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    … It is hard to describe the dedication with which people came out to help me. Even when camped in what seemed to be the most remote place we could find, it was never long before a girl appeared on the horizon leading her yak cart filled with water or with dried dung for our fire. One warm day someone might give a small canister made from tightly sewn birch bark and filled with wild berries and dried yogurt, and another day a young hunter would bring a freshly prepared marmot or a bowl of milk. Herders not only offered me shelter and food along the way, but they also brought horses and sheep to make a personal contribution to the study of their ancestors. More than once a whole family dropped what they were doing and, leaving a boy in charge of their herd, set out to accompany us and discuss our work. On one of the most grueling days while the older men rode horses, four armed young men voluntarily accompanied us on foot,  usually running, for more than thirty miles to protect us in a wolf-infected area.

Sometimes people brought gifts of overwhelming generosity – shimmering pelts or highly polished animal horns. Others brought small woodenfigures varved in the form of a horse, a sheep, or a goat. Shamans offered prayers for the success of our research, and monks donated incense for us to burn on the holy places we encountered. Some people with little else to offer simply gave me smally stones the I might remember the place where they lived. Such debts ca never be paid.

… For assistance in making travel arrangements and procuring equipment and supplies, I am indebted to T. Bold, Sh.Munhtsag, D.Tsetsegjargal, Sh.Batsugar  (INTOURTRADE CO.LTD).

… Of all the gifts from the Mongols throughout the years of this project, none was more precious than the gift of song. When I was exhausted and struggling to catch up with other riders, someone would sing to give me strength. At the end of a long day, when we found refuge with a herding family, a young girl would stand before me and, although trembling in fear at the ,sight of such a foreign person and afraid to look me in the face, open her mouth widely to sing with such beauty and emotion that it seemed surely time itself would stand still.

Gradually, I realized that the songs were more than entertainment or diversions; they contained a wealth of valuable information and offered deep insights into Mongolian culture and history. Because of their life of constant movement, nomads such as the Mongols must carry their books and pictures with them in the form of song. Mongolian music records and maps the landscape of their land, not merely in words, but in the rising and falling of notes corresponding to the flow of the land itself. The morin huur, or horsehead fiddle, usually played by a man, can make the sound of birds and animals, and the long‑song singer, usually a woman, can call up the landscape of distant places with the special skill of her voice.

Even when I was away from Mongolia, people sent me videos and recordings of Mongolian music to inspire my work. Since the gifts often came anonymously, I now wish to thank all of them here. I appreciate the morin huur recordings of Ts.Purevkhuu and the incredible singing of N.Norovbanzad, the greatest Mongol singer of 20th century. More than all the words in any book, the music of N.Jantsannorov, one of the world’s greatest composers, paints the beauty of the Mongolian landscape and portrays of its history.

….I look forward to the day when my wife and I will ride with our grandchildren across the steppes of GenghisKan.

Jack Weatherford.

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In Brief

HISTORY: Genghis Khan, statesman
To most historians, Genghis Khan and the Mongol Hordes who stormed across most of Asia, the Middle East, and Russia in the late 12th century have stood for little more than slaughter and pillage. But Genghis has gotten a bad rap, says Macalester College anthropologist Jack Weatherford.

The great Genghis was actually something of a modern state builder who left his legacy in laws and ideas, Weatherford argues in Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, out this month. Everywhere he went, he decreed religious freedom and spurred a movement of commerce and culture that connected Europe with Asia for the first time and sowed the seeds of the Renaissance. “Genghis Khan laid the foundations for medieval globalization,” agrees John Woods, a University of Chicago historian.

Many of the revelations come from the “Secret History of the Mongols,” probably written by a member of Genghis Khan’s family after his death. It turned up in a Beijing archive in the 19th century, but until recently scholars were thwarted by the peculiar code in which it was written–medieval Mongolian spelled out in Chinese characters–and by Communist officials who feared a rise of Genghis-inspired Mongolian nationalism. The “Secret History” reveals military and administrative tactics–and some startling human details. The child who became the fearsome Genghis Khan was afraid of dogs and prone to tears. -Caroline Hsu


The Christian Science Monitor

from the March 23, 2004 edition

Embrace the inner Genghis A new biography argues that the maligned ruler of the Mongols was a great entrepreneur and social reformer 

By Gregory M. Lamb

He was a sadistic hedonist hiding beneath a fur-rimmed hat. A prairie bandit sporting a Fu Manchu moustache and a nasty disposition who set loose a horde of barbarians to loot the civilized world.

