Volume 1, Chapter 9, Sections 26-30 -- Travels of William de Rubruquis into Tartary, about the year 1253: *section index*


Volume 1, Chapter 9, Section 26 -- How the Nestorians and Mahometans are mixed with Idolaters.

In the first place arc the Jugurs, whose country borders upon the land of Organum among the mountains towards the east, and in all their towns Nestorians and Mahometans are mixed among the natives. And they are diffused likewise in all the towns of the Mahometans towards Persia. In the city of Cailac, or Cealac, there are three idol temples, two of which I went into to observe their folly. In one of these I found a person having a cross marked with ink upon his hand, whence I supposed him a Christian, and to all my questions he answered like a Christian. I asked him wherefore he had not the cross and image of Christ, and he answered, that it was not their custom; wherefore I concluded the people were actually Christians, but omitted these things for want of instruction. Behind a certain chest, which served for an altar, and on which they placed candles and oblations, I saw an image with wings like that of St Michael; and other images holding out their fingers, as if blessing the spectators. That evening I could make no farther discovery; for though the Saracens invite one into their temples, they will not speak of their religion,[1] insomuch that when I inquired at them about their ceremonies, they were much offended.

Next day being the Kalends, 1st December, was the passover of the Saracens, and I changed my lodging to the neighbourhood of another temple of idols; for the people of this place shew hospitality to all messengers, every one according to his abilities. In this other temple I found the priests of the idols, who open and adorn the temples at the Kalends, and the people make offerings of bread and fruits. I shall first describe the general rites of idolatry, and then those of the Jugurs, who are a kind of sect different from the others. They all worship towards the north, with joined hands, prostrating themselves upon their knees to the earth, and resting their foreheads on their hands. For which reason the Nestorians never join their hands in prayer, but spread their hands on their breasts. Their temples are built from east to west, having a chamber or vestry for the priests on the north; or if the building is square, they have a similar chamber on the middle of the north side in place of a choir, and before it is placed a long broad chest like a table, behind which, facing the south, stands the principal idol. That which I saw at Caracarum was as large as the picture of St Christopher. A Nestorian priest, who came from Catay, told me there was an idol in that country so large, that it could be seen at the distance of two days journey.[2] Other idols are placed around the principal one, and all are beautifully gilt; All the gates of their temples open to the south, contrary to the customs of the Mahometans; and they have large bells, as is the case with us, wherefore the oriental Christians will not use them, though they are customary among the Russians and the Greeks in Casaria.

[1] The Saracens are here much abused by the mistake of our traveller; as, however erroneous their religious opinions, they worship the true God only, and abhor even the least semblance of idolatry.--E.
[2] The Nestorian probably said an idol-house; meaning one of the high towers usually erected near Chinese temples: and even this must have stood upon a very elevated situation, in an extensive plain, to be seen from so great a distance, perhaps of sixty miles.--E.



Volume 1, Chapter 9, Section 27 -- Of their Temples and Idols, and the Worship of their Gods.

All their priests shave their heads and beards, and are clothed in yellow; and they live in companies of one or two hundred together, observing strict celibacy. On holy days, they sit in the temple on long benches, placed directly opposite each other, holding books in their hands, which they sometimes lay on the benches; and all the time they remain in the temples, they have their heads bare, and they read to themselves, keeping profound silence: Insomuch, that when I went into the temple, and endeavoured all I could to provoke them to speak, I could not succeed. Wherever they go, they carry a string with an hundred or two hundred nut-shells, like our rosaries, and they are continually uttering the words, Ou mam Hactani, which was explained to me as signifying, O God! thou knowest. And as often as they pronounce these words in remembrance of God, they expect a proportional reward.[1] Round the temple, there is always a handsome court, environed by a high wall, on the south side of which is a large portal, in which they sit to confer together; and over this portal they erect a long pole, rising if possible above the whole city, that every one may know where to find the temple. These things are common to all the idolaters.

