The other really nice display on a 3-dimensional model was of a 19th-20th century shaman in full regalia. I was inordinately delighted by this (much to the continued amusement of my companions), excitedly pointing out the large, flat, bodhran-like drum (unfortunately unpainted with helpful symbols, which made me wonder if it had actually been used by a shaman, or was just purchased for the exhibit); the brass mirror (which seriously needed polishing!); the long, colorful, almost shaggy-looking streamers from shoulders and headdress; the costume's hanging metal chimes and the handheld sistrum-like instrument; the height of the headdress itself (which was a traditional marker of women's hats and female shaman headdresses amongst the Central Asian nomads); the decorations of feathers and leather appliqués of birds (traditionally associated with both the original supreme Goddess of the Central Asian nomads, and transportation of the soul to the Otherworld)… it was quite exciting for me, considering how much I'd studied this type of religious paraphernalia for my thesis! :)

There wasn't a lot of information on the shamans, unfortunately, past the story of the one that lied to Temüjin — which was a shame, as it unwittingly left the reader with the vague impression of shamans as untrustworthy and politically secular. After all, considering Temüjin (even with all his religious tolerance) remained a follower of his native religion, he must have had clergy he trusted.

I was pleased to see the exhibit mention the regard in which Genghis Khan is still held today in Mongolia; he's considered a father of the country, and his likeness or name can be found everywhere: on money, as restaurant names, in huge commemorative statues, carved into the side of a mountain…

I liked also reading about the Great Yasa, the amazingly (for the time) broadminded law code passed by Genghis Khan. These included laws such as the afore-mentioned religious tolerance, promotion based on ability and loyalty rather than nepotism, and incorporating defeated clans and soldiers into his clan and army rather than abandoning or killing them. Once again he followed the wise advice of his mother — she even adopted orphans (ordinarily abandoned to die) into her family, which all combined to create an extraordinarily loyal cadre about Temujin.

The exhibit's signs also gave many fascinating quotes attributed to Genghis Khan, and mentioned other innovations of his such as the first passports, not slaying envoys from other rulers, an early (and much more successful and long-lasting) version of the Pony Express, paper money… I don't remember all of them, but those are some from off the top of my head. There were lots of informative videos and video maps demonstrating the growth of the Mongol empire — the biggest contiguous empire ever, four times the size of the Roman Empire. There were also some cute kid-friendly games, as well as pottery, delicate jewelry, and elaborate clothing from the time, and there were quite a few gorgeous examples of beautifully decorated tack, arms, and armor. If you do a google search for "Genghis Khan San Jose" you can find some local news articles with very nice photos included.

From all accounts Genghis Khan was a brutally efficient general quite willing to murder an entire city's population to make a point; a brilliant and pragmatic statesman who understood when to run and when to stand and fight, and who did his best to learn from and integrate the best of other cultures; and an astonishingly foresighted man who understood the power of loyalty to one's people in order to earn it from them. I wouldn't want to live then, but I sure enjoyed learning more about it. Go see the exhibition! It's only here until July 25th. If it does well enough, I'm sure there will be more like it, and I think San Jose needs more such fascinating, and more informative, displays. Enjoy!

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