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The Journals Of Lewis and Clark

The Travels of Marco Polo V1 Part1

The Travels of Marco Polo V1 Part2

The Travels of Marco Polo V1 Part3

The Travels of Marco Polo V1 Part4



Starting again from Erguiul you ride eastward for eight days, and then come to a province called EGRIGAIA, containing numerous cities and villages, and belonging to Tangut.[NOTE 1] The capital city is called CALACHAN.[NOTE 2] The people are chiefly Idolaters, but there are fine churches belonging to the Nestorian Christians. They are all subjects of the Great Kaan. They make in this city great quantities of camlets of camel’s wool, the finest in the world; and some of the camlets that they make are white, for they have white camels, and these are the best of all. Merchants purchase these stuffs here, and carry them over the world for sale.[NOTE 3]

We shall now proceed eastward from this place and enter the territory that was formerly Prester John’s.

NOTE 1.—Chinghiz invaded Tangut in all five times, viz. in 1205, 1207, 1209 (or according to Erdmann, 1210-1211), 1218, and 1226-1227, on which last expedition he died.

A. In the third invasion, according to D’Ohsson’s Chinese guide (Father
Hyacinth), he took the town of Uiraca, and the fortress of Imen, and
laid siege to the capital, then called Chung-sing or Chung-hing, now

Rashid, in a short notice of this campaign, calls the first city Erica, Erlaca, or, as Erdmann has it, Artacki. In De Mailla it is Ulahai.

B. On the last invasion (1226), D’Ohsson’s Chinese authority says that
Chinghiz took Kanchau and Suhchau, Cholo and Khola in the province of
Liangcheu, and then proceeded to the Yellow River, and invested Lingchau,
south of Ning-hsia.

Erdmann, following his reading of Rashiduddin, says Chinghiz took the cities of Tangut, called Arucki, Kachu, Sichu, and Kamichu, and besieged Deresgai (D’Ohsson, Derssekai), whilst Shidergu, the King of Tangut, betook himself to his capital Artackin.

D’Ohsson, also professing to follow Rashid, calls this “his capital Irghai, which the Mongols call Ircaya.” Klaproth, illustrating Polo, reads “Eyircai, which the Mongols call Eyircayá.”

Pétis de la Croix, relating the same campaign and professing to follow Fadlallah, i.e. Rashiduddin, says the king “retired to his fortress of Arbaca.”

C. Sanang Setzen several times mentions a city called Irghai, apparently in Tangut; but all we can gather as to his position is that it seems to have lain east of Kanchau.

We perceive that the Arbaca of P. de la Croix, the Eyircai of Klaproth, the Uiraca of D’Ohsson, the Artacki or Artackin of Erdmann, are all various readings or forms of the same name, and are the same with the Chinese form Ulahai of De Mailla, and most probably the place is the Egrigaia of Polo.

We see also that Erdmann mentions another place Aruki ([Arabic]) in connection with Kanchau and Suhchau. This is, I suspect, the Erguiul of Polo, and perhaps the Irghai of Sanang Setzen.

Rashiduddin seems wrong in calling Ircayá the capital of the king, a circumstance which leads Klaproth to identify it with Ning-hsia. Pauthier, identifying Ulahai with Egrigaya, shows that the former was one of the circles of Tangut, but not that of Ning-hsia. Its position, he says, is uncertain. Klaproth, however, inserts it in his map of Asia, in the era of Kúblái (Tabl. Hist. pl. 22), as Ulakhai to the north of Ning-hsia, near the great bend eastward of the Hwang-Ho. Though it may have extended in this direction, it is probable, from the name referred to in next note, that Egrigaia or Ulahai is represented by the modern principality of ALASHAN, visited by Prjevalsky in 1871 and 1872.

[New travels and researches enable me to say that there can be no doubt that Egrigaia = Ning-hsia. Palladius (l.c. 18) says: “Egrigaia is Erigaia of the Mongol text. Klaproth was correct in his supposition that it is modern Ning-h’ia. Even now the Eleuths of Alashan call Ning-h’ia, Yargai. In M. Polo’s time this department was famous for the cultivation of the Safflower (carthamus tinctorius). [Siu t’ung kien, A.D. 1292.]” Mr. Rockhill (cf. his Diary of a Journey) writes to me that Ning-hsia is still called Irge Khotun by Mongols at the present day. M. Bonin (J. As., 1900. I. 585) mentions the same fact.

Palladius (19) adds: “Erigaia is not to be confounded with Urahai, often mentioned in the history of Chingis Khan’s wars with the Tangut kingdom. Urahai was a fortress in a pass of the same name in the Alashan Mountains. Chingis Khan spent five months there (an. 1208), during which he invaded and plundered the country in the neighbourhood. [Si hia shu shi.] The Alashan Mountains form a semicircle 500 li in extent, and have over forty narrow passes leading to the department of Ning-hia; the broadest and most practicable of these is now called Ch’i-mu-K’ow; it is not more than 80 feet broad. [Ning hia ju chi.] It may be that the Urahai fortress existed near this pass.”

“From Liang-chow fu, M. Polo follows a special route, leaving the modern
postal route on his right; the road he took has, since the time of the
Emperor K’ang-hi, been called the courier’s route.” (Palladius, 18.)—H.

NOTE 2.—Calachan, the chief town of Egrigaia, is mentioned, according to Klaproth, by Rashiduddin, among the cities of Tangut, as KALAJÁN. The name and approximate position suggest, as just noticed, identity with Alashan, the modern capital of which, called by Prjevalsky Dyn-yuan-yin, stands some distance west of the Hwang-Ho, in about lat. 39°. Polo gives no data for the interval between this and his next stage.

[The Dyn-yuan-yin of Prjevalsky is the camp of Ting-yuan-yng or Fu-ma- fu of M. Bonin, the residence of the Si-wang (western prince), of Alashan, an abbreviation of Alade-shan (shan, mountain in Chinese), Alade = Eleuth or Oelöt; the sister of this prince married a son of Prince Tuan, the chief of the Boxers. (La Géographie, 1901. I. 118.) Palladius (l.c. 19) says: “Under the name of Calachan, Polo probably means the summer residence of the Tangut kings, which was 60 li from Ning-hia, at the foot of the Alashan Mountains. It was built by the famous Tangut king Yuen-hao, on a large scale, in the shape of a castle, in which were high terraces and magnificent buildings. Traces of these buildings are visible to this day. There are often found coloured tiles and iron nails 1 foot, and even 2 feet long. The last Tangut kings made this place their permanent residence, and led there an indolent and sensual life. The Chinese name of this residence was Ho-lan shan Li-Kung. There is sufficient reason to suppose that this very residence is named (under the year 1226) in the Mongol text Alashai nuntuh; and in the chronicles of the Tangut Kingdom, Halahachar, otherwise Halachar apparently in the Tangut language. Thus M. Polo’s Calachan can be identified with the Halachar of the Si hia shu shi, and can be taken to designate the Alashan residence of the Tangut kings.”—H. C.]

NOTE 3.—Among the Buraets and Chinese at Kiakhta snow-white camels, without albino character, are often seen, and probably in other parts of Mongolia. (See Erdmann, II. 261.) Philostratus tells us that the King of Taxila furnished white camels to Apollonius. I doubt if the present King of Taxila, whom Anglo-Indians call the Commissioner of Ráwal Pindi, could do the like.

Cammellotti appear to have been fine woollen textures, by no means what are now called camlets, nor were they necessarily of camel’s wool, for those of Angora goat’s wool were much valued. M. Douet d’Arcq calls it “a fine stuff of wool approaching to our Cashmere, and sometimes of silk.” Indeed, as Mr. Marsh points out, the word is Arabic, and has nothing to do with Camel in its origin; though it evidently came to be associated therewith. Khamlat is defined in F. Johnson’s Dict.: “Camelot, silk and camel’s hair; also all silk or velvet, especially pily and plushy,” and Khaml is “pile or plush.” Camelin was a different and inferior material. There was till recently a considerable import of different kinds of woollen goods from this part of China into Ladakh, Kashmir, and the northern Panjáb. [Leaving Ning-hsia, Mr. Rockhill writes (Diary, 1892, 44): “We passed on the road a cart with Jardine and Matheson’s flag, coming probably from Chung-Wei Hsien, where camel’s wool is sold in considerable quantities to foreigners. This trade has fallen off very much in the last three or four years on account of the Chinese middlemen rolling the wool in the dirt so as to add to its weight, and practising other tricks on buyers.”—H. C.] Among the names of these were Sling, Shirum, Gurun, and Khoza, said to be the names of the towns in China where the goods were made. We have supposed Sling to be Sining (note 2, ch. lvii.), but I can make nothing of the others. Cunningham also mentions “camlets of camel’s hair,” under the name of Suklát, among imports from the same quarter. The term Suklát is, however, applied in the Panjáb trade returns to broadcloth. Does not this point to the real nature of the siclatoun of the Middle Ages? It is, indeed, often spoken of as used for banners, which implies that it was not a heavy woollen:

  “There was mony gonfanoun
Of gold, sendel, and siclatoun.”
(King Alisaundre, in Weber, I. 85.)

But it was also a material for ladies’ robes, for quilts, leggings, housings, pavilions. Franc. Michel does not decide what it was, only that it was generally red and wrought with gold. Dozy renders it “silk stuff brocaded with gold”; but this seems conjectural. Dr. Rock says it was a thin glossy silken stuff, often with a woof of gold thread, and seems to derive it from the Arabic sakl, “polishing” (a sword), which is improbable. Perhaps the name is connected with Sikiliyat, “Sicily.”

(Marsh on Wedgwood, and on Webster in N. Y. Nation, 1867; Douet D’Arcq, p. 355; Punjab Trade Rep., App. ccxix.-xx.; Ladak, 242; Fr.-Michel Rech. I. 221 seqq.; Dozy, Dict. des Vêtements, etc.; Dr. Rock’s Ken. Catal. xxxix.-xl.)



Tenduc is a province which lies towards the east, and contains numerous towns and villages; among which is the chief city, also called TENDUC. The king of the province is of the lineage of Prester John, George by name, and he holds the land under the Great Kaan; not that he holds anything like the whole of what Prester John possessed.[NOTE 1] It is a custom, I may tell you, that these kings of the lineage of Prester John always obtain to wife either daughters of the Great Kaan or other princesses of his family.[NOTE 2]

In this province is found the stone from which Azure is made. It is obtained from a kind of vein in the earth, and is of very fine quality.[NOTE 3] There is also a great manufacture of fine camlets of different colours from camel’s hair. The people get their living by their cattle and tillage, as well as by trade and handicraft.

The rule of the province is in the hands of the Christians, as I have told you; but there are also plenty of Idolaters and worshippers of Mahommet. And there is also here a class of people called Argons, which is as much as to say in French Guasmul, or, in other words, sprung from two different races: to wit, of the race of the Idolaters of Tenduc and of that of the worshippers of Mahommet. They are handsomer men than the other natives of the country, and having more ability, they come to have authority; and they are also capital merchants.[NOTE 4]

You must know that it was in this same capital city of Tenduc that Prester John had the seat of his government when he ruled over the Tartars, and his heirs still abide there; for, as I have told you, this King George is of his line, in fact, he is the sixth in descent from Prester John.

Here also is what we call the country of GOG and MAGOG; they, however, call it UNG and MUNGUL, after the names of two races of people that existed in that Province before the migration of the Tartars. Ung was the title of the people of the country, and Mungul a name sometimes applied to the Tartars.[NOTE 5]

And when you have ridden seven days eastward through this province you get near the provinces of Cathay. You find throughout those seven days’ journey plenty of towns and villages, the inhabitants of which are Mahommetans, but with a mixture also of Idolaters and Nestorian Christians. They get their living by trade and manufactures; weaving those fine cloths of gold which are called Nasich and Naques, besides silk stuffs of many other kinds. For just as we have cloths of wool in our country, manufactured in a great variety of kinds, so in those regions they have stuffs of silk and gold in like variety.[NOTE 6]

All this region is subject to the Great Kaan. There is a city you come to called SINDACHU, where they carry on a great many crafts such as provide for the equipment of the Emperor’s troops. In a mountain of the province there is a very good silver mine, from which much silver is got: the place is called YDIFU. The country is well stocked with game, both beast and bird.[NOTE 7]

Now we will quit that province and go three days’ journey forward.

NOTE 1.—Marco’s own errors led commentators much astray about Tanduc or
Tenduc, till Klaproth put the matter in its true light.

Our traveller says that Tenduc had been the seat of Aung Khan’s sovereignty; he has already said that it had been the scene of his final defeat, and he tells us that it was still the residence of his descendants in their reduced state. To the last piece of information he can speak as a witness, and he is corroborated by other evidence; but the second statement we have seen to be almost certainly erroneous; about the first we cannot speak positively.

Klaproth pointed out the true position of Tenduc in the vicinity of the great northern bend of the Hwang-Ho, quoting Chinese authorities to show that Thianté or Thianté-Kiun was the name of a district or group of towns to the north of that bend, a name which he supposes to be the original of Polo’s Tenduc. The general position entirely agrees with Marco’s indications; it lies on his way eastward from Tangut towards Chagannor, and Shangtu (see ch. lx., lxi.), whilst in a later passage (Bk. II. ch. lxiv.), he speaks of the Caramoran or Hwang-Ho in its lower course, as “coming from the lands of Prester John.”

M. Pauthier finds severe fault with Klaproth’s identification of the name Tenduc with the Thianté of the Chinese, belonging to a city which had been destroyed 300 years before, whilst he himself will have that name to be a corruption of Tathung. The latter is still the name of a city and Fu of northern Shansi, but in Mongol time its circle of administration extended beyond the Chinese wall, and embraced territory on the left of the Hwang-Ho, being in fact the first Lu, or circle, entered on leaving Tangut, and therefore, Pauthier urges, the “Kingdom of Tanduc” of our text.

I find it hard to believe that Marco could get no nearer TATHUNG than in the form of Tanduc or Tenduc. The origin of the last may have been some Mongol name, not recovered. But it is at least conceivable that a name based on the old Thianté-Kiun might have been retained among the Tartars, from whom, and not from the Chinese, Polo took his nomenclature. Thianté had been, according to Pauthier’s own quotations, the military post of Tathung; Klaproth cites a Chinese author of the Mongol era, who describes the Hwang-Ho as passing through the territory of the ancient Chinese city of Thianté; and Pauthier’s own quotation from the Modern Imperial Geography seems to imply that a place in that territory was recently known as Fung-chau-Thianté-Kiun.

In the absence of preciser indications, it is reasonable to suppose that the Plain of Tenduc, with its numerous towns and villages, was the extensive and well-cultivated plain which stretches from the Hwang-Ho, past the city of Kuku-Khotan, or “Blue Town.” This tract abounds in the remains of cities attributed to the Mongol era. And it is not improbable that the city of Tenduc was Kuku-Khotan itself, now called by the Chinese Kwei-hwa Ch’eng, but which was known to them in the Middle Ages as Tsing-chau, and to which we find the Kin Emperor of Northern China sending an envoy in 1210 to demand tribute from Chinghiz. The city is still an important mart and a centre of Lamaitic Buddhism, being the residence of a Khutukhtu, or personage combining the characters of cardinal and voluntarily re-incarnate saint, as well as the site of five great convents and fifteen smaller ones. Gerbillon notes that Kuku Khotan had been a place of great trade and population during the Mongol Dynasty.

[The following evidence shows, I think, that we must look for the city of Tenduc to Tou Ch’eng or Toto Ch’eng, called Togto or Tokto by the Mongols. Mr. Rockhill (Diary, 18) passed through this place, and 5 li south of it, reached on the Yellow River, Ho-k’ou (in Chinese) or Dugus or Dugei (in Mongol). Gerbillon speaks of Toto in his sixth voyage in Tartary. (Du Halde, IV. 345.) Mr. Rockhill adds that he cannot but think that Yule overlooked the existence of Togto when he identified Kwei-hwa Ch’eng with Tenduc. Tou Ch’eng is two days’ march west of Kwei-hwa Ch’eng, “On the loess hill behind this place are the ruins of a large camp, Orch’eng, in all likelihood the site of the old town” (l.c. 18). M. Bonin (J. As. XV. 1900, 589) shares Mr. Rockhill’s opinion. From Kwei-hwa Ch’eng, M. Bonin went by the valley of the Hei Shui River to the Hwang Ho; at the junction of the two rivers stands the village of Ho-k’au (Ho-k’ou) south of the small town To Ch’eng, surmounted by the ruins of the old square Mongol stronghold of Tokto, the walls of which are still in a good state of preservation.—(La Géographie, I. 1901, p. 116.)

On the other hand, it is but fair to state that Palladius (21) says: “The name of Tenduc obviously corresponds to T’ien-te Kiun, a military post, the position of which Chinese geographers identify correctly with that of the modern Kuku-hoton (Ta tsing y t’ung chi, ch. on the Tumots of Kuku-hoton). The T’ien-te Kiun post existed under this name during the K’itan (Liao) and Kin Dynasties up to Khubilai’s time (1267); when under the name of Fung-chow it was left only a district town in the department of Ta-t’ung fu. The Kin kept in T’ien-te Kiun a military chief, Chao-t’ao- shi, whose duty it was to keep an eye on the neighbouring tribes, and to use, if needed, military force against them. The T’ien-te Kiun district was hardly greater in extent than the modern aïmak of Tumot, into which Kuku-hoton was included since the 16th century, i.e. 370 li from north to south, and 400 li from east to west; during the Kin it had a settled population, numbering 22,600 families.”

In a footnote, Palladius refers to the geographical parts of the Liao shi, Kin shi, and Yuen shi, and adds: “M. Polo’s commentators are wrong in suspecting an anachronism in his statement, or trying to find Tenduc elsewhere.”

We find in the North-China Herald (29th April, 1887, p. 474) the following note from the Chinese Times: “There are records that the position of this city [Kwei-hwa Ch’eng] was known to the builder of the Great Wall. From very remote times, it appears to have been a settlement of nomadic tribes. During the last 1000 years it has been alternately possessed by the Mongols and Chinese. About A.D. 1573, Emperor Wan-Li reclaimed it, enclosed a space within walls, and called it Kwei-hwa Ch’êng.”

Potanin left Peking on the 13th May, 1884, for Kuku-khoto (or Kwei-hwa-Ch’eng), passing over the triple chain of mountains dividing the Plain of Peking from that on which Kuku-khoto is situate. The southernmost of these three ridges bears the Chinese name of Wu-tai-shan, “the mountain of five sacrificial altars,” after the group of five peaks, the highest of which is 10,000 feet above the sea, a height not exceeded by any mountain in Northern China. At its southern foot lies a valley remarkable for its Buddhist monasteries and shrines, one of which, “Shing-tung-tze,” is entirely made of brass, whence its name.

“Kuku-Khoto is the depôt for the Mongolian trade with China. It contains two hundred tea-shops, five theatres, fifteen temples, and six Mongol monasteries. Among its sights are the Buddhist convent of Utassa, with its five pinnacles and has-reliefs, the convent of Fing-sung-si, and a temple containing a statue erected in honour of the Chinese general, Pai-jin- jung, who avenged an insult offered to the Emperor of China.” (Proc. R. G. S. IX. 1887, p. 233.)—H. C.]

A passage in Rashiduddin does seem to intimate that the Kerait, the tribe of Aung Khan, alias Prester John, did occupy territory close to the borders of Cathay or Northern China; but neither from Chinese nor from other Oriental sources has any illustration yet been produced of the existence of Aung Khan’s descendants as rulers in this territory under the Mongol emperors. There is, however, very positive evidence to that effect supplied by other European travellers, to whom the fables prevalent in the West had made the supposed traces of Prester John a subject of strong interest.

Thus John of Monte Corvino, afterwards Archbishop of Cambaluc or Peking, in his letter of January, 1305, from that city, speaks of Polo’s King George in these terms: “A certain king of this part of the world, by name George, belonging to the sect of the Nestorian Christians, and of the illustrious lineage of that great king who was called Prester John of India, in the first year of my arrival here [circa 1295-1296] attached himself to me, and, after he had been converted by me to the verity of the Catholic faith, took the Lesser Orders, and when I celebrated mass used to attend me wearing his royal robes. Certain others of the Nestorians on this account accused him of apostacy, but he brought over a great part of his people with him to the true Catholic faith, and built a church of royal magnificence in honour of our God, of the Holy Trinity, and of our Lord, the Pope, giving it the name of the Roman Church. This King George, six years ago, departed to the Lord, a true Christian, leaving as his heir a son scarcely out of the cradle, and who is now nine years old. And after King George’s death, his brothers, perfidious followers of the errors of Nestorius, perverted again all those whom he had brought over to the Church, and carried them back to their original schismatical creed. And being all alone, and not able to leave His Majesty the Cham, I could not go to visit the church above-mentioned, which is twenty days’ journey distant…. I had been in treaty with the late King George, if he had lived, to translate the whole Latin ritual, that it might be sung throughout the extent of his territory; and whilst he was alive I used to celebrate mass in his church according to the Latin rite.” The distance mentioned, twenty days’ journey from Peking, suits quite well with the position assigned to Tenduc, and no doubt the Roman Church was in the city to which Polo gives that name.

Friar Odoric, travelling from Peking towards Shensi, about 1326-1327, also visits the country of Prester John, and gives to its chief city the name of Tozan, in which perhaps we may trace Tathung. He speaks as if the family still existed in authority.

King George appears again in Marco’s own book (Bk. IV. ch. ii.) as one of Kúblái’s generals against Kaidu, in a battle fought near Karakorúm. (Journ. As. IX. 299 seqq.; D’Ohsson, I. 123; Huc’s Tartary, etc. I. 55 seqq.; Koeppen, II. 381; Erdmann’s Temudschin; Gerbillon in Astley, IV. 670;Cathay, pp. 146 and 199 seqq.)

NOTE 2.—Such a compact is related to have existed reciprocally between the family of Chinghiz and that of the chief of the Kunguráts; but I have not found it alleged of the Kerait family except by Friar Odoric. We find, however, many princesses of this family married into that of Chinghiz. Thus three nieces of Aung Khan became wives respectively of Chinghiz himself and of his sons Juji and Tului; she who was the wife of the latter, Serkukteni Bigi, being the mother of Mangú, Hulaku, and Kúblái. Dukuz Khatun, the Christian wife of Hulaku, was a grand-daughter of Aung Khan.

The name George, of Prester John’s representative, may have been actually Jirjis, Yurji, or some such Oriental form of Georgius. But it is possible that the title was really Gurgán, “Son-in-Law,” a title of honour conferred on those who married into the imperial blood, and that this title may have led to the statements of Marco and Odoric about the nuptial privileges of the family. Gurgán in this sense was one of the titles borne by Timur.[1]

[The following note by the Archimandrite Palladius (Eluc. 21-23) throws a great light on the relations between the families of Chinghiz Khan and of Prester John.

“T’ien-te Kiun was bounded on the north by the Yn-shan Mountains, in and beyond which was settled the Sha-t’o Tu-K’iu tribe, i.e. Tu-K’iu of the sandy desert. The K’itans, when they conquered the northern borders of China, brought also under their rule the dispersed family of these Tu- K’iu. With the accession of the Kin, a Wang Ku [Ongot] family made its appearance as the ruling family of those tribes; it issued from those Sha- t’o Tu-K’iu, who once reigned in the north of China as the How T’ang Dynasty (923-936 A.D.). It split into two branches, the Wang-Ku of the Yn- shan, and the Wang-Ku of the Lin-t’ao (west of Kan-su). The Kin removed the latter branch to Liao-tung (in Manchuria). The Yn-shan Wang-Ku guarded the northern borders of China belonging to the Kin, and watched their herds. When the Kin, as a protection against the inroads of the tribes of the desert, erected a rampart, or new wall, from the boundary of the Tángut Kingdom down to Manchuria, they intrusted the defence of the principal places of the Yn-shan portion of the wall to the Wang-Ku, and transferred there also the Liao-tung Wang-Ku. At the time Chingiz Khan became powerful, the chief of the Wang-Ku of the Yn-shan was Alahush; and at the head of the Liao-tung Wang-Ku stood Pa-sao-ma-ie-li. Alahush proved a traitor to the Kin, and passed over to Chinghiz Khan; for this he was murdered by the malcontents of his family, perhaps by Pa-sao-ma-ie-li, who remained true to the Kin. Later on, Chingiz Khan married one of his daughters to the son of Alahush, by name Po-yao-ho, who, however, had no children by her. He had three sons by a concubine, the eldest of whom, Kiun-pu-hwa, was married to Kuyuk Khan’s daughter. Kiun-pu-hwa’s son, Ko- li-ki-sze, had two wives, both of imperial blood. During a campaign against Haidu, he was made prisoner in 1298, and murdered. His title and dignities passed over in A.D. 1310 to his son Chuan. Nothing is known of Alahush’s later descendants; they probably became entirely Chinese, like their relatives of the Liao-tung branch.

“The Wang-Ku princes were thus de jure the sons-in-law of the Mongol Khans, and they had, moreover, the hereditary title of Kao-t’ang princes (Kao-t’ang wang); it is very possible that they had their residence in ancient T’ien-te Kiun (although no mention is made of it in history), just as at present the Tumot princes reside in Kuku-hoton.

“The consonance of the names of Wang-Khan and Wang-Ku (Ung-Khan and Ongu) led to the confusion regarding the tribes and persons, which at Marco Polo’s time seems to have been general among the Europeans in China; Marco Polo and Johannes de Monte Corvino transfer the title of Prester John from Wang-Khan, already perished at that time, to the distinguished family of Wang-Ku. Their Georgius is undoubtedly Ko-li-ki-sze, Alahush’s great-grandson. That his name is a Christian one is confirmed by other testimonies; thus in the Asu (Azes) regiment of the Khan’s guards was Ko-li-ki-sze, aliàs Kow-r-ki (d. 1311), and his son Ti-mi-ti-r. There is no doubt that one of them was Georgius, and the other Demetrius. Further, in the description of Chin-Kiang in the time of the Yuen, mention is made of Ko-li-ki-sze Ye-li-ko-wen, i.e. Ko-li-ki-sze, the Christian, and of his son Lu-ho (Luke).

“Ko-li-ki-sze of Wang-ku is much praised in history for his valour and his love for Confucian doctrine; he had in consequence of a special favour of the Khan two Mongol princesses for wives at the same time (which is rather difficult to conciliate with his being a Christian). The time of his death is correctly indicated in a letter of Joannes de M. Corvino of the year 1305: ante sex annos migravit ad Dominum. He left a young son Chu-an, who probably is the Joannes of the letter of Ioannes (Giovani) de M. Corvino, so called propter nomen meum, says the missionary. In another Wang-ku branch, Si-li-ki-sze reminds one also of the Christian name Sergius.”—H. C.]

NOTE 3.—”The Lapis Armenus, or Azure,… is produced in the district of
Tayton-fu (i.e. Tathung), belonging to Shansi.” (Du Halde in Astley,
IV. 309; see also Martini, p. 36.)

NOTE 4.—This is a highly interesting passage, but difficult, from being corrupt in the G. Text, and over-curt in Pauthier’s MSS. In the former it runs as follows: “Hil hi a une jenerasion de jens que sunt appellés Argon, qe vaut à dire en françois Guasmul, ce est à dire qu’il sunt né del deus generasions de la lengnée des celz Argon Tenduc et des celz reduc et des celz que aorent Maomet. Il sunt biaus homes plus que le autre dou païs et plus sajes et plus mercaant.” Pauthier’s text runs thus: “Il ont une generation de gens, ces Crestiens qui ont la Seigneurie, qui s’appellent Argon,qui vaut a dire Gasmul; et sont plus beaux hommes que les autres mescreans et plus sages. Et pour ce ont il la seigneurie et sont bons marchans.” And Ramusio: “Vi è anche una sorte di gente che si chiamano Argon, per che sono nati di due generazioni, cioè da quella di Tenduc che adorano gl’ idoli, e da quella che osservano la legge di Macometto. E questi sono i piu belli uomini che si trovino in quel paese e più savi, e più accorti nella mercanzia.

In the first quotation the definition of the Argon as sprung de la lengnée, etc., is not intelligible as it stands, but seems to be a corruption of the same definition that has been rendered by Ramusio, viz. that the Argon were half-castes between the race of the Tenduc Buddhists and that of the Mahomedan settlers. These two texts do not assert that the Argon were Christians. Pauthier’s text at first sight seems to assert this, and to identify them with the Christian rulers of the province. But I doubt if it means more than that the Christian rulers have under them a people called Argon, etc. The passage has been read with a bias, owing to an erroneous interpretation of the word Argon in the teeth of Polo’s explanation of it.

Klaproth, I believe, first suggested that Argon represents the term Arkhaiún, which is found repeatedly applied to Oriental Christians, or their clergy, in the histories of the Mongol era.[2] No quite satisfactory explanation has been given of the origin of that term. It is barely possible that it may be connected with that which Polo uses here; but he tells us as plainly as possible that he means by the term, not a Christian, but a half-breed.

And in this sense the word is still extant in Tibet, probably also in Eastern Turkestan, precisely in Marco’s form, ARGON. It is applied in Ladak, as General Cunningham tells us, specifically to the mixt race produced by the marriages of Kashmirian immigrants with Bot (Tibetan) women. And it was apparently to an analogous cross between Caucasians and Turanians that the term was applied in Tenduc. Moorcroft also speaks of this class in Ladak, calling them Argands. Mr. Shaw styles them “a set of ruffians called Argoons, half-bred between Toorkistan fathers and Ladak mothers…. They possess all the evil qualities of both races, without any of their virtues.” And the author of the Dabistan, speaking of the Tibetan Lamas, says: “Their king, if his mother be not of royal blood, is by them called Arghún, and not considered their true king.” [See p. 291, my reference to Wellby’s Tibet.—H. C.] Cunningham says the word is probably Turki, [Arabic], Arghún, “Fair,” “not white,” as he writes to me, “but ruddy or pink, and therefore ‘fair.’ Arghún is both Turki and Mogholi, and is applied to all fair children, both male and female, as Arghun Beg, Arghuna Khatun,” etc.[3] We find an Arghún tribe named in Timur’s Institutes, which probably derived its descent from such half-breeds. And though the Arghún Dynasty of Kandahar and Sind claimed their descent and name from Arghún Khan of Persia, this may have had no other foundation.

There are some curious analogies between these Argons of whom Marco speaks and those Mahomedans of Northern China and Chinese Turkestan lately revolted against Chinese authority, who are called Tungani, or as the Russians write it Dungen, a word signifying, according to Professor Vámbéry, in Turki, “a convert.”[4] These Tungani are said by one account to trace their origin to a large body of Uighúrs, who were transferred to the vicinity of the Great Wall during the rule of the Thang Dynasty (7th to 10th century). Another tradition derives their origin from Samarkand. And it is remarkable that Rashiduddin speaks of a town to the west or north-west of Peking, “most of the inhabitants of which are natives of Samarkand, and have planted a number of gardens in the Samarkand style.”[5] The former tradition goes on to say that marriages were encouraged between the Western settlers and the Chinese women. In after days these people followed the example of their kindred in becoming Mahomedans, but they still retained the practice of marrying Chinese wives, though bringing up their children in Islam. The Tungani are stated to be known in Central Asia for their commercial integrity; and they were generally selected by the Chinese for police functionaries. They are passionate and ready to use the knife; but are distinguished from both Manchus and Chinese by their strength of body and intelligent countenances. Their special feature is their predilection for mercantile speculations.

Looking to the many common features of the two accounts—the origin as a half-breed between Mahomedans of Western extraction and Northern Chinese, the position in the vicinity of the Great Wall, the superior physique, intelligence, and special capacity for trade, it seems highly probable that the Tungani of our day are the descendants of Marco’s Argons. Otherwise we may at least point to these analogies as a notable instance of like results produced by like circumstances on the same scene; in fact, of history repeating itself. (See The Dungens, by Mr. H. K. Heins, in the Russian Military Journal for August, 1866, and Western China, in the Ed. Review for April, 1868;[6] Cathay, p. 261.)

[Palladius (pp. 23-24) says that “it is impossible to admit that Polo had meant to designate by this name the Christians, who were called by the Mongols Erkeun [Ye li ke un]. He was well acquainted with the Christians in China, and of course could not ignore the name under which they were generally known to such a degree as to see in it a designation of a cross-race of Mahommetans and heathens.” From the Yuen ch’ao pi shi and the Yuen shi, Palladius gives some examples which refer to Mahommedans.

Professor Devéria (Notes d’Épig. 49) says that the word [Greek: Árchon] was used by the Mongol Government as a designation for the members of the Christian clergy at large; the word is used between 1252 and 1315 to speak of Christian priests by the historians of the Yuen Dynasty; it is not used before nor is it to be found in the Si-ngan-fu inscription (l.c. 82). Mr. E. H. Parker (China Review, xxiv. p. 157) supplies a few omissions in Devéria’s paper; we note among others: “Ninth moon of 1329. Buddhist services ordered to be held by the Uighúr priests, and by the Christians [Ye li ke un].”

Captain Wellby writes (Unknown Tibet, p. 32): “We impressed into our service six other muleteers, four of them being Argoons, who are really half-castes, arising from the merchants of Turkestan making short marriages with the Ladakhi women.”—H. C.]

Our author gives the odd word Guasmul as the French equivalent of Argon. M. Pauthier has first, of Polo’s editors, given the true explanation from Ducange. The word appears to have been in use in the Levant among the Franks as a name for the half-breeds sprung from their own unions with Greek women. It occurs three times in the history of George Pachymeres. Thus he says (Mich. Pal. III. 9), that the Emperor Michael “depended upon the Gasmuls, or mixt breeds ([Greek: symmíktoi]), which is the sense of this word of the Italian tongue, for these were born of Greeks and Italians, and sent them to man his ships; for the race in question inherited at once the military wariness and quick wit of the Greeks, and the dash and pertinacity of the Latins.” Again (IV. 26) he speaks of these “Gasmuls, whom a Greek would call [Greek: digeneis], men sprung from Greek mothers and Italian fathers.” Nicephorus Gregoras also relates how Michael Palaeologus, to oppose the projects of Baldwin for the recovery of his fortunes, manned 60 galleys, chiefly with the tribe of Gasmuls ([Greek: génos tou Gasmoulikou]), to whom he assigns the same characteristics as Pachymeres. (IV. v. 5, also VI. iii. 3, and XIV. x. 2.) One MS. of Nicetas Choniates also, in his annals of Manuel Comnenus (see Paris ed. p. 425), speaks of “the light troops whom we call Basmuls.” Thus it would seem that, as in the analogous case of the Turcopuli, sprung from Turk fathers and Greek mothers, their name had come to be applied technically to a class of troops. According to Buchon, the laws of the Venetians in Candia mention, as different races in that island, the Vasmulo, Latino, Blaco, and Griego.

Ducange, in one of his notes on Joinville, says: “During the time that the French possessed Constantinople, they gave the name of Gas-moules to those who were born of French fathers and Greek mothers; or more probably Gaste-moules, by way of derision, as if such children by those irregular marriages … had in some sort debased the wombs of their mothers!” I have little doubt (pace tanti viri) that the word is in a Gallicized form the same with the surviving Italian Guazzabúglio, a hotch-potch, or mish-mash. In Davanzati’s Tacitus, the words “Colluviem illam nationum” (Annal. II. 55) are rendered “quello guazzabuglio di nazioni,” in which case we come very close to the meaning assigned to Guasmul. The Italians are somewhat behind in matters of etymology, and I can get no light from them on the history of this word. (See Buchon, Chroniques Etrangères, p. xv.;Ducange, Gloss. Graecitatis, and his note on Joinville, in Bohn’s Chron. of the Crusades, 466.)

NOTE 5.—It has often been cast in Marco’s teeth that he makes no mention of the Great Wall of China, and that is true; whilst the apologies made for the omission have always seemed to me unsatisfactory. [I find in Sir G. Staunton’s account of Macartney’s Embassy (II. p. 185) this most amusing explanation of the reason why Marco Polo did not mention the wall: “A copy of Marco Polo’s route to China, taken from the Doge’s Library at Venice, is sufficient to decide this question. By this route it appears that, in fact, that traveller did not pass through Tartary to Pekin, but that after having followed the usual track of the caravans, as far to the eastward from Europe as Samarcand and Cashgar, he bent his course to the south-east across the River Ganges to Bengal (!), and, keeping to the southward of the Thibet mountains, reached the Chinese province of Shensee, and through the adjoining province of Shansee to the capital, without interfering with the line of the Great Wall.”—H. C.] We shall see presently that the Great Wall is spoken of by Marco’s contemporaries Rashiduddin and Abulfeda. Yet I think, if we read “between the lines,” we shall see reason to believe that the Wall was in Polo’s mind at this point of the dictation, whatever may have been his motive for withholding distincter notice of it.[7] I cannot conceive why he should say: “Here is what we call the country of Gog and Magog,” except as intimating “Here we are beside the GREAT WALL known as the Rampart of Gog and Magog,” and being there he tries to find a reason why those names should have been applied to it. Why they were really applied to it we have already seen. (Supra, ch. iv. note 3.) Abulfeda says: “The Ocean turns northward along the east of China, and then expands in the same direction till it passes China, and comes opposite to the Rampart of Yájúj and Májúj;” whilst the same geographer’s definition of the boundaries of China exhibits that country as bounded on the west by the Indo-Chinese wildernesses; on the south, by the seas; on the east, by the Eastern Ocean; on the north, by the land of Yájúj and Májúj, and other countries unknown. Ibn Batuta, with less accurate geography in his head than Abulfeda, maugre his travels, asks about the Rampart of Gog and Magog (Sadd Yájúj wa Majúj) when he is at Sin Kalán, i.e. Canton, and, as might be expected, gets little satisfaction.

[Illustration: The Rampart of Gog and Magog]

Apart from this interesting point Marsden seems to be right in the general bearing of his explanation of the passage, and I conceive that the two classes of people whom Marco tries to identify with Gog and Magog do substantially represent the two genera or species, TURKS and MONGOLS, or, according to another nomenclature used by Rashiduddin, the White and Black Tartars. To the latter class belonged Chinghiz and his MONGOLS proper, with a number of other tribes detailed by Rashiduddin, and these I take to be in a general way the MUNGUL of our text. The Ung on the other hand, are the UNG-kut, the latter form being presumably only the Mongol plural of UNG. The Ung-kút were a Turk tribe who were vassals of the Kin Emperors of Cathay, and were intrusted with the defence of the Wall of China, or an important portion of it, which was called by the Mongols Ungu, a name which some connect with that of the tribe. [See note pp. 288-9.] Erdmann indeed asserts that the wall by which the Ung-kut dwelt was not the Great Wall, but some other. There are traces of other great ramparts in the steppes north of the present wall. But Erdmann’s arguments seem to me weak in the extreme.

[Mr. Rockhill (Rubruck, p. 112) writes: “The earliest mention I have found of the name Mongol in Oriental works occurs in the Chinese annals of the After T’ang period (A.D. 923-934), where it occurs in the form Meng-ku. In the annals of the Liao Dynasty (A.D. 916-1125) it is found under the form Meng-ku-li. The first occurrence of the name in the Tung chien kang mu is, however, in the 6th year Shao-hsing of Kao-tsung of the Sung (A.D. 1136). It is just possible that we may trace the word back a little earlier than the After T’ang period, and that the Meng-wa (or ngo as this character may have been pronounced at the time), a branch of the Shih-wei, a Tungusic or Kitan people living around Lake Keule, to the east of the Baikal, and along the Kerulun, which empties into it, during the 7th and subsequent centuries, and referred to in the T’ang shu (Bk. 219), is the same as the later Meng-ku. Though I have been unable to find, as stated by Howorth (History, i. pt. I. 28), that the name Meng-ku occurs in the T’ang shu, his conclusion that the northern Shih-wei of that time constituted the Mongol nation proper is very likely correct…. I. J. Schmidt (Ssanang Setzen, 380) derives the name Mongol from mong, meaning ‘brave, daring, bold,’ while Rashiduddin says it means ‘simple, weak’ (d’Ohsson, i. 22). The Chinese characters used to transcribe the name mean ‘dull, stupid,’ and ‘old, ancient,’ but they are used purely phonetically…. The Mongols of the present day are commonly called by the Chinese Ta-tzu, but this name is resented by the Mongols as opprobrious, though it is but an abbreviated form of the name Ta-ta-tzu, in which, according to Rubruck, they once gloried.”—H. C.]

Vincent of Beauvais has got from some of his authorities a conception of the distinction of the Tartars into two races, to which, however, he assigns no names: “Sunt autem duo genera Tartarorum, diversa quidem habentia idiomata, sed unicam legem ac ritum, sicut Franci et Theutonici.” But the result of his effort to find a realisation of Gog and Magog is that he makes Guyuk Kaan into Gog, and Mangu Kaan into Magog. Even the intelligent Friar Ricold says of the Tartars: “They say themselves that they are descended from Gog and Magog: and on this account they are calledMogoli, as if from a corruption of Magogoli.” (Abulfeda in Büsching, IV. 140, 274-275; I. B. IV. 274; Golden Horde, 34, 68; Erdmann, 241-242, 257-258; Timk. I. 259, 263, 268; Vinc. Bellov. Spec. Hist. XXIX. 73, XXXI. 32-34; Pereg. Quat. 118; Not. et Ext. II. 536.)

NOTE 6.—The towns and villages were probably those immediately north of the Great Wall, between 112° and 115° East longitude, of which many remains exist, ascribed to the time of the Yuen or Mongol Dynasty. This tract, between the Great Wall and the volcanic plateau of Mongolia, is extensively colonised by Chinese, and has resumed the flourishing aspect that Polo describes. It is known now as the Ku-wei, or extramural region.

[After Kalgan, Captain Younghusband, on the 12th April, 1886, “passed through the [outer] Great Wall … entering what Marco Polo calls the land of Gog and Magog. For the next two days I passed through a hilly country inhabited by Chinese, though it really belongs to Mongolia; but on the 14th I emerged on to the real steppes, which are the characteristic features of Mongolia Proper.” (Proc. R. G. S. X., 1888, p. 490.)—H. C.]

Of the cloths called nakh and nasij we have spoken before (supra ch. vi. note 4). These stuffs, or some such as these, were, I believe, what the mediaeval writers called Tartary cloth, not because they were made in Tartary, but because they were brought from China and its borders through the Tartar dominions; as we find that for like reason they were sometimes called stuffs of Russia. Dante alludes to the supposed skill of Turks and Tartars in weaving gorgeous stuffs, and Boccaccio, commenting thereon, says that Tartarian cloths are so skilfully woven that no painter with his brush could equal them. Maundevile often speaks of cloths of Tartary (e.g. pp. 175, 247). So also Chaucer:

“On every trumpe hanging a broad banere Of fine Tartarium.”

Again, in the French inventory of the Garde-Meuble of 1353 we find two pieces of Tartary, one green and the other red, priced at 15 crowns each. (Flower and Leaf, 211; Dante, Inf. XVII. 17, and Longfellow, p. 159; Douet d’Arcq, p. 328; Fr.-Michel, Rech. I. 315, II. 166 seqq.)

NOTE 7.—SINDACHU (Sindacui, Suidatui, etc., of the MSS.) is SIUEN-HWA-FU, called under the Kin Dynasty Siuen-te-chau, more than once besieged and taken by Chinghiz. It is said to have been a summer residence of the later Mongol Emperors, and fine parks full of grand trees remain on the western side. It is still a large town and the capital of a Fu, about 25 miles south of the Gate on the Great Wall at Chang Kia Kau, which the Mongols and Russians call Kalgan. There is still a manufacture of felt and woollen articles here.

[Mr. Rockhill writes to me that this place is noted for the manufacture of buckskins.—H. C.]

Ydifu has not been identified. But Baron Richthofen saw old mines north-east of Kalgan, which used to yield argentiferous galena; and Pumpelly heard of silver-mines near Yuchau, in the same department.

[In the Yuen-shi it is “stated that there were gold and silver mines in the districts of Siuen-te-chow and Yuchow, as well as in the Kiming shan Mountains. These mines were worked by the Government itself up to 1323, when they were transferred to private enterprise. Marco Polo’s Ydifu is probably a copyist’s error, and stands instead of Yuchow.” (Palladius, 24, 25.)—H. C.]

[1] Mr. Ney Elias favours me with a curious but tantalising communication on this subject: “An old man called on me at Kwei-hwa Ch’eng (Tenduc), who said he was neither Chinaman, Mongol, nor Mahomedan, and lived on ground a short distance to the north of the city, especially allotted to his ancestors by the Emperor, and where there now exist several families of the same origin. He then mentioned the connection of his family with that of the Emperor, but in what way I am not clear, and said that he ought to be, or had been, a prince. Other people coming in, he was interrupted and went away…. He was not with me more than ten minutes, and the incident is a specimen of the difficulty in obtaining interesting information, except by mere chance…. The idea that struck me was, that he was perhaps a descendant of King George of Tenduc; for I had your M. P. before me, and had been inquiring as much as I dared about subjects it suggested…. At Kwei-hwa Ch’eng I was very closely spied, and my servant was frequently told to warn me against asking too many questions.”

