Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Cathay, the name by which China was known to mediaeval geographers, and which it still bears (Kitai) in Russia and Central Asia. It was derived from the Khitan race or dynasty that for some two centuries maintained its independence in the northern provinces, disappearing in 1123 before the Manchus. The word, however, survived, and was imported into Europe, when the conquests of Jenghiz in the thirteenth century attracted notice to Chinese affairs. This primitive dynasty, known in "Chinese history as Liao or "Iron," was displaced after two centuries by the Manchus, who, under the name of Nyuche or Churche, formed the Kiu or "Golden" age of China, and were extinguished by the Mongols. According to early travellers, the Khitai or Cathayans were beardless like the Mongols, but less broad in feature, small in stature. with narrow eyes, kindly, even polished, and excelling as artists and craftsmen. Their language and their written characters seem to have been identical with Chinese, and they were skilled in the manufacture of silken tissues. Their country was generally represented as lying north of China proper, and Zipanga or Japan was regarded as an outlying island, Cambaluc being mentioned as the capital. It was not until the beginning of the seventeenth century that Benedict Goes discovered Cathay and China to be identical, and the name soon afterwards dropped out of use.