Friday, 31 July 2015

Charles Freer at Longmen

Above: detail, Chinese workers at Longmen; Yütai (act. early 20th century); November 12, 1910; Silver gelatin photographic print; Charles L. Freer Papers; Freer|Sackler Archives FSA A.1 12.5.GN.088

Freer at Longmen

In 1910, Charles Lang Freer, founder of the Freer Gallery of Art, made his final journey to China. He usually had stayed in urban centers, where he could meet with dealers and fellow collectors. Yet he was increasingly drawn to China’s interior, where he could directly encounter its ancient capitals and cultural centers, thereby deepening his insight into and emotional connection with these works. 
On this trip, Freer’s goal was to visit the Buddhist cave temple complex at Longmen Gorge in Henan province. One of China’s great cultural monuments, Longmen has more than a thousand man-made caves, many containing masterpieces of stone sculpture dating from the fifth to ninth century. The site is only five miles from the provincial capital of Luoyang, but in 1910, it was remote and largely abandoned; bandits had become a concern. Chinese officials insisted that an armed guard accompany Freer. When he set out from Luoyang, his party had grown to more than twenty people, including porters, a cook, a photographer, and six soldiers.
Over the next two weeks, Freer and his photographer, Yütai, surveyed the caves with delight and awe. Many of the more than 100 large-format photographs produced on this trip—along with dozens of relief rubbings—are the best in situ visual documents of sculptures that were looted over the following decades. Later in his life, Freer frequently recounted the profound impact of his time spent with some of the finest works of early Chinese Buddhist art.

This photo and article is from the Freer I Sackler site and this photo made part of an exhibition, named :

Looking at Asia Through the Traveler’s Eye

For a few  good links: 500 years

The ancient silk road city of Taraz in southern Kazakhstan

The accent is on the past in the ancient silk road city of Taraz in southern Kazakhstan, with a new drive to make sure that historic landmarks can be enjoyed for generations to come.
Meticulous restoration work is bringing numerous local monuments back to their former glory.
The impressive Tekturmas mausoleum is just one example. Located on a hill that overlooks the city, the monument attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year.
Taraz, which is the administrative centre of the Zhambyl region, is one of Kazakhstan’s oldest cities.
It celebrated its 2000th anniversary in 2001, an occasion that was officially recognised by UNESCO.
Given its rich history along the Silk Road, Taraz has also attracted a lot of interest from archaeologists.
Sites where digging has taken place are also earmarked for restoration.
Taraz, which is surrounded by beautiful steppe country, lies beside the Talas River and is close to the border with Kyrgyzstan.
There are numerous sites of interest arond Taraz, but the most popular for many is the elegant Aisha Bibi mausoleum, which dates back to between the 11th and 12th centuries.
Painstaking restoration work that began in 2002 was considered to be a huge success, with the surrounding gardens adding to the overall harmony of the site.
And what makes Aisha Bibi particularly popular is the legend that lies behind its construction. This is a monument dedicated to love.
An ancient ruler built it for a young woman he fell in love with: Aisha Bibi. She was killed by a snake while attempting to go against her parents’ wishes to be with him.
Couples travel from far and wide to visit the monument on their wedding day, hoping to attract the good luck that Aisha Bibi is supposed to radiate.
Many visitors rub their hands down the exquisite terracotta tiles.
An expert is also on hand to explain the significance of the site and to lead people in Muslim prayers.
It is worth taking the time to look at all of the minute detail of the decorative art, which is unique to Aisha Bibi.
There are more than 60 different types of ornaments.
The main mausoleum is 18 metres high, symbolising the age of Aisha Bibi when she died.
Visitors are also encouraged to simply sit in the lush, colourful gardens and listen to the birds and gentle flowing stream.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

The Drunken Man's Talk- Tales from Medieval China

The Drunken Man's Talk                           Tales from Medieval China


  •      University of Washington Press
  •      paperback not available
  •     $50.00S HARDCOVER (9780295994734) ADD TO CART
  •     PUBLISHED: July 2015
  •     SUBJECT LISTING: Asian Studies, Literature
  •     BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 238 pp., 6 x 9 in.
  •     CONTENTS

This collection of short stories, anecdotes, and poems was likely compiled during the 13th century. Tales of romantic love-including courtship, marriage, and illicit affairs-unify the collection and make it an essential primary source for literary and social history, since official Chinese history sources did not usually discuss family conflict or sexual matters.

