The Travels of Marco Polo/Book 2/Chapter 9

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Concerning the Great Kaan's Sons[edit]

The Emperor hath, by those four wives of his, twenty-two male children; the eldest of whom was called CHINKIN for the love of the good Chinghis Kaan, the first Lord of the Tartars. And this Chinkin, as the Eldest Son of the Kaan, was to have reigned after his father's death; but, as it came to pass, he died. He left a son behind him, however, whose name is TEMUR, and he is to be the Great Kaan and Emperor after the death of his Grandfather, as is but right; he being the child of the Great Kaan's eldest son. And this Temur is an able and brave man, as he hath already proven on many occasions.[1]

The Great Kaan hath also twenty-five other sons by his concubines; and these are good and valiant soldiers, and each of them is a great chief. I tell you moreover that of his children by his four lawful wives there are seven who are kings of vast realms or provinces, and govern them well; being all able and gallant men, as might be expected. For the Great Kaan their sire is, I tell you, the wisest and most accomplished man, the greatest Captain, the best to govern men and rule an Empire, as well as the most valiant, that ever has existed among all the Tribes of Tartars.[2]




  1. 1.0 1.1 Kublai had a son older than CHIMKIN or CHINGKIM, to whom Hammer's Genealogical Table gives the name of Jurji, and attributes a son called Ananda. The Chinese authorities of Gaubil and Pauthier call him Turchi or Torchi, i.e. Dorje, "Noble Stone," the Tibetan name of a sacred Buddhist emblem in the form of a dumb-bell, representing the Vajra or Thunderbolt. Probably Dorje died early, as in the passage we shall quote from Wassaf also Chingkim is styled the Eldest Son: Marco is probably wrong in connecting the name of the latter with that of Chinghiz. Schmidt says that he does not know what Chingkim means.

    [Mr. Parker says that Chen kim was the third son of Kublai (China Review, xxiv. p. 94.) Teimur, son of Chen kim, wore the temple name (miao-hao) of Ch'eng Tsung and the title of reign (nien-hao) of Yuen Cheng and Ta Teh.--H. C.]

    Chingkim died in the 12th moon of 1284-1285, aged 43. He had received a Chinese education, and the Chinese Annals ascribe to him all the virtues which so often pertain in history to heirs apparent who have not reigned.

    "When Kublai approached his 70th year," says Wassaf, "he desired to raise his eldest son Chimkin to the position of his representative and declared successor, during his own lifetime; so he took counsel with the chiefs, in view to giving the Prince a share of his authority and a place on the Imperial Throne. The chiefs, who are the Pillars of Majesty and Props of the Empire, represented that His Majesty's proposal to invest his Son, during his own lifetime, with Imperial authority, was not in accordance with the precedents and Institutes (Yasa) of the World-conquering Padshah Chinghiz Khan; but still they would consent to execute a solemn document, securing the Kaanship to Chimkin, and pledging themselves to lifelong obedience and allegiance to him. It was, however, the Divine Fiat that the intended successor should predecease him who bestowed the nomination.... The dignitaries of the Empire then united their voices in favour of TEIMUR, the son of Chimkin."

    Teimur, according to the same authority, was the third son of Chimkin; but the eldest, Kambala, squinted; the second, Tarmah (properly Tarmabala for Dharmaphala, a Buddhist Sanskrit name) was rickety in constitution; and on the death of the old Kaan (1294) Teimur was unanimously named to the Throne, after some opposition from Kambala, which was put down by the decided bearing of the great soldier Bayan. (Schmidt, p. 399; De Mailla, IX. 424; Gaubil, 203; Wassaf, 46.)

    [The Rev. W. S. Ament (Marco Polo in Cambaluc, p. 106), makes the following remarks regarding this young prince (Chimkin): "The historians give good reasons for their regard for Chen Chin. He had from early years exhibited great promise and had shown great proficiency in the military art, in government, history, mathematics, and the Chinese classics. He was well acquainted with the condition and numbers of the inhabitants of Mongolia and China, and with the topography and commerce of the Empire (Howorth). He was much beloved by all, except by some of his father's own ministers, whose lives were anything but exemplary. That Kublai had full confidence in his son is shown by the fact that he put the collecting of taxes in his hands. The native historians represent him as economical in the use of money and wise in the choice of companions. He carefully watched the officers in his charge, and would tolerate no extortion of the people. After droughts, famines or floods, he would enquire into the condition of the people and liberally supply their needs, thus starting them in life again. Polo ascribes all these virtues to the Khan himself. Doubtless he possessed them in greater or less degree, but father and son were one in all these benevolent enterprises."--H. C.]

  2. 2.0 2.1 The Chinese Annals, according to Pauthier and Gaubil, give only ten sons to Kublai, at least by his legitimate wives; Hammer's Table gives twelve. It is very probable that xxii. was an early clerical error in the texts of Polo for xii. Dodeci indeed occurs in one MS. (No. 37 of our Appendix F), though not one of much weight.

    Of these legitimate sons Polo mentions, in different parts of his work, five by name. The following is the list from Hammer and D'Ohsson, with the Chinese forms from Pauthier in parentheses. The seven whose names are in capitals had the title of Wang or "King" of particular territories, as M. Pauthier has shown from the Chinese Annals, thus confirming Marco's accuracy on that point.

    I. Jurji or Dorje (Torchi). II. CHIMKIN or CHINGKIM (Yu Tsung, King of Yen, i.e. Old Peking). III. MANGALAI (Mankola, "King of the Pacified West"), mentioned by Polo (infra, ch. xli.) as King of Kenjanfu or Shensi. IV. NUMUGAN (Numukan, "Pacifying King of the North"), mentioned by Polo (Bk. IV. ch. ii.) as with King George joint leader of the Kaan's army against Kaidu. V. Kuridai (not in Chinese List). VI. HUKAJI (Hukochi, "King of Yunnan"), mentioned by Polo (infra, ch. xlix.) as King of Carajan. VII. AGHRUKJI or UKURUJI (Gaoluchi, "King of Siping" or Tibet). VIII. Abaji (Gaiyachi?). IX. KUKJU or GEUKJU (Khokhochu, "King of Ning" or Tangut). X. Kutuktemur (Hutulu Temurh). XI. TUKAN (Thohoan, "King of Chinnan"). His command lay on the Tungking frontier, where he came to great grief in 1288, in consequence of which he was disgraced. (See Cathay, p. 272.) XII. Temkan (not in Chinese List). Gaubil's Chinese List omits Hutulu Temurh, and introduces a prince called Gantanpouhoa as 4th son.

    M. Pauthier lays great stress on Polo's intimate knowledge of the Imperial affairs (p. 263) because he knew the name of the Hereditary Prince to be Teimur; this being, he says, the private name which could not be known until after the owner's death, except by those in the most confidential intimacy. The public only then discovered that, like the Irishman's dog, his real name was Turk, though he had always been called Toby! But M. Pauthier's learning has misled him. At least the secret must have been very badly kept, for it was known in Teimur's lifetime not only to Marco, but to Rashiduddin in Persia, and to Hayton in Armenia; to say nothing of the circumstance that the name Temur Khaghan is also used during that Emperor's life by Oljaitu Khan of Persia in writing to the King of France a letter which M. Pauthier himself republished and commented upon. (See his book, p. 780.)