Meet Genghis Khan in Philadelphia

2015-Genghis-1In Philadelphia there is an underserved-but-deserving of attention exhibit at the Franklin Institute:

Genghis Khan: Bringing the Legend to Life

Temujin, known later as Genghis Khan or Chinggis,  came out of Mongolia to establish an empire and a dynasty. He was born to a minor tribal leader who was assassinated when Genghis was very young. His mother and other siblings were abandoned by the tribe leaving the future leader’s family to root for food in the fields and forests, and whatever Temujin.

Temujin never forgot what happened.

He unifies the nomadic tribes by conquering them, then offering the survivors  membership in his forces – “Obey me or Die” – and many chose to live and join which expand his armies. His armies are on horseback, each warrior having several horses, and  armed with the lethal bows as well as swords.

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One of the very informational plaques points out that the Mongol arrows traveled farther than the English longbows (think Agincourt) or European crossbows. Add to this fact at the Mongols often fired from their galloping ponies, and you can see why they took over much of a continent.

Besides the plaques, the exhibit has excerpts from various films based on his life – mostly made in Asia. In the west, Hollywood’s 1956 film The Conquerer  starring John Wayne is probably the best known. (I watched it in a dive in Japan 30+ years ago while eating fried meat and rice. The film was in Japanese with English subtitles. The mind boggles.)

I digress.

Genghis himself dies at 65 having built the structure of his empire. His four (squabbling) sons, out of Daddy’s many wives, built out what he started.

Probably the best known is the grandson who went south into China and established the Yuan Dynasty. He became known as Kubla Khan and he was the leader when the Venetian Marco Polo traveled to China. Polo may have had one of these:

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The exhibit has a reproduction of a traveling tent, a yurt, which looks quite comfortable (if you are a Khan.)

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It has stone sculptures of the family (a couple with headdresses that look like Grumpy Cat.)

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It has an exquisite rice bowl of eggshell porcelain painted by the Italian Jesuit painter Giuseppe Castiglione in the 1700s. As the caption says, the theme of the Mongolian life was a frequent topic even centuries after the fall of the Yuan dynasty in 1368.

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What it doesn’t have is refrigerator magnets. The museum’s gift shop has various trinkets, a postcard and a tee shirt, but nothing that makes you whip out your wallet. The clerk says the magnets will come in shortly. (The exhibit’s been open for months, guys… I wonder if I can mail-order the magnet?)

The exhibit runs through January 6, 2016 and costs $29.95 for adults.  My final opinion? It’s really worth the effort. (Also, the cafeteria downstairs had wonderful sandwiches.)

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