The linchpin of the Mongols desires was their quest for wealth. But they understood the benefits of long-term stability. As a result, the Mongols under Chinggis Khan and his immediate successors realized that they did not have the administrative experience to rule a state. Therefore, “it was not long before they took the line of least resistance and adopted, in the various parts of their empire, a more developed religion learned from their conquered subjects.”(56) The purpose of this action was to use religion as a syncretic tool to reach their goals in any specific region. Therefore, the Mongols incorporated numerous policies that encouraged the acceptance of different religions, which enabled the development of political, cultural, and economic expansion. This occurring in a syncretic process was the Mongols linchpin to obtaining economic wealth in the long-term. Thus, they had interest in developing long-term relationship to develop trade networks. As a result, the early Mongol rulers understood they had to develop the necessary skills to create and manage a state.
Chinggis Khan and immediate his successors understood that the Mongols did not have the necessary skills to create and manage a state, with all the institutions and bureaucracy needed to run an empire, from the tribal heritage. Consequently, once the Mongols conquered a region they permitted the regions ruler to keep his position. However, the ruler had to align themselves with the Mongols and their interests. There is little known about why the rulers cooperated with the Mongols. But, perhaps, it comes down to rulers being able to maintain their regional authority and the possible economic prosperity. The Mongols undertook this approach because
they wanted to retain people who had the administrative skills they desired. Having people in place with the administrative skills and familiarity with the region-helped keep it under stable control. The regions stability after conquest is vital because it permitted the Mongols not to retain a significant military force there. Therefore, allowing them to focus on further conquest. Conversely, in order for the Mongols to continue their conquest they had to rely on expansion policies.
The Mongols relied upon political, cultural, economic, and religious expansion to supply the necessary resources needed to establish and maintain their state. The most common method of presenting expansion is the extension of political control. In the early regions, their methods of political control relied upon their violent aggressive military force. In short, the Mongols maintained control through brute force and fear, but they realized that further conquest required change. Consequently, the Mongols understood that it benefited them to alter their administrative methods. Cultural expansion must occur to accomplish this. The continuance of expansion is vital to the Mongols, as conquest was the linchpin to the economic benefits that they desired. The expansion of cultural beliefs and the acceptance of the conquered regions religion is the centerpiece to economic expansion. Nevertheless, the linchpin to the Mongols establishing and maintaining the empire is their acceptance that their shamanistic beliefs did not provide spiritual unity required within the conquered regions. Therefore, their willingness to adopt a specific regions religion was the linchpin to the various expansion methods and reforms the Mongols undertook.
The resources used influenced the Mongols policy toward religion and the state. Although there is a good deal of information provided on the religious ceremonies and references within The Secret History but there is little available on religion itself. Nevertheless, it is
understood that Chinggis Khan and immediate successors permitted Eternal Blue Heaven to dictate their actions above their own actions.(57) The Mongols believed that this willingness to submit to the greater power gave them the authority to rule and strength necessary to conquer other regions. In addition, they had a strong belief that the Eternal Blue Heaven not only had the ability to give them authority and strength but to take it away as well. Consequently, the first few rulers of the Mongol Empire understood they must stay in Eternal Blue Heavens good graces. This could only occur as long as they do not have internal family fighting if they expected to
sustain the strength and military activity. However, their religious convictions did not create the ability for the cultural exchange necessary to permit the long distance trade the Mongols sought.
The preeminent solution to enable the cultural exchange and development of economic trade is the ability to voluntary convert peoples to the state religion. It is vital for voluntary conversion because the world religions – Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam – did not accept forced conversion. Therefore, the state levied numerous restrictions upon individuals who did not adhere to the state religion. Individuals had the right to retain their traditional religion but faced economic hardships for their decision. Despite the possible exemption from the levied poll taxes, non-adherents often chose to maintain their traditional faiths. However, this policy did encourage numerous people to voluntary convert because of their non-commitment to their faith. The conversion of the population became vital to the legitimization of the ruling group. However, this is only a piece of the overarching purpose of religion. Religion is the linchpin to the cultural changes that led to the ruling elite’s realization of the political possibilities that religion provided. It not only provided a source of legitimization but also helped bring about the cultural unification of the numerous people and cultures.(58) The cultural exchange enabled foreign merchants to regularly to adopt and practice regions religion until they renounced it upon leaving the region. The Mongol policy on religion changed once the empire broke up.
The policy on religion changed with the breakup of the Mongol Empire. Religion continued to play a role between different cultures. However, the Mongols departed from using it as a linchpin for political, cultural, and economic expansion because they were no longer
interested in the long-term economic structure of the empire. Thus, the Mongol Khanates ended the political, cultural, economic policies that built and maintained the stability of the empire. Consequently, the Mongols systematically destroyed and plundered numerous towns with no regard to religious beliefs or practices. Furthermore, it became common for the Khanates to destroy regions with no regard to the long-term side affects that would occur. Thus, the later generations of Mongol rulers destroyed the support the empire developed. This resulted from their short-term interests in wealth over the long-term survival rate of the empire. The short-term interests displayed the opposite traits that led to the rise of the Mongol Empire to power.
The Mongol empire rose to power due to the syncretic process that incorporated strong policies in the political, social, and economic incentives intertwined with the religious belief and cultural traditions.(59) The intertwinement of these factors enabled the Mongol empire to reach its peak of power. The fall of the empire began to occur when the descendants of Chinggis Khan strayed from holding true to the syncretic process he implemented. This process is the linchpin to the rise and fall of the Mongol empire because “it provided opportunities for established beliefs, values, and customs to find a place within the framework of different cultural traditions to win popular support in foreign lands.”(60) In short, Chinggis Khan understood the shortcomings of the Mongolian tribes. In addition, he understood that if he promoted a state that embraced the different religions and cultures of foreign lands enabled him to gain power and wealth for his family. As a result, in the late thirteenth century at the height of the Mongol Empire, they controlled and ruled the second biggest contiguous landmass by a single emperor throughout history. (61)
56 Morgan, The Mongols, 41.
57 Anonymous, Secret History, 170.
58 Ibid., 83.
59 Bentley, Old World Encounters, viii.
61 Thomas J. Craughwell, The Rise and Fall of the Second Largest Empire in History (Beverly: Fairwinds 61 Press, 2010), 9.
- The Linchpin To The Mongolian Empire (Part 1) (bearveracity.com)
- The Linchpin To The Mongolian Empire: Origins of the Mongol State (Part 2) (bearveracity.com)
- The Linchpin To The Mongolian Empire: The Resources of State Building (Part 3) (bearveracity.com)
- The Linchpin To The Mongolian Empire: Influence Over Religion and the State (Part 4) (bearveracity.com)
- The Linchpin To The Mongolian Empire: Effects of a Mongolian Policy Shift Regarding Religion (Part 5) (bearveracity.com)