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0038 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 38 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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22   13. ALAINS

the Sung Court gave Hung Fu official authority over the military district of Chên-ch'ao in the 5th

moon, on the day i-hai (May 31).   In YS, 9, 3 a, Hung Fu's rebellion and his death are all told
together under the wu-wu day of the 2nd moon of 1276, i. e. March 9, and this is certainly why T'u Chi decided in favour of 1276. But the indications of the pen-chi of the Sung shih are here very

precise.   If there is no mention there of Hung Fu's capture and death, it is because in March
1276 the Sung dynasty had almost fallen, and communication between Chên-ch'ao and Hang-chou was no longer possible. I believe the Asut were massacred when Hung Fu revolted on April 28, 1275, but Hung Fu held on for a whole year before coming to a dire end himself on March 9, 1276. In a text relating to the Asut guard, YS, 99, 3 a, it is said that «in the 23rd year chih-yuan (1286), the Asut army attacked in the south Chên-ch'ao and suffered heavy losses ». The date is

much too late, and an error must have crept into the text.   The most natural correction (more
natural though in Arabic figures than with Chinese characters) would be to read « 13 » instead of «23 », and this would agree with the apparent 1276 of the pên-chi in YS; but the author of the note may have thought of the whole incident together as is done in the pên-chi; or the error «23» may stand for « 12 ».

A text of the Hsü t'ung-chien kang-mu adds to the accounts of the siege of Ch'ang-chou by Bayan given in the YS, the Sung shih and the P'ing Sung lu, a detail which has not passed into T'u Chi, but to which attention has already been called in Pa, 485-486 : after forcing the inhabitants of the suburbs of Ch'ang-chou to carry earth and build a wall of approach to the city, Bayan killed and burnt them and used the boiling fat of the corpses to manufacture fire-missiles which were thrown to set alight the wooden « chevaux-de-frise » of the wall battlements

fth1   .I I: Jitr   the text is not very clear, but PAUTHIER's rendering is certainly
inaccurate). Pauthier insists that such a cruel deed can only be explained as a retaliation for the death of the Alans. The Alans, in my opinion, have nothing to do with this case, but it is true that Bayan might have wished to take revenge after Ch'ang-chou had rebelled and had resisted the efforts of the Mongols for more than five months. The account given in the Hsü t'ung-chien kang-mu must be derived from the Ch'ien-t'ang i-shih, a work of the Yüan period (ed. fru-lin chang-ku ts'ung-pien, 7, 7 b; cf. Mo, 141), and it is certainly correct, but the cruel device must

not be regarded as due simply to delirious wrath.   YULE ( Y, II, 181) has already alluded, in his
commentary on the present passage, to a text of Plan Carpine on the attack of a fortified place by the Mongols (Wy, 83) : « ... And if they cannot have it in this manner, they throw quick fire; even they use sometimes to take the fat of the men they kill and to throw it liquefied upon the houses. And wherever fire comes over that grease, it burns almost inextinguishably ... » Bayan's action at Ch'ang-chou provides the best commentary to this text of Plan Carpine.

Chên-ch'ao remained, apparently to the end of the Mongol dynasty, under the baleful

influence of the Alan massacre.   But the texts relating to the changes in its official status are
contradictory (cf. YS, 14, 1 b; 59, 8 b; 99, 3 a; WANG Hui-tsu 2, 8, 6 a; 24, 10 a) ; originally a military district (chün) of the Sung, it seems, under Qubilai, to have been first a myriarchy called Chên-ch'ao-fu, which was degraded to a chou in 1286 under the name of Ch'ao-chou, and finally became a simple district known as Ch'ao-hsien in 1291.

The As, or Asut, or Alans, were certainly Christians, as Polo says after Benedict the Pole