I should mention that Oppert, in his very interesting monograph, Der Presbyter Johannes, refuses to recognise the Kerait chief at all in that character, and supposes Polo’s King George to be the representative of a prince of the Liao (supra, p. 205), who, as we learn from De Mailla’s History, after the defeat of the Kin, in which he had assisted Chinghiz, settled in Liaotung, and received from the conqueror the title of King of the Liao. This seems to me geographically and otherwise quite inadmissible.

[2] The term Arkaiun, or Arkaun, in this sense, occurs in the Armenian History of Stephen Orpelian, quoted by St. Martin. The author of the Tárikh Jahán Kushai, cited by D’Ohsson, says that Christians were called by the Mongols Arkáún. When Hulaku invested Baghdad we are told that he sent a letter to the Judges, Shaikhs, Doctors and Arkauns, promising to spare such as should act peaceably. And in the subsequent sack we hear that no houses were spared except those of a few Arkauns and foreigners. In Rashiduddin’s account of the Council of State at Peking, we are told that the four Fanchan, or Ministers of the Second Class, were taken from the four nations of Tájiks, Cathayans, Uighúrs, and Arkaun. Sabadin Arkaun was the name of one of the Envoys sent by Arghun Khan of Persia to the Pope in 1288. Traces of the name appear also in Chinese documents of the Mongol era, as denoting some religious body. Some of these have been quoted by Mr. Wylie; but I have seen no notice taken of a very curious extract given by Visdelou. This states that Kúblái in 1289 established a Board of nineteen chief officers to have surveillance of the affairs of the Religion of the Cross, of the Marha, the Siliepan, and the Yelikhawen. This Board was raised to a higher rank in 1315: and at that time 72 minor courts presiding over the religion of the Yelikhawen existed under its supervision. Here we evidently have the word Arkhaiun in a Chinese form; and we may hazard the suggestion that Marha, Siliepan and Yelikhawen meant respectively the Armenian, Syrian, or Jacobite, and Nestorian Churches. (St. Martin, Mém. II. 133, 143, 279; D’Ohsson, II. 264; Ilchan, I. 150, 152; Cathay, 264; Acad. VII. 359; Wylie in J. As. V. xix. 406. Suppt. toD’Herbelot, 142.)

[3] The word is not in Zenker or Pavet de Courteille.

[4] Mr. Shaw writes Toongânee. The first mention of this name that I know of is in Izzat Ullah’s Journal. (Vide J. R. A. S. VII. 310.) The people are there said to have got the name from having first settled in Tungan. Tung-gan is in the same page the name given to the strong city of T’ung Kwan on the Hwang-ho. (See Bk. II. ch. xli. note 1.) A variety of etymologies have been given, but Vámbéry’s seems the most probable.

[5] Probably no man could now say what this means. But the following note from Mr. Ney Elias is very interesting in its suggestion of analogy: “In my report to the Geographical Society I have noticed the peculiar Western appearance of Kwei-hwa-ch’eng, and the little gardens of creepers and flowers in pots which are displayed round the porches in the court-yards of the better class of houses, and which I have seen in no other part of China. My attention was especially drawn to these by your quotation from Rashiduddin.”

[6] A translation of Heins’ was kindly lent me by the author of this
article, the lamented Mr. J. W. S. Wyllie.

[7] I owe the suggestion of this to a remark in Oppert’s Presbyter
, p. 77.



At the end of those three days you find a city called CHAGAN NOR [which is as much as to say White Pool], at which there is a great Palace of the Grand Kaan’s;[NOTE 1] and he likes much to reside there on account of the Lakes and Rivers in the neighbourhood, which are the haunt of swans[NOTE 2] and of a great variety of other birds. The adjoining plains too abound with cranes, partridges, pheasants, and other game birds, so that the Emperor takes all the more delight in staying there, in order to go a-hawking with his gerfalcons and other falcons, a sport of which he is very fond.[NOTE 3]

There are five different kinds of cranes found in those tracts, as I shall tell you. First, there is one which is very big, and all over as black as a crow; the second kind again is all white, and is the biggest of all; its wings are really beautiful, for they are adorned with round eyes like those of a peacock, but of a resplendent golden colour, whilst the head is red and black on a white ground. The third kind is the same as ours. The fourth is a small kind, having at the ears beautiful long pendent feathers of red and black. The fifth kind is grey all over and of great size, with a handsome head, red and black.[NOTE 4]

Near this city there is a valley in which the Emperor has had several little houses erected in which he keeps in mew a huge number of cators which are what we call the Great Partridge. You would be astonished to see what a quantity there are, with men to take charge of them. So whenever the Kaan visits the place he is furnished with as many as he wants. [NOTE 5]

NOTE 1.—[According to the Siu t’ung kien, quoted by Palladius, the palace in Chagannor was built in 1280.—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—”Ou demeurent sesnes.” Sesnes, Cesnes, Cecini, Cesanae, is a mediaeval form of cygnes, cigni, which seems to have escaped the dictionary-makers. It occurs in the old Italian version of Brunetto Latini’s Tresor, Bk. V. ch. xxv., as cecino; and for other examples, see Cathay, p. 125.

NOTE 3.—The city called by Polo CHAGAN-NOR (meaning in Mongol, as he says, “White Lake”) is the Chaghan Balghasun mentioned by Timkowski as an old city of the Mongol era, the ruined rampart of which he passed about 30 miles north of the Great Wall at Kalgan, and some 55 miles from Siuen-hwa, adjoining the Imperial pastures. It stands near a lake still called Chaghan-Nor, and is called by the Chinese Pe-ching-tzu, or White City, a translation of Chaghan Balghasun. Dr. Bushell says of one of the lakes (Ichi-Nor), a few miles east of Chaghan-Nor: “We … found the water black with waterfowl, which rose in dense flocks, and filled the air with discordant noises. Swans, geese, and ducks predominated, and three different species of cranes were distinguished.”

The town appears as Tchahan Toloho in D’Anville. It is also, I imagine, the Arulun Tsaghan Balghasun which S. Setzen says Kúblái built about the same time with Shangtu and another city “on the shady side of the Altai,” by which here he seems to mean the Khingan range adjoining the Great Wall. (Timk. II. 374, 378-379; J. R. G. S. vol. xliii.; S. Setz. 115.) I see Ritter has made the same identification of Chaghan-Nor (II. 141).

NOTE 4.—The following are the best results I can arrive at in the identification of these five cranes.

1. Radde mentions as a rare crane in South Siberia Grus monachus, called by the Buraits Kará Togorü, or “Black Crane.” Atkinson also speaks of “a beautiful black variety of crane,” probably the same. The Grus monachus is not, however, jet black, but brownish rather. (Radde, Reisen, Bd. II. p. 318; Atkinson. Or. and W. Sib. 548.)

2. Grus leucogeranus (?) whose chief habitat is Siberia, but which sometimes comes as far south as the Punjab. It is the largest of the genus, snowy white, with red face and beak; the ten largest quills are black, but this barely shows as a narrow black line when the wings are closed. The resplendent golden eyes on the wings remain unaccounted for; no naturalist whom I have consulted has any knowledge of a crane or crane-like bird with such decorations. When ’tis discovered, let it be the Grus Poli!

3. Grus cinerea.

4. The colour of the pendants varies in the texts. Pauthier’s and the G. Text have red and black; the Lat. S. G. black only, the Crusca black and white, Ramusio feathers red and blue (not pendants). The red and black may have slipt in from the preceding description. I incline to believe it to be the Demoiselle, Anthropoides Virgo, which is frequently seen as far north as Lake Baikal. It has a tuft of pure white from the eye, and a beautiful black pendent ruff or collar; the general plumage purplish-grey.

5. Certainly the Indian Sáras (vulgo Cyrus), or Grus antigone, which answers in colours and grows to 52 inches high.

NOTE 5.—Cator occurs only in the G. Text and the Crusca, in the latter with the interpolated explanation “cioè contornici” (i.e. quails), whilst the S. G. Latin has coturnices only. I suspect this impression has assisted to corrupt the text, and that it was originally written or dictated ciacor orçacor, viz. chakór, a term applied in the East to more than one kind of “Great Partridge.” Its most common application in India is to the Himalayan red-legged partridge, much resembling on a somewhat larger scale the bird so called in Europe. It is the “Francolin” of Moorcroft’s Travels, and the Caccabis Chukor of Gray. According to Cunningham the name is applied in Ladak to the bird sometimes called the Snow-pheasant, Jerdan’s Snow-cock, Tetraogallus himalayensis of Gray. And it must be the latter which Moorcroft speaks of as “the gigantic Chukor, much larger than the common partridge, found in large coveys on the edge of the snow;… one plucked and drawn weighed 5 lbs.”; described by Vigne as “a partridge as large as a hen-turkey”; the original perhaps of that partridge “larger than a vulture” which formed one of the presents from an Indian King to Augustus Caesar. [With reference to the large Tibetan partridge found in the Nan-shan Mountains in the meridian of Sha-chau by Prjevalsky, M. E. D. Morgan in a note (P. R. Geog. S. ix. 1887, p. 219), writes: “Megaloperdrix thibetanus. Its general name in Asia is ullar, a word of Kirghiz or Turkish origin; the Mongols call it hailik, and the Tibetans kung-mo. There are two other varieties of this bird found in the Himalaya and Altai Mountains, but the habits of life and call-note of all three are the same.”] From the extensive diffusion of the term, which seems to be common to India, Tibet, and Persia (for the latter, see Abbott in J. R. G. S. XXV. 41), it is likely enough to be of Mongol origin, not improbably Tsokhor, “dappled or pied.” (Kovalevsky, No. 2196, and Strahlenberg’s Vocabulary; see also Ladak, 205; Moorcr. I. 313, 432; Jerdan’s Birds of India, III. 549, 572;Dunlop, Hunting in Himalaya, 178; J. A. S. B. VI. 774.)

The chakór is mentioned by Baber (p. 282); and also by the Hindi poet Chand (Rás Mála, I. 230, and Ind. Antiquary, I. 273). If the latter passage is genuine, it is adverse to my Mongol etymology, as Chand lived before the Mongol era.

The keeping of partridges for the table is alluded to by Chaucer in his portrait of the Franklin, Prologue, Cant. Tales:

  “It snewed in his hous of mete and drinke,
Of alle deyntees that men coud of thinke,
After the sondry sesons of the yere,
So changed he his mete and his soupere.
Full many a fat partrich hadde he in mewe,
And many a breme and many a luce in stewe.”



And when you have ridden three days from the city last mentioned, between north-east and north, you come to a city called CHANDU,[NOTE 1] which was built by the Kaan now reigning. There is at this place a very fine marble Palace, the rooms of which are all gilt and painted with figures of men and beasts and birds, and with a variety of trees and flowers, all executed with such exquisite art that you regard them with delight and astonishment.[NOTE 2]

Round this Palace a wall is built, inclosing a compass of 16 miles, and inside the Park there are fountains and rivers and brooks, and beautiful meadows, with all kinds of wild animals (excluding such as are of ferocious nature), which the Emperor has procured and placed there to supply food for his gerfalcons and hawks, which he keeps there in mew. Of these there are more than 200 gerfalcons alone, without reckoning the other hawks. The Kaan himself goes every week to see his birds sitting in mew, and sometimes he rides through the park with a leopard behind him on his horse’s croup; and then if he sees any animal that takes his fancy, he slips his leopard at it,[NOTE 3] and the game when taken is made over to feed the hawks in mew. This he does for diversion.

Moreover [at a spot in the Park where there is a charming wood] he has another Palace built of cane, of which I must give you a description. It is gilt all over, and most elaborately finished inside. [It is stayed on gilt and lackered columns, on each of which is a dragon all gilt, the tail of which is attached to the column whilst the head supports the architrave, and the claws likewise are stretched out right and left to support the architrave.] The roof, like the rest, is formed of canes, covered with a varnish so strong and excellent that no amount of rain will rot them. These canes are a good 3 palms in girth, and from 10 to 15 paces in length. [They are cut across at each knot, and then the pieces are split so as to form from each two hollow tiles, and with these the house is roofed; only every such tile of cane has to be nailed down to prevent the wind from lifting it.] In short, the whole Palace is built of these canes, which (I may mention) serve also for a great variety of other useful purposes. The construction of the Palace is so devised that it can be taken down and put up again with great celerity; and it can all be taken to pieces and removed whithersoever the Emperor may command. When erected, it is braced [against mishaps from the wind] by more than 200 cords of silk.[NOTE 4]

The Lord abides at this Park of his, dwelling sometimes in the Marble Palace and sometimes in the Cane Palace for three months of the year, to wit, June, July, and August; preferring this residence because it is by no means hot; in fact it is a very cool place. When the 28th day of [the Moon of] August arrives he takes his departure, and the Cane Palace is taken to pieces.[NOTE 5] But I must tell you what happens when he goes away from this Palace every year on the 28th of the August [Moon].

You must know that the Kaan keeps an immense stud of white horses and mares; in fact more than 10,000 of them, and all pure white without a speck. The milk of these mares is drunk by himself and his family, and by none else, except by those of one great tribe that have also the privilege of drinking it. This privilege was granted them by Chinghis Kaan, on account of a certain victory that they helped him to win long ago. The name of the tribe is HORIAD.[NOTE 6]

Now when these mares are passing across the country, and any one falls in with them, be he the greatest lord in the land, he must not presume to pass until the mares have gone by; he must either tarry where he is, or go a half-day’s journey round if need so be, so as not to come nigh them; for they are to be treated with the greatest respect. Well, when the Lord sets out from the Park on the 28th of August, as I told you, the milk of all those mares is taken and sprinkled on the ground. And this is done on the injunction of the Idolaters and Idol-priests, who say that it is an excellent thing to sprinkle that milk on the ground every 28th of August, so that the Earth and the Air and the False Gods shall have their share of it, and the Spirits likewise that inhabit the Air and the Earth. And thus those beings will protect and bless the Kaan and his children and his wives and his folk and his gear, and his cattle and his horses, his corn and all that is his. After this is done, the Emperor is off and away.[NOTE 7]

But I must now tell you a strange thing that hitherto I have forgotten to mention. During the three months of every year that the Lord resides at that place, if it should happen to be bad weather, there are certain crafty enchanters and astrologers in his train, who are such adepts in necromancy and the diabolic arts, that they are able to prevent any cloud or storm from passing over the spot on which the Emperor’s Palace stands. The sorcerers who do this are called TEBET and KESIMUR, which are the names of two nations of Idolaters. Whatever they do in this way is by the help of the Devil, but they make those people believe that it is compassed by dint of their own sanctity and the help of God.[NOTE 8] [They always go in a state of dirt and uncleanness, devoid of respect for themselves, or for those who see them, unwashed, unkempt, and sordidly attired.]

These people also have a custom which I must tell you. If a man is condemned to death and executed by the lawful authority, they take his body and cook and eat it. But if any one die a natural death then they will not eat the body.[NOTE 9]

There is another marvel performed by those BACSI, of whom I have been speaking as knowing so many enchantments.[NOTE 10] For when the Great Kaan is at his capital and in his great Palace, seated at his table, which stands on a platform some eight cubits above the ground, his cups are set before him [on a great buffet] in the middle of the hall pavement, at a distance of some ten paces from his table, and filled with wine, or other good spiced liquor such as they use. Now when the Lord desires to drink, these enchanters by the power of their enchantments cause the cups to move from their place without being touched by anybody, and to present themselves to the Emperor! This every one present may witness, and there are ofttimes more than 10,000 persons thus present. ‘Tis a truth and no lie! and so will tell you the sages of our own country who understand necromancy, for they also can perform it.[NOTE 11]

And when the Idol Festivals come round, these Bacsi go to the Prince and say: “Sire, the Feast of such a god is come” (naming him). “My Lord, you know,” the enchanter will say, “that this god, when he gets no offerings, always sends bad weather and spoils our seasons. So we pray you to give us such and such a number of black-faced sheep,” naming whatever number they please. “And we beg also, good my lord, that we may have such a quantity of incense, and such a quantity of lignaloes, and”—so much of this, so much of that, and so much of t’other, according to their fancy—”that we may perform a solemn service and a great sacrifice to our Idols, and that so they may be induced to protect us and all that is ours.”

The Bacsi say these things to the Barons entrusted with the Stewardship, who stand round the Great Kaan, and these repeat them to the Kaan, and he then orders the Barons to give everything that the Bacsi have asked for. And when they have got the articles they go and make a great feast in honour of their god, and hold great ceremonies of worship with grand illuminations and quantities of incense of a variety of odours, which they make up from different aromatic spices. And then they cook the meat, and set it before the idols, and sprinkle the broth hither and thither, saying that in this way the idols get their bellyful. Thus it is that they keep their festivals. You must know that each of the idols has a name of his own, and a feast-day, just as our Saints have their anniversaries.[NOTE 12]

They have also immense Minsters and Abbeys, some of them as big as a small town, with more than two thousand monks (i.e. after their fashion) in a single abbey.[NOTE 13] These monks dress more decently than the rest of the people, and have the head and beard shaven. There are some among these Bacsi who are allowed by their rule to take wives, and who have plenty of children.[NOTE 14]

Then there is another kind of devotees called SENSIN, who are men of extraordinary abstinence after their fashion, and lead a life of such hardship as I will describe. All their life long they eat nothing but bran,[NOTE 15] which they take mixt with hot water. That is their food: bran, and nothing but bran; and water for their drink. ‘Tis a lifelong fast! so that I may well say their life is one of extraordinary asceticism. They have great idols, and plenty of them; but they sometimes also worship fire. The other Idolaters who are not of this sect call these people heretics—Patarins as we should say[NOTE 16]—because they do not worship their idols in their own fashion. Those of whom I am speaking would not take a wife on any consideration.[NOTE 17] They wear dresses of hempen stuff, black and blue,[NOTE 18] and sleep upon mats; in fact their asceticism is something astonishing. Their idols are all feminine, that is to say, they have women’s names.[NOTE 19]

Now let us have done with this subject, and let me tell you of the great state and wonderful magnificence of the Great Lord of Lords; I mean that great Prince who is the Sovereign of the Tartars, CUBLAY by name, that most noble and puissant Lord.

NOTE 1.—[There were two roads to go from Peking to Shangtu: the eastern road through Tu-shi-k’ow, and the western (used for the return journey) road by Ye-hu ling. Polo took this last road, which ran from Peking to Siuen-te chau through the same places as now; but from the latter town it led, not to Kalgan as it does now, but more to the west, to a place called now Shan-fang pú where the pass across the Ye-hu ling range begins. “On both these roads nabo, or temporary palaces, were built, as resting-places for the Khans; eighteen on the eastern road, and twenty-four on the western.” (Palladius, p. 25.) The same author makes (p. 26) the following remarks: “M. Polo’s statement that he travelled three days from Siuen-te chau to Chagannor, and three days also from the latter place to Shang-tu, agrees with the information contained in the ‘Researches on the Routes to Shangtu.’ The Chinese authors have not given the precise position of Lake Chagannor; there are several lakes in the desert on the road to Shangtu, and their names have changed with time. The palace in Chagannor was built in 1280” (according to the Siu t’ung kien).—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—Chandu, called more correctly in Ramusio Xandu, i.e. SHANDU, and by Fr. Odorico Sandu, viz. SHANG-TU or “Upper Court,” the Chinese title of Kúblái’s summer residence at Kaipingfu, Mongolicè Keibung (see ch. xiii. of Prologue) [is called also Loan king, i.e. “the capital on the Loan River,” according to Palladius, p. 26.—H. C.]. The ruins still exist, in about lat. 40° 22′, and a little west of the longitude of Peking. The site is 118 miles in direct line from Chaghan-nor, making Polo’s three marches into rides of unusual length.[1] The ruins bear the Mongol name ofChao Naiman Sumé Khotan, meaning “city of the 108 temples,” and are about 26 miles to the north-west of Dolon-nor, a bustling, dirty town of modern origin, famous for the manufactory of idols, bells, and other ecclesiastical paraphernalia of Buddhism. The site was visited (though not described) by Père Gerbillon in 1691, and since then by no European traveller till 1872, when Dr. Bushell of the British Legation at Peking, and the Hon. T. G. Grosvenor, made a journey thither from the capital, by way of the Nan-kau Pass (supra p. 26), Kalgan, and the vicinity of Chaghan-nor, the route that would seem to have been habitually followed, in their annual migration, by Kúblái and his successors.

The deserted site, overgrown with rank weeds and grass, stands but little above the marshy bed of the river, which here preserves the name of Shang- tu, and about a mile from its north or left bank. The walls, of earth faced with brick and unhewn stone, still stand, forming, as in the Tartar city of Peking, a double enceinte, of which the inner line no doubt represents the area of the “Marble Palace” of which Polo speaks. This forms a square of about 2 li (2/3 of a mile) to the side, and has three gates—south, east, and west, of which the southern one still stands intact, a perfect arch, 20 ft. high and 12 ft. wide. The outer wall forms a square of 4 li (1-1/3 mile) to the side, and has six gates. The foundations of temples and palace-buildings can be traced, and both enclosures are abundantly strewn with blocks of marble and fragments of lions, dragons, and other sculptures, testifying to the former existence of a flourishing city, but exhibiting now scarcely one stone upon another. A broken memorial tablet was found, half buried in the ground, within the north-east angle of the outer rampart, bearing an inscription in an antique form of the Chinese character, which proves it to have been erected by Kúblái, in honour of a Buddhist ecclesiastic called Yun-Hien. Yun-Hien was the abbot of one of those great minsters and abbeys of Bacsis, of which Marco speaks, and the exact date (no longer visible) of the monument was equivalent to A.D. 1288.[2]

[Illustration: Heading In the Old Chinese Seal-Character, of an INSCRIPTION on a Memorial raised by KÚBLÁI-KAAN to a Buddhist Ecclesiastic in the vicinity of his SUMMER-PALACE at SHANG-TU in Mongolia. Reduced from a facsimile obtained on the spot by Dr. S. W. Bushell, 1872. (About one- Forth the Length and Breadth of Original.)]

This city occupies the south-east angle of a more extensive enclosure, bounded by what is now a grassy mound, and embracing, on Dr. Bushell’s estimate, about 5 square miles. Further knowledge may explain the discrepancy from Marco’s dimension, but this must be the park of which he speaks.[3] The woods and fountains have disappeared, like the temples and palaces; all is dreary and desolate, though still abounding in the game which was one of Kúblái’s attractions to the spot. A small monastery, occupied by six or seven wretched Lamas, is the only building that remains in the vicinity. The river Shangtu, which lower down becomes the Lan [or Loan]-Ho, was formerly navigated from the sea up to this place by flat grain-boats.

[Mgr. de Harlez gave in the T’oung Pao (x. p. 73) an inscription in Chuen character on a stele found in the ruins of Shangtu, and built by an officer with the permission of the Emperor; it is probably a token of imperial favour; the inscription means: Great Longevity.—H. C.]

In the wail which Sanang Setzen, the poetical historian of the Mongols, puts, perhaps with some traditional basis, into the mouth of Toghon Temur, the last of the Chinghizide Dynasty in China, when driven from his throne, the changes are rung on the lost glories of his capital Daïtu (see infra, Book II. ch. xi.) and his summer palace Shangtu; thus (I translate from Schott’s amended German rendering of the Mongol):

  “My vast and noble Capital, My Daïtu, My splendidly adorned!
And Thou my cool and delicious Summer-seat, my Shangtu-Keibung!
Ye, also, yellow plains of Shangtu, Delight of my godlike Sires!
I suffered myself to drop into dreams,—and lo! my Empire was gone!
Ah Thou my Daïtu, built of the nine precious substances!
Ah my Shangtu-Keibung, Union of all perfections!
Ah my Fame! Ah my Glory, as Khagan and Lord of the Earth!
When I used to awake betimes and look forth, how the breezes blew
loaded with fragrance!
And turn which way I would all was glorious perfection of beauty!
* * * * *
Alas for my illustrious name as the Sovereign of the World!
Alas for my Daïtu, seat of Sanctity, Glorious work of the Immortal
All, all is rent from me!”

It was, in 1797, whilst reading this passage of Marco’s narrative in old
Purchas that Coleridge fell asleep, and dreamt the dream of Kúblái’s
Paradise, beginning:

  “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred River, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.”

It would be a singular coincidence in relation to this poem were Klaproth’s reading correct of a passage in Rashiduddin which he renders as saying that the palace at Kaiminfu was “called Langtin, and was built after a plan that Kúblái had seen in a dream, and had retained in his memory.” But I suspect D’Ohsson’s reading is more accurate, which runs: “Kúblái caused a Palace to be built for him east of Kaipingfu, called Lengten; but he abandoned it in consequence of a dream.” For we see from Sanang Setzen that the Palaces of Lengten and Kaiming or Shangtu were distinct; “Between the year of the Rat (1264), when Kúblái was fifty years old, and the year of the Sheep (1271), in the space of eight years, he built four great cities, viz. for Summer Residence SHANGTU KEIBUNG Kürdu Balgasun, for Winter Residence Yeke DAÏTU Khotan, and on the shady side of the Altai (see ch. li. note 3, supra) Arulun TSAGHAN BALGASUN, and Erchügin LANGTING Balgasun.” A valuable letter from Dr. Bushell enables me now to indicate the position of Langtin: “The district through which the river flows eastward from Shangtu is known to the Mongolians of the present day by the name of Lang-tírh (Lang-ting’rh)…. The ruins of the city are marked on a Chinese map in my possession Pai-dseng-tzu, i.e. ‘White City,’ implying that it was formerly an Imperial residence. The remains of the wall are 7 or 8 li in diameter, of stone, and situated about 40 linorth-north-west from Dolon-nor.”

(Gerbillon in Astley, IV. 701-716; Klaproth, in J. As. sèr. II. tom. xi. 345-350; Schott, Die letzten Jahre der Mongolenherrschaft in China (Berl. Acad. d. Wissensch. 1850, pp. 502-503); Huc’s Tartary, etc., p. seqq.; Cathay, 134, 261; S. Setzen, p. 115; Dr. S. W. Bushell, Journey outside the Great Wall, in J. R. G. S. for 1874, and MS. notes.)

One of the pavilions of the celebrated Yuen-ming-Yuen may give some idea of the probable style, though not of the scale, of Kúblái’s Summer Palace.

Hiuen Tsang’s account of the elaborate and fantastic ornamentation of the famous Indian monasteries at Nalanda in Bahár, where Mr. Broadley has lately made such remarkable discoveries, seems to indicate that these fantasies of Burmese and Chinese architecture may have had a direct origin in India, at a time when timber was still a principal material of construction there: “The pavilions had pillars adorned with dragons, and posts that glowed with all the colours of the rainbow, sculptured frets, columns set with jade, richly chiselled and lackered, with balustrades of vermilion, and carved open work. The lintels of the doors were tastefully ornamented, and the roofs covered with shining tiles, the splendours of which were multiplied by mutual reflection and from moment to moment took a thousand forms.” (Vie et Voyages, 157.)

NOTE 3.—[Rubruck says, (Rockhill, p. 248): “I saw also the envoy of a certain Soldan of India, who had brought eight leopards and ten greyhounds, taught to sit on horses’ backs, as leopards sit.”—H. C.]

NOTE 4.—Ramusio’s is here so much more lucid than the other texts, that I have adhered mainly to his account of the building. The roof described is of a kind in use in the Indian Archipelago, and in some other parts of Transgangetic India, in which the semi-cylinders of bamboo are laid just like Roman tiles.

Rashiduddin gives a curious account of the way in which the foundations of the terrace on which this palace stood were erected in a lake. He says, too, in accord with Polo: “Inside the city itself a second palace was built, about a bowshot from the first: but the Kaan generally takes up his residence in the palace outside the town,” i.e., as I imagine, in Marco’s Cane Palace. (Cathay, pp. 261-262.)

[“The Palace of canes is probably the Palm Hall, Tsung tien, alias Tsung mao tien, of the Chinese authors, which was situated in the western palace garden of Shangtu. Mention is made also in the Altan Tobchi of a cane tent in Shangtu.” (Palladius, p. 27.)—H. C.]

[Illustration: Pavilion at Yuen-ming-Yuen.]

Marco might well say of the bamboo that “it serves also a great variety of other purposes.” An intelligent native of Arakan who accompanied me in wanderings on duty in the forests of the Burmese frontier in the beginning of 1853, and who used to ask many questions about Europe, seemed able to apprehend almost everything except the possibility of existence in a country without bamboos! “When I speak of bamboo huts, I mean to say that posts and walls, wall-plates and rafters, floor and thatch, and the withes that bind them, are all of bamboo. In fact, it might almost be said that among the Indo-Chinese nations the staff of life is a bamboo! Scaffolding and ladders, landing-jetties, fishing apparatus, irrigation wheels and scoops, oars, masts, and yards [and in China, sails, cables, and caulking, asparagus, medicine, and works of fantastic art], spears and arrows, hats and helmets, bow, bowstring and quiver, oil-cans, water-stoups and cooking-pots, pipe-sticks [tinder and means of producing fire], conduits, clothes-boxes, pawn-boxes, dinner-trays, pickles, preserves, and melodious musical instruments, torches, footballs, cordage, bellows, mats, paper; these are but a few of the articles that are made from the bamboo;” and in China, to sum up the whole, as Barrow observes, it maintains order throughout the Empire! (Ava Mission, p. 153; and see also Wallace, Ind. Arch. I. 120 seqq.)

NOTE 5.—”The Emperor … began this year (1264) to depart from Yenking (Peking) in the second or third month for Shangtu, not returning until the eighth month. Every year he made this passage, and all the Mongol emperors who succeeded him followed his example.” (Gaubil, p. 144.)

[“The Khans usually resorted to Shangtu in the 4th moon and returned to Peking in the 9th. On the 7th day of the 7th moon there were libations performed in honour of the ancestors; a shaman, his face to the north, uttered in a loud voice the names of Chingiz Khan and of other deceased Khans, and poured mare’s milk on the ground. The propitious day for the return journey to Peking was also appointed then.” (Palladius, p. 26.)—H. C.]

NOTE 6.—White horses were presented in homage to the Kaan on New Year’s Day (the White Feast), as we shall see below. (Bk. II. ch. xv.) Odoric also mentions this practice; and, according to Huc, the Mongol chiefs continued it at least to the time of the Emperor K’ang-hi. Indeed Timkowski speaks of annual tributes of white camels and white horses from the Khans of the Kalkas and other Mongol dignitaries, in the present century. (Huc’s Tartary, etc.; Tim. II. 33.)

By the HORIAD are no doubt intended the UIRAD or OIRAD, a name usually interpreted as signifying the “Closely Allied,” or Confederates; but Vámbéry explains it as (Turki) Oyurat, “Grey horse,” to which the statement in our text appears to lend colour. They were not of the tribes properly called Mongol, but after their submission to Chinghiz they remained closely attached to him. In Chinghiz’s victory over Aung-Khan, as related by S. Setzen, we find Turulji Taishi, the son of the chief of the Oirad, one of Chinghiz’s three chief captains; perhaps that is the victory alluded to. The seats of the Oirad appear to have been about the head waters of the Kem, or Upper Yenisei.

In A.D. 1295 there took place a curious desertion from the service of Gházán Khan of Persia of a vast corps of the Oirad, said to amount to 18,000 tents. They made their way to Damascus, where they were well received by the Mameluke Sultan. But their heathenish practices gave dire offence to the Faithful. They were settled in the Sáhil, or coast districts of Palestine. Many died speedily; the rest embraced Islam, spread over the country, and gradually became absorbed in the general population. Their sons and daughters were greatly admired for their beauty. (S. Setz. p. 87; Erdmann, 187; Pallas, Samml. I. 5 seqq.; Makrizi, III. 29; Bretschneider, Med. Res. II. p. 159 seqq.)

[With reference to Yule’s conjecture, I may quote Palladius (l.c. p. 27): “It is, however, strange that the Oirats alone enjoyed the privilege described by Marco Polo; for the highest position at the Mongol Khan’s court belonged to the Kunkrat tribe, out of which the Khans used to choose their first wives, who were called Empresses of the first ordo.”—H. C.]

NOTE 7.—Rubruquis assigns such a festival to the month of May: “On the 9th day of the May Moon they collect all the white mares of their herds and consecrate them. The Christian priests also must then assemble with their thuribles. They then sprinkle new cosmos (kumíz) on the ground, and make a great feast that day, for according to their calendar, it is their time of first drinking new cosmos, just as we reckon of our new wine at the feast of St. Bartholomew (24th August), or that of St. Sixtus (6th August), or of our fruit on the feast of St. James and St. Christopher” (25th July). [With reference to this feast, Mr. Rockhill gives (Rubruck, p. 241, note) extracts from Pallas, Voyages, IV. 579, and Professor Radloff, Aus Siberien, I. 378.—H. C.] The Yakuts also hold such a festival in June or July, when the mares foal, and immense wooden goblets of kumíz are emptied on that occasion. They also pour out kumíz for the Spirits to the four quarters of heaven.

The following passage occurs in the narrative of the Journey of Chang
Te-hui, a Chinese teacher, who was summoned to visit the camp of Kúblái in
Mongolia, some twelve years before that Prince ascended the throne of the

“On the 9th day of the 9th Moon (October), the Prince, having called his subjects before his chief tent, performed the libation of the milk of a white mare. This was the customary sacrifice at that time. The vessels used were made of birch-bark, not ornamented with either silver or gold. Such here is the respect for simplicity….

“At the last day of the year the Mongols suddenly changed their camping-ground to another place, for the mutual congratulation on the 1st Moon. Then there was every day feasting before the tents for the lower ranks. Beginning with the Prince, all dressed themselves in white fur clothing….[5]

“On the 9th day of the 4th Moon (May) the Prince again collected his vassals before the chief tent for the libation of the milk of a white mare. This sacrifice is performed twice a year.”

It has been seen (p. 308) that Rubruquis also names the 9th day of the May moon as that of the consecration of the white mares. The autumn libation is described by Polo as performed on the 28th day of the August moon, probably because it was unsuited to the circumstances of the Court at Cambaluc, where the Kaan was during October, and the day named was the last of his annual stay in the Mongolian uplands.

Baber tells that among the ceremonies of a Mongol Review the Khan and his staff took kumiz and sprinkled it towards the standards. An Armenian author of the Mongol era says that it was the custom of the Tartars, before drinking, to sprinkle drink towards heaven, and towards the four quarters. Mr. Atkinson notices the same practice among the Kirghiz: and I found the like in old days among the Kasias of the eastern frontier of Bengal.

The time of year assigned by Polo for the ceremony implies some change. Perhaps it had been made to coincide with the Festival of Water Consecration of the Lamas, with which the time named in the text seems to correspond. On that occasion the Lamas go in procession to the rivers and lakes and consecrate them by benediction and by casting in offerings, attended by much popular festivity.

Rubruquis seems to intimate that the Nestorian priests were employed to consecrate the white mares by incensing them. In the rear of Lord Canning’s camp in India I once came upon the party of his Shutr Suwárs, or dromedary-express riders, busily engaged in incensing with frankincense the whole of the dromedaries, which were kneeling in a circle. I could get no light on the practice, but it was very probably a relic of the old Mongol custom. (Rubr. 363; Erman, II. 397; Billings’ Journey, Fr. Tr. I. 217; Baber, 103; J. As. sèr. V. tom. xi. p. 249; Atk. Amoor, p. 47; J. A. S. B. XIII. 628; Koeppen, II. 313.)

NOTE 8.—The practice of weather-conjuring was in great vogue among the
Mongols, and is often alluded to in their history.

The operation was performed by means of a stone of magical virtues, called Yadah or Jadah-Tásh, which was placed in or hung over a basin of water with sundry ceremonies. The possession of such a stone is ascribed by the early Arab traveller Ibn Mohalhal to the Kímák, a great tribe of the Turks. In the war raised against Chinghiz and Aung Khan, when still allies, by a great confederation of the Naiman and other tribes in 1202, we are told that Sengun, the son of Aung Khan, when sent to meet the enemy, caused them to be enchanted, so that all their attempted movements against him were defeated by snow and mist. The fog and darkness were indeed so dense that many men and horses fell over precipices, and many also perished with cold. In another account of (apparently) the same matter, given by Mir-Khond, the conjuring is set on foot by the Yadachi of Buyruk Khan, Prince of the Naiman, but the mischief all rebounds on the conjurer’s own side.

In Tului’s invasion of Honan in 1231-1232, Rashiduddin describes him, when in difficulty, as using the Jadah stone with success.

Timur, in his Memoirs, speaks of the Jets using incantations to produce heavy rains which hindered his cavalry from acting against them. A Yadachi was captured, and when his head had been taken off the storm ceased.

Baber speaks of one of his early friends, Khwaja Ka Mulai, as excelling in falconry and acquainted with Yadagarí or the art of bringing on rain and snow by means of enchantment. When the Russians besieged Kazan in 1552 they suffered much from the constant heavy rains, and this annoyance was universally ascribed to the arts of the Tartar Queen, who was celebrated as an enchantress. Shah Abbas believed he had learned the Tartar secret, and put much confidence in it. (P. Delia V. I. 869.)

[Grenard says (II. p. 256) the most powerful and most feared of sorcerers [in Chinese Turkestan] is the djâduger, who, to produce rain or fine weather, uses a jade stone, given by Noah to Japhet. Grenard adds (II. 406-407) there are sorcerers (Ngag-pa-snags-pa) whose specialty is to make rain fall; they are similar to the Turkish Yadachi and like them use a stone called “water cristal,” chu shel; probably jade stone.

Mr. Rockhill (Rubruck, p. 245, note) writes: “Rashideddin states that when the Urianghit wanted to bring a storm to an end, they said injuries to the sky, the lightning and thunder. I have seen this done myself by Mongol storm-dispellers. (See Diary, 201, 203.) ‘The other Mongol people,’ he adds, ‘do the contrary. When the storm rumbles, they remain shut up in their huts, full of fear.’ The subject of storm-making, and the use of stones for that purpose, is fully discussed by Quatremère, Histoire, 438-440.” (Cf. also Rockhill, l.c. p. 254.)—H. C.]

An edict of the Emperor Shi-tsung, of the reigning dynasty, addressed in 1724-1725 to the Eight Banners of Mongolia, warns them against this rain-conjuring: “If I,” indignantly observes the Emperor, “offering prayer in sincerity have yet room to fear that it may please Heaven to leave MY prayer unanswered, it is truly intolerable that mere common people wishing for rain should at their own caprice set up altars of earth, and bring together a rabble of Hoshang (Buddhist Bonzes) and Taossé to conjure the spirits to gratify their wishes.”

[“Lamas were of various extraction; at the time of the great assemblies, and of the Khan’s festivities in Shangtu, they erected an altar near the Khan’s tent and prayed for fine weather; the whistling of shells rose up to heaven.” These are the words in which Marco Polo’s narrative is corroborated by an eye-witness who has celebrated the remarkable objects of Shangtu (Loan king tsa yung). These Lamas, in spite of the prohibition by the Buddhist creed of bloody sacrifices, used to sacrifice sheep’s hearts to Mahakala. It happened, as it seems, that the heart of an executed criminal was also considered an agreeable offering; and as the offerings could be, after the ceremony, eaten by the sacrificing priests, Marco Polo had some reason to accuse the Lamas of cannibalism. (Palladius, 28.)—H. C.]

The practice of weather-conjuring is not yet obsolete in Tartary, Tibet, and the adjoining countries.[6]

Weather-conjuring stories were also rife in Europe during the Middle Ages. One such is conspicuously introduced in connection with a magical fountain in the romance of the Chevalier au Lyon:

  “Et s’i pant uns bacins d’or fin
A une si longue chaainne
Qui dure jusqu’a la fontainne,
Lez la fontainne troveras
Un perron tel con tu verras
* * * *
S’au bacin viaus de l’iaue prandre
Et dessor le perron espandre,
La verras une tel tanpeste
Qu’an cest bois ne remandra beste,”
etc. etc.[7]

The effect foretold in these lines is the subject of a woodcut illustrating a Welsh version of the same tale in the first volume of the Mabinogion. And the existence of such a fountain is alluded to by Alexander Neckam. (De Naturis Rerum, Bk. II. ch. vii.)

In the Cento Novelle Antiche also certain necromancers exhibit their craft before the Emperor Frederic (Barbarossa apparently): “The weather began to be overcast, and lo of a sudden rain began to fall with continued thunders and lightnings, as if the world were come to an end, and hailstones that looked like steel-caps,” etc. Various other European legends of like character will be found in Liebrecht’s Gervasius von Tilbury, pp. 147-148.

Rain-makers there are in many parts of the world; but it is remarkable that those also of Samoa in the Pacific operate by means of a rain-stone.

Such weather conjurings as we have spoken of are ascribed by Ovid to

  “Concipit illa preces, et verba venefica dicit;
Ignotosque Deos ignoto carmine adorat,
* * * *
Tunc quoque cantato densetur carmine caelum,
Et nebulas exhalat humus
.”—Metam. XIV. 365.

And to Medea:—

  —”Quum volui, ripis mirantibus, amnes
In fontes rediere suos … (another feat of the Lamas)
Nubila pello,
Nubilaque induco; ventos abigoque, vocoque
.”—Ibid. VII. 199.

And by Tibullus to the Saga (Eleg. I. 2, 45); whilst Empedocles, in verses ascribed to him by Diogenes Laertius, claims power to communicate like secrets of potency:—

      “By my spells thou may’st
To timely sunshine turn the purple rains,
And parching droughts to fertilising floods.”

(See Cathay, p. clxxxvii.; Erdm. 282; Oppert, 182 seqq.; Erman,
I. 153; Pallas, Samml. II. 348 seqq.; Timk. I. 402; J. R. A. S.
VII. 305-306; D’Ohsson, II. 614; and for many interesting particulars,
Q. R. p. 428 seqq., and Hammers Golden Horde, 207 and 435 seqq.)

NOTE 9.—It is not clear whether Marco attributes this cannibalism to the Tibetans and Kashmirians, or brings it in as a particular of Tartar custom which he had forgotten to mention before.

The accusations of cannibalism indeed against the Tibetans in old accounts are frequent, and I have elsewhere (see Cathay, p. 151) remarked on some singular Tibetan practices which go far to account for such charges. Della Penna, too, makes a statement which bears curiously on the present passage. Remarking on the great use made by certain classes of the Lamas of human skulls for magical cups, and of human thigh bones for flutes and whistles, he says that to supply them with these the bodies of executed criminals were stored up of the disposal of the Lamas; and a Hindu account of Tibet in the Asiatic Researches asserts that when one is killed in a fight both parties rush forward and struggle for the liver, which they eat (vol. xv).

[Carpini says of the people of Tibet: “They are pagans; they have a most astonishing, or rather horrible, custom, for, when any one’s father is about to give up the ghost, all the relatives meet together, and they eat him, as was told to me for certain.” Mr. Rockhill (Rubruck, p. 152, note) writes: “So far as I am aware, this charge [of cannibalism] is not made by any Oriental writer against the Tibetans, though both Arab travellers to China in the ninth century and Armenian historians of the thirteenth century say the Chinese practised cannibalism. The Armenians designate China by the name Nankas, which I take to be Chinese Nan-kuo, ‘southern country,’ the Manzi country of Marco Polo.”—H. C.]

But like charges of cannibalism are brought against both Chinese and Tartars very positively. Thus, without going back to the Anthropophagous Scythians of Ptolemy and Mela, we read in the Relations of the Arab travellers of the ninth century: “In China it occurs sometimes that the governor of a province revolts from his duty to the emperor. In such a case he is slaughtered and eaten. In fact, the Chinese eat the flesh of all men who are executed by the sword.” Dr. Rennie mentions a superstitious practice, the continued existence of which in our own day he has himself witnessed, and which might perhaps have given rise to some such statement as that of the Arab travellers, if it be not indeed a relic, in a mitigated form, of the very practice they assert to have prevailed. After an execution at Peking certain large pith balls are steeped in the blood, and under the name ofblood-bread are sold as a medicine for consumption. It is only to the blood of decapitated criminals that any such healing power is attributed. It has been asserted in the annals of the Propagation de la Foi that the Chinese executioners of M. Chapdelaine, a missionary who was martyred in Kwang-si in 1856 (28th February), were seen to eat the heart of their victim; and M. Huot, a missionary in the Yun-nan province, recounts a case of cannibalism which he witnessed. Bishop Chauveau, at Ta Ts’ien-lu, told Mr. Cooper that he had seen men in one of the cities of Yun-nan eating the heart and brains of a celebrated robber who had been executed. Dr. Carstairs Douglas of Amoy also tells me that the like practices have occurred at Amoy and Swatau.

[With reference to cannibalism in China see Medical Superstitions an Incentive to Anti-Foreign Riots in China, by D. J. Macgowan, North China Herald, 8th July, 1892, pp. 60-62. Mr. E. H. Parker (China Review, February-March, 1901, 136) relates that the inhabitants of a part of Kwang-si boiled and ate a Chinese officer who had been sent to pacify them. “The idea underlying this horrible act [cannibalism] is, that by eating a portion of the victim, especially the heart, one acquires the valour with which he was endowed.” (Dennys’ Folk-lore of China, 67.)—H. C.]

