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Vivian Wang

Mongolian Brothers II

Cast glass, stoneware, gold leaf and gemstones on steel base, 29"h x 13"w x 15"d, Item No. 19696,

“Mongolian Brothers” portrays Ogedei Khan (1186-1241), the third of Genghis Khan’s four sons, at the age of 10. The young boy sitting on his lap depicts Tolui Khan (1191-1232), at the age of 5, Genghis Khan’s fourth son. Both boys are wearing Deels, a traditional Mongolian garment with a “skirt” at the bottom. The asymmetric closings seen on Tolui’s bodice are a popular Mongolian clothing detail.

Ogedei was Genghis’ favorite. He was a large man with a forceful, jovial, and charismatic personality. His character and dependability were the traits his father valued most, and were the reason he made Ogedei his successor rather than either of his two older brothers. 

Like all Mongols at the time, Ogedei was raised and educated as a warrior from childhood, and was part of his father’s plan to establish a world empire. The choice of Ogedei as Genghis’ successor proved prescient as the political stability he established throughout Asia helped reestablish the Silk Road as the primary trading route between East and West. 

Although Tolui, the fourth son, also had strong military skills and was successful as a general, Genghis chose Ogedei as his successor as he was more politically capable. He believed Tolui would be too cautious to be an effective leader.

After Genghis Khan’s death in 1227, Tolui ruled the Mongol Empire for two years, following the tradition among Mongol nobles that the youngest son inherit his father’s property. Tolui also had the largest and most powerful Mongolian Army at the time. Nonetheless, he supported the choice of Ogedei as Supreme Khan in 1229.

Tolui died at the age of 41. Some historians say that, at the request of shamans, he sacrificed himself to appease the spirits of a conquered land in order to cure Ogedei, who had fallen gravely ill.