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0350 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 350 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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334   158. CINGHIS

is not to raise funerary mounds OA !-,it fen-lung). When the burial is over, 10,000 horsemen trample the ground so as to make it even. A young camel is killed over it. A thousand horsemen guard [the tomb]. The next year, in the spring, when the grass has grown, they move the tents and go away. One sees only flat ground all over [the surface], and nobody knows [where the tomb is]. When [the Mongols] wish to offer sacrifices [to it], they take as their guide the mother of the [young] camel they had killed and from watching the place where she stops and wails, they know the place of the burial. Consequently, after a long time, even the descendants (lit. the sons and grandsons) cannot have any knowledge of it. » Yeh Tzû-chi was, it is true, a well-read Chinese; he was born in Chê-chiang under the Mongol dynasty, but never attained any high position at Court, nor does he seem ever to have visited Mongolia. His account is not free from popular legend, like, for example, the story of the young camel. But the whole story could not have been imagined if in fact there had been « mounds » over the Mongol Imperial tombs.

Jourdain de Severac had heard another tale. According to him (CORDIER, Les Merveilles de l'Asie, 92, 121) : « When the Emperor dies, he is carried, together with an immense treasure, by several men to a certain place, where they lay down the body and flee at the utmost speed, as if the Devil pursued them. There are other people ready who immediately seize the corpse and proceed in the same way to another place; and so on, unti, they reach the place where it is to be buried. And this they do so that the place should not be found, and consequently so that nobody might steal the treasures. » A baseless story, but one which testifies to the secrecy of the Mongol Imperial tombs.

D'OHSSON (Oh, I, 384-385) and HOWORTH (I, 105) have quoted from Maundeville a text on the funeral of the Great Khans which this pseudo-traveller copied, in fact, from Plan Carpine. In the original, it does not refer to the Great Khans, but it is of sufficient interest, however, to be translated here (icy, 42-43; cf. ROCKHILL, Rubruck, 81) : « When one of them (i. e. the Mongols) is dead, if he be [one] of the ordinary leaders (de minoribus, in opposition to quosdam majores in the next paragraph), he is secretly buried in the steppe, wherever it pleases them. He is buried with one of his tents, [and] seated in the middle of it. They put a table in front of him, with a bowl filled with meat and a jar of mare's milk. With him are buried a mare with her foal and a horse with bit and saddle. They eat another horse, stuff its hide with straw and raise it on high on two or four poles. [All this is done] in order that [the deceased] should have in the other world a tent in which he could stay, a mare from which he could have milk and even procure more horses, and horses which he could ride. They burn for his soul the bones of the horse they have eaten. The women often assemble to burn bones for the souls of men, as we [ourselves] have seen with our own eyes and have known from others... They bury with him in the same way gold and silver. » This account reminds us more of what we know of Coman rites in southern Russia than of Mongol customs. It may, however, lend colour to the interpretation of « Sanang Setsen »'s text quoted above which implies a tradition that Chinghiz-khan was buried with the hearse which had brought him back from Kan-su to Mongolia. Moreover, the horse stuffed with straw and stuck on poles over the tomb of Mongol nobles is also mentioned by Vincent de Beauvais (xxx, cli. 86), who