Today I visited the excellent Genghis Khan exhibit at the Irving Arts Center. This exhibition, which continues through September 30, is the largest collection of Mongol artifacts (including the remains, coffin, and possessions of a medieval Mongol aristocratic woman) ever displayed in one place and is well worth a visit by anyone in the North Texas area who is interested in history. Genghis Khan (1162-1227), the greatest of Mongolian monarchs who is still widely revered in Asia today and was the subject of the 2007 film Mongol, was a complex figure difficult to pigeonhole as either a hero or a villain. Certainly he was a man capable of both brutal destruction and visionary benevolent insight whose varied and widespread legacy remains significant nearly eight centuries after his death. I was particularly interested to learn about the impact of Mongolian bowed string instruments on European music (whose string instruments were previously limited to plucking), without which my profession as we know it would not exist.
Genghis Khan, a product of a nomadic culture in which leadership though not unrelated to family ties was normally taken by force, presents an interesting paradox as a ruthless authoritarian ruler whose regime included elements of democracy and meritocracy as well as enduring innovations such as passports and diplomatic immunity. Whether Genghis Khan was the type of monarch present-day monarchists wish to defend is debatable, but as our nomenclature literally means "rule by one," monarchist visitors to this fascinating exhibit may find themselves agreeing with his vision that "there should be one Khan as there is one sun in the sky."