This volume, the first complete translation of The Drunken Man's Talk (Xinbian zuiweng tanlu) in any language, includes an introduction that explores the literary significance of the work as well as annotations explaining the symbolism and allusions found in the stories.

ALISTER D. INGLIS is Freeman Associate Professor of Chinese languages and literature at Simmons College. He is the author of Hong Mai's Record of the Listener and Its Song Dynasty Context.

"These stories and anecdotes provide valuable information about marriage and sexuality in Song/Yuan society. The translator has done a remarkable job in rendering the text into readable English."
-James M. Hargett, translator of Treatises of the Supervisor and Guardian of the Cinnamon Sea

"An important contribution to the field. There are very few translations of biji xiaoshuo [anecdotal fiction] from the Tang, Song, and Yuan periods.The Drunken Man's Talk stands out because it offers a complete translation of a single collection, which offers insights into the compiler's interests and agendas, in particular, his selection, presentation, and arrangement of stories."
-Manling Luo, author of Literari Storytelling in Late Medieval China

Map Showing Portions of Chinese Turkestan and Kansu to Illustrate the Explorations of Dr. M. Aurel Stein

From: The MAP HOUSE 


The next map featured on our blog records one of the most remarkable archaeological expeditions ever undertaken. Its accomplishments changed the history of the printed word; in fact, these accomplishments are still reverberating throughout the academic world to this day.
“Map Showing Portions of Chinese Turkestan and Kansu to Illustrate the Explorations of Dr. M. Aurel Stein.” Published for the Royal Geographical Society, 1911.

Sir Marc Aurel Stein was born in 1863 in Pest on the opposite side of the Danube to Buda in Hungary. He was named after Marcus Aurelius, the Roman philosopher Emperor. His family was by no means wealthy but his mother came from a privileged background ensuring that the young boy received a superlative education, an opportunity which he seized with both hands. By the age of twenty, he had gained his doctorate from the University of Tubingen. His passion and subject was the convergence between the history, geography and religion of the Indo-Persian region and his particular specialty were the ancient languages of Persia and India.
Stein was a very affable individual and had gathered a useful group of friends and contacts during his student days. This was something at which he excelled throughout his life and he kept a steady stream of communications with this network no matter where in the world he was travelling at that time.
After he graduated in 1883, he managed to put together a small amount of funds which allowed him to travel to London where he studied ancient Indian coins at the British Museum; it was his first taste of British life and he found it greatly to his liking; so much so that he became a British citizen in 1904.
He did have to go back to Hungary in 1885 to perform his national service. Thankfully for both him and us, he joined the Topographical section of the Austrian army and learnt the skills of surveying and mapmaking; these would become incredibly useful in his later career.
He returned to England and – again due to his contacts – secured an academic position in the Punjab. From that moment onwards, his life began a pattern of constant travel, research, writing and publishing his results and interpretations; followed by numerous public lectures. His thirst for this lifestyle never dimmed and the extent of his travels and exploration is quite extraordinary; from surveying the boundaries of the Eastern Roman Empire in Syria to exploring and recording the archaeology of the legendary Kun-Lun mountain range in Western China. His record keeping was exemplary and as well as his academic records, he wrote and published a collection of popular works on his travels, many of which have also become standard works for the history and archaeology of these regions.
Stein passed away in Kabul in 1943 at age 81, typically planning his next expedition, this time to Central Afghanistan.
Although Stein travelled widely throughout the continent, his most famous expedition was his journey to Central Asia between 1906-8, recorded on this map.

The two great heroes of Stein’s life were Alexander the Great and the 7th century Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, Xuanzang. The latter was a monk who embarked upon a pilgrimage to India both in search of his own enlightenment and to return with documents and records from the country of Buddha’s birth. After seventeen years of travel he returned to China and his account of this extraordinary feat was entitled: “Great Tang Records on the Western Regions.”
Stein was determined to retrace at least some of Xuanzang’s journey and proposed an expedition to study the archaeology of the Silk Road and China’s western border during the Tang Dynasty. He had already reached the legendary city of Ancient Khotan on the Southern Branch of the Silk Road on an earlier journey but this time, the scope of his expedition was far more ambitious and he wanted to travel far further East.
Thankfully, he already had the experience of organizing several important expeditions and had proved he had a prodigious talent for both organization and producing results. This experience, combined with his charm and network of contacts, helped him to secure sponsorship from the British Museum and the Government of India. Once that was in place, the expedition set out in 1906.

