The Travels of Marco Polo/Book 1/Chapter 58

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Of the Kingdom of Egrigaia[edit]

Starting again from Erguiul you ride eastward for eight days, and then come to a province called EGRIGAIA, containing numerous cities and villages, and belonging to Tangut.[1] The capital city is called CALACHAN.[2] The people are chiefly Idolaters, but there are fine churches belonging to the Nestorian Christians. They are all subjects of the Great Kaan. They make in this city great quantities of camlets of camel's wool, the finest in the world; and some of the camlets that they make are white, for they have white camels, and these are the best of all. Merchants purchase these stuffs here, and carry them over the world for sale.[3]

We shall now proceed eastward from this place and enter the territory that was formerly Prester John's.






  1. 1.0 1.1 Chinghiz invaded Tangut in all five times, viz. in 1205, 1207, 1209 (or according to Erdmann, 1210-1211), 1218, and 1226-1227, on which last expedition he died.

    A. In the third invasion, according to D'Ohsson's Chinese guide (Father Hyacinth), he took the town of Uiraca, and the fortress of Imen, and laid siege to the capital, then called Chung-sing or Chung-hing, now Ning-hsia.

    Rashid, in a short notice of this campaign, calls the first city Erica, Erlaca, or, as Erdmann has it, Artacki. In De Mailla it is Ulahai.

    B. On the last invasion (1226), D'Ohsson's Chinese authority says that Chinghiz took Kanchau and Suhchau, Cholo and Khola in the province of Liangcheu, and then proceeded to the Yellow River, and invested Lingchau, south of Ning-hsia.

    Erdmann, following his reading of Rashiduddin, says Chinghiz took the cities of Tangut, called Arucki, Kachu, Sichu, and Kamichu, and besieged Deresgai (D'Ohsson, Derssekai), whilst Shidergu, the King of Tangut, betook himself to his capital Artackin.

    D'Ohsson, also professing to follow Rashid, calls this "his capital Irghai, which the Mongols call Ircaya." Klaproth, illustrating Polo, reads "Eyircai, which the Mongols call Eyircaya."

    Petis de la Croix, relating the same campaign and professing to follow Fadlallah, i.e. Rashiduddin, says the king "retired to his fortress of Arbaca."

    C. Sanang Setzen several times mentions a city called Irghai, apparently in Tangut; but all we can gather as to his position is that it seems to have lain east of Kanchau.

    We perceive that the Arbaca of P. de la Croix, the Eyircai of Klaproth, the Uiraca of D'Ohsson, the Artacki or Artackin of Erdmann, are all various readings or forms of the same name, and are the same with the Chinese form Ulahai of De Mailla, and most probably the place is the Egrigaia of Polo.

    We see also that Erdmann mentions another place Aruki ([Arabic]) in connection with Kanchau and Suhchau. This is, I suspect, the Erguiul of Polo, and perhaps the Irghai of Sanang Setzen.

    Rashiduddin seems wrong in calling Ircaya the capital of the king, a circumstance which leads Klaproth to identify it with Ning-hsia. Pauthier, identifying Ulahai with Egrigaya, shows that the former was one of the circles of Tangut, but not that of Ning-hsia. Its position, he says, is uncertain. Klaproth, however, inserts it in his map of Asia, in the era of Kublai (Tabl. Hist. pl. 22), as Ulakhai to the north of Ning-hsia, near the great bend eastward of the Hwang-Ho. Though it may have extended in this direction, it is probable, from the name referred to in next note, that Egrigaia or Ulahai is represented by the modern principality of ALASHAN, visited by Prjevalsky in 1871 and 1872.

    [New travels and researches enable me to say that there can be no doubt that Egrigaia = Ning-hsia. Palladius (l.c. 18) says: "Egrigaia is Erigaia of the Mongol text. Klaproth was correct in his supposition that it is modern Ning-h'ia. Even now the Eleuths of Alashan call Ning-h'ia, Yargai. In M. Polo's time this department was famous for the cultivation of the Safflower (carthamus tinctorius). [Siu t'ung kien, A.D. 1292.]" Mr. Rockhill (cf. his Diary of a Journey) writes to me that Ning-hsia is still called Irge Khotun by Mongols at the present day. M. Bonin (J. As., 1900. I. 585) mentions the same fact.

    Palladius (19) adds: "Erigaia is not to be confounded with Urahai, often mentioned in the history of Chingis Khan's wars with the Tangut kingdom. Urahai was a fortress in a pass of the same name in the Alashan Mountains. Chingis Khan spent five months there (an. 1208), during which he invaded and plundered the country in the neighbourhood. [Si hia shu shi.] The Alashan Mountains form a semicircle 500 li in extent, and have over forty narrow passes leading to the department of Ning-hia; the broadest and most practicable of these is now called Ch'i-mu-K'ow; it is not more than 80 feet broad. [Ning hia ju chi.] It may be that the Urahai fortress existed near this pass."

