In my Zoroaster
(p. 80, 163-164, 217) allusion was made several times to the story
told by Firdausi, and referred to likewise by other Persian and Arabic
writers, to the effect that Zoroaster (or else his patron King Gushtasp,
i.e. Vishtaspa) had planted a wonderful cypress-tree before the door of
the fire-temple at Kashmar, in the district of Turshiz, Khurasan, and
recorded upon its trunk that 'Gushtasp had accepted the Good Religion.
In addition to the
Firdausi and other references, (cf. Zor. p. 80, n. I) some further
memoranda may now be included concerning the cypress of Kashmar, owing to
the fact that this far-famed tree is of special significance in connection
Simply for convenience
of reference I first include here a rendering of the Firdausi passage
regarding the cypress, to which I had previously referred (op. cit.
p. 80, n. I), but without inserting a version of the excerpt itself. The
text of the verses with which we have to deal maybe translated
Firdausi, ed. V-L. 3.
1498, 59-86; also M. 4. 362-365. ‘The noble-born Gushtasp ascended to the
throne, and sent troops to every part of the country. He distributed
troops throughout the world, and founded domed temples of fire on the
He first established the fire of Mihr Burzin;
see what a cult he set up in the country! Zardusht
 planted a noble cypress in front of the portal of
the fire within, and inscribed upon that noble erect tree: “Gushtasp
accepted the Good Religion.” He made this noble cypress a witness; thus,
was disseminating justice.
When some years passed
in this way, the tree grew in height and bulk amidst, until it became a
cypress so noble and lofty that a lasso could not encircle it. When it had
sent many branches aloft, he (Gushtasp, 1. 74) threw around it a goodly
[Description of the gorgeous structure is omitted here.] The King
of the Earth made his abode in it. He sent this message to every part of
the country. “Where in the world is there the like of the cypress of
Kashmar? God sent it to me from heaven, saying, ‘Ascend from here
to heaven.’ Now hearken, all of you, to this counsel of mine, Wend ye on
foot to the cypress of Kashmar, follow ye each the pathway of Zardusht.” …
At his command all that wore, crowns turned their faces toward the cypress
of Kashmar. The house of worship thus became a paradise, wherein Zardusht
incarcerated the Divs. Call it (the tree) of Paradise, if you do not know
why you should call it the cypress of Kashmar.’
When I was in Mashhad
for the first time, in June 1907, I spoke with a high Persian functionary,
the Kar Guzar, about the story and found him well acquainted with it, even
as to the detail that the Abbasid caliph Mutawakkil had caused the famous
cypress of Kashmar (sarv-I Kasmar) to be cut down, as narrated in
the Dabistan and still earlier by Kazvini.
 He explained to me the location of Kashmar in the
Turshiz district, southwest of Mashhad, and stated that the name is to be
pronounced Kashmar, not Kishmar.
Again, in April 1926, when making the journey up the eastern side of
Persia from Duzdap to Mashhad, upon reaching the vicinity of Turbat-i
Haidari (or simply Turbat), I conversed with a Persian merchant,
who was riding in our motor car, and he pointed out the road that led from
there to Kashmar (as he, too, pronounced it) some sixty or more miles to
the west. He knew nothing, however, about the tradition of the cypress,
but I was glad to see at least the road, and to have his confirmation as
to how the Persians call the place today.
Although I had not
with me the necessary books, I was aware that Major (now Brigadier-General
Sir) Percy Sykes had visited the region in one of his many journeys in
Persia. Upon gaining access to my library, I found at once an interesting
half page in his report of ‘A sixth Journey in Persia’ (Journ.
37.160, with Map
appended, p. 166, Jan.-Feb. 191I), devoted to 'the village of Kishmar’ (as
he prefers to spell it). He describes the historic place as built around a
striking minar, which minaret is a hundred feet high and is
probably to be assigned to the end of our tenth century. He mentions the
tradition already recorded about the tree as associated with Zoroaster,
and gives the year when the Caliph Mutawakkil caused the cypress to be
felled as A.H. 247= A.D. 861. He has no occasion to allude to the date for
Zoroaster, which can be deduced from the Mohammedan authors who touch on
On my shelves I
likewise looked up an earlier and valuable paper on Marco Polo’s travels
by the late Sir Albert Houtum-Schindler, in JRAS. 1909, p. 154-162,
in which he shows that Marco Polo’s abre sol stands for the Persian
dirakht-i sum, ‘cypress tree,’ thus recalling, with Yule (3d ed.
