Koublai Khan, 1215-94, was a Mongol emperor, founder of the Yüan dynasty of China. He succeeded his brother Mongke as the ruler of the empire that their grandfather Jenghiz Khan had founded. The empire reached its greatest territorial scope with Kublai's final defeat of the Sung dynasty of China. Koublai promoted economic prosperity by rebuilding the Grand Canal, repairing public granaries, and extending highways; he fostered Chinese scholarship and arts; although he favored Tibetan Buddhism, other religions (except Taoism) were tolerated. Kublai encouraged foreign commerce, and his magnificent capital at Cambuluc (now Beijing) was visited by several Europeans, including Marco Polo.
As far as I am concerned, there is none of that imperial splendor in Muscs Koublai Khan, no enlightened interest in arts and science; magnificent palaces full of priceless objects don’t rise before my eyes when I smell this fragrance. Serge Lutens creation is all about Koublai the warrior, a soldier among his soldiers, a conqueror prowling the great plains. Muscs Koublai Khan is raw, dirty and sensual.
On the first sniff, this is, shockingly, the smell of a circus, you know the one, animal sweat and animal skin and all the things I will not mention here, a very distinctive smell that is repulsive yet weirdly appealing at the same time…Civet, castoreum, costus roots, patchouli…I have no doubt that this is exactly what Koublai Khan smelled like on his cleanest day while on a conquering spree.
I would have never expected myself to like a scent like that, yet I find it incredibly alluring. Perhaps, Ambrose Bierce was right, and every Russian is a person with a Caucasian body and a Mongolian soul, and these are the deepest and the darkest recesses of my soul that crave Muscs Koublai Khan, this eau de blood-thirsty unwashed horse-rider of the steppes…Like Nikolai Gumilev, sometimes “I’m bored with people and the stories, and dream of the treasures of the kingdom, glories, and yataghans, all covered with blood.”
*The painting is Koublai Khan by Frank Frazetta