Treasures

Bâstân-shenâsi: Gench-hâ (Antiquities: Treasures)
I bought this book in Tabriz, just one corner from that church at the bazaar which was already described by Marco Polo. We were accompanied to the church by an unknown old-fashioned Azeri gentleman with little laughing wrinkles in the corner of his eye, whom we approached for directions on the street. The church was closed so that we could not enter, but a very kind elder Azeri woman offered us exquisite Tabriz chocolate in the courtyard. Tabriz is the capital of chocolate as we experienced it in the neighboring confectionery where, while we were having a chat with the pastry-cook, two beautiful local girls praised me for my beard. I don’t know whether they did so because I wore beard like good Muslims, or, on the contrary, because I had cut it short unlike they.

Treasures in the bazaar of TabrizTreasures in the bazaar of Tabriz

And as if so many treasures found were not enough for a morning, in the bookshop – where we had a long conversation with the extremely intelligent young shopkeeper – I found just this volume entitled Gench-hâ, that is “Treasures” of the series Bâstân-shenâsi (Science of antiquity), introducing with several pictures and well-written concise texts to schoolboys the most remarkable treasures of the world, from those of the Pharaons, of the Scythians and of Troy through those of the pirates, of the Great Armada and of the Titanic to the Aztec golden statues and the treasures robbed by the German army. But Tabriz, with the characteristic generosity of Iranian hosts, managed to add in this volume even to all the treasures of the world two extra treasures that only a Hungarian guest can properly appreciate.

The first one is the title of the book itself. If we omit the -hâ sign of the plural, we get the word gench, which is identical in meaning and similar in sound to Hungarian kincs (pronounced kinch), and even more to its Medieval form kench.

kincs 1213/1550: ? „Iudice Paulo curiali cõite de Bichor, pristaldo Boncy, Cunsudu portato ferro cum solui deberet”, sz. szn. (VárReg. 153.); 1291-4: ? Kuncheý sz. hn. (MNy. 22: 222); 1301: Kynchus sz. hn. (Györfy 1: 731); 1358-9: Kenches sz. hn. (MNy. 16: 38); 1372 u./1448 k.: „kyt en aloytok nagÿ kencznek holot semmÿ” (JókK. 130). J: 1. 1213/1550: ? ’(felhalmozott) anyagi érték, ingó vagyontárgy, értékes, becses valami vagy valaki; Schatz’ (l. fent), 1372 u./1448 k.: ’ua.’ (l. fent); 2. 1416 u./1466: ’kincstár; Schatzkammer’ (MünchK. 40). – Sz: ~es 1301: hn. (l. fent); 1495 e. kinLos hazaba (GuaryK. 111) | ~ez 1416 u./1450 k.: kenLeznèc gr. ’kincset gyűjt, szerez’ (BécsiK. 219). —— Ismeretlen eredetű. 2. jelentésében a lat. thesaurus ’kincs; kincstár’ tükörszava. – Iráni és török származtatása nem fogadható el, a kéj ~ kény szóval való egybekapcsolása is téves. —— CzF.; Vámbéry: NyK. 8: 188; Munkácsi: NyK. 17: 97, 28: 267, 29: 20, AkÉrt. 5: 133, KSz. 1: 242, ÁKE. 412; Miklosich: TENachtr. 1: 74; Asbóth: NyK. 34: 106; Tagányi: MNy. 20: 138; Sköld: UngJb. 5: 435; Melich: AkNyÉrt. 25/4: 35; Fokos: Balassa-Eml. 56; Rásonyi Nagy: UngJb. 15: 551; Horger: MNy. 33: 247, 36: 322; SzófSz.; Kardos: MNyTK. 82. sz. 55. – Vö. köz~.

When checking the roots of the Hungarian word in the A magyar nyelv történeti-etimológiai szótára (Historical-etymological dictionary of the Hungarian language, 1977), there we read: Of unknown origin, and somewhat later: Its Iranian and Turkish etymology is unacceptable. But this affirmation itself seems to be unacceptable, as almost all the great names in the following bibliography stand up for the Iranian and/or Turkish etymology of the word. The names of the Western Hungarian village Gencsapáti and the Eastern Hungarian village Gencs (this latter now in Romania) are both officially said to come from the Iranian/Old Turkish word ‘genj’ = ‘treasure’, and the authoritative Ókori lexikon (Lexicon of Ancient Scholarship) also writes about the name of the Iranian city of Gaza, where the treasure of the Persian kings used to be conserved: “it comes from Sanskrit gandsha, that is treasure, like New Persian gendsh, which gave origin to Old Hungarian gench, treasure.” (This Iranian word is also the root of the Hebrew genizah, of the attic of the synagogue where the manuscripts including the name of God are being accumulated in the course of the centuries, and Dávid Kaufmann could say a lot about what a great treasure this is.) Such bias is a sad, but characteristic feature of this great dictionary of Hungarian etymology, compiled by “hardcore” Finno-Ugrist academicians who will do anything but recognize the Turkish or Iranian roots of “a word of unknown origin”. This has been eloquently and bitterly set forth by Hasan Eren, head of the department of Hungarology at the University of Ankara, honorary member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and redactor of the great Turkish dictionary of etymology, in his recension written about the Hungarian dictionary.

But another, much bigger surprise is the other extra treasure to which the book dedicates a special place on the two pages written about the treasures dragged off by the Nazis from the occupied countries.

A magyar korona a perzsa „Kincsek” könyvben
The crown of Hungary (Tâdj-e Madjâristân). Among the treasures found in the repository of Merkers, there was also the ancient crown of one of the Hungarian kings, Saint Stephen (Santestefan pâdishâh-e Madjâristân) who died in 1031. Before it got to the hands of the Nazis (nâzi-hâ), several kings of Hungary wore it on their heads.”

True, Saint Stephen died in 1038, but let the first stone be cast on the author by him who can tell the year of the death of King Dareios or Shah Great Abbas with the accuracy of at least one century. This little illustrated description appeared in a popular series, published in a high number of copies in Iran, where everyone we met could tell what the capital of Hungary was. Raise your hand if you have already heard about the Peacock Throne which is of the same importance for Persians, or if you know that the diamond called in Persian Koh-i-Nur, ‘the Mountain of Light’ – the largest one in the world at its times – adorned the crown of Persian rulers before it fell in 1877 into the hands of another occupying army, and from there into that “repository” of London where it has been preserved till our days, the Buckingham Palace.