As can be seen from the red route on the map, Stein made his way through Leh in Kashmir and then re-visited Ancient Khotan; the map records a mixture of extraordinary geographical detail together with the superimposition of archaeological and ancient sites, again marked in red. This is archetypal Stein, whose topographical accuracy was legendary and remains one of the main reasons why his work is still valid to this day.
Once had had reached Khotan, Stein carried on East to reach his main goal, the Western borders of China which ultimately took him to the site that would change his life.

These old Chinese borders ran close to another ancient Chinese oasis settlement on the Silk Road, Dunhuang. Within a few miles of the oasis, lay a series of caves and temples long associated with Buddhist pilgrims. This complex was known as the Mongao Caves or “The Caves of a Thousand Buddhas.” The complex had long been neglected and housed one self-appointed caretaker, a Daoist monk, Wang Yuanlu, who had recently made a momentous discovery. In 1900, behind a false wall, he had found a cave which housed tens of thousands of ancient documents; these were assumed to be Buddhist, but later study has also found Nestorian Christian, Jewish, Manichean and Daoist texts among the collection. It is not known if Stein was aware of this discovery as he was travelling through the desert but he would certainly have found out about it as soon as he reached Dunhuang.
For an archaeologist, this was the discovery of a lifetime and Stein negotiated the purchase of a part of the collection on behalf of the British Museum and the Government of India.
Stein completed his expedition in 1908 and upon his return the manuscripts were divided between the Indian government offices in Calcutta and the British Museum. Amongst the collection sent to the British Museum was the Diamond Sutra, a printed scroll published in about 860AD, incontrovertible proof that printing was used in China approximately 600 years before its origins in Europe.
As a final note, French, Russian, German and Japanese expeditions reached the Mongao caves soon after Stein and all of them purchased parts of the manuscript collection. In 1914, Stein visited the Caves again and was greeted enthusiastically by Wang Yuanlu, who proudly showed him the improvements he had been able to make with the funds he had raised. These were mainly new and larger facilities to house pilgrims.
Today, the manuscripts purchased by these expeditions are housed in a variety of public libraries and institutions; there is an international co-operative project between all of them which promotes, shares, digitizes and publishes both research and translations of these documents: appropriately, it is named the International Dunhuang Project.
Please visit our website to see other maps made by Sir Marc Aurel Stein.. AS1079 AS1112 AS1113 and do let us know if you have any further questions about these fascinating pieces!

Dating famous Shigir Idol from Kirovgrad under criticism

German scientists 'took samples abroad for analysis' which were 'illegally obtained' from famous Shigir Idol.
'The examination of the idol was conducted without coordination with the relevant ministries and even the director of the Yekaterinburg History Museum Natalia Vetrova was not informed about the methods of the expertise.' Picture: Ekaterina Osintseva
The statue is twice as old as the Egyptian pyramids, and contains arguably the most ancient coded message on the planet, but it is now embroiled in a very modern Russian criminal case. 
The Investigative Committee in Sverdlovesk region has opened a criminal probe on causing damage to the famous Shigir Idol, estimate to be 9,500 years old. Since last year, the Culture Ministry in Moscow has been seeking legal redress over the way samples of the wooden statue were taken, and then exported by eminent German scientists for analysis. 
The latest move overturns an earlier 'illegal and groundless' decision not to take action under a clause in the criminal code prohibiting the destruction or damage of historical and cultural monuments.
A source in the Culture Ministry in Yekaterinburg said: 'The examination of the idol was conducted without coordination with the relevant ministries and even the director of the Yekaterinburg History Museum Natalia Vetrova was not informed about the methods of the expertise.' 
Shigir idol
In June 2014, German scientists Uwe Hoysner and Thomas Terberger arrived in Yekaterinburg and took the samples of Shigir idol to determine the statue's exact age. Picture: Alexander Mamaev/
One senior official Tatiana Bondar said: 'We, like everyone else, saw the television programme [about taking the samples by German scientists]. We cannot say how many centimetres of the Idol were taken away. There are also questions about the fragments that were taken to Germany - they could not be sent abroad without a permission. Our management did not give any permit for export.' 
The hunt is now on for offenders who face a maximum penalty of three years in prison. 
In June 2014, German scientists Uwe Hoysner and Thomas Terberger arrived in Yekaterinburg and took the samples of Shigir idol to determine the statue's exact age.
It is unclear if they are under suspicion of unauthorised cutting of the statue,  but meanwhile their expected announcement on dating the Idol is now some months behind schedule for unknown reasons. There is speculation that Natalia Vetrova could become one of the accused on the basis that her museum had no authority to allow samples to be cut from the Idol.
This ancient example of human creativity was recovered in January 1890 near Kirovgrad. It is made of 159 year old larch, and covered with Mesolithic era symbols, which are not yet decoded. 
The Idol is the oldest wooden statue in the world, estimated as having been constructed approximately  9,500 years ago

