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First Year Course on Genghis Khan (Chinggis Khaan)

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Woman

The script in this drawing reads High Women of Great Mongolia, and shows the traditional 'high hat' of aristocratic women in ancient Mongolia.

 

Woman can be written in two ways in Mongolian script:
 
 
Here is woman using Cyrillic characters:
        

And woman written in latin letters:

emegtei, em

Literary Analysis

Women are presented in The Secret History generally in three different ways: as developed characters with relatively large roles in the narrative, as characters whose actions are described in a short anecdote, and as characters who are only briefly mentioned as being taken as a wife. Among the women in the first group are Genghis Khan’s (Temujin's) mother Hoelun and his principal wife Borte, both of whom are portrayed as influential in numerous important decisions. The women of the second group are to a great extent presented in a positive light, as strong, courageous, and a rallying influence.

Cultural Significance

These three literary appearances of women illustrate important cultural themes in ancient Mongolian life. Tribal politics were almost always involved in marriages, with weaker tribes giving women in marriage to men of more powerful tribes; also, often in inter-tribal raids, women were taken by force into the raiding tribe. This suggests a passive nature of women, but this view is contradicted in the more developed characters. Most women who are developed as characters in their own right are portrayed in a more positive light; themes of strength and influence are widely present in the History among, for example, Genghis Khan’s wives and his mother. The culture among the steppe tribes also gave to women much importance because, when their husbands were away fighting or herding, the responsibility of ruling the community of gers fell to them.

Historical Significance

This cultural view in The Secret History of women as strong characters led to a number of female rulers in the Mongol Empire. Not only does this important text attribute many positive qualities to women, but tribes on the steppe were accustomed to handing over home rule to women when men were away. Two women, Toregene and Oghul Ghaimish, were regents of the Mongol Empire in the 1240s, and Sorhokhtani ruled a section of it (what is now northern China and eastern Mongolia) as she raised her fours sons to be important Asian leaders themselves. The decisions in which women were influential can also be seen as having a major impact on the course of the empire, such as when Temujin's wife Borte advises her husband to break his friendship with the tribal ruler Jamuka, leading to Temujin's election as the Great Khan.

 

 

 

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