Hayton, the Armenian, after relating the treason of a Saracen, called Parwana (he was an Iconian Turk), against Abaka Khan, says: “He was taken and cut in two, and orders were issued that in all the food eaten by Abaka there should be put a portion of the traitor’s flesh. Of this Abaka himself ate, and caused all his barons to partake. And this was in accordance with the custom of the Tartars.” The same story is related independently and differently by Friar Ricold, thus: “When the army of Abaga ran away from the Saracens in Syria, a certain great Tartar baron was arrested who had been guilty of treason. And when the Emperor Khan was giving the order for his execution the Tartar ladies and women interposed, and begged that he might be made over to them. Having got hold of the prisoner they boiled him alive, and cutting his body up into mince-meat gave it to eat to the whole army, as an example to others.” Vincent of Beauvais makes a like statement: “When they capture any one who is at bitter enmity with them, they gather together and eat him in vengeance of his revolt, and like infernal leeches suck his blood,” a custom of which a modern Mongol writer thinks that he finds a trace in a surviving proverb. Among more remote and ignorant Franks the cannibalism of the Tartars was a general belief. Ivo of Narbonne, in his letter written during the great Tartar invasion of Europe (1242), declares that the Tartar chiefs, with their dog’s head followers and other Lotophagi (!), ate the bodies of their victims like so much bread; whilst a Venetian chronicler, speaking of the council of Lyons in 1274, says there was a discussion about making a general move against the Tartars, “porce qu’il manjuent la char humaine.” These latter writers no doubt rehearsed mere popular beliefs, but Hayton and Ricold were both intelligent persons well acquainted with the Tartars, and Hayton at least not prejudiced against them.

The old belief was revived in Prussia during the Seven Years’ War, in regard to the Kalmaks of the Russian army; and Bergmann says the old Kalmak warriors confessed to him that they had done what they could to encourage it by cutting up the bodies of the slain in presence of their prisoners, and roasting them! But Levchine relates an act on the part of the Kirghiz Kazaks which was no jest. They drank the blood of their victim if they did not eat his flesh.

There is some reason to believe that cannibalism was in the Middle Ages generally a less strange and unwonted horror than we should at first blush imagine, and especially that it was an idea tolerably familiar in China. M. Bazin, in the second part of Chine Moderne, p. 461, after sketching a Chinese drama of the Mongol era (“The Devotion of Chao-li”), the plot of which turns on the acts of a body of cannibals, quotes several other passages from Chinese authors which indicate this. Nor is this wonderful in the age that had experienced the horrors of the Mongol wars.

That was no doubt a fable which Carpini heard in the camp of the Great Kaan, that in one of the Mongol sieges in Cathay, when the army was without food, one man in ten of their own force was sacrificed to feed the remainder.[8] But we are told in sober history that the force of Tului in Honan, in 1231-1232, was reduced to such straits as to eat grass and human flesh. At the siege of the Kin capital Kaifongfu, in 1233, the besieged were reduced to the like extremity; and the same occurred the same year at the siege of Tsaichau; and in 1262, when the rebel general Litan was besieged in Tsinanfu. The Taiping wars the other day revived the same horrors in all their magnitude. And savage acts of the same kind by the Chinese and their Turk partisans in the defence of Kashgar were related to Mr. Shaw.

Probably, however, nothing of the kind in history equals what Abdallatif, a sober and scientific physician, describes as having occurred before his own eyes in the great Egyptian famine of A.H. 597 (1200). The horrid details fill a chapter of some length, and we need not quote from them.

Nor was Christendom without the rumour of such barbarities. The story of King Richard’s banquet in presence of Saladin’s ambassadors on the head of a Saracen curried (for so it surely was),—

      “soden full hastily
With powder and with spysory,
And with saffron of good colour”—

fable as it is, is told with a zest that makes one shudder; but the tale in the Chanson d’Antioche, of how the licentious bands of ragamuffins, who hung on the army of the First Crusade, and were known as the Tafurs,[9] ate the Turks whom they killed at the siege, looks very like an abominable truth, corroborated as it is by the prose chronicle of worse deeds at the ensuing siege of Marrha:—

  “A lor cotiaus qu’il ont trenchans et afilés
Escorchoient les Turs, aval parmi les près.
Voiant Paiens, les ont par pièces découpés.
En l’iave et el carbon les ont bien quisinés,
Volontiers les menjuent sans pain et dessalés.”[10]

(Della Penna, p. 76; Reinaud, Rel. I. 52; Rennie’s Peking, II. 244; Ann. de la Pr. de la F. XXIX. 353, XXI. 298; Hayton in Ram. ch. xvii.; Per. Quat. p. 116; M. Paris, sub. 1243; Mél. Asiat. Acad. St. Pétersb. II. 659; Canale in Arch. Stor. Ital. VIII.; Bergm. Nomad. Streifereien, I. 14; Carpini, 638; D’Ohsson, II. 30, 43, 52; Wilson’s Ever Victorious Army, 74; Shaw, p. 48; Abdallatif, p. 363 seqq.; Weber, II. 135; Littré, H. de la Langue Franç. I. 191; Gesta Tancredi in Thes. Nov. Anecd. III. 172.)

NOTE 10.—Bakhshi is generally believed to be a corruption of Bhikshu, the proper Sanscrit term for a religious mendicant, and in particular for the Buddhist devotees of that character. Bakhshi was probably applied to a class only of the Lamas, but among the Turks and Persians it became a generic name for them all. In this sense it is habitually used by Rashiduddin, and thus also in the Ain Akbari: “The learned among the Persians and Arabians call the priests of this (Buddhist) religion Bukshee, and in Tibbet they are styled Lamas.”

According to Pallas the word among the modern Mongols is used in the sense of Teacher, and is applied to the oldest and most learned priest of a community, who is the local ecclesiastical chief. Among the Kirghiz Kazzaks again, who profess Mahomedanism, the word also survives, but conveys among them just the idea that Polo seems to have associated with it, that of a mere conjuror or “medicine-man”; whilst in Western Turkestan it has come to mean a Bard.

The word Bakhshi has, however, wandered much further from its original meaning. From its association with persons who could read and write, and who therefore occasionally acted as clerks, it came in Persia to mean a clerk or secretary. In the Petrarchian Vocabulary, published by Klaproth, we find scriba rendered in Comanian, i.e. Turkish of the Crimea, by Bacsi. The transfer of meaning is precisely parallel to that in regard to our Clerk. Under the Mahomedan sovereigns of India, Bakhshi was applied to an officer performing something like the duties of a quartermaster-general; and finally, in our Indian army, it has come to mean a paymaster. In the latter sense, I imagine it has got associated in the popular mind with the Persian bakhshídan, to bestow, and bakhshísh. (See a note in Q. R. p. 184 seqq.; Cathay, p. 474; Ayeen Akbery, III. 150; Pallas, Samml. II. 126;Levchine, p. 355; Klap. Mém. III.; Vámbéry, Sketches, p. 81.)

The sketch from the life, on p. 326, of a wandering Tibetan devotee, whom I met once at Hardwár, may give an idea of the sordid Bacsis spoken of by Polo.

NOTE 11.—This feat is related more briefly by Odoric: “And jugglers cause cups of gold full of good wine to fly through the air, and to offer themselves to all who list to drink.” (Cathay, p. 143.) In the note on that passage I have referred to a somewhat similar story in the Life of Apollonius. “Such feats,” says Mr. Jaeschke, “are often mentioned in ancient as well as modern legends of Buddha and other saints; and our Lamas have heard of things very similar performed by conjuring Bonpos.” (See p. 323.) The moving of cups and the like is one of the sorceries ascribed in old legends to Simon Magus: “He made statues to walk; leapt into the fire without being burnt; flew in the air; made bread of stones; changed his shape; assumed two faces at once; converted himself into a pillar; caused closed doors to fly open spontaneously; made the vessels in a house seem to move of themselves,” etc. The Jesuit Delrio laments that credulous princes, otherwise of pious repute, should have allowed diabolic tricks to be played before them, “as, for example, things of iron, and silver goblets, or other heavy articles, to be moved by bounds from one end of a table to the other, without the use of a magnet or of any attachment.” The pious prince appears to have been Charles IX., and the conjuror a certain Cesare Maltesio. Another Jesuit author describes the veritable mango-trick, speaking of persons who “within three hours’ space did cause a genuine shrub of a span in length to grow out of the table, besides other trees that produced both leaves and fruit.”

In a letter dated 1st December, 1875, written by Mr. R. B. Shaw, after his last return from Kashgar and Lahore, this distinguished traveller says; “I have heard stories related regarding a Buddhist high priest whose temple is said to be not far to the east of Lanchau, which reminds me of Marco Polo and Kúblái Khan. This high priest is said to have the magic power of attracting cups and plates to him from a distance, so that things fly through the air into his hands.” (MS. Note.—H. Y.)

The profession and practice of exorcism and magic in general is greatly more prominent in Lamaism or Tibetan Buddhism than in any other known form of that religion. Indeed, the old form of Lamaism as it existed in our traveller’s day, and till the reforms of Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), and as it is still professed by the Red sect in Tibet, seems to be a kind of compromise between Indian Buddhism and the old indigenous Shamanism. Even the reformed doctrine of the Yellow sect recognises an orthodox kind of magic, which is due in great measure to the combination of Sivaism with the Buddhist doctrines, and of which the institutes are contained in the vast collection of the Jud or Tantras, recognised among the holy books. The magic arts of this code open even a short road to the Buddhahood itself. To attain that perfection of power and wisdom, culminating in the cessation of sensible existence, requires, according to the ordinary paths, a period of three asankhyas (or say Uncountable Time × 3), whereas by means of the magic arts of the Tantras it may be reached in the course of three rebirths only, nay, of one! But from the Tantras also can be learned how to acquire miraculous powers for objects entirely selfish and secular, and how to exercise these by means of Dhárani or mystic Indian charms.

Still the orthodox Yellow Lamas professedly repudiate and despise the grosser exhibitions of common magic and charlatanism which the Reds still practise, such as knife-swallowing, blowing fire, cutting off their own heads, etc. But as the vulgar will not dispense with these marvels, every great orthodox monastery in Tibet keeps a conjuror, who is a member of the unreformed, and does not belong to the brotherhood of the convent, but lives in a particular part of it, bearing the name of Choichong, or protector of religion, and is allowed to marry. The magic of these Choichong is in theory and practice different from the orthodox Tantrist magic. The practitioners possess no literature, and hand down their mysteries only by tradition. Their fantastic equipments, their frantic bearing, and their cries and howls, seem to identify them with the grossest Shamanist devil dancers.

Sanang Setzen enumerates a variety of the wonderful acts which could be performed through the Dhárani. Such were, sticking a peg into solid rock; restoring the dead to life; turning a dead body into gold; penetrating everywhere as air does; flying; catching wild beasts with the hand; reading thoughts; making water flow backwards; eating tiles; sitting in the air with the legs doubled under, etc. Some of these are precisely the powers ascribed to Medea, Empedocles, and Simon Magus, in passages already cited. Friar Ricold says on this subject: “There are certain men whom the Tartars honour above all in the world, viz. the Baxitae (i.e. Bakhshis), who are a kind of idol-priests. These are men from India, persons of deep wisdom, well-conducted, and of the gravest morals. They are usually acquainted with magic arts, and depend on the counsel and aid of demons; they exhibit many illusions, and predict some future events. For instance, one of eminence among them was said to fly; the truth, however, was (as it proved), that he did not fly, but did walk close to the surface of the ground without touching it; and would seem to sit down without having any substance to support him.” This last performance was witnessed by Ibn Batuta at Delhi, in the presence of Sultan Mahomed Tughlak; and it was professedly exhibited by a Brahmin at Madras in the present century, a descendant doubtless of those Brahmans whom Apollonius saw walking two cubits from the ground. It is also described by the worthy Francis Valentyn as a performance known and practised in his own day in India. It is related, he says, that “a man will first go and sit on three sticks put together so as to form a tripod; after which, first one stick, then a second, then the third shall be removed from under him, and the man shall not fall but shall still remain sitting in the air! Yet I have spoken with two friends who had seen this at one and the same time; and one of them, I may add, mistrusting his own eyes, had taken the trouble to feel about with a long stick if there were nothing on which the body rested; yet, as the gentleman told me, he could neither feel nor see any such thing. Still, I could only say that I could not believe it, as a thing too manifestly contrary to reason.”

Akin to these performances, though exhibited by professed jugglers without claim to religious character, is a class of feats which might be regarded as simply inventions if told by one author only, but which seem to deserve prominent notice from their being recounted by a series of authors, certainly independent of one another, and writing at long intervals of time and place. Our first witness is Ibn Batuta, and it will be necessary to quote him as well as the others in full, in order to show how closely their evidence tallies. The Arab Traveller was present at a great entertainment at the Court of the Viceroy of Khansa (Kinsay of Polo, or Hang-chau fu): “That same night a juggler, who was one of the Kán’s slaves, made his appearance, and the Amír said to him, ‘Come and show us some of your marvels.’ Upon this he took a wooden ball, with several holes in it, through which long thongs were passed, and, laying hold of one of these, slung it into the air. It went so high that we lost sight of it altogether. (It was the hottest season of the year, and we were outside in the middle of the palace court.) There now remained only a little of the end of a thong in the conjuror’s hand, and he desired one of the boys who assisted him to lay hold of it and mount. He did so, climbing by the thong, and we lost sight of him also! The conjuror then called to him three times, but getting no answer, he snatched up a knife as if in a great rage, laid hold of the thong, and disappeared also! By and bye he threw down one of the boy’s hands, then a foot, then the other hand, and then the other foot, then the trunk, and last of all the head! Then he came down himself, all puffing and panting, and with his clothes all bloody, kissed the ground before the Amír, and said something to him in Chinese. The Amír gave some order in reply, and our friend then took the lad’s limbs, laid them together in their places, and gave a kick, when, presto! there was the boy, who got up and stood before us! All this astonished me beyond measure, and I had an attack of palpitation like that which overcame me once before in the presence of the Sultan of India, when he showed me something of the same kind. They gave me a cordial, however, which cured the attack. The Kazi Afkharuddin was next to me, and quoth he, ‘Wallah! ’tis my opinion there has been neither going up nor coming down, neither marring nor mending; ’tis all hocus pocus!'”

Now let us compare with this, which Ibn Batuta the Moor says he saw in China about the year 1348, the account which is given us by Edward Melton, an Anglo-Dutch traveller, of the performances of a Chinese gang of conjurors, which he witnessed at Batavia about the year 1670 (I have forgotten to note the year). After describing very vividly the basket- murder trick, which is well known in India, and now also in Europe, and some feats of bamboo balancing similar to those which were recently shown by Japanese performers in England, only more wonderful, he proceeds: “But now I am going to relate a thing which surpasses all belief, and which I should scarcely venture to insert here had it not been witnessed by thousands before my own eyes. One of the same gang took a ball of cord, and grasping one end of the cord in his hand slung the other up into the air with such force that its extremity was beyond reach of our sight. He then immediately climbed up the cord with indescribable swiftness, and got so high that we could no longer see him. I stood full of astonishment, not conceiving what was to come of this; when lo! a leg came tumbling down out of the air. One of the conjuring company instantly snatched it up and threw it into the basket whereof I have formerly spoken. A moment later a hand came down, and immediately on that another leg. And in short all the members of the body came thus successively tumbling from the air and were cast together into the basket. The last fragment of all that we saw tumble down was the head, and no sooner had that touched the ground than he who had snatched up all the limbs and put them in the basket turned them all out again topsy-turvy. Then straightway we saw with these eyes all those limbs creep together again, and in short, form a whole man, who at once could stand and go just as before, without showing the least damage! Never in my life was I so astonished as when I beheld this wonderful performance, and I doubted now no longer that these misguided men did it by the help of the Devil. For it seems to me totally impossible that such things should be accomplished by natural means.” The same performance is spoken of by Valentyn, in a passage also containing curious notices of the basket-murder trick, the mango trick, the sitting in the air (quoted above), and others; but he refers to Melton, and I am not sure whether he had any other authority for it. The cut on this page is taken from Melton’s plate.

[Illustration: Chinese Conjuring Extraordinary.]

Again we have in the Memoirs of the Emperor Jahángir a detail of the wonderful performances of seven jugglers from Bengal who exhibited before him. Two of their feats are thus described: “Ninth. They produced a man whom they divided limb from limb, actually severing his head from the body. They scattered these mutilated members along the ground, and in this state they lay for some time. They then extended a sheet or curtain over the spot, and one of the men putting himself under the sheet, in a few minutes came from below, followed by the individual supposed to have been cut into joints, in perfect health and condition, and one might have safely sworn that he had never received wound or injury whatever … Twenty-third. They produced a chain of 50 cubits in length, and in my presence threw one end of it towards the sky, where it remained as if fastened to something in the air. A dog was then brought forward, and being placed at the lower end of the chain, immediately ran up, and reaching the other end, immediately disappeared in the air. In the same manner a hog, a panther, a lion, and a tiger were successively sent up the chain, and all equally disappeared at the upper end of the chain. At last they took down the chain and put it into a bag, no one ever discovering in what way the different animals were made to vanish into the air in the mysterious manner above described.”

[There would appear (says the Times of India, quoted by the Weekly Dispatch, 15th September, 1889) to be a fine field of unworked romance in the annals of Indian jugglery. One Siddeshur Mitter, writing to the Calcutta paper, gives a thrilling account of a conjurer’s feat which he witnessed recently in one of the villages of the Hooghly district. He saw the whole thing himself, he tells us, so there need be no question about the facts. On the particular afternoon when he visited the village the place was occupied by a company of male and female jugglers, armed with bags and boxes and musical instruments, and all the mysterious paraphernalia of the peripatetic Jadugar. While Siddeshur was looking on, and in the broad, clear light of the afternoon, a man was shut up in a box, which was then carefully nailed up and bound with cords. Weird spells and incantations of the style we are all familiar with were followed by the breaking open of the box, which, “to the unqualified amazement of everybody, was found to be perfectly empty.” All this is much in the usual style; but what followed was so much superior to the ordinary run of modern Indian jugglery that we must give it in the simple Siddeshur’s own words. When every one was satisfied that the man had really disappeared, the principal performer, who did not seem to be at all astonished, told his audience that the vanished man had gone up to the heavens to fight Indra. “In a few moments,” says Siddeshur, “he expressed anxiety at the man’s continued absence in the aerial regions, and said that he would go up to see what was the matter. A boy was called, who held upright a long bamboo, up which the man climbed to the top, whereupon we suddenly lost sight of him, and the boy laid the bamboo on the ground. Then there fell on the ground before us the different members of a human body, all bloody,—first one hand, then another, a foot, and so on, until complete. The boy then elevated the bamboo, and the principal performer, appearing on the top as suddenly as he had disappeared, came down, and seeming quite disconsolate, said that Indra had killed his friend before he could get there to save him. He then placed the mangled remains in the same box, closed it, and tied it as before. Our wonder and astonishment reached their climax when, a few minutes later, on the box being again opened, the man jumped out perfectly hearty and unhurt.” Is not this rather a severe strain on one’s credulity, even for an Indian jugglery story?]

In Philostratus, again, we may learn the antiquity of some juggling tricks that have come up as novelties in our own day. Thus at Taxila a man set his son against a board, and then threw darts tracing the outline of the boy’s figure on the board. This feat was shown in London some fifteen or twenty years ago, and humorously commemorated in Punch by John Leech.

(Philostratus, Fr. Transl. Bk. III. ch. xv. and xxvii.; Mich. Glycas, Ann. II. 156, Paris ed.; Delrio, Disquis. Magic. pp. 34, 100; Koeppen, I. 31, II. 82, 114-115, 260, 262, 280; Vassilyev, 156; Della Penna, 36; S. Setzen, 43, 353; Pereg. Quat. 117; I. B. IV. 39 and 290 seqq.; Asiat. Researches, XVII. 186; Valentyn, V. 52-54; Edward Melton, Engelsch Edelmans, Zeldzaame en Gedenkwaardige Zee en Land Reizen, etc., aangevangen in den Jaare 1660 en geendigd in den Jaare 1677, Amsterdam, 1702, p. 468; Mem. of the Emp. Jahangueir, pp. 99, 102.)

[Illustration: Grand Temple of Buddha at LHASA]

NOTE 12.—[“The maintenance of the Lamas, of their monasteries, the expenses for the sacrifices and for transcription of sacred books, required enormous sums. The Lamas enjoyed a preponderating influence, and stood much higher than the priests of other creeds, living in the palace as if in their own house. The perfumes, which M. Polo mentions, were used by the Lamas for two purposes; they used them for joss-sticks, and for making small turrets, known under the name of ts’a-ts’a; the joss-sticks used to be burned in the same way as they are now; the ts’a-ts’a were inserted insuburgas or buried in the ground. At the time when the suburga was built in the garden of the Peking palace in 1271, there were used, according to the Empress’ wish, 1008 turrets made of the most expensive perfumes, mixed with pounded gold, silver, pearls, and corals, and 130,000 ts’a-ts’amade of ordinary perfumes.” (Palladius, 29.—H. C.)]

NOTE 13.—There is no exaggeration in this number. Turner speaks of 2500 monks in one Tibetan convent. Huc mentions Chorchi, north of the Great Wall, as containing 2000; and Kúnbúm, where he and Gabet spent several months, on the borders of Shensi and Tibet, had nearly 4000. The missionary itinerary from Nepal to L’hasa given by Giorgi, speaks of a group of convents at a place called Brephung, which formerly contained 10,000 inmates, and at the time of the journey (about 1700) still contained 5000, including attendants. Dr. Campbell gives a list of twelve chief convents in L’hasa and its vicinity (not including the Potala or Residence of the Grand Lama), of which one is said to have 7500 members, resident and itinerary. Major Montgomerie’s Pandit gives the same convent 7700 Lamas. In the great monastery at L’hasa called Labrang, they show a copper kettle holding more than 100 buckets, which was used to make tea for the Lamas who performed the daily temple service. The monasteries are usually, as the text says, like small towns, clustered round the great temples. That represented at p. 224 is at Jehol, and is an imitation of the Potala at L’hasa. (Huc’s Tartary, etc., pp. 45, 208, etc.; Alph. Tibetan, 453; J. A. S. B. XXIV. 219; J. R. G. S. XXXVIII. 168; Koeppen, II. 338.) [La Géographie, II. 1901, pp. 242-247, has an article by Mr. J. Deniker, La Première Photographie de Lhassa, with a view of Potala, in 1901, from a photograph by M. O. Norzunov; it is interesting to compare it with the view given by Kircher in 1670.—H. C.]

[“The monasteries with numbers of monks, who, as M. Polo asserts, behaved decently, evidently belonged to Chinese Buddhists, ho-shang; in Kúblái’s time they had two monasteries in Shangtu, in the north-east and north-west parts of the town.” (Palladius, 29.) Rubruck (Rockhill’s ed. p. 145) says: “All the priests (of the idolaters) shave their heads, and are dressed in saffron colour, and they observe chastity from the time they shave their heads, and they live in congregations of one or two hundred.”—H. C.]

[Illustration: Monastery of Lamas.]

NOTE 14.—There were many anomalies in the older Lamaism, and it permitted, at least in some sects of it which still subsist, the marriage of the clergy under certain limitations and conditions. One of Giorgi’s missionaries speaks of a Lama of high hereditary rank as a spiritual prince who marries, but separates from his wife as soon as he has a son, who after certain trials is deemed worthy to be his successor. [“A good number of Lamas were married, as M. Polo correctly remarks; their wives were known amongst the Chinese, under the name of Fan-sao.” (Ch’ue keng lu, quoted by Palladius, 28.)—H. C.] One of the “reforms” of Tsongkhapa was the absolute prohibition of marriage to the clergy, and in this he followed the institutes of the oldest Buddhism. Even the Red Lamas, or unreformed, cannot now marry without a dispensation.

But even the oldest orthodox Buddhism had its Lay brethren and Lay sisters (Upásaka and Upásiká), and these are to be found in Tibet and Mongolia ( Voués au blanc, as it were). They are called by the Mongols, by a corruption of the Sanskrit, Ubashi and Ubashanza. Their vows extend to the strict keeping of the five great commandments of the Buddhist Law, and they diligently ply the rosary and the prayer-wheel, but they are not pledged to celibacy, nor do they adopt the tonsure. As a sign of their amphibious position, they commonly wear a red or yellow girdle. These are what some travellers speak of as the lowest order of Lamas, permitted to marry; and Polo may have regarded them in the same light.

(Koeppen, II. 82, 113, 276, 291; Timk. II. 354; Erman, II. 304; Alph. Tibet. 449.)

NOTE 15.—[Mr. Rockhill writes to me that “bran” is certainly Tibetan tsamba (parched barley).—H. C.]

NOTE 16.—Marco’s contempt for Patarins slips out in a later passage (Bk. III. ch. xx.). The name originated in the eleventh century in Lombardy, where it came to be applied to the “heretics,” otherwise called “Cathari.” Muratori has much on the origin of the name Patarini, and mentions a monument, which still exists, in the Piazza de’ Mercanti at Milan, in honour of Oldrado Podestà of that city in 1233, and which thus, with more pith than grammar, celebrates his meritorious acts:—

“Qui solium struxit Catharos ut debuit UXIT.”

Other cities were as piously Catholic. A Mantuan chronicler records under 1276: “Captum fuit Sermionum seu redditum fuit Ecclesiae, et capti fuerunt cercha CL Patarini contra fidem, inter masculos et feminas; qui omnes ducti fuerunt Veronam, et ibi incarcerati, et pro magna parteCOMBUSTI.” (Murat. Dissert. III. 238; Archiv. Stor. Ital. N.S. I. 49.)

NOTE 17.—Marsden, followed by Pauthier, supposes these unorthodox ascetics to be Hindu Sanyasis, and the latter editor supposes even the name Sensi or Sensin to represent that denomination. Such wanderers do occasionally find their way to Tartary; Gerbillon mentions having encountered five of them at Kuku Khotan (supra, p. 286), and I think John Bell speaks of meeting one still further north. But what is said of the great and numerous idols of the Sensin is inconsistent with such a notion, as is indeed, it seems to me, the whole scope of the passage. Evidently no occasional vagabonds from a far country, but some indigenous sectaries, are in question. Nor would bran and hot water be a Hindu regimen. The staple diet of the Tibetans is Chamba, the meal of toasted barley, mixed sometimes with warm water, but more frequently with hot tea, and I think it is probable that these were the elements of the ascetic diet rather than the mere bran which Polo speaks of. Semedo indeed says that some of the Buddhist devotees professed never to take any food but tea; knowing people said they mixed with it pellets of sun-dried beef. The determination of the sect intended in the text is, I conceive, to be sought in the history of Chinese or Tibetan Buddhism and their rivals.

Both Baldelli and Neumann have indicated a general opinion that the Taossé or some branch of that sect is meant, but they have entered into no particulars except in a reference by the former to Shien-sien, a title of perfection affected by that sect, as the origin of Polo’s term Sensin. In the substance of this I think they are right. But I believe that in the text this Chinese sect are, rightly or wrongly, identified with the ancient Tibetan sect of Bon-po, and that part of the characters assigned belong to each.

First with regard to the Taossé. These were evidently the Patarini of the Buddhists in China at this time, and Polo was probably aware of the persecution which the latter had stirred up Kúblái to direct against them in 1281—persecution at least it is called, though it was but a mild proceeding in comparison with the thing contemporaneously practised in Christian Lombardy, for in heathen Cathay, books, and not human creatures, were the subjects doomed to burn, and even that doom was not carried out.

[“The Tao-sze,” says M. Polo, “were looked upon as heretics by the other sects; that is, of course; by the Lamas and Ho-shangs; in fact in his time a passionate struggle was going on between Buddhists and Tao-sze, or rather a persecution of the latter by the former; the Buddhists attributed to the doctrine of the Tao-sze a pernicious tendency, and accused them of deceit; and in support of these assertions they pointed to some of their sacred books. Taking advantage of their influence at Court, they persuaded Kúblái to decree the burning of these books, and it was carried out in Peking.” (Palladius, 30.)—H. C.]

The term which Polo writes as Sensin appears to have been that popularly applied to the Taossé sect at the Mongol Court. Thus we are told by Rashíduddín in his History of Cathay: “In the reign of Din-Wang, the 20th king of this (the 11th) Dynasty, TAI SHANG LÁI KÚN, was born. This person is stated to have been accounted a prophet by the people of Khitá; his father’s name was Hán; like Shák-múni he is said to have been conceived by light, and it is related that his mother bore him in her womb no less a period than 80 years. The people who embraced his doctrine were called [Arabic] (Shan-shan or Shinshin).” This is a correct epitome of the Chinese story of Laokiun or Lao-tsé, born in the reign of Ting Wang of the Cheu Dynasty. The whole title used by Rashíduddín, Tai Shang Lao Kiun, “The Great Supreme Venerable Ruler,” is that formerly applied by the Chinese to this philosopher.

Further, in a Mongol [and Chinese] inscription of the year 1314 from the department of Si-ngan fu, which has been interpreted and published by Mr. Wylie, the Taossé priests are termed Senshing. [See Devéria, Notes d’Épigraphie, pp. 39-43, and Prince R. Bonaparte’s Recueil, Pl. xii. No. 3.—H. C.]

Seeing then that the very term used by Polo is that applied by both Mongol and Persian authorities of the period to the Taossé, we can have no doubt that the latter are indicated, whether the facts stated about them be correct or not.

The word Senshing-ud (the Mongol plural) is represented in the Chinese version of Mr. Wylie’s inscription by Sín-sang, a conventional title applied to literary men, and this perhaps is sufficient to determine the Chinese word which Sensin represents. I should otherwise have supposed it to be the Shin-sian alluded to by Baldelli, and mentioned in the quotations which follow; and indeed it seems highly probable that two terms so much alike should have been confounded by foreigners. Semedo says of the Taossé: “They pretend that by means of certain exercises and meditations one shall regain his youth, and others shall attain to be Shien-sien, i.e. ‘Terrestrial Beati,’ in whose state every desire is gratified, whilst they have the power to transport themselves from one place to another, however distant, with speed and facility.” Schott, on the same subject, says: “By Sian orShin-sian are understood in the old Chinese conception, and particularly in that of the Tao-Kiao [or Taossé] sect, persons who withdraw to the hills to lead the life of anchorites, and who have attained, either through their ascetic observances or by the power of charms and elixirs, to the possession of miraculous gifts and of terrestrial immortality.” And M. Pauthier himself, in his translation of the Journey of Khieu, an eminent doctor of this sect, to the camp of the Great Chinghiz in Turkestan, has related how Chinghiz bestowed upon this personage “a seal with a tiger’s head and a diploma” (surely a lion’s head, P’aizah and Yarligh; see infra, Bk. II. ch. vii. note 2), “wherein he was styled Shin Sien or Divine Anchorite.” Sian-jin again is the word used by Hiuen Tsang as the equivalent to the name of the Indian Rishis, who attain to supernatural powers.

[“Sensin is a sufficiently faithful transcription of Sien-seng (Sien-shing in Pekingese); the name given by the Mongols in conversation as well as in official documents, to the Tao-sze, in the sense of preceptors, just as Lamas were called by them Bacshi, which corresponds to the Chinese Sien-seng. M. Polo calls them fasters and ascetics. It was one of the sects of Taouism. There was another one which practised cabalistic and other mysteries. The Tao-sze had two monasteries in Shangtu, one in the eastern, the other in the western part of the town.” (Palladius, 30.) —H.C.]

One class of the Tao priests or devotees does marry, but another class never does. Many of them lead a wandering life, and derive a precarious subsistence from the sale of charms and medical nostrums. They shave the sides of the head, and coil the remaining hair in a tuft on the crown, in the ancient Chinese manner; moreover, says Williams, they “are recognised by their slate-coloured robes.” On the feast of one of their divinities whose title Williams translates as “High Emperor of the Sombre Heavens,” they assemble before his temple, “and having made a great fire, about 15 or 20 feet in diameter, go over it barefoot, preceded by the priests and bearing the gods in their arms. They firmly assert that if they possess a sincere mind they will not be injured by the fire; but both priests and people get miserably burnt on these occasions.” Escayrac de Lauture says that on those days they leap, dance, and whirl round the fire, striking at the devils with a straight Roman-like sword, and sometimes wounding themselves as the priests of Baal and Moloch used to do.

(Astley, IV. 671; Morley in J. R. A. S. VI. 24; Semedo, 111, 114; De Mailla, IX. 410; J. As. sér. V. tom. viii. 138; Schott über den Buddhismus etc. 71; Voyage de Khieou in J. As. sér. VI. tom. ix. 41; Middle Kingdom, II. 247; Doolittle, 192; Esc. de Lauture, Mém. sur la Chine, Religion, 87, 102;Pèler. Boudd. II. 370, and III. 468.)

Let us now turn to the Bon-po. Of this form of religion and its sectaries not much is known, for it is now confined to the eastern and least known part of Tibet. It is, however, believed to be a remnant of the old pre-Buddhistic worship of the powers of nature, though much modified by the Buddhistic worship with which it has so long been in contact. Mr. Hodgson also pronounces a collection of drawings of Bonpo divinities, which were made for him by a mendicant friar of the sect from the neighbourhood of Tachindu, or Ta-t’sien-lu, to be saturated with Sakta attributes, i.e. with the spirit of the Tantrika worship, a worship which he tersely defines as “a mixture of lust, ferocity, and mummery,” and which he believes to have originated in an incorporation with the Indian religions of the rude superstitions of the primitive Turanians. Mr. Hodgson was told that the Bonpo sect still possessed numerous and wealthy Vihars (or abbeys) in Tibet. But from the information of the Catholic missionaries in Eastern Tibet, who have come into closest contact with the sect, it appears to be now in a state of great decadence, “oppressed by the Lamas of other sects, thePeunbo (Bonpo) think only of shaking off the yoke, and getting deliverance from the vexations which the smallness of their number forces them to endure.” In June, 1863, apparently from such despairing motives, the Lamas of Tsodam, a Bonpo convent in the vicinity of the mission settlement of Bonga in E. Tibet, invited the Rev. Gabriel Durand to come and instruct them. “In this temple,” he writes, “are the monstrous idols of the sect of Peunbo; horrid figures, whose features only Satan could have inspired. They are disposed about the enclosure according to their power and their seniority. Above the pagoda is a loft, the nooks of which are crammed with all kinds of diabolical trumpery; little idols of wood or copper, hideous masques of men and animals, superstitious Lama vestments, drums, trumpets of human bones, sacrificial vessels, in short, all the utensils with which the devil’s servants in Tibet honour their master. And what will become of it all? The Great River, whose waves roll to Martaban (the Lu-kiang or Salwen), is not more than 200 or 300 paces distant…. Besides the infernal paintings on the walls, eight or nine monstrous idols, seated at the inner end of the pagoda, were calculated by their size and aspect to inspire awe. In the middle was Tamba-Shi-Rob, the great doctor of the sect of the Peunbo, squatted with his right arm outside his red scarf, and holding in his left the vase of knowledge…. On his right hand sat Keumta-Zon-bo, ‘the All- Good,’ … with ten hands and three heads, one over the other…. At his right is Dreuma, the most celebrated goddess of the sect. On the left of Tamba-Shi-Rob was another goddess, whose name they never could tell me. On the left again of this anonymous goddess appeared Tam-pla-mi-ber,… a monstrous dwarf environed by flames and his head garnished with a diadem of skulls. He trod with one foot on the head of Shakia-tupa [Shakya Thubba, i.e. ‘the Mighty Shakya,’ the usual Tibetan appellation of Sakya Buddha himself]…. The idols are made of a coarse composition of mud and stalks kneaded together, on which they put first a coat of plaster and then various colours, or even silver or gold…. Four oxen would scarcely have been able to draw one of the idols.” Mr. Emilius Schlagintweit, in a paper on the subject of this sect, has explained some of the names used by the missionary. Tamba-Shi-Rob is “_bs_tanpa _g_Shen-rabs,” i.e. the doctrine of Shen-rabs, who is regarded as the founder of the Bon religion. [Cf. Grenard, II. 407.—H. C.] Keun-tu-zon-bo is “Kun-tu-_b_zang-po,” “the All Best.”

[Bon-po seems to be (according to Grenard, II. 410) a “coarse naturism combined with ancestral worship” resembling Taoism. It has, however, borrowed a good deal from Buddhism. “I noticed,” says Mr. Rockhill (Journey, 86), “a couple of grimy volumes of Bönbo sacred literature. One of them I examined; it was a funeral service, and was in the usual Bönbo jargon, three-fourths Buddhistic in its nomenclature.” The Bon-po Lamas are above all sorcerers and necromancers, and are very similar to the kam of the Northern Turks, the of the Mongols, and lastly to the Shamans. During their operations, they wear a tall pointed black hat, surmounted by the feather of a peacock, or of a cock, and a human skull. Their principal divinities are the White God of Heaven, the Black Goddess of Earth, the Red Tiger and the Dragon; they worship an idol called Kye’-p’ang formed of a mere block of wood covered with garments. Their sacred symbol is the svastika turned from right to left [Symbol]. The most important of their monasteries is Zo-chen gum-pa, in the north-east of Tibet, where they print most of their books. The Bonpos Lamas “are very popular with the agricultural Tibetans, but not so much so with the pastoral tribes, who nearly all belong to the Gélupa sect of the orthodox Buddhist Church.” A. K. says, “Buddhism is the religion of the country; there are two sects, one named Mangba and the other Chiba or Baimbu.” Explorations made by A——K——, 34. Mangba means “Esoteric,” Chiba (p’yi-ba), “Exoteric,” and Baimbu is Bönbo. Rockhill, Journey, 289, et passim.; Land of the Lamas, 217-218; Grenard, Mission Scientifique, II. 407 seqq.—H. C.]

There is an indication in Koeppen’s references that the followers of the Bon doctrine are sometimes called in Tibet Nag-choi, or “Black Sect,” as the old and the reformed Lamas are called respectively the “Red” and the “Yellow.” If so, it is reasonable to conclude that the first appellation, like the two last, has a reference to the colour of clothing affected by the priesthood.

The Rev. Mr. Jaeschke writes from Lahaul: “There are no Bonpos in our part of the country, and as far as we know there cannot be many of them in the whole of Western Tibet, i.e. in Ladak, Spiti, and all the non-Chinese provinces together; we know, therefore, not much more of them than has been made known to the European public by different writers on Buddhism in Tibet, and lately collected by Emil de Schlagintweit…. Whether they can be with certainty identified with the Chinese Taossé I cannot decide, as I don’t know if anything like historical evidence about their Chinese origin has been detected anywhere, or if it is merely a conclusion from the similarity of their doctrines and practices…. But the Chinese author of the Wei-tsang-tu-Shi, translated by Klaproth, under the title of Description du Tubet (Paris, 1831), renders Bonpo by Taossé. So much seems to be certain that it was the ancient religion of Tibet, before Buddhism penetrated into the country, and that even at later periods it several times gained the ascendancy when the secular power was of a disposition averse to the Lamaitic hierarchy. Another opinion is that the Bon religion was originally a mere fetishism, and related to or identical with Shamanism; this appears to me very probable and easy to reconcile with the former supposition, for it may afterwards, on becoming acquainted with the Chinese doctrine of the ‘Taossé,’ have adorned itself with many of its tenets…. With regard to the following particulars, I have got most of my information from our Lama, a native of the neighbourhood of Tashi Lhunpo, whom we consulted about all your questions. The extraordinary asceticism which struck Marco Polo so much is of course not to be understood as being practised by all members of the sect, but exclusively, or more especially, by the priests. That these never marry, and are consequently more strictly celibatary than many sects of the Lamaitic priesthood, was confirmed by our Lama.” (Mr. Jaeschke then remarks upon the bran to much the same effect as I have done above.) “The Bonpos are by all Buddhists regarded as heretics. Though they worship idols partly the same, at least in name, with those of the Buddhists,… their rites seem to be very different. The most conspicuous and most generally known of their customs, futile in itself, but in the eyes of the common people the greatest sign of their sinful heresy, is that they perform the religious ceremony of making a turn round a sacred object in the opposite direction to that prescribed by Buddhism. As to their dress, our Lama said that they had no particular colour of garments, but their priests frequently wore red clothes, as some sects of the Buddhist priesthood do. Mr. Heyde, however, once on a journey in our neighbouring county of Langskar, saw a man clothed in black with blue borders, who the people said was a Bonpo.”

[Mr. Rockhill (Journey , 63) saw at Kao miao-tzu “a red-gowned, long-haired Bönbo Lama,” and at Kumbum (p. 68), “was surprised to see quite a large number of Bönbo Lamas, recognisable by their huge mops of hair and their red gowns, and also from their being dirtier than the ordinary run of people.”—H. C.]

The identity of the Bonpo and Taossé seems to have been accepted by Csoma de Kórös, who identifies the Chinese founder of the latter, Lao-tseu, with the Shen-rabs of the Tibetan Bonpos. Klaproth also says, “Bhonbp’o, Bhanpo, and Shen, are the names by which are commonly designated (in Tibetan) the Taoszu, or follower of the Chinese philosopher Laotseu.”[11] Schlagintweit refers to Schmidt’s Tibetan Grammar (p. 209) and to the Calcutta edition of the Fo-kouè-ki (p. 218) for the like identification, but I do not know how far any two of these are independent testimonies. General Cunningham, however, fully accepts the identity, and writes to me: “Fahian (ch. xxiii.) calls the heretics who assembled at Râmagrâma Taossé,[12] thus identifying them with the Chinese Finitimists. The Taossé are, therefore, the same as the Swâstikas, or worshippers of the mystic cross Swasti, who are also Tirthakaras, or ‘Pure-doers.’ The synonymous word Punya is probably the origin of Pon or Bon, the Tibetan Finitimists. From the same word comes the Burmese P’ungyi or Pungi.” I may add that the Chinese envoy to Cambodia in 1296, whose narrative Rémusat has translated, describes a sect which he encountered there, apparently Brahminical, as Taossé. And even if the Bonpo and the Taossé were not fundamentally identical, it is extremely probable that the Tibetan and Mongol Buddhists should have applied to them one name and character. Each played towards them the same part in Tibet and in China respectively; both were heretic sects and hated rivals; both made high pretensions to asceticism and supernatural powers; both, I think we see reason to believe, affected the dark clothing which Polo assigns to the Sensin; both, we may add, had “great idols and plenty of them.” We have seen in the account of the Taossé the ground that certain of their ceremonies afford for the allegation that they “sometimes also worship fire,” whilst the whole account of that rite and of others mentioned by Duhalde,[13] shows what a powerful element of the old devil-dancing Shamanism there is in their practice. The French Jesuit, on the other hand, shows us what a prominent place female divinities occupied in the Bon-po Pantheon,[14] though we cannot say of either sect that “their idols are all feminine.” A strong symptom of relation between the two religions, by the way, occurs in M. Durand’s account of the Bon Temple. We see there that Shen-rabs, the great doctor of the sect, occupies a chief and central place among the idols. Now in the Chinese temples of the Taossé the figure of their Doctor Lao-tseu is one member of the triad called the “Three Pure Ones,” which constitute the chief objects of worship. This very title recalls General Cunningham’s etymology of Bonpo.

[Illustration: Tibetan Bacsi]

[At the quarterly fair (yueh kai) of Ta-li (Yun-Nan), Mr. E. C. Baber (Travels, 158-159) says: “A Fakir with a praying machine, which he twirled for the salvation of the pious at the price of a few cash, was at once recognised by us; he was our old acquaintance, the Bakhsi, whose portrait is given in Colonel Yule’s Marco Polo.”—H. C.]

(Hodgson, in J. R. A. S. XVIII. 396 seqq.; Ann. de la Prop, de la Foi, XXXVI. 301-302, 424-427; E. Schlagintweit, Ueber die Bon-pa Sekte in Tibet, in the Sitzensberichte of the Munich Acad. for 1866, Heft I. pp. 1-12; Koeppen, II. 260; Ladak, p. 358; J. As. sér. II. tom. i. 411-412; Rémusat. Nouv. Mél. Asiat. I. 112; Astley, IV. 205; Doolittle, 191.)

NOTE 18.—Pauthier’s text has blons, no doubt an error for blous. In the G. Text it is bloies. Pauthier interprets the latter term as “blond ardent,” whilst the glossary to the G. Text explains it as both blue and white. Raynouard’s Romance Dict. explains Bloi as “Blond.” Ramusio has biave, and I have no doubt that blue is the meaning. The same word (bloie) is used in the G. Text, where Polo speaks of the bright colours of the Palace tiles at Cambaluc, and where Pauthier’s text has “vermeil et jaune et vert et blou,” and again (infra, Bk. II. ch. xix.), where the two corps of huntsmen are said to be clad respectively in vermeil and in bloie. Here, again, Pauthier’s text has bleu. The Crusca in the description of the Sensin omits the colours altogether; in the two other passages referred to it has bioda, biodo.

[“The Tao-sze, says Marco Polo, wear dresses of black and blue linen; i.e. they wear dresses made of tatters of black and blue linen, as can be seen also at the present day.” (Palladius, 30.)—H. C.]

NOTE 19.—[“The idols of the Tao-sze, according to Marco Polo’s statement, have female names; in fact, there are in the pantheon of Taoism a great many female divinities, still enjoying popular veneration in China; such are Tow Mu (the ‘Ursa major,’ constellation), Pi-hia-yuen Kiun (the celestial queen), female divinities for lying-in women, for children, for diseases of the eyes; and others, which are to be seen everywhere. The Tao-sze have, besides these, a good number of male divinities, bearing the title of Kiun in common with female divinities; both these circumstances might have led Marco Polo to make the above statement.” (Palladius, p. 30.)—H. C.]