The Idol is the oldest wooden statue in the world, estimated as having been constructed approximately  9,500 years ago

The Idol is the oldest wooden statue in the world, estimated as having been constructed approximately  9,500 years ago

The Idol is the oldest wooden statue in the world, estimated as having been constructed approximately  9,500 years ago
Made of 159 year old larch, it is covered with Mesolithic era symbols which are not yet decoded. Pictures: Ekaterina Osintseva
Originally some 2.8 metres in height, it appears to have seven faces. It was protected down the millennia by a four metre layer of peat bog  - as if in a time capsule - on the site of an open air gold mine.
'There is no such ancient sculpture in the whole of Europe. Studying this Idol is a dream come true', said Professor Terberger, of the Department of Cultural Heritage of Lower Saxony. Hoysner, from Berlin Archaeological Institute said: 'The Idol is carved from larch, which, as we see by the annual rings, was at least 159 years old. 
'The samples we selected contain important information about the isotopes that correspond to the time when the tree grew.' They said they hoped to date the Idol to within five decades. 
Mikhail Zhilin, professor of the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said: 'This is a unique sculpture, like nowhere else in the world. The Shigir Idol is both very lively, and very complex. The ornaments, which cover the Idol, are the encrypted information of the knowledge which people passed on'.
Expert Svetlana Savchenko, chief keeper of Shigir Idol, believes that the structure's faces carry encoded information from ancient man in the Mesolithic era of the Stone Age concerning their understanding of 'the creation of the world'. She said it was 'obvious' that the symbols on the Idol 'had some meaning', but experts have not managed to understand what this could be. 
The Idol is the oldest wooden statue in the world, estimated as having been constructed approximately  9,500 years ago

The Idol is the oldest wooden statue in the world, estimated as having been constructed approximately  9,500 years ago

The Idol is the oldest wooden statue in the world, estimated as having been constructed approximately  9,500 years ago
First reconstructions of the Idol as walking and standing upright, archeologist Vladimir Tolmachev and his drawings of the Idol, and marked faces of the Idol. Pictures: Yekaterinburg History Museum 
Author Petr Zolin, citing scientific work by Savchenko and Professor Mikhail Zhilin, stated: 'The characters of Idol cannot have an unambiguous interpretation. If these are images of spirits that inhabited the human world in ancient times, the vertical position of figures (one above the other) probably relate to their hierarchy.
'Placing images on the front and back planes of the Idol, possibly indicate that they belong to different worlds. If there are depicted myths about the origin of humans and the world, the vertical arrangement of the images may reflect the sequence of events. Ornaments can be special signs which mark something as significant.'
One theory is that the Idol could be an ancient 'navigator', a map. Straight lines, wave lines and arrows indicated ways of getting to the destination and the number of days for a journey, with waves meaning water path, straight lines meaning ravines, and arrows meaning hills, according to this version.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Ghengis Khan exhibit at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia

GENGHIS KHAN: BRING THE LEGEND TO LIFE is on exhibit at the Franklin Institute through January 3rd.

GENGHIS KHAN: BRING THE LEGEND TO LIFE is on exhibit at the Franklin Institute through January 3rd.

A new exhibit at The Franklin Institute takes visitors back to the ancient land of Mongolia. GENGHIS KHAN: BRING THE LEGEND TO LIFE does just that, painting a vivid picture of an ancient land and sharing little known facts about its infamous conqueror.

