Western Xia tomb in Yinchian , China, near where Genghis Khan died

It is said Genghis Khan died on August 18, 1227 at the age of 60 somewhere south of the Xi Xia capital of Ningxia, near present-day Yinchian in Gansu Province, during the military campaign there. According to the "Secret History" he died hunting wild ass when his mount shied and he fell, "his body being in great pain." According to another account he ailing, perhaps with typhus or malaria. From his deathbed Genghis Khan ordered the extermination of the Xi Xia people. No one knew about Genghis Khan's death until weeks later when the XI Xia were defeated.

According to the Chinese government: “There are many stories and records about his death, the place he was buried, his coffin and so on. As is told, when Genghis Khan fought against Western Xia dynasty, he had passed Yijinhuoluo. He stopped his horse, looked around, and was reluctant to leave this beautiful grassland with lush grass, flowers and flocks. Just at that time, the horsewhip dropped from his hand, and he seemed to realize something, and chanted: "a place where flowers and deer inhabits, a home where hoopoes give birth to their babies, a terra where the declined dynasty revives, and a garden where gray-haired man enjoys his life." And he told his servants: "after I died, bury me here."” [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China,]

Morris Rossabi wrote in Natural History: “In August 1227, a somber funeral procession — escorting the body of perhaps the most renowned conqueror in world history — made its way toward the Burkhan Khaldun (Buddha Cliff) in northeastern Mongolia. Commanding a military force that never amounted to more than 200,000 troops, this Mongol ruler had united the disparate, nomadic Mongol tribes and initiated the conquest of territory stretching from Korea to Hungary and from Russia to modern Vietnam and Syria. His title was Genghis Khan, “Khan of All Between the Oceans.” [Source: “All the Khan’s Horses” by Morris Rossabi, Natural History, October 1994]

Mausoleum of Genghis Khan, in Dongsheng district, Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China

The funeral procession from China to Mongolia took several weeks to arrive. According to Marco Polo, who arrived in Mongolia about 60 years later, soldiers accompanying the procession killed everyone they encountered, as well as some 2,000 servants, 40 horses and 40 "moonlike virgins" who were allegedly buried with the Khan to keep him company in the next world. To discourage grave robbers the site was reportedly trampled by a thousand horsemen, who along with the soldiers who accompanied the procession were all executed to keep the location of his tomb secret.

According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: There is another "possibility, however, that Genghis's body was simply allowed to lie were it fell. At this time in their history, the Mongols had not yet developed a tomb culture; in fact, they would only develop a tomb culture after they'd had greater contact with the Chinese and the Persians. Thus, Genghis's body may have been left to be consumed by the animals." [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University ]

Map Link: The Mongol Empire at the Death of Genghis Khan in 1227 [], This map shows the location of Genghis Khan's death, as well Khara Khorum, the Mongol capital at the time, and the Jin and Xia [Xi Xia] empires, both conquered by Genghis before his death.

Websites and Resources: Mongols and Horsemen of the Steppe:
Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; The Mongol Empire ; The Mongols in World History ; William of Rubruck's Account of the Mongols ; Mongol invasion of Rus (pictures) ; Encyclopædia Britannica article ; Mongol Archives ; “The Horse, the Wheel and Language, How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes shaped the Modern World", David W Anthony, 2007 ; The Scythians - Silk Road Foundation ; Scythians ; Encyclopaedia Britannica article on the Huns ; Wikipedia article on Eurasian nomads Wikipedia

Funeral and “Mausoleum” Palace of Genghis Khan

The funeral procession from China to Mongolia took several weeks to arrive. According to Marco Polo, who arrived in Mongolia about 60 years later, soldiers accompanying the procession killed everyone they encountered, as well as some 2,000 servants, 40 horses and 40 "moonlike virgins" who were allegedly buried with the Khan to keep him company in the next world. To discourage grave robbers the site was reportedly trampled by a thousand horsemen, who along with the soldiers who accompanied the procession were all executed to keep the location of his tomb secret.

