Yezonkai Khan


Yezonkai Behadr.--Orthography of Mongul names.--Great

diversities.--Yezonkai's power.--A successful warrior.--Katay.--The

Khan of Temujin.--Mongol custom.--Birth of Genghis Khan.--Predictions of

the astrologer.--Explanation of the predictions.--Karasher.--Education

of Temujin.--His precocity.--His early marriage.--Plans of Temujin's

father.--Karizu.--Tayian.--Death of Yezonkai.


The name of the father of Genghis Khan is a word which can not be

pronounced exactly in English. It sounded something like this,

Yezonkai Behadr, with the accent on the last syllable, Behadr, and

the a sounded like a in hark. This is as near as we can come to

it; but the name, as it was really pronounced by the Mongul people,

can not be written in English letters nor spoken with English sounds.

Indeed, in all languages so entirely distinct from each other as the

Mongul language was from ours, the sounds are different, and the

letters by which the sounds are represented are different too. Some of

the sounds are so utterly unlike any sounds that we have in English

that it is as impossible to write them in English characters as it is

for us to write in English letters the sound that a man makes when he

chirps to his horse or his dog, or when he whistles. Sometimes writers

attempt to represent the latter sound by the word whew; and when,

in reading a dialogue, we come to the word whew, inserted to express a

part of what one of the speakers uttered, we understand by it that he

whistled; but how different, after all, is the sound of the spoken

word whew from the whistling sound that it is intended to represent!

Now, in all the languages of Asia, there are many sounds as impossible

to be rendered by the European letters as this, and in making the

attempt every different writer falls into a different mode. Thus the

first name of Genghis Khan's father is spelled by different travelers

and historians, Yezonkai, Yesukay, Yessuki, Yesughi, Bissukay,

Bisukay, Pisukay, and in several other ways. The real sound was

undoubtedly as different from any of these as they were all different

from each other. In this narrative I shall adopt the first of these

methods, and call him Yezonkai Behadr.

Yezonkai was a great khan, and he descended in a direct line through

ten generations, so it was said, from a deity. Great sovereigns in

those countries and times were very fond of tracing back their descent

to some divine origin, by way of establishing more fully in the minds

of the people their divine right to the throne. Yezonkai's residence

was at a great palace in the country, called by a name, the sound of

which, as nearly as it can be represented in English letters, was

Diloneldak. From this, his capital, he used to make warlike

excursions at the head of hordes of Monguls into the surrounding

countries, in the prosecution of quarrels which he made with them

under various pretexts; and as he was a skillful commander, and had

great influence in inducing all the inferior khans to bring large

troops of men from their various tribes to add to his army, he was

usually victorious, and in this way he extended his empire very

considerably while he lived, and thus made a very good preparation for

the subsequent exploits of his son.

The northern part of China was at that time entirely separated from

the southern part, and was under a different government. It

constituted an entirely distinct country, and was called Katay.[A]

This country was under the dominion of a chieftain called the Khan of

Katay. This khan was very jealous of the increasing power of Yezonkai,

and took part against him in all his wars with the tribes around him,

and assisted them in their attempts to resist him; but he did not

succeed. Yezonkai was too powerful for them, and went on extending

his conquests far and wide.

At last, under the pretense of some affront which he had received from

them, Yezonkai made war upon a powerful tribe of Tartars that lived in

his neighborhood. He invaded their territories at the head of an

immense horde of Mongul troops, and began seizing and driving off

their cattle.

The name of the khan who ruled over these people was Temujin. Temujin

assembled his forces as soon as he could, and went to meet the

invaders. A great battle was fought, and Yezonkai was victorious.

Temujin was defeated and put to flight. Yezonkai encamped after the

battle on the banks of the River Amoor, near a mountain. He had all

his family with him, for it was often the custom, in these

enterprises, for the chieftain to take with him not only all his

household, but a large portion of his household goods. Yezonkai had

several wives, and almost immediately after the battle, one of them,

named Olan Ayka, gave birth to a son. Yezonkai, fresh from the battle,

determined to commemorate his victory by giving his new-born son the

name of his vanquished enemy. So he named him Temujin.[B] His birth

took place, as nearly as can now be ascertained, in the year of our

Lord 1163.

