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0033 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2 / Page 33 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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212. DRY (LONE) TREE   629

« sun » (cf. CORDIER, Odoric de Pordenone, 28), nor even, as far at least as the name is concerned, on HOUTUM-SCHINDLER'S assertion (JRAS, 1909, 157), quoted by CORDIER in Y, III, 31, that Polo's « Arbre Sol >- or « Arbre Seul » stands for the Persian dirait-i sol, « the sol tree », the cypress of Zoroaster (« sol » is said by HOUTUM-SCHINDLER to be one of the many dialectical forms of ;r särw, « cypress », but seems to be attested only in Kurdish, very far from Uorasàn). Not only did PAUTHIER blunder on the form of the name used by Polo, but also on the Arabic equivalents he proposed for it, as has been shown by YULE. PAUTHIER agreed, however, with the conclusion which was reached by MARDSEN from Polo's description, and with which all subsequent commentators and even HOUTUM-SCHINDLER have correctly concurred : Polo's «Lone Tree» can be only an Oriental Plane or eincir, Platanus orientalis (on Pers. (Yänâr or cinâr > Ar. sinâr, cf. YULE'S HobsonJobson2, 187). One of PAUTHIER'S additional reasons must, nevertheless, be dismissed. The texts in Court French say that the « bark » (escorche) of the tree was green on one side and white on the other; PAUTHIER insisted that this was the correct reading, and it was retained after him by YULE ( Y, I, 127) and CHARIGNON (Ch, I, 70). But, instead of « bark », the other, and more authoritative texts, including F and Z, give « leaves », which has been duly adopted by BENEDETTO and MOULE.

Polo's Lone Tree must have been a lofty Oriental Plane of imposing appearance, and probably a sacred tree. PAUTHIER thought he could identify it. In the Ta-Ch'ing i-t'ung chih, 420, 1 b,

mention is made of a « lone tree », which stood at the source of the   0-Iii River and could
spread its shade over 200 horsemen; in 1757, it was said to be several thousands of years old; the Qasaq (the Mongolian form of Qazaq) held it in great veneration and abstained from pronouncing its name. This name was known, however; it was *Ölü-yin (or *Örü-yin) yal a-modo, «the Lone Tree of the *Ohl (or *Örü) »; this is the pseudo-« Ohin Kok djamoto » in Imbault-Huart's Docum. sur l'Asie Centrale, 116. PAUTHIER maintained that the 0-Iii River was the « Ori », coming down from the Hindu-ku; and flowing near Kunduz in Badab an; the Lone Tree at its source would be Polo's Lone Tree; CORDIER (Odoric de Pordenone, 26) felt inclined to agree with PAUTHIER. But this is nonsense. Kunduz is to the east of Balkh, and Polo's Lone Tree was in ljorasàn, or at least still in Persia, which, according to Polo, did not extend to the east of Balkh. Moreover, PAUTHIER'S location of the tree of the Qasaq is untenable. His « Ori », which I do not know, is either the river of Kunduz itself, or a stream near it. But the 0-lü, whether it be *Ölü or *Örü, is expressly stated (loc. cit., 420, 2 a) to have lain in the north-western territory of the Qasaq of the Right, i. e. of the West, and must be looked for among the streams of the region of Akmolinsk, or of Omsk, if not even of the Ural. All that can be retained of the text adduced by PAUTHIER is one more case of a sacred « Lone Tree »; although located in a region which commonly spoke Turkish, it came to the knowledge of the Chinese in the 18th cent. under a Mongolian name, yah. a modo being exactly the same term which is recorded, south-east of Peking, in Polo's « Caccia-modun » (q. v.). Such sacred trees are revered to-day by Mohammedan Persians and Turks (cf. KHANIKOFF'S quotation in Y, I, 138-139), but were just as much by Mongols, in the Middle Ages, and have left traces in Mongol history. When, in 1303, Ghazan went through Nihàvand and Camcal (a Mongolian name, meaning « pass », « defile ») to Bisutûn, he passed near a tree where he had sought refuge seven years before in an hour of great danger, and he made of it a place of pilgrimage. Whereupon,