After Genghis Khan was dead, the hearse carrying his corpse was on the way to return to Mongol, but when it came to the place where he had chanted the poem, the cartwheels suddenly sank into the mire, and no matter how many horses drew it, it remained still. Then, people recalled the words that Genghis Khan had said, and built a Mausoleum palace for him just at that place, and called it "Yijinhuoluo"(in Mongol, it means "the holy land of the emperor"). [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, ~]

13th century Central Asian funeral (for Isfandiyar in Iran)

The old Ordos folk song sings like this:
The rich home where the golden deer wander and play,
The happy garden where the hoopoes sing their melody,
The holy place where the emperor was esteemed for generations,
That is Yijinhuoluo, where all pilgrims come to worship.

Legends are mysterious and interesting, but in fact, Genghis Khan was not buried there. According to the custom of the Mongol noble class, "there should be no tomb. Once the corpse is buried, hundreds of horses will trample on it and make it smooth. Then, a camel is killed on spot and thousands of soldiers will guard it. In the next year, when the grass grows again, all the camps and soldiers will leave the place, and no one will know the exact place of the burial", the real place where Genghis Khan rests has become a secret for ever.

Genghis Khan’s Tomb

Genghis Khan was buried without a monument or even a headstone, in keeping with Mongol belief that the dead should not be disturbed. Legend has it that the soldiers who carried out the mission were slaughtered to make sure the secret was safe for all time. Terrence McCoy wrote in the Washington Post: “When Genghis Khan died, he didn’t want to be found. So soldiers in his burial party butchered anyone they saw on their way to his burial tomb. Then they killed the people who built the monument. Then, finally, they killed themselves. [Source: Terrence McCoy, Washington Post, January 8, 2015; Edward Cody, Washington Post, February 9, 2006]

Genghis Khan’s tomb is said to be on a mountain named Burkhankaldun, but no one has any idea where a mountain by that name is, although it is thought to be near River Onon not far from where he was born. The tomb may contain millions, if not billions, in buried treasures and thus is sought not only by historians and archeologists but also by treasure hunters.

Every year thousands of Mongols visit a shrine in the Ordos region where Genghis is said to have dropped a horsewhip during his final campaign marking the spot where he wanted to be buried. The Genghis Khan's Mausoleum is near Dongshen in Inner Mongolia reportedly contains the great Mongol leader’s ashes, weapons and yurt with biers of Genghis and some of his important relatives. The ashes were placed there in 1954 after they were stored in Qinghai to keep them out of the hands of the Japanese during their occupation of China.

According to Mongolia Today, incredible treasures were buried with Genghis Khan from every corner of his vast empire and, as one researcher told the Associated Press, “if we find what items were buried with him, we could write a new page for world history.”

Many now suspect Khan’s final resting place is near the site of his palace, which is located about 250 kilometers east of Ulan Baatar.

“Mausoleum” Palace of Genghis Khan

In order to memorialize him, his offspring placed his 8 white camps on the plateau between the Altai Mountain and Kent Mountain, and worshiped them as his mausoleum, and called it "eight white rooms". After the Yuan dynasty, the Mongols offered sacrifices to Genghis Khan every year and all the importance ceremonies were also held in front of the "eight white rooms".

Gate to the Tourist “Mausoleum” of Genghis Khan in Ordos, Inner Mongolia

In the year Tianshun of the Ming Dynasty, Ordos (meaning "guard of the palace") tribe began to live in the Hetao Area, and the "eight white rooms" were also moved there. Dayan Khan even sent his third son Baersiboluote as the commander, taking charge of guarding the "eight white rooms". At the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, the Yikezhao allegiance was set up, and the "eight white rooms" was enshrined near the allegiance. In 1649 (the 6th year of Shunzhi's reign), the prefecture leader of Ordos left wing Zhong Qi, Elinqin became the leader of the allegiance. For the convenience of the meeting each year, he moved the "eight white rooms" to the left wing Zhong Qi, in his own area (today, it is in Yijinhuoluo Qi). From then on, the coffin of Genghis Khan was placed in Yijinhuoluo on the Ordos Plateau, and was guarded and enshrined by the Targuts, which has lasted over 300 years.

