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0214 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 214 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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198   123. CASCAR

Central Asia, and Hui-yüan, their commentator, was very probably in touch with Buddhists of Iranian origin. Such cases are not exceptional. Among the yaksa of the Mahâmayûri, one is called Kharaposta, translated « Donkey-skin » in Chinese; this is a purely Iranian name (cf. S. LEvi, in JA, 1915, i, 74), the exact equivalent of the xarpast of JUSTI, Iranisches Namenbuch, 171.

LEvi had first thought that « Kharostra» was a real name for Kâsyar; further research led him to suppose that it had a broader meaning, arid that it had been the designation of all the Buddhist countries north of India and west of China. Without entering into the whole discussion in detail, I must state that, contrary to LEvi, I do not believe that «Kharostra» occurred in the Sanskrit text of the Avatarpsaka; all translations, Chinese as well as Tibetan, show that the text spoke of the Khasa, which of the three translators, the translator of 696-699 alone interpreted as Shu-lo, Kâsyar; and it was this Shu-lo of the translation of 696-699 which furnished the occasion for Hui-yüan to speak of « Kharostra » as being the etymology of Shu-lo. Whether he was or was not the initiator of this wrong etymology is almost immaterial. What matters, and it is to LIvi's credit to have drawn attention to it, is that there was then a name « Kharostra » or *Kharostrag, which Hui-yüan considered as a geographical name. I have a suspicion that Hui-yüan's commentary is not as plain as its wording seems to show. Hui-yüan knew the Khasa of the Sanskrit text and the translation Shu-lo adopted in 696-699. My impression is that his « name of a mountain » actually refers to Khasa, which we shall find again below as the name of certain mountainous districts and at the same time as a name applied to Kâsyar. It is only *Kharostrag or « Kharostra » which was explained by some as meaning « Kingdom of Wicked Nature », unless even this, perhaps, also relates to Khasa.

The vivacity of the contest for or against « Kharostra » was mainly due to its repercussion upon the name of the mythic rsi Kharostha, the eponymous creator of the kharosthi or kharostri writing once used in north-western India and western Chinese Turkestan. Kharostha means « Donkey's-lip », and is so translated in Chinese texts; but for the name of the writing, the Indian mss. hesitate betwen kharosti, kharosti and kharostri. I shall not dwell upon the respective fortunes of the rare compound kharostha and the much more frequent kharostra in Indian literature, discussed at length by LEvi and PISCHEL. But, apart from the fact that ostha and ustra give the same form in some Indian dialects, for instance in Pâli ôttha, we must not forget that the kharosthi or kharostri writing originated in countries which were strongly under Iranian influence, and that the only Old-Iranian form corresponding to Skr. ostha is aostra. Under these conditions, an Iranized form equivalent to Skr. Kharostha would precisely be *Kharostrag. In a Tibetan text relating to the history of Khotan, the name occurs in a form which is not quite certain; THOMAS gives it as Khare'ustra in Asia Major, ii, 256, but as Khare'ustein in Tibetan Texts and Documents, i, 93; owing to a very common confusion in Tibetan writing, °stet may be for °ster. In such a case, the Tibetan form would be based on *Kharostra.

Such a view is confirmed by a name which I am surprised to have scarcely seen mentioned in the discussions of 1902-1905. The Ts., Kharostha is not only the eponymous creator of the Kharosthi writing, he is also an astronomer; LEvi alluded to this (BEFEO, iv, 564-565), but many more Chinese texts could be adduced. The rsi « Kharusta », an astronomer, addresses the congregation in a text in « mixed » Prâkrit of Khotanese origin (HOERNLE, Manuscript Remains