On going to visit this temple, I found the priests sitting under the outer portal; and those whom I saw, appeared, by their shaven beards, like French friars. They wore conical caps of paper on their heads; and all the priests of the Jugurs wear this cap continually, and yellow strait tunics fastened down the middle like those in France; besides which, they wear a cloak on their left shoulder, flowing loosely before and behind, but leaving the right arm free, somewhat like a deacon carrying the pix in Lent. Their mode of writing is adopted by the Tartars. They begin to write at the top of the page, and extend their lines downwards, reading and writing from left to right. They make great use of written papers in their magical incantations, and their temples are hung round with short written sentences. The letters sent by Mangu-khan to your majesty, are written in these characters, and in the language of the Moal. These people burn their dead in the manner of the ancients, and deposit the ashes on the top of certain pyramids. After sitting for some time beside these priests, and having entered their temple to look at their many images, some large and others small, I asked what was their belief concerning God? To which they answered, that they believed in one God only. On asking them whether he was a spirit or of a corporeal nature, they said he was a spirit. Being asked if God had ever assumed the human mature, they answered never. Since, then, said I, you believe God to be a spirit, wherefore do you make so many images of him; and as you believe that he never took upon him the human form, wherefore do you represent him under the image of a man, rather than of any other creature? To this they answered, we do not make images of God; but when any of our rich men die, or their wives or children, or dear friends, they cause images to be made of the deceased, which are placed in the temple, which we venerate in respect to their memory. Then, said I, you do these things in flattery of men: but they insisted it was only in remembrance. They then asked me, as if in derision, where is God? To this I answered by another question, where is your soul? and they said, in our bodies. Then, said I, is it not in every part of your body, ruling over the whole, yet cannot be seen. Even in the same manner God is everywhere, ruling all things, yet is invisible, being intelligence and wisdom. I would willingly have proceeded in this conference, but my interpreter became weary and unable to express my meaning, so that I was obliged to desist.

The Moals and Tartars follow the same religion, in so far that they believe in one only God; but they make images in felt of their departed friends, which they cover with fine costly garments. These they carry about with them in one or two appropriate carts, which no person must touch, except their priests or soothsayers who have the care of them. This is to be understood only of the great men who are of the race of Zingis, for the poor or meaner people have none such. These soothsayers constantly attend upon the court of Mangu and other great personages; and when the court moves, these men precede the march, like the pillar of cloud before the children of Israel. They determine on the site of the new encampment, and unload their houses first, after which they are imitated by the whole court. On days of festival, such as the kalends or commencements of their months, these images are placed in order around their idol houses, and the Moals enter in and bow themselves before these images, to do them reverence. Strangers are never permitted to enter, so that once endeavouring to go into one of these tabernacles, I was sore chidden for my presumption.

[1] The following more complete account of this superstition, has been deemed worthy of insertion:

"These supposed Nestorian Christians were undoubtedly professors of the religion of the Dalai-Lama, who had several usages and ceremonies resembling corrupt Christianity. Like the Roman catholics, they had rosaries, containing 108 beads, and their prayer is, Hom-Mani-Pema-Hum. This does not signify, as asserted by Rubruquis, God! thou knowest it; nor, as supposed by Messerschmid, God have mercy on us. But its true import is, that Mani, who holds the flowers of the Lotus, and is the beginning and end of the higher Magic, may hear their prayers, be propitious to them, and render them happy.

"They have rolls or cylinders inscribed with their prayers, which they twirl round on an axis, continually pronouncing these mystic words, and they believe that all the prayers on these rolls are virtually pronounced at each turn of the roll; The religion of the Dalai-Lama, is a branch of the Shamanian and Braminical superstitions, and has for its foundation the Manichaean doctrine of the two principles, which Manes attempted to incorporate into the Christian religion, so that it is no wonder the practices of the followers of the Dalai-Lama should resemble those of the Manichaean and Nestorian Christians."--Forst.

Voy. and Disc. 105.


Volume 1, Chapter 9, Section 28 -- Of sundry Nations, and of certain People who used to eat their Parents.

I am convinced that these Jugurs, who are mixed with Christians and Mahometans, have arrived at the knowledge and belief of one God, by frequent disputations with them. This nation dwells in cities, which were brought under subjection to Zingis, who gave his daughter in marriage to their king. Even Caracarum is in a manner in their territories. The whole country of Prester John and of Vut or Unc, his brother, lay round the territories of the Jugurs, only that the subjects of the former inhabited the pasture lands on the north, while the Jugurs dwelt among the mountains to the south. As the Moals have adopted the writing of the Jugurs, these latter are the chief Scribes among the Tartars, and almost all the Nestorians are acquainted with their letters.

Next to the Jugurs, among the mountains to the east, are the Tanguts, a powerful people who once made Zingis prisoner in battle; but having concluded peace, he was set at liberty, and afterwards subdued them. Among the Tanguts, there are oxen of great strength, having flowing tails like horses, and their backs and bellies covered with long hair. These are shorter legged than other oxen, but much fiercer, having long, slender, straight, and very sharp pointed horns, and they are much used for drawing the great houses of the Moals; but the cows will not allow themselves to be yoked unless they are sung to at the same time. These animals are of the nature of the buffalo, for when they see a person clothed in red, they run furiously upon him to put him to death.

