When I initiated the research for this book in December of 2004, it was my intention to write a historical novel about a yet-to-be-identified figure in Asian history. Although the name of GenghisKhan naturally came to mind, like most westerners my knowledge of him could be summed up in a single, ill-informed phrase: “blood-thirsty barbarian.” Many months of intensive research, however, revealed a far different tale: the epic story of Temujin, a man who emerged from slavery and exile to found an empire almost six times larger than Rome's. A man who legislated free trade, women’s rights, the legitimacy of all children, religious freedom, advancement based onmerit, and laws that applied to everyone including himself. Although several novels and moviesabout Chinggis Khan were introduced during the writing of this book, none, in my estimation, tells the real story revealed by the historical record.
Loving son, husband and father, his story is peopled by a host of characters: the boyhoodfriend and blood brother who becomes his greatest enemy; the emperor who extends his protectionto the young Temujin; the powerful religious figure who challenges Temujin's authority; theemperor of northern China whose personal insult triggers a Mongol invasion; the Sultan of asprawling Arab empire who, through a single act of ill-advised bravado, brings the wrath of Chinggis Khan down on Arab civilization; an empress who seduces her husband's sons as well asher own step-son.
Over the course of the next three and a half years and multiple trips to Mongolia, I made manyfriends as I travelled thousands of kilometers in Temujin’s footsteps. My connection to him and to the Mongolia of eight hundred years ago steadily grew, reaching a peak as I walked from the valleyfloor to the crest of the sacred mountain, Burkhan Khaldun, a site Temujin held sacred throughout his life.
In the end, I found that I had actually written two books. The first, Ascent: The Rise of Chinggis Khan, covers the period from before his birth until he assumed the title of Chinngis Khan, while the second one, Dominion: Dawn of the Mongol Empire, covers the remainder of his life. The two books together comprise the overall story which I chose to call Heaven’s Favorite. The website www.heavensfavorite.com, created as a companion to the books, contains detailed mapsof Temujin’s travels as well as the complete cast of characters and a list of all of the locations(complete with latitude/longitude) mentioned in the books. The first five chapters of the first bookare also available as a free download.
My special thanks to:
• Kh. Lkhagvasuren, founder and Director of Chinggis Khan University in Ulaan Bataar, whotook time out of his busy schedule to show Mongolia to me as he shared his knowledge ofChinggis Khan.
• His wife Khugjilmaa who took me under her wing and graced me with her friendship.
• Professor O. Sukhbaatar of Chinggis Khan University for sharing his invaluable historicalknowledge during our travels together.