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0152 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 152 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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losak, «mule », and Mong. lausa, lôsa, id. (? _ Ch. to-tzû), seems to be purely accidental. In Siberian dialects (Bar., Tur., Tob.), alasa means only « small », « small-sized », and such is the case also with Kir. alasa (< alak). MARR (Izv. Ak. Nauk, 1925, 971) would derive the word from the Abkh. word for «horse », which he divides into a-lak; speaking without authority, I should rather think that Abkh. alasa is borrowed from the Turkish.

This alasa, although unknown to-day in Mongolian, existed in that language in the past, since

we find in the Secret History (§ 273) the plural form alasas of a word alasa, with a Chinese translation ( (?1 huai-ma, «huai-horse ». Huai is only the name of a well-known river, and I cannot trace the origin of the term huai-ma. But it just happens to be used, also in the 13th cent., in a poem by Yüan Chüeh (1266-1327), as a designation of polo-ponies; and this connects Mong. alasa both with the « horse » and the « small-sized » meanings of the word in various Turkish dialects. The word has survived in Manchu, written alasan, with the meaning IA , i nu-ma, «broken-down horse », « jade » (Ssû-t'i ho pi wen-chien, 31, 69 b).

Since -a, -ai, -an endings are commonly interchangeable in Mongolian, it seems a natural

conclusion to identify with alasa the Alasai or Alasai[-nuntuq] of the Secret History and the

modern « Alashan » (Alasan). An pi f 7~1   ► ifi A-la-sha-a-lan-shan occurs in YS, 1CO, 2 a
(also Hsin Yüan shih, 100, 4 a), but I do not know what to make of it. Our « Alashan » is

written Alasan in Manchu and Mongolian, but Rif   (J] A-Ian-shan-shan (« *Mangan mountains »)
in Chinese, in Ssû-t'i ho pi wên-chien, 3, 62 a. In any case, it is clear that «Aiashan» is to be transcribed in one word, and not « A-la Shan » or « Ala Shan » as in almost all our books and maps, including Br, I, 239, and STEIN, Serindia, 724 (not to mention « Ara-shan » in both editions of GILES's Chin.-Engl. Dict., or the « Alade-shan » of Y, I, 282, which I corrected in Y, III, 62).

But we are faced now with two difficulties : the initial c- of Calacian if we are to connect it with Alagsai, «Aiashan », and the choice which is to be made between Ho-lan < *ala, «motley »,

« piebald », and alaki -   -- alasa, « small-sized horse ».

The initial c- of « Calacian » cannot be explained as a notation of mediaeval Mongolian h-, as

is the case for instance with « Cogacin » (q. v.) = *Hugäcin, since ala is not among the Mongol words formerly beginning with h-, and since moreover Rasidu-'d-Din would then write the name with h-, while he uses here h-. Provisionally, I suppose that Polo's « Calacian » and Rasid's Halâjan or Haljan represent the Hsi-Hsia form of the name, which had hardened the initial alif rendered by y- in the ancient transcription Ho-lan (*yâ-lân), and by h- in the Tibetan « Ha-la yunlog ». Unfortunately, this conjectural Hsi-Hsia form does not seem to have any modern

representative.   A word 11 N   k'a-êrh-chan enters into a place-name of the Alashan region

(Ta-Ch'ing i-t'ung chih, 412 B, I a), but it occurs also in many different place-names all over Mongolia; although PoPOV has read it sometimes as liarjan, sometimes as halyan (Mên-gu-yumu-czi, 62, 66, 83, 110, 111, 487), it seems to be always Mong. halJan (< galfan), «bald », and I do not think it can have anything to do with « Calacian ».

As to the second point, I feel that we should separate ala, *alac, alea, «motley », and alak, «small », «gelding », «small-sized horse ». It is possible that, in the course of time, the original name meaning «piebald horse » was replaced by the other one, of somewhat similar sound, meaning «small-sized horse », but I can offer no proof beyond the bare fact of the double name;