A Dropped Piece of Gold

Ogedei, even as khan, was a very kind-hearted man, unwilling to punish unless necessary, and naturally inclined to find an excuse for petty crimes.  Once, while traveling with his older brother Chagatai, they came across a Muslin engaged in wudu, the ritual ablutions undergone for purification, washing himself in a running stream, an activity forbidden by the Yasak, the law code of the Mongol Empire.  It just so happened that Chagatai was chief guardian of the Yasak, who was charged with ensuring that the law code was observed.

Chagatai therefore wished for the man to be immediately executed, but Ogedei delayed, commanding instead that the man be arrested and judged the next day.  During the night, Ogedei sent a messenger to the prisoner telling him to tell the court that he hadn’t been washing, but had been fishing for a dropped piece of gold in the stream, the entirety of his property.

The next morning, the prisoner told the tale that he had been instructed to tell, and the court ordered that the stream be searched.  A golden piece was found, thoughtfully placed there by Ogedei the previous day, in order to accomplish this ruse.  Ogedei therefore judged that the law must be followed in the future, but as for this case, since the man was so poor as to risk execution over a single piece of gold, he should be given ten pieces of gold, so that he need never again violate the Yasak by chasing after all of his wealth in a stream.

The Only Wealth That Is Lasting in This World

Ogedei Khan, despite being ruler of the largest empire that had yet ever existed in human history, was indifferent to wealth and money.  He enjoyed listening to stories of rulers past, but whenever he heard of their greed and passion for gold, he scoffed, saying that their greed was quite unreasonable, for no amount of gold can save us from death, and it cannot be taken with us into the next life.  Therefore, he felt, wealth should be stored in the hearts of his subjects, and he missed no opportunity to give gifts.

Some of his advisors complained about his extravagance, saying that he gave gifts without any thought to the recipients’ merit.  Angry, Ogedei called them his enemies.  “You curs wish to stop me from gaining the only wealth that is lasting in this world: a good standing in the memory of men.  Of what use is money to me, when my subjects themselves are wealthy?  It brings only worry and trouble, for it must be guarded against thieves and bandits.”

His lavishness even extended to trade, and merchants who came to his capital at Karakorum received a full ten percent more than their asking price for their goods, which Ogedei distributed to his followers as gifts.  In this way, Ogedei greatly facilitated the traffic and commerce of goods, for it was greatly profitable for merchants to find their way to his capital, traveling throughout his empire as they did so.

Growing Goblets

Ogedei Khan, son of Genghis Khan and immediate heir of the Mongol Empire, was extremely supportive of his prime minister, Yeliu Chucai, who had served his father, as well.

Once, before some foreign envoys, he made a speech saying that the greatness of his empire was due to his minister’s wisdom, and asked boastfully whether they themselves had anyone in their own nations who could compete with Yeliu in virtue and wisdom.

With some shame, Ogedei then admitted that he himself drank too much, but was now determined to follow his minister’s advice and reduce his intake, bowing to drink only half of what he once had.  He kept his vow, but in a strange way.  He only drank half as many goblets of wine as before, but he ordered them larger and larger, until they had grown to be twice as large as they had been before his vow!