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0040 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 40 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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24   13. ALAINS

backs on a mountain and faces a stream which flows south into the sea; there are plenty of fish

and salt.   The people till the ground; they are charitable and peaceful.   In 1419, the ruler
i-1 Ya-hu-sha (*Ya`qûb-sah) sent an envoy who offered horses and various products of the

country.   But A-su could not regularly send tribute, owing to the great distance.   In 1463,

China dispatched an envoy to that kingdom, but finally A-su did not send tribute again.   West

of A-su, on an island in the sea, there is the kingdom of i%   Sha-ha-lu, which sent an

embassy under Yung-lo (1403-1425); Sha-ha-lu is a transcription of the name of S5.11-Rub in Ming shih, 332, 6 a and one would think of Sal-Ruhiya on the Syr-Daria; the fact that Sàh-Ruhiya has an independent notice (cf. China Review, y, 119) would be no decisive objection; but the location and the description hardly fit. The Ming hui-tien (quoted in T'u-shu chi-ch'êng, Pien-i-tien, 86) gives the quantities of victuals delivered every three days to the 120 men who were attached to the embassy of 1419.

It may be that Alan traders formed the « embassy » of 1419; at that time, many Alans had become Mussulmans, so that we should not be surprised at the apparently Mohammedan name of

their ruler (moreover there are Christians named Ya'qûb).   But the question is more intricate.
In a Ming itinerary, A-su, written in the same way, certainly represents Aqsu in Chinese Turkestan (cf. China Review, y, 234). The name of Aqsu (Turk. Aq-su, « White water ») does not seem to have been known in Mongol times, but it was in use at the end of the 14th cent., as is shown by

the accounts of the campaigns of Tamerlane (cf. Br, II, 232-235). Now, in the ,-   j 44 p , Shu-
yüan tsa-chi of Lu Jung (ed. Shou-shan-ko ts'ung-shu2, 5, 5; on Lu Jung's work, written in the second half of the 15th cent., cf. TP, 1933, 282), there is a paragraph on embassies projected in 1463 to be sent to various countries but which eventually were not sent (there is here a discrepancy with the Ming shih quoted above); the list of countries is given as follows : Herat, Samarkand,

Kasyar, A-su, Turfan, Ha-mi (Qomul), Pai-chia-ssü-ian (?).   From the very order of the

enumeration, Aqsu is more likely to be referred to here than the Alan country.   Provisionally,

I incline to the view that the A-su of 1419 may well be Asut, i. e. Alans, but that the A-su to which an envoy was sent in 1463 is Aqsu, and that the identity of the transcription of both names is responsible for a confusion between the two countries in the Ming shih.

But this concerns only the Asut or Alans of the Caucasus. As for the Asut who had been deported into Northern China, I think that, after the fall of the Yüan dynasty, they lasted for three more centuries, although they had become more and more mongolized. In « Sanang Setsen », we find several mentions of a Mongol tribe the name of which is transcribed «Assod » by SCHMIDT (Gesch. der Ost-Mongolen, 145, 147, 153, 169, 171, 201, 205) ; but, in Mongol spelling, SCHMIDT'S «Assod» is exactly the name which I read Asut. Arugtai, who played an important part in Mongol history in the first half of the 15th cent., was an Asut (he is the A-lu-t'ai of

Chinese texts; cf. GILES, Biogr. Diet. no. 3; Br., II, 163).   When the Emperor Ching-t'ai was
taken prisoner by the Mongols in 1449, the Mongol tradition has it that he was given an Asut wife, by whom he had a son (cf. SCHMIDT, loc. cit., 169, 171, 380, and GOMBOEV, Altan tob5i,

173).   In the 17 th cent., the Asut are still named among the tribes which constitute the empire
of Dayan-khan (cf. MOSTAERT, Textes oraux ordos, Peking, 1937, p. vii). I know of no later mention of the Asut.