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Secret History of the Mongols
by: Paul Kahn
Cheng & Tsui 1988, $9.00, Hardbound
Summer Volume: 2019 Issue: 26(2) page(s): 27
This may be the
translated from the
an item written for
their royal family
some time after the
1227 death of Chingis
Kahn, published as a “C&T Cultural series,” the original
author remains anonymous. Maybe it was originally
written in their script, perhaps a transcription or
translation in Chinese. It tells about the origin of Chingis
Kahn, and in Chinese is known as Yuan Chao Pi Shih.
This scholarly English translation is by Francis Woodman
Cleaves, now accessible to all, and is enjoyed by many of
us. Some say it may be the oldest item in Mongolian, was
composed after the death of Chingis Kahn (1277 CE.) and
perhaps once the private property of his noble family.
It opens in the mythical past, quickly moves on to factual
times and information about his life and career, and is
about Mongolians in general describing their personal
lives, their social structure, customs, and some of their
cultural and historical events during his lifetime.
Reading it one then understands these Central Asian
nomadic grasslands people. The book is about their oral
narratives, and does detail them telling their epic tale, a
Mongolian classic. It is about their youth, their heritage,
wars, empire, and the reign of Ogodei Khan and about
the death of Chingis Kahn.
The last two chapters are poetic and they are followed
by seven pages of their proper names, three of selected
bibliographic material, their lineage table, births and
deaths from Chingis to Khubilai, a table of animal years,
and paragraph numbers by page of Yuan Chao Pi Shih,
page by page.