1) Genghis Khan:
The most well-known historical leader from Asia is none other but Genghis Khan. Born Temujin and into a noble family from a clan in Mongolia, he had managed to overcome the trials set before him, and united the Mongolian clans and tribes under his leadership. With the newly formed Khaganate of Mongolia, he carved an empire that is to this day the second biggest in the world. Open to all religions, he is considered the reason that Buddhism spread all over Asia, becoming the biggest religion to this day. People like to portray him as one of the biggest tyrants acting out genocides that numbered millions; yet history shows a different light of the Great Khan. He was traditional, and stayed close to Tengrism. He knew of the significance and insight religions possessed and realized that through them, he can educate the peoples of Asia, and guide them under his banner.
2) Kublai Khan:
Grandson of Genghis Khan, Kublai had managed to surpass his grandfather and under his rule the Mongol Empire reached both its zenith and golden age. Popularized by the writings of Marco Polo, who was a traveling merchant from Venice and who came under the rule of Kublai, had taught the Khan everything he knew about the European history. He was appointed as a government official after fulfilling the request Kublai had given him. Kublai conquered almost all of Asia, and had decided to expand westward towards Europe. He was the Emperor of China, Korea and parts of south Asia, as well as the Khan that saw the greatest extent of the Mongol Empire, from the Pacific Ocean to the Black Sea, from Siberia to present day Afghanistan. His aim was the surpassing of corruption that had started to grip the empire.
3) Oda Nobunaga:
Born in the Sengoku period of Japan, Nobunaga became a daimyo or king to the Oda Clan, and had the intent of unifying Japan under his rule. The period saw the young Nobunaga proving himself by wrestling with the corruption that had seeped deeply into his clan and conquering neighboring lands from other daimyos. He also conquered Kyoto itself, becoming shogun. Under his rule he enacted a law that forbade any civilian from carrying weapons, and made the samurai caste to be only inheritable, ending the probability of anyone reaching the fabled caste by proving himself on the battlefield or via diplomacy. His rule is regarded as perhaps the most brutal in all of Japan’s history. He was petty to the point of changing the course of rivers to flood villages of rival clans, kill any rival, dissident or anyone not sharing his opinions. He would also force people to commit the honorable suicide or seppuku. Although he ruled with an iron fist, he is well known for expanding on a micro and macro level the scale of economics in Japan, to be a very effective diplomat, and a ruthless businessman. With the help of firearms purchased by Portuguese merchant ships that docked the shores of Japan, he effectively became unreachable to his rivals.
4) Emperor Meiji:
Inheriting a civil war driven Japan at a very young age, he became known as Meiji the Great by his actions at home. The beloved ruler had in his lifetime modernized Japan and make it an industrial powerhouse rivaling the United States and the monarchies of Europe. He oversaw the slow and painful death of the samurai caste, with the last of them rebelling against him in the hope that tradition can withstand the gunpowder brought from abroad. He modernized Japan to effectively become the greatest nation in Asia, and by his hand forge powerful alliances with the European empires and the United States of America. His rule is remembered to be noble and just, and he lived up to it as the longest living emperor of Japan. He had converted Japan from a monarchy to a parliamentary democracy paving the way for the common man and woman to no longer be cast out from the political and economic decisions of Japan. Yet he died infamously and undeservedly by diabetes and a long list of other health problems related to food, but even in his death he brought something the Japanese people benefited from and is well known to this day, the Japanese Diet.
5) First Emperor of China Qin Shi Huang:
A prince of the state of Qin, Qin Shi Huang had managed to be the first one to unite China under his rule. He did not become king, but had called himself First or emperor, and sprung to life one of the longest lasting dynastic rulers in the world. He was known for his brutal rule and was a Legalist, which meant that he believed each person is born inherently evil and must be purged even by force if needed. He enacted a law decreeing the burning of books in the philosophical schools, which supported Confucianism in thinking. He buried alive all those who spoke out against him, particularly scholars. Yet in his time he managed to usher in the first golden age of China ranging from stability, economics to territorial expansions. He has as well contributed for enacting the decree that all walls made to keep the nomadic peoples of the north and west out of Chinese domain, be conjoined. With that, he helped in building the Great Wall of China. He died in the search for immortality. Namely, he had ingested a lot of mercury in his lifetime, which killed him. He was buried in a mausoleum alongside his clay army, later known as the Terracota Army, which guarded him for all eternity, hoping for him to rise in time of China’s greatest struggle.
