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0345 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 345 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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158. CINGHIS   329

with popular magic. The most likely cause of the death of Chinghiz-khan is the one given thirteen years later by the Secret History, a serious fall from his horse Josotu-boro.

Polo says that, when the Great Khans were being carried to the mountain where they used to be buried, the escort used to kill every living soul they met, saying : « Go serve your lord in the other world ». Twenty thousand men would have thus been killed when Mongka was brought back from Ssû-ch'uan to Mongolia. The Mongols slew the best horses of the deceased Great Khans for the same purpose (Vol. I, 167-168). According to Rasidu-'d-Din (Ber, III, 29, 119) all were killed who were met on the road when Chinghiz-khan's coffin was carried back from Tangut to Mongolia, so that the news of the Great Khan's decease should not spread before it was announced even after the body had reached the ordo. YULE (Y, I, 250) has also adduced a text of Rasid, quoted by D'OHSSON, on the sacrifice of forty girls and of horses. Several rites and beliefs have become more or less mixed up in these accounts. It is very likely that the Mongol leaders, as related by Rasid, wished to keep the news of the death secret as long as they had not returned to their native lands; and to achieve that purpose, they would not have hesitated to slaughter any number of people whose misfortune it had been to appear in their way. But there was also a fear that people meeting the procession might exert a baleful influence on the after-life of the deceased. When Güyük died, all the roads were occupied, and orders were issued that nobody was to go out; similar rules were observed at the funerals of Hülägü (QUATREMERE, Hist. des Mongols, 416; PÉTIS DE LA CROIX'S text quoted in Pa, 188, and Ch, I, 208-209, is of no value, being probably based on Polo himself). On the other hand, sacrifices of human beings and of animals by the grave of the deceased are a well-known ancient Altaic custom, and, in the case of the Manchu emperors, it was not suppressed until the end of the 17th or the beginning of the 18th century. It obtained also among the Chinese. In a note added by CORDIER (Y, I, 251), it is said, on DE GROOT'S authority, that the most ancient case of human sacrifice recorded in Chinese history occurred in 677 B.C. (read « 678 B.C. »), and the theory has long been prevalent among Sinologists that this was an innovation due to Altaic influence. But the excavations at An-yang have established that human as well as animal sacrifices were extensively practised by the Shang dynasty in the middle of the second millennium B.C. As to the girls sacrificed to the manes of Chinghiz-khan, this barbarous rite was not exercised at the time of his funeral, which is probably to be dated in the last months of 1227, but two years later in September 1229 in fact and after the accession of Ögödäi to the throne. When the festivities following his enthronement had come to an end, Ögödäi ordered that, « in agreement with the ancient yâsâq ( = code), the custom and the tradition, offerings of food should be made, three days in succession, to the soul of Chinghiz-khan, that forty beautiful girls should be selected from the families and the progeny of the generals who had been the common companions of [Chinghiz-khan], that they should be dressed in gorgeous attire and adorned with precious stones and jewels, and, together with excellent horses, they should be sent to join the soul of [Chinghiz-khan] » (Bl, 17). According to DE GROOT (Religious System of China, II, 437-438), at every funeral of a Mongol Emperor, « a white-powdered skin (a woman?) was buried along with the dead », but this rests on a mispunctuation and a misconstruction. The sentence does not refer to the grave, but to the coffin into which were «placed for use after death» (l hsün) two gold bottles, one cup, etc.; as