However, in the middle of the 20th century, the Mausoleum of Genghis Khan was moved for several times. In 1939, in order to protect the mausoleum from the war, it has been moved to Xinglong Mountain, in Yuzhong, Gansu province. In 1949, it was moved again to Taer Temple, in Huangzhong, Qinghai province. After PRC was founded, the Central Government of Central Committee of the Party showed great concern to it. In 1954, the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region formed a delegation to pay a special trip to Taer Temple to welcome the coffin. In April 1, the coffin was moved to Yijinhuoluo. Wulanfu, with functionaries of the Party and government organizations of the autonomous region and thousands of Chinese and Mongols, held a solemn ceremony for it. In order to memorialize this great Mongolian hero, the Central Government allocated special funds for the reconstruction of the Cemetery of Genghis Khan. Two years later, in 1956, a new Cemetery full of Mongolian flavor was standing erectly on the Yijinhuoluo Grassland.

Tourist “Mausoleum” of Genghis Khan

According to the Chinese government: “Yijinhuoluo Grassland sets in the southeast part of the Ordos Plateau. There, little brooks surround green grass, and flocks and herds are leading a happy life. On the grassland, there is a unique and elegant palace, whose brilliance and grandeur can be seen from miles away, and this is the Holy Land of the Mongols----the Mausoleum of Genghis Khan, where the god favored man of the time rests in peace. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, ~]

Genghis Khan Mausoleum

“The total area of the Mausoleum of Genghis Khan is over 55,000 square kilometers, and the floor space is more than 1500 square kilometers. The palace faces south, and is built on a one-meter-high rectangular base. It can be divided into 6 parts: the front palace, the east palace, the west palace, the palace where the royal couple sleeps, the east corridor and the west corridor. The height of the front palace is 26 meters, with a yurt-like vaulted roof and in the roof, there are also pretty column-shaped decorations and pictures of auspicious clouds inlaid with yellow-and-blue colored glaze. Under the roof, there are double-layered blue aniseed upturned eaves. The east and west palaces are a little lower than the front palace, but the roofs are the same, except that the eaves are single-layered. The three palaces are connected with each other. The stature of Genghis Khan is placed in the front palace, and in the sidewalls of the palace, there are frescos, indicating his great achievements. The back of the palace is directly connected with the palace where the royal couple sleeps, and there are four yurts covered by yellow silk. In the yurt, there are the coffins of Genghis Khan, his wife Boertie, his second wife Hulun, third wife Yixu, his brother Bieligutai, sister Hasaer, his fourth son Tuolei and daughter-in-law Yixihatu. In front of the yurts, there are many precious relics like Genghis Khan's saddle etc. that are handed down through generations. ~

Although because of the Mongolian custom of burial, Genghis Khan's body is not really in the Mausoleum of Genghis Khan today. But during hundreds of years, the Mongols have always taken it as the place where their emperor rests in peace, and paid great respect and yearning for the Mausoleum of Genghis Khan. It is often wreathed by smokes and sacrifice activities never end. Till today, every year, there are four solemn ceremonies on March 21, May 15, August 12 and October 3 in the lunar calendar. On each day of the ceremony, many of the visitors come a long way here devotionally. They stand in front of the great man, present the pure white Hada, the bright candles, the fragrant joss sticks, the tallowy sheep, the yellow ghee, the mellow koumiss and such offerings. They recall his great talent and bold vision, and express their honor. ~

Obstacles Looking for Genghis Khan’s Tomb

Terrence McCoy wrote in the Washington Post: “The search is complicated by a number of factors unique to the quest for Khan’s tomb. As explained by Motherboard’s Ben Richmond, the Mongols absolutely hate archaeologists trampling on their turf disturbing the nation’s most holy sites. In fact, the spot where a lot of people thought Khan was buried is actually one of the country’s most sacred spots. It’s called Ikh Khorig, which translates literally to the “great taboo,” but is often called the “forbidden zone” by outsiders. “Mongolians detest any attempt to touch graves, or even wander around graveyards,” Mongolia Today said. “According to ancient tradition, burial spots are forbidden areas in which no one is allowed.” [Source: Terrence McCoy, Washington Post, January 8, 2015 ==]