No, no, all wrong. That’s what happens when you let your enemies define you, as modern-day political candidates know. The Mongols were always secretive about their revered leader, the man called Genghis Khan. To this day, his burial site has not been found. Over the years, as the Mongols’ political influence subsided, anti-Genghis, anti-Mongol propaganda worsened. It became so bad that by the early 20th century the followers of the dubious science of eugenics coined “Mongoloid” as a term to describe retarded children, who, they surmised, must have inherited defective Mongol traits.

Western opinion hasn’t been completely lopsided, of course. Geoffrey Chaucer cheered Genghis in the longest of his “Canterbury Tales.” But the real turnaround has come in the last three decades as communism waned, opening up Mongolia to Western scholars, and translators finally cracked “The Secret History,” an ancient Mongol text once thought indecipherable.

Among those scholars has been Jack Weatherford, who spent years in modern Mongolia learning to love its people and digging into their proud and neglected history. In “Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World” he aims to set the record straight. Take the Renaissance, for example. You probably think it was Europe rediscovering the lost knowledge of ancient Greece and Rome? Well, yes, a little. But it was really the paper, printing, gunpowder, and compass brought from the east by Mongols that set Europeans’ thinking caps atwirl. Mongols even changed fashion, convincing European men to abandon their silly robes and put on practical pants.

Genghis Khan was, in fact, considerably less barbaric than his European counterparts, Weatherford argues. Instead of plunging the world into darkness, he let in the light. He punished only those who took up arms against him. He spent much of the 13th century building an empire that eventually stretched from Moscow and Baghdad in the west to India and China in the east. His successors, who divided his realm into four huge kingdoms, ruled so wisely and well that the 14th century became an unprecedented era of peaceful trade and diplomacy that radiated beyond the borders of the empire.

“On every level and from any perspective, the scale and scope of Genghis Khan’s accomplishments challenge the limits of imagination and tax the resources of scholarly explanation,” Weatherford enthuses.

He has plenty to say to back up that statement. In 25 years under Khan, the Mongol army, never bigger than 100,000, conquered more lands and people than the Romans did in 400 years. All other military geniuses – Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, Napoleon – pale before the great Mongol leader, who developed innovative fighting techniques and elicited total loyalty from his troops. The Mongols had a saying, Weatherford reports: “If he sends me into fire or water, I go. I go for him.”

His all-cavalry horde was unstoppable on the open steppes, its spread halted only by oceans (invasions of Japan and Indonesia failed), lack of interest (medieval Europe had few riches or innovative technologies worth assimilating), or unfavorable terrain (Europe again, full of forests and mountains).

Beyond the battlefield, Genghis established religious freedom throughout his realm (many Christians were family members or held high positions, along with Buddhists, Muslims, and others). He created a free-trade zone between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. He ran a meritocracy: He held the wealthy and high-born to the same standard of justice as peasants, not hesitating to promote shepherds and camel tenders to generals. He judged people on their individual merits and loyalty, not by family, ethnic, or religious ties – a revolutionary act in the family-centric Mongol society, Weatherford says.

True, Mongols didn’t create much of anything themselves. But they were oh-so-modern as disciples of the Knowledge Economy. They treated people who had learning and skills as important commodities to be acquired and utilized. They had no interest in turning conquered peoples into Mongols. Instead, they made sure that goods, ideas, and people traveled safely across most of the known world, unleashing an era of unprecedented innovation and prosperity.

Scholars may argue that Weatherford swings the pendulum too far by turning Khan the Oriental Monster into Khan the Entrepreneur and Social Reformer. But readers needn’t get caught in any academic crossfire. They can enjoy immersing themselves in the absorbing details of the life of this extraordinary man who forever changed human history.

• Gregory M. Lamb is on the Monitor staff.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Leaders & Success

Conqueror Won Wars, Minds



Genghis Khan played — or, more accurately, fought — to win.

“Khan recognized that warfare was not a sporting contest or a mere match between rivals; it was a total commitment of one people against another,” wrote anthropologist Jack Weatherford in”Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World.” “Victory did not come to the one who played by the rules; it came to the one who made the rules and imposed them on his enemy.”

Khan understood the importance of unity. If conquered people swore fealty to Khan, he brought them into his tribe, encouraging intermarriage and promoting their leaders to positions of authority.

But for those who continued to fight, he could be ruthless. When attacking towns or fortresses surrounded by a moat, he’d force prisoners — sometimes the captured comrades of soldiers still fighting him — to rush forward until their bodies filled the channel, making his assault on a citadel easier.

