Archive for the 'Genghis Khan' Category

Shakespeare, Our Contemporary

Friday, January 7th, 2011

The Antony and Cleopatra project is going well. Yesterday, I used the play to help the sixth-grade students make connections to present-day world events.

Antony and Cleopatra takes place in the first century B.C., a time when there was one global superpower in the world. By the time of the play’s opening scene, the Romans had scooped up most of the Hellenistic nations; only Egypt remained independent. However, both Romans and Egyptians were well aware that Egypt was living in Rome’s shadow. Philo has the opening speech of the play, and his racism and entitlement are readily on display:

Nay, but this dotage of our general’s
O’erflows the measure; those his goodly eyes,
That o’er the files and musters of the war
Have glow’d like plated Mars, now bend, now turn
The office and devotion of their view
Upon a tawny front; his captain’s heart,
Which in the scuffles of great fights hath burst
The buckles on his breast, reneges all temper,
And is become the bellows and the fan
To cool a gipsy’s lust. Look! where they come.
Take but good note, and you shall see in him
The triple pillar of the world transform’d
Into a strumpet’s fool; behold and see.

For a rank and file Roman soldier to speak of the Egyptian queen as “tawny” and a “strumpet” sets the tone for a world where there is an unequal balance of power.

Today, there is once again a single global superpower in the world, but that has only been true for the past twenty years. In fact, there have only been a handful of unchallenged superpowers in world history. (The Macedonians and the Mongols are the other two that come to mind. Others?) Therefore, this play offers a unique opportunity to explore power dynamics in our present world community.

How does it affect the world when there is one dominant superpower? What opportunities does that country have? What are its responsibilities in the world? How did Rome handle its power? How does the United States handle its power?

We had a fantastic conversation, and I think the students have a new lens for viewing both the play and world affairs.

There is only one posting to the message board, but I’m patient. And it looks like I am going to be working with an eighth-grade class on As You Like It asynchronously. I’ll be meeting with them the week after next, but most of our interactions will be online. Watch this space for updates!

UPDATE (That was fast): I’ve just added an Antony and Cleopatra category, so you can follow along with the project.

Googleplex – 11/28/08

Friday, November 28th, 2008

I’ve done this feature before, but this is the first of what I hope will be a series of weekly opportunities to check in on what searches people do to find themselves at Shakespeare Teacher, and to respond in the name of fun and public service. All of the following searches brought people to this site in the past week.

when queen elizabeth died what
happened to king iago in scottland

Only one reigning Queen Elizabeth of England has ever died, so I’ll assume you are asking about Elizabeth I. When she died in 1603, the crown was inherited by King James VI of Scotland, who then became King James I of England as well. This united the two kingdoms, and today we even refer to the nation as the United Kingdom.

Iago is a fictional character in Shakespeare’s Othello. There was also a 7th century Welsh King by that name.

obama shakespeare

I’m not sure what you’re looking for, but I’m not surprised it brought you here. May I interest you in an anagram?

university teachers genghis khan

And you thought the midterm was tough.

is teaching shakespeare good?


genghis khan game

How come you always get to be Genghis?

wife of henry 8th that was ugliest women alive

Ah, you must be thinking of Anne of Cleves, though that may be a bit harsh. Henry had arranged to marry her sight unseen so that he could form a political alliance with her family. But before he agreed to marry her, he sent Hans Holbein the Younger, the greatest portrait artist of his day, to go and paint her. When he returned, as the story goes, Henry liked what he saw and agreed to the marriage. Unfortunately, Henry didn’t realize he was looking at a picture painted by the greatest portrait artist of his day. When he saw the real deal, he was less pleased. The marriage was short, and (fortunately for Anne) ended in divorce.

I leave the task of responding to the remaining search terms to my readers:

book: bush tragedy and Falstaff

why was shakespeare so successful riddle

how did shakespeare change history

letters to genghis khan from family

social justice of gilligan’s island

a good headline for a shakespeare play

Conundrum: The Math of Khan

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

When I first started this blog, one of my very first posts suggested that almost all of the current natives of Mongolia and China were probably descendants of Genghis Khan. I literally had no readers at the time – I hadn’t yet told anyone about the blog – and so there was nobody to challenge my sweeping statement. I didn’t even make an argument. I’d like to give my argument now, and reopen the question as a Conundrum.

