We invite you to attend the reception celebrating the publication of THE MONGOL EMPIRE by John Man, author of Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan and many more books on Mongolia and Far East.
Та бүхнийг Жон Маннын “Монголын эзэнт гүрэн” номын нээлтэд хүрэлцэн ирэхийг урьж байна. Тэрбээр “Чингис хаан”, “Хубилай хаан” зэрэг Монгол болон Алс Дорнодын түүхийг харуулсан олон сайхан зохиол бичсэн билээ.
Mongolian Art in London had an interview with John Man
Зохиолч Жон Маннтай бидний хийсэн ярилцлага
Unurmaa Janchiv: Your new book “The Mongol Empire” is coming out on 19 June. Could you tell us how your idea came about and why you chose the Mongol Empire as your theme?
John Man: I had written about both Genghis and Kublai, so it was a subject I knew well. I had not truly appreciated three things – main themes, if you like – which I thought deserved a single volume. First, the history has a narrative arc, running from young Genghis to old Kublai, which gives it an extraordinary unity. The arc is dictated by the second theme – the ideology that Heaven had given the whole world to the Mongols, and that it was their duty to make everyone on earth acknowledge this fact. The ideology arose as a result of Genghis’s success in unifying the nation and his first conquests. It was defined and refined by Genghis’s heir, Ogedei. It is of course a crazy idea, but no one knew that, because no one knew the true scale and complexity of the world. It was Kublai’s unfortunate fate to discover the limits to imperial growth. His successes and ultimate failure defined the third theme, which is the empire’s significance for today and the future. Kublai created a new China, which is pretty much China today, without Mongolia. From this flows the belief among Chinese that Mongolia is at heart a natural part of China, a belief which I think has great significance for relations between the two nations.
Unurmaa Janchiv: We know many of your books are on Mongolia and its Khans. Since when you were interested in Mongolia and started writing on Mongolia?
John Man: It all goes back to university days in Oxford in the late 1960s. A small group of young scientists planned an expedition to Mongolia. The idea arose because one of them spotted a lack of information about blood-groups in the World Health Organization. They planned to collect blood samples. I was intrigued. I had spent a year in Vienna, and been fascinated by the Soviet empire that lay behind the Iron Curtain, just over the nearby Hungarian and Czech borders. The fact that Mongolia was the other end of the Soviet empire made it even more intriguing. I was no scientist, but joined the group by saying I would learn Mongolian. So I did a course in the School of Oriental and African Studies with the great Mongolist, Charles Bawden. The expedition was a crazy idea, partly because we planned to drive all the way there, and partly because Communist-ruled Mongolia had no need of a bunch of inexperienced post-graduates coming to do what Mongolians could very well do for themselves. In the end, the expedition never happened, and I was left with an unfulfilled ambition. Years later, long after I became a writer – and long after I had forgotten my Mongolian! – the Soviet Empire collapsed and it became possible to go. A publisher expressed interest. That led me to spend a summer in the Gobi and write a book about it. In turn, this led me to the true key to Mongolian culture: Genghis Khan.
Unurmaa Janchiv: Do you have any plans to translate your books into Mongolian?
John Man: Yes! It’s a great ambition. Actually President Elbegdorj has offered a grant to translate my book on Genghis, and I am currently trying to see the best way forward. With luck, one translation would lead to others.
Unurmaa Janchiv: Is there anything else you would to say to your Mongolian readers?
John Man: Some time ago, SOAS cut its Mongol department because of lack of demand. But with Mongolia’s economic growth, it is becoming increasingly important in the world and Mongol studies would be in demand. I have proposed to SOAS that they re-establish a chair in Mongol Studies, and am happy to say that they like the idea. There is no schedule yet, but we should soon be in a position to seek the finance needed to fund a new professorship.
Unurmaa Janchiv: Thank you and good luck with your new book