A new exhibit opened on Friday at the Houston Museum of Natural Science entitled Genghis Khan (you can probably guess what it's about). What is striking, though, is the Genghis-friendly tone taken by the curators. The exhibition website introduces us to a kinder, gentler Khanny:
"A brilliant adaptor [sic] and innovator, he united disparate cultures while establishing a meritocracy in government and encouraging religious and artistic freedom within his empire.
"Genghis Khan adapted the latest in technology and pioneering strategies in both conquest and rule of his still unrivaled dominion. Siege machinery, psychological warfare, printing presses, and even germ warfare figured in Genghis Khan's spectacular victories.
"Khan's innovations did not end with the battle won. He established a meritocracy, freedom of arts and religion, and created a safe and secure web of international trade coordinated via sophisticated book-keeping and a network of toll roads. It is Genghis Khan who created national parks, popularized the printed book, paper money and much more."
Woh. That guy sure did a lot for freedom.
Morris Rossabi, a Mongol expert at Columbia University and one of the advisers to the exhibit, takes a few steps back in this article:
"Until about 20 years ago, the Mongols and Genghis Khan were treated as simply plunderers, murderers, rapists, pillagers…We didn't ignore the massacring and the plundering, but there's another side to it."
According to Eurasianet, a website associated with the Central Eurasia Project of the Open Society Institute, "Some sloppy scholarship—most notably the bestseller Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford—has led to some misconceptions, such as that Genghis Khan was a democrat and invented international law."
The exhibit will feature many items that are available at your local Target: pots, plates, bowls, and a "15-foot-long equestrian statue of Genghis Khan".
Coming up in 2010: Nero: Family Man and Philanthropist.