3

We first hear about Tengrism around the 6th Century as forming amongst the Turkic people of the central Asian steppe, spreading west for a bit with Attila and his crew, then getting mostly overrun by Uighur Manichaeists. What's left gets muddled around with Buryat mythology and a little bit of Buddhist flavor and turned into some elitist thing of a bunch of 'Tngris': some self-made gods and children of gods, of which Genghis Khan's father was said to be one years after he died.

One of the big things we know about Genghis Khan's conquering of Asia and eastern Europe was its religious tolerance; his exemption of Daoists, Buddhists, Christians and Muslims from taxes is sometimes cited as a factor in the downfall of Tengrism. But what I can't find any evidence of is how devoted* to a religion Genghis actually was. Much of the Tngri stuff seems to have been cited by his children as proof of 'divine rule', but I can't find word on whether the man himself believed any of it, whether he went along with it for political/cultural convenience, or if he felt in his marrow that Tengrism was the way to go and the religious tolerance was either a byproduct of that devotion or of a man separating work and pleasure.

  • By devotion, I am using the Dictionary.com definition, stating:

    adjective: Zealous or ardent in attachment, loyalty, or affection.

I'm not asking if he was a "good Tengrist" (as modern-day understanding of the actual tenets seems murky at best), but if he had strong attachment, loyalty or affection for it, and if so, to which version? Did Genghis Khan believe in the old Mongolian Tengrism with animist sky-worship to any significant degree? Did he believe in the Tngri mini-gods thing that came later? Or was he truly a secular individual?

  • 2
    How do you measure "devout"? You seem to assume that "devout" is in tension with "tolerant", which is difficult to support - it is perfectly possible to be a member of multiple religions and to tolerate multiple other religions. Your question is interesting, but I am very skeptical that the terms are defined precisely enough to permit an answer, let along an authoritative answer. – Mark C. Wallace Apr 5 at 15:14
  • @MarkC.Wallace I'm simply framing it with the information I know. There were several holy wars throughout the Middle Ages, and while we may question those leaders' adherence to the tenets of the faith they're espousing, we probably can't question their devotion. However, the opposite isn't necessarily true. Those who fight for causes other than religion may very well be very religious. – Carduus Apr 5 at 15:24
  • 4
    @Carduus - Have you read “Genghis Khan and the Quest for God” by Jack Weatherford? For Central Asian societies during the middle age, I am not sure we can or should make a direct comparison of Tengrism to Christianity, and thus devoutness of its leaders. Especially not on the basis of their religious tolerance (your examples) as a state-based policy. In other words, the entire institution of empire for the Mongols was significantly different to that of other empires, which did use religion as a controlling ideology. Not quite what you expected, I assume. – J Asia Apr 5 at 16:13
  • @MarkC.Wallace I have edited the question, using 'devoted' rather than 'devout' so as to strip away the implications of being 'priestly' from the implications of loyalty. – Carduus Apr 5 at 20:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.