As I am half-heartedly getting ready for the Spring I am putting together some readings for my students. What survey would be complete without a chunk from the Secret History of the Mongols? So if you are looking to take a break from your preparations for Taiwan’s Constitution Day this is a good way to take a break. I would like to claim that I have carefully studied the whole text and picked out the best bit to give you a picture of Mongol society, but that’s not really true. It is a good read though, if a little long for use in class.
from Chapter Four
After getting Ong Qan to come, Cinggis Qa’an and Ong Qan decided to move jointly against Jamuqa. They set out downstream along the Keluren River. Cinggis Qa’an sent Altan, Qucar and Daritai as vanguard; Ong Qan for his part sent as vanguards Senggum, Jaqa Gambu and Bilge Beki. Patrols were also dispatched ahead of these vanguards: at Enegen Guileni they set up an observation post; beyond that, at Mount Cekcer, they set up another observation post; and beyond that, at Mount Ciqurqu, they set up a further observation post. Altan, Qucar, Senggum and the others of our vanguard arrived at Utkiya. While they were deciding whether to camp there, a man from the observation post which had been set up at Ciqurqu came riding in haste and brought the news that the enemy was approaching. When this news came, without setting up camp they went towards the enemy in order to gain information. They met and gained the information: when they asked the enemy patrol who they were, it turned out to be Jamuqa’s vanguard consisting of A’ucu Ba’atur of the Mongols, Buyiruq Qan of the Naiman, Qutu, the son of Toqto’a Beki of the Merkit, and Quduqa Beki of the Oyirat. These four had been going towards us as Jamuqa’s vanguard.
Our vanguard shouted at them, and they shouted back, but it was already getting late. Saying, ‘Tomorrow we’ll fight!’, our men withdrew and spent the night together with the main body of the army.
Next day the troops were sent forward and when they met, at Koyiten, they battled. As they pressed on each other downhill and uphill, and reformed their ranks, those very same Buyiruq Qan and Quduqa, knowing how to produce a rainstorm by magic, started to conjure it up, but the magic storm rolled back and it was right upon themselves that it fell. Unable to proceed, they tumbled into ravines. Saying to each other, ‘We are not loved by Heaven!’, they scattered.
Buyiruq Qan of the Naiman separated from the rest and went towards Uluq Taq on the southern side of the Altai Mountains. Qutu, the son of Toqto’a of the Merkit, went towards the Selengge River. Quduqa Beki of the Oyir went towards the Sisgis River, making for the forest. A’ucu Ba’atur of the Tayici’ut went towards the Onan River.
Jamuqa plundered the very people who had elected him qan; then he moved homewards following the course of the Ergune. As they were dispersing in this way, Ong Qan pursued Jamuqa downstream along the Ergune while Cinggis Qa’an pursued A’ucu Ba’atur of the Tayici’ut in the direction of the Onan.
As soon as A’ucu Ba’atur reached his own people, he had them moved along with him in haste. The Tayici’ut A’ucu Ba’atur and Qodun Orceng arrayed their troops at Ulengut Turas on the other side of the Onan, and stood in battle order ready to fight.
Cinggis Qa’an came up and fought with the Tayici’ut. They battled to and fro incessantly until evening came; then, in the same place where they had been fighting, they passed the night right next to each other. When people [the refugees] arrived, fleeing in disarray, they set up a circular camp and also passed the night in the same spot, alongside their troops. In that battle Cinggis Qa’an was wounded in a vein of the neck. He could not stop the bleeding and was in a great plight. He waited till sundown, then he pitched camp just there where the two armies had encamped right next to each other.
Jelme sucked and sucked the blood which clogged Cinggis Qa ‘an’s wound and his mouth was all smeared with blood. Still, Jelme, not trusting other people, stayed there and looked after him. Until the middle of the night he swallowed down or spat out mouthfulls of the clogging blood.
When midnight had passed Cinggis Qa’an revived and said, ‘The blood has dried up completely; I am thirsty.’ Then Jelme took off his hat, boots and clothes – everything – and stark naked but for his pants, he ran into the midst of the enemy who had settled right next to them. He jumped on to a cart of the people who had set up a circular camp over there. He searched for kumis, but was unable to find any because those people had fled in disarray and had turned the mares loose without milking them.
As he could not find kumis, he took from one of their carts a large covered bucket of curds and carried it back In the time between his going and coming back he was not seen by anyone. Heaven indeed protected him!
Having brought the covered bucket of curds, the same Jelme, all by himself, searched for water, brought it back and having mixed it with the curds got the Qa’an to drink it.
Three times, resting in between, the Qa’an drank, then he spoke: ‘The eyes within me have cleared up.’ He spoke and sat up: it was daybreak and growing light. He looked and saw that, all about the place where he was sitting, the wound-clogging blood that Jelme had kept on sucking and had spat about had formed small puddles. When he saw it, Cinggis Qa’an said, ‘What is this? Couldn’t you have spat farther away?’ Jelme then said, ‘When you were in a great plight, had I gone farther away I would have feared being separated from you. As I was in haste, I swallowed what I could swallow and spat out what I could spit out; I was in a plight myself and quite a lot went also into my stomach!’
Cinggis Qa’an again spoke: ‘When I was in this state, lying down, why did you run naked into their camp? Had you been caught, wouldn’t you have revealed that I was like this?’ Jelme said, ‘My thought, as I went naked, was that if somehow I got caught, I would have said, “I wanted to submit to you, but they found out and, seizing me, decided to kill me. They removed my clothes – everything – only my pants had not yet been removed when I suddenly managed to escape and have just come in haste to join you. They would have regarded me as sincere, they would have given me clothes and looked after me. Then, I would have jumped on a horse and while they were astonished watching me flee, in that brief moment I would have surely got back! So thinking, and because I wished to get back in time to satisfy the Qa’an’s craving for drink caused by his parching thirst, thinking this and without so much as blinking an eye I went there.’
Cinggis Qa’an said, ‘What can I say now? In former days, when the Three Merkit came and thrice circled Mount Burqan, you saved my life for the first time. Now, once more, you restored me to life when, with your mouth, you sucked the clotting blood from my wound. And, yet again, when I was in a great plight with a parching thirst, disregarding your life, you went amidst the enemy without so much as blinking an eye; you quenched my thirst and restored life to me. These three services of yours will stay in my heart!’ Thus the Qa’an spoke.