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0234 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 234 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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218   126. CATAI

the fatter occurs in his biography (Chin shu, 109, 1-5), and I wonder whether the name in the Pei shih is not an error for ;} P [; Mu-jung Hsi ( 406 or 407; cf. GILES, Biogr. Dict. No. 1543), whom we know to have defeated the Ch'i-tan (Chin shu, 124, 6 b) in a campaign which took place in the 12th month of the 1st i-hsi year (January 6-February 3, 406), according to the TzIZ-chip t'ung-chien (114, 19 b).

The Hsin T'ang shu (219, la) is probably right in saying that the name Ch'i-tan was adopted only at the time of the Wei dynasty (386-556), or at least that it did not come to the knowledge of the Chinese before that period. As we have seen, it is attested for A. D. 405-406 in Mu-jung Hsi's biography; but there must be some error in L. GIBERT'S assertion (Dict. hist. et géogr. de la Mandchourie, 454) that, from the time of the Wei Emperor T'ui-tsu (386-409), the Ch'i-tan began to come to the Court every year to present a tribute of horses : the first embassy of the Ch'i-tan to the Wei Court recorded in the official history of that dynasty was in 468 ( Wei shu, 6, 2 b).

As a result of their defeat by Mu-jung Huang (or Mu-jung Hsi?), the Ch'i-tan are said to

have sought refuge in the great « Pine Plain » (f✓;   Sung-mo) extending north and north-east of
Jehol, up to the Khingan mountains and the Sira-muren (Sara-mürän; cf. also MULLIE, in TP, 1933, 188, 190, 210). Despite minor moves, it was in that region that the T'ang established in 648 a « Government General » (tu-tu-fu) of Sung-mo which was allocated to the chiefs of the Ch'itan (Hsin T'ang shu, 43 B, 4 a-b; 219, 1 b). Other Ch'i-tan tribes, among those who had submitted to China, were organized in « vassal (chi-mi) chou » scattered in the northern part of the present province of Ho-pei. Independent Ch'i-tan groups must have lived still farther north, in the region of the Khingan. The Hsin T'ang shu has preserved the names and the location of the various vassal Ch'i-tan tribes (cf. also Liao shih, 37, 1 a-b). Roughly speaking, we may say that the great « Pine Plain » was the main site occupied by the Ch'i-tan at the time when they appear, as « Qitaÿ », in the Turkish inscriptions of the Orkhon basin in the 8th cent. (cf. THOMSEN, in ZDMC, 1924, 172). The Tibetan translation (unpublished) of a Uighur inquiry on the people of the North (No. 246 of the Tibetan mss. which I brought back from Tun-huang) speaks of the « Ge-tan » or « Ge-tan », with the usual Tibetan change of a surd initial to a sonant. Rasidu-'dDin knew the Chinese form « Ch'i-tan » and renders it as « tlidan » (QUATREMÉRE, Hist. des Mongols, xcii).

The early Ch'i-tan, like several other ethnical groups of north-eastern Asia, used to let their dead rest on high trees and decay for three years before they collected and burnt the bones. They used carts (Wei shu, 100, 5 b; Pei shih, 94, 9 a; Hsin T'ang shu, 219, 1 a). During the T'ang dynasty, they numbered eight great tribes; this division seems to have already existed in the 4th-5th cents. (cf. also the legend of the Ch'i-tan's origin, in Liao shih, 37, 4 b). The supreme authority was for a time in the hands of the A l Ta-ho (*T'âi-yâ) clan, but there are obvious contradictions in the accounts of the Hsin T'ang shu (219, 1 a, 3 b) and of the Liao shih (1, 1 a-b; 63, 4 a) as to the manner in which the power passed into the hands of A-pao-chi, the head of the Yeh-lü clan and the founder of the Ch'i-tan dynasty in northern China. The connection which has been suggested between the name of the Ta-ho clan and that of the modern Dahur (JRAS, 1881, 128) is not acceptable.

The linguistic appurtenance is still debated. Most authors say that they were Tungus.