China lays claim to Genghis Khan's tomb

Chinese archaeologists claimed yesterday to have discovered the tomb of legendary conqueror Genghis Khan - a move likely to provoke resentment among Outer Mongolians.

Chinese archaeologists claimed yesterday to have discovered the tomb of legendary conqueror Genghis Khan - a move likely to provoke resentment among Outer Mongolians.

The final resting place of the Great Khan has been a subject of speculation for centuries, but while most Mongolians believe he was buried in the Khentii mountain range, north-east of their capital,Ulan Bator, the Chinese now place him in north-west China.

"This is the real tomb of Genghis Khan," said Zhang Hui, a research fellow at the Xinjiang Museum in Urumqi, capital of China's largest Muslim region. He pinpointed a recently discovered tomb in Qinghe county in northern Xinjiang, close to the Mongolian border and the Altai mountain range where Chinese historians have long believed that Genghis may be buried. The self-styled "Scourge of God" travelled through the Altai range several times as his armies forced Central Asia under the Mongol yoke.

When Genghis died in 1227 - from injuries suffered in a fall from his horse - his generals went to great lengths tokeep the grave's location secret. Hundreds of horses were brought in to trample the ground above the tomb to obscure its whereabouts, and the 2,000 people who attended his funeral were massacred by 800 soldiers. The soldiers were also killed to ensure the Khan enjoyed eternity in peace.

After Outer Mongolia secured de facto independence from the Soviet Union in 1990, Japanese and American expeditions have spent millions of US dollars in vain attempts to locate the tomb. All the would-be Indiana Joneses promised the Mongolian government they would not disturb the tomb if they proved successful.

China, however, has fewer cultural qualms about digging up the past - although excavation of the Khan's tomb could provoke anger from Mongolians who deeply revere theirfabled ancestor.

If the burial site is handled sensitively, the tomb could prove a political windfall for Peking in its attempts to placate the country's often restive minorities.

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