Cordier), I. 131,the legend of the cypress at Kashmar, near Turshiz (p.
further with the general subject, it is appropriate to include here a
reference, which I had previously overlooked.
It is found in Kazvini (A.D.1275),who alludes to the tree as planted by
King Vishtaspa (Ar. Kushtasb),and tells also the fate of Mutawakkil
who had caused it to be cut down (see above, note 10). Kazvini's
account runs as follows.
Cosmography, 2. 299: 'Kashmar,
a village, is one of the scattered settlements in the district of Nishabur
(Nishiipfir). In it there was a cypress tree, one of the noble straight
cypresses, which was planted by Kushtasb the King. It’s like in beauty,
height, and size was not to be seen; and it was one of the wonders of
Khurasan. Al-Mutawakkil was told about it and was anxious to see it. As it
was not possible for him to make the journey to Khurasan, he wrote to
Tahir ibn 'Abdullah, giving him orders to cut it down, load the pieces of
its trunk and branches upon camels, and bring it to him personally,
because he wanted to see it. His counselors advised against this and
sought to frighten him by an augury, but their advice concerning the
cypress was of no avail.
When the people of the
district (around Kashmar) were told of this they gathered together,
implored, and offered money for its preservation, but without effect. The
cypress was cut down. The grief of the people (assembling) around it was
great; lamentations arose and tears were (shed) upon it. Wrapping it in
wool, they sent it on camels to Baghdad. And ‘Ali ibn Jahm
composed the verses:-
They said al-Mutawakkilsent
it (i.e. the cypress) on its way; the cypress moves onward, but fate (too)
is advancing. It (the cypress?) was covered, because our Imam (Mutawakkil)
Was to be covered (killed) by a sword of his own children.”
But before the arrival
of the cypress, al-Mutawakkil had been killed at the hands of his slaves;
the ill omen became a reality.’
It will be observed
that Kazviniin this passage definitely assigns the planting of the tree to
Zoroaster's patron, King Vishtasp, as I pointed out above (note I) in
connection with the excerpt from Firdausi. In any case the association of
the famous cypress must rest upon some ancient tradition.
As a supplement to
Kazvini's notice, we may add (cf. Zor. p. 80 n. I) a picturesque
account of our cypress, which is found in a Persian lexicon of the
seventeenth century, the Burhan-i Kati, and practically
identically in the Farhang-i Jahangiri, of the same century
(both thus indicating an older source). Merely as a matter of convenience
I make use of the text of the Burhan entry as printed in Vullers,
Fragmente uber d. Relig. des Zor. p. 113-115,with a German version;
compare likewise the kindred passage in the Farhang according to the Latin
version by Hyde (I ed.), Hist. relig. vet. Persarum, p. 327-328.
The Burhan passage may be rendered thus:-
Burhan-i Kati' ,loc.
cit. 'Kashmar (sic)is the name of a village of the district of
Turshiz in the province of Khurasan. They (i.e. the Magians) say Zardusht
planted, with auspicious horoscope, two cypress-trees, one in this same
village (i.e. Kashmar), the other in Faramad, which is one of the villages
of T u s in the province of Khurasan.
The claim of the Magians is that Zardusht brought the two cypress-shoots
from paradise and planted them in these two villages.
When Mutawakkil the
Abbasid was building the Jafarid palace
at Samarrahhe sent orders to Tahir ibn 'Abdullah, the governor of Khurasan,
in writing, that he should cut down that tree, put the trunk upon a cart,
load the branches upon camels, and send it to Baghdad. An assemblage of
the Magians offered Tahir 50,000 dinars, but he would not accept,
and he ordered the tree to be hewn down. At the time when the tree fell,
the earth underwent such a quaking that great damage was done- to the
aqueducts and the buildings in that vicinity.
