The Travels of Marco Polo/Book 2/Chapter 5

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How the Great Kaan Caused Nayan to be Put to Death[edit]

And when the Great Kaan learned that Nayan was taken right glad was he, and commanded that he should be put to death straightway and in secret, lest endeavours should be made to obtain pity and pardon for him, because he was of the Kaan's own flesh and blood. And this was the way in which he was put to death: he was wrapt in a carpet, and tossed to and fro so mercilessly that he died. And the Kaan caused him to be put to death in this way because he would not have the blood of his Line Imperial spilt upon the ground or exposed in the eye of Heaven and before the Sun.[1]

And when the Great Kaan had gained this battle, as you have heard, all the Barons and people of Nayan's provinces renewed their fealty to the Kaan. Now these provinces that had been under the Lordship of Nayan were four in number; to wit, the first called CHORCHA; the second CAULY; the third BARSCOL; the fourth SIKINTINJU. Of all these four great provinces had Nayan been Lord; it was a very great dominion.[2]

And after the Great Kaan had conquered Nayan, as you have heard, it came to pass that the different kinds of people who were present, Saracens and Idolaters and Jews,[3] and many others that believed not in God, did gibe those that were Christians because of the cross that Nayan had borne on his standard, and that so grievously that there was no bearing it. Thus they would say to the Christians: "See now what precious help this God's Cross of yours hath rendered Nayan, who was a Christian and a worshipper thereof." And such a din arose about the matter that it reached the Great Kaan's own ears. When it did so, he sharply rebuked those who cast these gibes at the Christians; and he also bade the Christians be of good heart, "for if the Cross had rendered no help to Nayan, in that It had done right well; nor could that which was good, as It was, have done otherwise; for Nayan was a disloyal and traitorous Rebel against his Lord, and well deserved that which had befallen him. Wherefore the Cross of your God did well in that It gave him no help against the right." And this he said so loud that everybody heard him. The Christians then replied to the Great Kaan: "Great King, you say the truth indeed, for our Cross can render no one help in wrong-doing; and therefore it was that It aided not Nayan, who was guilty of crime and disloyalty, for It would take no part in his evil deeds."

And so thenceforward no more was heard of the floutings of the unbelievers against the Christians; for they heard very well what the Sovereign said to the latter about the Cross on Nayan's banner, and its giving him no help.




  1. 1.0 1.1 Friar Ricold mentions this Tartar maxim: "One Khan will put another to death, to get possession of the throne, but he takes great care that the blood be not spilt. For they say that it is highly improper that the blood of the Great Khan should be spilt upon the ground; so they cause the victim to be smothered somehow or other." The like feeling prevails at the Court of Burma, where a peculiar mode of execution without bloodshed is reserved for Princes of the Blood. And Kaempfer, relating the conspiracy of Faulcon at the Court of Siam, says that two of the king's brothers, accused of participation, were beaten to death with clubs of sandal-wood, "for the respect entertained for the blood-royal forbids its being shed." See also note 6, ch. vi. Bk. I., on the death of the Khalif Mosta'sim Billah. (Pereg. Quat. p. 115; Mission to Ava, p. 229; Kaempfer; I. 19.)
  2. 2.0 2.1 CHORCHA is the Manchu country, Niuche of the Chinese. (Supra, note 2, ch. xlvi. Bk. I.) ["Chorcha is Churchin.--Nayan, as vassal of the Mongol khans, had the commission to keep in obedience the people of Manchuria (subdued in 1233), and to care for the security of the country (Yuen shi); there is no doubt that he shared these obligations with his relative Hatan, who stood nearer to the native tribes of Manchuria." (Palladius, 32.)--H. C.]