[1] This distance is taken from a tracing of the map prepared for Dr. Bushell’s paper quoted below. But there is a serious discrepancy between this tracing and the observed position of Dolon-nor, which determines that of Shang-tu, as stated to me in a letter from Dr. Bushell. [See Note 1.]

[2] These particulars were obtained by Dr. Bushell through the Archimandrite Palladius, from the MS. account of a Chinese traveller who visited Shangtu about two hundred years ago, when probably the whole inscription was above ground. The inscription is also mentioned in the Imp. Geography of the present Dynasty, quoted by Klaproth. This work gives the interior wall 5 li to the side, instead of a li, and the outer wall 10 li, instead of 4 li. By Dr. Bushell’s kindness, I give a reduction of his sketch plan (see Itinerary Map, No. IV. at end of this volume), and also a plate of the heading of the inscription. The translation of this is: “Monument conferred by the Emperor of the August Yuen (Dynasty) in memory of His High Eminence Yun Hien (styled) Chang-Lao (canonised as) Shou-Kung (Prince of Longevity).” [See Missions de Chine et du Congo No. 28, Mars, 1891, Bruxelles.]

[3] Ramusio’s version runs thus: “The palace presents one side to the centre of the city and the other to the city wall. And from either extremity of the palace where it touches the city wall, there runs another wall, which fetches a compass and encloses a good 16 miles of plain, and so that no one can enter this enclosure except by passing through the palace.”

[4] This narrative, translated from Chinese into Russian by Father Palladius, and from the Russian into English by Mr. Eugene Schuyler, Secretary of the U.S. Legation at St. Petersburg, was obligingly sent to me by the latter gentleman, and appeared in the Geographical Magazine for January, 1875, p. 7.

[5] See Bk. II. chap. xiv. note 3.

[6] In the first edition I had supposed a derivation of the Persian words Jádú and Jádúgari, used commonly in India for conjuring, from the Tartar use of Yadah. And Pallas says the Kirghiz call their witches Jádugar. (Voy. II. 298.) But I am assured by Sir H. Rawlinson that this etymology is more than doubtful, and that at any rate the Persian (Jádú) is probably older than the Turkish term. I see that M. Pavet de Courteille derives Yadah from a Mongol word signifying “change of weather,” etc.

[7] [See W. Foerster’s ed., Halle, 1887, p. 15, 386.—H. C.]

[8] A young Afghan related in the presence of Arthur Conolly at Herat that on a certain occasion when provisions ran short the Russian General gave orders that 50,000 men should be killed and served out as rations! (I. 346.)

[9] Ar. Táfir, a sordid, squalid fellow.

[10] [Cf. Paulin Paris’s ed., 1848, II. p. 5.—H. C.]

[11] Shen, or coupled with jin “people,” Shenjin, in this sense affords another possible origin of the word Sensin; but it may in fact be at bottom, as regards the first syllable, the same with the etymology we have preferred.

[12] I do not find this allusion in Mr. Beal’s new version of Fahian. [See Rémusat’s éd. p. 227; Klaproth says (Ibid. p. 230) that the Tao-szu are called in Tibetan Bonbò and Youngdhroungpa.—H. C.]

[13] Apparently they had at their command the whole encyclopaedia of modern “Spiritualists.” Duhalde mentions among their sorceries the art of producing by their invocations the figures of Lao-tseu and their divinities in the air, and of making a pencil to write answers to questions without anybody touching it.

[14] It is possible that this may point to some report of the mystic impurities of the Tantrists. The Saktián, or Tantrists, according to the Dabistan, hold that the worship of a female divinity affords a greater recompense. (II. 155.)








Now am I come to that part of our Book in which I shall tell you of the great and wonderful magnificence of the Great Kaan now reigning, by name CUBLAY KAAN; Kaan being a title which signifyeth “The Great Lord of Lords,” or Emperor. And of a surety he hath good right to such a title, for all men know for a certain truth that he is the most potent man, as regards forces and lands and treasure, that existeth in the world, or ever hath existed from the time of our First Father Adam until this day. All this I will make clear to you for truth, in this book of ours, so that every one shall be fain to acknowledge that he is the greatest Lord that is now in the world, or ever hath been. And now ye shall hear how and wherefore.[NOTE 1]

NOTE 1.—According to Sanang Setzen, Chinghiz himself discerned young Kúblái’s superiority. On his deathbed he said: “The words of the lad Kúblái are well worth attention; see, all of you, that ye heed what he says! One day he will sit in my seat and bring you good fortune such as you have had in my day!” (p. 105).

The Persian history of Wassáf thus exalts Kúblái: “Although from the frontiers of this country (‘Irák) to the Centre of Empire, the Focus of the Universe, the genial abode of the ever-Fortunate Emperor and Just Kaan, is a whole year’s journey, yet the stories that have been spread abroad, even in these parts, of his glorious deeds, his institutes, his decisions, his justice, the largeness and acuteness of his intellect, his correctness of judgment, his great powers of administration, from the mouths of credible witnesses, of well-known merchants and eminent travellers, are so surpassing, that one beam of his glories, one fraction of his great qualities, suffices to eclipse all that history tells of the Caesars of Rome, of the Chosroes of Persia, of the Khagans of China, of the (Himyarite) Kails of Arabia, of the Tobbas of Yemen, and the Rajas of India, of the monarchs of the houses of Sassan and Búya, and of the Seljukian Sultans.” (Hammer’s Wassaf, orig. p. 37.)

Some remarks on Kúblái and his government by a Chinese author, in a more rational and discriminative tone, will be found below under ch. xxiii., note 2.

A curious Low-German MS. at Cologne, giving an account of the East, says of the “Keyser von Kathagien—syn recht Name is der groisse Hunt!” (Magnus Canis, the Big Bow-wow as it were. See Orient und Occident, vol. i. p. 640.)



Now this Cublay Kaan is of the right Imperial lineage, being descended from Chinghis Kaan, the first sovereign of all the Tartars. And he is the sixth Lord in that succession, as I have already told you in this book. He came to the throne in the year of Christ, 1256, and the Empire fell to him because of his ability and valour and great worth, as was right and reason.[NOTE 1] His brothers, indeed, and other kinsmen disputed his claim, but his it remained, both because maintained by his great valour, and because it was in law and right his, as being directly sprung of the imperial line.

Up to the year of Christ now running, to wit 1298, he hath reigned two-and-forty years, and his age is about eighty-five, so that he must have been about forty-three years of age when he first came to the throne.[NOTE 2] Before that time he had often been to the wars, and had shown himself a gallant soldier and an excellent captain. But after coming to the throne he never went to the wars in person save once.[NOTE 3] This befel in the year of Christ, 1286, and I will tell you why he went.

There was a great Tartar Chief, whose name was NAYAN,[NOTE 4] a young man [of thirty], Lord over many lands and many provinces; and he was Uncle to the Emperor Cublay Kaan of whom we are speaking. And when he found himself in authority this Nayan waxed proud in the insolence of his youth and his great power; for indeed he could bring into the field 300,000 horsemen, though all the time he was liegeman to his nephew, the Great Kaan Cublay, as was right and reason. Seeing then what great power he had, he took it into his head that he would be the Great Kaan’s vassal no longer; nay more, he would fain wrest his empire from him if he could. So this Nayan sent envoys to another Tartar Prince called CAIDU, also a great and potent Lord, who was a kinsman of his, and who was a nephew of the Great Kaan and his lawful liegeman also, though he was in rebellion and at bitter enmity with his sovereign Lord and Uncle. Now the message that Nayan sent was this: That he himself was making ready to march against the Great Kaan with all his forces (which were great), and he begged Caidu to do likewise from his side, so that by attacking Cublay on two sides at once with such great forces they would be able to wrest his dominion from him.

And when Caidu heard the message of Nayan, he was right glad thereat, and thought the time was come at last to gain his object. So he sent back answer that he would do as requested; and got ready his host, which mustered a good hundred thousand horsemen.

Now let us go back to the Great Kaan, who had news of all this plot.

NOTE 1.—There is no doubt that Kúblái was proclaimed Kaan in 1260 (4th month), his brother Mangku Kaan having perished during the seige of Hochau in Ssechwan in August of the preceding year. But Kúblái had come into Cathay some years before as his brother’s Lieutenant.

He was the fifth, not sixth, Supreme Kaan, as we have already noticed.
(Bk. I. ch. li. note 2.)

NOTE 2.—Kúblái was born in the eighth month of the year corresponding to 1216, and had he lived to 1298 would have been eighty-two years old. [According to Dr. E. Bretschneider (Peking, 30), quoting the Yuen-Shi, Kúblái died at Khanbaligh, in the Tze-t’an tien in February, 1294.—H. C.] But by Mahomedan reckoning he would have been close upon eighty-five. He was the fourth son of Tuli, who was the youngest of Chinghiz’s four sons by his favourite wife Burté Fujin. (See De Mailla, IX. 255, etc.)

NOTE 3.—This is not literally true; for soon after his accession (in 1261) Kúblái led an army against his brother and rival Arikbuga, and defeated him. And again in his old age, if we credit the Chinese annalist, in 1289, when his grandson Kanmala (or Kambala) was beaten on the northern frontier by Kaidu, Kúblái took the field himself, though on his approach the rebels disappeared.

Kúblái and his brother Hulaku, young as they were, commenced their military career on Chinghiz’s last expedition (1226-1227). His most notable campaign was the conquest of Yunnan in 1253-1254. (De Mailla, IX. 298, 441.)

NOTE 4.—NAYAN was no “uncle” of Kúblái’s, but a cousin in a junior generation. For Kúblái was the grandson of Chinghiz, and Nayan was the great-great-grandson of Chinghiz’s brother Uchegin, called in the Chinese annals Pilgutai. [Belgutai was Chinghiz’s step-brother. (Palladius.)—H. C.] On this brother, the great-uncle of Kúblái, and the commander of the latter’s forces against Arikbuga in the beginning of the reign, both Chinghiz and Kúblái had bestowed large territories in Eastern Tartary towards the frontier of Corea, and north of Liaotong towards the Manchu country. [“The situation and limits of his appanage are not clearly defined in history. According to Belgutai’s biography, it was between the Onon and Kerulen (Yuen shi), and according to Shin Yao’s researches (Lo fung low wen kao), at the confluence of the Argun and Shilka. Finally, according to Harabadur’s biography, it was situated in Abalahu, which geographically and etymologically corresponds to modern Butkha (Yuen shi); Abalahu, as Kúblái himself said, was rich in fish; indeed, after the suppression of Nayan’s rebellion, the governor of that country used to send to the Peking Court fishes weighing up to a thousand Chinese pounds (kin.). It was evidently a country near the Amur River.” (Palladius, l.c. 31.)—H. C.] Nayan had added to his inherited territory, and become very powerful. [“History has apparently connected Nayan’s appanage with that of Hatan (a grandson of Hachiun, brother of Chinghiz Khan), whose ordo was contiguous to Nayan’s, on the left bank of the Amur, hypothetically east of Blagovietschensk, on the spot, where still the traces of an ancient city can be seen. Nayan’s possessions stretched south to Kwang-ning, which belonged to his appanage, and it was from this town that he had the title of prince of Kwang-ning (Yuen shi).” (Palladius, l.c. 31.)—H. C.] Kaidu had gained influence over Nayan, and persuaded him to rise against Kúblái. A number of the other Mongol princes took part with him. Kúblái was much disquieted at the rumours, and sent his great lieutenant BAYAN to reconnoitre. Bayan was nearly captured, but escaped to court and reported to his master the great armament that Nayan was preparing. Kúblái succeeded by diplomacy in detaching some of the princes from the enterprise, and resolved to march in person to the scene of action, whilst despatching Bayan to the Karakorum frontier to intercept Kaídu. This was in the summer of 1287. What followed will be found in a subsequent note (ch. iv. note 6). (For Nayan’s descent, see the Genealogical Table in the Appendix (A).)



When the Great Kaan heard what was afoot, he made his preparations in right good heart, like one who feared not the issue of an attempt so contrary to justice. Confident in his own conduct and prowess, he was in no degree disturbed, but vowed that he would never wear crown again if he brought not those two traitorous and disloyal Tartar chiefs to an ill end. So swiftly and secretly were his preparations made, that no one knew of them but his Privy Council, and all were completed within ten or twelve days. In that time he had assembled good 360,000 horsemen, and 100,000 footmen,—but a small force indeed for him, and consisting only of those that were in the vicinity. For the rest of his vast and innumerable forces were too far off to answer so hasty a summons, being engaged under orders from him on distant expeditions to conquer divers countries and provinces. If he had waited to summon all his troops, the multitude assembled would have been beyond all belief, a multitude such as never was heard of or told of, past all counting. In fact, those 360,000 horsemen that he got together consisted merely of the falconers and whippers-in that were about the court![NOTE 1]

And when he had got ready this handful (as it were) of his troops, he ordered his astrologers to declare whether he should gain the battle and get the better of his enemies. After they had made their observations, they told him to go on boldly, for he would conquer and gain a glorious victory: whereat he greatly rejoiced.

So he marched with his army, and after advancing for 20 days they arrived at a great plain where Nayan lay with all his host, amounting to some 400,000 horse. Now the Great Kaan’s forces arrived so fast and so suddenly that the others knew nothing of the matter. For the Kaan had caused such strict watch to be made in every direction for scouts that every one that appeared was instantly captured. Thus Nayan had no warning of his coming and was completely taken by surprise; insomuch that when the Great Kaan’s army came up, he was asleep in the arms of a wife of his of whom he was extravagantly fond. So thus you see why it was that the Emperor equipped his force with such speed and secrecy.

NOTE 1.—I am afraid Marco, in his desire to impress on his readers the great power of the Kaan, is here giving the reins to exaggeration on a great scale.

Ramusio has here the following explanatory addition:—”You must know that in all the Provinces of Cathay and Mangi, and throughout the Great Kaan’s dominions, there are too many disloyal folk ready to break into rebellion against their Lord, and hence it is needful in every province containing large cities and much population, to maintain garrisons. These are stationed four or five miles from the cities, and the latter are not allowed to have walls or gates by which they might obstruct the entrance of the troops at their pleasure. These garrisons as well as their commanders the Great Khan causes to be relieved every two years; and bridled in this way the people are kept quiet, and can make no disturbance. The troops are maintained not only by the pay which the Kaan regularly assigns from the revenues of each province, but also by the vast quantities of cattle which they keep, and by the sale of milk in the cities, which furnishes the means of buying what they require. They are scattered among their different stations, at distances of 30, 40, or 60 days (from the capital); and had Cublay decided to summon but the half of them, the number would have been incredible,” etc.

[Palladius says (p. 37) that in the Mongol-Chinese documents, the Mongol garrisons cantoned near the Chinese towns are mentioned under the name of Aolu, but no explanation of the term is given.—H. C.]

The system of controlling garrisons, quartered at a few miles from the
great cities, is that which the Chinese followed at Kashgar, Yarkand, etc.
It is, in fact, our own system in India, as at Barrackpúr, Dinapúr,
Sikandarábád, Mián Mír.



What shall I say about it? When day had well broken, there was the Kaan with all his host upon a hill overlooking the plain where Nayan lay in his tent, in all security, without the slightest thought of any one coming thither to do him hurt. In fact, this confidence of his was such that he kept no vedettes whether in front or in rear; for he knew nothing of the coming of the Great Kaan, owing to all the approaches having been completely occupied as I told you. Moreover, the place was in a remote wilderness, more than thirty marches from the Court, though the Kaan had made the distance in twenty, so eager was he to come to battle with Nayan.

And what shall I tell you next? The Kaan was there on the hill, mounted on a great wooden bartizan,[NOTE 1] which was borne by four well-trained elephants, and over him was hoisted his standard, so high aloft that it could be seen from all sides. His troops were ordered in battles of 30,000 men apiece; and a great part of the horsemen had each a foot-soldier armed with a lance set on the crupper behind him (for it was thus that the footmen were disposed of);[NOTE 2] and the whole plain seemed to be covered with his forces. So it was thus that the Great Kaan’s army was arrayed for battle.

When Nayan and his people saw what had happened, they were sorely confounded, and rushed in haste to arms. Nevertheless they made them ready in good style and formed their troops in an orderly manner. And when all were in battle array on both sides as I have told you, and nothing remained but to fall to blows, then might you have heard a sound arise of many instruments of various music, and of the voices of the whole of the two hosts loudly singing. For this is a custom of the Tartars, that before they join battle they all unite in singing and playing on a certain two-stringed instrument of theirs, a thing right pleasant to hear. And so they continue in their array of battle, singing and playing in this pleasing manner, until the great Naccara of the Prince is heard to sound. As soon as that begins to sound the fight also begins on both sides; and in no case before the Prince’s Naccara sounds dare any commence fighting. [NOTE 3]

So then, as they were thus singing and playing, though ordered and ready for battle, the great Naccara of the Great Khan began to sound. And that of Nayan also began to sound. And thenceforward the din of battle began to be heard loudly from this side and from that. And they rushed to work so doughtily with their bows and their maces, with their lances and swords, and with the arblasts of the footmen, that it was a wondrous sight to see. Now might you behold such flights of arrows from this side and from that, that the whole heaven was canopied with them and they fell like rain. Now might you see on this side and on that full many a cavalier and man-at- arms fall slain, insomuch that the whole field seemed covered with them. From this side and from that such cries arose from the crowds of the wounded and dying that had God thundered, you would not have heard Him! For fierce and furious was the battle, and quarter there was none given.[NOTE 4]

But why should I make a long story of it? You must know that it was the most parlous and fierce and fearful battle that ever has been fought in our day. Nor have there ever been such forces in the field in actual fight, especially of horsemen, as were then engaged—for, taking both sides, there were not fewer than 760,000 horsemen, a mighty force! and that without reckoning the footmen, who were also very numerous. The battle endured with various fortune on this side and on that from morning till noon. But at the last, by God’s pleasure and the right that was on his side, the Great Khan had the victory, and Nayan lost the battle and was utterly routed. For the army of the Great Kaan performed such feats of arms that Nayan and his host could stand against them no longer, so they turned and fled. But this availed nothing for Nayan; for he and all the barons with him were taken prisoners, and had to surrender to the Kaan with all their arms.

Now you must know that Nayan was a baptized Christian, and bore the cross on his banner; but this nought availed him, seeing how grievously he had done amiss in rebelling against his Lord. For he was the Great Kaan’s liegeman,[NOTE 5] and was bound to hold his lands of him like all his ancestors before him.[NOTE 6]

NOTE 1.—”Une grande bretesche.” Bretesche, Bertisca (whence old English Brattice, and Bartizan), was a term applied to any boarded structure of defence or attack, but especially to the timber parapets and roofs often placed on the top of the flanking-towers in mediaeval fortifications; and this use quite explains the sort of structure here intended. The term and its derivative Bartizan came later to be applied to projecting guérites or watch-towers of masonry. Brattice in English is now applied to a fence round a pit or dangerous machinery. (See Muratori, Dissert. I. 334;Wedgwood’s Dict. of Etym. sub. v. Brattice; Viollet le Duc, by Macdermott, p. 40; La Curne de Sainte-Palaye, Dict.; F. Godefroy, Dict.)

[John Ranking (Hist. Res. on the Wars and Sports of the Mongols and Romans) in a note regarding this battle writes (p. 60): “It appears that it is an old custom in Persia, to use four elephants a-breast.” The Senate decreed Gordian III. to represent him triumphing after the Persian mode, with chariots drawn with four elephants. Augustan Hist. vol. ii. p. 65. See plate, p. 52.—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—This circumstance is mentioned in the extract below from Gaubil. He may have taken it from Polo, as it is not in Pauthier’s Chinese extracts; but Gaubil has other facts not noticed in these.

[Elephants came from the Indo-Chinese Kingdoms, Burma, Siam, Ciampa.
—H. C.]

NOTE 3.—The specification of the Tartar instrument of two strings is peculiar to Pauthier’s texts. It was no doubt what Dr. Clarke calls “the balalaika or two-stringed lyre,” the most common instrument among the Kalmaks.

The sounding of the Nakkára as the signal of action is an old Pan-Asiatic custom, but I cannot find that this very striking circumstance of the whole host of Tartars playing and singing in chorus, when ordered for battle and waiting the signal from the boom of the Big Drum, is mentioned by any other author.

The Nakkárah or Nagárah was a great kettledrum, formed like a brazen caldron, tapering to the bottom and covered with buffalo-hide—at least 3-1/2 or 4 feet in diameter. Bernier, indeed, tells of Nakkáras in use at the Court of Delhi that were not less than a fathom across; and Tod speaks of them in Rájpútána as “about 8 or 10 feet in diameter.” The Tartar Nakkárahs were usually, I presume, carried on a camel; but as Kúblái had begun to use elephants, his may have been carried on an elephant, as is sometimes the case in India. Thus, too, P. della Valle describes those of an Indian Embassy at Ispahan: “The Indian Ambassador was also accompanied by a variety of warlike instruments of music of strange kinds, and particularly by certain Naccheras of such immense size that each pair had an elephant to carry them, whilst an Indian astride upon the elephant between the two Naccheras played upon them with both hands, dealing strong blows on this one and on that; what a din was made by these vast drums, and what a spectacle it was, I leave you to imagine.”

Joinville also speaks of the Nakkara as the signal for action: “So he was setting his host in array till noon, and then he made those drums of theirs to sound that they call Nacaires, and then they set upon us horse and foot.” The Great Nakkara of the Tartars appears from several Oriental histories to have been called Kúrkah. I cannot find this word in any dictionary accessible to me, but it is in the Ain Akbari (Kawargah) as distinct from the Nakkárah. Abulfazl tells us that Akbar not only had a rare knowledge of the science of music, but was likewise an excellent performer—especially on the Nakkárah!

[Illustration: Nakkaras. (From a Chinese original.)]

The privilege of employing the Nakkara in personal state was one granted by the sovereign as a high honour and reward.

The crusades naturalised the word in some form or other in most European languages, but in our own apparently with a transfer of meaning. For Wright defines Naker as “a cornet or horn of brass.” And Chaucer’s use seems to countenance this:—

  “Pipes, Trompes, Nakeres, and Clariounes,
That in the Bataille blowen blody sounes.”
The Knight’s Tale.

On the other hand, Nacchera, in Italian, seems always to have retained the meaning of kettle-drum, with the slight exception of a local application at Siena to a metal circle or triangle struck with a rod. The fact seems to be that there is a double origin, for the Arabic dictionaries not only haveNakkarah, but Nakír and Nákúr, “cornu, tuba.” The orchestra of Bibars Bundukdári, we are told, consisted of 40 pairs of kettle-drums, 4 drums, 4 hautbois, and 20 trumpets (Nakír). (Sir B. Frere; Della Valle, II. 21; Tod’s Rájasthán, I. 328; Joinville, p. 83; N. et E. XIV. 129, and following note; Blochmann’s Ain-i-Akbari, pp. 50-51; Ducange, by Haenschel, s.v.; Makrizi, I. 173.)

[Dozy (Supp. aux Dict. Arabes) has [Arabic] [naqqarè] “petit tambour ou timbale, bassin de cuivre ou de terre recouvert d’une peau tendue,” and “grosses timbales en cuivre portées sur un chameau ou un mulet.”—Devic (Dict. Étym.) writes: “Bas Latin, nacara; bas grec, [Greek: anáchara]. Ce n’est point comme on l’a dit, l’Arabe [Arabic] naqïr ou [Arabic] náqör, qui signifient trompette, clairon, mais le persan [Arabic] en arabe, [Arabic] naqara, timbale.” It is to be found also in Abyssinia and south of Gondokoro; it is mentioned in the Sedjarat Malayu.

In French, it gives nacaire and gnacare from the Italian gnacare. “Quatre jouent de la guitare, quatre des castagnettes, quatre des gnacares.” (MOLIÈRE, Pastorale Comique.)—H. C.]

[Illustration: Nakkaras. (From an Indian original.)]

NOTE 4.—This description of a fight will recur again and again till we are very tired of it. It is difficult to say whether the style is borrowed from the historians of the East or the romancers of the West. Compare the two following parallels. First from an Oriental history:—

“The Ear of Heaven was deafened with the din of the great Kurkahs and
Drums, and the Earth shook at the clangour of the Trumpets and Clarions.
The shafts began to fall like the rain-drops of spring, and blood flowed
till the field looked like the Oxus.” (J. A. S. sér. IV. tom. xix. 256)

Next from an Occidental Romance:—

  “Now rist grete tabour betyng,
Blaweyng of pypes, and ek trumpyng,
Stedes lepyng, and ek arnyng,
Of sharp speres, and avalyng
Of stronge knighttes, and wyghth meetyng;
Launces breche and increpyng;
Knighttes fallyng, stedes lesyng;
Herte and hevedes thorough kervyng;
Swerdes draweyng, lymes lesyng
Hard assaylyng, strong defendyng,
Stiff withstondyng and wighth fleigheyng.
Sharp of takyng armes spoylyng;
So gret bray, so gret crieyng,
Ifor the folk there was dyeyng;
So muche dent, noise of sweord,
The thondur blast no myghte beo hirde
No the sunne hadde beo seye,
For the dust of the poudré!
No the weolkyn seon be myght,
So was arewes and quarels flyght
King Alisaunder, in Weber, I. 93-94.

And again:—

  “The eorthe quaked heom undur,
No scholde mon have herd the thondur.”
—Ibid. 142.

Also in a contemporary account of the fall of Acre (1291): “Renovatur ergo bellum terribile inter alterutros … clamoribus interjectis hine et inde ad terrorem; ita ut nec Deus tonans in sublime coaudiri potuisset.” (De Excidio Acconis, in Martene et Durand, V. 780.)

NOTE 5.—”Car il estoit homme au Grant Kaan.” (See note 2, ch. xiv., in Prologue.)

NOTE 6.—In continuation of note 4, chap. ii., we give Gaubil’s conclusion of the story of Nayan: “The Emperor had gone ahead with a small force, when Nayan’s General came forward with 100,000 men to make a reconnaissance. The Sovereign, however, put on a bold front, and though in great danger of being carried off, showed no trepidation. It was night, and an urgent summons went to call troops to the Emperor’s aid. They marched at once, the horsemen taking the foot soldiers on the crupper behind them. Nayan all this while was taking it quietly in his camp, and his generals did not venture to attack the Emperor, suspecting an ambuscade. Liting then took ten resolute men, and on approaching the General’s camp, caused a Fire-Pao to be discharged; the report caused a great panic among Nayan’s troops, who were very ill disciplined at the best. Meanwhile the Chinese and Tartar troops had all come up, and Nayan was attacked on all sides: by Liting at the head of the Chinese, by Yusitemur at the head of the Mongols, by Tutuha and the Emperor in person at the head of his guards and the troops of Kincha (Kipchak). The presence of the Emperor rendered the army invincible, and Nayan’s forces were completely defeated. That prince himself was taken, and afterwards put to death. The battle took place in the vicinity of the river Liao, and the Emperor returned in triumph to Shangtu” (207). The Chinese record given in detail by Pauthier is to the like effect, except as to the Kaan’s narrow escape, of which it says nothing.

As regards the Fire-Pao (the latter word seems to have been applied to military machines formerly, and now to artillery), I must refer to Favé and Reinaud’s very curious and interesting treatise on the Greek fire (du Feu Grégeois). They do not seem to assent to the view that the arms of this description which are mentioned in the Mongol wars were cannon, but rather of the nature of rockets.

[Dr. G. Schlegel (T’oung Pao, No. 1, 1902), in a paper entitled, On the Invention and Use of Fire-Arms and Gunpowder in China, prior to the Arrival of Europeans, says that “now, notwithstanding all what has been alleged by different European authors against the use of gunpowder and fire-arms in China, I maintain that not only the Mongols in 1293 had cannon, but that they were already acquainted with them in 1232.” Among his many examples, we quote the following from the Books of the Ming Dynasty: “What were anciently called P’ao were all machines for hurling stones. In the beginning of the Mongol Dynasty (A.D. 1260), p’ao (catapults) of the Western regions were procured. In the siege [in 1233] of the city of Ts’ai chow of the Kin (Tatars), fire was for the first time employed (in these p’ao), but the art of making them was not handed down, and they were afterwards seldom used.”—H. C.]



And when the Great Kaan learned that Nayan was taken right glad was he, and commanded that he should be put to death straightway and in secret, lest endeavours should be made to obtain pity and pardon for him, because he was of the Kaan’s own flesh and blood. And this was the way in which he was put to death: he was wrapt in a carpet, and tossed to and fro so mercilessly that he died. And the Kaan caused him to be put to death in this way because he would not have the blood of his Line Imperial spilt upon the ground or exposed in the eye of Heaven and before the Sun.[NOTE 1]

And when the Great Kaan had gained this battle, as you have heard, all the
Barons and people of Nayan’s provinces renewed their fealty to the Kaan.
Now these provinces that had been under the Lordship of Nayan were four in
number; to wit, the first called CHORCHA; the second CAULY; the third
BARSCOL; the fourth SIKINTINJU. Of all these four great provinces had
Nayan been Lord; it was a very great dominion.[NOTE 2]

And after the Great Kaan had conquered Nayan, as you have heard, it came to pass that the different kinds of people who were present, Saracens and Idolaters and Jews,[NOTE 3] and many others that believed not in God, did gibe those that were Christians because of the cross that Nayan had borne on his standard, and that so grievously that there was no bearing it. Thus they would say to the Christians: “See now what precious help this God’s Cross of yours hath rendered Nayan, who was a Christian and a worshipper thereof.” And such a din arose about the matter that it reached the Great Kaan’s own ears. When it did so, he sharply rebuked those who cast these gibes at the Christians; and he also bade the Christians be of good heart, “for if the Cross had rendered no help to Nayan, in that It had done right well; nor could that which was good, as It was, have done otherwise; for Nayan was a disloyal and traitorous Rebel against his Lord, and well deserved that which had befallen him. Wherefore the Cross of your God did well in that It gave him no help against the right.” And this he said so loud that everybody heard him. The Christians then replied to the Great Kaan: “Great King, you say the truth indeed, for our Cross can render no one help in wrong-doing; and therefore it was that It aided not Nayan, who was guilty of crime and disloyalty, for It would take no part in his evil deeds.”

And so thenceforward no more was heard of the floutings of the unbelievers against the Christians; for they heard very well what the Sovereign said to the latter about the Cross on Nayan’s banner, and its giving him no help.

NOTE 1.—Friar Ricold mentions this Tartar maxim: “One Khan will put another to death, to get possession of the throne, but he takes great care that the blood be not spilt. For they say that it is highly improper that the blood of the Great Khan should be spilt upon the ground; so they cause the victim to be smothered somehow or other.” The like feeling prevails at the Court of Burma, where a peculiar mode of execution without bloodshed is reserved for Princes of the Blood. And Kaempfer, relating the conspiracy of Faulcon at the Court of Siam, says that two of the king’s brothers, accused of participation, were beaten to death with clubs of sandal-wood, “for the respect entertained for the blood-royal forbids its being shed.” See also note 6, ch. vi. Bk. I., on the death of the Khalif Mosta’sim Billah. (Pereg. Quat. p. 115; Mission to Ava, p. 229; Kaempfer; I. 19.)

NOTE 2.—CHORCHA is the Manchu country, Niuché of the Chinese. (Supra, note 2, ch. xlvi. Bk. I.) [“Chorcha is Churchin.—Nayan, as vassal of the Mongol khans, had the commission to keep in obedience the people of Manchuria (subdued in 1233), and to care for the security of the country (Yuen shi); there is no doubt that he shared these obligations with his relative Hatan, who stood nearer to the native tribes of Manchuria.” (Palladius, 32.)—H. C.]

KAULI is properly Corea, probably here a district on the frontier thereof, as it is improbable that Nayan had any rule over Corea. [“The Corean kingdom proper could not be a part of the prince’s appanage. Marco Polo might mean the northern part of Corea, which submitted to the Mongols in A.D. 1269, with sixty towns, and which was subordinated entirely to the central administration in Liao-yang. As to the southern part of Corea, it was left to the king of Corea, who, however, was a vassal of the Mongols.” (Palladius, 32.) The king of Corea (Ko rye, Kao-li) was in 1288 Chyoung ryel wang (1274-1298); the capital was Syong-to, now Kai syeng (K’ai-ch’eng).—H. C.]

BARSKUL, “Leopard-Lake,” is named in Sanang Setsen (p. 217), but seems there to indicate some place in the west of Mongolia, perhaps the Barkul of our maps. This Barskul must have been on the Manchu frontier. [There are in the Yuen-shi the names of the department of P’u-yü-lu, and of the place Pu-lo-ho, which, according to the system of Chinese transcription, approach to Barscol; but it is difficult to prove this identification, since our knowledge of these places is very scanty; it only remains to identify Barscol with Abalahu, which is already known; a conjecture all the more probable as the two names of P’u-yü-lu and Pu-lo-ho have also some resemblance to Abalahu. (Palladius, 32.) Mr. E. H. Parker says (China Review, xviii. p. 261) that Barscol may be Pa-la ssu or Bars Koto [in Tsetsen]. “This seems the more probable in that Cauly and Chorcha are clearly proved to be Corea and Niuché or Manchuria, so that Bars Koto would naturally fall within Nayan’s appanage.”—H. C.]

The reading of the fourth name is doubtful, Sichuigiu, Sichingiu (G. T.), Sichin-tingiu etc. The Chinese name of Mukden is Shing-king, but I know not if it be so old as our author’s time. I think it very possible that the real reading is Sinchin-tingin, and that it represents SHANGKING-TUNGKING, expressing the two capitals of the Khitan Dynasty in this region, the position of which will be found indicated in No. IV. map of Polo’s itineraries. (See Schott, Aelteste Nachrichten von Mongolen und Tartaren, Berlin Acad. 1845, pp. 11-12.)

[Sikintinju is Kien chau “belonging to a town which was in Nayan’s appanage, and is mentioned in the history of his rebellion. There were two Kien-chow, one in the time of the Kin in the modern aimak of Khorchin; the other during the Mongol Dynasty, on the upper part of the river Ta-ling ho, in the limits of the modern aimak of Kharachin (Man chow yuen lew k’ao); the latter depended on Kuang-ning (Yuen-shi). Mention is made of Kien-chow, in connection with the following circumstance. When Nayan’s rebellion broke out, the Court of Peking sent orders to the King of Corea, requiring from him auxiliary troops; this circumstance is mentioned in the Corean Annals, under the year 1288 (Kao li shi, ch. xxx. f. 11) in the following words:—’In the present year, in the fourth month, orders were received from Peking to send five thousand men with provisions to Kien-chow, which is 3000 li distant from the King’s residence.’ This number of li cannot of course be taken literally; judging by the distances estimated at the present day, it was about 2000 li from the Corean K’ai-ch’eng fu (then the Corean capital) to the Mongol Kien-chow; and as much to the Kien-chow of the Kin (through Mukden and the pass of Fa- k’u mun in the willow palisade). It is difficult to decide to which of these two cities of the same name the troops were ordered to go, but at any rate, there are sufficient reasons to identify Sikintinju of Marco Polo with Kien-chow.” (Palladius, 33.)—H. C.]

We learn from Gaubil that the rebellion did not end with the capture of Nayan. In the summer of 1288 several of the princes of Nayan’s league, under Hatan (apparently the Abkan of Erdmann’s genealogies), the grandson of Chinghiz’s brother Kajyun [Hachiun], threatened the provinces north-east of the wall. Kúblái sent his grandson and designated heir, Teimur, against them, accompanied by some of his best generals. After a two days’ fight on the banks of the River Kweilei, the rebels were completely beaten. The territories on the said River Kweilei, the Tiro, or Torro, and theLiao, are mentioned both by Gaubil and De Mailla as among those which had belonged to Nayan. As the Kweilei and Toro appear on our maps and also the better-known Liao, we are thus enabled to determine with tolerable precision Nayan’s country. (See Gaubil, p. 209, and De Mailla, 431 seqq.)

[“The rebellion of Nayan and Hatan is incompletely and contradictorily related in Chinese history. The suppression of both these rebellions lasted four years. In 1287 Nayan marched from his ordo with sixty thousand men through Eastern Mongolia. In the 5th moon (var. 6th) of the same year Khubilai marched against him from Shangtu. The battle was fought in South-Eastern Mongolia, and gained by Khubilai, who returned to Shangtu in the 8th month. Nayan fled to the south-east, across the mountain range, along which a willow palisade now stands; but forces had been sent beforehand from Shin-chow (modern Mukden) and Kuang-ning (probably to watch the pass), and Nayan was made prisoner.

“Two months had not passed, when Hatan’s rebellion broke out (so that it took place in the same year 1287). It is mentioned under the year 1288, that Hatan was beaten, and that the whole of Manchuria was pacified; but in 1290, it is again recorded that Hatan disturbed Southern Manchuria, and that he was again defeated. It is to this time that the narratives in the biographies of Liting, Yuesi Femur, and Mangwu ought to be referred. According to the first of these biographies, Hatan, after his defeat by Liting on the river Kui lui (Kuilar?), fled, and perished. According to the second biography, Hatan’s dwelling (on the Amur River) was destroyed, and he disappeared. According to the third, Mangwu and Naimatai pursued Hatan to the extreme north, up to the eastern sea-coast (the mouth of the Amur). Hatan fled, but two of his wives and his son Lao-ti were taken; the latter was executed, and this was the concluding act of the suppression of the rebellion in Manchuria. We find, however, an important variante in the history of Corea; it is stated there that in 1290, Hatan and his son Lao-ti were carrying fire and slaughter to Corea, and devastated that country; they slew the inhabitants and fed on human flesh. The King of Corea fled to the Kiang-hwa island. The Coreans were not able to withstand the invasion. The Mongols sent to their aid in 1291, troops under the command of two generals, Seshekan (who was at that time governor of Liao-tung) and Namantai (evidently the above-mentioned Naimatai). The Mongols conjointly with the Coreans defeated the insurgents, who had penetrated into the very heart of the country; their corpses covered a space 30 li in extent; Hatan and his son made their way through the victorious army and fled, finding a refuge in the Niuchi (Djurdji) country, from which Laotai made a later incursion into Corea. Such is the discrepancy between historians in relating the same fact. The statement found in the Corean history seems to me more reliable than the facts given by Chinese history.” (Palladius, 35-37.)—H. C.]

NOTE 3.—This passage, and the extract from Ramusio’s version attached to the following chapter, contain the only allusions by Marco to Jews in China. John of Monte Corvino alludes to them, and so does Marignolli, who speaks of having held disputations with them at Cambaluc; Ibn Batuta also speaks of them at Khansa or Hangchau. Much has been written about the ancient settlement of Jews at Kaifungfu, in Honan. One of the most interesting papers on the subject is in the Chinese Repository, vol. xx. It gives the translation of a Chinese-Jewish Inscription, which in some respects forms a singular parallel to the celebrated Christian Inscription of Si-ngan fu, though it is of far more modern date (1511). It exhibits, as that inscription does, the effect of Chinese temperament or language, in modifying or diluting doctrinal statements. Here is a passage: “With respect to the Israelitish religion, we find on inquiry that its first ancestor, Adam, came originally from India, and that during the (period of the) Chau State the Sacred Writings were already in existence. The Sacred Writings, embodying Eternal Reason, consist of 53 sections. The principles therein contained are very abstruse, and the Eternal Reason therein revealed is very mysterious, being treated with the same veneration as Heaven. The founder of the religion is Abraham, who is considered the first teacher of it. Then came Moses, who established the Law, and handed down the Sacred Writings. After his time, during the Han Dynasty (B.C. 206 to A.D. 221), this religion entered China. In (A.D.) 1164, a synagogue was built at P’ien. In (A.D.) 1296, the old Temple was rebuilt, as a place in which the Sacred Writings might be deposited with veneration.”

[According to their oral tradition, the Jews came to China from Si Yih (Western Regions), probably Persia, by Khorasan and Samarkand, during the first century of our era, in the reign of the Emperor Ming-ti (A.D. 58-75) of the Han Dynasty. They were at times confounded with the followers of religions of India, T’ien Chu kiao, and very often with the Mohammedans Hwui-Hwui or Hwui-tzu; the common name of their religion was Tiao kin kiao, “Extract Sinew Religion.” However, three lapidary inscriptions, kept at Kaï-fung, give different dates for the arrival of the Jews in China: one dated 1489 (2nd year Hung Che, Ming Dynasty) says that seventy Jewish families arrived at P’ien liang (Kaï-fung) at the time of the Sung (A. D. 960-1278); one dated 1512 (7th year Chêng Têh) says that the Jewish religion was introduced into China under the Han Dynasty (B.C. 206-A.D. 221), and the last one dated 1663 (2nd year K’ang-hi) says that this religion was first preached in China under the Chau Dynasty (B.C. 1122-255); this will not bear discussion.

The synagogue, according to these inscriptions, was built in 1163, under the Sung Emperor Hiao; under the Yuen, in 1279, the rabbi rebuilt the ancient temple known as Ts’ing Chen sse, probably on the site of a ruined mosque; the synagogue was rebuilt in 1421 during the reign of Yung-lo; it was destroyed by an inundation of the Hwang-ho in 1642, and the Jews began to rebuild it once more in 1653.

The first knowledge Europeans had of a colony of Jews at K’aï-fung fu, in the Ho-nan province, was obtained through the Jesuit missionaries at Peking, at the beginning of the 17th century; the celebrated Matteo Ricci having received the visit of a young Jew, the Jesuits Aleni (1613), Gozani (1704), Gaubil and Domenge who made in 1721 two plans of the synagogue, visited Kaï-fung and brought back some documents. In 1850, a mission of enquiry was sent to that place by the London Society for promoting Christianity among the Jews; the results of this mission were published at Shang-hai, in 1851, by Bishop G. Smith of Hongkong; fac-similes of the Hebrew manuscripts obtained at the synagogue of Kaï-fung were also printed at Shang-haï at the London Missionary Society’s Press, in the same year. The Jewish merchants of London sent in 1760 to their brethren of Kaï-fung a letter written in Hebrew; a Jewish merchant of Vienna, J. L. Liebermann, visited the Kaï-fung colony in 1867. At the time of the T’aï-P’ing rising, the rebels marched against Kaï-fung in 1857, and with the rest of the population, the Jews were dispersed. (J. Tobar, Insc. juives de Kaï-fong-fou, 1900; Henri Cordier, Les Juifs en Chine, and Fung and Wagnall’s Jewish Encyclopedia.) Palladius writes (p. 38), “The Jews are mentioned for the first time in the Yuen shi (ch. xxxiii. p. 7), under the year 1329, on the occasion of the re-establishment of the law for the collection of taxes from dissidents. Mention of them is made again under the year 1354, ch. xliii. fol. 10, when on account of several insurrections in China, rich Mahommetans and Jews were invited to the capital in order to join the army. In both cases they are named Chu hu (Djuhud).”—H. C.]

The synagogue at Kaifungfu has recently been demolished for the sake of its materials, by the survivors of the Jewish community themselves, who were too poor to repair it. The tablet that once adorned its entrance, bearing in gilt characters the name ESZLOYIH (Israel), has been appropriated by a mosque. The 300 or 400 survivors seem in danger of absorption into the Mahomedan or heathen population. The last Rabbi and possessor of the sacred tongue died some thirty or forty years ago, the worship has ceased, and their traditions have almost died away.

(Cathay, 225, 341, 497; Ch. Rep. XX. 436; Dr. Martin, in J. N. China Br. R. A. S. 1866, pp. 32-33.)



And after the Great Kaan had defeated Nayan in the way you have heard, he went back to his capital city of Cambaluc and abode there, taking his ease and making festivity. And the other Tartar Lord called Caydu was greatly troubled when he heard of the defeat and death of Nayan, and held himself in readiness for war; but he stood greatly in fear of being handled as Nayan had been.[NOTE 1]

I told you that the Great Kaan never went on a campaign but once, and it was on this occasion; in all other cases of need he sent his sons or his barons into the field. But this time he would have none go in command but himself, for he regarded the presumptuous rebellion of Nayan as far too serious and perilous an affair to be otherwise dealt with.

NOTE 1.—Here Ramusio has a long and curious addition. Kúblái, it says, remained at Cambaluc till March, “in which our Easter occurs; and learning that this was one of our chief festivals, he summoned all the Christians, and bade them bring with them the Book of the Four Gospels. This he caused to be incensed many times with great ceremony, kissing it himself most devoutly, and desiring all the barons and lords who were present to do the same. And he always acts in this fashion at the chief Christian festivals, such as Easter and Christmas. And he does the like at the chief feasts of the Saracens, Jews, and Idolaters. On being asked why, he said: ‘There are Four Prophets worshipped and revered by all the world. The Christians say their God is Jesus Christ; the Saracens, Mahommet; the Jews, Moses; the Idolaters, Sogomon Borcan [Sakya-Muni Burkhan or Buddha], who was the first god among the idols; and I worship and pay respect to all four, and pray that he among them who is greatest in heaven in very truth may aid me.’ But the Great Khan let it be seen well enough that he held the Christian Faith to be the truest and best—for, as he says, it commands nothing that is not perfectly good and holy. But he will not allow the Christians to carry the Cross before them, because on it was scourged and put to death a person so great and exalted as Christ.

