The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Chapter lx.

Concerning the Kaan’s Palace of Chagannor.

At the end of those three days you find a city called CHAGAN NOR [which is as much as to say White Pool], at which there is a great Palace of the Grand Kaan’s;1 and he likes much to reside there on account of the Lakes and Rivers in the neighbourhood, which are the haunt of swans2 and of a great variety of other birds. The adjoining plains too abound with cranes, partridges, pheasants, and other game birds, so that the Emperor takes all the more delight in staying there, in order to go a-hawking with his gerfalcons and other falcons, a sport of which he is very fond.3

There are five different kinds of cranes found in those tracts, as I shall tell you. First, there is one which is very big, and all over as black as a crow; the second kind again is all white, and is the biggest of all; its wings are really beautiful, for they are adorned with round eyes like those of a peacock, but of a resplendent golden colour, whilst the head is red and black on a white ground. The third kind is the same as ours. The fourth is a small kind, having at the ears beautiful long pendent feathers of red and black. The fifth kind is grey all over and of great size, with a handsome head, red and black.4

Near this city there is a valley in which the Emperor has had several little houses erected in which he keeps in mew a huge number of cators which are what we call the Great Partridge. You would be astonished to see what a quantity there are, with men to take charge of them. So whenever the Kaan visits the place he is furnished with as many as he wants. 5

NOTE 1. —[According to the Siu t’ung kien, quoted by Palladius, the palace in Chagannor was built in 1280. — H. C.]

NOTE 2. —“Ou demeurent sesnes.” Sesnes, Cesnes, Cecini, Cesanae, is a mediaeval form of cygnes, cigni, which seems to have escaped the dictionary-makers. It occurs in the old Italian version of Brunetto Latini’s Tresor, Bk. V. ch. xxv., as cecino; and for other examples, see Cathay, p. 125.

NOTE 3. — The city called by Polo CHAGAN-NOR (meaning in Mongol, as he says, “White Lake”) is the Chaghan Balghasun mentioned by Timkowski as an old city of the Mongol era, the ruined rampart of which he passed about 30 miles north of the Great Wall at Kalgan, and some 55 miles from Siuen-hwa, adjoining the Imperial pastures. It stands near a lake still called Chaghan–Nor, and is called by the Chinese Pe-ching-tzu, or White City, a translation of Chaghan Balghasun. Dr. Bushell says of one of the lakes (Ichi–Nor), a few miles east of Chaghan–Nor: “We . . . found the water black with waterfowl, which rose in dense flocks, and filled the air with discordant noises. Swans, geese, and ducks predominated, and three different species of cranes were distinguished.”

The town appears as Tchahan Toloho in D’Anville. It is also, I imagine, the Arulun Tsaghan Balghasun which S. Setzen says Kúblái built about the same time with Shangtu and another city “on the shady side of the Altai,” by which here he seems to mean the Khingan range adjoining the Great Wall. (Timk. II. 374, 378–379; J. R. G. S. vol. xliii.; S. Setz. 115.) I see Ritter has made the same identification of Chaghan–Nor (II. 141).

NOTE 4. — The following are the best results I can arrive at in the identification of these five cranes.

1. Radde mentions as a rare crane in South Siberia Grus monachus, called by the Buraits Kará Togorü, or “Black Crane.” Atkinson also speaks of “a beautiful black variety of crane,” probably the same. The Grus monachus is not, however, jet black, but brownish rather. (Radde, Reisen, Bd. II. p. 318; Atkinson. Or. and W. Sib. 548.)

2. Grus leucogeranus (?) whose chief habitat is Siberia, but which sometimes comes as far south as the Punjab. It is the largest of the genus, snowy white, with red face and beak; the ten largest quills are black, but this barely shows as a narrow black line when the wings are closed. The resplendent golden eyes on the wings remain unaccounted for; no naturalist whom I have consulted has any knowledge of a crane or crane-like bird with such decorations. When ’tis discovered, let it be the Grus Poli!

3. Grus cinerea.

4. The colour of the pendants varies in the texts. Pauthier’s and the G. Text have red and black; the Lat. S. G. black only, the Crusca black and white, Ramusio feathers red and blue (not pendants). The red and black may have slipt in from the preceding description. I incline to believe it to be the Demoiselle, Anthropoides Virgo, which is frequently seen as far north as Lake Baikal. It has a tuft of pure white from the eye, and a beautiful black pendent ruff or collar; the general plumage purplish-grey.

5. Certainly the Indian Sáras (vulgo Cyrus), or Grus antigone, which answers in colours and grows to 52 inches high.

NOTE 5. — Cator occurs only in the G. Text and the Crusca, in the latter with the interpolated explanation “cioè contornici” (i.e. quails), whilst the S. G. Latin has coturnices only. I suspect this impression has assisted to corrupt the text, and that it was originally written or dictated ciacor or çacor, viz. chakór, a term applied in the East to more than one kind of “Great Partridge.” Its most common application in India is to the Himalayan red-legged partridge, much resembling on a somewhat larger scale the bird so called in Europe. It is the “Francolin” of Moorcroft’s Travels, and the Caccabis Chukor of Gray. According to Cunningham the name is applied in Ladak to the bird sometimes called the Snow-pheasant, Jerdan’s Snow-cock, Tetraogallus himalayensis of Gray. And it must be the latter which Moorcroft speaks of as “the gigantic Chukor, much larger than the common partridge, found in large coveys on the edge of the snow; . . . one plucked and drawn weighed 5 lbs.”; described by Vigne as “a partridge as large as a hen-turkey”; the original perhaps of that partridge “larger than a vulture” which formed one of the presents from an Indian King to Augustus Caesar. [With reference to the large Tibetan partridge found in the Nan-shan Mountains in the meridian of Sha-chau by Prjevalsky, M. E. D. Morgan in a note (P. R. Geog. S. ix. 1887, p. 219), writes: “Megaloperdrix thibetanus. Its general name in Asia is ullar, a word of Kirghiz or Turkish origin; the Mongols call it hailik, and the Tibetans kung-mo. There are two other varieties of this bird found in the Himalaya and Altai Mountains, but the habits of life and call-note of all three are the same.”] From the extensive diffusion of the term, which seems to be common to India, Tibet, and Persia (for the latter, see Abbott in J. R. G. S. XXV. 41), it is likely enough to be of Mongol origin, not improbably Tsokhor, “dappled or pied.” (Kovalevsky, No. 2196, and Strahlenberg’s Vocabulary; see also Ladak, 205; Moorcr. I. 313, 432; Jerdan’s Birds of India, III. 549, 572; Dunlop, Hunting in Himalaya, 178; J. A. S. B. VI. 774.)

The chakór is mentioned by Baber (p. 282); and also by the Hindi poet Chand (Rás Mála, I. 230, and Ind. Antiquary, I. 273). If the latter passage is genuine, it is adverse to my Mongol etymology, as Chand lived before the Mongol era.

The keeping of partridges for the table is alluded to by Chaucer in his portrait of the Franklin, Prologue, Cant. Tales:

“It snewed in his hous of mete and drinke,

Of alle deyntees that men coud of thinke,

After the sondry sesons of the yere,

So changed he his mete and his soupere.

Full many a fat partrich hadde he in mewe,

And many a breme and many a luce in stewe.”

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 16:24