(born 1162, near Lake Baikal, Mongolia—died Aug. 18, 1227) Mongolian warrior-ruler who consolidated nomadic tribes into a unified Mongolia and whose troops fought from China's Pacific coast to Europe's Adriatic Sea, creating the basis for one of the greatest continental empires of all time. The leader of a destitute clan, Temüjin fought various rival clans and formed a Mongol confederacy, which in 1206 acknowledged him as Genghis Khan (“Universal Ruler”). By that year the united Mongols were ready to move out beyond the steppe. He adapted his method of warfare, moving from depending solely on cavalry to using sieges, catapults, ladders, and other equipment and techniques suitable for the capture and destruction of cities. In less than 10 years he took over most of Juchen-controlled China; he then destroyed the Muslim Khwārezm-Shah dynasty while his generals raided Iran and Russia. He is infamous for slaughtering the entire populations of cities and destroying fields and irrigation systems but admired for his military brilliance and ability to learn. He died on a military campaign, and the empire was divided among his sons and grandsons.
Learn more about Genghis Khan with a free trial on Britannica.com.
Instead of the real tomb, portable mausoleums called naiman tsagaan ger (найман цагаан гэр; eight white yurts) enshrined him. They were originally palaces where Genghis Khan lived, but were altered to mausoleums by Ögedei Khan. They settled at the base of the Khentii Mountains. The site, located in Delgerkhaan Sum, Khantii Aimag, Mongolia, is called the Avraga site.
Those who served to the mausoleums were called the Darkhad. Their leader chosen from the Borjigin clan was called Jinong since first Jinong Kamala was appointed as the King of Jin. They lived on the Kherlen River but later moved to Ordos. The name of Ordos was derived from a plural form of the word ordon (palace), which sometimes replaces the ger (yurt) in the designation of the portable mausoleums.
In the mausoleums, various ceremonies were conducted and pilgrims visited. Coronation ceremonies of Mongol Khans were also held there.
The mausoleums were protected by the Manchu Qing Empire, but the chaos of the Warlord era, World War II, and the Chinese Civil War that followed the fall of the Qing Dynasty brought disruption to the Ordus. The influx of Han Chinese immigrants and the agarian lifestyle destroyed the pastoral economy of the Ordus. During and after World War II the mausoleum was moved away from the front and came to stay for several years in Gansu and Qinghai.
The mausoleums were singled out as the symbol of the Mongol nation by some Mongol nationalists. The Buryat Mongolian scholar Jamtsarano recommended the Darkhad to move to Northern Mongolia around 1910. In 1949 Prince Demchugdongrub, founder of Mengjiang, met the mausoleums in Bayankhota of Alashan. This symbolic event deeply impressed the prince and his subjects.
The new mausoleum was constructed by the government of Inner Mongolia from 1954 to 1956, despite Ordos opposition. The government abolished the traditional portable mausoleums and moved their historic relics to the new mausoleum. It also dismissed 500 family Darkhad so that only seven or eight Darkhad served the mausoleum. During the Cultural Revolution, Red Guards destroyed the mausoleum together with countless other cultural sites all across China, and valuable treasures were lost. It was rebuilt later, but replicas had to be made for the treasures that were irretrievably lost.
The mausoleum was constructed and is maintained according to the ideology of Zhonghua minzu, according to which, the Mongols are considered part of the Chinese nation and Genghis Khan is considered to be a Chinese national hero. In contrast, the PRC represses Pan-Mongolism.
There are other non-portable mausoleums of Genghis Khan. In 1864 Prince Toghtakhutörü (To Vang) built a mausoleum in Setsen Khan Aimag with assistance from the Darkhad. The ambitious prince seems to have demonstrated his legitimacy by enshrining Chinggis Khan. As part of purge of Buddhism, it was destroyed in 1937.
There is another non-portable mausoleum of Genghis Khan in Ulan Hot. It was built by Colonel Kanagawa Kosaku of the Imperial Japanese Army in 1942 to arouse nationalistic sentiment among the Mongols. It was also destroyed by Red Guards in the Cultural Revolution, but was rebuilt later.
The mausoleum is guarded by the Darkhad (達爾哈特), meaning "the privileged ones".
Mongols gather four times annually: