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0237 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 237 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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126. CATAI   221

before at his Court, where he had left a regent, and the various items of information listed in the pen-chi come in succession in chronological order, irrespective of the place where the event took place. The pên-chi (Liao shih, 2, 2 b), having just spoken of a canal dug in the region of the Sira-muren, go on to say : « [In the third t'ien-tsan year, in the ninth month,] on the kueihai day (October 28, 924), the kingdom of the Ta-shih (Arabs) came to offer tribute. » There is no reason to believe that this « embassy » did not come to the Court, at Shang-ching, in the north of Jehol Province. Moreover, this was not the first diplomatic intercourse between the

Liao and Mussulman countries : an embassy from Po-ssû, i. e. Persia, had come to the Ch'i-tan

Court in 923 (Liao shih, 2, 2 a; 70, 1 b). According to Mussulman sources, the first embassy from the Oita-khan that is recorded is the one which came to Ghazna in 1026-1027. The principal text referring to this embassy is the one which appears in the Tabâ‘i` al-hayawân, completed c. A.D. 1120; attention has been drawn to it by MINORSKY (cf. Comptes rendus de l'Ac. des

Inscr. 1937, 317-324), though it has not yet been published.

The last Ch'i-tan Emperor was dethroned by the Jucen in 1125; but one of the members of the Imperial family who would not submit to the conquerors fled to the West with part of his tribe; he finally settled in the region of the Chu River, and founded the empire known as QaraHitai, « Black Hitai », which lasted almost a century. But the history of the Qara-Hitai, although known in broad outline, is crammed with uncertainties and contradictions which come to one's notice as soon as one tries to make sure of a fact, a name, or a date.

The founder of the Qara-Hitai empire is generally called in Chinese Ai ft   E Yeh-

Ta-shih, sometimes   E tAC   Ta-shih Lin-ya (cf. Liao shih, 29, 2 a; 30, 2 a; Chin shih, 3, 7 a;
Br, I, 211; GILES, Biogr. Dict. No. 2452; GIBERT, Dict... de la Mandchourie, 974). Yeh-lü is the clan name of the Ch'i-tan Imperial family, also spelt # If I-la (TP, 1930, 48); two forms

'   I-Iü-tzû and , ; I Eta I-la-ssû seem to transcribe a plural of the same name (TP, 1931,
118, 469). The connection established in some Chinese works like the Ch'i-tan kuo chip between

« Yeh-iü » and a place-name Iii:     Shih-Ii is rightly distrusted in Liao shih, 116, 1 b (it is accepted
by GIBERT, Dict... de la Mandchourie, 113; D'OxssoN's « Ché-liou » [Oh, I, 113] and HOWORTH'S « Sheliu » [JRAS, 1881, 142] render the same Shih-li, but altered by a slip of VISDELou). We do not know the true Ch'i-tan original, and *Iru, plur. *Irus, with an alternative form *Ira, plur. *Iras, are not the only possible restorations (for other hypotheses, cf. HOWORTH, in JRAS, 1881,

144). « Lin-ya » is not ambiguous; it was the Ch'i-tan term for a man with a han-lin degree (cf. Liao shih, 45, 6 a-b; 116, 4b); lin is the lin of han-lin, and ya may be used as in the

modern term ya-mên (this ya goes back to T'ang times). Yeh-lü Ta-shih, well versed in the Ch'i-

tan and Chinese scripts, had received his doctor's degree in 1115. The case of « Ta-shih » is less simple. Although it looks like a man's personal name, I have a strong suspicion that it is a title.

Yeh-lü Ta-shih had been ill J f chieh-tu-shih (Commissioner High-Commander) of an important

army, and we know from the Chin shih (I, 2 b) that the Liao gave to the chieh-tu-shih the name of M t'ai-shih, which was certainly pronounced taisi in Ch'i-tan, as it was afterwards in

Mongolian.   Now, taisi represents both Ch. t'ai-shih and Ch. ,k   t'ai-tzû. and I have quoted

elsewhere a re-transcription   E to-shih, to be read as - Z t'ai-shih, which renders a Mongol

form taisi itself originating from the Chinese (TP, 1930, 44-45). The case may be the same here,