They say the age of
the tree was 1450 years, and that the circuit of its trunk was 28
whip-lash lengths, and under its shadow more than 2000 cattle and sheep
took rest. Moreover, birds of various kinds, beyond limit and
count, had built their nests in it, so that at the time of the tree's fall
the face of the sun was veiled by the multitude of the birds, and the sky
became dark. Its branches were loaded upon 1300 camels, and the cost of
(transporting) the trunk to Baghdad was 500,000 dihrams. When the
cypress arrived one station before the Jafarid palace, Mutawakkil the
Abbasid was hacked to pieces that same night by his servants.'
Two other references
to the Kashmar cypress by the Persian geographer Mustaufi (Hamd-Allah
Mustaufi) , A.D. 1340,have likewise become available in recent years. Both
of these are found in his Nuzkat al-Kulub, edited and translated by G. Le
Strange, London, 1919 (Gibb Memorial Series, xxiii,part I, Persian text,
p. 144;part 2, English translation, p. 142). The passage on Kashmar in the
section relating to the district of Turshiz reads thus in Le Strange's
rendering (Part 2, p. 142):
is a provincial town of this district, and here of old was a cypress tree,
taller than any other in all the rest of the world. It was planted, it is
said, by Jamasp the Wise , and more than once in the Shah Namah the
Cypress of Kashmaris mentioned, as for instance in the couplet:
And a branch of
cypress from Paradise they brought
Which he planted
before the gate of Kashmar.
In the village of
Kashmar no earthquake is ever felt, although in various other places, of
all the neighborhood round and about, earthquakes are common.
Notice in this passage
that Mustaufi assigns the planting of the cypress to Jamasp the Wise, who
was Zoroaster's associate and successor, instead of to his royal patron or
to the Prophet himself. As Mustaufi wrote three centuries after Firdausi,
this difference may be due to another tradition or to some manuscript
variant, but more likely it is due to an oversight, since he seems to be
quoting from memory.
In one other passage,
which occurs a little earlier in the same work, Mustaufi (see Le Strange,
op. cit. text p.122, esp. lines 7-8; transl. p.120 bottom) alludes to the
Kashmar cypress, but simply as one of the two historic trees with which to
compare a notable cypress that flourished in his own day at Abarkuh
(located about three hundred milesor more southwest of Kashmar).
Mustaufi states that the Abarkuh cypress of his time was
famous throughout the
world, even as from the days of the Kayanian kings the cypress trees of
and of Balkh were famous. And at this present time the cypress here (i.e.
at Abarkuh) is taller and of greater girth than those others,
and in the Land of Iran there is none now it’s equal.’
From this additional
allusion in Mustaufi we can see how celebrated was the Kashmar cypress,
and the allusion is for that reason worth including. But concerning the
cypress of Balkh (which may have been equally historic), no information
appears to have been recorded, so far as I know. More light, perhaps, may
some time be thrown upon that subject, because Zoroaster’s name in his
later days is intimately associated with Balkh and Bactriana.
Thus far search has
failed to reveal any reference to Kashmar or its famous cypress in the
Pahlavi texts. Some one may be more fortunate than I have been in
examining these Middle Persian sources, or perhaps some unpublished texts
may be made accessible.
It must not be
forgotten that notable cypress-trees of remarkable size and apparently
great longevity exist in Persia and the adjoining lands to bear out the
tradition of the Kashmar tree. For example, concerning a giant cypress
found by Sykes in 1899 at the village of Sangun, in the Sarhad district,
Southeastern Persia, see Sykes, Ten Thousand Miles in Persia, p. 354. In
Seistan moreover, there are today a number of noteworthy cypress-trees as
described by G. P. Tate, Seistan,I. 188-190 Calcutta, 1910. Tate thinks it
not impossible, for example, that the cypresses of Darg in Seistan and of
Sangun in Southeastern Persia (cf. Sykes, above) ‘may have been propagated
from the famous tree of Kishmar to commemorate some event of importance at
Sarhad and in Seistan, connected with the spread of the doctrines of
Zoroaster.’ Something similar may have been the case with the cypress at
Abarkuh, mentioned above.
