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0287 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 287 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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155. CIN


Sung shu, 97, 4 a). European scholars have all along been agreed that Chên-tan represents « Cinasthâna », but I must remark, (i) that the transcription is not satisfactory since we should expect at least *Chên-t'an (with *-t'ân; not the chên-t'an or chan-t'an with ancient *-d'dn of BEFEO, III, 253) ; (ii) that no Chinese commentary ever speaks of « Cinasthâna », either with reference to Chên-tan or in any other case; (iii) that no case is known where Chên-tan actually renders « Cinasthâna » of a Sanskrit original. Sanskrit texts speak of « Cina », or of « Cinadesa », «kingdom of China» (cf. BAGCHI, Deux lexiques sanskrit-chinois, 76, 295; BSOS, ix, 522, 523), or of «Cinabhûmi», «land of China » (for instance in the Arthaseistra and in JA, 1915, I, 51; the two V•Jt Ch'in-ti, «land of Ch'in », of BEFEO, iv, 149, probably also translate « Cinabhûmi », not «Cinadesa» or « Cinasthâna ») «Cinasthâna» is found nowhere.

Nor is it a form which is to be readily expected. Names of countries formed with -sthdna are known in Sanskrit, but mainly in the north-west, i. e. in regions which had submitted to Iranian influence and in which they were used in imitation of the Iranian -stdna -stein (the curious «Indrasthâna» of Hsüan-ying, ch. 18, in Pj, vi, 73 b, given as the original name of India, may reflect the double contamination of «Indu» and «Hindustân»; for «Indudesa», India, cf. BAGCHI, loc. cit., 76, 295). The only instance of « Cinasthâna » which I can trace at present is the cinasthanade of a Kharosthi tablet from Chinese Turkestan (cf. RAPSON, Kharosthi Inscriptions, p. 12, No. 35). Yet, if I do not believe that the « Chên-tan » of Chinese Buddhist texts actually translate a « Cinasthâna » of the Sanskrit originals, I have no doubt that they represent, etymologically, a form connected with it. But that form, in my opinion, instead of being the Sanskrit term « Cinasthâna », is an Iranian form of the type of Sogdian « Cynstn ». If we read this last name *Cinstan as I suggested above, the interconsonantic -s- is likely to be omitted in the transcription and we have *Cintan, which is exactly the original pre-supposed by Chên-tan. Of course, the original of Chên-tan need not necessarily be Sogdian, but may be of a type similar to the Sogdian *Cinstan. The names ending in -stana of the region of Khotan, and the very coexistence of Khotan and Gostana (see «Cotan ») are perhaps to be considered as a case parallel to that of *Cinstan and Chên-tan (*Cintan). It is well known that Khotan played an important part in the earliest spread of Buddhism to China. Whatever the true original of Chên-tan may be, it could not have been Skr. Cinasthâna, and it was only because Chên-tan had become current in early Chinese Buddhism that its use was retained as a possible rendering of « Cina », even after the accurate transcription of the Chih-na type had been adopted. The various Chên-tan forms were no longer understood; one of them was interpreted in connection with cinnabar (4IJ- tan) ; another was explained as referring to China's position in the East, where the sun rose (p tan; this occurs already in ch. 5 of Fa-lip's Pien-chêng lun, completed in 626;

, VIII, 47 a). Such fanciful hypotheses are on a level with the opinion of those who, losing sight of the Chinese origin of « Cina », interpreted it as civara, « garment » because civilized China had «waistband and cap », or as cintana, «thought», because the Chinese were such deep

thinkers (   x, 5 a, 121 a).

A last word on the subject of Chên-tan : even if the term comes from Khotan, and is not derived from a Sogdian original, it has left no trace in our Khotanese (the so-called «Saka ») texts. Sthdna occurs in them in the Prakrit form thdna (cf. KoNOw, Saka Studies, 185).