    KAULI is properly Corea, probably here a district on the frontier thereof, as it is improbable that Nayan had any rule over Corea. ["The Corean kingdom proper could not be a part of the prince's appanage. Marco Polo might mean the northern part of Corea, which submitted to the Mongols in A.D. 1269, with sixty towns, and which was subordinated entirely to the central administration in Liao-yang. As to the southern part of Corea, it was left to the king of Corea, who, however, was a vassal of the Mongols." (Palladius, 32.) The king of Corea (Ko rye, Kao-li) was in 1288 Chyoung ryel wang (1274-1298); the capital was Syong-to, now Kai syeng (K'ai-ch'eng).--H. C.]

    BARSKUL, "Leopard-Lake," is named in Sanang Setsen (p. 217), but seems there to indicate some place in the west of Mongolia, perhaps the Barkul of our maps. This Barskul must have been on the Manchu frontier. [There are in the Yuen-shi the names of the department of P'u-yue-lu, and of the place Pu-lo-ho, which, according to the system of Chinese transcription, approach to Barscol; but it is difficult to prove this identification, since our knowledge of these places is very scanty; it only remains to identify Barscol with Abalahu, which is already known; a conjecture all the more probable as the two names of P'u-yue-lu and Pu-lo-ho have also some resemblance to Abalahu. (Palladius, 32.) Mr. E. H. Parker says (China Review, xviii. p. 261) that Barscol may be Pa-la ssu or Bars Koto [in Tsetsen]. "This seems the more probable in that Cauly and Chorcha are clearly proved to be Corea and Niuche or Manchuria, so that Bars Koto would naturally fall within Nayan's appanage."--H. C.]

    The reading of the fourth name is doubtful, Sichuigiu, Sichingiu (G. T.), Sichin-tingiu etc. The Chinese name of Mukden is Shing-king, but I know not if it be so old as our author's time. I think it very possible that the real reading is Sinchin-tingin, and that it represents SHANGKING-TUNGKING, expressing the two capitals of the Khitan Dynasty in this region, the position of which will be found indicated in No. IV. map of Polo's itineraries. (See Schott, Aelteste Nachrichten von Mongolen und Tartaren, Berlin Acad. 1845, pp. 11-12.)

    [Sikintinju is Kien chau "belonging to a town which was in Nayan's appanage, and is mentioned in the history of his rebellion. There were two Kien-chow, one in the time of the Kin in the modern aimak of Khorchin; the other during the Mongol Dynasty, on the upper part of the river Ta-ling ho, in the limits of the modern aimak of Kharachin (Man chow yuen lew k'ao); the latter depended on Kuang-ning (Yuen-shi). Mention is made of Kien-chow, in connection with the following circumstance. When Nayan's rebellion broke out, the Court of Peking sent orders to the King of Corea, requiring from him auxiliary troops; this circumstance is mentioned in the Corean Annals, under the year 1288 (Kao li shi, ch. xxx. f. 11) in the following words:--'In the present year, in the fourth month, orders were received from Peking to send five thousand men with provisions to Kien-chow, which is 3000 li distant from the King's residence.' This number of li cannot of course be taken literally; judging by the distances estimated at the present day, it was about 2000 li from the Corean K'ai-ch'eng fu (then the Corean capital) to the Mongol Kien-chow; and as much to the Kien-chow of the Kin (through Mukden and the pass of Fa- k'u mun in the willow palisade). It is difficult to decide to which of these two cities of the same name the troops were ordered to go, but at any rate, there are sufficient reasons to identify Sikintinju of Marco Polo with Kien-chow." (Palladius, 33.)--H. C.]

    We learn from Gaubil that the rebellion did not end with the capture of Nayan. In the summer of 1288 several of the princes of Nayan's league, under Hatan (apparently the Abkan of Erdmann's genealogies), the grandson of Chinghiz's brother Kajyun [Hachiun], threatened the provinces north-east of the wall. Kublai sent his grandson and designated heir, Teimur, against them, accompanied by some of his best generals. After a two days' fight on the banks of the River Kweilei, the rebels were completely beaten. The territories on the said River Kweilei, the Tiro, or Torro, and the Liao, are mentioned both by Gaubil and De Mailla as among those which had belonged to Nayan. As the Kweilei and Toro appear on our maps and also the better-known Liao, we are thus enabled to determine with tolerable precision Nayan's country. (See Gaubil, p. 209, and De Mailla, 431 seqq.)

