lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Jun 8 11:58:38 MDT 2008
When I got an invitation to the premiere of "Mongol-Part One", the
new film about Genghis Khan playing in theaters everywhere as they
say, I jumped at the opportunity since it would give me exactly the
excuse I needed to read Jack Weatherford's 2004 "Genghis Khan and the
Making of the Modern World". After seeing the film, I can happily
report that even if the movie was not a joy to watch (which it is) it
jibes with the Weatherford's version of the great Mongol conqueror.
Weatherford, an anthropologist at Macalaster College in St. Paul,
Minnesota, has devoted himself to challenging prejudices about the
"savage" and showing their contributions to historical progress.
Arguably, Genghis Khan is the most stunning example of this ever
seen. As Weatherford puts it in the introduction to his book:
"The only permanent structures Genghis Khan erected were bridges.
Although he spurned the building of castles, forts, cities, or walls,
as he moved across the landscape, he probably built more bridges than
any ruler in history. He spanned hundreds of streams and rivers in
order to make the movement of his armies and goods quicker. The
Mongols deliberately opened the world to a new commerce not only in
goods, but also in ideas and knowledge. The Mongols brought German
miners to China and Chinese doctors to Persia. The transfers ranged
from the monumental to the trivial. They spread the use of carpets
everywhere they went and transplanted lemons and carrots from Persia
to China, as well as noodles, playing cards, and tea from China to
the West. They brought a metalworker from Paris to build a fountain
on the dry steppes of Mongolia, recruited an English nobleman to
serve as interpreter in their army, and took the practice of Chinese
fingerprinting to Persia. They financed the building of Christian
churches in China, Buddhist temples and stupas in Persia, and Muslim
Koranic schools in Russia. The Mongols swept across the globe as
conquerors, but also as civilization's unrivaled cultural carriers."
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