“Just as God gave different fingers to the hand, so He has given different ways to men.” Curious about these ways, in 1254 the khan decided to stage a public debate among Buddhists, Muslims, and Christians. Only in Karakorum could this have happened.

A great crowd gathered to watch the learned doctors, but the experiment was not a success. Following Mongol traditions, the contestants were served fermented mares’ milk between rounds of debate, and as the day wore on, their arguments lost focus. Their dialectical skills blunted by alcohol, the Christians lapsed into singing hymns. The Muslims responded by chanting Koranic verses, and the Buddhists withdrew into silent contemplation. Eventually, too drunk to go on, the Christians and Muslims followed their example.

– Ian Morris, Why the West Rules – for Now: The Patterns of History and What They Reveal about the Future (2011)


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