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0236 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 236 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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220   126. CATAI

in Mussulman countries was   Hitài or A- - Hitài. Hitài maintained itself in Turkish (BROC-

KELMANN, KaJyari, 251) and in Persian, and passed to the countries which heard of China through a Turkish channel like Russia («Kitaï») and Greece («Kaotia»). As the first vowel was never written, Sll;

Hitai >   Hità (sometimes Qïtà) was often read « Hàtài », « Hâtà », particularly by the Arabs
(cf. the various forms given by FERRAND, in JA, 1919, II, 184), and this explains why the countries of Western Europe which first heard of China from Arabs in the Near East adopted « Cata », « Catai », « Cathay » (where -th- simply represents -t-). Plan Carpine's isolated « Kitai » bears evidence once again to his use of Russian interpreters. In an Uighur Manichaean manuscript published by VON LE COQ (Turk. Manichaica aus Chotscho, I, 29, 44, 45; BANG, Manich. Hymnen, in Muséon, xxxvlll, 47), a note has been added by a Manichaean « hearer » *Yapyun or *Faphua on his return from « Htai» (or « Qtai »), i. e. from northern China. If the name be *Faphua, the first part would represent Ch. it fa (*pi4°vp), and the fact that the final labial was still heard would point to a date not later than the 10th cent.; this would be the earliest mention of the modern name in Central Asia. But *Faphua is a doubtful reading. At any rate, it is interesting to find « Utai » (or « Qtaï »; the writing does not distinguish between h and q) written in Uighur without the first vowel as is done in the Arabic transcriptions.

The final element is more embarrassing : °tan according to the Chinese, stay in the Orkhon inscriptions, Otai in Uighur and Persian forms. Here certain observations are necessary. We generally transcribe such Turkish finals as -ai, but the last element is actually a semi-vowel, and the proper transcription would be -ay. As to the Orkhon inscriptions, the « runic » letter which THOMSEN finally transcribed as -ÿ is of a somewhat doubtful value, but certainly contained a nasal element. It occurs in Toÿuquq, the first syllable of which is transcribed tun in Chinese; in qoÿ, « sheep », later qoi, but in Mong. qoni, etc. The presence of a nasal element in the name of the Ch'i-tan is indirectly confirmed by the Mongol form, « Kitad » > Kitat. This is a plural, but it can only be accounted for by starting from a singular *Kitan (< *Qitan; cf. VLADIMIRCOV, in Doklady Ak. N. 1929, 172; RAMSTEDT, Kalm. Wörterbuch, 233), identical with the Chinese transcription and very close to what Qitaÿ must have really sounded. An Uighur pronunciation *Qitan is required by the forms « Ge-tan » and « Ge-tan » of the Tibetan translation mentioned above. The alternative *Qitan / *Qïtai is more or less similar to that of « altan » and « Altai » (see « Altai »). This phonetic link also connects the Ch'i-tan with the Mongols. I do not feel inclined to accept MOSTAERT'S view (Bull. Cath. Univ. of Peking, No. 9 [1934), 40) that *Qitan is an ancient plural of Qïtai.

According to BRETSCHNEIDER (Br, I, 265), « the first emperor of the Liao dynasty received an embassy from the Ta-shih in 924, when he was sojourning near the ancient capital of the Hui-hu »; in principle the Ta-shih are of course the Arabs; the ancient capital of the Hui-hu or Uighur is Qara-balyasun in the Orkhon basin (cf. HOWORTH, in JRAS, 1881, 175, who also speaks of the embassy as coming to the camp in Mongolia, but believes that the Ta-shih here referred to were not the Arabs, but Persians). BARTHOLD (12 Vorlesungen, 120) also speaks of this meeting of Mussulmans and the Ch'i-tan in Mongolia, on the sole authority of BRETSCHNEIDER. Here again, I am afraid that the text has been misunderstood. In the pên-chi, under the year 924, we hear of the various stages of T'ai-tsu's advance into Mongolia, but life went on in the meantime as