Beyond these are the people of Tebet, who were wont to eat the dead bodies of their parents, from a motive of piety, considering that to be the most honourable sepulchre; but they have discontinued this custom, which was looked upon as abominable by all other nations. They still, however, continue to make handsome drinking cups of the skulls of their parents, that they may call them to remembrance even in their mirth. I received this information from an eye-witness. In their country there is much gold, so that any one who is in want, digs till he finds enough for his necessities, and leaves the rest behind for another occasion; for they have an opinion, that God would conceal all other gold from them in the earth, if they were to hoard any in their houses. I saw some of these people, who are much deformed. The people of Tangut are tall lusty men of a brown complexion. The Jugurs are of middle stature like ourselves, and their language is the root or origin of the Turkish and Comanian languages.

Beyond Tebet, are the people of Langa and Solanga,[1] whose messengers I saw in the court of Mangu-khan, who had along with them more than ten great carts, each drawn by six oxen. These are little brown men like the Spaniards, and are dressed in tunics or jackets, like our deacons, with straiter sleeves. They wear a kind of caps like the mitres of our bishops; but the fore part is less than the hinder part, and ends square, instead of being pointed. These are made of straw, stiffened by great heat, and so well polished, that they glister in the sun like a mirror or well polished helmet. Round their temples, they have long bands of the same material, fixed to their caps, which stream to the wind like two long horns from their temples. When too much tossed by the wind, they fold these over the top of their caps. When the principal messenger entered the court, he held in his hand a smooth ivory tablet about a foot long and a palm broad; and when spoken to by the khan, or any other great man, he always looked on his tablet as if he had seen there what was spoken, never looking to the right or the left, or to the person who spoke to him. Even in coming into the presence and in retiring, he looked perpetually at his tablet.

Beyond these people, as I have been told for truth, there is a nation called Muc, inhabiting towns, in whose country there are numerous flocks and herds which are never tended, as no person appropriates any of these exclusively; but when any one is in need of a beast, he ascends a hill and gives a loud cry, on which all the cattle within hearing flock around him and suffer themselves to be taken, as if they were domesticated. When a messenger or any stranger goes into that country, he is immediately shut up in a house, where all necessaries are provided for him, till his business is concluded; for they affirm, that if any stranger were to travel about their country, the animals would flee away from his scent, and become wild.

Beyond the country of these people, lies Great Cathaya, whose inhabitants I believe to have been the Seres[2] of the ancients, as from thence came the most excellent silken stuffs; and these people were called Seres after the name of one of their towns. I have been told, that in that country there is a town having walls of silver and towers of gold. In that land there are many provinces, the greater part of which are not yet subjected to the Moals, and the sea is interposed between them and India. These Kathayans are men of small stature, with small eyes, and speak much through the nose. They are excellent workmen in all kinds of handicraft; their physicians judge exactly of diseases by the pulse, and are very skilful in the use of herbs, but have no knowledge in regard to the urine of sick persons. Some of these people I saw at Caracarum, where there are always considerable numbers; and the children are always brought up to the same employments with their fathers. They pay to the Moals or Mongals, a tribute of 1500 cassinos or jascots every day,[3] besides large quantities of silks and provisions, and they perform many other services. All the nations between mount Caucasus, and from the north of these mountains to the east sea, and in all the south of Scythia, which is inhabited by the Moal shepherds, are tributary, and are all addicted to idolatry. The Nestorians and Saracens are intermixed with them as strangers, as far as Kathay, in which country the Nestorians inhabit fifteen cities, and have a bishop in a city called Segan.[4] These Nestorians are very ignorant, for they say their service in the Syrian tongue, in which all their holy books are written, and of which language they are entirely ignorant, and sing their service as our monks do who have not learnt Latin. They are great usurers and drunkards, and some of them who live among the Tartars, have adopted their customs, and even have many wives. When they enter the churches, they wash their lower parts like the Saracens, eat no flesh on Fridays, and hold their festivals on the same days with them. Their bishops come seldom into the country, perhaps only once in fifty years, and then cause all the little children to be made priests, some even in the cradle; so that almost every Nestorian man is a priest, yet all have wives, which is contrary to the decrees of the fathers. They are even bigamists, for their priests, when their wives die, marry again. They are all Simonists, as they give no holy thing without pay. They are careful of their wives and children, applying themselves to gain, and not to propagating the faith. Hence, though some of them are employed to educate the children of the Mongal nobility, and even teach them the articles of the Christian faith, yet by their evil lives they drive them from Christianity, as the moral conduct of the Mongals and Tuinians,[5] who are downright idolaters, is far more upright than theirs.