There was a method to his madness. Khan knew the value of propaganda. His use of terror tactics often preceded him. This created panic among his enemies, who often surrendered without a fight or fled before he arrived.

Khan (1162-1227) was born in the Mongol equivalent of a working-class family. His father died when Khan (born Temujin) was just a youngster. The family’s clan then abandoned young Temujin, his mother and siblings on the steppes, leaving them to die.

Temujin and his family refused to give up. They scrounged some food and began building a hut for shelter. And the boy who became Genghis learned from this experience.

“The tragedies his family endured seemed to have instilled in him a profound determination to defy the strict caste structure of the steppes,” Weatherford wrote.

Temujin didn’t start out a warrior. In a not-uncommon incident for the time, a raiding party attacked his family’s settlement and made off with his wife. Khan could have ignored the incident, a perfectly acceptable alternative since the raiding party represented a far superior force than he could muster. Or he could go after her.

“He had to think carefully and devise a plan of action that would influence the whole of his life,” Weatherford wrote. Temujin decided to fight. “He would find his wife or he would die trying.”

Rather than run blindly into a fight he couldn’t win, Temujin planned carefully. First, he met with a powerful local chief. He persuaded the chief to forge an alliance with him. Together, they raided the offending tribe and recovered Temujin’s wife.

Despite his reputation as a ferocious warrior, Temujin had a strong sense of integrity and believed in keeping his word. Those around him who didn’t often paid a price.

After a nearby tribe, the Jurkin, refused to honor its commitment as an ally and attacked his base when he was away, Temujin acted swiftly.

He called a tribal meeting called a khuriltai, in which offending tribal leaders were tried. Found guilty, “they were executed as a lesson about the value of loyalty to allies, but also as a clear warning to the aristocrats of all lineages that they would no longer be entitled to special treatment,” Weatherford said.

Goodwill Gesture

To help heal the pain and anger the Jurkin felt over the incident, Temujin adopted a Jurkish orphan. He thus created a kinship between his Mongol tribe and the Jurkin.

Temujin also understood the value of patience. Typically after an enemy fled, victorious soldiers concerned themselves with looting and let the defeated get away. Temujin saw that gave the enemy an opportunity to reorganize. So he ordered his soldiers to wait until victory was complete before taking any loot.

Recognizing the importance of goodwill, Temujin made sure the widows and orphans of soldiers killed in battle received their husbands’ share of the booty. “The policy not only ensured the support of the poorest people in the tribe, but it also inspired loyalty among his soldiers, who knew that even if they died, he would take care of their surviving family members,” Weatherford wrote.

In 1206, Temujin took the name Genghis Khan, or “fearless leader.” With an eye on perception, he didn’t assume power dictatorially. He called a khuriltai and made sure he was democratically installed.

With a fierce and loyal army, Khan mapped out stunning new fighting strategies. For instance, he directed one flank to engage an enemy head-on while another flank secretly made its way around the skirmish. Then, to the enemy’s surprise, his soldiers would “appear suddenly hundreds of miles behind enemy lines, where least expected,” Weatherford wrote.

Knowing he needed more than fighters to stage successful raids, Khan employed his own engineering corps to build what his soldiers needed. He instructed them to use available materials to build weapons such as siege engines. That way, he avoided having to transport heavy equipment.

Aware that information was his greatest weapon, Khan sent out scouts who mapped every hill and valley. He wanted to be prepared for every contingency.

To better lead his men, he broke the army into manageable groups. The army was set up in groups of 10 men to form a squad. Each squad was combined with nine others to form companies of 100 and then battalions of 1,000 and divisions of 10,000. By creating these massive units that crossed familial and tribal boundaries, Khan “broke the power of the old-system lineages, clans, tribes and ethnic identities,” Weatherford said.

Practical Principles

Khan was practical, and sought to head off problems before they occurred. He forbade the selling of women, a common practice at the time. He made rustling a capital offense. Anyone who found an animal had to return it to its owner. He decreed religious freedom for everyone, and even exempted religious leaders and properties from taxes.

He understood that as his empire grew — at its height it covered much of Asia and parts of Eastern Europe — communications became increasingly important. He created an early version of the Pony Express, ordering that fresh horses be held ready every 25 miles for messengers. He also made administrators adopt a writing system that allowed the government “to record the many new laws and to administer them over vast stretches of land now under his control,” wrote Weatherford.

Khan insisted that everyone take part in his society, either in the military or some form of public service. If they didn’t fight, wrote Weatherford, “they were obligated to give the equivalent of one day of work per week for public projects and service to the khan.”


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