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Christopher Atwood "Repackaging Chinggis Khan: Bilingual Histories of the Dynastic Founding in the Yuan Dynasty"

On Friday, January 16th, Christopher Atwood, a professor in the Central Eurasian Studies Department at IU, gave a presentation entitled “Repackaging Chinggis Khan: Bilingual Histories of the Dynastic Founding in the Yuan Dynasty.” This talk was the first talk of the spring semester in the East Asian Studies Colloquium. You can listen to the podcast of this talk here.

Mongolians and scholars of Mongolia today see The Secret History of the Mongols as the main source for Mongol Imperial history. However, Dr. Atwood explained in his talk that while for much of history, and for people in the empire, this was not the case. The Secret History was, in fact, secret, and available only to the Mongol ruling elite. As a result, Qubilai Khan commissioned a new history to be written for official and public consumption.

Dr. Atwood showed how a number of versions of a new official history were worked on and rejected. After rejecting a ‘Chinese’ style history, Qubilai commissioned Chinese and Mongolian literati to work on the new history. The authors combined Chinese and Mongolian sources and traditions of writing history.

The product of these efforts, the Veritable Records, differed in a number of ways from The Secret History and formed the basis for much of Chinese, and later Mongolian, knowledge of Mongol/Yuan history.  Dr. Atwood also shows that this engagement of Chinese literati with Qubilai and the Mongol rulers shows an acceptance of Mongol rule in contrast with later Chinese intellectual’s rejection of the Yuan. Furthermore, these histories shed light on how the Mongol rulers employed loyal Chinese literati to produce history that suited their needs.