The Mongol Yassa Code of Conduct

By | August 18, 2019

[August 18, 2019]  If you want to be a better leader, learn what motivates people by studying their code of conduct.  Formal or informal, rules that spell-out how people should act are an invaluable window into their lives.  A few days ago, while visiting the house of a friend; we got to talking about Genghis Khan, the fierce warrior leader who conquered most of Eurasia, and his not-so-unusual code of conduct.

The possession of a code of conduct is universal among humans.  How else to better hold people together in a cooperative, organized way than to have a set of common rules that both prohibit certain types of behavior (that run counter to the interests of everyone) and lays out proper behavior (that benefits all).  A good modern code of conduct is the U.S. military code.1

The Mongol Yassa code of conduct is ancient.  And, although it was never written down precisely, historians have managed to piece together many of its tenets based on documents from societies conquered by Genghis Khan.  A few of them are listed below.  Note the commonalities when compared to English land law that traces its origins to ancient Roman times.

  •  It is ordered to believe that is only one God, creator of heaven and earth, who alone gives life and death, riches and poverty, as pleases Him; and who has over everything an absolute power.
  • Forbidden, under the death penalty, to pillage the enemy before the general commanding gives permission.
  •  Every man who does not go to war must work for the empire, without reward, for a certain time.
  •  The man in whose possession a stolen horse if found must return it to its owner and add nine horses of the same kind.
  •  Whoever finds a runaway slave or captive and does not return him to the person to whom he belongs is to be put to death.
  •  An adulterer is to be put to death without any regard as to whether he is married or not.
  • Love one another, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false witness, do not be a traitor, respect old people and beggars.
  • Whoever intentionally lies, or practices sorcery, or spies upon the behavior of others, or intervenes between the two parties in a quarrel to help the one against the other is also to be put to death.
  • More are found at this link in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yassa

Many attribute great barbarity, brutality, genocide, and wholesale destruction to Genghis Khan and his army.  But Khan himself realized that he could not hold together such a vast empire by violence alone.  He had to have a set of rules of conduct that made it easier to keep a diversity of cultures together.  And, he succeeded.

Genghis Khan, the Mongol leader who forged an empire, dies in camp during a campaign against the Chinese kingdom of Xi Xia, on this date, August 18, 1227.2

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1.  https://www.armystudyguide.com/content/army_board_study_guide_topics/code_of_conduct/the-code-of-conduct.shtml

2.  https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/genghis-khan-dies

 

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

16 thoughts on “The Mongol Yassa Code of Conduct

  1. Doug Smith

    Gen. Satterfield, please give us more info on these codes of conduct. I learned from this one and as I expect from others. You are correct, I think, that much of the items listed here are universal. If not, the question for us is why. Good article and thanks.

  2. Willie Shrumburger

    I enjoyed this article. When the penalty for disobeying an important ‘law’ and the punishment is death, then it certainly gets people’s attention and rightly so.

    1. Max Foster

      We see the opposite today when doing wrong only means you are a VICTIM and thus have no responsibility. This is what many of our politicians are teaching folks these days. So FREE everything. Why should you pay if you are a victim? A little sarcasm of mine, sorry if it offended you, NOT.

    2. Nick Lighthouse

      There will always be people who are looking for an easy way out of things. If we are serious about reigning them in, a simple tap on the wrist will not work.

    1. Janna Faulkner

      Good link. Here is my favorite one of the laws, although I enjoyed reading the whole thing.
      #21. Spies, false witnesses, all men given to infamous vices, and sorcerers are condemned to death

  3. Darryl Sitterly

    Although I’m a newcomer to these pages, I just want to say that the value of my daily reading has convinced me to study more and do more to improve my leadership skills. These daily lessons by Gen. Satterfield is helping me immensely to improve not just my leadership but also helping me in my life skills.

    1. Kenny Foster

      Darryl, nice and thanks for sharing your thoughts. Many of us here come for the entertainment but most for learning about leadership and why it is so profound in the lives of us all.

      1. JT Patterson

        Anyone who has not studied leadership and what makes us a better person is a ‘newcomer’ and should not be embarrassed over learning something new each time we read these articles.

  4. Eric Coda

    Good article, thank you Gen Satterfield. You have several times written about codes of conduct. There is a pattern within them that we should not ignore. I would like to see a longer article that brings out those similarities and then a discussion on them. Well done!

  5. Danny Burkholder

    Excellent article on another code of conduct. I like these, as it appears there is much universal about humans.

    1. Scotty Bush

      Really amazing stuff. I’m a bit surprised so much of the Yassa Code has survived in recorded form.

    2. Mike Baker

      I agree with you Danny, it would be nice to have more of these in a mini series like Gen. Satterfield has done on other important topics in the past.

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