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0303 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 303 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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158. CINGHIS   287

That this tradition of the first half of the 14th cent. should be correct is, however, quite a different matter. We do not know the reasons which, in the third quarter of that century, and even before the fall of the dynasty, turned the scales in favour of the date of 1162. One point may, however, engage our attention. The early Mongols had no sexagenary cycle, but, despite the MêngTa pei-lu, they most probably knew the duodenary animal cycle, which was popular at so early a date among the Altaic tribes. Before the adoption of a Chinese nien-hao by Qubilai in 1260, the edicts of the Mongol Emperors are regularly dated by the years of the animal cycle. Right or wrong, the contemporaries of Chinghiz-khan believed, and probably he himself believed, that he was born in a « pig » year. Rasid's information equated that « pig » year to 1155, and this is corroborated to a certain extent by the passage in the Mêng-Ta pei-lu which gives 1154 as the year of the birth. Both sources are earlier than the ones which, c. 1330-1340, give that « pig » year as 1167. There is, in one way or the other, an error of a whole duodenary cycle, and we have no direct proof in favour of either date. Against 1167, it may be argued that Ögödäi, third son of Chinghiz-khan by the same mother, was born in 1186, so that Jöci and Ca) atai ought to have been born, at the latest, in 1184 and 1185, respectively. Chinghiz ought in such a case to have married not later than 1183, when he was sixteen. There is nothing unlikely in that fact, however, in a country where early marriages were the rule. On the other hand, if Chinghiz-khan was born in 1155, there is a long gap in the accounts of his early life, a gap which has always puzzled me. Some years ago, recalling that Chinghiz-khan had established his power over a great part of the Mongol tribes towards the end of the 12th cent., and after his victory over the Märkit, and still starting from the two traditional dates of 1155 or 1162 for his birth, I remarked (La Haute Asie, 27) : « Since Chinghiz-khan was then either about to attain or had passed the age of forty, one sees at once to what an extent our information on that part of his life is fragmentary. The Mongols used to marry early, and the campaign against the Märkit took place before the birth of Börtä's eldest son. A long time must have elapsed between this campaign and the proclamation of Tämüjin as khan, twenty years perhaps, of which we know nothing. » The adoption of 1167 as the date of the birth of Chinghiz-khan would not overcome the difficulty, since the date of Ogödäi's birth seems to be firmly established as 1186, and so the campaign against the Märkit, anterior to jöèi's birth, could not have taken place later than 1184. But the margin of difference is diminished. If Chinghiz was born in 1155, the date of the campaign against the Märkit, anterior to the birth of his eldest son, ought to be put back by about ten years more. Such an assumption, however, could not be reconciled with the statements which make Jöci no more than forty when he died early in 1227 (cf. BARTHOLD, Turkestan`-', 458). I am far from being positive about the date 1167, because of the earlier texts which speak of 1154-1155, but 1167 is perhaps more consistent with Chinghiz-khan's later life, and for that reason commends itself to the attention and the criticism of future historians.

In the manuscript of Ulan-Bâtor (the Urga of our maps) which has preserved, admits much additional matter, part of the original Mongol text of the Secret History, a precise date is given for the birth of Chinghiz-khan, « on the sixteenth of the first month of spring of the ' black horse' year, which was the day of the red full moon, at noon » ; in the Chinese calendar this would correspond to February 1, 1162. The day chosen has a mythical significance as in the case of other