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0425 Cathay and the Way Thither : vol.1
Cathay and the Way Thither : vol.1 / Page 425 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000042
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R Ik



pose such an one's father to die, then the son will say, I desire to pay respect to my father's memory"; and so he calls together all the priests and monks and players in the country round, and likewise all the neighbours and kinsfolk. And they carry the body into the country with great re- joicings. And they have a great table in readiness, upon which the priests cut off the head, and then this is presented to the son. And the son and all the company raise a chant and make many prayers for the dead. Then the priests cut the whole of the body to pieces, and when they have done so they go up again to the city with the whole company, praying for him as they go. After this the eagles and vultures come down from the mountains and every one takes his morsel and carries it away. Then all the company shout

carried outside the walls, followed by crowds of monks and neighbours, to an enclosed field in which dogs are kept. There the sextons, or I should rather say the butchers, tear all the flesh from the bones and fling it to the mastiffs to eat. They then either break the bones into small pieces, and give these also to the dogs, or they cast them entire into the river. The top part of the skull, or some other entire bones, well cleansed, are given to the family to take home and keep devoutly" (Alph. Tib. p. 444). To much the same effect is the account in Father Hyacinth's translation of the Chinese Description of Tibet (Journ. As., u.s., p. 254). These. practices appear to be less common now in Tibet, but not extinct.

Klaproth quotes passages showing a knowledge of this mode of disposing of the dead from Strabo, Cicero's Tusculan Questions, and Justin. Strabo also ascribes to the Caspii the opinion that those whose bodies the birds appropriated were blessed. Herodotus and Mela ascribe such practices to the Issedonians and • Scythians, " Corpora ipsa laniata et c esis pecorum visceribus immista epulando consumunt. Capita ubi fabri expolivere auro vincta pro poculis gerunt" (Pomp. "Vela, ii, 1).

Whatever spice of exaggeration there may be in Odoric's narrative is easily accounted for. Tibetan Buddhists deal much in dead men's bones. A trumpet of human thighbone is a common appendage of their devotees ; whilst the representations of some of' their divinities show goblets or crowns of human skulls. Giorgi also mentions a symbolical performance, which consisted in dancing round the effigy of a boy. This in the course of the dance was cloven open by a leading performer, who seized the heart and devoured it ; the others followed, tearing limb from limb and also devouring. This, even'if it were not a cannibal tradition, might easily provoke the charge of cannibalism. (Journ. Asiat., u.s. ; Schlagintweit's Buddhism in Tibet, 269, 216; Atph. Tib., 462).