In conclusion, we may
say that the subject of the Kashmar cypress deserves still further
attention, and no doubt other references may be added, or a visit to
Kashmar itself might result in finding local traditions still connected
with the tree of ancient Zoroastrian fame.
whether Zoroaster himself or King Gushtasp, his patron, planted the
cypress is not of material importance here, and depends upon a manuscript
variation in a line of the Shah- namah, as immediately mentioned. In the
edition by Vullers and Landauer, Schahname, 3. 1499, line 62, the
text adopted reads: yaki sarv-i azadah ra Zarduhist … bikist,
‘Zoroaster planted a noble cypress’; with regard to which reading the
editors call attention in a footnote (n. I) to the similar metrical form
and rhyming of Zoroaster’s name in line 84, at the same time drawing
attention to the different reading in the Paris manuscript that was
naturally followed earlier by Mohl in his folio edition of the text
(1855), 4.364, lines 60-62(cf. likewise, still earlier, Mohl’s printed
text of this special section in his Fragmentsrelatifs a la
religion d e Zoroastre, p.19, bottom, Paris, 1829). The Paris edition
gives the half-line as: yaki sarv-i azadah bud az bahist etc., 'ily
avait un noble cypress venudu paradis; Guschtasp (not found in the ms.) le
planta devant la portedu temple du feu’ (cf. also the smaller edition of
the French translation, Le Livre des rois, 4. 291), which
manuscript reading, however, equally implies that it was Zoroaster who had
brought the sprout from heaven just as he had miraculously brought the
fire-censer alluded to a few lines preceding (see below, note 21).
While it is not possible just now to consult other codexes of the Shah-namah,
nor is the point of essential significance at the moment, this much can be
said as at present sufficing. We may concede that the Paris manuscript is
consistent throughout the entire section in making Gushtaspthe zealous
agent in each act of religious propaganda after his conversion to the
Faith, having previously made appropriate mention of Zoroaster and of how
he was led to adopt the Prophet’s divine message. Evidently in the same
tone, for Gushtasp, Barbier de Meynard, Dict. geog. De la Perse,
p.390, n.1, translates from a manuscript of Mustaufi’s Zinat-al-Majlis
a short passage, relating to the district of Turshiz, which praises the
beauty of the cypress of Kashmar and records the tradition that 'il fut
plante par Gushtasp le Sage.’ Cf. below, p.263 ('Jamasp the Wise').
For a considerable time during this past twelve months, I was tempted,
because of that, to remodel my former view as expressed in Zor. p.80
(compare also the footnote references there given, n. 1) and to assign
the planting to Gushtasp (Vishtaspa), but careful consideration (weighing
also the Dabistan and other allusions) has led me to abide by my
former view, and the generally accepted opinion, that it was Zoroaster
himself who planted the cypress for his patron king and added the
inscription. In any case there is hardly a whit of difference after all,
because it is clear that the tree was presumed to beof celestial origin,
like the fire-censer which Zardusht brought from heaven (see below, note
21), and was emblematic of the spreading tree of Zoroaster’s creed, an
image with which Firdausi (or his predecessor Dakiki) introduces the whole
narrative of the spread of the religion. We may incidentally recall here,
as iswell known, that Firdausi ascribes the entire account of Zoroaster
and the Fireworshipers to Dakiki.
editions cited above, V-L. 3. 1498-1500; M.4. 362-364 (cf. MF. = Mohl,
Fragmens, p. 18-20); compare likewise the translations of the Shah-namah
by Mohl (folio), Le Livre des rois, 4. 363-365, idem (small), Le
Livre, 4. 291-293; Pizzi, It Libro deire, 4. 83-85; A. G. and
E. Warner. The Shah-nama, 5. 34-35; cf. also the German
translation (made from Mohl’s Fragmens) by J. A. Vullers,
Fragmente uber die Religion des Zoroaster, p. 71-72, Bonn, 1831.
M. has b-ayin ,‘selon
In the volume
From Constantinople, etc., p. 210-216, upon the basis of the
Pahlavi texts, I was inclined, though with some hesitation, to locate the
Burzin Mitro Fire on Mount Mihr, between Damghan and Sabzavar, on the road
from Teheran to Mashhad. Firdausi, however (perhaps following another
tradition), places this noted fire at Kashmar.