    ["The rebellion of Nayan and Hatan is incompletely and contradictorily related in Chinese history. The suppression of both these rebellions lasted four years. In 1287 Nayan marched from his ordo with sixty thousand men through Eastern Mongolia. In the 5th moon (var. 6th) of the same year Khubilai marched against him from Shangtu. The battle was fought in South-Eastern Mongolia, and gained by Khubilai, who returned to Shangtu in the 8th month. Nayan fled to the south-east, across the mountain range, along which a willow palisade now stands; but forces had been sent beforehand from Shin-chow (modern Mukden) and Kuang-ning (probably to watch the pass), and Nayan was made prisoner.

    "Two months had not passed, when Hatan's rebellion broke out (so that it took place in the same year 1287). It is mentioned under the year 1288, that Hatan was beaten, and that the whole of Manchuria was pacified; but in 1290, it is again recorded that Hatan disturbed Southern Manchuria, and that he was again defeated. It is to this time that the narratives in the biographies of Liting, Yuesi Femur, and Mangwu ought to be referred. According to the first of these biographies, Hatan, after his defeat by Liting on the river Kui lui (Kuilar?), fled, and perished. According to the second biography, Hatan's dwelling (on the Amur River) was destroyed, and he disappeared. According to the third, Mangwu and Naimatai pursued Hatan to the extreme north, up to the eastern sea-coast (the mouth of the Amur). Hatan fled, but two of his wives and his son Lao-ti were taken; the latter was executed, and this was the concluding act of the suppression of the rebellion in Manchuria. We find, however, an important variante in the history of Corea; it is stated there that in 1290, Hatan and his son Lao-ti were carrying fire and slaughter to Corea, and devastated that country; they slew the inhabitants and fed on human flesh. The King of Corea fled to the Kiang-hwa island. The Coreans were not able to withstand the invasion. The Mongols sent to their aid in 1291, troops under the command of two generals, Seshekan (who was at that time governor of Liao-tung) and Namantai (evidently the above-mentioned Naimatai). The Mongols conjointly with the Coreans defeated the insurgents, who had penetrated into the very heart of the country; their corpses covered a space 30 li in extent; Hatan and his son made their way through the victorious army and fled, finding a refuge in the Niuchi (Djurdji) country, from which Laotai made a later incursion into Corea. Such is the discrepancy between historians in relating the same fact. The statement found in the Corean history seems to me more reliable than the facts given by Chinese history." (Palladius, 35-37.)--H. C.]

  3. 3.0 3.1 This passage, and the extract from Ramusio's version attached to the following chapter, contain the only allusions by Marco to Jews in China. John of Monte Corvino alludes to them, and so does Marignolli, who speaks of having held disputations with them at Cambaluc; Ibn Batuta also speaks of them at Khansa or Hangchau. Much has been written about the ancient settlement of Jews at Kaifungfu, in Honan. One of the most interesting papers on the subject is in the Chinese Repository, vol. xx. It gives the translation of a Chinese-Jewish Inscription, which in some respects forms a singular parallel to the celebrated Christian Inscription of Si-ngan fu, though it is of far more modern date (1511). It exhibits, as that inscription does, the effect of Chinese temperament or language, in modifying or diluting doctrinal statements. Here is a passage: "With respect to the Israelitish religion, we find on inquiry that its first ancestor, Adam, came originally from India, and that during the (period of the) Chau State the Sacred Writings were already in existence. The Sacred Writings, embodying Eternal Reason, consist of 53 sections. The principles therein contained are very abstruse, and the Eternal Reason therein revealed is very mysterious, being treated with the same veneration as Heaven. The founder of the religion is Abraham, who is considered the first teacher of it. Then came Moses, who established the Law, and handed down the Sacred Writings. After his time, during the Han Dynasty (B.C. 206 to A.D. 221), this religion entered China. In (A.D.) 1164, a synagogue was built at P'ien. In (A.D.) 1296, the old Temple was rebuilt, as a place in which the Sacred Writings might be deposited with veneration."

