First Year Course on Genghis Khan (Chinggis Khaan)
The script in this drawing reads High Women of Great Mongolia, and shows the traditional 'high hat' of aristocratic women in ancient Mongolia.
And woman written in latin letters:
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
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.
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.