A Book Arrives
To me, a new book arriving in the mail is like the stork bringing me a divine little imp with movie-star potential--"Ah, look, he's already growing a beard." "Thank God, doc, you didn't say 'Ah, look, she's already growing a beard.'" "She is a beard." "Oh, you beast." "Just jokin'! Can't a doctor joke?" And in yesterday's mail, I got such a gloriously nice little imp of a book, Catalog of coins of Chach, and it arrived yesterday from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, from Chach coin expert Vladimir Shagalov, he's coauthor of the book, and it was wrapped in what looked like a poor-grade of paper sack and tied up with twine--covered with Uzbekistan stamps--and when I cut the string and unwrapped the book, there it was, mine all mine, a beauty of a blue semi-hardback book with gold-stamped titles and authors in both Russian and English, like books printed in the old Soviet Union used to look, sort of crudely bound, the semi-hardcover pliable enough to bend and warp and the binding of this book is a little warped at the top and is bound in such a strictly glued (adhesive) way as to easily break apart if the book is opened clumsily or the covers are pulled back too far or it is dropped from a certain height to a hard floor--easy for the adhesive holding the pages together to crack open, separate from the spinal bind, and leave you with split-open pages that have then split loose from the adhesive of the spine and backing to leave the book broken. I'm not familiar with bookbinding though I know a woman who studied bookbinding at Yale or Harvard or somewhere like that--she's not at all the bookbinder type--and my grandmother who was my hometown librarian for more years than several coons's lives did her own rebindings and binding repairs down in her basement workshop where an old Scottish gentleman used to help her rebind books and repair torn pages and such--with the always hot glue pot and the stiff pig-bristle brush stuck in it and strips of black and blue binding all around and the stencils used to retitle the new-bound books and to put the Dewey Decimal System number on the bottom of the spines. It always smelled mustier down there than it did in the upper library rooms--ah, but that old library musty smell was so sweet to me, a smell of books I got so used to growing up--my grandmother smelled like books all the time, too. I was so accustomed to hanging out in a library as a kid and a high schooler that the first thing I did when I got to college was use my library card to check out the library, and my college fortunately for me had a fine big well-lighted book-bulging library with lots of study niches hidden among the stacks and all around the perimeters at the broad windows that looked out onto the ad building with its quaint fountain, always-wrong clock, and colored lights that gave this brand-new administration building that really did look like Independence Hall in Philly when it was lightless a look like Luna Park in turn-of-the-century Coney Island when it was decked out with a 100,000 or so of Tom Edison's new electric light bulbs he called Mazdas after old Zoroaster's Thus Spaketh Holy Book--Mazda being a god of brilliant light--and we know the Sun was the original god, that blinding light in the sky, that all-seeing eye in the sky, that fireball of omnipotent power--and anyone looking long upon the Sun god would surely go blind! That's why Moses could only look upon the Christian sun god's, Gee-hovah's, backside--his frontside was too brilliant and sunny and would have blinded old gnarly Moses. Remember, the Messiah to the Jews is The Light! Jesus (Joshua of Nazareth) is called The Light! Even Jesus's face was brighter than the sun! Ah the wonderful poetic hoodoo of our instincts that we anthropomorphize as LEGENDS, legends of supermen, superwomen (Amazons), superuses, superhomosapiens, supermonkeys, the supernaturally created while the rest of the universe is a Big Bang-created mess, the heavens, or, hell, it's Heaven up there somewhere, somewhere where there's music, how high the moon!
And this old Soviet-published-looking blue book when opened revealed in both Russian and English a new vision of my fav ancient peoples, the peoples who inhabited the right bank of the Syr-Daria River, which today is the modern city of Tashkent, or Chach Kant, or Shi, or Shash--the way the Arabs pronounced it since they had no "ch" in their alphabet--and holy golly double-humped camels (a Chach coin bears a double-humped camel as its image) there is so much in this book, 323 pages, about Chach, more Chach info than I knew existed only a few weeks ago. And now, the kingdom and the people who used to be an almost certain mystery to me are blossoming forth by the thousands from the pages of this beautiful book blossoming forth into historically flowery cities and states and a whole garden of colorful rulers and a flourishing rose garden of Chach culture and Chach agriculture and cattle raising, where before all I knew about the Chach was that they were expert silver miners and silversmiths and their silver was the finest in the area and they also became great coin minters (a now I read that so far no silver Chach coins have been discovered). But now already in the first paragraph of Vladimir Shagalov's "Introduction" is more info than I've ever seen on Chach. Sez here, "Chach for the first time was mentioned in 262 AD in victorious inscription of Sasanian ruler Shapur I on Kaaba Zoroastra, in which his possessions were extended up to Sogd and Chachstan mountains."