In the 13th century, Mongolia was huge, spanning 11 million miles across Asia and Eastern Europe. And while history portrays Genghis Kahn as a barbarian, the exhibit's creator is out to show he was also a sophisticated statesman.

"We wouldn't have so many features of Western life if it wasn't for what he imported from the East," says Dom Lessem, the exhibit's creator. Things like the violin, pants, lemons, paper, money and passports, though quite different than the travel documents we use today says Lessem. "He would have all kinds of secret messengers. Sometimes he would shave their heads, write the message on their heads, let the hair grow back, send them off, get to the destination, shave the head and read the message."

Lessem found one very rare passport that is written in a secret language. "There's only one guy in the Western World who could translate it, basically says "I am the emissary of the Khan, if you defy me you die."

It took Lessem 8 years to amass the collectibles that show how Khan built his vast empire in 25 short years with innovations like the whistling arrow. "They'd shoot it over the enemy so before the enemy could even reach with their little bows they hear this whistle and they think "Oh my god these guys can kill me in a minute" and they put down their arms and run away right then."

The exhibit also explores the Mongol's nomadic lifestyle. The so-called yurts they lived in are still used by Mongolian nomads today. "You can see with an accordion like a baby gate it folds up in a few hours a few nomads can relocate somewhere else they want to bring their herd," Lessem admires.

With more than 200 weapons, jewels, documents and monuments, the exhibit brings a vanished world back to life. "So that's what we try to do - tell his life, the society of Mongolia, and illustrate it with these splendid things."

GENGHIS KHAN: BRING THE LEGEND TO LIFE is on exhibit at the Franklin Institute through January 3rd. For tickets, go to or you can visit to learn about other area events.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Genghis Khan: His Conquests, His Empire, His Legacy

Genghis Khan: His Conquests, His Empire, His Legacy 

  • Hardcover: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (July 14, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306823950

Mongol leader Genghis Khan was by far the greatest conqueror the world has ever known. His empire stretched from the Pacific Ocean to central Europe, including all of China, the Middle East, and Russia. So how did an illiterate nomad rise to such colossal power and subdue most of the known world, eclipsing Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Napoleon? Credited by some with paving the way for the Renaissance, condemned by others for being the most heinous murderer in history, who was Genghis Khan?

His actual name was Temujin, and the story of his success is that of the Mongol people: a loose collection of fractious tribes who tended livestock, considered bathing taboo, and possessed an unparalleled genius for horseback warfare. United under Genghis, a strategist of astonishing cunning and versatility, they could dominate any sedentary society they chose.

Combining fast-paced accounts of battles with rich cultural background and the latest scholarship, Frank McLynn brings vividly to life the strange world of the Mongols, describes Temujin's rise from boyhood outcast to becoming Genghis Khan, and provides the most accurate and absorbing account yet of one of the most powerful men ever to have lived.

Five Myths About Genghis Khan

tags: Genghis Khan 

 1  0  0 

Frank McLynn is the author of Genghis Khan: His Conquests, His Empire, His Legacy (Da Capo Press, July 2015). 

