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0396 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 396 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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380   161. CIORCIA

nii-ku transcribes the Ch'i-tan word for « gold » (Liao shih, 31, 4 a; 116, 12 b). Unfortunately we do not know the true Ch'i-tan original forms of any of these names, and consequently, while they prove the use of nü in the transcription of the first syllable of Ch'i-tan names or words,

they do not help to establish the real phonetic value of the initial consonant. So we are left with the troublesome discrepancy between Nü-chên and *Jurcen. The case of nü-ku is particu-

larly puzzling. The Ch'i-tan spoke a Mongol dialect. The usual Mongol word for « gold » is altan, clearly connected with Turk, altin, altun (see « Altai »). We know also the Jucen word, *ale'u'un, *alcu, and the Manchu word is aisin (see « Roi Dor »). But nü-ku recalls none of them. It would be a desperate solution to read nü-ku as *ju-ku and to see in the latter term an apheretic form corresponding with the Jucen *al5u'un.

I have translated above a sentence in which Ch'ien-lung, followed by the authors of the Man-chou yüan-liu k'ao, connects the name of the Nü-chên with that of the ancient Su-shên.

The starting point of this theory is the statement in the San-kuo chih of the third century

(30, 7 b) that the E   I-lou (*•dap-lau) of the beginning of our era were the same as the ancient

Su-shên. During the Six Dynasties, the I-lou were replaced by the   Wu-chi (*Mivat-kiât),

whose name was transcribed;   Mo-ho (*Muât-yât) in the seventh century, and the Nü-chên

are often said to be scions of the Mo-ho. The consequence was that the Nü-chên were already in the middle of the twelfth century said to be descendants of the Su-shên in the Sung-mo chih-

wên and the San-ch'ao pei-mêng hui-pien, followed by the subsequent writers of late Sung

times. The Emperor Ch'ien-lung could not but accept an identification which provided such an ancient pedigree for the Nü-chên, considered by him as the true predecessors and almost as the

ancestors of his own dynasty. TERRIEN DE LACOUPERIE (JRAS, 1889, 436-437) believed that he could corroborate the identification both historically and phonetically, and this solution is unreservedly accepted by CHARIGNON (Ch., i, 168) and GIBERT (Dictionnaire, 140, 375, 812). It is however untenable.

First of all, TERRIEN DE LACOUPERIE's phonetic discussion is valueless. The name of the

Su-shên occurs in texts prior to the Christian era as   Su-shên (*Siuk-zién)   'fib Hsi-shên

(*Siak-zién) and 14 frt Chi-shên (*Tsiak-zién). All these transcriptions suppose a -k at the end of the first syllable, and it was a grievous mistake of TERRIEN DE LACOUPERIE to maintain that the ancient Chinese used to represent a foreign syllable ending with an -r (as in *Jurcen) with a character which was pronounced with a final -k. Not one example of it has been adduced hitherto.

But it is mainly on historical grounds that the equation of the Nü-chên with the Su-shên must be rejected. GIBERT says that the Su-shên came to the Court of the Emperor Shun in

«2231 B. c. ». Everybody would wish to have genuine Chinese records of such an early date; but unfortunately all the stories about the Su-shên prior to the middle of the first millennium B. c. are of a legendary character. From a passage of the Tso chuan, under the 9th year of Duke Chao (553 B. c.), we may infer that there was probably a tribe then known a Su-shên on the northern borders of the Chinese territory, but certainly not so far away as eastern Manchuria. All the other mentions of the Su-shên belong to the stock-in-trade of folk-lore. The virtue of the Emperor extends all over the world, and is proved by the arrival of far-away tribes; the