Edward Cody wrote in the Washington Post, “ The mystery has remained intact over the years in large measure because Mongolians want it that way. Many of the country's 2.8 million inhabitants have clung to the ancient belief that it would be sacrilegious to dig up anyone's tomb, much less Genghis Khan's. In addition, to avoid any nationalist-based opposition, Soviet bureaucrats who ran Mongolia for most of the 20th century closed off the area where the tomb was most likely to be found -- the same area that interests Kravitz today -- fueling the mystique. [Source: Edward Cody, Washington Post, February 9, 2006 |~|]

“The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science has instituted regulations requiring a permit for any digs to ensure their legitimacy... A Japanese-organized expedition to find the tomb was closed down after three years in the early 1990s after popular resentment built up on fears that Japanese scientists planned to dig up Genghis Khan's remains if they found them. |~|

“For many Mongolians, however, there is still something vaguely wrong about digging around in a place that has potentially held its secret for 800 years. Traditional families to this day hold funerals in strict intimacy, sometimes in the hours just before dawn to avoid notice, and many believe disturbing Genghis Khan could bring bad luck. "Oh, you hear these rumors from time to time," said a skeptical Foreign Ministry official, Luuzan Gotovdorjiin, when asked whether the Kravitz dig is on to something. "But I have my doubts. Genghis Khan is Genghis Khan." |~|

ovoos or tomb in Khentill Province in northen Mongolia

Finding Genghis Khan's Tomb?

In 2001, an American-Mongolian expedition---financed by Chicago multimillionaire Maury Kravitz and led by University of Chicago professor John Woods--- announced that it had found a walled compound on a hillside, near the village of Batshireet in Khentii Province, 200 miles northwest of Ulaan Baatar, that may be Genghis Khan’s tomb.

The conclusion was based primarily and the location, size and style of the tomb. Located near Genghis Khan’s home town, the tomb and 19 others lie inside a 10-foot-high wall, with a circumference of two miles. Thus far archeologists have not received permission from the Mongolian government to excavate because disturbing the remains of the dead is regarded as taboo. Woods has also claimed that he found the unexcavated tomb of soldiers who were killed after Genghis Khan’s burial at a site 50 kilometers from Genghis Khan’s burial site.

In 2004, a Japanese and Mongolia team lead by Shimpei Kato, a former professor at Kokugakuin University, and Noriuki Shiraish, a professor at Niigata University, claimed they found Genghis Khan’s mausoleum at the Avraga site near the village of Delgerhaan in eastern Mongolia, about 250 kilometers from Ulaan Baatar.

The mausoleum was thought to be part of Genghis Khan’s Ordos Palace. The ruins measure 1,200-x-500 meters, with a mausoleum placed on a central foundation platform measuring 25x-25 meters and believed to be part of the palaces initial foundations. Kato believes that finding the mausoleum is the first step in finding of Genghis Khan’s burial place. Ancient documents say that the mausoleum was close to the burial site.

The ruins are believed to be Genghis Khan’s mausoleum based on: 1) the dating of material found at the site; 2) the way the buildings is constructed is consistent with a mausoleums for a great ruler; and 3) the presence of large amounts of burned bones and ashes from horses and cattle. Chinese documents record ceremonies following the death of Yuan (Mongol) dynasty emperors in which animals are sacrificed and buried everyday for three years.

mountains near Delgerhaan in Tov Province

Hint of Genghis Khan’s Tomb?