“Some one may say: ‘Since he holds the Christian faith to be best, why does he not attach himself to it, and become a Christian?’ Well, this is the reason that he gave to Messer Nicolo and Messer Maffeo, when he sent them as his envoys to the Pope, and when they sometimes took occasion to speak to him about the faith of Christ. He said: ‘How would you have me to become a Christian? You see that the Christians of these parts are so ignorant that they achieve nothing and can achieve nothing, whilst you see the Idolaters can do anything they please, insomuch that when I sit at table the cups from the middle of the hall come to me full of wine or other liquor without being touched by anybody, and I drink from them. They control storms, causing them to pass in whatever direction they please, and do many other marvels; whilst, as you know, their idols speak, and give them predictions on whatever subjects they choose. But if I were to turn to the faith of Christ and become a Christian, then my barons and others who are not converted would say: “What has moved you to be baptised and to take up the faith of Christ? What powers or miracles have you witnessed on His part?” (You know the Idolaters here say that their wonders are performed by the sanctity and power of their idols.) Well, I should not know what answer to make; so they would only be confirmed in their errors, and the Idolaters, who are adepts in such surprising arts, would easily compass my death. But now you shall go to your Pope, and pray him on my part to send hither an hundred men skilled in your law, who shall be capable of rebuking the practices of the Idolaters to their faces, and of telling them that they too know how to do such things but will not, because they are done by the help of the devil and other evil spirits, and shall so control the Idolaters that these shall have no power to perform such things in their presence. When we shall witness this we will denounce the Idolaters and their religion, and then I will receive baptism; and when I shall have been baptised, then all my barons and chiefs shall be baptised also, and their followers shall do the like, and thus in the end there will be more Christians here than exist in your part of the world!’

“And if the Pope, as was said in the beginning of this book, had sent men fit to preach our religion, the Grand Kaan would have turned Christian; for it is an undoubted fact that he greatly desired to do so.”

In the simultaneous patronage of different religions, Kúblái followed the practice of his house. Thus Rubruquis writes of his predecessor Mangku Kaan: “It is his custom, on such days as his diviners tell him to be festivals, or any of the Nestorian priests declare to be holydays, to hold a court. On these occasions the Christian priests enter first with their paraphernalia, and pray for him, and bless his cup. They retire, and then come the Saracen priests and do likewise; the priests of the Idolaters follow. He all the while believes in none of them, though they all follow his court as flies follow honey. He bestows his gifts on all of them, each party believes itself to be his favourite, and all prophesy smooth things to him.” Abulfaragius calls Kúblái “a just prince and a wise, who loved Christians and honoured physicians of learning, whatsoever their nation.”

There is a good deal in Kúblái that reminds us of the greatest prince of that other great Mongol house, Akbar. And if we trusted the first impression of the passage just quoted from Ramusio, we might suppose that the grandson of Chinghiz too had some of that real wistful regard towards the Lord Jesus Christ, of which we seem to see traces in the grandson of Baber. But with Kúblái, as with his predecessors, religion seems to have been only a political matter; and this aspect of the thing will easily be recognised in a re-perusal of his conversation with Messer Nicolas and Messer Maffeo. The Kaan must be obeyed; how man shall worship God is indifferent; this was the constant policy of his house in the days of its greatness. Kúblái, as Koeppen observes, the first of his line to raise himself above the natural and systematic barbarism of the Mongols, probably saw in the promotion of Tibetan Buddhism, already spread to some extent among them, the readiest means of civilising his countrymen. But he may have been quite sincere in saying what is here ascribed to him in this sense, viz.: that if the Latin Church, with its superiority of character and acquirement, had come to his aid as he had once requested, he would gladly have used its missionaries as his civilising instruments instead of the Lamas and their trumpery. (Rubr. 313; Assemani, III. pt. ii. 107; Koeppen, II. 89, 96.)



So we will have done with this matter of Nayan, and go on with our account of the great state of the Great Kaan.

We have already told you of his lineage and of his age; but now I must tell you what he did after his return, in regard to those barons who had behaved well in the battle. Him who was before captain of 100 he made captain of 1000; and him who was captain of 1000 men he made to be captain of 10,000, advancing every man according to his deserts and to his previous rank. Besides that, he also made them presents of fine silver plate and other rich appointments; gave them Tablets of Authority of a higher degree than they held before; and bestowed upon them fine jewels of gold and silver, and pearls and precious stones; insomuch that the amount that fell to each of them was something astonishing. And yet ’twas not so much as they had deserved; for never were men seen who did such feats of arms for the love and honour of their Lord, as these had done on that day of the battle.[NOTE 1]

Now those Tablets of Authority, of which I have spoken, are ordered in this way. The officer who is a captain of 100 hath a tablet of silver; the captain of 1000 hath a tablet of gold or silver-gilt; the commander of 10,000 hath a tablet of gold, with a lion’s head on it. And I will tell you the weight of the different tablets, and what they denote. The tablets of the captains of 100 and 1000 weigh each of them 120 saggi; and the tablet with the lion’s head engraven on it, which is that of the commander of 10,000, weighs 220 saggi. And on each of the tablets is inscribed a device, which runs: “By the strength of the great God, and of the great grace which He hath accorded to our Emperor, may the name of the Kaan be blessed; and let all such as will not obey him be slain and be destroyed.” And I will tell you besides that all who hold these tablets likewise receive warrants in writing, declaring all their powers and privileges.

I should mention too that an officer who holds the chief command of 100,000 men, or who is general-in-chief of a great host, is entitled to a tablet that weighs 300 saggi. It has an inscription thereon to the same purport that I have told you already, and below the inscription there is the figure of a lion, and below the lion the sun and moon. They have warrants also of their high rank, command, and power.[NOTE 2] Every one, moreover, who holds a tablet of this exalted degree is entitled, whenever he goes abroad, to have a little golden canopy, such as is called an umbrella, carried on a spear over his head in token of his high command. And whenever he sits, he sits in a silver chair.[NOTE 3]

To certain very great lords also there is given a tablet with gerfalcons on it; this is only to the very greatest of the Kaan’s barons, and it confers on them his own full power and authority; so that if one of those chiefs wishes to send a messenger any whither, he can seize the horses of any man, be he even a king, and any other chattels at his pleasure. [NOTE 4]

NOTE 1.—So Sanang Setzen relates that Chinghiz, on returning from one of his great campaigns, busied himself in reorganising his forces and bestowing rank and title, according to the deserts of each, on his nine Orlok, or marshals, and all who had done good service. “He named commandants over hundreds, over thousands, over ten thousands, over hundred thousands, and opened his treasury to the multitude of the people” (p. 91).

NOTE 2.—We have several times already had mention of these tablets. (See Prologue, ch. viii. and xviii.) The earliest European allusion to them is in Rubruquis: “And Mangu gave to the Moghul (whom he was going to send to the King of France) a bull of his, that is to say, a golden plate of a palm in breadth and half a cubit in length, on which his orders were inscribed. Whosoever is the bearer of that may order what he pleases, and his order shall be executed straightway.”

These golden bulls of the Mongol Kaans appear to have been originally tokens of high favour and honour, though afterwards they became more frequent and conventional. They are often spoken of by the Persian historians of the Mongols under the name of Páizah, and sometimes Páizah Sir-i-Sher, or “Lion’s Head Paizah.” Thus, in a firmán of Ghazan Khan, naming a viceroy to his conquests in Syria, the Khan confers on the latter “the sword, the august standard, the drum, and the Lion’s Head Paizah.” Most frequently the grant of this honour is coupled with Yarlígh; “to such an one were granted Yarlígh and Páizah” the former word (which is still applied in Turkey to the Sultan’s rescripts) denoting the written patent which accompanies the grant of the tablet, just as the sovereign’s warrant accompanies the badge of a modern Order. Of such written patents also Marco speaks in this passage, and as he uttered it, no doubt the familiar words Yarlígh u Páizah were in his mind. The Armenian history of the Orpelians, relating the visit of Prince Sempad, brother of King Hayton, to the court of Mangku Kaan, says: “They gave him also a P’haiza of gold, i.e. a tablet whereon the name of God is written by the Great Kaan himself; and this constitutes the greatest honour known among the Mongols. Farther, they drew up for him a sort of patent, which the Mongols call Iarlekh,” etc. The Latin version of a grant by Uzbek Khan of Kipchak to the Venetian Andrea Zeno, in 1333,[1] ends with the words: “Dedimus baisa et privilegium cum bullis rubeis,” where the latter words no doubt represent the Yarlígh al-tamghá, the warrant with the red seal or stamp,[2] as it may be seen upon the letter of Arghun Khan. (See plate at ch. xvii. of Bk. IV.). So also Janibek, the son of Uzbek, in 1344, confers privileges on the Venetians, “eisdem dando baissinum de auro“; and again Bardibeg, son, murderer, and successor of Janibeg, in 1358, writes: “Avemo dado comandamento [i.e. Yarlíg] cum le bolle rosse, et lo paysam.”

Under the Persian branch, at least, of the house the degree of honour was indicated by the number of lions’ heads upon the plate, which varied from 1 to 5. The Lion and Sun, a symbol which survives, or has been revived, in the modern Persian decoration so called, formed the emblem of the Sun in Leo, i.e. in highest power. It had already been used on the coins of the Seljukian sovereigns of Persia and Iconium; it appears on coins of the Mongol Ilkhans Ghazan, Oljaitu, and Abusaid, and it is also found on some of those of Mahomed Uzbek Khan of Kipchak.

[Illustration: Seljukian Coin with the Lion and Sun.]

Hammer gives regulations of Ghazan Khan’s on the subject of the Paizah, from which it is seen that the latter were of different kinds as well as degrees. Some were held by great governors and officers of state, and these were cautioned against letting the Paizah out of their own keeping; others were for officers of inferior order; and, again, “for persons travelling on state commissions with post-horses, particular paizah (which Hammer says were of brass) are appointed, on which their names are inscribed.” These last would seem therefore to be merely such permissions to travel by the Government post-horses as are still required in Russia, perhaps in lineal derivation from Mongol practice. The terms of Ghazan’s decree and other contemporary notices show that great abuses were practised with the Paizah, as an authority for living at free quarters and making other arbitrary exactions.


The word Paizah is said to be Chinese, Pai-tseu, “a tablet.” A trace of the name and the thing still survives in Mongolia. The horse-Bai is the name applied to a certain ornament on the horse caparison, which gives the rider a title to be furnished with horses and provisions on a journey.

[Illustration: Second Example of a MONGOL PAIZA, with Superscription in the Uighúr Character, found near the River Dnieper, 1845.]

Where I have used the Venetian term saggio, the French texts have here and elsewhere saics and saies, and sometimes pois. Saic points to saiga, which, according to Dupré de St. Maur, is in the Salic laws the equivalent of a denier or the twelfth part of a sol. Saggio is possibly the same word, or rather may have been confounded with it, but the saggio was a recognised Venetian weight equal to 1/6 of an ounce. We shall see hereafter that Polo appears to use it to indicate the miskál, a weight which may be taken at 74 grains Troy. On that supposition the smallest tablet specified in the text would weigh 18-1/2 ozs. Troy.

I do not know if any gold Paizah has been discovered, but several of silver have been found in the Russian dominions; one near the Dnieper, and two in Eastern Siberia. The first of our plates represents one of these, which was found in the Minusinsk circle of the Government of Yenisei in 1846, and is now in the Asiatic Museum of the Academy of St. Petersburg, For the sake of better illustration of our text, I have taken the liberty to represent the tablet as of gold, instead of silver with only the inscription gilt. The moulded ring inserted in the orifice, to suspend the plate by, is of iron. On the reverse side the ring bears some Chinese characters engraved, which are interpreted as meaning “Publication No. 42.” The inscription on the plate itself is in the Mongol language and Baspa character (supra, Prologue, note 1, ch. xv.), and its purport is a remarkable testimony to the exactness of Marco’s account, and almost a proof of his knowledge of the language and character in which the inscriptions were engraved. It runs, according to Schmidt’s version: “By the strength of the eternal heaven! May the name of the Khagan be holy! Who pays him not reverence is to be slain, and must die!” The inscriptions on the other plates discovered were essentially similar in meaning. Our second plate shows one of them with the inscription in the Uighúr character.

The superficial dimensions of the Yenisei tablet, as taken from Schmidt’s full-size drawing, are 12.2 in. by 3.65 in. The weight is not given.

In the French texts nothing is said of the size of the tablets. But Ramusio’s copy in the Prologue, where the tables given by Kiacatu are mentioned (supra, p. 35), says that they were a cubit in length and 5 fingers in breadth, and weighed 3 to 4 marks each, i.e. 24 to 32 ounces.

(Dupré de St. Maur, Essai sur les Monnoies, etc., 1746, p. viii.; also (on saiga) see Pertz, Script. XVII. 357; Rubruq. 312; Golden Horde, 219-220, 521; Ilch. II. 166 seqq., 355-356; D’Ohsson, III. 412-413; Q. R. 177-180; Ham. Wassáf, 154, 176; Makrizi, IV. 158; St. Martin, Mém. sur l’Arménie, II. 137, 169; M. Mas Latrie in Bibl. de l’Éc. des Chartes, IV. 585 seqq.; J. As. sér. V. tom. xvii. 536 seqq.; Schmidt, über eine Mongol. Quadratinschrift, etc., Acad. St. P., 1847; Russian paper by Grigorieff on same subject, 1846.)

[“The History tells us (Liao Shih, Bk. LVII. f. 2) that the official silver tablets p’ai tzu of the period were 600 in number, about a foot in length, and that they were engraved with an inscription like the above [‘Our imperial order for post horses. Urgent.’] in national characters (kuo tzu), and that when there was important state business the Emperor personally handed the tablet to the envoy, which entitled him to demand horses at the post stations, and to be treated as if he were the Emperor himself travelling. When the tablet was marked ‘Urgent,’ he had the right to take private horses, and was required to ride, night and day, 700 li in twenty-four hours. On his return he had to give back the tablet to the Emperor, who handed it to the prince who had the custody of the state tablets and seals.” (Dr. S. W. Bushell, Actes XI. Cong. Int. Orient., Paris, p. 17.)

“The Kin, in the thirteenth century, used badges of office made of silver. They were rectangular, bore the imperial seal, and an inscription indicative of the duty of the bearer. (Chavannes, Voyageurs chez les Khitans, 102.) The Nü-chên at an earlier date used wooden pai-tzu tied to each horseman and horse, to distinguish them by. (Ma Tuan-lin, Bk. 327, 11.)” (Rockhill, Rubruck, p. 181, note.)

“Tiger’s tablets—Sinice Hu fu, and p’ai tsze in the common language. The Mongols had them of several kinds, which differed by the metal, of which they were made, as well as by the number of pearls (one, two, or three in number), which were incrusted in the upper part of the tablet. Falcon’s tablets with the figure of a falcon were round, and used to be given only to special couriers and envoys of the Khan. [Yuen shi lui pien and Yuen ch’ao tien chang.] The use of the Hu-fu was adopted by the Mongols probably from the Kin.” (Palladius, l.c. p. 39.)

Rubruquis (Rockhill’s ed. pp. 153-154) says:—”And whenever the principal envoy [of Longa] came to court he carried a highly-polished tablet of ivory about a cubit long and half a palm wide. Every time he spoke to the chan or some great personage, he always looked at that tablet as if he found there what he had to say, nor did he look to the right or the left, nor in the face of him with whom he was talking. Likewise, when coming into the presence of the Lord, and when leaving it, he never looked at anything but his tablet.” Mr. Rockhill observes: “These tablets are called hu in Chinese, and were used in China and Korea; in the latter country down to quite recent times. They were made of jade, ivory, bamboo, etc., according to the rank of the owner, and were about three feet long. The hu was originally used to make memoranda on of the business to be submitted by the bearer to the Emperor or to write the answers to questions he had had submitted to them. Odoric also refers to ‘the tablets of white ivory which the Emperor’s barons held in their hands as they stood silent before him.'”

(Cf. the golden tablets which were of various classes with a tiger for image and pearls for ornaments, Devéria, Epigraphie, p. 15 et seq.) —H. C.]

NOTE 3.—Umbrella. The phrase in Pauthier’s text is “Palieque que on dit ombrel.” The Latin text of the Soc. de Géographie has “unum pallium de auro,” which I have adopted as probably correct, looking to Burma, where the old etiquettes as to umbrellas are in full force. These etiquettes were probably in both countries of old Hindu origin. Pallium, according to Muratori, was applied in the Middle Ages to a kind of square umbrella, by which is probably meant rather a canopy on four staves, which was sometimes assigned by authority as an honourable privilege.

But the genuine umbrella would seem to have been used also, for Polo’s contemporary, Martino da Canale, says that, when the Doge goes forth of his palace, “si vait apres lui un damoiseau qui porte une umbrele de dras à or sur son chief,” which umbrella had been given by “Monseigneur l’Apostoille.” There is a picture by Girolamo Gambarota, in the Sala del Gran Consiglio, at Venice, which represents the investiture of the Doge with the umbrella by Pope Alexander III., and Frederick Barbarossa (concerning which see Sanuto Junior, in Muratori, XXII. 512).

The word Parasol also occurs in the Petrarchian vocabulary, (14th century) as the equivalent of saioual (Pers. sáyában or sáiwán, an umbrella). Carpini notices that umbrellas (solinum vel tentoriolum in hastâ) were carried over the Tartar nobles and their wives, even on horseback; and a splendid one, covered with jewels, was one of the presents made to Kuyuk Kaan on his enthronement.

With respect to the honorary character attaching to umbrellas in China, I may notice that recently an English resident of Ningpo, on his departure for Europe, was presented by the Chinese citizens, as a token of honour, with a pair of Wan min sàn, umbrellas of enormous size.

The umbrella must have gone through some curious vicissitudes; for at one time we find it familiar, at a later date apparently unknown, and then reintroduced as some strange novelty. Arrian speaks of the [Greek: skiádia], or umbrellas, as used by all Indians of any consideration; but the thing of which he spoke was familiar to the use of Greek and Roman ladies, and many examples of it, borne by slaves behind their mistresses, are found on ancient vase-paintings. Athenaeus quotes from Anacreon the description of a “beggar on horseback” who

“like a woman bears An ivory parasol over his delicate head.”

An Indian prince, in a Sanskrit inscription of the 9th century, boasts of having wrested from the King of Márwár the two umbrellas pleasing to Parvati, and white as the summer moonbeams. Prithi Ráj, the last Hindu king of Delhi, is depicted by the poet Chand as shaded by a white umbrella on a golden staff. An unmistakable umbrella, copied from a Saxon MS. in the Harleian collection, is engraved in Wright’s History of Domestic Manners, p. 75. The fact that the gold umbrella is one of the paraphernalia of high church dignitaries in Italy seems to presume acquaintance with the thing from a remote period. A decorated umbrella also accompanies the host when sent out to the sick, at least where I write, in Palermo. Ibn Batuta says that in his time all the people of Constantinople, civil and military, great and small, carried great umbrellas over their heads, summer and winter. Ducange quotes, from a MS. of the Paris Library, the Byzantine court regulations about umbrellas, which are of the genuine Pan-Asiatic spirit;—[Greek: skiádia chrysokókkina] extend from the Hypersebastus to the grand Stratopedarchus, and so on; exactly as used to be the case, with different titles, in Java. And yet it is curious that John Marignolli, Ibn Batuta’s contemporary in the middle of the 14th century, and Barbosa in the 16th century, are alike at pains to describe the umbrella as some strange object. And in our own country it is commonly stated that the umbrella was first used in the last century, and that Jonas Hanway (died 1786) was one of the first persons who made a practice of carrying one. The word umbrello is, however, in Minsheu’s dictionary. [See Hobson-Jobson, s.v. Umbrella.—H. C.]

(Murat. Dissert. II. 229; Archiv. Storic. Ital. VIII. 274, 560; Klapr. Mém. III.; Carp. 759; N. and Q., C. and J. II. 180; Arrian, Indica, XVI.; Smith’s Dict., G. and R. Ant., s. v. umbraculum; J. R. A. S. v. 351; Rás Mála, I. 221; I. B. II. 440; Cathay, 381; Ramus. I. f. 301.)

Alexander, according to Athenaeus, feasted his captains to the number of 6000, and made them all sit upon silver chairs. The same author relates that the King of Persia, among other rich presents, bestowed upon Entimus the Gortynian, who went up to the king in imitation of Themistocles, a silver chair and a gilt umbrella. (Bk. I. Epit. ch. 31, and II. 31.)

The silver chair has come down to our own day in India, and is much affected by native princes.

NOTE 4.—I have not been able to find any allusion, except in our author, to tablets, with gerfalcons (shonkár). The shonkár appears, however, according to Erdmann, on certain coins of the Golden Horde, struck at Sarai.

There is a passage from Wassáf used by Hammer, in whose words it runs that the Sayad Imámuddín, appointed (A.D. 683) governor of Shiraz by Arghun Khan, “was invested with both the Mongol symbols of delegated sovereignty, the Golden Lion’s Head, and the golden Cat’s Head.” It would certainly have been more satisfactory to find “Gerfalcon’s Head” in lieu of the latter; but it is probable that the same object is meant. The cut below exhibits the conventional effigy of a gerfalcon as sculptured over one of the gates of Iconium, Polo’s Conia. The head might easily pass for a conventional representation of a cat’s head, and is indeed strikingly like the grotesque representation that bears that name in mediaeval architecture. (Erdmann, Numi Asiatici, I. 339; Ilch. I. 370.)

[Illustration: Sculptured Gerfalcon. (From the Gate of Iconium.)]

[1] “In anno Simiae, octavâ lunâ, die quarto exeunte, juxta fluvium Cobam (the Kuban), apud Ripam Rubeam existentes scripsimus.” The original was in linguâ Persaycá.

[2] See Golden Horde, p. 218.



The personal appearance of the Great Kaan, Lord of Lords, whose name is Cublay, is such as I shall now tell you. He is of a good stature, neither tall nor short, but of a middle height. He has a becoming amount of flesh, and is very shapely in all his limbs. His complexion is white and red, the eyes black and fine,[NOTE 1] the nose well formed and well set on. He has four wives, whom he retains permanently as his legitimate consorts; and the eldest of his sons by those four wives ought by rights to be emperor;—I mean when his father dies. Those four ladies are called empresses, but each is distinguished also by her proper name. And each of them has a special court of her own, very grand and ample; no one of them having fewer than 300 fair and charming damsels. They have also many pages and eunuchs, and a number of other attendants of both sexes; so that each of these ladies has not less than 10,000 persons attached to her court.[NOTE 2]

When the Emperor desires the society of one of these four consorts, he will sometimes send for the lady to his apartment and sometimes visit her at her own. He has also a great number of concubines, and I will tell you how he obtains them.

You must know that there is a tribe of Tartars called UNGRAT, who are noted for their beauty. Now every year an hundred of the most beautiful maidens of this tribe are sent to the Great Kaan, who commits them to the charge of certain elderly ladies dwelling in his palace. And these old ladies make the girls sleep with them, in order to ascertain if they have sweet breath [and do not snore], and are sound in all their limbs. Then such of them as are of approved beauty, and are good and sound in all respects, are appointed to attend on the Emperor by turns. Thus six of these damsels take their turn for three days and nights, and wait on him when he is in his chamber and when he is in his bed, to serve him in any way, and to be entirely at his orders. At the end of the three days and nights they are relieved by other six. And so throughout the year, there are reliefs of maidens by six and six, changing every three days and nights.[NOTE 3]

[Illustration: Portrait of Kúblái Kaan. (From a Chinese Engraving.)]

NOTE 1.—We are left in some doubt as to the colour of Kúblái’s eyes, for some of the MSS. read vairs and voirs, and others noirs. The former is a very common epithet for eyes in the mediaeval romances. And in the ballad on the death of St. Lewis, we are told of his son Tristram:—

  “Droiz fu comme un rosel, iex vairs comme faucon,
Dès le tens Moysel ne nasqui sa façon.”

The word has generally been interpreted bluish-grey, but in the passage just quoted, Fr.-Michel explains it by brillans. However, the evidence for noirs here seems strongest. Rashiduddin says that when Kúblái was born Chinghiz expressed surprise at the child’s being so brown, as its father and all his other sons were fair. Indeed, we are told that the descendants of Yesugai (the father of Chinghiz) were in general distinguished by blue eyes and reddish hair. (Michel’s Joinville, p. 324; D’Ohsson, II. 475; Erdmann, 252.)

NOTE 2.—According to Hammer’s authority (Rashid?) Kúblái had seven wives; Gaubil’s Chinese sources assign him five, with the title of empress (Hwang-heu). Of these the best beloved was the beautiful Jamúi Khátún (Lady or Empress Jamúi, illustrating what the text says of the manner of styling these ladies), who bore him four sons and five daughters. Rashiduddin adds that she was called Kún Kú, or the great consort, evidently the term Hwang-heu. (Gen. Tables in Hammer’s Ilkhans; Gatibil, 223; Erdmann, 200.)

[“Kúblái’s four wives, i.e. the empresses of the first, second, third, and fourth ordos. Ordo is, properly speaking, a separate palace of the Khan, under the management of one of his wives. Chinese authors translate therefore the word ordo by ‘harem.’ The four Ordo established by Chingis Khan were destined for the empresses, who were chosen out of four different nomad tribes. During the reign of the first four Khans, who lived in Mongolia, the four ordo were considerably distant one from another, and the Khans visited them in different seasons of the year; they existed nominally as long as China remained under Mongol domination. The custom of choosing the empress out of certain tribes, was in the course of time set aside by the Khans. The empress, wife of the last Mongol Khan in China, was a Corean princess by birth; and she contributed in a great measure to the downfall of the Mongol Dynasty.” (Palladius, 40.)

I do not believe that Rashiduddin’s Kún Kú is the term Hwang-keu; it is the term Kiun Chu, King or Queen, a sovereign.—H. C.]

NOTE 3.—Ungrat, the reading of the Crusca, seems to be that to which the others point, and I doubt not that it represents the great Mongol tribe of KUNGURAT, which gave more wives than any other to the princes of the house of Chinghiz; a conclusion in which I find I have been anticipated by De Mailla or his editor (IX. 426). To this tribe (which, according to Vámbéry, took its name from (Turki) Kongur-At, “Chestnut Horse”) belonged Burteh Fujin, the favourite wife of Chinghiz himself, and mother of his four heirs; to the same tribe belonged the two wives of Chagatai, two of Hulaku’s seven wives, one of Mangku Kaan’s, two at least of Kúblái’s including the beloved Jamúi Khátún, one at least of Abaka’s, two of Ahmed Tigudar’s, two of Arghun’s, and two of Ghazan’s.

The seat of the Kungurats was near the Great Wall. Their name is still applied to one of the tribes of the Uzbeks of Western Turkestan, whose body appears to have been made up of fractions of many of the Turk and Mongol tribes. Kungurat is also the name of a town of Khiva, near the Sea of Aral, perhaps borrowed from the Uzbek clan.

The conversion of Kungurat into Ungrat is due, I suppose, to that Mongol tendency to soften gutturals which has been before noticed. (Erdm. 199-200; Hammer, passim; Burnes, III. 143, 225.)

The Ramusian version adds here these curious and apparently genuine particulars:—

“The Great Kaan sends his commissioners to the Province to select four or five hundred, or whatever number may be ordered, of the most beautiful young women, according to the scale of beauty enjoined upon them. And they set a value upon the comparative beauty of the damsels in this way. The commissioners on arriving assemble all the girls of the province, in presence of appraisers appointed for the purpose. These carefully survey the points of each girl in succession, as (for example) her hair, her complexion, eyebrows, mouth, lips, and the proportion of all her limbs. They will then set down some as estimated at 16 carats, some at 17, 18, 20, or more or less, according to the sum of the beauties or defects of each. And whatever standard the Great Kaan may have fixed for those that are to be brought to him, whether it be 20 carats or 21, the commissioners select the required number from those who have attained that standard, and bring them to him. And when they reach his presence he has them appraised anew by other parties, and has a selection made of 30 or 40 of those, who then get the highest valuation.”

Marsden and Murray miss the meaning of this curious statement in a surprising manner, supposing the carat to represent some absolute value, 4 grains of gold according to the former, whence the damsel of 20 carats was estimated at 13_s._ 4_d._! This is sad nonsense; but Marsden would not have made the mistake had he not been fortunate enough to live before the introduction of Competitive Examinations. This Kungurat business was in fact a competitive examination in beauty; total marks attainable 24; no candidate to pass who did not get 20 or 21. Carat expresses n ÷ 24, not any absolute value.

Apart from the mode of valuation, it appears that a like system of selection was continued by the Ming, and that some such selection from the daughters of the Manchu nobles has been maintained till recent times. Herodotus tells that the like custom prevailed among the Adyrmachidae, the Libyan tribe next Egypt. Old Eden too relates it of the “Princes of Moscovia.” (Middle Km. I. 318; Herod. IV. 168, Rawl.; Notes on Russia, Hak. Soc. II. 253.)



The Emperor hath, by those four wives of his, twenty-two male children; the eldest of whom was called CHINKIN for the love of the good Chinghis Kaan, the first Lord of the Tartars. And this Chinkin, as the Eldest Son of the Kaan, was to have reigned after his father’s death; but, as it came to pass, he died. He left a son behind him, however, whose name is TEMUR, and he is to be the Great Kaan and Emperor after the death of his Grandfather, as is but right; he being the child of the Great Kaan’s eldest son. And this Temur is an able and brave man, as he hath already proven on many occasions.[NOTE 1]

The Great Kaan hath also twenty-five other sons by his concubines; and these are good and valiant soldiers, and each of them is a great chief. I tell you moreover that of his children by his four lawful wives there are seven who are kings of vast realms or provinces, and govern them well; being all able and gallant men, as might be expected. For the Great Kaan their sire is, I tell you, the wisest and most accomplished man, the greatest Captain, the best to govern men and rule an Empire, as well as the most valiant, that ever has existed among all the Tribes of Tartars.[NOTE 2]

NOTE 1.—Kúblái had a son older than CHIMKIN or CHINGKIM, to whom Hammer’s Genealogical Table gives the name of Jurji, and attributes a son called Ananda. The Chinese authorities of Gaubil and Pauthier call him Turchi or Torchi, i.e. Dorjé, “Noble Stone,” the Tibetan name of a sacred Buddhist emblem in the form of a dumb-bell, representing the Vajra or Thunderbolt. Probably Dorjé died early, as in the passage we shall quote from Wassáf also Chingkim is styled the Eldest Son: Marco is probably wrong in connecting the name of the latter with that of Chinghiz. Schmidt says that he does not know what Chingkim means.

[Mr. Parker says that Chen kim was the third son of Kúblái (China Review, xxiv. p. 94.) Teimur, son of Chen kim, wore the temple name (miao-hao) of Ch’êng Tsung and the title of reign (nien-hao) of Yuen Chêng and Ta Téh.—H. C.]

Chingkim died in the 12th moon of 1284-1285, aged 43. He had received a Chinese education, and the Chinese Annals ascribe to him all the virtues which so often pertain in history to heirs apparent who have not reigned.

“When Kúblái approached his 70th year,” says Wassáf, “he desired to raise his eldest son Chimkin to the position of his representative and declared successor, during his own lifetime; so he took counsel with the chiefs, in view to giving the Prince a share of his authority and a place on the Imperial Throne. The chiefs, who are the Pillars of Majesty and Props of the Empire, represented that His Majesty’s proposal to invest his Son, during his own lifetime, with Imperial authority, was not in accordance with the precedents and Institutes (Yasa) of the World-conquering Padshah Chinghiz Khan; but still they would consent to execute a solemn document, securing the Kaanship to Chimkin, and pledging themselves to lifelong obedience and allegiance to him. It was, however, the Divine Fiat that the intended successor should predecease him who bestowed the nomination…. The dignitaries of the Empire then united their voices in favour of TEIMUR, the son of Chimkin.”

Teimur, according to the same authority, was the third son of Chimkin; but the eldest, Kambala, squinted; the second, Tarmah (properly Tarmabala for Dharmaphala, a Buddhist Sanskrit name) was rickety in constitution; and on the death of the old Kaan (1294) Teimur was unanimously named to the Throne, after some opposition from Kambala, which was put down by the decided bearing of the great soldier Bayan. (Schmidt, p. 399; De Mailla, IX. 424; Gaubil, 203; Wassáf, 46.)

[The Rev. W. S. Ament (Marco Polo in Cambaluc, p. 106), makes the following remarks regarding this young prince (Chimkin): “The historians give good reasons for their regard for Chen Chin. He had from early years exhibited great promise and had shown great proficiency in the military art, in government, history, mathematics, and the Chinese classics. He was well acquainted with the condition and numbers of the inhabitants of Mongolia and China, and with the topography and commerce of the Empire (Howorth). He was much beloved by all, except by some of his father’s own ministers, whose lives were anything but exemplary. That Kúblái had full confidence in his son is shown by the fact that he put the collecting of taxes in his hands. The native historians represent him as economical in the use of money and wise in the choice of companions. He carefully watched the officers in his charge, and would tolerate no extortion of the people. After droughts, famines or floods, he would enquire into the condition of the people and liberally supply their needs, thus starting them in life again. Polo ascribes all these virtues to the Khan himself. Doubtless he possessed them in greater or less degree, but father and son were one in all these benevolent enterprises.”—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—The Chinese Annals, according to Pauthier and Gaubil, give only ten sons to Kúblái, at least by his legitimate wives; Hammer’s Table gives twelve. It is very probable that xxii. was an early clerical error in the texts of Polo for xii. Dodeci indeed occurs in one MS. (No. 37 of our Appendix F), though not one of much weight.

Of these legitimate sons Polo mentions, in different parts of his work, five by name. The following is the list from Hammer and D’Ohsson, with the Chinese forms from Pauthier in parentheses. The seven whose names are in capitals had the title of Wang or “King” of particular territories, as M. Pauthier has shown from the Chinese Annals, thus confirming Marco’s accuracy on that point.

I. Jurji or Dorjé (Torchi). II. CHIMKIN or CHINGKIM (Yu Tsung, King of Yen, i.e. Old Peking). III. MANGALAI (Mankola, “King of the Pacified West”), mentioned by Polo (infra, ch. xli.) as King of Kenjanfu or Shensi. IV. NUMUGAN (Numukan, “Pacifying King of the North”), mentioned by Polo (Bk. IV. ch. ii.) as with King George joint leader of the Kaan’s army against Kaidu. V. Kuridai (not in Chinese List). VI. HUKAJI (Hukochi, “King of Yunnan”), mentioned by Polo (infra, ch. xlix.) as King of Carajan. VII. AGHRUKJI or UKURUJI (Gaoluchi, “King of Siping” or Tibet). VIII. Abaji (Gaiyachi?). IX. KUKJU or GEUKJU (Khokhochu, “King of Ning” or Tangut). X. Kutuktemur (Hutulu Temurh). XI. TUKAN (Thohoan, “King of Chinnan”). His command lay on the Tungking frontier, where he came to great grief in 1288, in consequence of which he was disgraced. (See Cathay, p. 272.) XII. Temkan (not in Chinese List). Gaubil’s Chinese List omits Hutulu Temurh, and introduces a prince called Gantanpouhoa as 4th son.

M. Pauthier lays great stress on Polo’s intimate knowledge of the Imperial affairs (p. 263) because he knew the name of the Hereditary Prince to be Teimur; this being, he says, the private name which could not be known until after the owner’s death, except by those in the most confidential intimacy. The public only then discovered that, like the Irishman’s dog, his real name was Turk, though he had always been called Toby! But M. Pauthier’s learning has misled him. At least the secret must have been very badly kept, for it was known in Teimur’s lifetime not only to Marco, but to Rashiduddin in Persia, and to Hayton in Armenia; to say nothing of the circumstance that the name Temur Khaghan is also used during that Emperor’s life by Oljaitu Khan of Persia in writing to the King of France a letter which M. Pauthier himself republished and commented upon. (See his book, p. 780.)



You must know that for three months of the year, to wit December, January, and February, the Great Kaan resides in the capital city of Cathay, which is called CAMBALUC, [and which is at the north-eastern extremity of the country]. In that city stands his great Palace, and now I will tell you what it is like.

It is enclosed all round by a great wall forming a square, each side of which is a mile in length; that is to say, the whole compass thereof is four miles. This you may depend on; it is also very thick, and a good ten paces in height, whitewashed and loop-holed all round.[NOTE 1] At each angle of the wall there is a very fine and rich palace in which the war-harness of the Emperor is kept, such as bows and quivers,[NOTE 2] saddles and bridles, and bowstrings, and everything needful for an army. Also midway between every two of these Corner Palaces there is another of the like; so that taking the whole compass of the enclosure you find eight vast Palaces stored with the Great Lord’s harness of war.[NOTE 3] And you must understand that each Palace is assigned to only one kind of article; thus one is stored with bows, a second with saddles, a third with bridles, and so on in succession right round.[NOTE 4]

The great wall has five gates on its southern face, the middle one being the great gate which is never opened on any occasion except when the Great Kaan himself goes forth or enters. Close on either side of this great gate is a smaller one by which all other people pass; and then towards each angle is another great gate, also open to people in general; so that on that side there are five gates in all.[NOTE 5]

Inside of this wall there is a second, enclosing a space that is somewhat greater in length than in breadth. This enclosure also has eight palaces corresponding to those of the outer wall, and stored like them with the Lord’s harness of war. This wall also hath five gates on the southern face, corresponding to those in the outer wall, and hath one gate on each of the other faces, as the outer wall hath also. In the middle of the second enclosure is the Lord’s Great Palace, and I will tell you what it is like.[NOTE 6]

You must know that it is the greatest Palace that ever was. [Towards the north it is in contact with the outer wall, whilst towards the south there is a vacant space which the Barons and the soldiers are constantly traversing.[NOTE 7] The Palace itself] hath no upper story, but is all on the ground floor, only the basement is raised some ten palms above the surrounding soil [and this elevation is retained by a wall of marble raised to the level of the pavement, two paces in width and projecting beyond the base of the Palace so as to form a kind of terrace-walk, by which people can pass round the building, and which is exposed to view, whilst on the outer edge of the wall there is a very fine pillared balustrade; and up to this the people are allowed to come]. The roof is very lofty, and the walls of the Palace are all covered with gold and silver. They are also adorned with representations of dragons [sculptured and gilt], beasts and birds, knights and idols, and sundry other subjects. And on the ceiling too you see nothing but gold and silver and painting. [On each of the four sides there is a great marble staircase leading to the top of the marble wall, and forming the approach to the Palace.] [NOTE 8]

The Hall of the Palace is so large that it could easily dine 6000 people; and it is quite a marvel to see how many rooms there are besides. The building is altogether so vast, so rich, and so beautiful, that no man on earth could design anything superior to it. The outside of the roof also is all coloured with vermilion and yellow and green and blue and other hues, which are fixed with a varnish so fine and exquisite that they shine like crystal, and lend a resplendent lustre to the Palace as seen for a great way round.[NOTE 9] This roof is made too with such strength and solidity that it is fit to last for ever.

[On the interior side of the Palace are large buildings with halls and chambers, where the Emperor’s private property is placed, such as his treasures of gold, silver, gems, pearls, and gold plate, and in which reside the ladies and concubines. There he occupies himself at his own convenience, and no one else has access.]

Between the two walls of the enclosure which I have described, there are fine parks and beautiful trees bearing a variety of fruits. There are beasts also of sundry kinds, such as white stags and fallow deer, gazelles and roebucks, and fine squirrels of various sorts, with numbers also of the animal that gives the musk, and all manner of other beautiful creatures,[NOTE 10] insomuch that the whole place is full of them, and no spot remains void except where there is traffic of people going and coming. [The parks are covered with abundant grass; and the roads through them being all paved and raised two cubits above the surface, they never become muddy, nor does the rain lodge on them, but flows off into the meadows, quickening the soil and producing that abundance of herbage.]

From that corner of the enclosure which is towards the north-west there extends a fine Lake, containing foison of fish of different kinds which the Emperor hath caused to be put in there, so that whenever he desires any he can have them at his pleasure. A river enters this lake and issues from it, but there is a grating of iron or brass put up so that the fish cannot escape in that way.[NOTE 11]

Moreover on the north side of the Palace, about a bow-shot off, there is a hill which has been made by art [from the earth dug out of the lake]; it is a good hundred paces in height and a mile in compass. This hill is entirely covered with trees that never lose their leaves, but remain ever green. And I assure you that wherever a beautiful tree may exist, and the Emperor gets news of it, he sends for it and has it transported bodily with all its roots and the earth attached to them, and planted on that hill of his. No matter how big the tree may be, he gets it carried by his elephants; and in this way he has got together the most beautiful collection of trees in all the world. And he has also caused the whole hill to be covered with the ore of azure,[NOTE 12] which is very green. And thus not only are the trees all green, but the hill itself is all green likewise; and there is nothing to be seen on it that is not green; and hence it is called the GREEN MOUNT; and in good sooth ’tis named well.[NOTE 13]

On the top of the hill again there is a fine big palace which is all green inside and out; and thus the hill, and the trees, and the palace form together a charming spectacle; and it is marvellous to see their uniformity of colour! Everybody who sees them is delighted. And the Great Kaan had caused this beautiful prospect to be formed for the comfort and solace and delectation of his heart.

You must know that beside the Palace (that we have been describing), i.e. the Great Palace, the Emperor has caused another to be built just like his own in every respect, and this he hath done for his son when he shall reign and be Emperor after him.[NOTE 14] Hence it is made just in the same fashion and of the same size, so that everything can be carried on in the same manner after his own death. [It stands on the other side of the lake from the Great Kaan’s Palace, and there is a bridge crossing the water from one to the other.][NOTE 15] The Prince in question holds now a Seal of Empire, but not with such complete authority as the Great Kaan, who remains supreme as long as he lives.

Now I am going to tell you of the chief city of Cathay, in which these
Palaces stand; and why it was built, and how.

NOTE 1.—[According to the Ch’ue keng lu, translated by Bretschneider, 25, “the wall surrounding the palace … is constructed of bricks, and is 35 ch’i in height. The construction was begun in A.D. 1271, on the 17th of the 8th month, between three and five o’clock in the afternoon, and finished next year on the 15th of the 3rd month.”—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—Tarcasci (G. T.) This word is worthy of note as the proper form of what has become in modern French carquois. The former is a transcript of the Persian Tarkash; the latter appears to be merely a corruption of it, arising perhaps clerically from the constant confusion of c and t in MSS. (See Defrémery, quoted by Pauthier, in loco.) [Old French tarquais (13th century), Hatzfeldt and Darmesteter’s Dict. gives; “Coivres orent ceinz et tarchais.” (WACE, Rou, III., 7698; 12th century).]

NOTE 3.—[“It seems to me [Dr. Bretschneider] that Polo took the towers, mentioned by the Chinese author, in the angles of the galleries and of the Kung-ch’eng for palaces; for further on he states, that ‘over each gate [of Cambaluc] there is a great and handsome palace.’ I have little doubt that over the gates of Cambaluc, stood lofty buildings similar to those over the gates of modern Peking. These tower-like buildings are called lou by the Chinese. It may be very likely, that at the time of Marco Polo, the war harness of the Khan was stored in these towers of the palace wall. The author of the Ch’ue keng lu, who wrote more than fifty years later, assigns to it another place.” (Bretschneider, Peking, 32.) —H.C.]

KHANBALIGH according to Dr. Bretschneider]

NOTE 4.—The stores are now outside the walls of the “Prohibited City,” corresponding to Polo’s Palace-Wall, but within the walls of the “Imperial City.” (Middle Kingdom, I. 61.) See the cut at p. 376.

NOTE 5.—The two gates near the corners apparently do not exist in the Palace now. “On the south side there are three gates to the Palace, both in the inner and the outer walls. The middle one is absolutely reserved for the entrance or exit of the Emperor; all other people pass in and out by the gate to the right or left of it.” (Trigautius, Bk. I. ch. vii.) This custom is not in China peculiar to Royalty. In private houses it is usual to have three doors leading from the court to the guestrooms, and there is a great exercise of politeness in reference to these; the guest after much pressing is prevailed on to enter the middle door, whilst the host enters by the side. (See Deguignes, Voyages, I. 262.) [See also H. Cordier’s Hist. des Relat. de la Chine, III. ch. x. Audience Impériale.]

[“It seems Polo took the three gateways in the middle gate (Ta-ming men) for three gates, and thus speaks of five gates instead of three in the southern wall.” (Bretschneider, Peking, 27, note.)—H. C.]

NOTE 6.—Ramusio’s version here diverges from the old MSS. It makes the inner enclosure a mile square; and the second (the city of Taidu) six miles square, as here, but adds, at a mile interval, a third of eight miles square. Now it is remarkable that Mr. A. Wylie, in a letter dated 4th December 1873, speaking of a recent visit to Peking, says: “I found from various inquiries that there are several remains of a very much larger city wall, inclosing the present city; but time would not allow me to follow up the traces.”

Pauthier’s text (which I have corrected by the G. T.), after describing the outer inclosure to be a mile every way, says that the inner inclosure lay at an interval of a mile within it!

