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0148 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2 / Page 148 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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boriat R

buat o oriat TAl horiad FA, FB horiat F, L

horiath P orati VL oriac(?) LT

oriach VA

oriat (TAi,) VB ouat TA3

This is the reading of F; RAMUSIO has « Boriat »; no parallel passage in Z. Since PAUTHIER

(Pa, 226) and YULE (Y, t, 308), it has been admitted that « Horiat » means the Oirat, a Mongol tribe which appears already in Chinghiz-khan's history and which, much later, and in much altered conditions, gave its name to the Oïrat, or Kalmuk, or Western Mongols. Plan Carpine writes a Voyrat » (icy, 56, 88). According to Rasidu-'d-Din, the Oirat had their seat, when Mongol history begins, in the region of the Kam River, that is to say the Yenissei. But there are some difficulties about « Horiat ».

The Mongolian form, from the Secret History of 1240 down to late chronicles, is Oyirat, and, in § 239 of the Secret History, « Tümän Oyirat », « Ten-thousand Oyirat », which is only one of the

numerous cases when a fixed number became attached to the name of a Turkish or Mongol tribe (the same chronicle knows the « Ten-Thousand Tübägän », a branch of the Kerait; the « Ten-

Thousand Kirghiz »; etc.). Ragidu-'d-Din writes5-1I Oïrat; the Chinese transcriptions vary

from 41 *IJ Wei-la ( YS, r, 6 a; not « Ta-shi Wei-la » as in Br, ii, 160) and   j); *IJ Wo-i-la = Oyirat

( YS, I, 6 b) to the ethnic   AIJ ÿ Wai-la-tai ( YS, 43, 3 b) or   *I J   Wai-la-tai (Cho-keng lu,
I, 15 b), i. e. Oiradai; in Ming times, the Oïrat are called in Chinese X ; IJ Wa-la, not a very accurate transcription.

From all these forms and transcriptions, it is clear that there has never been, in the pronunciation of the Mongol period, an h- at the beginning of the word. On the other hand, this is the only proper name beginning with h- in F, and RAMUSIO has a b-.

Apart from the name, Polo says that the Horiat are the only ones, outside of the Imperial family, to be allowed to drink the milk of the Imperial white mares, which must be the caracosmos (< _ *caracomos, qara-qumïz) of Rubrouck. But nothing, in the texts we know, corroborates Polo's statement. The tribe hereditarily in charge of the Imperial mares was the Qïpcaq, of Turkish origin (cf. JA, 1920, t, 169-171). As to the privilege of drinking milk otherwise reserved to the Imperial family, we would expect rather, as PALLADIUS said, the name of the Qonyrat or Onggirat (see « Ungrac »), to whose tribe most of the first rank Empresses belonged. No victory of Chinghiz-khan is particularly associated with the Oirat. One family of Oïrat married princesses, the Yen-an princesses of YS, 109, 2 b, but so also, apart from the Onggirat, did other tribes, for instance the Öngüt (see « Unc »).

In spite of these objections, I have no better solution to propose for the present. To read « Boriat » with RAMUSIO would not help, as the Buriat are practically unknown in Mongol history