    [According to their oral tradition, the Jews came to China from Si Yih (Western Regions), probably Persia, by Khorasan and Samarkand, during the first century of our era, in the reign of the Emperor Ming-ti (A.D. 58-75) of the Han Dynasty. They were at times confounded with the followers of religions of India, T'ien Chu kiao, and very often with the Mohammedans Hwui-Hwui or Hwui-tzu; the common name of their religion was Tiao kin kiao, "Extract Sinew Religion." However, three lapidary inscriptions, kept at Kai-fung, give different dates for the arrival of the Jews in China: one dated 1489 (2nd year Hung Che, Ming Dynasty) says that seventy Jewish families arrived at P'ien liang (Kai-fung) at the time of the Sung (A. D. 960-1278); one dated 1512 (7th year Cheng Teh) says that the Jewish religion was introduced into China under the Han Dynasty (B.C. 206-A.D. 221), and the last one dated 1663 (2nd year K'ang-hi) says that this religion was first preached in China under the Chau Dynasty (B.C. 1122-255); this will not bear discussion.

    The synagogue, according to these inscriptions, was built in 1163, under the Sung Emperor Hiao; under the Yuen, in 1279, the rabbi rebuilt the ancient temple known as Ts'ing Chen sse, probably on the site of a ruined mosque; the synagogue was rebuilt in 1421 during the reign of Yung-lo; it was destroyed by an inundation of the Hwang-ho in 1642, and the Jews began to rebuild it once more in 1653.

    The first knowledge Europeans had of a colony of Jews at K'ai-fung fu, in the Ho-nan province, was obtained through the Jesuit missionaries at Peking, at the beginning of the 17th century; the celebrated Matteo Ricci having received the visit of a young Jew, the Jesuits Aleni (1613), Gozani (1704), Gaubil and Domenge who made in 1721 two plans of the synagogue, visited Kai-fung and brought back some documents. In 1850, a mission of enquiry was sent to that place by the London Society for promoting Christianity among the Jews; the results of this mission were published at Shang-hai, in 1851, by Bishop G. Smith of Hongkong; fac-similes of the Hebrew manuscripts obtained at the synagogue of Kai-fung were also printed at Shang-hai at the London Missionary Society's Press, in the same year. The Jewish merchants of London sent in 1760 to their brethren of Kai-fung a letter written in Hebrew; a Jewish merchant of Vienna, J. L. Liebermann, visited the Kai-fung colony in 1867. At the time of the T'ai-P'ing rising, the rebels marched against Kai-fung in 1857, and with the rest of the population, the Jews were dispersed. (J. Tobar, Insc. juives de Kai-fong-fou, 1900; Henri Cordier, Les Juifs en Chine, and Fung and Wagnall's Jewish Encyclopedia.) Palladius writes (p. 38), "The Jews are mentioned for the first time in the Yuen shi (ch. xxxiii. p. 7), under the year 1329, on the occasion of the re-establishment of the law for the collection of taxes from dissidents. Mention of them is made again under the year 1354, ch. xliii. fol. 10, when on account of several insurrections in China, rich Mahommetans and Jews were invited to the capital in order to join the army. In both cases they are named Chu hu (Djuhud)."--H. C.]

    The synagogue at Kaifungfu has recently been demolished for the sake of its materials, by the survivors of the Jewish community themselves, who were too poor to repair it. The tablet that once adorned its entrance, bearing in gilt characters the name ESZLOYIH (Israel), has been appropriated by a mosque. The 300 or 400 survivors seem in danger of absorption into the Mahomedan or heathen population. The last Rabbi and possessor of the sacred tongue died some thirty or forty years ago, the worship has ceased, and their traditions have almost died away.

    (Cathay, 225, 341, 497; Ch. Rep. XX. 436; Dr. Martin, in J. N. China Br. R. A. S. 1866, pp. 32-33.)