[Dr. Bretschneider observes “that in the ancient Chinese works, three concentric inclosures are mentioned in connection with the palace. The innermost inclosed the Ta-nei, the middle inclosure, called Kung-ch’eng or Huang-ch’eng, answering to the wall surrounding the present prohibited city, and was about 6 li in circuit. Besides this there was an outer wall (a rampart apparently) 20 li in circuit, answering to the wall of the present imperial city (which now has 18 li in circuit).” The Huang-ch’eng of the Yuen was measured by imperial order, and found to be 7 li in circuit; the wall of the Mongol palace was 6 li in circuit, according to the Ch’ue keng lu. (Bretschneider, Peking, 24.)—Marco Polo’s mile could be approximately estimated = 2.77 Chinese li. (Ibid. 24, note.) The common Chinese li = 360 pu, or 180 chang, or 1800 ch’i (feet); 1 li = 1894 English feet or 575 mètres; at least according to the old Venice measures quoted in Yule’s Marco Polo, II., one pace = 5 feet. Besides the common li, the Chinese have another li, used for measuring fields, which has only 240 pu or 1200 ch’i. This is the li spoken of in the Ch’ue keng lu. (Ibid. 13, note.)—H. C.]

NOTE 7.—[“Near the southern face of the wall are barracks for the Life
Guards.” (Ch’ue keng lu, translated by Bretschneider, 25.)—H. C.]

NOTE 8.—This description of palace (see opposite cut), an elevated basement of masonry with a superstructure of timber (in general carved and gilded), is still found in Burma, Siam, and Java, as well as in China. If we had any trace of the palaces of the ancient Asokas and Vikramadityas of India, we should probably find that they were of the same character. It seems to be one of those things that belonged to some ancient Panasiatic fashion, as the palaces of Nineveh were of a somewhat similar construction. In the Audience Halls of the Moguls at Delhi and Agra we can trace the ancient form, though the superstructure has there become an arcade of marble instead of a pavilion on timber columns.

[Illustration: Palace at Khan-baligh. (From the Livre des Merveilles.)]

[“The Ta-ming tien (Hall of great brightness) is without doubt what Marco Polo calls ‘the Lord’s Great Palace.’… He states, that it ‘hath no upper story’; and indeed, the palace buildings which the Chinese call tien are always of one story. Polo speaks also of a ‘very fine pillared balustrade’ (thechu lang, pillared verandah, of the Chinese author). Marco Polo states that the basement of the great palace ‘is raised some ten palms above the surrounding soil.’ We find in the Ku kung i lu: ‘The basement of the Ta-ming tien is raised about 10 ch’i above the soil.’ There can also be no doubt that the Ta-ming tien stood at about the same place where now the T’ai-ho tien, the principal hall of the palace, is situated.” (Bretschneider, Peking, 28, note.)

[Illustration: Winter Palace at Peking.]

The Ch’ue keng lu, translated by Bretschneider, 25, contains long articles devoted to the description of the palace of the Mongols and the adjacent palace grounds. They are too long to be reproduced here.—H. C.]

NOTE 9.—”As all that one sees of these palaces is varnished in those colours, when you catch a distant view of them at sunrise, as I have done many a time, you would think them all made of, or at least covered with, pure gold enamelled in azure and green, so that the spectacle is at once majestic and charming.” (Magaillans, p. 353.)

NOTE 10.—[This is the Ling yu or “Divine Park,” to the east of the Wan-sui shan, “in which rare birds and beasts are kept. Before the Emperor goes to Shang-tu, the officers are accustomed to be entertained at this place.” (Ch’ue keng lu, quoted by Bretschneider, 36.)—H. C.]

NOTE 11.—”On the west side, where the space is amplest, there is a lake very full of fish. It is in the form of a fiddle, and is an Italian mile and a quarter in length. It is crossed at the narrowest part, which corresponds to gates in the walls, by a handsome bridge, the extremities of which are adorned by two triumphal arches of three openings each…. The lake is surrounded by palaces and pleasure houses, built partly in the water and partly on shore, and charming boats are provided on it for the use of the Emperor when he chooses to go a-fishing or to take an airing.” (Ibid. 282-283.) The marble bridge, as it now exists, consists of nine arches, and is 600 feet long. (Rennie’s Peking, II. 57.)

Ramusio specifies another lake in the city, fed by the same stream before it enters the palace, and used by the public for watering cattle.

[“The lake which Marco Polo saw is the same as the T’ai-yi ch’i of our days. It has, however, changed a little in its form. This lake and also its name T’ai-yi ch’i date from the twelfth century, at which time an Emperor of the Kin first gave orders to collect together the water of some springs in the hills, where now the summer palaces stand, and to conduct it to a place north of his capital, where pleasure gardens were laid out. The river which enters the lake and issues from it exists still, under its ancient name Kin-shui.” (Bretschneider, Peking, 34.)—H. C.]

NOTE 12.—The expression here is in the Geog. Text, “Roze de l’açur,” and in Pauthier’s “de rose et de l’asur.” Rose Minerale, in the terminology of the alchemists, was a red powder produced in the sublimation of gold and mercury, but I can find no elucidation of the term Rose of Azure. The Crusca Italian has in the same place Terra dello Azzurro. Having ventured to refer the question to the high authority of Mr. C. W. King, he expresses the opinion that Roze here stands for Roche, and that probably the term Roche de l’azur may have been used loosely for blue-stone, i.e. carbonate of copper, which would assume a green colour through moisture. He adds: “Nero, according to Pliny, actually used chrysocolla, the siliceous carbonate of copper, in powder, for strewing the circus, to give the course the colour of his favourite faction, the prasine (or green). There may be some analogy between this device and that of Kúblái Khan.” This parallel is a very happy one.

[Illustration: Mei Shan]

NOTE 13.—Friar Odoric gives a description, short, but closely agreeing in substance with that in the Text, of the Palace, the Park, the Lake, and the Green Mount.

A green mount, answering to the description, and about 160 feet in height, stands immediately in rear of the palace buildings. It is called by the Chinese King-Shan, “Court Mountain,” Wan-su-Shan, “Ten Thousand Year Mount,” and Mei-Shan, “Coal Mount,” the last from the material of which it is traditionally said to be composed (as a provision of fuel in case of siege).[1] Whether this is Kúblái’s Green Mount does not seem to be quite certain. Dr. Lockhart tells me that, according to the information he collected when living at Peking, it is not so, but was formed by the Ming Emperors from the excavation of the existing lake on the site which the Mongol Palace had occupied. There is another mount, he adds, adjoining the east shore of the lake, which must be of older date even than Kúblái, for a Dagoba standing on it is ascribed to the Kin.

[The “Green Mount” was an island called K’iung-hua at the time of the Kin; in 1271 it received the name of Wan-sui shan; it is about 100 feet in height, and is the only hill mentioned by Chinese writers of the Mongol time who refer to the palace grounds. It is not the present King-shan, north of the palace, called also Wan-sui-shan under the Ming, and now the Mei-shan, of more recent formation. “I have no doubt,” says Bretschneider (Peking, l.c. 35), “that Marco Polo’s handsome palace on the top of the Green Mount is the same as the Kuang-han tien” of the Ch’ue keng lu. It was a hall in which there was a jar of black jade, big enough to hold more than 30 piculs of wine; this jade had white veins, and in accordance with these veins, fish and animals have been carved on the jar. (Ibid. 35.) “The Ku kung i lu, in describing the Wan-sui-shan, praises the beautiful shady green of the vegetation there.” (Ibid. 37.) —H. C.]

[“Near the eastern end of the bridge (Kin-ao yü-tung which crosses the lake) the visitor sees a circular wall, which is called yüan ch’eng (round wall). It is about 350 paces in circuit. Within it is an imperial building Ch’eng-kuang tien, dating from the Mongol time. From this circular enclosure, another long and beautifully executed marble bridge leads northwards, to a charming hill, covered with shady trees, and capped by a magnificent white suburga.” (Bretschneider, p. 22.)—H. C.]

In a plate attached to next chapter, I have drawn, on a small scale, the existing cities of Peking, as compared with the Mongol and Chinese cities in the time of Kúblái. The plan of the latter has been constructed (1) from existing traces, as exhibited in the Russian Survey republished by our War Office; (2) from information kindly afforded by Dr. Lockhart; and (3) from Polo’s description and a few slight notices by Gaubil and others. It will be seen, even on the small scale of these plans, that the general arrangement of the palace, the park, the lakes (including that in the city, which appears in Ramusio’s version), the bridge, the mount, etc., in the existing Peking, very closely correspond with Polo’s indications; and I think the strong probability is that the Ming really built on the old traces, and that the lake, mount, etc., as they now stand, are substantially those of the Great Mongol, though Chinese policy or patriotism may have spread the belief that the foreign traces were obliterated. Indeed, if that belief were true, the Mongol Palace must have been very much out of the axis of the City of Kúblái, which is in the highest degree improbable. The Bulletin de la Soc. de Geographie for September 1873, contains a paper on Peking by the physician to the French Embassy there. Whatever may be the worth of the meteorological and hygienic details in that paper, I am bound to say that the historical and topographical part is so inaccurate as to be of no value.

NOTE 14.—For son, read grandson. But the G. T. actually names the Emperor’s son Chingkim, whose death our traveller has himself already mentioned.

[Illustration: Yuan ch’eng]

NOTE 15.—[“Marco Polo’s bridge, crossing the lake from one side to the other, must be identified with the wooden bridge mentioned in the Ch’ue keng lu. The present marble bridge spanning the lake was only built in 1392.” “A marble bridge connects this island (an islet with the hall I- t’ien tien) with the Wan-sui shan. Another bridge, made of wood, 120 ch’i long and 22 broad, leads eastward to the wall of the Imperial Palace. A third bridge, a wooden draw-bridge 470 ch’i long, stretches to the west over the lake to its western border, where the palace Hing-sheng kung [built in 1308] stands.” (Bretschneider, Peking, 36.)—H. C.]

[1] Some years ago, in Calcutta, I learned that a large store of charcoal existed under the soil of Fort William, deposited there, I believe, in the early days of that fortress.

[“The Jihia says that the name of Mei shan (Coal hill) was given to it from the stock of coal buried at its foot, as a provision in case of siege.” (Bretschneider, Peking, 38.)—H. C.]



Now there was on that spot in old times a great and noble city called CAMBALUC, which is as much as to say in our tongue “The city of the Emperor.”[NOTE 1] But the Great Kaan was informed by his Astrologers that this city would prove rebellious, and raise great disorders against his imperial authority. So he caused the present city to be built close beside the old one, with only a river between them.[NOTE 2] And he caused the people of the old city to be removed to the new town that he had founded; and this is called TAIDU. [However, he allowed a portion of the people which he did not suspect to remain in the old city, because the new one could not hold the whole of them, big as it is.]

As regards the size of this (new) city you must know that it has a compass of 24 miles, for each side of it hath a length of 6 miles, and it is four-square. And it is all walled round with walls of earth which have a thickness of full ten paces at bottom, and a height of more than 10 paces;[NOTE 3] but they are not so thick at top, for they diminish in thickness as they rise, so that at top they are only about 3 paces thick. And they are provided throughout with loop-holed battlements, which are all whitewashed.

There are 12 gates, and over each gate there is a great and handsome palace, so that there are on each side of the square three gates and five palaces; for (I ought to mention) there is at each angle also a great and handsome palace. In those palaces are vast halls in which are kept the arms of the city garrison.[NOTE 4]

The streets are so straight and wide that you can see right along them from end to end and from one gate to the other. And up and down the city there are beautiful palaces, and many great and fine hostelries, and fine houses in great numbers. [All the plots of ground on which the houses of the city are built are four-square, and laid out with straight lines; all the plots being occupied by great and spacious palaces, with courts and gardens of proportionate size. All these plots were assigned to different heads of families. Each square plot is encompassed by handsome streets for traffic; and thus the whole city is arranged in squares just like a chess-board, and disposed in a manner so perfect and masterly that it is impossible to give a description that should do it justice.][NOTE 5]

Moreover, in the middle of the city there is a great clock—that is to say, a bell—which is struck at night. And after it has struck three times no one must go out in the city, unless it be for the needs of a woman in labour, or of the sick.[NOTE 6] And those who go about on such errands are bound to carry lanterns with them. Moreover, the established guard at each gate of the city is 1000 armed men; not that you are to imagine this guard is kept up for fear of any attack, but only as a guard of honour for the Sovereign, who resides there, and to prevent thieves from doing mischief in the town.[NOTE 7]

NOTE 1.— + The history of the city on the site of Peking goes back to very old times, for it had been [under the name of Ki] the capital of the kingdom of Yen, previous to B.C. 222, when it was captured by the Prince of the T’sin Dynasty. [Under the T’ang dynasty (618-907) it was known under the name of Yu-chau.] It became one of the capitals of the Khitans in A.D. 936, and of the Kin sovereigns, who took it in 1125, in 1151 under the name of Chung-tu. Under the name of Yenking, [given to this city in 1013] it has a conspicuous place in the wars of Chinghiz against the latter dynasty. He captured it in 1215. In 1264, Kúblái adopted it as his chief residence, and founded in 1267, the new city of TATU (“Great Court”), called by the Mongols TAIDU or DAITU since 1271 (see Bk. I. ch. lxi. note 1), at a little distance—Odoric says half a mile—to the north-east of the old Yenking. Tatu was completed in the summer of 1267.

Old Yenking had, when occupied by the Kin, a circuit of 27 li (commonly estimated at 9 miles, but in early works the li is not more than 1/5 of a mile), afterwards increased to 30 li. But there was some kind of outer wall about the city and its suburbs, the circuit of which is called 75 li. [“At the time of the Yuen the walls still existed, and the ancient city of the Kin was commonly called Nan-ch’eng (Southern city), whilst the Mongol capital was termed the northern city.” Bretschneider, Peking, 10.—H. C.] (Lockhart; and see Amyot, II. 553, and note 6 to last chapter.)

Polo correctly explains the name Cambaluc, i.e. Kaan-baligh, “The City of the Kaan.”

NOTE 2.—The river that ran between the old and new city must have been the little river Yu, which still runs through the modern Tartar city, and fills the city ditches.

[Dr. Bretschneider (Peking, 49) thinks that there is a strong probability that Polo speaks of the Wen-ming ho, a river which, according to the ancient descriptions, ran near the southern wall of the Mongol capital.—H. C.]

[Illustration: South Gate of Imperial City at Peking.

“Elle a donze portes, et sor chascune porte a une grandisme palais et biaus.”]

NOTE 3.—This height is from Pauthier’s Text; the G. Text has, “twenty paces,” i.e. 100 feet. A recent French paper states the dimensions of the existing walls as 14 mètres (45-1/2 feet) high, and 14.50 (47-1/4 feet) thick, “the top forming a paved promenade, unique of its kind, and recalling the legendary walls of Thebes and Babylon.” (Ann. d’Hygiène Publique, 2nd s. tom, xxxii. for 1869, p. 21.)

[According to the French astronomers (Fleuriais and Lapied) sent to Peking for the Transit of Venus in December, 1875, the present Tartar city is 23 kil. 55 in circuit, viz. if 1 li = 575 m., 41 li; from the north to the south 5400 mètres; from east to west 6700 mètres; the wall is 13 mètres in height and 12 mètres in width.—H. C.]

[Illustration: PEKING As it is and As it was, about 1290]

[Illustration: Yenking or Old Cambaluc A.D. 1290]

NOTE 4.—Our attempted plan of Cambaluc, as in 1290, differs somewhat from this description, but there is no getting over certain existing facts.

The existing Tartar city of Peking (technically Neï-ch’ing, “The Interior City,” or King-ch’ing, “City of the Court”) stands on the site of Taidu, and represents it. After the expulsion of the Mongols (1368) the new native Dynasty of Ming established their capital at Nanking. But this was found so inconvenient that the third sovereign of the Dynasty re- occupied Taidu or Cambaluc, the repairs of which began in 1409. He reduced it in size by cutting off nearly a third part of the city at the north end. The remains of this abandoned portion of wall are, however, still in existence, approaching 30 feet in height all round. This old wall is called by the Chinese The Wall of the Yuen (i.e. the Mongol Dynasty), and it is laid down in the Russian Survey. [The capital of the Ming was 40 li in circuit, according to the Ch’ang an k’o hua.] The existing walls were built, or restored rather (the north wall being in any case, of course, entirely new), in 1437. There seems to be no doubt that the present south front of the Tartar city was the south front of Taidu. The whole outline of Taidu is therefore still extant, and easily measurable. If the scale on the War Office edition of the Russian Survey be correct, the long sides measure close upon 5 miles and 500 yards; the short sides, 3 miles and 1200 yards. Hence the whole perimeter was just about 18 English miles, or less than 16 Italian miles. If, however, a pair of compasses be run round Taidu and Yenking (as we have laid the latter down from such data as could be had) together, the circuit will be something like 24 Italian miles, and this may have to do with Polo’s error.

[“The Yuen shi states that Ta-tu was 60 li in circumference. The Ch’ue keng lu, a work published at the close of the Yuen Dynasty, gives the same number of li for the circuit of the capital, but explains that li of 240 pu each are meant. If this statement be correct, it would give only 40 common or geographical li for the circuit of the Mongol town.” (Bretschneider, Peking, 13.) Dr. Bretschneider writes (p. 20): “The outlines of Khanbaligh, partly in contradiction with the ancient Chinese records, if my view be correct, would have measured about 50 common li in circuit (13 li and more from north to south, 11.64 from east to west.”)—H. C.]

Polo [and Odoric] again says that there were 12 gates—3 to every side. Both Gaubil and Martini also say that there were 12 gates. But I believe that both are trusting to Marco. There are 9 gates in the present Tartar city—viz. 3 on the south side and 2 on each of the other sides. The old Chinese accounts say there were 11 gates in Taidu. (See Amyot, Mém. II. 553.) I have in my plan, therefore, assumed that one gate on the east and one on the west were obliterated in the reduction of the enceinte by the Ming. But I must observe that Mr. Lockhart tells me he did not find the traces of gates in those positions, whilst the 2 gates on the north side of the old Mongol rampart are quite distinct, with the barbicans in front, and the old Mongol bridge over the ditch still serving for the public thoroughfare.[1]

[“The Yuen shi as well as the Ch’ue keng lu, and other works of the Yuen, agree in stating that the capital had eleven gates. They are enumerated in the following order: Southern wall—(1) The gate direct south (mid.) was called Li-cheng men; (2) the gate to the left (east), Wen-ming men; (3) the gate to the right (west), Shun-ch’eng men. Eastern wall—(4) The gate direct east (mid.), Ch’ung-jen men; (5) the gate to the south-east, Ts’i-hua men; (6) the gate to the north-east, Kuang-hi men. Western wall—(7) The gate direct west (mid.), Ho-i men; (8) the gate to the south-west, P’ing-tse men; (9) the gate to the north-west, Su-ts’ing men. Northern Wall—(10) The gate to the north-west, K’ien-te men; (11) the gate to the north-east, An-chen men.” (Bretschneider, Peking, 13-14.)—H. C.]

When the Ming established themselves on the old Mongol site, population seems to have gathered close about the southern wall, probably using material from the remains of Yenking. This excrescence was inclosed by a new wall in 1554, and was called the “Outer Town.” It is what is called by Europeans the Chinese City. Its western wall exhibits in the base sculptured stones, which seem to have belonged to the old palace of Yenking. Some traces of Yenking still existed in Gaubil’s time; the only relic of it now pointed out is a pagoda outside of the Kwang-An-Man, or western gate of the Outer City, marked in the War Office edition of the Russian Map as “Tower.” (Information from Dr. Lockhart.)

The “Great Palaces” over the gates and at the corner bastions are no doubt well illustrated by the buildings which still occupy those positions. There are two such lofty buildings at each of the gates of the modern city, the outer one (shown on p. 376) forming an elevated redoubt.

NOTE 5.—The French writer cited under note 3 says of the city as it stands: “La ville est de la sorte coupée en échiquier à peu près régulier dont les quadres circonscrits par des larges avenues sont percés eux-mêmes d’une multitude de rues et ruelles … qui toutes à peu prés sont orientées N. et S., E. et O. Une seule volonté a évidemment présidé à ce plan, et jamais édilité n’a eu à exécuter d’un seul coup aussi vaste entreprise.”

NOTE 6.—Martini speaks of the public clock-towers in the Chinese cities, which in his time were furnished with water-clocks. A watchman struck the hour on a great gong, at the same time exhibiting the hour in large characters. The same person watched for fires, and summoned the public with his gong to aid in extinguishing them.

[The Rev. G. B. Farthing mentions (North-China Herald, 7th September, 1884) at T’ai-yuen fu the remains of an object in the bell-tower, which was, and is still known, as one of the eight wonders of this city; it is a vessel of brass, a part of a water-clock from which water formerly used to flow down upon a drum beneath and mark off time into equal divisions.—H. C.]

The tower indicated by Marco appears still to exist. It occupies the place which I have marked as Alarm Tower in the plan of Taidu. It was erected in 1272, but probably rebuilt on the Ming occupation of the city. [“The Yuen yi t’ung chi, or ‘Geography of the Mongol Empire’ records: ‘In the year 1272, the bell-tower and the drum-tower were built in the middle of the capital.’ A bell-tower (chung-lou) and a drum-tower (ku-lou) exist still in Peking, in the northern part of the Tartar City. The ku-lou is the same as that built in the thirteenth century, but the bell-tower dates only from the last century. The bell-tower of the Yuen was a little to the east of the drum-tower, where now the temple Wan-ning sse stands. This temple is nearly in the middle of the position I (Bretschneider) assign to Khanbaligh.” (Bretschneider, Peking, 20.)—H. C.] In the Court of the Old Observatory at Peking there is preserved, with a few other ancient instruments, which date from the Mongol era, a very elaborate water-clock, provided with four copper basins embedded in brickwork, and rising in steps one above the other. A cut of this courtyard, with its instruments and aged trees, also ascribed to the Mongol time, will be found in ch. xxxiii. (Atlas Sinensis, p. 10; Magaillans, 149-151; Chine Moderne, p. 26; Tour du Monde for 1864, vol. ii. p. 34.)

NOTE 7.—”Nevertheless,” adds the Ramusian, “there does exist I know not what uneasiness about the people of Cathay.”

[1] Mr. Wylie confirms my assumption: “Whilst in Peking I traced the old mud wall,… and found it quite in accordance with the outline in your map. Mr. Gilmour (a missionary to the Mongols) and I rode round it, he taking the outside and I the inside…. Neither of us observed the arch that Dr. Lockhart speaks of…. There are gate-openings about the middle of the east and west sides, but no barbicans.” (4th December 1873.)



You must know that the Great Kaan, to maintain his state, hath a guard of twelve thousand horsemen, who are styled KESHICAN, which is as much as to say “Knights devoted to their Lord.” Not that he keeps these for fear of any man whatever, but merely because of his own exalted dignity. These 12,000 men have four captains, each of whom is in command of 3000; and each body of 3000 takes a turn of three days and nights to guard the palace, where they also take their meals. After the expiration of three days and nights they are relieved by another 3000, who mount guard for the same space of time, and then another body takes its turn, so that there are always 3000 on guard. Thus it goes until the whole 12,000, who are styled (as I said) Keshican, have been on duty; and then the tour begins again, and so runs on from year’s end to year’s end.[NOTE 1]

NOTE 1.—I have deduced a reading for the word Quescican (Keshican), which is not found precisely in any text. Pauthier reads Questiau and Quesitau; the G. Text has Quesitam and Quecitain; the Crusca Questi Tan; Ramusio, Casitan; the Riccardiana, Quescitam. Recollecting the constant clerical confusion between c and t, what follows will leave no doubt I think that the true reading to which all these variations point is Quescican.[1]

In the Institutes of Ghazan Khan, we find established among other formalities for the authentication of the royal orders, that they should be stamped on the back, in black ink, with the seals of the Four Commanders of the Four Kiziks, or Corps of the Life Guard.

Wassáf also, in detailing the different classes of the great dignitaries of the Mongol monarchy, names (1) the Noyáns of the Ulus, or princes of the blood; (2) the great chiefs of the tribes; (3) the Amírs of the four Keshik, or Corps of the Body Guard; (4) the officers of the army, commanding ten thousands, thousands, and so on.

Moreover, in Rashiduddin, we find the identical plural form used by our author. He says that, after the sack of Baghdad, Hulaku, who had escaped from the polluted atmosphere of the city, sent “Ilká Noyán and Karábúgá, with 3000 Moghul horse into Baghdad, in order to have the buildings repaired, and to put things generally in order. These chiefs posted sentries from the KISHÍKÁN ([Arabic]), and from their own followings in the different quarters of the town, had the carcases of beasts removed from the streets, and caused the bazaars to be rebuilt.”

We find Kishik still used at the court of Hindustan, under the great kings of Timur’s House, for the corps on tour of duty at the palace; and even for the sets of matchlocks and sabres, which were changed weekly from Akbar’s armoury for the royal use. The royal guards in Persia, who watch the king’s person at night, are termed Keshikchi, and their captain Keshikchi Bashi. [“On the night of the 11th of Jemady ul Sany, A.H. 1160 (or 8th June, 1747), near the city of Khojoon, three days’ journey from Meshed, Mohammed Kuly Khan Ardemee, who was of the same tribe with Nadir Shah, his relation, and Kushukchee Bashee, with seventy of the Kukshek or guard,… bound themselves by an oath to assassinate Nadir Shah.” (Memoirs of Khojeh Abdulkurreem … transl. by F. Gladwin, Calcutta, 1788, pp. 166-167).]

Friar Odoric speaks of the four barons who kept watch by the Great Kaan’s side as the Cuthé, which probably represents the Chinese form Kiesie (as in De Mailla), or Kuesie (as in Gaubil). The latter applies the term to four devoted champions of Chinghiz, and their descendants, who were always attached to the Kaan’s body-guard, and he identifies them with the Quesitan of Polo, or rather with the captains of the latter; adding expressly that the word Kuesie is Mongol.

I see Kishik is a proper name among the Kalmak chiefs; and Keshikten also is the name of a Mongol tribe, whose territory lies due north of Peking, near the old site of Shangtu. (Bk. I. ch. lxi.) [Keshikhteng, a tribe (pu; mong. aimak) of the Chao Uda League (mêng; mong. chogolgân) among the twenty-four tribes of the Nei Mung-ku (Inner Mongols). (See Mayers’ Chinese Government, p. 81.)—H. C.] In Kovalevsky, I find the following:—

(No. 2459) “Keshik, grace, favour, bounty, benefit, good fortune, charity.”

(No. 2461) “Keshikten, fortunate, happy, blessed.”

(No. 2541) “Kichyeku, to be zealous, assiduous, devoted.”

(No. 2588) “Kushiku, to hinder, to bar the way to,” etc.

The third of these corresponds closely with Polo’s etymology of “knights devoted to their lord,” but perhaps either the first or the last may afford the real derivation.

In spite of the different initials ([Arabic] instead of [Arabic]), it can scarcely be doubted that the Kalchi and Kalakchi of Timur’s Institutes are mere mistranscriptions of the same word, e.g.: “I ordered that 12,000 Kalchi, men of the sword completely armed, should be cantoned in the Palace; to the right and to the left, to the front, and in the rear of the imperial diwán; thus, that 1000 of those 12,000 should be every night upon guard,” etc. The translator’s note says of Kalchi, “A Mogul word supposed to mean guards.” We see that even the traditional number of 12,000, and its division into four brigades, are maintained. (See Timour’s Inst., pp. 299 and 235, 237.)

I must add that Professor Vámbéry does not assent to the form Keshikán, on the ground that this Persian plural is impossible in an old Tartar dialect, and he supposes the true word to be Kechilan or Kechiklen, “the night-watchers,” from Kiche or Kichek (Chag. and Uighúr), = “night.”

I believe, however, that Persian was the colloquial language of foreigners at the Kaan’s court, who would not scruple to make a Persian plural when wanted; whilst Rashid has exemplified the actual use of this one.

(D’Ohsson, IV. 410; Gold. Horde, 228, 238; Ilch. II. 184; Q. R. pp. 308-309; Ayeen Akb. I. 270, and Blochmann’s, p. 115; J. As. sèr. IV. tom. xix. 276; Olearius, ed. 1659, I. 656; Cathay, 135; De Mailla, ix. 106; Gaubil, p. 6; Pallas, Samml. I. 35.)

[“By Keshican in Colonel Yule’s Marco Polo, Keshikten is evidently meant. This is a general Mongol term to designate the Khan’s lifeguard. It is derived from the word Keshik, meaning a guard by turns; a corps on tour of duty. Keshik is one of the archaisms of the Mongol language, for now this word has another meaning in Mongol. Colonel Yule has brought together several explanations of the term. It seems to me that among his suppositions the following is the most consistent with the ancient meaning of the word:—

“We find Kishik still used at the court of Hindustan, under the great kings of Timur’s House, for the corps on tour of duty at the palace…. The royal guards in Persia, who watch the King’s person at night, are termed Keshikchi.”

“The Keshikten was divided into a day-watch called Turgaut and a night-watch Kebteul. The Kebte-ul consisted of pure Mongols, whilst the Turgaut was composed of the sons of the vassal princes and governors of the provinces, and of hostages. The watch of the Khan was changed every three days, and contained 400 men. In 1330 it was reduced to 100 men.” (Palladius, 42-43.) Mr. E. H. Parker writes in the China Review, XVIII. p. 262, that they “are evidently the ‘body guards’ of the modern viceroys, now pronounced Kashiha, but, evidently, originally Kêshigha.” —H. C.]

[1] One of the nearest readings is that of the Brandenburg Latin collated by Müller, which has Quaesicam.



And when the Great Kaan sits at table on any great court occasion, it is in this fashion. His table is elevated a good deal above the others, and he sits at the north end of the hall, looking towards the south, with his chief wife beside him on the left. On his right sit his sons and his nephews, and other kinsmen of the Blood Imperial, but lower, so that their heads are on a level with the Emperor’s feet. And then the other Barons sit at other tables lower still. So also with the women; for all the wives of the Lord’s sons, and of his nephews and other kinsmen, sit at the lower table to his right; and below them again the ladies of the other Barons and Knights, each in the place assigned by the Lord’s orders. The tables are so disposed that the Emperor can see the whole of them from end to end, many as they are.[NOTE 1] [Further, you are not to suppose that everybody sits at table; on the contrary, the greater part of the soldiers and their officers sit at their meal in the hall on the carpets.] Outside the hall will be found more than 40,000 people; for there is a great concourse of folk bringing presents to the Lord, or come from foreign countries with curiosities.

In a certain part of the hall near where the Great Kaan holds his table, there [is set a large and very beautiful piece of workmanship in the form of a square coffer, or buffet, about three paces each way, exquisitely wrought with figures of animals, finely carved and gilt. The middle is hollow, and in it] stands a great vessel of pure gold, holding as much as an ordinary butt; and at each corner of the great vessel is one of smaller size [of the capacity of a firkin], and from the former the wine or beverage flavoured with fine and costly spices is drawn off into the latter. [And on the buffet aforesaid are set all the Lord’s drinking vessels, among which are certain pitchers of the finest gold,] which are called verniques,[NOTE 2] and are big enough to hold drink for eight or ten persons. And one of these is put between every two persons, besides a couple of golden cups with handles, so that every man helps himself from the pitcher that stands between him and his neighbour. And the ladies are supplied in the same way. The value of these pitchers and cups is something immense; in fact, the Great Kaan has such a quantity of this kind of plate, and of gold and silver in other shapes, as no one ever before saw or heard tell of, or could believe.[NOTE 3]

[There are certain Barons specially deputed to see that foreigners, who do not know the customs of the Court, are provided with places suited to their rank; and these Barons are continually moving to and fro in the hall, looking to the wants of the guests at table, and causing the servants to supply them promptly with wine, milk, meat, or whatever they lack. At every door of the hall (or, indeed, wherever the Emperor may be) there stand a couple of big men like giants, one on each side, armed with staves. Their business is to see that no one steps upon the threshold in entering, and if this does happen, they strip the offender of his clothes, and he must pay a forfeit to have them back again; or in lieu of taking his clothes, they give him a certain number of blows. If they are foreigners ignorant of the order, then there are Barons appointed to introduce them, and explain it to them. They think, in fact, that it brings bad luck if any one touches the threshold. Howbeit, they are not expected to stick at this in going forth again, for at that time some are like to be the worse for liquor, and incapable of looking to their steps.[NOTE 4]]

And you must know that those who wait upon the Great Kaan with his dishes and his drink are some of the great Barons. They have the mouth and nose muffled with fine napkins of silk and gold, so that no breath nor odour from their persons should taint the dish or the goblet presented to the Lord. And when the Emperor is going to drink, all the musical instruments, of which he has vast store of every kind, begin to play. And when he takes the cup all the Barons and the rest of the company drop on their knees and make the deepest obeisance before him, and then the Emperor doth drink. But each time that he does so the whole ceremony is repeated.[NOTE 5]

I will say nought about the dishes, as you may easily conceive that there is a great plenty of every possible kind. But you should know that in every case where a Baron or Knight dines at those tables, their wives also dine there with the other ladies. And when all have dined and the tables have been removed, then come in a great number of players and jugglers, adepts at all sorts of wonderful feats,[NOTE 6] and perform before the Emperor and the rest of the company, creating great diversion and mirth, so that everybody is full of laughter and enjoyment. And when the performance is over, the company breaks up and every one goes to his quarters.

NOTE 1.—We are to conceive of rows of small tables, at each of which were set probably but two guests. This seems to be the modern Chinese practice, and to go back to some very old accounts of the Tartar nations. Such tables we find in use in the tenth century, at the court of the King of Bolghar (see Prologue, note 2, ch. ii.), and at the Chinese entertainments to Shah Rukh’s embassy in the fifteenth century. Megasthenes described the guests at an Indian banquet as having a table set before each individual. (Athenaeus, IV. 39, Yonge’s Transl.)

[Compare Rubruck’s account, Rockhill’s ed., p. 210: “The Chan sits in a high place to the north, so that he can be seen by all….” (See also Friar Odoric, Cathay, p. 141.)—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—This word (G. T. and Ram.) is in the Crusca Italian transformed into an adjective, “vaselle vernicate d’oro,” and both Marsden and Pauthier have substantially adopted the same interpretation, which seems to me in contradiction with the text. In Pauthier’s text the word is vernigal, pl.vernigaux, which he explains, I know not on what authority, as “coupes sans anses vernies ou laquées d’or.” There is, indeed, a Venetian sea-term, Vernegal, applied to a wooden bowl in which the food of a mess is put, and it seems possible that this word may have been substituted for the unknown Vernique. I suspect the latter was some Oriental term, but I can find nothing nearer than the Persian Barni, Ar. Al-Barníya, “vas fictile in quo quid recondunt,” whence the Spanish word Albornia, “a great glazed vessel in the shape of a bowl, with handles.” So far as regards the form, the change of Barniya into Vernique would be quite analogous to that change of Hundwáníy into Ondanique, which we have already met with. (See Dozy et Engelmann, Glos. des Mots Espagnols, etc., 2nd ed., 1867, p. 73; and Boerio, Diz. del. Dial. Venez.)

[F. Godefroy, Dict., s.v. Vernigal, writes: “Coupe sans anse, vernie ou laquée d’or,” and quotes, besides Marco Polo, the Regle du Temple, p. 214, éd. Soc. Hist. de France:

“Les vernigaus et les escuelles.”

About vernegal, cf. Rockhill, Rubruck, p. 86, note. Rubruck says (Soc. de Géog. p. 241): “Implevimus unum veringal de biscocto et platellum unum de pomis et aliis fructibus.” Mr. Rockhill translates veringal by basket.

Dr. Bretschneider (Peking, 28) mentions “a large jar made of wood and varnished, the inside lined with silver,” and he adds in a note “perhaps this statement may serve to explain Marco Polo’s verniques or vaselle vernicate d’oro, big enough to hold drink for eight or ten persons.”—H. C.]

A few lines above we have “of the capacity of a firkin.” The word is bigoncio, which is explained in the Vocab. Univ. Ital. as a kind of tub used in the vintage, and containing 3 mine, each of half a stajo. This seems to point to the Tuscan mina, or half stajo, which is = 1/3 of a bushel. Hence thebigoncio would = a bushel, or, in old liquid measure, about a firkin.

NOTE 3.—A buffet, with flagons of liquor and goblets, was an essential feature in the public halls or tents of the Mongols and other Asiatic races of kindred manners. The ambassadors of the Emperor Justin relate that in the middle of the pavilion of Dizabulus, the Khan of the Turks, there were set out drinking-vessels, and flagons and great jars, all of gold; corresponding to the coupes (or hanas à mances), the verniques, and the grant peitere and petietes peiteres of Polo’s account. Rubruquis describes in Batu Khan’s tent a buffet near the entrance, where Kumiz was set forth, with great goblets of gold and silver, etc., and the like at the tent of the Great Kaan. At a festival at the court of Oljaitu, we are told, “Before the throne stood golden buffets … set out with full flagons and goblets.” Even in the private huts of the Mongols there was a buffet of a humbler kind exhibiting a skin of Kumiz, with other kinds of drink, and cups standing ready; and in a later age at the banquets of Shah Abbas we find the great buffet in a slightly different form, and the golden flagon still set to every two persons, though it no longer contained the liquor, which was handed round. (Cathay, clxiv., cci.; Rubr. 224, 268, 305; Ilch. II. 183; Della Valle, I. 654 and 750-751.)

[Referring to the “large and very beautiful piece of workmanship,” Mr. Rockhill, Rubruck, 208-209, writes: “Similar works of art and mechanical contrivances were often seen in Eastern courts. The earliest I know of is the golden plane-tree and grape vine with bunches of grapes in precious stones, which was given to Darius by Pythius the Lydian, and which shaded the king’s couch. (Herodotus, IV. 24.) The most celebrated, however, and that which may have inspired Mangu with the desire to have something like it at his court, was the famous Throne of Solomon ([Greek: Solomónteos Thrónos]) of the Emperor of Constantinople, Theophilus (A.D. 829-842)…. Abulfeda states that in A.D. 917 the envoys of Constantine Porphyrogenitus to the Caliph el Moktader saw in the palace of Bagdad a tree with eighteen branches, some of gold, some of silver, and on them were gold and silver birds, and the leaves of the tree were of gold and silver. By means of machinery, the leaves were made to rustle and the birds to sing. Mirkhond speaks also of a tree of gold and precious stones in the city of Sultanieh, in the interior of which were conduits through which flowed drinks of different kinds. Clavijo describes a somewhat similar tree at the court of Timur.”

Dr. Bretschneider (Peking, 28, 29) mentions a clepsydra with a lantern. By means of machinery put in motion by water, at fixed times a little man comes forward exhibiting a tablet, which announces the hours. He speaks also of a musical instrument which is connected, by means of a tube, with two peacocks sitting on a cross-bar, and when it plays, the mechanism causes the peacocks to dance.—H. C.]

Odoric describes the great jar of liquor in the middle of the palace hall, but in his time it was made of a great mass of jade (p. 130).

NOTE 4.—This etiquette is specially noticed also by Odoric, as well as by Makrizi, by Rubruquis, and by Plano Carpini. According to the latter the breach of it was liable to be punished with death. The prohibition to tread on the threshold is also specially mentioned in a Mahomedan account of an embassy to the court of Barka Khan. And in regard to the tents, Rubruquis says he was warned not to touch the ropes, for these were regarded as representing the threshold. A Russo-Mongol author of our day says that the memory of this etiquette or superstition is still preserved by a Mongol proverb: “Step not on the threshold; it is a sin!” But among some of the Mongols more than this survives, as is evident from a passage in Mr. Michie’s narrative: “There is a right and a wrong way of approaching yourt also. Outside the door there are generally ropes lying on the ground, held down by stakes, for the purpose of tying up the animals when they want to keep them together. There is a way of getting over or round these ropes that I never learned, but on one occasion the ignorant breach of the rule on our part excluded us from the hospitality of the family.” The feeling or superstition was in full force in Persia in the 17th century, at least in regard to the threshold of the king’s palace. It was held a sin to tread upon it in entering. (Cathay, 132; Rubr. 255, 268, 319; Plan. Carp. 625, 741; Makrizi, I. 214; Mél. Asiat. Ac. St. Petersb. II. 660; The Siberian Overland Route, p. 97; P. Della Valle, II. 171.)

[Mr. Rockhill writes (Rubruck, p. 104): “The same custom existed among the Fijians, I believe. I may note that it also prevailed in ancient China. It is said of Confucius ‘when he was standing he did not occupy the middle of the gate-way; when he passed in or out, he did not tread on the threshold.’ (Lun-yü, Bk. X. ch. iv. 2.) In China, the bride’s feet must not touch the threshold of the bridegroom’s house, (Cf. Denny’s Folk-lore in China, p. 18.)

“The author of the Ch’ue keng lu mentions also the athletes with clubs standing at the door, at the time of the khan’s presence in the hall. He adds, that next to the Khan, two other life-guards used to stand, who held in their hands ‘natural’ axes of jade (axes found fortuitously in the ground, probably primitive weapons).” (Palladius, p. 43.)—H. C.]

NOTE 5.—Some of these etiquettes were probably rather Chinese than Mongol, for the regulations of the court of Kúblái apparently combined the two. In the visit of Shah Rukh’s ambassadors to the court of the Emperor Ch’êng Tsu of the Ming Dynasty in 1421, we are told that by the side of the throne, at an imperial banquet, “there stood two eunuchs, each having a band of thick paper over his mouth, and extending to the tips of his ears…. Every time that a dish, or a cup of darassun (rice-wine) was brought to the emperor, all the music sounded.” (N. et Ext. XIV. 408, 409.) In one of the Persepolitan sculptures, there stands behind the King an eunuch bearing a fan, and with his mouth covered; at least so says Heeren. (Asia, I. 178.)

NOTE 6.—”Jongleours et entregetours de maintes plusieurs manieres de granz experimenz” (P.); “de Giuculer et de Tregiteor” (G. T.). Ital. Tragettatore, a juggler; Romance, Trasjitar, Tragitar, to juggle. Thus Chaucer:—

  “There saw I playing Jogelours,
Magiciens, and Tragetours,
And Phetonisses, Charmeresses,
Old Witches, Sorceresses,” etc.
House of Fame, III. 169.

And again:—

  “For oft at festes have I wel herd say,
That Tregetoures, within an halle large,
Have made come in a water and a barge,
And in the halle rowen up and doun.
Somtime hath semed come a grim leoun;
* * * * *
Somtime a Castel al of lime and ston,
And whan hem liketh, voideth it anon.”
The Franklin’s Tale, II. 454.

Performances of this kind at Chinese festivities have already been spoken of in note 9 to ch. lxi. of Book I. Shah Rukh’s people, Odoric, Ysbrandt Ides, etc., describe them also. The practice of introducing such artistes into the dining-hall after dinner seems in that age to have been usual also in Europe. See, for example, Wright’s Domestic Manners, pp. 165-166, and the Court of the Emperor Frederic II., in Kington’s Life of that prince, I. 470. (See also N. et E. XIV. 410; Cathay, 143; Ysb. Ides, p. 95.)



You must know that the Tartars keep high festival yearly on their birthdays. And the Great Kaan was born on the 28th day of the September moon, so on that day is held the greatest feast of the year at the Kaan’s Court, always excepting that which he holds on New Year’s Day, of which I shall tell you afterwards.[NOTE 1]

Now, on his birthday, the Great Kaan dresses in the best of his robes, all wrought with beaten gold;[NOTE 2] and full 12,000 Barons and Knights on that day come forth dressed in robes of the same colour, and precisely like those of the Great Kaan, except that they are not so costly; but still they are all of the same colour as his, and are also of silk and gold. Every man so clothed has also a girdle of gold; and this as well as the dress is given him by the Sovereign. And I will aver that there are some of these suits decked with so many pearls and precious stones that a single suit shall be worth full 10,000 golden bezants.

And of such raiment there are several sets. For you must know that the Great Kaan, thirteen times in the year, presents to his Barons and Knights such suits of raiment as I am speaking of.[NOTE 3] And on each occasion they wear the same colour that he does, a different colour being assigned to each festival. Hence you may see what a huge business it is, and that there is no prince in the world but he alone who could keep up such customs as these.

On his birthday also, all the Tartars in the world, and all the countries and governments that owe allegiance to the Kaan, offer him great presents according to their several ability, and as prescription or orders have fixed the amount. And many other persons also come with great presents to the Kaan, in order to beg for some employment from him. And the Great Kaan has chosen twelve Barons on whom is laid the charge of assigning to each of these supplicants a suitable answer.

On this day likewise all the Idolaters, all the Saracens, and all the Christians and other descriptions of people make great and solemn devotions, with much chaunting and lighting of lamps and burning of incense, each to the God whom he doth worship, praying that He would save the Emperor, and grant him long life and health and happiness.

And thus, as I have related, is celebrated the joyous feast of the Kaan’s birthday.[NOTE 4]

Now I will tell you of another festival which the Kaan holds at the New
Year, and which is called the White Feast.

NOTE 1.—The Chinese Year commences, according to Duhalde, with the New Moon nearest to the Sun’s Passage of the middle point of Aquarius; according to Pauthier, with the New Moon immediately preceding the Sun’s entry into Pisces. (These would almost always be identical, but not always.) Generally speaking, the first month will include part of February and part of March. The eighth month will then be September-October (v. ante, ch. ii. note 2).

