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0304 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 304 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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288   158. CINGHIS

exceptional events ; there can be no doubt that the original Secret History had no date, and that the whole sentence is a late interpolation.

CHARIGNON says (Ch, I, 171) that RAMUSto gives 1162 as the date of the birth of Chinghizkhan, but no text of Polo, in RAMUSIO or elsewhere, says anything about his birth. The date of « 1162 » in RAMUSIO is that of Chinghiz-khan's accession to the sovereignty, corresponding to « 1187 » in most mss, « 1287 » in a few others, and « 1172 » in V (« 1172 » for R in Vol. I, 162, n. 3, is a slip). I shall speak of this further on.

THE CLOT OF BLOOD. — According to the Secret History (§ 59), Chinghiz-khan was born with

a clot of blood (nödün   modern Mong. nojin, nöji, Kaim. nödzic) in the shape of a knuckle-
bone (si'a, si'ai, class. Mong. siyai, Kalm. sayci) in his right hand; this clot of blood is also mentioned in Shêng-wu ch'in-chêng lu, 1 b, in YS, 1, 2 a, and in Rasidu-'d-Din (Ber, II, 87). Buddhist works of the beginning of our era like the Asokâvadâna (cf. PRZYLUSKI, La légende de l'Empereur

Açoka, 400-401) and the Tsa a-han ching (ch. 25; Meiji Tripit. of Tokyo,   , III, 45 a) have a
prophecy about the cruel kings who will destroy the Buddhist Law. The fourth one they say will be a king of Kausambi, called Mahâsena. Mahâsena will have a son who will be born clad in armour, and holding blood in his hand. Five hundred chiefs of families will at that same moment have five hundred sons, who will all be born clad in armour and holding blood in their hands. On that day, a great rain of blood will fall. The diviners will foretell that Mahâsena's son will reign over the whole world, but that, unfortunately, his victims will be many. The clot of blood in the hand of Chinghiz-khan is interpreted in almost the same terms on the birth of the child in Abü-'l-Ghâzi (cf. DESMAISONS, Hist. des Mogols, II, 73). The coincidence is the more striking when we remember that Chinghiz-khan, by the very title he assumed, pretended to be a universal monarch and that later texts of the Mongol period unreservedly call him by the corresponding Indian title of cakravartin. Yet, there is no trace of Lamaism, or of Buddhism in general, in the Secret History, entirely pervaded as it is with the shamanistic spirit. The probable explanation is that the detail of the clot of blood of the early Buddhist texts was or became on element of folklore which spread among the shamanistic tribes of Upper Asia, and of which we ought to be able to discover other traces.

ERDMANN (Temudschin, 255), citing DUBEUX, La Perse, 230, says that, in the Iranian tradition, Rustam, like Chinghiz-khan, was born with blood in his hand. The case is not so simple, and I had to turn to my colleague E. BENVENISTE to get a more precise explanation of the facts. The passage relating to Rustam's miraculous birth varies in the different redactions of the . âh-nâmäh. In the editions due to MOHL and to VULLERS, nothing is said of blood in Rustam's hands. But, in the so-called Calcutta text (MACAN ed., I, 163, vv. 11-12), we read : « The hair of his head was all red, and his face like blood. Like the bright sun, he made his appearance. He was born from his mother with both hands full of blood (di)" dast-as pur az la ûn za-mâdar bazâd). Nobody had ever seen such a child. » This mention of the hands full of blood does not occur in the traditional accounts of Rustam, nor has it been commented upon by modern interpreters. It is not easy to decide whether it belongs to Firdaiasi's original text, or is an interpolation prompted by the description given in the preceding lines. But, even if we admit that it is an interpolation,