Such were the circumstances of our hero's birth, for it was this

Temujin who afterward became renowned throughout all Asia under the

name of Genghis Khan. Through all the early part of his life, however,

he was always known by the name which his father gave him in the tent

by the river side where he was born.

Among the other grand personages in Yezonkai's train at this time,

there was a certain old astrologer named Sugujin. He was a relative of

Yezonkai, and also his principal minister of state. This man, by his

skill in astrology, which he applied to the peculiar circumstances of

the child, foretold for him at once a wonderful career. He would grow

up, the astrologer said, to be a great warrior. He would conquer all

his enemies, and extend his conquests so far that he would, in the

end, become the Khan of all Tartary. Young Temujin's parents were, of

course, greatly pleased with these predictions, and when, not long

after this time, the astrologer died, they appointed his son, whose

name was Karasher, to be the guardian and instructor of the boy. They

trusted, it seems, to the son to give the young prince such a

training in early life as should prepare him to realize the grand

destiny which the father had foretold for him.

There would be something remarkable in the fact that these predictions

were uttered at the birth of Genghis Khan, since they were afterward

so completely fulfilled, were it not that similar prognostications of

greatness and glory were almost always offered to the fathers and

mothers of young princes in those days by the astrologers and

soothsayers of their courts. Such promises were, of course, very

flattering to these parents at the time, and brought those who made

them into great favor. Then, in the end, if the result verified them,

they were remembered and recorded as something wonderful; if not, they

were forgotten.

Karasher, the astrologer's son, who had been appointed young Temujin's

tutor, took his pupil under his charge, and began to form plans for

educating him. Karasher was a man of great talents and of considerable

attainments in learning, so far as there could be any thing like

learning in such a country and among such a people. He taught him the

names of the various tribes that lived in the countries around, and

the names of the principal chieftains that ruled over them. He also

gave him such information as he possessed in respect to the countries

themselves, describing the situation of the mountains, the lakes, and

the rivers, and the great deserts which here and there intervened

between the fertile regions. He taught him, moreover, to ride, and

trained him in all such athletic exercises as were practiced by the

youth of those times. He instructed him also in the use of arms,

teaching him how to shoot with a bow and arrow, and how to hold and

handle his sabre, both when on horseback and when on foot. He

particularly instructed him in the art of shooting his arrow in any

direction when riding at a gallop upon his horse, behind as well as

before, and to the right side as well as to the left. To do this

coolly, skillfully, and with a true aim, required great practice as

well as much courage and presence of mind.

Young Temujin entered into all these things with great spirit. Indeed,

he very soon ceased to feel any interest in any thing else, so that by

the time that he was nine years of age it was said that he thought of

nothing but exercising himself in the use of arms.

Nine years of age, however, with him was more than it would be with a

young man among us, for the Asiatics arrive at maturity much earlier

than the nations of Western Europe and America. Indeed, by the time

that Temujin was thirteen years old, his father considered him a

man--at least he considered him old enough to be married. He was

married, in fact, and had two children before he was fifteen, if the

accounts which the historians have given us respecting him are true.

Just before Temujin was thirteen, his father, in one of his campaigns

in Katay, was defeated in a battle, and, although a great many of his

followers escaped, he himself was surrounded and overpowered by the

horsemen of the enemy, and was made prisoner. He was put under the

care of a guard; for, of course, among people living almost altogether

on horseback and in tents, there could be very few prisons. Yezonkai

followed the camp of his conqueror for some time under the custody of

his guard; but at length he succeeded in bribing his keeper to let him

escape, and so contrived, after encountering many difficulties and

suffering many hardships, to make his way back to his own country.

He was determined now to make a new incursion into Katay, and that

with a larger force than he had had before. So he made an alliance

with the chieftain of a neighboring tribe, called the Naymans; and, in

order to seal and establish this alliance, he contracted that his son

should marry the daughter of his ally. This was the time when Temujin

was but thirteen years old. The name of this his first wife was

Karizu--at least that was one of her names. Her father's name was


Before Yezonkai had time to mature his plans for his new invasion of

Katay, he fell sick and died. He left five sons and a daughter, it is

said; but Temujin seems to have been the oldest of them all, for by

his will his father left his kingdom, if the command of the group of

tribes which were under his sway can be called a kingdom, to him,

notwithstanding that he was yet only thirteen years old.