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0183 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 183 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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118. CARACOROM   167

We know for certain that Qara-qorum was walled for the first time in 1235, by Ögödäi. BARTHOLD (12 Vorlesungen, 181-182) has expressed surprise at this decision of Ögödäi, whose inherited possessions were in the Emil and Qobuq territory and who, by settling in Mongolia proper, seemed to him to trespass on his brother Tului's rights. The explanation, if one be necessary, may lie in the fact that Qara-gorum had already been designated as Mongol capital in the lifetime of Chinghiz-khan. Not that there can be any foundation in CORDIER'S assertion ( Y, I, 227) that Qara-qorum was chosen by Chinghiz-khan in 1206 as his capital. On the other hand, I no longer believe that Raid in his biography of Chinghiz-khan mentions the name of Qara-gorum in connection with events of 1220 as I said in JA, 1925, I, 375; in the text I alluded to (Ber, III, 46), I now think that Qara-qorum is corrupt for r,s5 Qara-qum, the well-known « Kara-kum » Desert between the Amu-darya and the Caspian Sea (for the same confusion in Juwaini's mss., cf. QAZwiNi, Juwaini, I, 69, 70, 279; by an inverse error, VULLERS [II, 717] gives « Qaraqum » as the name of Chinghiz-khan's capital). But the YS (58, 18 a), following texts which must be of c. 1330, says that the capital was fixed at Qara-qorum in 1220, and an inscription written on stone by Imperial order in 1346 and erected in Qara-qorum begins with these words : « The 15th year of the Holy and Warlike T'ai-tsu (= Chinghiz-khan), the signs of the year being kêng-ch'ên (1220), the capital was fixed at Ho-lin ( = Qara-qorum) ». The identical information transmitted by the two texts may be accepted as based on good authority. In all likelihood, although Qara-qorum was walled only in 1235, Chinghiz-khan had already fixed there his main encampment, and perhaps had left there his o yruq., i. e. the camps of his wives and personal servants, while he was waging war with the Mussuimans in the West. Prior to Chinghiz-khan's accession, Qara-qorum belonged to the Naiman (Ber, I, 108), perhaps also at one time to their immediate neighbours and rivals the Kerait (Wy, 207).

Rubrouck was not particularly struck with the size and appearance of the Mongol capital : « It is not as big as the village of Saint Denis, and the monastery of Saint Denis is ten times larger than the palace » (ROCKHILL, Rubruck, 220; Try, 285). We know, however, that Ögödäi had ordered trained artisans and painters from China to build it up and adorn it. There were mosques and churches and Buddhist temples. A Buddhist monastery of Qara-qorum, the - _r 1FTipziT!#' j: T'ai-p'ing hsing-kuo ch'an-ssû, is mentioned in 1247 (cf. Tokyo Tripit of Meiji, R, xi, 39 a), and in 1256, Mongka had erected in Qara-qorum a five-storeyed stûpa, 300 feet high and with annexed chambers, which was repaired in 1311 and again in 1342-1346 (cf. JA, 1925, I, 373).

Qara-qorum remained officially the Mongol capital until Qubilai's accession to the throne in 1260. YULE ( Y, I, 227) and BENEDETTO (B', 440) are mistaken when they say that Qara-qorum ceased to be the capital in 1256 and 1257, respectively. The foundation of K'ai-p'ing in 1256 (see « Chemeinfu ») was intended only to provide a summer residence for Qubilai who was then a prince, not for the Emperor as such. There is something wrong when CHARIGNON (Chi, I, 164) re-translating into French what he says is a translation from D'OHSSON's French into Chinese, makes D'OHSSON say that the name of Qara-qorum was transmitted to the West when the Uighurs went there « in the year of the dragon (1208) » to submit to Chinghiz-khan. I do not know the Chinese translation in question, nor do I find anything similar in D'OHSSON's original work.