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0431 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 431 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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181. COTAN


man sources only give Uotan, and we must turn to Central Asiatic and Far Eastern works for fresh mentions of the Altaic form.

After Kâgyari, the next mention in date occurs in Yeh-lü Ch'u-ts'ai's Hsi-yu lu, written in 1229. Yeh-lü Ch'u-ts'ai had accompanied Chinghiz-khan in his campaign to the West (1219- 1224). He never visited Khotan, but when speaking of Beg-baliq, the great centre to the north of the T'ien-shan, he devotes a few words to places of Chinese Turkestan situated more to the

south; amongst them, he mentions «   jt Wu-tuan (*Udon) which is the same as the kingdom
of Yü-t'ien of the T'ang dynasty » (Br, i, 16). Yeh-lü Ch'u-ts'ai was not a very strict phonetician, and the -o- of the second syllable implies in Altaic an o- also in the first. The form he had heard must have been Odon.

A few years later, the name of Khotan appears again in the Secret History (§ 263) in the form Wu-tan = Udan. But this form calls for comment. The Secret History was compiled in Mongolian in 1240, but the scholars who transcribed it with Chinese characters at the end of the 14th cent. had no tradition to fall back on as to the true pronunciation of many proper names. The name written in Uighur-Mongol writing which they rendered as Udan could also be read *Utan, *Odan, *Otan. The other Chinese transcriptions of the name during the Mongol dynasty leave no doubt that we should read Odan, not Udan (the form in the Mongol manuscript of Ulan-bâtor lacks the final -n and is of no avail as it can be read Oda, Uda, Ota, or Uta). The Chinese transcription of the Secret History is nevertheless important in two respects. First, it shows that, in 1240, the official spelling in Uighur-Mongolian writing was still Odan, in agreement with the oldest Chinese borrowed form Yü-t'ien, *'Odan, and though the real pronunciation must have then been Odon as in Yü-tun, *'Odon. Secondly, if we had only Chinese transcriptions giving Odon and the very faulty Ulan-batôr manuscript, we would be in doubt whether the name was pronounced Odon or Ödön. But *Ödön would be based on a more ancient *Ödän, and even without an actual and ancient mention of the name in Uighur-Mongol writing, we know that the original name was Odan, not *Ödän, because if it had been *Ödän, the transcribers, guided by the Uighur-Mongol spelling of the initial syllabe, would have transcribed it *Wu-tien, not Wu-tan.

Khotan is very often mentioned in YS, either as Yü-t'ien or more often as 0 ri; Wo-tuan, Odon. The two forms betray the origin of the documents used by the compilers : those which give Yü-t'ien had originally been written in Chinese, while those which give Wo-tuan, Odon, had been translated into Chinese from the Mongolian. BRETSCHNEIDER (Br, II, 49), quoting passages from the YS, transcribes in five lines « Wu-duan », « Wa-duan » and « 0-duan »; but the Chinese characters are the same, Wo-tuan, in all three cases. I know of no exception, save for the frequent

corruption of j wo to   kan (for instance in Yüan tien clung, 9, 3 a; 34, 25 a). At the
beginning of the Ming dynasty, however, the name of Khotan was given to a military colony on the western frontier of China, in the same manner as another was called Küsän, i. e. Ku6ä, and

this time the name is written    A-tuan, which would seem to represent *Adon (Br, II, 203-

210). But we have there very probably a case in which   a is used with its o reading, just as

we find, in the Mongol period, the name of the Russians transcribed Wu-lu-ssû, Wo-lo-ssû and Abp]]-lo-ssû (or 0-lo-ssû); it is however quite certain that the name always was Urus or Oros, not