East Asian Studies 313: The Mongol Empire.
In-class essays for last mid-term.
First essay. Grade received: A-
The Otrar incident's origins and significance are both things that every person should have a grasp of, because it certainly had lasting effects on all of Europe and Asia.
The Khwarezmian state had been a vassal of Karakhitai, but split off and began growing on its own. At about the same time, the Uighurs and other vassals split off and joined the Mongols. As quickly as the Mongol Empire grew in Central Asia, Khwarezm grew into Persia, suddenly having power over a vast area. Chingis Khan, meanwhile, was drawn in to deal with the Kuhluk, an old enemy who had fled to Karakhitai following his tribe his tribe's defeat to the Mongols. His freedom meant to Chingis Khan that he still hadn't united the nomads. In addition, Kuhluk was performing some military actions that looked dangerous to the Mongols; Kuhluk had declared allegiance with Khwarezm and was fighting to gain control of Karakhitai. Perhaps the fighting, which was bringing the Mongol and Khwarezm borders closer together, would have meant war regardless. However, they both still wanted peace evidently, as 3 merchants arrived to Chingis Khan in 1215 from Khwarezm and he sent diplomats and a caravan in 1218. The diplomats were well received, but the caravan resulted in the Otrar incident.
Essentially, Chingis Khan had sent a caravan of merchants and emissaries to the rulers of the Khwarezmian State. However, as it crossed through the 'border' city of Otrar, a disgruntled Khwarezmian commander decided that they were an attacking force and killed them, sending one survivor to take a message to Chingis Khan. As would be the case time and time again, the Mongols did not overlook actions of this nature, and they decimated Khwarezm.
Because of the conquering of Khwarezm, the Mongols' eyes ventured westward, which they never had before. We can be fairly certain that they would have been content with the riches of North China, as had been the case with steppe people in the past. However, after Chingis Khan's death, the generals who had walked through Khwarezm would fulfill their ambitions of marching into Europe. The Otrar incident, started by a stupid commander, would start the Mongols' expansion into Europe.
Second essay. Grade received: A
I think there are different reasons for different people as to why Chingis Khan continues to fascinate them so long after his death.
For the 'regular guy', Chingis Khan has been presented as the perfect movie character. He was a ruthless barbarian, swinging a goofy-looking sword and riding a horse. However, he was a brilliant tactician, using his chaotic cavalry and structured phalanx-like infantry to methodically decimate cities in China and Europe. That a man from the steppes, a barbarian who only knew how to kill his daily mean and find a good wife, should be able to kill so many people and destroy so much fascinates them. Fed false stereotypes all through their schooling, they accept the images because the like to.
For the "scholarly type", many can't shake these stereotypes from when they were regular guys. The basis of their fascination still lies in that. However, the other view is a bit different: Perhaps the scholar is just amazed that out of a simple herding people should arise such a brilliant and competent leader. Ignorant of so much of sedentary life, he compensated by letting others tell him what to do in certain matters, and was able to pick faithful people to do that. They are probably fascinated that he was able to turn a minor tribe into a sprawling empire with a respectable army, and when he defeated someone that they should so willingly pick up his shield.
In general though, I think they are fascinated that one man should so affect human history, and that this influencer of sedentary civilization should originate from without it.
Truly there are different ways in which he is viewed, but whether it conjures within them astonishment, surprise, fear, or admiration, everyone knows the name "Chingis Khan".