The idea was based on a National Geographic article about the biological legacy of Genghis Khan:

An international group of geneticists studying Y-chromosome data have found that nearly 8 percent of the men living in the region of the former Mongol empire carry y-chromosomes that are nearly identical. That translates to 0.5 percent of the male population in the world, or roughly 16 million descendants living today.

I went on to note:

16 million descendants. And that’s only men descended from Khan directly through the male line, father to son, for the past 800 years. The total number of Khan’s descendants living today is truly incalculable.

If you figure an average of four generations per century, that’s 32 generations between Genghis and his living descendants. Each person living today should have around 2 to the power of 32, or roughly 4.3 billion, living ancestors that are contemporary with Khan. Obviously, many individuals will have to be counted more than once, so let’s take a different tack.

Let’s pick a year somewhere between 1200 and 2000, say 1500. The total population of mainland Asia in 1500 was 268,400,000. Each living person today would have approximately 2 to the power of 20, or about a million, ancestors who were around in 1500 (and that’s if we don’t count anyone with a living parent).

So how many of the 268,400,000 around in 1500 were Khan’s descendants? Well, there are 16 million men living today that share the Y chomosome. If Khan and his direct male heirs had an average of 1.68 sons over 32 generations, that would give us our 16 million. That would only account for 505 men carrying that Y chromosome in 1500. But that calcuation leaves out two factors.

First, by 1500, Khan’s seed had been pretty well spread. The factors that account for his prevalence today came mostly into play during Khan’s life and the few generations following (see the article for details). So the distribution was a lot more top-heavy than the calculation above would suggest.

Second, we’re only counting direct male-line heirs. Passing a Y chromosome down from father to son over 32 generations is only one of 4.3 billion different permutations of inheritance. Each of those 16 million Y chromosome carriers alive today probably has an average of at least one sister or daughter. That doubles the known descendants right there. Extend that back over 32 generations, then consider all of their descendants, and you get the idea. If we change “average of 1.68 sons over 32 generations” (which we know is true) to “average of 2 children of either sex over 32 generations” (which doesn’t seem like too great of a leap from there), then 16 million becomes 4.3 billion, greater than the population of mainland Asia today.

It seems to me that today’s ethnic Mongolians and Chinese would almost all have to be descended from Khan, some many times over.

Now I am no math expert. I’m a Shakespeare Teacher. It’s very possible I could be wrong about this. I’d be interested to hear what other people think, particularly people with more professional experience with statistical analysis.

And I should also point out that I pin no political, moral, or judgmental significance to being a descendant of Genghis Khan. This is simply a math, history, and logistical Conundrum. I truly hope no offense is taken (though if you read my original post and the Economist article it is based on, it actually seems to be a point of pride for both Mongolia and China to be the descendants of Khan). And my family comes from Belarus, so this would mean I’m probably a descendant of Khan as well. So don’t screw with me.

Now, with all that in mind, for this week’s Conundrum, I hereby submit my original conclusion up for public scrutiny:

So, China and Mongolia should probably stop arguing over which of their people are the true heirs of Genghis Khan. My guess is, almost all of them are.

Six Degrees of Sir Francis Bacon: Bert

Saturday, January 20th, 2007

First, read the rules of the game.

I had to change the rules this week, after realizing that England links to Sir Francis Bacon, and I didn’t want the game to turn into Five Degrees of England. Now you can only link through individuals, which I think will make it feel more like the original Kevin Bacon game.

This week’s challenge will be our old buddy Bert.

Bert can be linked to Sir Francis Bacon in six degrees, though that shouldn’t stop you from posting a longer response, or looking for a shorter one. Entries will be accepted until midnight on Friday, January 26.

Good luck!