Oh what a delightful book--giving me much Freudian pleasure--as I read it, even trying to read its Russian, which looks like the writing on an Egyptian cartouche to me, though I do enjoy looking at it and imagining what it says. Chach in Russian seems to be "Yaya," but then I don't know if a "Y" is really a Y in Cyrillic! But it's fun looking at the Russian and matching it to the English I do know--the way Hemingway said he learned Spanish, French, and Italian, by reading newspaper articles, the same articles, in both English and whatever other language he was learning.
"Etymology of its [Chach's] name is not entirely clear. Chinese chronicles reproduced it as Shi or Chzheshe, have identified it with term 'stone', stationing the Stone Tower somewhere close by.... Chach was part of a state Kang-Yui from II BC to III AD. In accordance with Chinese chronicles, five small possessions were part of Kang-Yui, namely: Suse (Kesh--Kashka-Darya), Fumu ('Kushania at Zarafshan', possibly an ancient Kattakugan of Samarkand region), Yuni (Tashkent oasis), Gui (Bukhara), Eyugang (Khwarazm--Urgench).... Town Bitiyan was a capital of Kang-Yui. There were made attempts to identify Bitiyan with site of ancient settlement Kanka in Tashkent oasis, with capital of possession Yuni."
Geez, and that's only from a couple of paragraphs. I champion writers of books like this; there's huge amounts of burning the midnight oils and elbow grease needed to achieve such a masterpiece of a tome--I mean Vladimir Shagalov and A. Kuznetsov have grouped and typed over 200 Chach coins housed in the Central Bank of Uzbekistan in Tashkent, weighed them, studied the metals comprising their makeups, measured them, then classified them according to another Uzbekistan numismatist, E.V. Rtveladze's 9 groups of Chach coin, which they've busted down into 36 types--and this, as I've said many times before, is the result of the Soviet Union's being dissolved and all of this historical and anthropological and sociological and numismatic information coming to the light of day in English and in being made available to the whole world rather than all that information being guarded as though national security secrets by the former Soviet dictatorial blowhard assholes--like that awful former KGB murderer (redrum) Pootin' the Great Pooter of the Russian Pooters--and now all of this information about the people of Chach has come to global light--and now I see that these once scarce coins of Chach are now broken up into 9 different groups with 36 type varieties among those 9 different groups, and here these coins are all sorted out, are all classified, accompanied by scans and drawings and photos, and, too, these coins are in more than a few cases in almost mint (AU--"almost uncirculated") condition. The Chach coins in my collection are all very worn and their images are very hard to see on most of them, though the tamghas, the special dynasty marks on the coins of these tribal groups--it's a Sogdian mark, the Chach tamgha (or tenga) looking like a long-necked goose stick-drawing--there are 12 different tamghas on Chach coins.
Chach coin reverse showing the Chach tamgha (dynasty mark)--that's it in the center of the coin that looks like a pair of ice tongs. The legend around the tamgha is called a "Sogdian" legend and it usually says "King of Kings" or some such divinely simple royal statement of modesty as that.
Shagalov makes his tamghas look like stick-drawn geese.
It's the kind'a book I'll be reading for years--plus I can now classify my own Chach coin collection, about 20 coins--more if I throw in my Hephthalite coins, which are Chachian, too, really, "Chach was part of state of Hephthalites since V AD. This period of history of Chach was not widely covered in written manuscripts and information about it was mainly received from some knowledge of Shah-Name...." [Hey, these are Uzbeks writing in Russian and English--so there English isn't up to Strunk & White logic.]
I'm cuddling this book like it was my newborn child--my only son, my Messiah.
for The Daily Growler