exhibit they had awhile ago and it was amazing and definitely worth the steep admission price ($25 which does get you also into the Tech's permanent exhibits but not IMAX). William and I learned SO much and are shocked that Genghis Khan was not more of a prominent figure of study at school. While Ghengis Khan was alive, he expanded his kingdom to be TWICE the size of the Roman Empire, even taking over Beijing. And under the reign of his grandson, Kublaihi Khan, the empire expanded to FOUR times the size of the Roman Empire. We both had NO idea that his empire had grown that large. And that he literally left his genetic mark upon the world as 1.5% of Westerners have his DNA. The exhibit was slightly on the more favorable portrayal of Genghis Khan but they did at least mention about many of his harsh tactics and punishments.

Chinngis, as he is referred to in Mongolia, was the son of a local tribe leader, although his mother was not the primary wife. His father was murdered when he was 9 years old and the tribe forced out his mother and her children. This affected Chinngis so that we he did begin his conquests, he initially based his appointments upon merit and achievement, not kinship (although he broke this later on in his life when he split his kingdom up between his sons). They mentioned that he killed his step-brother but never indicated why. He spent most of his life living in a yurt- or a ger as they termed it- continually moving around, fighting battles. He had no main capital during his lifetime. As he traveled, he carried these two banners of yak hair- one with white representing peace and the black other representing war.

The exhibit had quotes placed throughout the exhibition, some that were surprising to think that they came from Ghengis Khan and others, like the one below, captured my overall conception of him.

"I am the wrath of God . . . if you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you."
YIKES is all that I have to say! And I would have been terrified to go into battle with these guys. They mastered warfare on horseback- being able to shoot behind them with their bow and arrows. Even while they and their horses were wearing armor.

They specially crafted their bows so that they would shoot 100 yards farther than the Europeans could at the time. We were able to see a bow- and try pulling it pull it back (we didn't try) and they didn't release it either :-)

The gentleman that you see in the photo actually created this beautiful red mask featured below

He also made 107 other masks, and he demonstrated his old man mask with a traditional dance. He is one of the organizers of the exhibit and he and his two children now live in Washington D.C. His son and daughter attend a Mongolian school on Saturdays where they learn traditional dances, language, and other aspects of their culture. They are here in the area for the summer where he and his children perform every hour from 1-6 pm at the exhibit to help bring the culture to life. And they definitely did that- the little girl was adorable in her fancy costumes and the elder brother that has some great dancing abilities.

Some of the other notable aspects of Chinngis was that he allowed for complete religious freedom throughout the empire and created golden passports. We are glad that we were able to learn more about this pivotal figure in history and glad that people are trying to bring knowledge and understanding about his empire.

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