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Flag in the "Book of All Kingdoms"

Scim, Cathay, China

Last modified: 2020-07-31 by ian macdonald
Keywords: china | book of all kingdoms | cathay | scim | emperor | orb | bow |
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China in the Book of All Kingdoms
image by Eugene Ipavec, 20 January 2010
Source: Book of All Kingdoms [e9s50]

See also:


Could this perhaps be Sind? I know it was spelt Scinde at one time - Scim wouldn't be too hard a stretch from there...
James Dignan, 08 December 2009

Byron McCandless and Gilbert Grosvenor "Flags of the World" [gmc17a] quotes the source document (Libro...) as reading "In the Empire of Catayo there is a kingdom called Scim (perhaps a kingdom of hearsay), which borders on the Kingdom of Sarmagant (Samarkand), Bocarin (Bokhara),and Trimic (Tibet). The flag of its king is white, with a figure of the sun in the center."
(could it be Sinkiang?)
This would place it somewhere between modern Uzbekistan and China, and would leave Sind, in southern Pakistan, somewhat displaced from the described area. But more importantly, perhaps we ought to double-check that quotation - I know that there are some discrepancies between different versions of the Libro.
Ned Smith, 09 December 2009

The Empire of Catayo is obviously the Chinese Empire. I'm not familiar with eastern Asian history, but I don't recall India being under Chinese rule in the 1350s.
Alex Danes, 10 December 2009

I would lean towards Siam - the sun could be one of the chakras that were featured on several on their flags.
Eugene Ipavec, 11 December 2009

Scim should be between Samarkand, Bokhara and Tibet, somewhere in the (or near) the Chinese Empire. Siam (Thailand) is too far away.
Alex Danes, 11 December 2009

This is all just guesswork and speculation, but here are another couple of possibilities:
Am I right in thinking the Chinese word for new is Xin? Could "Scim" simply be how the Chinese referred to the newly captured edge of their empire, much in the way that Xinjiang (New frontier) is used today?
Another possibility, thoguh a lot further east, is the city which was one of the eastern termini of the Silk Road - which would have been the main connection between the west and China in the 14th century - Xi'an.
James Dignan, 11 December 2009

This seems to be a good hypothesis - depending upon the way one understands the Hakluyt text description "And from this kingdom of Scim comes the great mountain Caucasum which extends from the eastern sea to India the low." That seems to limit it to either the Sindh or possibly to the Sultanate of Delhi during the Tughlaq dynasty which at its broadest extent reached from the Kashmir area to Bengal, bordering the then crumbling Mongol Empire. The Hakluyt text seems to pinpoint one of the cities of Scim as Chittagong (but places a question mark after the identification). If so, then the emergent victor becomes the Sultanate of Delhi.
Phil Nelson, 13 December 2009

I searched my archives and it seems that I never got to write up a description of that flag - yellow with a large white black-lined image of a king sitting on a bench, crowned and holding an orb and and an arrow bow. (There!) An accurate report of this flag (and indeed of all from this source, which I did only very preliminarily) will need to analize and compare its image and text in all known versions of [f0fXX] ([f0fXXn], [f0fXXr], [f0fXXs] and [f0fXXz], and also [f0f77], [f0f12] and [f0f05]), as also their critique in vexillological articles (i.a. [nag00], [gmc17] and [mnf99]).
António Martins- Tuválkin, 08 July 2010

Flag of Scim, which was titled as China in the "Book of All Kingdoms" should be moved out from the pages of China. Based on the discussion series, the collusion should be that flag belonged to region inside or nearby India. Besides, in late-1200 to mid-1300, the Chinese Empire did not exist, because it was conquered by the Mongol Empire. In this period, Central Asia in ruled under another Mongol state, Chagatai Khanate. According to the Mongol flags, all flagsí styles are far different from this flag.
Thus, I suggest to move it to the pages of India according to the discussion. It's more proper to move to India than keep in China.
Akira Oyo, 25 April 2014

