Today, there is little to suggest that these peaceful grasslands in northeastern Mongolia with their endless blue skies was once the heart and brain of history's largest empire.
Although the exact birthplace of Temujin 850 years ago is unknown, historians believe that he grew up in the lands around the River Onon in Mongolia's Khentii and then went on to unite all rival tribes in the region. Eventually, he conquered vast parts of Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East and became Genghis Khan. The precise circumstances and location of his death are also unknown, but his descendants believe that, in keeping with Mongolian tradition, that the Father of Mongolia was buried in his homeland in an unmarked grave.
These days Khentii and neighboring Dondor are sparsely populated aimags (provinces), home to herdspeople living simple lives on the steppes, mostly isolated from contact with the modern world. The quietness and absence of human proliferation make the area an ideal sheltered place to spot wildlife, particularly in the protected natural reserves and national parks bordering Russia to the north and China to the east.
This article was first published in CHENGDOO citylife Magazine, issue 60 ("Old School"). Photos by Leo Chen.