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0241 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 241 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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126. CATAI


The Chinese account of Yeh-Iü Ta-shih also says that he took the title of   Q,   Ko-êrh-

han, written [NJ q, 7 K'uo-êrh-han in one of the biographies of YS, 120, 7 a; according to the vocabulary of the Liao shih, 116, 9 b, ko-êrh-han is the title of the sovereigns « north of the Desert », i. e. in Mongolia. The two Chinese transcriptions represent respectively *görhan and *körhan, but seem to have been made by people who found the title in Uighuro-Mongol writing, and had no tradition as to its correct pronunciation; the original should be read görhan or körhan. Speaking of the Qara-Hitai, Juwaini (II, 861') gives it as 3l>),( giir-hân, and adds that it meant hân-i hânein, « khan of khan » (« king of kings ») ; cf. the « chanchana » of a Latin translation made in 1221 from the Arabic in ZARNCKE, Der Priester Johannes, 31-32.

It would not be necessary to denounce the confusion made by HAMMER and already

dispelled by ERDMANN (Temudschin, 577-581) between gür-khan and Mong. kürâgiin or kürgan, « son-in-law », and especially « son-in-law of the Emperor » (Ch. fu-ma), if it had not been repeated by HOWORTH (JRAS, 1876, 274) and in BRETSCHNEIDER'S index (Br, II, 338). The two words can have nothing in common.

BARTHOLD, who by some oversight states that the title gür-hân is only known in connection

with the Qara-Hïtai, suggests that the first part may represent the old Turkish word kür or kill, known from the Orkhon inscriptions, and also from Gardézi and Kasyari. It is true that there is a Turkish word kill, occurring for instance in a name like Kül-tegin or a title like kill-for; on the other hand, the name is given as Kur-tegin by Gardézi (BARTHOLD, (tcët o poézdké, 90, 114-115), and the title as kiiir-sôl by Tabari (cf. MARQUART, Histor. Glossen, 181-182; CHAVANNES, Doc. sur les Tou-kiue, 285; Mi, 301). Kasyari only knows a word kür, «brave» (BROCKELMANN, 117), but says that the Uighur sovereign bears the title of «Köl-Biigä khan », « the khan as wise as a lake » (BROCKELMANN, 245). It may be that kill was the northern and eastern form of the word which became kür in the west, but it is also possible that an independent word kill, unknown in the west, was contaminated by the better known kür in Gardézi's source, and was misunderstood as köl in the Uighur title by Kagyari; I do not doubt that the title of the Uighur

sovereign was Küi-Biigä khan, and that it had nothing to do with köl, « lake ».

But there is no reason, in my opinion, to seek for a Turkish explanation of gür-hân. While it is true that the title is unattested before the Qara-Hitai, it is well known as the title of the Kerait sovereigns, and we also find it adopted in the first period of the history of Chinghizkhan by his Mongol rival Jamuqa (cf. Secret History, §§ 141, 150, 177, 198; also § 203; Oh, I, 63; Ber, II, 124). In the case of Jamuqa, Raidu-'d-Din adds that gür-hân means « Emperor of

sultans and kings ». In the Secret History, the giir of gür-hân is interpreted as   p'u,
« general », « universal ». I have no doubt that D'OHSSON gave long ago the true explanation (Oh, I, 99) when he said that gür, in Mongolian, meant « whole », and that the true meaning of gür-hân was « universal khan ». Uighuro-Mongol and Arabic writings do not distinguish between g- and k-, and the Chinese transcriptions of the Secret History often give g- for words which are actually pronounced with a k- in Mongolian (for instance gür-, « to reach », instead of kur-; gaean, « strength », instead of kU&ln, etc.). Now, there is in Mongolian a word kür, generally rendered as « crowd ». RAMSTEDT (Kalm. Wörterbuch, 246) says that the word is onomatopoeic for a « great noise » and that the meaning crowd is secondary. But the term kür