But mongols were Nestorians and the image seems more close to a Mongol emblem that a Indian one. I suggest donít take any action for the moment
Jaume Ollé, 25 April 2014

Since China was conquered by the Mongols for 89 years, if this image is more close to a Mongol emblem, it should be moved to the Mongols pages. That is, it should be moved no matter to the Indian or the Mongol pages. In other words, it should be moved out from the Chinese pages. Additionally, it's far from the Chinese traditional flag or emblem types. Chinese never put a human image on their flags or emblems.
Akira Oyo, 26 April 2014

Well, to me the image seems more Persian, but I see your line of reasoning. However, the distribution of flags information on historical locations in FotW is not primarily based on the rulers at the time of the flag. Instead it's primarily based on the current country the historical location is in.
So, the criterion would not be whether China and Scim were Mongol states at the time, but whether Scim was a state in what is now China. Since the only interpretable bits of information seems to place Scim in the Xinjiang area, for now the China pages would be the best location.
The dating of the Book of All Kingdoms is also unsure, so who ruled China at the time the book was written, or its information gathered, is not all that certain.
I do agree that the page probably work better if Scim would be named in the title rather than China. The book entry, after all, is about Scim; it doesn't seem to mention China or Cathay at all. (And a keyword "Scim"?) This, BTW, is a side-effect of an editor working on a page: It draws attention to the page and may result in additional discussion and information.
That's good to know, both for the Scim page and for Chinese flags in general.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 26 April 2014

In all the messages about this flag, there are only two persons suggested Xinjiang/Sinkiang. But most articles preferred to the region inside or nearby India ( or Indian subcontinent). It's why I think it proper to place on the Indian pages, and I don't think the Chinese pages is the best location at all.
Akira Oyo, 26 April 2014

Unfortunately, most of that is based on either some similarity of the name, or the Hakluyt text that locates this Transganges though we don't know how they derived at that - neither of them being really solid identifications.
But the quote we have from the book itself says "In the Empire of Catayo there is a kingdom called Scim ...". That's pretty solid on what country it would be part of. Specifically, it's supposed to be a part of the Empire of Catayo which borders on the Kingdom of Sarmagant (Samarkand), Bocarin (Bokhara), and Trimic (Tibet)." Are there any locations that might match that?
Until someone who knows history follows up on Antonio's advice and checks the known history of Sikkim and other such locations to see if a match is even possible, I'd say such speculations can not be trusted. All we really have is the quote from the source. (Does anyone have access to a source text to see how this quote appears in the original?)
Until further research improves our knowledge on the subject, Scim would appear to be in an unknown location in China, which matches the current domain for the page.
I wonder where the flag with the person holding a sun comes from, BTW. Is this an interpretation of "white, with a figure of the sun in the centre"? Or is this really a mix-up of two entries, with "a white flag with a red sun with black facial features" being the flag of Scim, and the flag with the figure holding the sun belonging to some adjacent, more Persian country.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 26 April 2014

I think where this flag belongs today is not identified at all because of lack of enough information, and it might belong to Central or Western Asia. If what I realized isn't wrong, it still better to move out from the China pages to UFE, until someone can provide more information to identify and verify it, isn't it?
Akira Oyo, 27 April 2014

