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0582 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 582 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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566   186. CUBLAI

MIRCOV (Doklady Ak. Nauk, 1924, 55-56; 1929, 170) saw in qubilai an ancient form of the present participle of a denominative verb qubila-, so that qubilai would mean « one who apportions »; he may be right, but I have never come across the word except as a proper name. It occurs first, before the time of Chinghiz-khan, in the Chin shih (cf. WANG Kuo-wei, Kuan-

t'ang chi-lin, 14, 25 a), which speaks of 1jj    If Hu-pi-la, *Qubila, of the Sal i'ut. Another
Qubilai is often mentioned in the Secret History; for various homonyms, cf. also Ber, I, 213; WANG Hui-tsu2, 38, 1 a.

In Chinese, the name of the Emperor Qubilai is written   Hu-pi-lieh. In his

edition of Rasidu-'d-Din, BLOCHET has adopted   Qûbilâi, but the usual reading of the mss.

is sy, Qûbiâi (or Qiibilâi; cf. Bl, II, 7), and the latter form is supported by y ; Qûblâ (or Qûbi a) in Juwaini (I, 255) and in Wassâf (Ha2, 32). The Syriac form is Qûbiâi (cf. BUDGE, The monks of Kubld i Khdn, 138, 159, 160). In all these transcriptions, as in Polo's « Cublai », the i of the second syllable is slurred, because this syllable was not accentuated. But an Armenian text gives « Qubila » (Rec. Hist. Crois., Arm., I, 606), and Hethum the historian writes « Cobila » (ibid., II, 160, 186, 294). As usual, the Georgian spelling is uncertain and abnormal; it hesitates between « Qubul » and « Qubli » (cf. BROSSET, Hist. de la Géorgie, I, I, 538). In a letter sent in 1278 by Nicholas III to Abaya, mention is made of « Quobley » (cf. GOLUBOVICH, Bibl. bio-bibi. II, 427). We find « Cobla » in the Latin translation of Aryun's letter of 1285 to Honorius IV (CHABOT, Histoire de Mar Jabalaha III, 190). A letter was addressed by Nicholas IV in 1289 to « Cobla Chan » (ibid., 216). The name was altered to « Holubeim » in the Catalan Map of 1375 (cf. Y', I, 300-301; CORDIER, L'Extrême-Orient dans l'Atlas Catalan, 15).

Qubilai, fourth son of Tolui, was born on September 23, 1215, ascended the throne on May 5, 1260, and died on February 18, 1294.

According to Polo, Qubilai was born « on the 28 day of the moon of the month of September » (cf. Vol. I, 220). MOULE is the first, I think, to have shown, in his foot-note to that passage, that Polo was absolutely correct. Polo, using a rough calculation, makes the Chinese year begin in February (cf. Vol. I, 222), which he counts as the first month; as a consequence, the 28th day of the moon of September is the 28th of the Chinese eighth moon, the very day of Qubilai's birth.

Polo's calculations of the other dates concerning Qubilai are based on the assumption that

he had begun to reign in 1256, so that he had been 42 years on the throne in 1298, the year in which Polo dictated his text (cf. Vol. I, 192-193); Polo, on the other hand, was not very far off the mark in saying that, in 1298, Qubilai was aged some « fourscore and five years »; as a matter of fact, had he been still alive, he would have been 84 years old in the Chinese way of reckoning, 83 years old for us. The date « 1288 » in some mss. is clearly corrupt. I hold the same opinion in regard to « MCCC et VIII » in FD, which, I think, gives no clue whatever to the year in which the FG version was made.

Polo's error in making Qubilai's reign begin in 1256, while the Emperor ascended the throne only in 1260, may be accounted for to a certain extent by the fact that, on his return from Yün-nan, Qubilai settled on the borders of North China outside of the Great Wall, and founded there in 1256, as his summer residence, the city of K'ai-p'ing which, a few years later, became