And congratulations to Ro for winning last week’s challenge by linking Genghis Khan to Sir Francis Bacon in five degrees (before the rules changed):

Genghis Khan > Mongol Empire > China > Gunpowder > Four Great Inventions of ancient China > Sir Francis Bacon

Six Degrees of Sir Francis Bacon

Saturday, January 13th, 2007

I’d like to introduce a new game called “Six Degrees of Sir Francis Bacon.” If people like the game and want to play it, I will make it a regular feature on the blog.

You are given a famous person from the past or the present, and you have to connect that person to Sir Francis Bacon in Wikipedia in as few links as possible.

Besides the obvious reason, Francis Bacon is a particularly good choice for this game, as he was an important innovator in a great number of fields, during a time of remarkable transition. He truly is the Kevin Bacon of history. Plus, he is a contemporary of Shakespeare, so he’s relevant to the blog. Some say that he actually was Shakespeare, but that’s just silliness. Now, on to the game…

First, read the rules of the game.

This week’s challenge will be – why not – Genghis Khan.

Entries will be accepted until midnight on Friday, January 19.

Good luck!

The Technology of Blogging

Sunday, January 7th, 2007

I’m learning something new about blogging every day! My last post quoted an article from The Onion that mentioned Vanderbilt University. Next thing I know, there’s a trackback from Vanderbilt. It must be some kind of spider searching the blogs for the school’s name and automatically linking to it. The University of Texas trackback was probably the same thing. I wonder if other schools have that. Like, say, Stanford University. Or the University of Notre Dame. Or New York University. Or the Ohio State University. Or the University of California Los Angeles. Or Northwestern University. Or the University of Wisconsin Madison. Or Arizona State University. Or the University of Pennsylvania. Or the Pennsylvania State University, better known as Penn State. Yes, I do wonder…

Well, there are better ways to get linked up. I just registered this blog with Technorati, an online blog directory. Shakespeare Teacher is currently ranked 2,431,865 out of all of the Technorati blogs. I don’t think they make giant foam hands with that many fingers, but hey, I’m just getting started. However, if you do a search for Genghis Khan Theme Park, my blog comes up second only to a re-posting of the article I was originally citing. So, who’s obscure now?

I tried to access the blog from a Department of Education site yesterday, but it wouldn’t load in fully. The filter said that the page had exceeded the number of “questionable words.” Now, I think I do a pretty good job of keeping it clean here. Any thoughts on what words or phrases in my first week of posts might have given the filter pause?

Maps of War

Friday, January 5th, 2007

I came across this via a post by my cousin, TheMediaDude. It’s an animated map of who has controlled the Middle East for the past 5000 years, and it is quite simply the reason why computers were invented:

There are some other animated maps at Maps of War including one showing the History of Religion.

What’s there is great, but there’s not much of it, so if you’re like me, you’ll start to get a thirst for more historical maps. You can quench that thirst at the University of Texas Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection.

The Math of Khan

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007

There’s a good article in this week’s Economist about Mongolia’s dispute with China over which of the two peoples are the true heirs of Genghis Khan:

In a country of only 2.7m people scattered over an area four times the size of Germany, national heroes are few and far between. This makes it all the more galling that Genghis is claimed by China too. Unlike the Russians, the Chinese have got round their subjugation by the Mongols by insisting he was one of their own. Genghis’s grandson, Kublai Khan, founded China’s Yuan dynasty in the 13th century. That, in China’s view, makes Genghis himself an honorary Chinese emperor.

The dispute was apparently sparked by a new Genghis Khan theme park. Is it possible that Khan is viewed differently over there than he is over here?

Anyway, what drew me to this article was that it reminded me of a study published a few years ago, also concerned with the legacy of Genghis Khan:

An international group of geneticists studying Y-chromosome data have found that nearly 8 percent of the men living in the region of the former Mongol empire carry y-chromosomes that are nearly identical. That translates to 0.5 percent of the male population in the world, or roughly 16 million descendants living today.

16 million descendants. And that’s only men descended from Khan directly through the male line, father to son, for the past 800 years. The total number of Khan’s descendants living today is truly incalculable.

So, China and Mongolia should probably stop arguing over which of their people are the true heirs of Genghis Khan. My guess is, almost all of them are.