1. He was a one-dimensional tyrant of a ‘right wing’ kind
A close study of the principal sources (in Mongolian, Arabic and Persian) reveals a personality of the utmost complexity. Depending on mood or context he could be all of the following: shrewd, far-sighted, just, generous, stoical, restrained, iron-willed, multitalented, a man with all the gifts of a great ruler and cowardly, treacherous, devious, ruthless, ungrateful, vengeful and even stupid. 
Usually an uncannily sharp reader of men, he could be naïve, as when he was taken in by a Chinese charlatan called Chung Chan, who became his guru and spiritual adviser. But in this respect he was not so very different from those eminent personalities in modern times who have been taken in by ‘perfect masters’ of every stripe. He was prey to paranoia and jealousy and could fly into terrible rages, but he was also charming and charismatic and attracted a faithful following in the days before he had the power to constrain anyone by fear. As for the popular ‘to the right’ of Genghis Khan’ tag, this is of course anachronistic nonsense, since the terms ‘right’ and ‘left’ did not appear in history until the French Revolution.
2. He was uniquely cruel, perhaps even a psychopath 
The important thing to realize about Genghis was that he may have exceeded in degree, but never in kind, the routine cruelty of the Middle Ages. One could give any number of instances of medieval war crimes: the slaughter of the Song Chinese by their rivals the Jin at Kaifeng in 1127; the massacre of the Albigensians by fellow-Christians at Beziers and Carcassonne in 1209; Edward I’s butchery of 8,000 Scots at Berwick in 1296; the 30,000 Hindus killed at Chittor in 1303 by the troops of Ala al-din Khilji; the Byzantine mass blinding of the Bulgars in 1014; the behavior of the Christians at Antioch and Jerusalem during the First Crusade – one could go on and on. Genghis was no more and no less cruel than other victors in his era. 
He was not perceived by contemporaries as being exceptional in this regard nor did he have the kind of exceptional contemporary reputation that Henry VIII had in the sixteenth century. He could not rival Tamerlane for slaugherous brutality and can be documented as less bloodthirsty than contemporary Chinese, Khitans or Persians. Many tales of Mongol atrocities were exaggerated by their enemies and critics, especially Arab historians. The Mongols themselves were happy to collude in this black propaganda, as the legend made opponents less likely to resist them and more likely to surrender without a fight. Moral judgements made from a twenty-first century standpoint are of no use in helping us to understand history.
3. His ‘surrender or die’ policy was an outrageous crime against humanity
This policy has attracted a lot of attention, and various reasons have been adduced for it: the result of a small-scale steppe mentality transposed onto a world stage; because in terms of Genghis’s conviction that he had been appointed by God to rule the world resistance to him was blasphemy; because the Mongols feared and hated cities and spent their fury on them once taken; because it was the most efficient way to warn already conquered peoples not to attempt ‘stab in the back’ revolts as the Mongols pressed ever onwards. 
But the simplest explanation is that the Mongols, a far from numerous people, were always obsessed with casualties, so that the best-case scenario was a walkover surrender in which none of their troops died. This explains why nearly all the cities that surrendered without even token resistance received relatively good treatment. It was the fear of casualties that triggered the Mongols’s worst excesses. Sustaining large numbers of dead and wounded when besieging a city meant they would take a terrible revenge when the city finally fell, and the fiercer the resistance, the greater the toll of the massacred; sometimes this included every last human being, including women and children and all animals, including cats and dogs. It also explains the policy that so appalled the Arab historians: using prisoners of war in the Mongol front ranks as ‘arrow fodder.’ But an era that has witnessed the egregious atrocities of the ‘Great Patriotic War’ of 1941 between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, in a so-called civilized age, not to mention the Holocaust, has no call to single out the Mongols.
4. Genghis and the Mongols were successful because they swamped their enemies with ‘hordes,’ overwhelming them with sheer numbers
This is one of the hoariest of all myths associated with the Mongols and one of the falsest. Until the time of Genghis’s grandson Kubilai Khan, the Mongols always fought from a position of numerical inferiority. Their most famous set-piece victories, against the Russians at the Kalka river in 1222, against the Poles at Liegnitz in 1241 and against the Hungarians at Mohi the same year, all fit into this category. The most famous example of conquest with numerical inferiority came with the defeat by the Mongols (a people of two millions maximum) of the Jin empire of northern China, whose population was probably close to one hundred million. In fact the Mongols achieved their victories because they had achieved a quantum leap in military technology. Other medieval armies simply had no answer to master horsemen firing arrows from powerful bows at distances of three hundred yards; it was probably the first demonstration in history of the primacy of artillery.
5. Genghis is ‘the father of us all’ –we nearly all descend from the Mongols
Here we enter the arcane world of genetics. Geneticists have established that about 0.8 per cent of the population of Asia has an identical Y-chromosome, indicating the likelihood of a common ancestor, possibly some time around 1000 A.D. This would imply that about 0.5% of the world’s population has this common ancestor, and that he has 16-17 million descendants. The easy availability of huge numbers of women to Genghis and his sons, as to no other identifiable Asian personality, makes it likely that Genghis might be this mysterious progenitor. But the theory has not generally been accepted. The difference of a couple of centuries between the dates of Genghis’s life and the timing of this putative ancestor could no doubt be explained away, but there are simply too many imponderables to allow such a neat calculation, and even on the best-case scenario the most we would have, without a tissue sample from Genghis himself, is probability. But Genghis as the undoubted common ancestor makes a headline that sells newspapers, and devotees of ‘good copy’ are not above distorting the argument still further.