Genghis Khan the Inventor of the diplomatic passport

Genghis Khan the Inventor of the diplomatic passport

Genghis Khan (ca. 1162–1227) and the Mongols are invariably associated with terrible tales of conquest, destruction, and bloodshed. This famed clan leader and his immediate successors created the largest empire ever to exist, spanning the entire Asian continent from the Pacific Ocean to modern-day Hungary in Europe. Such an empire could not have been shaped without visionary leadership, superior organizational skills, the swiftest and most resilient cavalry ever known, an army of superb archers (the “devil’s horsemen” in Western sources), the existence of politically weakened states across Asia, and, of course, havoc and devastation.

Yet, the legacy of Genghis Khan, his sons, and grandsons is also one of cultural development, artistic achievement, a courtly way of life, and an entire continent united under the so-called Pax Mongolica (“Mongolian Peace”). Few people realize that the Yuan dynasty in China (1271–1368) is part of Genghis Khan’s legacy through its founder, his grandson Khubilai Khan (r. 1260–95).

We saw most-likely the first passports during his time. These gave merchants and required travel with permission of the Khan the ability to travel along the silk road or other designated areas of the empire. Think of it like traveling the Pony Express with relay stations. The passport would enable you access to resources needed. Without it, being caught would be certain death.

Genghis Khan the Inventor of the diplomatic passport

Only a few people know that Genghis Khan provided protection for the diplomatic representatives of any nation, facilitating safe passage and trade.


A most impressive artifact is this imperial passport “Paiza” from an ambassador of Kublai Khan. Being one of two remaining in the world (c. 1240 AD), it states…


“I am the emissary of the Khan. If you defy me, you die.”


Here another example…

Genghis Khan the Inventor of the diplomatic passport

“Let Pass or Die”

Some Paizi were carried by government officials as proof of their position and title, while others were given to people coming and going through the empire. They were usually reserved for people who traveled on state business and foreigners who were in Mongol territory under the protection of the Khan.

Such passports are very rare to find nowadays and I never saw one with a private collector but with museums.


Genghis Khan the Inventor of the diplomatic passport

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *