Yellow River. The country was several times overrun by Chinghiz-Khan, and on the last occasion (1227) he died in this country. The name is still, we see, in use among the Mongols, but it seems often to be applied to the whole of Tibet. There is something requiring further elucidation about this double application of the name. The Tangutans of Prejevalsky are those Eastern Tibetans who are called by the Chinese Si-fan, or 'Western Barbarians.' They inhabit the district of Koko-nor, and extend also along the western borders of Szechwan.
The Sifan are divided in the Chinese accounts of the frontier states into Black Sifan (probably the Kara-Tangut of Prejevalsky) and Yellow Sifan; the former being derived from their custom of using tents made of black yak-hair cloth. The Yellow are stated always to have a prince at their head who becomes a cleric and wears the yellow robe. Sifan seems, undoubtedly, often to be employed in Chinese for people of the Tibetan race generally; and I suspect these Yellow Sifan are simply the Tibetans of Tibet, under the Grand Lama, whilst the Black Sifan are the nomadic people of Tangut.
The language of the vocabulary given by Prejevalsky at pp. 136-138 is evidently Tibetan. And this agrees with what is said in the Chinese papers translated by Grosier: 'The language of Tibet is almost the same as that of the people called Sifan, and differs only in the meaning attached to certain words, and in some peculiarities of pronunciation.'
The difficulties of Tibetan spelling, and other uncertainties of transcription by ear, render it hard for anyone but an expert to make a thorough comparison. But the following examples will show that the language is Tibetan:—
- Kovalefsky gives ′Tanghout; Ch. Sifan . . . . pays situé au nord et à l'occident de Chen-si province chinoise;′ but also ′Tanghouttchi, connaisseur de la langue Tangoutaine (tibétaine).′ Della Penna speaks of Tibet as being called 'Kingdom of Tangut.'
- Desc. Gén. de la Chine; 1785. 410. pp. 150-152.