The ACMS recently hosted a faculty development seminar under the auspices of the Council for International Education and Exchange (CIEE) which included a 4 day excursion to Khentii Aimag. The title of the program was "Mongolia: Empire and Democracy," and the group participated in a series of lectures and field trips to understand Mongolia in historical and contemporary contexts and how they are inextricably linked in many facets of modern Mongolian society.
In order to provide some of the historical perspective, the group did a pilgrimage of sorts through the myth and fact surrounding Temujiin (Chinggis Khaan) and his iconographic manifestations in popular culture. The group went to Khentii in order to visit some of the more important sites identified in the Mongolian Secret History, including the location Borte was kidnapped by the Merkid, Temujiin became Chinggis Khaan, and Temujiin was born (listed in order of visiting-not chronologically). It was truly amazing to stand at some of the sites and contemplate that from such remote and unassuming places the world's largest land empire was born. The ACMS produced a map of the trip using Google Maps API which is available at http://www.mongoliacenter.org/library/IFDS2008 for those interested in learning more about the sites.
The map provides a good sense of the distances involved in experiencing just one part of the secret history. The group traveled over 800 miles in four days over jeep trail and open steppe. Again, this brought home the extraordinary moment in history the Mongol Empire represented. Travel is difficult enough today with Russian vans designed for off-road travel. Imagine what it was like in the 13th century with ox carts and horses. The vast distances the Mongols covered while at the same time conquering along the way is the pinnacle of human ingenuity, strength, and endurance that is difficult to fully appreciate until one has spent several days trying to travel through only a minute portion of what would eventually be the Great Mongol Empire.