See above, note I,
for a discussion of the text here.
So M. xuda,
but V-L. xirad, ‘wisdom.’
For the verb, I
have here followed the text of Mohl, afgand
citation from the Dabistan in Zoroaster, p. 163-164, and the
earlier one from Kazvini, translated below, p. 260-261.
For this and
other reasons, I adopt the spelling Kashmar, although I had written
Kishmar in Zor. p.161, n. 1 end. The latter form, however, is used by some
modern authorities, cited below. Possibly the pronunciation of the name
may vary in different localities.
Dabistan, as cited in Zor. p. 163-164, n.1 and 2. Unlike the author
of the Dabistan, the earlier writer Kazvini (quoted below, p. 260-261)
does not refer to the number of years which had elapsed from Zoroaster's
time to the time when the cypress was felled at the order of Mutawakkil.
He merely records that the caravan transporting the pieces of its trunk
and branches did not reach Baghdad before Mutawakkilwas assassinated. As
this event occurred on the night of December 9-10, 861 A.D., Kazvini’s
statement gives us the year when the historic tree was cut down. Cf. also
Sykes, op. c i t . p. 160.
(p. 158) spells the name as ‘Kashmar,’ but adds in a footnote (n. 1) other
variants in the Persian lexicons.
Now referred to in
Le Strange, Lands of the Eastern Caliphate, p. 355, 356
n. 1, Cambridge, 1905.
For the Arabic
text see F. Wustenfeld, Caswini's Kosmograhie, 2. 299, Goettingen,
1848. For a translation of the passage I am indebted to the kindness of
Dr. Nicholas N. Martinovitch, Columbia University, whose literal rendering
I have followed with some slight modifications in phraseology. The
translation of the verses is one made for me by Professor Richard Gottheil.
As observed by
Le Strange, p. 356, n. 1, ‘the name is printed by mistake K(i)shm'-ksm[r].
Ali ibn Jahm
as-Sami was a poet at the court of Mutawakkil, cf. Browne, Lit. Hist.
of Persia, I. 345. These verses, foreboding the Caliph’s violent end,
are important as containing the earliest allusion to the cypress.
For the date of
Mutawakkil's assassination, see above, note 10.
remarks on these two later Persian works, see my article on the Farnbag
Fire, in JAOS. 41. 101-102.
Farumad,is situated 100miles east of Shahrudand 16 miles north of the
highroad to Mashahad,according to Houtum-Schindler, JRAS. 1909, p.
158, n. 2.
This palace at
Samarra on the east bank of the Tigris in Irak was so called after his
name Ja'far al-Mutawakkil.
Observe that Le
Strange here adopts the spelling with a, not i.
The Shah-namah in
the edition of Vullers-Landauer, 3. 1498, 45, mentions a 'basin of fire'
(mijmar-iatas) brought by Zardusht from paradise; probably the same
idea was applied also to the cypress (compare, in this connection, note 1
ordinary folk ascribed this immunity to some benign
influence of their
beloved tree, cf. Le Strange, Landsof the Eastern Caliphate, p. 355, who
gave there a paraphrase of this passage from Mustaufi.
Simply to show
Zoroastrian associations in this region from olden times, we may add that
Mustaufi (loc. cit.) mentions a Fire-temple (atashgah)among the many
strong castles in the Turshiz district, some of which he names. While this
temple evidently was not the noteworthy shrine in Kashmar, at the door of
which the cypress was planted, it was situated in the same territory,
being located about thirty miles to the east. Attention was drawn to this
ancient site by Sykes who, in 1908, visited the ruins, which are still
called Kala Atish Gah, or 'Fire-temple Fort,' and their location is thus
marked on his map (see the article above cited, 'Sixth Journey,' p. 159,
and map at end).
Zoroastrianism at Abarkuh, see Jackson, Persia Past and Present, p.
Here the text reads
Lit. ‘is taller and
greater than those (two), and no cypress tree in the Land of Iranis like