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'Genghis Khan was a scholar'

Beijing: Genghis Khan, long perceived as the world's most notorious barbarian, was, in fact, a highly literate scholar of Taoist philosophy, according to a Chinese historian. He claims to have uncovered evidence that the leader of the Mongolian hordes could read and write. Attempting to debunk previous theories that the 13th-century emperor was too busy fighting and pillaging to learn his three Rs, Tengus Bayaryn, a professor at Inner Mongolia University, announced he had found an ``autographic edict'' written by Genghis Khan in 1219. In a report on the Xinhua news agency, the academic said the edict, inscribed in a book sent to a Taoist monk, was proof of literacy. ``The original message, in Mongolian, was written in a unique style and tone and could only have been drafted by the great ruler himself,'' he said. Historians have previously assumed the ruler was illiterate because the Mongolian written language was created only when Genghis Khan was in his 40s and did not have time to study. Born between 1155 and 1167, Genghis Khan united Mongolia and led its warriors on a trail of ruthless conquest. At its peak, his short-lived empire stretched from the Yellow Sea to the Mediterranean. But towards the end of his life, he was concerned about his mortality. Ancient Chinese scrolls describe how the emperor summoned the Taoist monk, Chang Chun, to the Hindu Kush in 1220, and demanded the elixir of life. Professor Bayaryn said a note penned around this time to the Taoist scholar read: ``I've been inspired by your speech. I'll study hard and obey your teachings. I've ordered my ministers to compile a handbook of your lesson and will read it personally.'' The historian's interpretation is likely to be welcomed in Mongolia, where many have adopted names honouring their country's best-known son.

— © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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