    "From Liang-chow fu, M. Polo follows a special route, leaving the modern postal route on his right; the road he took has, since the time of the Emperor K'ang-hi, been called the courier's route." (Palladius, 18.)--H. C.]

  2. 2.0 2.1 Calachan, the chief town of Egrigaia, is mentioned, according to Klaproth, by Rashiduddin, among the cities of Tangut, as KALAJAN. The name and approximate position suggest, as just noticed, identity with Alashan, the modern capital of which, called by Prjevalsky Dyn-yuan-yin, stands some distance west of the Hwang-Ho, in about lat. 39 deg.. Polo gives no data for the interval between this and his next stage.

    [The Dyn-yuan-yin of Prjevalsky is the camp of Ting-yuan-yng or Fu-ma- fu of M. Bonin, the residence of the Si-wang (western prince), of Alashan, an abbreviation of Alade-shan (shan, mountain in Chinese), Alade = Eleuth or Oeloet; the sister of this prince married a son of Prince Tuan, the chief of the Boxers. (La Geographie, 1901. I. 118.) Palladius (l.c. 19) says: "Under the name of Calachan, Polo probably means the summer residence of the Tangut kings, which was 60 li from Ning-hia, at the foot of the Alashan Mountains. It was built by the famous Tangut king Yuen-hao, on a large scale, in the shape of a castle, in which were high terraces and magnificent buildings. Traces of these buildings are visible to this day. There are often found coloured tiles and iron nails 1 foot, and even 2 feet long. The last Tangut kings made this place their permanent residence, and led there an indolent and sensual life. The Chinese name of this residence was Ho-lan shan Li-Kung. There is sufficient reason to suppose that this very residence is named (under the year 1226) in the Mongol text Alashai nuntuh; and in the chronicles of the Tangut Kingdom, Halahachar, otherwise Halachar apparently in the Tangut language. Thus M. Polo's Calachan can be identified with the Halachar of the Si hia shu shi, and can be taken to designate the Alashan residence of the Tangut kings."--H. C.]

  3. 3.0 3.1 Among the Buraets and Chinese at Kiakhta snow-white camels, without albino character, are often seen, and probably in other parts of Mongolia. (See Erdmann, II. 261.) Philostratus tells us that the King of Taxila furnished white camels to Apollonius. I doubt if the present King of Taxila, whom Anglo-Indians call the Commissioner of Rawal Pindi, could do the like.

    Cammellotti appear to have been fine woollen textures, by no means what are now called camlets, nor were they necessarily of camel's wool, for those of Angora goat's wool were much valued. M. Douet d'Arcq calls it "a fine stuff of wool approaching to our Cashmere, and sometimes of silk." Indeed, as Mr. Marsh points out, the word is Arabic, and has nothing to do with Camel in its origin; though it evidently came to be associated therewith. Khamlat is defined in F. Johnson's Dict.: "Camelot, silk and camel's hair; also all silk or velvet, especially pily and plushy," and Khaml is "pile or plush." Camelin was a different and inferior material. There was till recently a considerable import of different kinds of woollen goods from this part of China into Ladakh, Kashmir, and the northern Panjab. [Leaving Ning-hsia, Mr. Rockhill writes (Diary, 1892, 44): "We passed on the road a cart with Jardine and Matheson's flag, coming probably from Chung-Wei Hsien, where camel's wool is sold in considerable quantities to foreigners. This trade has fallen off very much in the last three or four years on account of the Chinese middlemen rolling the wool in the dirt so as to add to its weight, and practising other tricks on buyers."--H. C.] Among the names of these were Sling, Shirum, Gurun, and Khoza, said to be the names of the towns in China where the goods were made. We have supposed Sling to be Sining (note 2, ch. lvii.), but I can make nothing of the others. Cunningham also mentions "camlets of camel's hair," under the name of Suklat, among imports from the same quarter. The term Suklat is, however, applied in the Panjab trade returns to broadcloth. Does not this point to the real nature of the siclatoun of the Middle Ages? It is, indeed, often spoken of as used for banners, which implies that it was not a heavy woollen:

       "There was mony gonfanoun
       Of gold, sendel, and siclatoun."
           (King Alisaundre, in Weber, I. 85.)

    But it was also a material for ladies' robes, for quilts, leggings, housings, pavilions. Franc. Michel does not decide what it was, only that it was generally red and wrought with gold. Dozy renders it "silk stuff brocaded with gold"; but this seems conjectural. Dr. Rock says it was a thin glossy silken stuff, often with a woof of gold thread, and seems to derive it from the Arabic sakl, "polishing" (a sword), which is improbable. Perhaps the name is connected with Sikiliyat, "Sicily."

    (Marsh on Wedgwood, and on Webster in N. Y. Nation, 1867; Douet D'Arcq, p. 355; Punjab Trade Rep., App. ccxix.-xx.; Ladak, 242; Fr.-Michel Rech. I. 221 seqq.; Dozy, Dict. des Vetements, etc.; Dr. Rock's Ken. Catal. xxxix.-xl.)