The "UFE" stands for "Unidentified Flag or Ensign"; it's about the identification of the flag. In this case the flag is identified quite well: It's the flag of Scim.
We don't have "ULE" pages, "Unidentified Location or Entity". Instead, we tend to place the flag as best as we can. For example, if we knew a burgee belonged to the Springfield Yacht and Canoe Club, it wouldn't be an UFE as we knew it belonged to the SYCC. But we would still need to know which Springfield it belonged to. If all we had was a photograph of the burgee being flown on Lake Michigan, we would probably place it somewhere on the USA pages, even though the location would not be certain. It would give it the best chances of being found.
For Scim, we do this by listing it here  China and India. I would prefer describing it for China only, and linking from India for the sake of the speculation, but that's the choice of the editors. Any way, this is how the unidentified location is dealt with. Removing it from the China pages is not going to make it easier to find.
I can understand you wanting to improve the Chinese pages, but this page - or at least its location - is as good as we can make it at the moment.
It's not really very precise, but that's for lack of more information.
So, to try and improve upon it, let's see what we can do. Something quite significant, as it turns out:
There is the Internet Archive is a version of the Book of All Kingdoms [mnf99]:
This lists as XCI "Gran Can", which I assume is the Great Khan, and his ogival shows what appears to be a monarch on a throne, holding in his right hand a bow and in his left hand a round object. (Earth, globe, world, sun ... .) It then lists as XCII "Sçim" (c,) and this ogival shows what appears to be a black sun with 10 uneven rays.
This would seem to solve the mystery of the flag picturing a monarch. The appropriate location for that flag then would depend on the location.
Taking a closer look, gives us:

Page 77, which gives the first reference in translation: "And I reached the Empire of Catayo ... They call this emperor Gosnian Imperator Morroy, Great Can, Lord of the East. And his insignia is a golden flag an in its center an emperor seated with white clothing, and he has an imperial crown on his head, and in his hand a Turkish bow, and in the other hand a gold apple, in this manner. [XCI]"

Page 76 gives the source text, where the titles are: " Gosnian Imperator Morroy, Grand Can, Señor de la parte de oriente. "
So, indeed, at the time of this report, Catayo was under the rule of the Great Khan, and this was his flag. A "gold apple" is probably any golden globe.

Page 79 then gives this text in translation: " There are two certain routes to Catayo. One is ... The other route is entering the Mediterranio Sea and going to the island of Chipre, and from there to Armenia Major, and from there to the city of Savasco that is in Turquia, and going along until the River Eufrates and crossing it in the city of Argot, and crossing the empire of Mesopotania, and from there reaching the River Cur and crossing it in the Kingdom of Eglesia, which is in the Empire of Persia, and crossing all of Persia and going through the city of Toris, and leaving the Sea of Sara on your left, and crossing the whole kingdom of Siras, where there are no cities of towns, and also crossing the Kingdom of Samargant, and going eastward through the Kingdom of Sçim. This Sçim is not the one we mentioned above, because the other Sçim is in high India and borders on the Eastern Sea, which borders on the Empire of Catayo. But from Sçim to Catayo there is no city or town because the inhabitants live in the country."

Page 78 gives the source text, with note 193 below it saying: "The other route to Cathay passes Cyprus , Armenia, Turkey on the way to the banks of the Euphrates, crosses Iraq to the Tigris river, passes through Iran and its old capital Tabriz, continues through Samarkand (Uzbekistan), then heads east, finally reaching Cathay."

Then on page 83 it says, in translation: " In the Empire of Catayo there is a kingdom they call Sçim that borders on the Kingdom of Samargant and the Kingdom of Bocarin and the Kingdom of Trimit. And this Kingdom of Sçim is in Upper India, that borders on the Eastern Sea, which is the end of the earth. "

As far as I can tell, this is a contradiction, merging the two countries previously declared to be separate. Assuming no country bordered on both Samarkand and a China Sea at the time [Shimalaya?], I'll go with two countries with similar names, which both go their names represented as "Sçim". Unfortunately, he doesn't describe a journey to Sçim, but adds a description to his stay at the Chinese side of the Great Gateway, making it difficult to determine which of the two is meant.

Page 85: "And the insignia of the King of Sçim is a silver flag with a figure of the sun in the center. [XCII] "

But there s a bit of information in that it would seem that the Sçim he describes at that time is one of two kingdoms bordering the Indian Ocean or the Persian Gulf that, compared to High India and India the Sandy, are "on the western side of the land", one of which he has named as Persia. So it's probably not that High-India Kingdom of Sçim, more like an Indus valley one.

But could there have been a country there that our imaginary traveller (along the Silk Road?) would travel through after Samarkand to go eastward to China?
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 27 April 2014