January 08, 2014


The Tibetan word for “vermillion” is li khri and this, according to Beyer 1991: 142, n. 33, suggests that vermillion was first known in “Khotan” (i.e. Li-yul).


  1. I think Beyer didn't come up with the idea, he took it from Berthold Laufer's "Loan-words in Tibetan," the footnote on p. 456, where he discusses several terms beginning with the syllable "li" and argues that the "li" in these cases refers to Khotan as the source of the item. I'm sure he's not correct in the case of li-ka-ra, which has an Indic origin. That's why I made up this new proverb, "All that begins in li is not Khotanese."

    Li-khri is an interesting case, since it has what looks like a total synonym in the borrowed-from-India form se-'du[r]-ra, sometimes spelled more 'correctly' sin-dhu-ra.

    Actually, I doubt that the li in li-khri is actually meaning Khotan. If so, what does the khri mean?

    And what about li-shi? Cloves don't originate from Khotan, but rather from the opposite direction, from the Moluccans

  2. Dear D, thank you very much indeed for your usual (unusually) useful insight and references. It is true that “li yin tshad li yul nas yin mi dgos.”