Genghis Kahn exhibit opens at Irving Arts Center

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Christine Hardey
Contributing Writer

Genghis Khan Exhibit
Seniors Meaghan Colvin and Christine Hardey pose by the statue of Genghis Khan at the Irving Arts Center.

What: Genghis Khan: The Exhibition
Where: Irving Arts Center
When: Now until Sept. 30th
Price: $12/adult – no student discount

Who would have thought there would be an exhibit on the Mongol Empire’s Genghis Khan (A.D. 1162-1227) in the Irving Arts Center of all places?  My apartment complex is right across the street from it, I pass it several times a day, and finally I went to check it out this Saturday.

Why is Irving housing this exhibit?  In 2006, Irving became a Sister City of Darkhan, Mongolia, because we provided medical assistance, food and clothing to the city in its time of need.

The exhibit is geared toward educating children on this particular Eastern culture, as is made obvious by this interactive aspect: You follow the life of a contemporary of Khan, from a bookmark you acquire at the beginning.  My bookmark told me I was Alta, a princess from Ningxia in Xi Xia.  I died during the same siege that Khan did.

At the Arts Center entrance you are greeted by a larger-than-life, imposing statue of Khan himself.  As you enter the exhibit, a large video screen prompts you to consider whether Khan was a vendetta-obsessed warlord, or more than that – a statesman, an innovative leader.

It was made evident throughout the exhibit that you ‘should’ take the latter perspective. I have to admit, when I discovered that the innovations of diplomatic immunity, national parks, baklava, eyeglasses and pants (yes, I said pants) are all attributed to Khan and his reign …  I was impressed.

Oh, and there’s a mummy, if you’re into that sort of thing.  They call her the ‘Princess Mummy’ because they have evidence of precious jewels from her coffin that indicate that she may have been nobility.

The exhibit saves the most interesting artifacts for the end.  Firearms, spearheads, helmets, armor, swords, knives, bows and arrows await you in the final corridor, as well as explanations of Khan’s siege warfare tactics. Two of the huge instruments of war on display were the traction trebuchet, an enormous catapult, and the triple-bow siege, a gargantuan crossbow.  I accidentally stood in front of the crossbow for a few moments before noticing the arrowhead was pointed directly at my heart … pretty frightening.

As with many influential historical figures, Genghis Khan had humble beginnings as a nomad of Mongolia’s tribal heartland, living in a ger – a tent dwelling made of felt.  His name was once Temujin, but he changed it to Genghis Khan, which means ‘strong sovereign ruler.’

I was happy to see that in his time, women were trained in warfare and fought alongside men when numbers were short; not that I aspire to partake in hand-to-hand combat, but still, the fact that I could have done so, were I a Mongolian woman, is awesome.

This quote by Khan, one of the quotes on the wall in the exhibit, brings his motivations to light: “Our goal will be realized when the whole world from sunrise to sunset shall become united under the power of the blue sky.”  By the time of his death in 1227, the Mongol Empire stretched from the Korean Peninsula to the Aral Sea.

“Not worth the twelve dollars,” said Meaghan Colvin as we made our way toward the gift shop at the end (the only way out, naturally).
I concur.  A student discount would have been nice and would have made it seem more worthwhile.  At least I can safely say I came out of there knowing a great deal more about Mongolians and Genghis Khan than I had before.

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