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0075 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 75 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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43. AZURE   59

The same word has been supposed to appear in the Chinese account of Ch'ang Tê's

mission of 1259, in the form   lan-ch'ih (Br, I, 151; LAUFER, Notes on Turquois, 45;
Sino-Iranica, 520). But, as a matter of fact, the account has the name twice, and the first time (Br, I, 140) it writes it 4j. f lan-shih (« Ian stone »). Lan would in the Mongol period have been a regular transcription of * lal, and I agree with WANG Kuo-wei that the « lan stone » must be the same as the 0 la of the Cho-kêng lu, that is to say Persian la'al, « ruby » (cf. Br, I, 173), although in the Mongol period la'al had become in Mongolian nal through dissimilation; lan-ch'ih, in the second case, may be a wrong reading for lan-shih. As for LAUFER'S

idea that   lan, « orchid », is an error for   lan, « indigo », « blue », it has no basis in fact
since the final -ch'ih shows the term to be a transcription; moreover, lan, «indigo », was still pronounced as lam in the 13th cent., and so is phonetically out of the question. LAUFER also brought into the argument the name of the city of ittf Lan-shih, which he translated by « Blue Market », « a designation which apparently refers to the blue color of lapis lazuli ». But Lan-shih is only one among many forms given by the different texts for the old capital of the Great Yüeh-chih; there is no reason to try to explain the name by its trade in lapis-lazuli. Contrary to the common opinion, however, I agree with LAUFER (Notes on Turquois, 44) that lapis-lazuli, which is not indigenous to India, is not likely to have spread to the West under an Indian name; râjavarta and the like must be sanskritizations of the same native name, which remains unexplained, and which is also represented, and perhaps more accurately, by the Persian lajvard.

Lapis-lazuli, to be found in certain parts of Tibet, has a Tibetan name, mu-men, which has produced in Mongolian and Manchu, through dissimilation, the word nomin, although mumin is also a bookish designation of the stone in both these languages. As an equivalent of the Mong. ras'ivar, which is certainly < râjavarta, « lapis-lazuli », KOVALEVSKIÏ, 2659, has found Tib. stars-zil; but to this word our Tibetan dictionaries, which are, however, very unsatisfactory, do not give the meaning of the stone.

The Chinese names for lapis-lazuli have been discussed at some length by LAUFER, and also by H. T. CHANG in his Lapidarium Sinicum (1921, 1-13) and in his annotated translation Metals and stones as treated in Laufer's «Sino-Iranica» (1925, 75-77); in BEFEO, xxiv, 277-283, DEMItVILLE has shown that most of the solutions proposed in that part of the Lapidarium cannot be accepted.

The main difficulty lies in the fact that Chinese names of minerals are often vague, and that their meaning has sometimes changed. The ordinary modern Chinese word for lapis-lazuli is ;-.1 ch'ing-chin-shih, «blue golden stone»; there has also been, from the 10th cent. down

to our days, a term   E chin-hsing-shih, «stone with golden stars », a fitting designation of
lapis-lazuli with its brilliant spots of sulphide of iron which were mistaken for gold. In his Notes on Turquois of 1913, 44, LAUFER has stated unhesitatingly that this was lapis-lazuli, though TP, 1915, 194, he declared no less authoritatively that chin-hsing-shih was « golden mica» .

But there is one Chinese name (not mentioned in TARANZANO'S Vocabulaire) the meaning

   of which is not open to doubt, to wit chin-ching, «essence of gold ». It is given in the
Hsin T'ang shu as a product of Kurân, which is still the main centre for the extraction of lapis-