In the summer of 2004, a U.S.-Mongolian expedition organized by Kravitz, a retired Chicago commodities trader, made what may have been a breakthrough. His explorers unearthed several graves dating from the 13th century inside a ruined three-kilometer-long, oval-shaped stone, 320 kilometers east of Ulan Bator, the Mongolian capital. Shagdaryn Bira, secretary general of the International Association for Mongol Studies and a recognized authority, said the graves provided promising hints that the wall could surround the bodies of Genghis Khan and his closest kin.[Source: Edward Cody, Washington Post, February 9, 2006 |~|]

"Some Mongolian scholars are of the opinion that this might be a Genghis Khan family burial ground, including several generations, and perhaps including the great Khan himself," told the Washington Post. Not yet convinced, but highly intrigued, Bira said, "My dream is to find the tomb."

Kravitz began his search in 1992 and led an expedition to 60 unopened tombs. He describes his quest as obsession. "We're going to continue working until we find what we're looking for." Cody wrote in the Washington Post, “Kravitz, who also has developed an admiration for Genghis Khan's contributions to civilization, said he first became interested in the Mongolian conqueror 45 years ago when a friend gave him a history book to while away the time during service in the U.S. Army in Germany. Although trained as a lawyer and for years busy most of the time on the commodities trading floor, Kravitz said, he read everything he could find on Genghis Khan. In the process, he accumulated a collection of books and documents that he said graduate students still come to consult. But most passionately, he has since 1992 tried to solve the mystery of Genghis Khan's tomb by making nearly annual research expeditions to the Mongolian steppes.” [Source: Edward Cody, Washington Post, February 9, 2006 |~|]

Khentii in eastern Mongolia

“Bira, who has worked with Kravitz, said many Mongolians, officials as well as average citizens, were uneasy when the Americans began digging. "We had to do a lot of work with people," Bira said. "I told them we were not going to disturb Genghis Khan's tomb," adding that he wanted only to identify the burial location. Bira said the ministry requires evidence of serious purpose before granting the permit, and academic archaeologists have accompanied the expeditions organized by Kravitz. But provincial officials near the site have understood the tourism potential if the walled area does turn out to be Genghis Khan's burial site, he said, and businessmen are already thinking about organizing tours. |~|

Using Satellite Imagery to Hunt for Genghis Khan’s Tomb

Researchers have called the general public to help them to go through satellite imagery of vast tracts of rugged, sparsely populated Mongol terrain to search for Genghis Khan’s tomb. “Ultra-high resolution satellite imaging enables a new paradigm in global exploration,” said study published in the journal PLOS One in January 2015. Albert Yu-Min Lin, a University of California at San Diego professor who heads the project and has been called a “modern-day Indiana Jones”, wrote: “This is a needle in a haystack problem where the appearance of the needle is unknown” so “we charged an online crowd of volunteer participants with the challenge of finding the tomb of Ghengis Khan, an archaeological enigma of unknown characteristics widely believed to be hidden somewhere within the range of our satellite imagery.”[Source: Terrence McCoy, Washington Post, January 8, 2015 ==]

Terrence McCoy wrote in the Washington Post: “In a partnership with National Geographic, Lin’s team constructed a landscape of more than 84,000 tiles that spanned more than 6,000 square kilometers and launched what they called a “virtual exploration system” in 2010. The task for participants: Tag anything that looks like it could be an “archaeological enigma that lacks any historical description of its potential visual appearance.” It was essential to get help, the paper said: “A single archaeologist would have to scroll through nearly 20,000 screens before covering the whole area.” Still, no one expected they would get so much of it. ==

Ordos in Inner Mongolia, China

“More than 10,000 people gave it a go, tagging anything they thought looked like a location where a great Mongol warlord would want to rest in peace. In all, they clocked more than three years worth of work — 30,000 hours — and generated more than 2 million tags. From that number, the researchers have culled 100 locations for further inquiry and identified 55 “potential archaeological anomalies” that ranged from the Bronze Age to the Mongol period.” ==

Lin has searched the forbidden zone, but came up with nothing. On one potential explored by Lin near Genghis Khan’s palace, National Geographic reported: His “team pushed its way through the thick, boar-infested brush surrounding it and clambered to the top. A test probe, however, revealed that the hill was just a hill.” But now, thanks to his crowdsourcing study, he has a whole new slew of potential sites to explore and try and discover the tomb. ==

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2019

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