[1] Forster conjectures that the original words of Rubruquis are here corrupted, and that this passage ought to have been "beyond Tangut," instead of beyond Tebet or Thibet; in which case, the countries of Langa and Solanga, may refer to that of the Lamuts and Solonians, the ancestors of the Mantschus or Mundschurians.--Voy. and Disc. 108.
[2] In this supposition Rubruquis was certainly mistaken, as the Seres of the ancients appear to have lived in Turkestan, Gete, and Uigur, and to have then ruled over a great track of eastern central Asia, and may have extended their commerce to northern China. Hence the original name of silk was certainly either adopted from or applied to the intermediate nation, through whom that precious commodity was transmitted to the western nations.--Forst.
[3] A jascot is described as a piece of silver weighing ten marks, so that the tribute is 15,000 marks daily, or about 5 1/2 millions of marks yearly, and is equal in weight of silver, to L. 8,650,000 Sterling; perhaps equal, in real efficacious value, to ten times that sum, and probably superior to the yearly revenue of all the sovereigns then in Europe.--E
[4] Singan, or Singan-fu in the province of Shensee. In the year 1625, a stone was found here, inscribed with Chinese characters and a Syrian inscription round the borders, implying, that in the year 636, the Nestorians had sent Olopuen into China to propagate the gospel; and that the emperor Tai-sum-ven had approved this step, and allowed the Christian religion to be propagated through all China, with many other particulars relative to the history of Christianity in China. This stone bore to have been erected in 782 by Mar Isdabuzzid, priest, and Chorepiscopus of Cumdan, the royal city of the east, now Nankin. See a dissertation on this monument, following Renaudet's translation of the two Mahometan travellers, London, 1788, p. 76.--E.
[5] Mani or Manes is named Thenaoui by the oriental Christians, and the sect of Manicheans they call Al-Thenaouib, or those who hold the doctrines of the two principles. These Tuinians, therefore, of Rubruquis, are probably the Manicheans.--Forst.



Volume 1, Chapter 9, Section 29 -- Of Cailac, and the Country of the Naymans.

We departed from the city of Cailac on St Andrew's day, 30th of November, and in three leagues we found a village of Nestorians, where we went into their church, and sang salve regina, and other hymns, with great joy. In three days after we came to the entrance of that province, not far from the before-mentioned sea, which seemed as tempestuous as the ocean, and in which we saw a large island. The water was slightly salt, yet might be drank. Opposite to it was a valley with another salt sea, from which a river ran into this one. There was so strong a wind that the passage was dangerous, as we much feared to be blown into the lake; wherefore we went north into the hilly country, covered with deep snow, and on St Nicholas day, 6th December, we hastened our journey, as we found no inhabitants except the Jani, or men appointed to conduct the messengers from one day's journey to another. On the 7th of December we passed between two terrible rocks, when the guide sent entreating me to pray to God: we sang accordingly with a loud voice, the credo and other hymns, and by the grace of God we got through in safety.

After this the Tartars entreated me to write papers for them; but I offered to teach them words to carry in their hearts, whereby their souls should be saved. Yet wanting an interpreter for this, I wrote them the creed and the Lord's prayer, desiring them to believe what was written in the one, and that the other contained a prayer to God for all that is necessary to man, and that though they could not understand these, I hoped God would save them.



Volume 1, Chapter 9, Section 30 -- Description of the Country of the Naymans, with an Account of the Death of Ken-khan and of his Wife and Eldest Son.

After this we entered into the country where the court of Ken-khan used to be held, which was formerly called the country of the Naymans, who were the peculiar subjects of Prester John. Though I did not see that court till my return, I shall briefly mention what befel his son and wives. Ken-khan being dead, Baatu desired that Mangu should be khan, but I could not learn exactly the manner of Ken-khan's death. Friar Andrew says he died of the effects of a medicine, which Baatu was suspected of having procured to be given him. I heard, on the other hand, that he summoned Baatu to do him homage, who accordingly began his journey with much external pomp, but with great inward apprehensions, sending forward his brother Stichin; who, when he came to Keu-khan, and ought to have presented him with the cup, high words arose between them, and they slew one another. The widow of Stichin kept us a whole day at her house, that we might pray for her and bless her. When Ken was dead, and Mangu chosen emperor by the consent of Baatu, which was when friar Andrew was there, Siremon, the brother of Ken, at the instigation of the wife and peculiar vassals of Ken, went with a great train, as if to do homage to Mangu, but with the intention of putting him and all his court to death. When within a few days journey of the court of Mangu, one of his waggons broke down, and a servant of Mangu happened to assist the waggoner in repairing it. This man was very inquisitive into the objects of the journey, and the waggoner revealed the whole plot to him. Pretending to make very light of the matter, he went privately and took a good horse from the herd, and rode with great speed with the intelligence to the court of Mangu; who quickly assembled his forces, and placing a strong guard around his court; sent the rest against Siremon, and brought him and all his followers prisoners to court. He confessed his intentions, and he and his eldest son, with 300 noble Tartars of their party, were put to death. The ladies were also sent for who were concerned in the plot, and being beaten with burning fire-brands till they confessed, were slain likewise. Kon, the youngest son of Siremon, who was incapable of entering into the conspiracy, from his youth, was permitted to enjoy the inheritance of his father; but our guide durst not enter the house either in going or returning.


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