6) Chairman Mao Zedong:
Mao was born to a wealthy farmer, and developed a Chinese nationalistic or anti-imperialistic outlook in life. He started fighting from his teenage years. He participated in the longest lasting civil war in China that was divided between warlords, nationalists and newly emerged socialists. He had joined the side of socialists as he believed that only the government should control the land, and not individual people. He had survived the Japanese conquest of China, and later emerged victorious in the civil war that continued in China. Becoming the father of the Chinese Communist Part and appointed chairman, or the sole ruler of the country, he made laws prohibiting people from having private property be it inherited or purchased and effectively nullified any human rights in China. He despised traditionalism and under his rule a significant portion of religious buildings, sites and schools were destroyed. Any rival of his was purged by execution. He tried to bring the Chinese from an agricultural society to that of an industrial one, and by his actions, he managed to create one of the greatest known famines in history. Despite all the horrid things he is known for, he managed to make China the powerhouse that is known for today.
7) Timur the Lame:
Tamerlane sought to restore the legacy of Genghis Khan, as he saw himself a descendant of his. This was never proven so, however. He saw the newly formed kingdoms and empires of the Middle East as usurpers to the rule of the Mongol Empire. He was a cunning and brilliant tactician and politician, that managed to unite the disparaged and warring nomadic peoples under his Muslim rule to fulfill his dream of restoring the greatness of the Great Khan. And indeed he did so; by his rule he brought the lands lost from the Chagatai Khanate, the Ilkhanate and the Golden Horse. He is renowned as the sword of Islam and under his rule intertwined the nomadic, Muslim and Persian arts and philosophies ushering in a golden era for science and diplomacy. He sought to restore the Yuan dynasty that ruled over China but died before reaching the border of China by an unknown illness. He was buried in Samarkand, and it was said that his last words were “Whoever dares to awaken me from my slumber shall bring forth an evil never before seen in the world”.
A descendant of Timur from his father’s side, and Genghis Khan from his mother’s, Babur was born in what is modern day Uzbekistan. His name meaning Tiger in Persian, he was destined to greatness from an early age. Influenced by Persia in all of his beliefs, he thought of restoring the rule of his ancestor Timur, yet he continually failed and had setbacks that denied him his wish. Plagued by constant threats to his throne, failing to conquer Samarkand several times and being hunted by his rivals, he decided to set his sights to India. He did so amazingly, for he is the first Emperor of the Mughal Dynasty. He had managed to conquer the warring warlords, kings, shahs and whatnot of India, and ushered in a golden age of peace, uniting the various under his banner and bringing a fair rule of law. He is credited for restoring the Persianate ethos and had spread its philosophies, arts and sciences conjoining them with the diverse ones in India.
9) Mahatma Ghandi:
The venerable father of India, Ghandi was born to the Hindu merchant cast during the British rule of India. He pursued education in law school, and worked as a peaceful disobedient expatriate lawyer in South Africa. He had returned in India with the intent of peacefully protesting British rule and hoping to unite the peoples under his vision. He wore a traditional Indian dhoti with a shawl that was hand woven with yarn on a charkha. He was a vegetarian as he regarded it a true way of purifying ones soul of desires and had undergone long fasts to prove so and political protest. His dream came true, and he had unified India based of religious pluralism. Yet it came at a great cost, for as the British left India, it quickly split itself into two dominions, a Hindu ruled one, and a Muslim ruled one. Still he continued to preach peace and vowed that through mutual understanding and respect could the peoples of India prosper, and still he undertook long and arduous fasts as a form of peaceful protests. But not all shared his vision of a peacefully driven India, and was assassinated by a fellow Hindu nationalist.