Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States
TARTAR, TARTARY. The Chinese Tâ-tâ, or Tâ-tar, was originally a generic term for tributary or vassal peoples, especially of those hordes inhabiting the plateaus of northern Asia beyond the great wall which was built to repel them. One sinologue finds the derivation of the word in one of the forms of obeisance in vogue among the tribes of Mongolia, in which the foot is struck on the ground, and a prominent article of dress, usually worn in front, is at the same moment thrown behind. The leaders of most of the uprisings of population in the grassy plateaus of central Asia that have emerged into history, spurning the epithet of Tâtars, have taken to themselves various dynastic names, such as Hun, Turk, Liào, Kitan, Kin, Mongol, Manchiu, etc. Genghis Khan, for instance, gave to his people the name Mongols (Mungku-jin), "braves," in order to show that they were no longer Tâ-tars, or tributaries, but conquerors. When the Mongols invaded Asia, and even Europe, overrunning Russia, and covering it with ashes and blood, the Christian monks, struck with the resemblance of the word Tâ-tar to Tartarus, and ready to associate these centaurs—man and horse being as one animal—with devils from hell, called them "Tartars." Hence, our incorrect English spelling. Gradually the word Tartary was applied to all the lands ruled by the Mongols—the whole of eastern Europe, and central Asia; "European Tartary" was that part of Russia occupied by the Mongols, while "Asiatic Tartary" stretched from the Caspian to the Yellow sea. As the Mongols were by degrees expelled from Russia, the term was restricted to the Crimea (settled by the Crim Tâtars) and to the Chinese dependencies north and west of the great wall. As Chinese geography was better understood, the once vague and elastic term more and more lost value as a geographical expression. It continued to be applied, however, to that part of Turkestan which was until lately neither Chinese nor Russian—an annually decreasing territory. Since the Russian campaigns under Kauffman and Skobeloff, resulting in the fall of Khiva (1873), of Khokand (1876), and of Merv (1879-80), the whole of "Independent Turkestan" may be considered part of Russian territory, since it has been formally annexed. In 1882 deputations of the inhabitants to St. Petersburg gave their formal adherence to the czar. With this extension of Russian arms to the very borders of Afghanistan, "Tartary" ceases to be a proper geographical expression. In China, the term "Tâ-tar" is popularly applied to the Mongols beyond the great wall, and, by ultra-patriotic haters of the ruling dynasty, to Manchius in general; but it is so mixed up with opprobrious epithets, such as "horsey," "raw," "green," etc., that the word is not in good repute among writers. In central Asia, "Turk" and "Tâ-tar" are synonymous. Foreigners distinguish the Chinese from their Manchiu conquerors, and we read in works of travel and history of "the Tartar city," "the Tartar garrison," as parts of Peking, Canton, etc.
—Ethnologically the "Tartars" are the Altaian group of tribes and nations, not of Aryan blood, that did once, or do now, inhabit the lands of northern and central Asia, including the Scythians of classic writers, the Huns, the Turks, Kirghez, Calmucks, Mongols, Manchius, Tungusians, the various peoples of Turkestan, with many tribes now greatly modified by Aryan admixture, with others as widely scattered as the Tamils of southern India on the one hand, and the Coreans and Japanese on the other, between whose languages modern linguists (Thirwall, Dallet, Ross, Edkins, Aston, Chamberlain) have demonstrated close affinities. Notwithstanding all variations from the original type, the Tâtar face has high cheek bones, thick nose depressed at the roots, scanty beard, round skull, and narrow, slit-like eyes, with a peculiar restless expression, which is the same whether in Constantinople or in Tokio. Balfour thus pictures from life the Manchiu and the Chinese, or the "Tartar," and the native Mandarin. "The Manchiu has a dark complexion and roughish skin; he is a large-boned man; his face is long and lantern-jawed; he has a wide mouth, and a firm, decided nose. The expression of his eyes is shrewd, and under the gloss of etiquette you can detect the natural fierceness of the nomad. The Chinese is the exact reverse. His build is small and flexible; his face—round, unctuous and fat, unseared by the suspicion of a wrinkle—is the color of Devonshire cream. His movements are graceful and suave; they give you the idea of liberally-oiled joints; his hands are delicate, slim, and very plump; his expression is courtly, he has a winning smile and bow for every one. * * Good emperors are not made of such material." The Tâ-tar hordes which have repeatedly rushed out of the north into China, have kept the hoary empire periodically infused with fresh blood and vigor and new imperial dynasties. Yet, though able to conquer, destroy or build on a well-established foundation, they have no elements of permanence; and away from the deserts, cut off from nomadic life, the Tâ-tar fabrics of government in continental Asia have, one after another, fallen to ruins after a burst of grandeur that seems strangely brief in comparison with the enduring character of Aryan institutions and European governments. In religion the Tâ-tars were at first devotees to Shamanism, and then to Buddhism, which degenerated into Lamaism, while in Europe and western Asia many tribes have adopted the Sunni form of Islam. (See also
WM. ELLIOT GRIFFIS.
Return to top