Sunday, March 27, 2011

Genghis Khan: The enlightened leader and the brave warlord

I stepped into one of the upper galleries of the ArtScience Museum and found myself greeting an imposing statue of Genghis Khan sitting on his throne. My gut feel told me that I would be walking through an exhibition that will get me closer up with this great leader, Genghis Khan.

An excerpt from the introduction on the brochure of Genghis Khan - The Exhibition reads:

With the largest collection of Genghis Khan artifacts ever assembled from the conqueror's reign, it tells the story of the man whose innovation, technological mastery and cultural creativity gave him the reputation of one of the world's greatest yet most misunderstood leaders.

This excerpt suggested that the exhibition will help me better understand Genghis Khan, one of the world's greatest leaders of the massive Mongol Empire. According to wikipedia, the Mongol Empire "is commonly referred to as the largest contiguous empire in the history of the world. At its greatest extent it spanned 6,000 mi (9,700 km), covered an area of 34,000,000 km2 (13,127,000 sq mi), 22% of the Earth's total land area, and held sway over a population of 100 million." The Mongol Empire is huge!

What were the secrets to Genghis Khan's successes as one of the world's greatest leaders?

The Genghis Khan - The Exhibition, held at the ArtScience Museums, explores this question and many more through some of the following sections of the exhibitions:

Genghis Khan's Roots
In this section, visitors learn about Genghis Khan's birthplace and the nomadic lifestyle.

I learnt that Genghis Khan's birthname was "Borjigin Temüjin". He was born of a noble background and is therefore considered to have a high social standing in his community. He had a difficult childhood and that might have strengthened him to be a tenacious leader.

Speaking about his name, I learnt that Genghis Khan's name is spelled and said in more than one way. The Mongolians and Russians call him "Chinggis", whereas people in the West commonly use "Genghis".

At this section, my attention was briefly diverted to reading about his mother, Hoelun, who came across to me as a woman with resilence and wisdom. She raised her children almost single-handedly under harsh living conditions.

Rise of the Mongols
In this section, visitors could find out how Genghis Khan had built up and organised such a strong army. Apparently, the skills and the weapons employed by the Mongol warrior did matter a great deal.

My attention was drawn to the Mongol warriors' flexible recurved composite bow. One such bow can take as long as a year to make. The raw materials used were wood, iron, animal horn and bamboo. When a Mongol warrior's bow is pulled back with great strength, the bow can shot further than bows used by the Mongol warrior's opponents. The firing range is as far as 350 yards. Furthermore, Mongol warriors in Genghis Khan's armies have brilliant archery skills to make effective use of these wonderful bows.

One piece of information on the Mongol warriors and their bows surprised me. I learnt that in efforts to prevent the bows from getting stiff in the cold weather, the Mongol warriors would often sleep with their bows. These bows must have been very prized objects.

Building An Empire
If winning battles is about brutal strength and might, then building one of the largest empire in the history of the world was an achievement that could only be made with ingenious strategy and military tactics. I was pretty fascinated by some of the strategies used by Genghis Khan. However, I shall ask that if you are interested, please find these strategies out on your own at the exhibition.

Genghis Statesman
No one knows what had caused the death of Genghis Khan and the location of his grave. In this section which I could not quite comprehend, there is a mummy and tomb content of an aristocratic Mongolian woman. I was told that the mummy could shed some light of the type of burial that Genghis Khan might have had.

After Genghis Khan
This section discusses about the continuation of the Mongol Empire after Genghis Khan's death. The city of Karakorum left an impression on me. The reason was that it was my very first time hearing about this city.

This city was built by Ogodei Khan, the third son of Genghis Khan. It was used as an international centre of trade and diplomacy. Even though this city was quite a fair distance away from the Silk Road, many traders would still travel the extra miles to trade in the city of Karakorum. There was a map at the exhibition showing the approximate location of Karakorum and finding it appeared require some treasure-hunting skills.

Nearby this section, there is a performing space for visitors to be treated to performances by the Khan Bogd Ensemble. The Khan Bogd Ensemble will be performing daily from 12 Mar through 10 Apr 2011 (except on Tuesdays) at 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. I was very delighted by their Mongolian Throat singing techniques and musical performances. I was also intrigued by musical instruments such as the Morin Khuur (horse-head fiddle).

