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Document Analysis: The Secret History of the Mongols

Many people have heard the terrifying stories of the great Mongol Empire and their
Ruthless leader Chinggis Qahan. The legends tell of violent attacks, raids, lootings, and
enslavement of thousands of villages and towns throughout Eurasia. In reading the biographical
epic, The Secret History of the Mongols, one might expect to read more about the merciless
conquering. However, Urunge Onon is one of a few people responsible for translating the ancient
document. Onon believes that The Secret History of the Mongols --also referred to as The
History-- was written around 1228 by someone from Chinggis clan (21). In his translation of
The History, Urunge Onon writes that these terrifying stories are in many ways exaggerated and
that despite popular belief, Chinggis Qahan (Temujin) was able maintain his empire through
varying styles of interpersonal relationships. He argues that the Mongols successful empire was
a result of Chinggis being a far-sighted ruler and a born diplomat, who understood the wishes of
his people and led them skillfully (13). The author supports this by giving examples of Qahans
use of interpersonal relationships known as Quda, Anda, and Nokor which are demonstrated in
depth throughout the epic. While the biography spans over twelve chapters and 300 pages, I will
demonstrate the authors thesis through examination of the first four chapters as well as the
eighth chapter.
The first concept Onon attributed to Qahans success is known as Quda. Quda is the tie
of marriage (8). Like many other cultures in history, Chinggis viewed marriage as an opportunity
to bring communities together. Using marriage to his benefit, Chinggis would make allies out of
former enemies. Onon refers to a time when Chinggis rewarded Arslang Qan of the Qarluud
tribe for effortlessly surrendering by marrying his daughter to him. A potential enemy thus
became a son-in-law. (8)

Next, the concept which Qahan seemingly held in highest regard to maintain success was
his belief in Anda. Anda is the concept of the tie between two sworn brothers (brotherhood) (8).
Anda was initiated through an unbreakable oath of loyalty to each other, and then sealed through
exchanging valuable gifts (8, 97). Through this, an unbreakable bond was created that only
death could sever (8). Ironically, it was a once sworn brother of Chinggis Qahan who later
became one of Qahans sworn enemies.
In the early chapters of the Secret History, the unknown author recalls Temujins
childhood friendship with Jamuqa. At eleven years old, before the title Chinggis Qahan was
given to him, Temujin and Jamuqa promised to be sworn brothers for life. Jamuqa had given
Temjin a roebucks knucklebone and Temjin had given Jamuqa a copper-[filled] knucklebone
in exchange, and [so] they had sworn brotherhood (97). Continuing their friendship through
adulthood, Jamuqa was there for Temujin when Borte, Temujins wife, was kidnapped by an
enemy tribe. Upon asking for Jamuqa to help rescue Borte, Jamuqa agreed without hesitation to
fight with his sworn brother.
Upon first reading about Temujin and Jamuqas close bond, it seemed as though nothing
could break them apart. It was surprising then, to later find a passage that essentially stated that
Jamuqa simply got bored of Temujin, and wished to separate. Onon speculated that the two men
were engaged in a power struggle, and Jamuqa was only too aware that Chinggis was adept at
absorbing his potential rivals.
And so, Temujin and his tribe went their separate way from Jamuqa and some of his
followers. Soon after their departure Temujin had been chosen to be Chinggis Qahan- the tribes
new leader. Similarly, Jamuqas tribe had dubbed him Gur Qahan, meaning Qahan of all

people (30, 119). It was clear that there would not be enough room for two Qahans to rule the
Mongols, and consequently the two tribes fought for several years (30, 119) .
One day, members of Jamuqas clan revolted against him and brought him to Chinggis.
The loyal Chinggis had Jamuqas traitors killed for turning against their Qahan, and asked
Jamuqa to renew their brotherhood despite the years of war. However, Jamuqa denied Chinggis
because he thought too much time had passed and that he would only cause trouble to Chinggis.
Additionally, Onon writes, Jamuqa knew that Chinggis hated the nobles of his own clan, who
had betrayed him and been executed as a result. So Jamuqa thought that Chinggis was wrong to
treat him as one of the treacherous nobles of Chinggis own clan (189). As Jamuqa requested,
Chinggis killed Jamuqa without spilling his blood.
Although the brotherhood between Jamuqa and Temujin crumbled and led to several
years of strife between the two tribes, it impressed Temujins tribe that he remained loyal even
until the end to Jamuqa as a sworn brother. This emphasized his strength as a leader and probably
inspired more people to remain loyal to him and contributed to the expansion of the Mongol
Empire.
The final concept Chinggis used to inspire growth in the empire was Nokor, the tie of
friendship (8). As mentioned earlier, Chinggis was well known for turning his enemies into
allies (if they surrendered). As the Mongol empire grew, Chinggis Qahan would bring together
the conquered tribes which would create a higher sense of community (8). However, the Qahan
did not assign tribal leaders based on friendship, but by actual skill and merit. He made sure
everyone felt needed within the community (15). Additionally, extending his relationships with
tribe members allowed him to gain knowledge through loyal spies, traders, and informers (282).

Although Chinggis Qahan had several other traits and characteristics which helped him
lead an entire empire, he could not have done it without some sort of charisma and interpersonal
relationships. Through establishing interpersonal relationships such as Anda, Quda, and Nokor,
Chinggis Qahan was able to bring people together to establish a community, and later, an entire
empire. Anda was used to bring tribes together through marriage, Quda established unbreakable
brotherly bonds which inspired loyalty, and Nokor tied together friendships which established a
strong sense of belonging and community. Despite the exaggerated stories of barbaric killings,
Urunge Onon wrote that Chinggis Qahan was able to gain power through the knowledge of his
people and strong diplomacy.

Works Cited
Onon, Urgunge. The History and the Life of Chinggis Khan: The Secret History of the
Mongols. RoutledgeCurzon Press, 2005. Wordpress. Web. April, 2016.
https://jigjids.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/the_secret_history_of_the_mongols_the_life_
and_times_of_chinggis_khan1.pdf

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