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Summary.   ^

 

This book is a Russian translation of the Meng-Ta pei-lu or The Complete Description of the Mongolo-Tatars, with an introduction and a commentary.

 

Researches on the works of European travellers in thirteenth-century Mongolia for example, the accounts given by Piano Carpini (1245-1247), Guillaume Rubruquis (1253-1255), and Marco Polo (1271-1295) have been published frequently in many countries. Descriptions of the Mongols by Chinese travellers in the thirteenth century have also appeared in European languages. In this connection, mention must be made, first, of the sinologists V.P. Vasiliev (1818-1900), P.I. Kafarov (known as Archimandrite Palladii, 1817-1878), E.V. Bretschneider (1833-1901), and Arthur Waley. More recently, a new translation by I. de Rachewiltz of the Hsi-yu lu by Yeh-lü Chu-tsai (1189-1243) came out. But on the whole, Chinese thirteenth-century travellers have not received in European languages, at least the attention they deserved.

 

Existent translations of their works, provided with commentaries, are all, with the exception of those by Arthur Waley and I. de Rachewiltz, out-of-date, and can no longer satisfy the requirements of present-day scientific studies.

 

As far back as 1857, V.P. Vasiliev was the first sinologist in the West to draw attention to the Meng-Ta pei-lu as a valuable source of information on the history of the Mongols. He translated this work into Russian and brought it to the notice of European scholars. Entitled Zapiski Mongolo-Tatarakh (Meng-Ta pei-lu), it was included as Appendix III in

(283/284)

his book Istoria i Drevnosti Vostochnoi Chasti Srednei Asii ot X do XIII veka, prilozheniem perevoda kitaiskikh izvestii Kidaniakh, Churcheniakh i Mongolo-Tatarakh (S.-Pb. 1857, str. 216-235).

 

The translation by V.P. Vasiliev, an eminent orientalist, the author of numerous monographs and articles on Chinese, Mongolian, Buddhist and Tibetan subjects, was then the only version of this ancient work and, consequently, proved of the greatest scientific importance. The century that has elapsed since Vasilievs work appeared has seen considerable progress in this field, a mass of fresh information has been accumulated in Chinese and Mongolian studies, and consequently, his work is out-of-date.

 

Beginning from the fourteenth century that is, from the time of Tao Tsung-i (1320-1399), who compiled (between 1350 and 1366) the Sho-fu, in which the Meng-Ta pei-lu was preserved it was generally considered that this account had been written by the Southern Sung ambassador, Meng Hung, in 1221. In the conclusion to an edition of this work published in 1926, Wang Kuo-wei (1877-1927) pointed out that it was more likely to have been written by Chao Hung than Meng Hung. The extensive biography of General Meng Hung (1195-1244) in the Sung-shih offers no evidence that he ever went as ambassador to the North; in Southern Sung sources, mention is made of a certain Chao Hung who paid an ambassadorial visit to the Mongols in 1221. Possibly, later copyists or publishers, or perhaps Tao Tsung-i himself, concluded that Meng Hung, a famous general of the Southern Sung period (1127-1279), must have been the author, since he speaks of himself in the text simply as Hung.

 

At the present time, most scholars engaged in these researches assume that Chao Hung was the author of the Meng-Ta pei-lu. Judging by the dates, as well as other facts, in the text, it appears that Chao Hung was sent by the Southern-Sung frontier authorities to visit Muqali, commander-in-chief of the Mongol armies and Cinggis Qans vicegerent in Northern China, in 1221. In the same year, this official wrote an account

(284/285)

of his travels. On the basis of the Chi-tung yeh-ü by Chou Mi, a writer living at the close of the Southern Sung and the beginning of the Yuan period, and who is quoted by Wang Kuo-wei, the assumed author of the Meng-Ta pei-lu is designated i-lei chih Chao Hung (Chao Hung of an alien race). It follows, then, that he was not of Chinese origin; however, when he came over to the Chinese side, the name Chao that of the Sung emperors was conferred on him, as was frequently the case in Chinese history. Brief references to this personage in the sources suggest that Chao Hung may have been an official concerned with frontier affairs at the headquarters of Chia She, the Southern Sung commander of the frontier armies at Huaitung.

 

Chao Hung does not explain the nature of his mission, but it is clear that his visit to the Mongols was made at a time when the Southern Sung court was taking steps to conclude an alliance with the new conquerors against its age-old enemies, the Jurchens. After they had been pressed back southwards by the Mongol armies, the Jurchens now occupied Honan, the territory lying between Cinggis Qans domains and those of the Southern Sungs. In the same year 1221 the Southern Sung court despatched an ambassador, Kuo Meng-yü, to Cinggis Qan in Central Asia. On his return, Kuo Meng-yü was accompanied by a Mongol representative Ko-ho-chih Sun Faqaici Sun, Swineherd Sun apparently a Chinese who had lived a long time among the Mongols.

 

In both instances the Chinese ambassadors had been well-received by the Mongols: Kuo Meng-yü by Cinggis Qan and Chao Hung by Muqali. According to Southern Sung sources, these envoys were sent to the Mongols by the imperial court or the Southern Sung frontier authorities simply to promote friendly relations, but the negotiations conducted by Kuo Meng-yü and Chao Hung were evidently directed against a third side the Chin state (1115-1234).

 

The Meng-Ta pei-lu sheds valuable light on many aspects of Mongol life during the first quarter of the thirteenth century. The author describes the Mongol nobility and rulers.

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Naturally, the most trustworthy part of his information is that concerning the period when the conquerors were in Northern China. A fairly large proportion of the officials of the Mongol administration were Chinese and Khitans. This is understandable because, in the conquest of a country that had been in subjection to the Jurchens for over a century, the political discord existing between Jurchen invaders on the one hand and Khitans and Chinese on the other, was widely exploited. General information about the organization of the countrys political administration, economic life, and also questions relating to the whole empire, is to be found in the Meng-Ta pei-lu. Of greater importance, however, are the writers observations on the Mongol way of life; culture, religious beliefs, morals and customs. The Meng-Ta pei-lu, unquestionably the most ancient of travellers accounts of the Mongols, remains an invaluable source of material on the history and ethnography of this people.

 

The translation of the work is according to Wang Kuo-weis version of Meng-Ta pei-lu chiencheng (Commentaries to the Meng-Ta pei-lu, Hai-ning Wang Ching-an hsien-sheng i-shu, book 37, 1940, p. 1a-19a+1a-2a) which is deservedly considered the best critical edition. It is provided with translations of notes by Wang Kuo-wei.

 

Commentaries to the translation of the Meng-Ta pei-lu cover a wide variety of questions textological, bibliographical, linguistic, ethnographical and historical. Mongol names given in Chinese transcription have been reconstructed wherever this was feasible.

 

The book is furnished with indices and a bibliography.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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