[According to Dr. S. W. Williams (Middle Kingdom, II. p. 70): “The year is lunar, but its commencement is regulated by the sun. New Year falls on the first new moon after the sun enters Aquarius, which makes it come not before January 21st nor after February 19th.” “The beginning of the civil year, writes Peter Hoang (Chinese Calendar, p. 13), depends upon the good pleasure of the Emperors. Under the Emperor Hwang-ti (2697 B.C.) and under the Hsia Dynasty (2205 B.C.), it was made to commence with the 3rd month yin-yüeh [Pisces]; under the Shang Dynasty (1766 B.C.) with the 2nd month ch’ou-yüeh [Aquarius], and under the Chou Dynasty (1122 B.C.) with the 1st month tzu-yüeh [Capricorn].”—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—The expression “à or batuz” as here applied to robes, is common among the mediaeval poets and romance-writers, e.g. Chaucer:—

  “Full yong he was and merry of thought,
And in samette with birdes wrought
And with gold beaten full fetously,
His bodie was clad full richely.”
Rom. of the Rose, 836-839.

M. Michel thinks that in a stuff so termed the gold wire was beaten out after the execution of the embroidery, a process which widened the metallic surface and gave great richness of appearance. The fact was rather, however, according to Dr. Rock, that the gold used in weaving such tissues was not wire but beaten sheets of gold cut into narrow strips. This would seem sufficient to explain the term “beaten gold,” though Dr. Rock in another passage refers it to a custom which he alleges of sewing goldsmith’s work upon robes. (Fr. Michel, Recherches, II. 389, also I. 371; Rock’s Catalogue, pp. xxv. xxix. xxxviii. cvi.)

NOTE 3.—The number of these festivals and distributions of dresses is thirteen in all the old texts, except the Latin of the Geog. Soc., which has twelve. Thirteen would seem therefore to have been in the original copy. And the Ramusian version expands this by saying, “Thirteen great feasts that the Tartars keep with much solemnity to each of the thirteen moons of the year.”[1] It is possible, however, that this latter sentence is an interpolated gloss; for, besides the improbability of munificence so frequent, Pauthier has shown some good reasons why thirteen should be regarded as an error for three. The official History of the Mongol Dynasty, which he quotes, gives a detail of raiment distributed in presents on great state occasions three times a year. Such a mistake might easily have originated in the first dictation, treize substituted for trois, or rather for the old form tres; but we must note that the number 13 is repeated and corroborated in ch. xvi. Odoric speaks of four great yearly festivals, but there are obvious errors in what he says on this subject. Hammer says the great Mongol Feasts were three, viz. New Year’s Day, the Kaan’s Birthday, and the Feast of the Herds.

Something like the changes of costume here spoken of is mentioned by Rubruquis at a great festival of four days’ duration at the court of Mangku Kaan: “Each day of the four they appeared in different raiment, suits of which were given them for each day of a different colour, but everything on the same day of one colour, from the boots to the turban.” So also Carpini says regarding the assemblies of the Mongol nobles at the inauguration of Kuyuk Kaan: “The first day they were all clad in white pourpre (? albis purpuris, see Bk. I. ch. vi. note 4), the second day in ruby pourpre, the third day in blue pourpre, the fourth day in the finest baudekins.” (Cathay, 141; Rubr. 368; Pl. Car. 755.)

[Mr. Rockhill (Rubruck, p. 247, note) makes the following remarks: “Odoric, however, says that the colours differed according to the rank. The custom of presenting khilats is still observed in Central Asia and Persia. I cannot learn from any other authority that the Mongols ever wore turbans. Odoric says the Mongols of the imperial feasts wore ‘coronets’ (in capite coronati).”—H. C.]

NOTE 4.—[“The accounts given by Marco Polo regarding the feasts of the Khan and the festival dresses at his Court, agree perfectly with the statements on the same subject of contemporary Chinese writers. Banquets were called in the common Mongol language chama, and festival dresseschisun. General festivals used to be held at the New Year and at the Birthday of the Khan. In the Mongol-Chinese Code, the ceremonies performed in the provinces on the Khan’s Birthday are described. One month before that day the civil and military officers repaired to a temple, where a service was performed to the Khan’s health. On the morning of the Birthday a sumptuously adorned table was placed in the open air, and the representatives of all classes and all confessions were obliged to approach the table, to prostrate themselves and exclaim three times: Wan-sui (i.e. ‘Ten thousand years’ life to the Khan). After that the banquet took place. In the same code (in the article on the Ye li ke un [Christians, Erke-un]) it is stated, that in the year 1304,—owing to a dispute, which had arisen in the province of Kiang-nan between the ho-shang (Buddhist priests) and the Christian missionaries, as to precedence in the above-mentioned ceremony,—a special edict was published, in which it was decided that in the rite of supplication, Christians should follow the Buddhist and Taouist priests.” (Palladius, pp. 44-45.)—H. C.]

[1] There are thirteen months to the Chinese year in seven out of every nineteen.

[“This interval of 10 years comprises 235 lunar months, generally 125 long months of 30 days 110 short months of 29 days, (but sometimes 124 long and 111 short months), and 7 intercalary months. The year of twelve months is called a common year, that of thirteen months, an intercalary year.” (P. Hoang, Chinese Calendar, p. 12. —H. C.)]



The beginning of their New Year is the month of February, and on that occasion the Great Kaan and all his subjects made such a Feast as I now shall describe.

It is the custom that on this occasion the Kaan and all his subjects should be clothed entirely in white; so, that day, everybody is in white, men and women, great and small. And this is done in order that they may thrive all through the year, for they deem that white clothing is lucky.[NOTE 1] On that day also all the people of all the provinces and governments and kingdoms and countries that own allegiance to the Kaan bring him great presents of gold and silver, and pearls and gems, and rich textures of divers kinds. And this they do that the Emperor throughout the year may have abundance of treasure and enjoyment without care. And the people also make presents to each other of white things, and embrace and kiss and make merry, and wish each other happiness and good luck for the coming year. On that day, I can assure you, among the customary presents there shall be offered to the Kaan from various quarters more than 100,000 white horses, beautiful animals, and richly caparisoned. [And you must know ’tis their custom in offering presents to the Great Kaan (at least when the province making the present is able to do so), to present nine times nine articles. For instance, if a province sends horses, it sends nine times nine or 81 horses; of gold, nine times nine pieces of gold, and so with stuffs or whatever else the present may consist of.][NOTE 2]

On that day also, the whole of the Kaan’s elephants, amounting fully to 5000 in number, are exhibited, all covered with rich and gay housings of inlaid cloth representing beasts and birds, whilst each of them carries on his back two splendid coffers; all of these being filled with the Emperor’s plate and other costly furniture required for the Court on the occasion of the White Feast.[NOTE 3] And these are followed by a vast number of camels which are likewise covered with rich housings and laden with things needful for the Feast. All these are paraded before the Emperor, and it makes the finest sight in the world.

Moreover, on the morning of the Feast, before the tables are set, all the Kings, and all the Dukes, Marquesses, Counts, Barons, Knights, and Astrologers, and Philosophers, and Leeches, and Falconers, and other officials of sundry kinds from all the places round about, present themselves in the Great Hall before the Emperor; whilst those who can find no room to enter stand outside in such a position that the Emperor can see them all well. And the whole company is marshalled in this wise. First are the Kaan’s sons, and his nephews, and the other Princes of the Blood Imperial; next to them all Kings; then Dukes, and then all others in succession according to the degree of each. And when they are all seated, each in his proper place, then a great prelate rises and says with a loud voice: “Bow and adore!” And as soon as he has said this, the company bow down until their foreheads touch the earth in adoration towards the Emperor as if he were a god. And this adoration they repeat four times, and then go to a highly decorated altar, on which is a vermilion tablet with the name of the Grand Kaan inscribed thereon, and a beautiful censer of gold. So they incense the tablet and the altar with great reverence, and then return each man to his seat.[NOTE 4]

When all have performed this, then the presents are offered, of which I have spoken as being so rich and costly. And after all have been offered and been seen by the Emperor, the tables are set, and all take their places at them with perfect order as I have already told you. And after dinner the jugglers come in and amuse the Court as you have heard before; and when that is over, every man goes to his quarters.

NOTE 1.—The first month of the year is still called by the Mongols Chaghan or Chaghan Sara, “the White” or the “White Month”; and the wearing of white clothing on this festive occasion must have been purely a Mongol custom. For when Shah Rukh’s ambassadors were present at the New Year’s Feast at the Court of the succeeding Chinese Dynasty (2nd February, 1421) they were warned that no one must wear white, as that among the Chinese was the colour of mourning. (Koeppen, I. 574, II. 309; Cathay, p. ccvii.)

NOTE 2.—On the mystic importance attached to the number 9 on all such occasions among the Mongols, see Hammer’s Golden Horde, p. 208; Hayton, ch. iii. in Ramusio II.; Not. et Ext. XIV. Pt. I. 32; and Strahlenberg (II. 210 of Amsterd. ed. 1757). Vámbéry, speaking of the Kálín or marriage price among the Uzbegs, says: “The question is always how many times nine sheep, cows, camels, or horses, or how many times nine ducats (as is the custom in a town), the father is to receive for giving up his daughter.” (Sketches of Cent. Asia, p. 103.) Sheikh Ibrahim of Darband, making offerings to Timur, presented nines of everything else, but of slaves eight only. “Where is the ninth?” enquired the court official. “Who but I myself?” said the Sheikh, and so won the heart of Timur. (A. Arabsiadis … Timuri Hist. p. 357.)

NOTE 3.—The elephant stud of the Son of Heaven had dwindled till in 1862 Dr. Rennie found but one animal; now none remain. [Dr. S. W. Williams writes (Middle Kingdom, I. pp. 323-324): “Elephants are kept at Peking for show, and are used to draw the state chariot when the Emperor goes to worship at the Altars of Heaven and Earth, but the sixty animals seen in the days of Kienlung, by Bell, have since dwindled to one or two. Van Braam met six going into Peking, sent thither from Yun-Nan.” These were no doubt carrying tribute from Burmah.—H. C.] It is worth noticing that the housings of cut cloth or appliqué work (“draps entaillez“) are still in fashion in India for the caparison of elephants.

NOTE 4.—In 1263 Kúblái adopted the Chinese fashion of worshipping the tablets of his own ancestors, and probably at the same time the adoration of his own tablet by his subjects was introduced. Van Braam ingenuously relates how he and the rest of the Dutch Legation of 1794 performed the adoration of the Emperor’s Tablet on first entering China, much in the way described in the text.

There is a remarkable amplification in the last paragraph of the chapter as given by Ramusio: “When all are in their proper places, a certain great personage, or high prelate as it were, gets up and says with a loud voice: ‘Bow yourselves and adore!’ On this immediately all bend and bow the forehead to the ground. Then the prelate says again: ‘God save and keep our Lord the Emperor, with length of years and with mirth and happiness.’ And all answer: ‘So may it be!’ And then again the prelate says: ‘May God increase and augment his Empire and its prosperity more and more, and keep all his subjects in peace and goodwill, and may all things go well throughout his Dominion!’ And all again respond: ‘So may it be!’ And this adoration is repeated four times.”

One of Pauthier’s most interesting notes is a long extract from the official Directory of Ceremonial under the Mongol Dynasty, which admirably illustrates the chapters we have last read. I borrow a passage regarding this adoration: “The Musician’s Song having ceased, the Ministers shall recite with a loud voice the following Prayer: ‘Great Heaven, that extendest over all! Earth which art under the guidance of Heaven! We invoke You and beseech You to heap blessings upon the Emperor and the Empress! Grant that they may live ten thousand, a hundred thousand years!’

“Then the first Chamberlain shall respond: ‘May it be as the prayer hath said!’ The Ministers shall then prostrate themselves, and when they rise return to their places, and take a cup or two of wine.”

The K’o-tow (Khéu-théu) which appears repeatedly in this ceremonial and which in our text is indicated by the four prostrations, was, Pauthier alleges, not properly a Chinese form, but only introduced by the Mongols. Baber indeed speaks of it as the Kornish, a Moghul ceremony, in which originally “the person who performed it kneeled nine times and touched the earth with his brow each time.” He describes it as performed very elaborately (nine times twice) by his younger uncle in visiting the elder. But in its essentials the ceremony must have been of old date at the Chinese Court; for the Annals of the Thang Dynasty, in a passage cited by M. Pauthier himself,[1] mention that ambassadors from the famous Hárún ar Rashíd in 798 had to perform the “ceremony of kneeling and striking the forehead against the ground.” And M. Pauthier can scarcely be right in saying that the practice was disused by the Ming Dynasty and only reintroduced by the Manchus; for in the story of Shah Rukh’s embassy the performance of the K’o-tow occurs repeatedly.

[“It is interesting to note,” writes Mr. Rockhill (Rubruck, p. 22), “that in A.D. 981 the Chinese Envoy, Wang Yen-tê, sent to the Uigur Prince of Kao-chang, refused to make genuflexions (pai) to him, as being contrary to the established usages as regards envoys. The prince and his family, however, on receiving the envoy, all faced eastward (towards Peking) and made an obeisance (pai) on receiving the imperial presents (shou-tzu).” (Ma Twan-lin, Bk 336, 13.)—H. C.]

(Gaubil, 142; Van Braam, I. 20-21; Baber, 106; N. et E. XIV. Pt. I. 405, 407, 418.)

The enumeration of four prostrations in the text is, I fancy, quite correct. There are several indications that this number was used instead of the three times three of later days. Thus Carpini, when introduced to the Great Kaan, “bent the left knee four times.” And in the Chinese bridal ceremony of “Worshipping the Tablets,” the genuflexion is made four times. At the court of Shah Abbas an obeisance evidently identical was repeated four times. (Carp. 759; Doolittle, p. 60; P. Della Valle, I. 646.)

[1] Gaubil, cited in Pauthier’s Hist. des Relations Politiques de la Chine, etc., p. 226.



Now you must know that the Great Kaan hath set apart 12,000 of his men who are distinguished by the name of Keshican, as I have told you before; and on each of these 12,000 Barons he bestows thirteen changes of raiment, which are all different from one another: I mean that in one set the 12,000 are all of one colour; the next 12,000 of another colour, and so on; so that they are of thirteen different colours. These robes are garnished with gems and pearls and other precious things in a very rich and costly manner.[NOTE 1] And along with each of these changes of raiment, i.e. 13 times in the year, he bestows on each of those 12,000 Barons a fine golden girdle of great richness and value, and likewise a pair of boots of Camut, that is to say of Borgal, curiously wrought with silver thread; insomuch that when they are clothed in these dresses every man of them looks like a king![NOTE 2] And there is an established order as to which dress is to be worn at each of those thirteen feasts. The Emperor himself also has his thirteen suits corresponding to those of his Barons; in colour, I mean (though his are grander, richer, and costlier), so that he is always arrayed in the same colour as his Barons, who are, as it were, his comrades. And you may see that all this costs an amount which it is scarcely possible to calculate.

Now I have told you of the thirteen changes of raiment received from the Prince by those 12,000 Barons, amounting in all to 156,000 suits of so great cost and value, to say nothing of the girdles and the boots which are also worth a great sum of money. All this the Great Lord hath ordered, that he may attach the more of grandeur and dignity to his festivals.

And now I must mention another thing that I had forgotten, but which you will be astonished to learn from this Book. You must know that on the Feast Day a great Lion is led to the Emperor’s presence, and as soon as it sees him it lies down before him with every sign of the greatest veneration, as if it acknowledged him for its lord; and it remains there lying before him, and entirely unchained. Truly this must seem a strange story to those who have not seen the thing![NOTE 3]

NOTE 1.—On the Keshican, see note 1 to chap. xii., and on the changes of raiment note 3 to chap. xiv., and the remarks there as to the number of distributions. I confess that the stress laid upon the number 13 in this chapter makes the supposition of error more difficult. But there is something odd and unintelligible about the whole of the chapter except the last paragraph. For the 12,000 Keshican are here all elevated to Barons; and at the same time the statement about their changes of raiment seems to be merely that already made in chapter xiv. This repetition occurs only in the French MSS., but as it is in all these we cannot reject it.

NOTE 2.—The words Camut and Borgal appear both to be used here for what we call Russia-Leather. The latter word in one form or another, Bolghár, Borgháli, or Bulkál, is the term applied to that material to this day nearly all over Asia. Ibn Batuta says that in travelling during winter from Constantinople to the Wolga he had to put on three pairs of boots, one of wool (which we should call stockings), a second of wadded linen, and a third of Borgháli, “i.e. of horse-leather lined with wolf-skin.” Horse-leather seems to be still the favourite material for boots among all the Tartar nations. The name was undoubtedly taken from Bolghar on the Wolga, the people of which are traditionally said to have invented the art of preparing skins in that manner. This manufacture is still one of the staple trades of Kazan, the city which in position and importance is the nearest representative of Bolghar now.

Camut is explained by Klaproth to be “leather made from the back-skin of a camel.” It appears in Johnson’s Persian Dictionary as Kámú, but I do not know from what language it originally comes. The word is in the Latin column of the Petrarchian Vocabulary with the Persian rendering Sagri. This shows us what is meant, for Saghrí is just our word Shagreen, and is applied to a fine leather granulated in that way, which is much used for boots and the like by the people of Central Asia. [In Turkish saghri or saghri is the name both for the buttocks of a horse and the leather calledshagreen prepared with them. (See Devic, Dict. Étym.)—H. C.] In the commercial lists of our Indian north-west frontier we find as synonymous Saghri or Kímukht, “Horse or Ass-hide.” No doubt this latter word is a form of Kámú or Camut. It appears (as Keimukht, “a sort of leather”) in a detail of imports to Aden given by Ibn al Wardi, a geographer of the 13th century.

Instead of Camut, Ramusio has Camoscia, i.e. Chamois, and the same seems to be in all the editions based on Fra Pipino’s version. It may be a misrendering of camutum or camutium; or is there any real connexion between the Oriental Kámú Kímukht, and the Italian camoscia? (I. B. II. 445;Klapr. Mém. vol. III.; Davies’s Trade Report, App. p. ccxx.; Vámbéry’s Travels, 423; Not. et Ext. II. 43.)

Fraehn (writing in 1832) observes that he knew no use of the word
Bolghár, in the sense of Russian leather, older than the 17th century.
But we see that both Marco and Ibn Batuta use it. (F. on the Wolga
, pp. 8-9.)

Pauthier in a note (p. 285) gives a list of the garments issued to certain officials on these ceremonial occasions under the Mongols, and sure enough this list includes “pairs of boots in red leather.” Odoric particularly mentions the broad golden girdles worn at the Kaan’s court.

[La Curne, Dict., has Bulga, leather bag; old Gallic word from which are derived bouge et bougete, bourse; he adds in a note, “Festus writes: ‘Bulgas galli sacculos scorteos vocant.'”—H. C.]

NOTE 3.—”Then come mummers leading lions, which they cause to salute the Lord with reverence.” (Odoric, p. 143.) A lion sent by Mirza Baisangar, one of the Princes of Timur’s House, accompanied Shah Rukh’s embassy as a present to the Emperor; and like presents were frequently repeated. (See Amyot, XIV. 37, 38.)



The three months of December, January, and February, during which the Emperor resides at his Capital City, are assigned for hunting and fowling, to the extent of some 40 days’ journey round the city; and it is ordained that the larger game taken be sent to the Court. To be more particular: of all the larger beasts of the chase, such as boars, roebucks, bucks, stags, lions, bears, etc., the greater part of what is taken has to be sent, and feathered game likewise. The animals are gutted and despatched to the Court on carts. This is done by all the people within 20 or 30 days’ journey, and the quantity so despatched is immense. Those at a greater distance cannot send the game, but they have to send the skins after tanning them, and these are employed in the making of equipments for the Emperor’s army.[NOTE 1]

NOTE 1.—So Magaillans: “Game is so abundant, especially at the capital, that every year during the three winter months you see at different places, intended for despatch thither, besides great piles of every sort of wildfowl, rows of four-footed game of a gunshot or two in length: the animals being all frozen and standing on their feet. Among other species you see three sundry kinds of bears … and great abundance of other animals, as stags and deer of different sorts, boars, elks, hares, rabbits, squirrels, wild-cats, rats, geese, ducks, very fine jungle-fowl, etc., and all so cheap that I never could have believed it” (pp. 177-178). As this writer mentions wild-cats, we may presume that the “lions” of Polo also were destined to be eaten.

[“Kubilai Khan kept a whole army, 14,000 men, huntsmen, distributed in Peking and other cities in the present province of Chili (Yuen-shi). The Khan used to hunt in the Peking plain from the beginning of spring, until his departure to Shang-tu. There are in the Peking department many low and marshy places, stretching often to a considerable extent and abounding in game. In the biography of Ai-sie (Yuen shi, chap. cxxxiv.), who was a Christian, it is mentioned that Kubilai was hunting also in the department of Pao-ting fu.” (Palladius, p. 45.)—H. C.]



The Emperor hath numbers of leopards[NOTE 1] trained to the chase, and hath also a great many lynxes taught in like manner to catch game, and which afford excellent sport.[NOTE 2] He hath also several great Lions, bigger than those of Babylonia, beasts whose skins are coloured in the most beautiful way, being striped all along the sides with black, red, and white. These are trained to catch boars and wild cattle, bears, wild asses, stags, and other great or fierce beasts. And ’tis a rare sight, I can tell you, to see those lions giving chase to such beasts as I have mentioned! When they are to be so employed the Lions are taken out in a covered cart, and every Lion has a little doggie with him. [They are obliged to approach the game against the wind, otherwise the animals would scent the approach of the Lion and be off.][NOTE 3]

There are also a great number of eagles, all broken to catch wolves, foxes, deer, and wild goats, and they do catch them in great numbers. But those especially that are trained to wolf-catching are very large and powerful birds, and no wolf is able to get away from them.[NOTE 4]

NOTE 1.—The Cheeta or Hunting-Leopard, still kept for the chase by native noblemen in India, is an animal very distinct from the true leopard. It is much more lanky and long-legged than the pure felines, is unable to climb trees, and has claws only partially retractile. Wood calls it a link between the feline and canine races. One thousand Cheetas were attached to Akbar’s hunting establishment; and the chief one, called Semend-Manik, was carried to the field in a palankin with a kettledrum beaten before him. Boldensel in the first half of the 14th century speaks of the Cheeta as habitually used in Cyprus; but, indeed, a hundred years before, these animals had been constantly employed by the Emperor Frederic II. in Italy, and accompanied him on all his marches. They were introduced into France in the latter part of the 15th century, and frequently employed by Lewis XI., Charles VIII., and Lewis XII. The leopards were kept in a ditch of the Castle of Amboise, and the name still borne by a gate hard by, Porte des Lions, is supposed to be due to that circumstance. The Moeurs et Usages du Moyen Age (Lacroix), from which I take the last facts, gives copy of a print by John Stradanus representing a huntsman with the leopard on his horse’s crupper, like Kúblái’s (supra, Bk. I. ch. lxi.); Frederic II. used to say of his Cheetas, “they knew how to ride.” This way of taking the Cheeta to the field had been first employed by the Khalif Yazid, son of Moáwiyah. The Cheeta often appears in the pattern of silk damasks of the 13th and 14th centuries, both Asiatic and Italian. (Ayeen Akbery, I. 304, etc.; Boldensel, in Canisii Thesaurus, by Basnage, vol. IV. p. 339; Kington’s Fred. II. I. 472, II. 156; Bochart, Hierozoica, 797; Rock’s Catalogue, passim.)

[The hunting equipment of the Sultan consisted of about thirty falconers on horseback who carried each a bird on his fist. These falconers were in front of seven horsemen, who had behind a kind of tamed tiger at times employed by His Highness for hare-hunting, notwithstanding what may be said to the contrary by those who are inclined not to believe the fact. It is a thing known by everybody here, and cannot be doubted except by those who admit that they believe nothing of foreign customs. These tigers were each covered with a brocade cloth—and their peaceful attitude, added to their ferocious and savage looks, caused at the same time astonishment and fear in the soul of those whom they looked upon. (Journal d’Antoine Galland, trad. par Ch. Schefer, I. p. 135.) The Cheeta (Gueparda jubata) was, according to Sir W. Jones, first employed in hunting antelopes by Hushing, King of Persia, 865 B.C.—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—The word rendered Lynxes is Leu cervers (G. Text), Louz serviers of Pauthier’s MS. C, though he has adopted from another Loups simply, which is certainly wrong. The Geog. Latin has “Linceos i.e. lupos cerverios.” There is no doubt that the Loup-cervier is the Lynx. Thus Brunetto Latini, describing the Loup-cervier, speaks of its remarkable powers of vision, and refers to its agency in the production of the precious stone called Liguire (i.e. Ligurium), which the ancients fancied to come from Lync-urium; the tale is in Theophrastus). Yet the quaint Bestiary of Philip de Thaun, published by Mr. Wright, identifies it with the Greek Hyena:—

Hyena e Griu num, que nus beste apellum, Ceo est Lucervere, oler fait et mult est fere.”

[The Abbé Armand David writes (Missions Cathol. XXI. 1889, p. 227) that there is in China, from the mountains of Manchuria to the mountains of Tibet, a lynx called by the Chinese T’u-pao (earth-coloured panther); a lynx somewhat similar to the loup-cervier is found on the western border of China, and has been named Lyncus Desgodinsi.—H. C.]

Hunting Lynxes were used at the Court of Akbar. They are also mentioned by A. Hamilton as so used in Sind at the end of the 17th century. This author calls the animal a Shoe-goose! i.e. Siya-gosh (Black-ear), the Persian name of the Lynx. It is still occasionally used in the chase by natives of rank in India. (Brunetto Lat. Tresor, p. 248; Popular Treatises on Science written during Mid. Ages, 94; Ayeen Akbery, u.s.; Hamilt. E. Indies, I. 125; Vigne, I. 42.)

NOTE 3.—The conception of a Tiger seems almost to have dropped out of the European mind during the Middle Ages. Thus in a mediaeval Bestiary, a chapter on the Tiger begins: “Une Beste est qui est apelée Tigre c’est une manière de Serpent.” Hence Polo can only call the Tigers, whose portrait he draws here not incorrectly, Lions. So also nearly 200 years later Barbaro gives a like portrait, and calls the animal Leonza. Marsden supposes judiciously that the confusion may have been promoted by the ambiguity of the Persian Sher.

[Illustration: The Búrgút Eagle. (After Atkinson) “Il a encore aiglies qe sunt afaités à prendre leus et voupes et dain et chavrion, et en prennent assez.”]

The Chinese pilgrim, Sung-Yun (A.D. 518), saw two young lions at the Court of Gandhára. He remarks that the pictures of these animals common in China, were not at all good likenesses. (Beal, p. 200.)

We do not hear in modern times of Tigers trained to the chase, but Chardin says of Persia: “In hunting the larger animals they make use of beasts of prey trained for the purpose, lions, leopards, tigers, panthers, ounces.”

NOTE 4.—This is perfectly correct. In Eastern Turkestan, and among the Kirghiz to this day, eagles termed Búrgút (now well known to be the Golden Eagle) are tamed and trained to fly at wolves, foxes, deer, wild goats, etc. A Kirghiz will give a good horse for an eagle in which he recognises capacity for training. Mr. Atkinson gives vivid descriptions and illustrations of this eagle (which he calls “Bear coote”), attacking both deer and wolves. He represents the bird as striking one claw into the neck, and the other into the back of its large prey, and then tearing out the liver with its beak. In justice both to Marco Polo and to Mr. Atkinson, I have pleasure in adding a vivid account of the exploits of this bird, as witnessed by one of my kind correspondents, the Governor-General’s late envoy to Kashgar. And I trust Sir Douglas Forsyth will pardon my quoting his own letter just as it stands[1]:—”Now for a story of the Burgoot—Atkinson’s ‘Bearcoote.’ I think I told you it was the Golden Eagle and supposed to attack wolves and even bears. One day we came across a wild hog of enormous size, far bigger than any that gave sport to the Tent Club in Bengal. The Burgoot was immediately let loose, and went straight at the hog, which it kicked, and flapped with its wings, and utterly flabbergasted, whilst our Kashgaree companions attacked him with sticks and brought him to the ground. As Friar Odoric would say, I, T. D. F., have seen this with mine own eyes.”—Shaw describes the rough treatment with which the Búrgút is tamed. Baber, when in the Bajaur Hills, notices in his memoirs: “This day Búrgút took a deer.” (Timkowski, I. 414; Levchine, p. 77; Pallas, Voyages, I. 421; J. R. A. S. VII. 305; Atkinson’s Siberia, 493; and Amoor, 146-147; Shaw, p. 157; Baber, p. 249.)

[The Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetus) is called at Peking Hoy tiao (black eagle). (David et Oustalet, Oiseaux de la Chine, p. 8.)—H. C.]

[1] Dated Yangi Hissar, 10th April, 1874.



The Emperor hath two Barons who are own brothers, one called Baian and the other Mingan; and these two are styled Chinuchi (or Cunichi), which is as much as to say, “The Keepers of the Mastiff Dogs.”[NOTE 1] Each of these brothers hath 10,000 men under his orders; each body of 10,000 being dressed alike, the one in red and the other in blue, and whenever they accompany the Lord to the chase, they wear this livery, in order to be recognized. Out of each body of 10,000 there are 2000 men who are each in charge of one or more great mastiffs, so that the whole number of these is very large. And when the Prince goes a-hunting, one of those Barons, with his 10,000 men and something like 5000 dogs, goes towards the right, whilst the other goes towards the left with his party in like manner. They move along, all abreast of one another, so that the whole line extends over a full day’s journey, and no animal can escape them. Truly it is a glorious sight to see the working of the dogs and the huntsmen on such an occasion! And as the Lord rides a-fowling across the plains, you will see these big hounds coming tearing up, one pack after a bear, another pack after a stag, or some other beast, as it may hap, and running the game down now on this side and now on that, so that it is really a most delightful sport and spectacle.

[The Two Brothers I have mentioned are bound by the tenure of their office to supply the Kaan’s Court from October to the end of March with 1000 head of game daily, whether of beasts or birds, and not counting quails; and also with fish to the best of their ability, allowing fish enough for three persons to reckon as equal to one head of game.]

Now I have told you of the Masters of the Hounds and all about them, and next will I tell you how the Lord goes off on an expedition for the space of three months.

NOTE 1.—Though this particular Bayan and Mingan are not likely to be mentioned in history, the names are both good Mongol names; Bayan that of a great soldier under Kúblái, of whom we shall hear afterwards; and Mingan that of one of Chinghiz’s generals.

The title of “Master of the Mastiffs” belonged to a high Court official at Constantinople in former days, Sámsúnji Báshi, and I have no doubt Marco has given the exact interpretation of the title of the two Barons: though it is difficult to trace its elements. It is read variously Cunici (i.e. Kunichi) and Cinuci (i.e. Chinuchi). It is evidently a word of analogous structure to Kushchi, the Master of the Falcons; Parschi, the Master of the Leopards. Professor Schiefner thinks it is probably corrupted from Noghaichi, which appears in Kovalevski’s Mongol Dict. as “chaesseur qui a soins des chiens courants.” This word occurs, he points out, in Sanang Setzen, where Schmidt translates it Aufseher über Hunde. (See S. S. p. 39.)

The metathesis of Noghai-chi into Kuni-chi is the only drawback to this otherwise apt solution. We generally shall find Polo’s Oriental words much more accurately expressed than this would imply—as in the next chapter. I have hazarded a suggestion of (Or. Turkish) Chong-lt-chi, “Keeper of the Big Dogs,” which Professor Vámbéry thinks possible. (See “chong, big, strong,” in his Tschagataische Sprachstudien, p. 282, and note in Lord Strangford’s Selected Writings, II. 169.) In East Turkestan they call the Chinese Chong Káfir, “The Big Heathen.” This would exactly correspond to the rendering of Pipino’s Latin translation, “hoc est canum magnorum Praefecti.” Chinuchi again would be (in Mongol) “Wolf-keepers.” It is at least possible that the great dogs which Polo terms mastiffs may have been known by such a name. We apply the term Wolf- dog to several varieties, and in Macbeth’s enumeration we have—

  ——”Hounds, and greyhounds, mongrels, spaniels, curs,
Shoughs, water rugs, and Demi-Wolves.”

Lastly the root-word may be the Chinese Kiuen “dog,” as Pauthier says. The mastiffs were probably Tibetan, but may have come through China, and brought a name with them, like Boule-dogues in France.

[Palladius (p. 46) says that Chinuchi or Cunici “have no resemblance with any of the names found in the Yuen shi, ch. xcix., article Ping chi (military organisation), and relating to the hunting staff of the Khan, viz.: Si pao ch’i (falconers), Ho r ch’i (archers), and Ke lien ch’i (probably those who managed the hounds).”—H. C.]



After he has stopped at his capital city those three months that I mentioned, to wit, December, January, February, he starts off on the 1st day of March, and travels southward towards the Ocean Sea, a journey of two days.[NOTE 1] He takes with him full 10,000 falconers, and some 500 gerfalcons besides peregrines, sakers, and other hawks in great numbers; and goshawks also to fly at the water-fowl.[NOTE 2] But do not suppose that he keeps all these together by him; they are distributed about, hither and thither, one hundred together, or two hundred at the utmost, as he thinks proper. But they are always fowling as they advance, and the most part of the quarry taken is carried to the Emperor. And let me tell you when he goes thus a-fowling with his gerfalcons and other hawks, he is attended by full 10,000 men who are disposed in couples; and these are calledToscaol, which is as much as to say, “Watchers.” And the name describes their business.[NOTE 3] They are posted from spot to spot, always in couples, and thus they cover a great deal of ground! Every man of them is provided with a whistle and hood, so as to be able to call in a hawk and hold it in hand. And when the Emperor makes a cast, there is no need that he follow it up, for those men I speak of keep so good a look out that they never lose sight of the birds, and if these have need of help they are ready to render it.

All the Emperor’s hawks, and those of the Barons as well, have a little label attached to the leg to mark them, on which is written the names of the owner and the keeper of the bird. And in this way the hawk, when caught, is at once identified and handed over to its owner. But if not, the bird is carried to a certain Baron, who is styled the Bularguchi, which is as much as to say “The Keeper of Lost Property.” And I tell you that whatever may be found without a known owner, whether it be a horse, or a sword, or a hawk, or what not, it is carried to that Baron straightway, and he takes charge of it. And if the finder neglects to carry his trover to the Baron, the latter punishes him. Likewise the loser of any article goes to the Baron, and if the thing be in his hands it is immediately given up to the owner. Moreover, the said Baron always pitches on the highest spot of the camp, with his banner displayed, in order that those who have lost or found anything may have no difficulty in finding their way to him. Thus nothing can be lost but it shall be incontinently found and restored.[NOTE 4]

And so the Emperor follows this road that I have mentioned, leading along in the vicinity of the Ocean Sea (which is within two days’ journey of his capital city, Cambaluc), and as he goes there is many a fine sight to be seen, and plenty of the very best entertainment in hawking; in fact, there is no sport in the world to equal it!

The Emperor himself is carried upon four elephants in a fine chamber made of timber, lined inside with plates of beaten gold, and outside with lions’ skins [for he always travels in this way on his fowling expeditions, because he is troubled with gout]. He always keeps beside him a dozen of his choicest gerfalcons, and is attended by several of his Barons, who ride on horseback alongside. And sometimes, as they may be going along, and the Emperor from his chamber is holding discourse with the Barons, one of the latter shall exclaim: “Sire! Look out for Cranes!” Then the Emperor instantly has the top of his chamber thrown open, and having marked the cranes he casts one of his gerfalcons, whichever he pleases; and often the quarry is struck within his view, so that he has the most exquisite sport and diversion, there as he sits in his chamber or lies on his bed; and all the Barons with him get the enjoyment of it likewise! So it is not without reason I tell you that I do not believe there ever existed in the world or ever will exist, a man with such sport and enjoyment as he has, or with such rare opportunities.[NOTE 5]

And when he has travelled till he reaches a place called CACHAR MODUN,[NOTE 6] there he finds his tents pitched, with the tents of his Sons, and his Barons, and those of his Ladies and theirs, so that there shall be full 10,000 tents in all, and all fine and rich ones. And I will tell you how his own quarters are disposed. The tent in which he holds his courts is large enough to give cover easily to a thousand souls. It is pitched with its door to the south, and the Barons and Knights remain in waiting in it, whilst the Lord abides in another close to it on the west side. When he wishes to speak with any one he causes the person to be summoned to that other tent. Immediately behind the great tent there is a fine large chamber where the Lord sleeps; and there are also many other tents and chambers, but they are not in contact with the Great Tent as these are. The two audience-tents and the sleeping-chamber are constructed in this way. Each of the audience-tents has three poles, which are of spice-wood, and are most artfully covered with lions’ skins, striped with black and white and red, so that they do not suffer from any weather. All three apartments are also covered outside with similar skins of striped lions, a substance that lasts for ever.[NOTE 7] And inside they are all lined with ermine and sable, these two being the finest and most costly furs in existence. For a robe of sable, large enough to line a mantle, is worth 2000 bezants of gold, or 1000 at least, and this kind of skin is called by the Tartars “The King of Furs.” The beast itself is about the size of a marten.[NOTE 8] These two furs of which I speak are applied and inlaid so exquisitely, that it is really something worth seeing. All the tent-ropes are of silk. And in short I may say that those tents, to wit the two audience-halls and the sleeping-chamber, are so costly that it is not every king could pay for them.

Round about these tents are others, also fine ones and beautifully pitched, in which are the Emperor’s ladies, and the ladies of the other princes and officers. And then there are the tents for the hawks and their keepers, so that altogether the number of tents there on the plain is something wonderful. To see the many people that are thronging to and fro on every side and every day there, you would take the camp for a good big city. For you must reckon the Leeches, and the Astrologers, and the Falconers, and all the other attendants on so great a company; and add that everybody there has his whole family with him, for such is their custom.

The Lord remains encamped there until the spring, and all that time he does nothing but go hawking round about among the canebrakes along the lakes and rivers that abound in that region, and across fine plains on which are plenty of cranes and swans, and all sorts of other fowl. The other gentry of the camp also are never done with hunting and hawking, and every day they bring home great store of venison and feathered game of all sorts. Indeed, without having witnessed it, you would never believe what quantities of game are taken, and what marvellous sport and diversion they all have whilst they are in camp there.

There is another thing I should mention; to wit, that for 20 days’ journey round the spot nobody is allowed, be he who he may, to keep hawks or hounds, though anywhere else whosoever list may keep them. And furthermore throughout all the Emperor’s territories, nobody however audacious dares to hunt any of these four animals, to wit, hare, stag, buck, and roe, from the month of March to the month of October. Anybody who should do so would rue it bitterly. But those people are so obedient to their Lord’s command, that even if a man were to find one of those animals asleep by the roadside he would not touch it for the world! And thus the game multiplies at such a rate that the whole country swarms with it, and the Emperor gets as much as he could desire. Beyond the term I have mentioned, however, to wit that from March to October, everybody may take these animals as he list.[NOTE 9]

After the Emperor has tarried in that place, enjoying his sport as I have related, from March to the middle of May, he moves with all his people, and returns straight to his capital city of Cambaluc (which is also the capital of Cathay, as you have been told), but all the while continuing to take his diversion in hunting and hawking as he goes along.

NOTE 1.—”Vait vers midi jusques à la Mer Occeane, ou il y a deux journées.” It is not possible in any way to reconcile this description as it stands with truth, though I do not see much room for doubt as to the direction of the excursion. Peking is 100 miles as the crow flies from the nearest point of the coast, at least six or seven days’ march for such a camp, and the direction is south-east, or nearly so. The last circumstance would not be very material as Polo’s compass-bearings are not very accurate. We shall find that he makes the general line of bearing from Peking towards Kiangnan, Sciloc or S. East, hence his Midi ought in consistency to represent S. West, an impossible direction for the Ocean. It is remarkable that Ramusio has Greco or N. East, which would by the same relative correction represent East. And other circumstances point to the frontier of Liao-tong as the direction of this excursion. Leaving the two days out of question, therefore, I should suppose the “Ocean Sea” to be struck at Shan-hai-kwan near the terminus of the Great Wall, and that the site of the standing hunting-camp is in the country to the north of that point. The Jesuit Verbiest accompanied the Emperor Kanghi on a tour in this direction in 1682, and almost immediately after passing the Wall the Emperor and his party seem to have struck off to the left for sport. Kúblái started on the “1st of March,” probably however the 1st of the second Chinese month. Kanghi started from Peking on the 23rd of March, on the hunting-journey just referred to.

NOTE 2.—We are told that Bajazet had 7000 falconers and 6000 dog-keepers; whilst Sultan Mahomed Tughlak of India in the generation following Polo’s, is said to have had 10,000 falconers, and 3000 other attendants as beaters. (Not. et Ext. XIII. p. 185.)

The Oriental practice seems to have assigned one man to the attendance on every hawk. This Kaempfer says was the case at the Court of Persia at the beginning of last century. There were about 800 hawks, and each had a special keeper. The same was the case with the Emperor Kanghi’s hawking establishment, according to Gerbillon. (Am. Exot. p. 83; Gerb. 1st Journey, in Duhalde.)

NOTE 3.—The French MSS. read Toscaor; the reading in the text I take from Ramusio. It is Turki, Toskáúl, [Arabic], defined as “Gardien, surveillant de la route; Wächter, Wache, Wegehüter.” (See Zenker, and Pavet de Courteille.) The word is perhaps also Mongol, for Rémusat has Tosiyal = “Veille.” (Mél. As. I. 231.) Such an example of Polo’s correctness both in the form and meaning of a Turki word is worthy of especial note, and shows how little he merits the wild and random treatment which has been often applied to the solution of like phrases in his book.

[Palladius (p. 47) says that he has heard from men well acquainted with the customs of the Mongols, that at the present day in “battues,” the leaders of the two flanks which surround the game, are called toscaul in Mongol.—H. C.]

NOTE 4.—The remark in the previous note might be repeated here. The Bularguji was an officer of the Mongol camp, whose duties are thus described by Mahomed Hindú Shah in a work on the offices of the Perso- Mongol Court. “He is an officer appointed by the Council of State, who, at the time when the camp is struck, goes over the ground with his servants, and collects slaves of either sex, or cattle, such as horses, camels, oxen, and asses, that have been left behind, and retains them until the owners appear and prove their claim to the property, when he makes it over to them. TheBularguji sticks up a flag by his tent or hut to enable people to find him, and so recover their lost property.” (Golden Horde, p. 245.) And in the Appendix to that work (p. 476) there is a copy of a warrant to such a Bularguji or Provost Marshal. The derivation appears therein as from Bularghu, “Lost property.” Here again it was impossible to give both form and meaning of the word more exactly than Polo has done. Though Hammer writes these terminations in ji (dschi), I believe chi (tschi) is preferable. We have this same word Bularghu in a grant of privileges to the Venetians by the Ilkhan Abusaid, 22nd December, 1320, which has been published by M. Mas Latrie: “Item, se algun cavalo bolargo fosse trovado apreso de algun vostro veneciano,” etc.—”If any stray horse shall be found in the possession of a Venetian,” etc. (See Bibl. de l’Ecole des Chartes, 1870—tirage à part, p. 26.)

[“There are two Mongol terms, which resemble this word Bularguchi, viz. Balagachi and Buluguchi. But the first was the name used for the door-keeper of the tent of the Khan. By Buluguchi the Mongols understood a hunter and especially sable hunters. No one of these terms can be made consistent with the accounts given by M. Polo regarding the Bularguchi. In the Kui sin tsa shi, written by Chow Mi, in the former part of the 14th century, interesting particulars regarding Mongol hunting are found.” (Palladius, 47.) In chapter 101. Djan-ch’i, of the Yuen-shi, Falconers are called Ying fang pu lie, and a certain class of the Falconers are termed Bo-lan-ghi. (Bretschneider, Med. Res. I. p. 188.)—H. C.]

NOTE 5.—A like description is given by Odoric of the mode in which a successor of Kúblái travelled between Cambaluc and Shangtu, with his falcons also in the chamber beside him. What Kúblái had adopted as an indulgence to his years and gout, his successors probably followed as a precedent without these excuses.

[With regard to the gout of Kúblái Khan, Palladius (p. 48) writes: “In the Corean history allusion is made twice to the Khan’s suffering from this disease. Under the year 1267, it is there recorded that in the 9th month, envoys of the Khan with a letter to the King arrived in Corea. Kubilai asked for the skin of the Akirho munho, a fish resembling a cow. The envoy was informed that, as the Khan suffered from swollen feet it would be useful for him to wear boots made of the skin of this animal, and in the 10th month, the king of Corea forwarded to the Khan seventeen skins of it. It is further recorded in the Corean history, that in the 8th month of 1292, sorcerers and Shaman women from Corea were sent at the request of the Khan to cure him of a disease of the feet and hands. At that time the king of Corea was also in Peking, and the sorcerers and Shaman women were admitted during an audience the King had of the Khan. They took the Khan’s hands and feet and began to recite exorcisms, whilst Kubilai was laughing.”—H. C.]