Please click on the photo right above to be linked to a YouTube video of
a performance by Khan Bogd Ensemble.

Following the musical performances by Khan Bogd Ensemble, the audience were treated to a dance performance. I vaguely remember that it was a ritual dance. The musical performance and the dance were wonderful. I think the entire set of performances would have been perfect if a staff from the ArtScience Museum who could converse well enough in English could play a good host to be their emcee throughout the performance.

There were a few other sections in this exhibition but I was not as interested in them. Perhaps I was overwhelmed by the many treats that the ArtScience Museum had to offer?

Despite being rather overwhelmed by the many exhibits, a piece of white cotton cloth had somehow caught my eyes. Guess what it is?

If you have guessed that it is genealogy of Genghis Khan, you are right. The Mongolians are very serious about tracing their ancestry. "Recent genetic studies have indicated that at least 16 million men living today are descendants of a Mongolian male who had lived 1000 years ago!"

Yet we are aware that the plain-looking piece of cloth would not entice the attention of the young visitors. To meet the interests of the young visitors, there is a colourful yurt at the exhibition. I wonder how many young visitors ended up playing hide-and-seek in this colourful yurt?

The best reward about visiting a museum is that of learning something new. I learnt that it was Genghi Khan who had introduced the following everyday-life features to the West. These features were: chopped meat, paper money, fork, passport, eye-glass, pants and National Parks.

Concluding, what exactly are the secrets to Genghis Khan's successes as one of the world's greatest leaders? Rather than being issued answers directly, visitors to "Genghis Khan - The exhibition" are invited to participate in a discussion and exploration of Genghis Khan as a leader.

In my humble opinion, Genghis Khan's successes as one of the world's greatest leaders were contributed by the following factors:

1) Family background - His noble background makes it easier for him to garner the support of his fellow Mongolians from the various tribes.
2) Personality traits - His tenacious and resilient personality.
3) Good strategies - He was good in employing battle tactics and brilliant war strategies.
4) Skills - He was a brave and skilled warrior himself.
5) Leadership qualities - He had pretty effective people management skills to facilitate the people in his army to be disciplined, skilled and loyal.
6) Resources - He made sure that the warriors in his army has proper resources and tools to increase their chances of successes in conquering new lands.

I suppose there were more factors that had contributed to his success and I shall leave things open for your further discussion. Please feel free to comment and discuss.

This exhibition is held at the ArtScience Museum, Singapore from 19 Feb - 10 Apr 2011. That means that there is only two weeks left to catch this in Singapore!

A special note of thanks to the ArtScience Museum, the National Heritage Board and Mr Shaun Wong for the invitation to a complimentary visit to and a guided tour of the ArtScience Museum on 20 Mar 2011.

Related posts by other authors:
The Silk, Sunken and Spears - Chapter One by Urban Explorers of Singapore.
Sponsored Event: Trip to ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands on Sunday, 20 March 2011 by Jade Isabelle.
A day at the ArtScience Museum by Nur Shakylla Nadhra.

Genghis Khan - The Exhibition
19 Feb - 10 Apr 2011

Art Science Museum, Singapore
10 Bayfront Avenue
Singapore 018956
Tel: 6688 8868

Operating hours: 10 a.m. - 10 p.m. with the last admission at 9 p.m.

Admission Charges
(Includes GST and SISTIC booking fee)
Adult - $30.00
Senior (65 years +) - $27.00
Child (2 - 12 years) - $17.00
School Group - $10.00
Group Sales* - $24.50
* Minimum purchase of 25 tickets

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for sharing such information .... it was really amazing seeing things that i may never see in life... i started reading about Ghenghis Khan only a few yrs ago... and i am totally awed by this man..
he did wat no man alive today can even dream about... take over half the world....
if people need to study leadership qualities, then they should study Ghenghis, not some stupid fool that exists in todays world with all his gadgets..
do read CONN IGGULDINS books... its a thriller but it takes you to his (ghenghis's ) world... thks a ton again.. cheers Domnic Dias