NOTE 6.—Marsden and Pauthier identify Cachar Modun with Tchakiri Mondou, or Moudon, which appears in D’Anville’s atlas as the title of a “Levée de terre naturelle,” in the extreme east of Manchuria, and in lat. 44°, between the Khinga Lake and the sea. This position is out of the question. It is more than 900 miles, in a straight line from Peking, and the mere journey thither and back would have taken Kúblái’s camp something like six months. The name Kachar Modun is probably Mongol, and as Katzar is = “land, region,” and Modun = “wood” or “tree,” a fair interpretation lies on the surface. Such a name indeed has little individuality. But the Jesuit maps have a Modun Khotan (“Wood-ville”) just about the locality supposed, viz. in the region north of the eastern extremity of the Great Wall.

[Captain Gill writes (River of Golden Sand, I. p. 111): “This country around Urh-Chuang is admirably described [in Marco Polo, pp. 403, 406], and I should almost imagine that the Kaan must have set off south-east from Peking, and enjoyed some of his hawking not far from here, before he travelled to Cachar Modun, wherever that may have been.”

“With respect to Cachar Modun, Marco Polo intends perhaps by this name Ho-si wu, which place, together with Yang-ts’un, were comprised in the general name Ma t’ou (perhaps the Modun of M. Polo). Ma-t’ou is even now a general term for a jetty in Chinese. Ho-si in the Mongol spelling was Ha-shin. D’Ohsson, in his translation of Rashid-eddin renders Ho-si by Co-shi (Hist. des Mongols, I. p. 95), but Rashid in that case speaks not of Ho-si wu, but of the Tangut Empire, which in Chinese was called Ho-si, meaning west of the (Yellow) River. (See supra, p. 205). Ho-si wu, as well as Yang-ts’un, both exist even now as villages on the Pei-ho River, and near the first ancient walls can be seen. Ho-si wu means: ‘Custom’s barrier west of the (Pei-ho) river.'” (Palladius, p. 45.) This identification cannot be accepted on account of the position of Ho-si wu. —H. C.]

NOTE 7.—I suppose the best accessible illustration of the Kaan’s great tent may be that in which the Emperor Kienlung received Lord Macartney in the same region in 1793, of which one view is given in Staunton’s plates. Another exists in the Staunton Collection in the B. M., of which I give a reduced sketch.

Kúblái’s great tent, after all, was but a fraction of the size of Akbar’s audience-tents, the largest of which held 10,000 people, and took 1000 farráshes a week’s work to pitch it, with machines. But perhaps the manner of holding people is differently estimated. (Aín Akb. 53.)

In the description of the tent-poles, Pauthier’s text has “trois coulombes de fust de pieces moult bien encuierées,” etc. The G. T. has “de leing d’especies mout bien curés,” etc. The Crusca, “di spezie molto belle,” and Ramusio going off at a tangent, “di legno intagliate con grandissimo artificio e indorate.” I believe the translation in the text to indicate the true reading. It might mean camphor-wood, or the like. The tent-covering of tiger-skins is illustrated by a passage in Sanang Setzen, which speaks of a tent covered with panther-skins, sent to Chinghiz by the Khan of the Solongos (p. 77).

[Illustration: The Tents of the Emperor Kienlung.]

[Grenard (pp. 160-162) gives us his experience of Tents in Central Asia (Khotan). “These Tents which we had purchased at Tashkent were the ‘tentes-abris’ which are used in campaign by Russian military workshops, only we made them larger by a third. They were made of grey Kirghiz felt, which cannot be procured at Khotan. The felt manufactured in this town not having enough consistency or solidity, we took Aksu felt, which is better than this of Khotan, though inferior to the felt of Russian Turkestan. These felt tents are extremely heavy, and, once damp, are dried with difficulty. These drawbacks are not compensated by any important advantage; it would be an illusion to believe that they preserve from the cold any better than other tents. In fact, I prefer the Manchu tent in use in the Chinese army, which is, perhaps, of all military tents the most practical and comfortable. It is made of a single piece of double cloth of cotton, very strong, waterproof for a long time, white inside, blue outside, and weighs with its three tipped sticks and its wooden poles, 25 kilog. Set up, it forms a ridge roof 7 feet high and shelters fully ten men. It suits servants perfectly well. For the master who wants to work, to write, to draw, occasionally to receive officials, the ideal tent would be one of the same material, but of larger proportions, and comprising two parallel vertical partitions and surmounted by a ridge roof. The round form of Kirghiz and Mongol tents is also very comfortable, but it requires a complicated and inconvenient wooden frame-work, owing to which it takes some considerable time to raise up the tent.”—H. C.]

NOTE 8.—The expressions about the sable run in the G. T., “et l’apellent les Tartarz les roi des pelaines,” etc. This has been curiously misunderstood both in versions based on Pipino, and in the Geog. Latin and Crusca Italian. The Geog. Latin gives us “vocant eas Tartari Lenoidae Pellonae”; the Crusca, “chiamanle li Tartari Leroide Pelame”; Ramusio in a very odd way combines both the genuine and the blundered interpretation: “E li Tartari la chiamano Regina delle Pelli; e gli animali si chiamano Rondes.” Fraehn ingeniously suggested that this Rondes (which proves to be merely a misunderstanding of the French words Roi des) was a mistake for Kunduz, usually meaning a “beaver,” but also a “sable.” (See Ibn Foszlan, p. 57.) Condux, no doubt with this meaning, appears coupled with vair, in a Venetian Treaty with Egypt (1344), quoted by Heyd. (II. 208.)

Ibn Batuta puts the ermine above the sable. An ermine pelisse, he says, was worth in India 1000 dinárs of that country, whilst a sable one was worth only 400 dinárs. As Ibn Batuta’s Indian dinárs are Rupees, the estimate of price is greatly lower than Polo’s. Some years ago I find the price of aSack, as it is technically called by the Russian traders, or robe of fine sables, stated to be in the Siberian market about 7000 banco rubels, i.e. I believe about 350_l._ The same authority mentions that in 1591 the Tzar Theodore Ivanovich made a present of a pelisse valued at the equivalent of 5000 silver rubels of modern Russian money, or upwards of 750_l._ Atkinson speaks of a single sable skin of the highest quality, for which the trapper demanded 18_l._ The great mart for fine sables is at Olekma on the Lena. (See I. B. II. 401-402; Baer’s Beiträge, VII. 215 seqq.; Upper and Lower Amoor, 390.)

NOTE 9.—Hawking is still common in North China. Pétis de la Croix the elder, in his account of the Yasa, or institutes of Chinghiz, quotes one which lays down that between March and October “no one should take stags, deer, roebucks, hares, wild asses, nor some certain birds,” in order that there might be ample sport in winter for the court. This would be just the reverse of Polo’s statement, but I suspect it is merely a careless adoption of the latter. There are many such traps in Pétis de la Croix. (Engl. Vers. 1722, p. 82.)



On arriving at his capital of Cambaluc,[NOTE 1] he stays in his palace there three days and no more; during which time he has great court entertainments and rejoicings, and makes merry with his wives. He then quits his palace at Cambaluc, and proceeds to that city which he has built, as I told you before, and which is called Chandu, where he has that grand park and palace of cane, and where he keeps his gerfalcons in mew. There he spends the summer, to escape the heat, for the situation is a very cool one. After stopping there from the beginning of May to the 28th of August, he takes his departure (that is the time when they sprinkle the white mares’ milk as I told you), and returns to his capital Cambaluc. There he stops, as I have told you also, the month of September, to keep his Birthday Feast, and also throughout October, November, December, January, and February, in which last month he keeps the grand feast of the New Year, which they call the White Feast, as you have heard already with all particulars. He then sets out on his march towards the Ocean Sea, hunting and hawking, and continues out from the beginning of March to the middle of May; and then comes back for three days only to the capital, during which he makes merry with his wives, and holds a great court and grand entertainments. In truth, ’tis something astonishing, the magnificence displayed by the Emperor in those three days; and then he starts off again as you know.

Thus his whole year is distributed in the following manner: six months at his chief palace in the royal city of Cambaluc, to wit, September, October, November, December, January, February;

Then on the great hunting expedition towards the sea, March, April, May;

Then back to his palace at Cambaluc for three days;

Then off to the city of Chandu which he has built, and where the Cane
Palace is, where he stays June, July, August;

Then back again to his capital city of Cambaluc.

So thus the whole year is spent; six months at the capital, three months in hunting, and three months at the Cane Palace to avoid the heat. And in this way he passes his time with the greatest enjoyment; not to mention occasional journeys in this or that direction at his own pleasure.

NOTE 1.—This chapter, with its wearisome and whimsical reiteration, reminding one of a game of forfeits, is peculiar to that class of MSS. which claims to represent the copy given to Thibault de Cepoy by Marco Polo.

Dr. Bushell has kindly sent me a notice of a Chinese document (his translation of which he had unfortunately mislaid), containing a minute contemporary account of the annual migration of the Mongol Court to Shangtu. Having traversed the Kiu Yung Kwan (or Nankau) Pass, where stands the great Mongol archway represented at the end of this volume, they left what is now the Kalgan post-road at Tumuyi, making straight for Chaghan-nor (supra, p. 304), and thence to Shangtu. The return journey in autumn followed the same route as far as Chaghan-nor, where some days were spent in fowling on the lakes, and thence by Siuen-hwa fu (“Sindachu,” supra, p. 295) and the present post-road to Cambaluc.



You must know that the city of Cambaluc hath such a multitude of houses, and such a vast population inside the walls and outside, that it seems quite past all possibility. There is a suburb outside each of the gates, which are twelve in number;[NOTE 1] and these suburbs are so great that they contain more people than the city itself [for the suburb of one gate spreads in width till it meets the suburb of the next, whilst they extend in length some three or four miles]. In those suburbs lodge the foreign merchants and travellers, of whom there are always great numbers who have come to bring presents to the Emperor, or to sell articles at Court, or because the city affords so good a mart to attract traders. [There are in each of the suburbs, to a distance of a mile from the city, numerous fine hostelries[NOTE 2] for the lodgment of merchants from different parts of the world, and a special hostelry is assigned to each description of people, as if we should say there is one for the Lombards, another for the Germans, and a third for the Frenchmen.] And thus there are as many good houses outside of the city as inside, without counting those that belong to the great lords and barons, which are very numerous.

[Illustration: Plain of Cambaluc; the City in the distance; from the Hills on the north-west]

You must know that it is forbidden to bury any dead body inside the city. If the body be that of an Idolater it is carried out beyond the city and suburbs to a remote place assigned for the purpose, to be burnt. And if it be of one belonging to a religion the custom of which is to bury, such as the Christian, the Saracen, or what not, it is also carried out beyond the suburbs to a distant place assigned for the purpose. And thus the city is preserved in a better and more healthy state.

Moreover, no public woman resides inside the city, but all such abide outside in the suburbs. And ’tis wonderful what a vast number of these there are for the foreigners; it is a certain fact that there are more than 20,000 of them living by prostitution. And that so many can live in this way will show you how vast is the population.

[Guards patrol the city every night in parties of 30 or 40, looking out for any persons who may be abroad at unseasonable hours, i.e. after the great bell hath stricken thrice. If they find any such person he is immediately taken to prison, and examined next morning by the proper officers. If these find him guilty of any misdemeanour they order him a proportionate beating with the stick. Under this punishment people sometimes die; but they adopt it in order to eschew bloodshed; for their Bacsis say that it is an evil thing to shed man’s blood].

To this city also are brought articles of greater cost and rarity, and in greater abundance of all kinds, than to any other city in the world. For people of every description, and from every region, bring things (including all the costly wares of India, as well as the fine and precious goods of Cathay itself with its provinces), some for the sovereign, some for the court, some for the city which is so great, some for the crowds of Barons and Knights, some for the great hosts of the Emperor which are quartered round about; and thus between court and city the quantity brought in is endless.

As a sample, I tell you, no day in the year passes that there do not enter the city 1000 cart-loads of silk alone, from which are made quantities of cloth of silk and gold, and of other goods. And this is not to be wondered at; for in all the countries round about there is no flax, so that everything has to be made of silk. It is true, indeed, that in some parts of the country there is cotton and hemp, but not sufficient for their wants. This, however, is not of much consequence, because silk is so abundant and cheap, and is a more valuable substance than either flax or cotton.

Round about this great city of Cambaluc there are some 200 other cities at various distances, from which traders come to sell their goods and buy others for their lords; and all find means to make their sales and purchases, so that the traffic of the city is passing great.

NOTE 1.—It would seem to have been usual to reckon twelve suburbs to
Peking down to modern times. (See Deguignes, III. 38.)

NOTE 2.—The word here used is Fondaco, often employed in mediaeval Italian in the sense nearly of what we call a factory. The word is from the Greek [Greek: pandokeion], but through the Arabic Fandúk. The latter word is used by Ibn Batuta in speaking of the hostelries at which the Mussulman merchants put up in China.



You will hear further on how that there are twelve persons appointed who have authority to dispose of lands, offices, and everything else at their discretion. Now one of these was a certain Saracen named ACHMATH, a shrewd and able man, who had more power and influence with the Grand Kaan than any of the others; and the Kaan held him in such regard that he could do what he pleased. The fact was, as came out after his death, that Achmath had so wrought upon the Kaan with his sorcery, that the latter had the greatest faith and reliance on everything he said, and in this way did everything that Achmath wished him to do.

This person disposed of all governments and offices, and passed sentence on all malefactors; and whenever he desired to have any one whom he hated put to death, whether with justice or without it, he would go to the Emperor and say: “Such an one deserves death, for he hath done this or that against your imperial dignity.” Then the Lord would say: “Do as you think right,” and so he would have the man forthwith executed. Thus when people saw how unbounded were his powers, and how unbounded the reliance placed by the Emperor on everything that he said, they did not venture to oppose him in anything. No one was so high in rank or power as to be free from the dread of him. If any one was accused by him to the Emperor of a capital offence, and desired to defend himself, he was unable to bring proofs in his own exculpation, for no one would stand by him, as no one dared to oppose Achmath. And thus the latter caused many to perish unjustly.[NOTE 2]

Moreover, there was no beautiful woman whom he might desire, but he got hold of her; if she were unmarried, forcing her to be his wife, if otherwise, compelling her to consent to his desires. Whenever he knew of any one who had a pretty daughter, certain ruffians of his would go to the father, and say: “What say you? Here is this pretty daughter of yours; give her in marriage to the Bailo Achmath (for they called him ‘the Bailo,’ or, as we should say, ‘the Vicegerent’),[NOTE 3] and we will arrange for his giving you such a government or such an office for three years.” And so the man would surrender his daughter. And Achmath would go to the Emperor, and say: “Such a government is vacant, or will be vacant on such a day. So-and-So is a proper man for the post.” And the Emperor would reply: “Do as you think best;” and the father of the girl was immediately appointed to the government. Thus either through the ambition of the parents, or through fear of the Minister, all the beautiful women were at his beck, either as wives or mistresses. Also he had some five-and-twenty sons who held offices of importance, and some of these, under the protection of their father’s name, committed scandals like his own, and many other abominable iniquities. This Achmath also had amassed great treasure, for everybody who wanted office sent him a heavy bribe.

In such authority did this man continue for two-and-twenty years. At last the people of the country, to wit the Cathayans, utterly wearied with the endless outrages and abominable iniquities which he perpetrated against them, whether as regarded their wives or their own persons, conspired to slay him and revolt against the government. Amongst the rest there was a certain Cathayan named Chenchu, a commander of a thousand, whose mother, daughter, and wife had all been dishonoured by Achmath. Now this man, full of bitter resentment, entered into parley regarding the destruction of the Minister with another Cathayan whose name was Vanchu, who was a commander of 10,000. They came to the conclusion that the time to do the business would be during the Great Kaan’s absence from Cambaluc. For after stopping there three months he used to go to Chandu and stop there three months; and at the same time his son Chinkin used to go away to his usual haunts, and this Achmath remained in charge of the city; sending to obtain the Kaan’s orders from Chandu when any emergency arose.

So Vanchu and Chenchu, having come to this conclusion, proceeded to communicate it to the chief people among the Cathayans, and then by common consent sent word to their friends in many other cities that they had determined on such a day, at the signal given by a beacon, to massacre all the men with beards, and that the other cities should stand ready to do the like on seeing the signal fires. The reason why they spoke of massacring the bearded men was that the Cathayans naturally have no beard, whilst beards are worn by the Tartars, Saracens, and Christians. And you should know that all the Cathayans detested the Grand Kaan’s rule because he set over them governors who were Tartars, or still more frequently Saracens, and these they could not endure, for they were treated by them just like slaves. You see the Great Kaan had not succeeded to the dominion of Cathay by hereditary right, but held it by conquest; and thus having no confidence in the natives, he put all authority into the hands of Tartars, Saracens, or Christians who were attached to his household and devoted to his service, and were foreigners in Cathay.

Wherefore, on the day appointed, the aforesaid Vanchu and Chenchu having entered the palace at night, Vanchu sat down and caused a number of lights to be kindled before him. He then sent a messenger to Achmath the Bailo, who lived in the Old City, as if to summon him to the presence of Chinkin, the Great Kaan’s son, who (it was pretended) had arrived unexpectedly. When Achmath heard this he was much surprised, but made haste to go, for he feared the Prince greatly. When he arrived at the gate he met a Tartar called Cogatai, who was Captain of the 12,000 that formed the standing garrison of the City; and the latter asked him whither he was bound so late? “To Chinkin, who is just arrived.” Quoth Cogatai, “How can that be? How could he come so privily that I know nought of it?” So he followed the Minister with a certain number of his soldiers. Now the notion of the Cathayans was that, if they could make an end of Achmath, they would have nought else to be afraid of. So as soon as Achmath got inside the palace, and saw all that illumination, he bowed down before Vanchu, supposing him to be Chinkin, and Chenchu who was standing ready with a sword straightway cut his head off. As soon as Cogatai, who had halted at the entrance, beheld this, he shouted “Treason!” and instantly discharged an arrow at Vanchu and shot him dead as he sat. At the same time he called his people to seize Chenchu, and sent a proclamation through the city that any one found in the streets would be instantly put to death. The Cathayans saw that the Tartars had discovered the plot, and that they had no longer any leader, since Vanchu was killed and Chenchu was taken. So they kept still in their houses, and were unable to pass the signal for the rising of the other cities as had been settled. Cogatai immediately dispatched messengers to the Great Kaan giving an orderly report of the whole affair, and the Kaan sent back orders for him to make a careful investigation, and to punish the guilty as their misdeeds deserved. In the morning Cogatai examined all the Cathayans, and put to death a number whom he found to be ringleaders in the plot. The same thing was done in the other cities, when it was found that the plot extended to them also.

After the Great Kaan had returned to Cambaluc he was very anxious to discover what had led to this affair, and he then learned all about the endless iniquities of that accursed Achmath and his sons. It was proved that he and seven of his sons (for they were not all bad) had forced no end of women to be their wives, besides those whom they had ravished. The Great Kaan then ordered all the treasure that Achmath had accumulated in the Old City to be transferred to his own treasury in the New City, and it was found to be of enormous amount. He also ordered the body of Achmath to be dug up and cast into the streets for the dogs to tear; and commanded those of his sons that had followed the father’s evil example to be flayed alive.[NOTE 4]

These circumstances called the Kaan’s attention to the accursed doctrines of the Sect of the Saracens, which excuse every crime, yea even murder itself, when committed on such as are not of their religion. And seeing that this doctrine had led the accursed Achmath and his sons to act as they did without any sense of guilt, the Kaan was led to entertain the greatest disgust and abomination for it. So he summoned the Saracens and prohibited their doing many things which their religion enjoined. Thus, he ordered them to regulate their marriages by the Tartar Law, and prohibited their cutting the throats of animals killed for food, ordering them to rip the stomach in the Tartar way.

Now when all this happened Messer Marco was upon the spot.][NOTE 5]

NOTE 1.—This narrative is from Ramusio’s version, and constitutes one of the most notable passages peculiar to that version.

The name of the oppressive Minister is printed in Ramusio’s Collection Achmach. But the c and t are so constantly interchanged in MSS. that I think there can be no question this was a mere clerical error for Achmath, and so I write it. I have also for consistency changed the spelling of Xandu,Chingis, etc., to that hitherto adopted in our text of Chandu, Chinkin, etc.

NOTE 2.—The remarks of a Chinese historian on Kúblái’s administration may be appropriately quoted here: “Hupilai Han must certainly be regarded as one of the greatest princes that ever existed, and as one of the most successful in all that he undertook. This he owed to his judgment in the selection of his officers, and to his talent for commanding them. He carried his arms into the most remote countries, and rendered his name so formidable that not a few nations spontaneously submitted to his supremacy. Nor was there ever an Empire of such vast extent. He cultivated literature, protected its professors, and even thankfully received their advice. Yet he never placed a Chinese in his cabinet, and he employed foreigners only as Ministers. These, however, he chose with discernment, always excepting the Ministers of Finance. He really loved his subjects; and if they were not always happy under his government, it is because they took care to conceal their sufferings. There were in those days no Public Censors whose duty it is to warn the Sovereign of what is going on: and no one dared to speak out for fear of the resentment of the Ministers, who were the depositaries of the Imperial authority, and the authors of the oppressions under which the people laboured. Several Chinese, men of letters and of great ability, who lived at Hupilai’s court, might have rendered that prince the greatest service in the administration of his dominions, but they never were intrusted with any but subordinate offices, and they were not in a position to make known the malversations of those public blood-suckers.” (De Mailla, IX. 459-460.)

AHMAD was a native of Fenáket (afterwards Sháh-Rúkhia), near the Jaxartes, and obtained employment under Kúblái through the Empress Jamui Khatun, who had known him before her marriage. To her Court he was originally attached, but we find him already employed in high financial office in 1264. Kúblái’s demands for money must have been very large, and he eschewed looking too closely into the character of his financial agents or the means by which they raised money for him. Ahmad was very successful in this, and being a man of great talent and address, obtained immense influence over the Emperor, until at last nothing was done save by his direction, though he always appeared to be acting under the orders of Kúblái. The Chinese authorities in Gaubil and De Mailla speak strongly of his oppressions, but only in general terms, and without affording such particulars as we derive from the text.

The Hereditary Prince Chingkim was strongly adverse to Ahmad; and some of the high Chinese officials on various occasions made remonstrance against the Minister’s proceedings; but Kúblái turned a deaf ear to them, and Ahmad succeeded in ruining most of his opponents. (Gaubil, 141, 143, 151; De Mailla, IX. 316-317; D’Ohsson, II. 468-469.)

[The Rev. W. S. Ament (Marco Polo in Cambaluc, 105) writes: “No name is more execrated than that of Ah-ha-ma (called Achmath by Polo), a Persian, who was chosen to manage the finances of the Empire. He was finally destroyed by a combination against him while the Khan was absent with Crown Prince Chen Chin, on a visit to Shang Tu.” Achmath has his biography under the name of A-ho-ma (Ahmed) in the ch. 205 of the Yuen-shi, under the rubric “Villanous Ministers.” (Bretschneider, Med. Res. I. p. 272.)—H. C.]

NOTE 3.—This term Bailo was the designation of the representative of Venetian dignity at Constantinople, called Podestà during the period of the Latin rule there, and it has endured throughout the Turkish Empire to our own day in the form Balios as the designation of a Frank Consul. [There was also a Venetian bailo in Syria.—H. C.] But that term itself could scarcely have been in use at Cambaluc, even among the handful of Franks, to designate the powerful Minister, and it looks as if Marco had confounded the word in his own mind with some Oriental term of like sound, possibly the Arabic Wáli, “a Prince, Governor of a Province,… a chief Magistrate.” (F. Johnson.) In the Roteiro of the Voyage of Vasco da Gama (2nd ed. Lisbon, 1861, pp. 53-54) it is said that on the arrival of the ships at Calicut the King sent “a man who was called the Bale, which is much the same as Alquaide.” And the Editor gives the same explanation that I have suggested.

I observe that according to Pandit Manphúl the native governor of Kashgar, under the Chinese Amban, used to be called the Baili Beg. [In this case Baili stands for beilêh.—H. C.] (Panjab Trade Report, App. p. cccxxxvii.)

NOTE 4.—The story, as related in De Mailla and Gaubil, is as follows. It contains much less detail than the text, and it differs as to the manner of the chief conspirator’s death, whilst agreeing as to his name and the main facts of the episode.

In the spring of 1282 (Gaubil, 1281) Kúblái and Prince Chingkim had gone off as usual to Shangtu, leaving Ahmad in charge at the Capital. The whole country was at heart in revolt against his oppressions. Kúblái alone knew, or would know, nothing of them.

WANGCHU, a chief officer of the city, resolved to take the opportunity of delivering the Empire from such a curse, and was joined in his enterprise by a certain sorcerer called Kao Hoshang. They sent two Lamas to the Council Board with a message that the Crown Prince was returning to the Capital to take part in certain Buddhist ceremonies, but no credit was given to this. Wangchu then, pretending to have received orders from the Prince, desired an officer called CHANG-Y (perhaps the Chenchu of Polo’s narrative) to go in the evening with a guard of honour to receive him. Late at night a message was sent to summon the Ministers, as the Prince (it was pretended) had already arrived. They came in haste with Ahmad at their head, and as he entered the Palace Wangchu struck him heavily with a copper mace and stretched him dead. Wangchu was arrested, or according to one account surrendered, though he might easily have escaped, confident that the Crown Prince would save his life. Intelligence was sent off to Kúblái, who received it at Chaghan-Nor. (See Book I. ch. lx.) He immediately despatched officers to arrest the guilty and bring them to justice. Wangchu, Chang-y, and Kao Hoshang were publicly executed at the Old City; Wangchu dying like a hero, and maintaining that he had done the Empire an important service which would yet be acknowledged. (De Mailla, IX. 412-413; Gaubil, 193-194; D’Ohsson, II. 470.) [Cf. G. Phillips, inT’oung-Pao, I. p. 220.—H. C.]

NOTE 5.—And it is a pleasant fact that Messer Marco’s presence, and his upright conduct upon this occasion, have not been forgotten in the Chinese Annals: “The Emperor having returned from Chaghan-Nor to Shangtu, desired POLO, Assessor of the Privy Council, to explain the reasons which had led Wangchu to commit this murder. Polo spoke with boldness of the crimes and oppressions of Ahama (Ahmad), which had rendered him an object of detestation throughout the Empire. The Emperor’s eyes were opened, and he praised the courage of Wangchu. He complained that those who surrounded him, in abstaining from admonishing him of what was going on, had thought more of their fear of displeasing the Minister than of the interests of the State.” By Kúblái’s order, the body of Ahmad was taken up, his head was cut off and publicly exposed, and his body cast to the dogs. His son also was put to death with all his family, and his immense wealth confiscated. 714 persons were punished, one way or other, for their share in Ahmad’s malversations. (De Mailla, IX. 413-414.)

What is said near the end of this chapter about the Kaan’s resentment against the Saracens has some confirmation in circumstances related by Rashiduddin. The refusal of some Mussulman merchants, on a certain occasion at Court, to eat of the dishes sent them by the Emperor, gave great offence, and led to the revival of an order of Chinghiz, which prohibited, under pain of death, the slaughter of animals by cutting their throats. This endured for seven years, and was then removed on the strong representation made to Kúblái of the loss caused by the cessation of the visits of the Mahomedan merchants. On a previous occasion also the Mahomedans had incurred disfavour, owing to the ill-will of certain Christians, who quoted to Kúblái a text of the Koran enjoining the killing of polytheists. The Emperor sent for the Mullahs, and asked them why they did not act on the Divine injunction? All they could say was that the time was not yet come! Kúblái ordered them for execution, and was only appeased by the intercession of Ahmad, and the introduction of a divine with more tact, who smoothed over obnoxious applications of the text. (D’Ohsson, II. 492-493.)



Now that I have told you in detail of the splendour of this City of the Emperor’s, I shall proceed to tell you of the Mint which he hath in the same city, in the which he hath his money coined and struck, as I shall relate to you. And in doing so I shall make manifest to you how it is that the Great Lord may well be able to accomplish even much more than I have told you, or am going to tell you, in this Book. For, tell it how I might, you never would be satisfied that I was keeping within truth and reason!

The Emperor’s Mint then is in this same City of Cambaluc, and the way it is wrought is such that you might say he hath the Secret of Alchemy in perfection, and you would be right! For he makes his money after this fashion.

He makes them take of the bark of a certain tree, in fact of the Mulberry Tree, the leaves of which are the food of the silkworms,—these trees being so numerous that whole districts are full of them. What they take is a certain fine white bast or skin which lies between the wood of the tree and the thick outer bark, and this they make into something resembling sheets of paper, but black. When these sheets have been prepared they are cut up into pieces of different sizes. The smallest of these sizes is worth a half tornesel; the next, a little larger, one tornesel; one, a little larger still, is worth half a silver groat of Venice; another a whole groat; others yet two groats, five groats, and ten groats. There is also a kind worth one Bezant of gold, and others of three Bezants, and so up to ten. All these pieces of paper are [issued with as much solemnity and authority as if they were of pure gold or silver; and on every piece a variety of officials, whose duty it is, have to write their names, and to put their seals. And when all is prepared duly, the chief officer deputed by the Kaan smears the Seal entrusted to him with vermilion, and impresses it on the paper, so that the form of the Seal remains printed upon it in red; the Money is then authentic. Any one forging it would be punished with death.] And the Kaan causes every year to be made such a vast quantity of this money, which costs him nothing, that it must equal in amount all the treasure in the world.

With these pieces of paper, made as I have described, he causes all payments on his own account to be made; and he makes them to pass current universally over all his kingdoms and provinces and territories, and whithersoever his power and sovereignty extends. And nobody, however important he may think himself, dares to refuse them on pain of death. And indeed everybody takes them readily, for wheresoever a person may go throughout the Great Kaan’s dominions he shall find these pieces of paper current, and shall be able to transact all sales and purchases of goods by means of them just as well as if they were coins of pure gold. And all the while they are so light that ten bezants’ worth does not weigh one golden bezant.

Furthermore all merchants arriving from India or other countries, and bringing with them gold or silver or gems and pearls, are prohibited from selling to any one but the Emperor. He has twelve experts chosen for this business, men of shrewdness and experience in such affairs; these appraise the articles, and the Emperor then pays a liberal price for them in those pieces of paper. The merchants accept his price readily, for in the first place they would not get so good an one from anybody else, and secondly they are paid without any delay. And with this paper-money they can buy what they like anywhere over the Empire, whilst it is also vastly lighter to carry about on their journeys. And it is a truth that the merchants will several times in the year bring wares to the amount of 400,000 bezants, and the Grand Sire pays for all in that paper. So he buys such a quantity of those precious things every year that his treasure is endless, whilst all the time the money he pays away costs him nothing at all. Moreover, several times in the year proclamation is made through the city that any one who may have gold or silver or gems or pearls, by taking them to the Mint shall get a handsome price for them. And the owners are glad to do this, because they would find no other purchaser give so large a price. Thus the quantity they bring in is marvellous, though these who do not choose to do so may let it alone. Still, in this way, nearly all the valuables in the country come into the Kaan’s possession.

When any of those pieces of paper are spoilt—not that they are so very flimsy neither—the owner carries them to the Mint, and by paying three per cent, on the value he gets new pieces in exchange. And if any Baron, or any one else soever, hath need of gold or silver or gems or pearls, in order to make plate, or girdles, or the like, he goes to the Mint and buys as much as he list, paying in this paper-money.[NOTE 1]

Now you have heard the ways and means whereby the Great Kaan may have, and in fact has, more treasure than all the Kings in the World; and you know all about it and the reason why. And now I will tell you of the great Dignitaries which act in this city on behalf of the Emperor.

NOTE 1.—It is surprising to find that, nearly two centuries ago, Magaillans, a missionary who had lived many years in China, and was presumably a Chinese scholar, should have utterly denied the truth of Polo’s statements about the paper-currency of China. Yet the fact even then did not rest on Polo’s statement only. The same thing had been alleged in the printed works of Rubruquis, Roger Bacon, Hayton, Friar Odoric, the Archbishop of Soltania, and Josaphat Barbaro, to say nothing of other European authorities that remained in manuscript, or of the numerous Oriental records of the same circumstance.

The issue of paper-money in China is at least as old as the beginning of the 9th century. In 1160 the system had gone to such excess that government paper equivalent in nominal value to 43,600,000 ounces of silver had been issued in six years, and there were local notes besides; so that the Empire was flooded with rapidly depreciating paper.

The Kin or “Golden” Dynasty of Northern Invaders who immediately preceded the Mongols took to paper, in spite of their title, as kindly as the native sovereigns. Their notes had a course of seven years, after which new notes were issued to the holders, with a deduction of 15 per cent.

The Mongols commenced their issues of paper-money in 1236, long before they had transferred the seat of their government to China. Kúblái made such an issue in the first year of his reign (1260), and continued to issue notes copiously till the end. In 1287 he put out a complete new currency, one note of which was to exchange against five of the previous series of equal nominal value! In both issues the paper-money was, in official valuation, only equivalent to half its nominal value in silver; a circumstance not very easy to understand. The paper-money was called Chao.

The notes of Kúblái’s first issue (1260-1287) with which Polo maybe supposed most familiar, were divided into three classes; (1) Notes of Tens, viz. of 10, 20, 30, and 50 tsien or cash; (2) Notes of Hundreds, viz. of 100, 200, and 500 tsien; and (3) Notes of Strings or Thousands of cash, or in other words of Liangs or ounces of silver (otherwise Tael), viz. of 1000 and 2000 tsien. There were also notes printed on silk for 1, 2, 3, 5, and 10 ounces each, valued at par in silver, but these would not circulate. In 1275, it should be mentioned, there had been a supplementary issue of small notes for 2, 3, and 5 cash each.

Marsden states an equation between Marco’s values of the Notes and the actual Chinese currency, to which Biot seems to assent. I doubt its correctness, for his assumed values of the groat or grosso and tornesel are surely wrong. The grosso ran at that time 18 to the gold ducat or sequin, and allowing for the then higher relative value of silver, should have contained about 5_d._ of silver. The ducat was also equivalent to 2 lire, and the tornese (Romanin, III. 343) was 4 deniers. Now the denier is always, I believe 1/240 of the lira. Hence the tornese would be 9/60 of the grosso.

But we are not to look for exact correspondences, when we see Polo applying round figures in European coinage to Chinese currency.

[Illustration: Bank-Note of the Ming Dynasty]

His bezant notes, I agree with Marsden, here represent the Chinese notes for one and more ounces of silver. And here the correspondence of value is much nearer than it seems at first sight. The Chinese liang or ounce of silver is valued commonly at 6_s._ 7_d._, say roundly 80_d._[1] But the relation of gold and silver in civilized Asia was then (see ch. I. note 4, and also Cathay, pp. ccl. and 442) as 10 to 1, not, as with us now, more than 15 to 1. Wherefore the liang in relation to gold would be worth 120_d._ or 10_s._, a little over the Venetian ducat and somewhat less than the bezant or dínár. We shall then find the table of Chinese issues, as compared with Marco’s equivalents, to stand thus:—


For 10 ounces of silver (viz. }
the Chinese Ting)[2] } 10 bezants.

For 1 ounce of silver, i.e. 1 liang, }
or 1000 tsien (cash) } 1 “

For 500 tsien . . . . . . 10 groats.
200 ” . . . . . . . 5 ” (should have been 4).
100 ” . . . . . . . 2 ”
50 ” . . . . . . . 1 ”
30 ” . . . . . . . 1/2 ” (but the
equivalent of half a groat
would be 25 tsien).
20 ” . . . . . . .
10 ” . . . . . . . 1 tornesel (but the
proportionate equivalent
would be 7-1/2 tsien).
5 ” . . . . . . . 1/2 ” (but prop. equivalent
3-3/4 tsien).

Pauthier has given from the Chinese Annals of the Mongol Dynasty a complete Table of the Issues of Paper-Money during every year of Kúblái’s reign (1260-1294), estimated at their nominal value in Ting or tens of silver ounces. The lowest issue was in 1269, of 228,960 ounces, which at the rate of 120_d._ to the ounce (see above) = 114,480_l._, and the highest was in 1290, viz. 50,002,500 ounces, equivalent at the same estimate to 25,001,250_l._! whilst the total amount in the 34 years was 249,654,290 ounces or 124,827,144_l._ in nominal value. Well might Marco speak of the vast quantity of such notes that the Great Kaan issued annually!

To complete the history of the Chinese paper-currency so far as we can:

In 1309, a new issue took place with the same provision as in Kúblái’s issue of 1287, i.e. each note of the new issue was to exchange against 5 of the old of the same nominal value. And it was at the same time prescribed that the notes should exchange at par with metals, which of course it was beyond the power of Government to enforce, and so the notes were abandoned. Issues continued from time to time to the end of the Mongol Dynasty. The paper-currency is spoken of by Odoric (1320-30), by Pegolotti (1330-40), and by Ibn Batuta (1348), as still the chief, if not sole, currency of the Empire. According to the Chinese authorities, the credit of these issues was constantly diminishing, as it is easy to suppose. But it is odd that all the Western Travellers speak as if the notes were as good as gold. Pegolotti, writing for mercantile men, and from the information (as we may suppose) of mercantile men, says explicitly that there was no depreciation.

The Ming Dynasty for a time carried on the system of paper-money; with the difference that while under the Mongols no other currency had been admitted, their successors made payments in notes, but accepted only hard cash from their people![3] In 1448 the chao of 1000 cash was worth but 3. Barbaro still heard talk of the Chinese paper-currency from travellers whom he met at Azov about this time; but after 1455 there is said to be no more mention of it in Chinese history.

I have never heard of the preservation of any note of the Mongols; but some of the Ming survive, and are highly valued as curiosities in China. The late Sir G. T. Staunton appears to have possessed one; Dr. Lockhart formerly had two, of which he gave one to Sir Harry Parkes, and retains the other. The paper is so dark as to explain Marco’s description of it as black. By Dr. Lockhart’s kindness I am enabled to give a reduced representation of this note, as near a facsimile as we have been able to render it, but with some restoration, e.g. of the seals, of which on the original there is the barest indication remaining.

[Mr. Vissering (Chinese Currency, Addenda, I.-III.) gives a facsimile and a description of a Chinese banknote of the Ming Dynasty belonging to the collection of the Asiatic Museum of the Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburg. “In the eighth year of the period Hung-wu (1375), the Emperor Tai-tsu issued an order to his minister of finances to make the Pao-tsao (precious bills) of the Ta-Ming Dynasty, and to employ as raw material for the composition of those bills the fibres of the mulberry tree.”—H. C.]

Notwithstanding the disuse of Government issues of paper-money from that time till recent years, there had long been in some of the cities of China a large use of private and local promissory notes as currency. In Fuchau this was especially the case; bullion was almost entirely displaced, and the banking-houses in that city were counted by hundreds. These were under no government control; any individual or company having sufficient capital or credit could establish a bank and issue their bills, which varied in amount from 100 cash to 1000 dollars. Some fifteen years ago the Imperial Government seems to have been induced by the exhausted state of the Treasury, and these large examples of the local use of paper-currency, to consider projects for resuming that system after the disuse of four centuries. A curious report by a Committee of the Imperial Supreme Council, on a project for such a currency, appears among the papers published by the Russian Mission at Peking. It is unfavourable to the particular project, but we gather from other sources that the Government not long afterwards did open banks in the large cities of the Empire for the issue of a new paper-currency, but that it met with bad success. At Fuchau, in 1858, I learn from one notice, the dollar was worth from 18,000 to 20,000 cash in Government Bills. Dr. Rennie, in 1861, speaks of the dollar at Peking as valued at 15,000, and later at 25,000 paper cash. Sushun, the Regent, had issued a vast number of notes through banks of his own in various parts of Peking. These he failed to redeem, causing the failure of all the banks, and great consequent commotion in the city. The Regent had led the Emperor [Hien Fung] systematically into debauched habits which ended in paralysis. On the Emperor’s death the Empress caused the arrest and execution of Sushun. His conduct in connection with the bank failures was so bitterly resented that when the poor wretch was led to execution (8th November, 1861), as I learn from an eye-witness, the defrauded creditors lined the streets and cheered.[4]

The Japanese also had a paper-currency in the 14th century. It is different in form from that of China. That figured by Siebold is a strip of strong paper doubled, 6-1/4 in. long by 1-3/4 in. wide, bearing a representation of the tutelary god of riches, with long inscriptions in Chinese characters, seals in black and red, and an indication of value in ancient Japanese characters. I do not learn whether notes of considerable amount are still used in Japan; but Sir R. Alcock speaks of banknotes for small change from 30 to 500 cash and more, as in general use in the interior.

Two notable and disastrous attempts to imitate the Chinese system of currency took place in the Middle Ages; one of them in Persia, apparently in Polo’s very presence, the other in India some 36 years later.

The first was initiated in 1294 by the worthless Kaikhatu Khan, when his own and his ministers’ extravagance had emptied the Treasury, on the suggestion of a financial officer called ‘Izzuddín Muzaffar. The notes were direct copies of Kúblái’s, even the Chinese characters being imitated as part of the device upon them.[5] The Chinese name Chao was applied to them, and the Mongol Resident at Tabriz, Pulad Chingsang, was consulted in carrying out the measure. Expensive preparations were made for this object; offices called Cháo-Khánahs were erected in the principal cities of the provinces, and a numerous staff appointed to carry out the details. Ghazan Khan in Khorasan, however, would have none of it, and refused to allow any of these preparations to be made within his government. After the constrained use of the Chao for two or three days Tabriz was in an uproar; the markets were closed; the people rose and murdered ‘Izzuddín; and the whole project had to be abandoned. Marco was in Persia at this time, or just before, and Sir John Malcolm not unnaturally suggests that he might have had something to do with the scheme; a suggestion which excites a needless commotion in the breast of M. Pauthier. We may draw from the story the somewhat notable conclusion that Block-printing was practised, at least for this one purpose, at Tabriz in 1294.

The other like enterprise was that of Sultan Mahomed Tughlak of Delhi, in 1330-31. This also was undertaken for like reasons, and was in professed imitation of the Chao of Cathay. Mahomed, however, used copper tokens instead of paper; the copper being made apparently of equal weight to the gold or silver coin which it represented. The system seems to have had a little more vogue than at Tabriz, but was speedily brought to an end by the ease with which forgeries on an enormous scale were practised. The Sultan, in hopes of reviving the credit of his currency, ordered that every one bringing copper tokens to the Treasury should have them cashed in gold or silver. “The people who in despair had flung aside their copper coins like stones and bricks in their houses, all rushed to the Treasury and exchanged them for gold and silver. In this way the Treasury soon became empty, but the copper coins had as little circulation as ever, and a very grievous blow was given to the State.”

An odd issue of currency, not of paper, but of leather, took place in Italy a few years before Polo’s birth. The Emperor Frederic II., at the siege of Faenza in 1241, being in great straits for money, issued pieces of leather stamped with the mark of his mint at the value of his Golden Augustals. This leather coinage was very popular, especially at Florence, and it was afterwards honourably redeemed by Frederic’s Treasury. Popular tradition in Sicily reproaches William the Bad among his other sins with having issued money of leather, but any stone is good enough to cast at a dog with such a surname.

[Ma Twan-lin mentions that in the fourth year of the period Yuen Show (B.C. 119), a currency of white metal and deer-skin was made. Mr. Vissering (Chinese Currency, 38) observes that the skin-tallies “were purely tokens, and have had nothing in common with the leather-money, which was, during a long time, current in Russia. This Russian skin-money had a truly representative character, as the parcels were used instead of the skins from which they were cut; the skins themselves being too bulky and heavy to be constantly carried backward and forward, only a little piece was cut off, to figure as a token of possession of the whole skin. The ownership of the skin was proved when the piece fitted in the hole.”

Mr. Rockhill (Rubruck, 201 note) says: “As early as B.C. 118, we find the Chinese using ‘leather-money’ (p’i pi). These were pieces of white deer-skin, a foot square, with a coloured border. Each had a value of 40,000 cash. (Ma Twan-lin, Bk. 8, 5.)”

Mr. Charles F. Keary (Coins and Medals, by S. Lane Poole, 128) mentions that “in the reign of Elizabeth there was a very extensive issue of private tokens in lead, tin, latten, and leather.”—H. C.]

(Klapr. in Mém. Rel. à l’Asie, I. 375 seqq.; Biot, in J. As. sér. III. tom. iv.; Marsden and Pauthier, in loco; Parkes, in J. R. A. S. XIII. 179; Doolittle, 452 seqq.; Wylie, J. of Shanghai Lit. and Scient. Soc. No. I.; Arbeiten der kais. russ. Gesandsch. zu Peking, I. p. 48; Rennie, Peking, etc., I. 296, 347; Birch, in. Num. Chron. XII. 169; Information from Dr. Lockhart; Alcock, II. 86; D’Ohsson, IV. 53; Cowell, in J. A. S. B. XXIX. 183 seqq.; Thomas, Coins of Patan Sovs. of Hind., (from Numism. Chron. 1852), p. 139 seqq.; Kington’s Fred. II. II. 195; Amari, III. 816; W. Vissering, On Chinese Currency, Leiden, 1877.)

[“Without doubt the Mongols borrowed the bank-note system from the Kin. Up to the present time there is in Si-ngan-fu a block kept, which was used for printing the bank-notes of the Kin Dynasty. I have had the opportunity of seeing a print of those bank-notes, they were of the same size and shape as the bank-notes of the Ming. A reproduction of the text of the Kin bank-notes is found in the Kin shi ts’ui pien. This copy has the characters pao kilan (precious charter) and the years of reign Chêng Yew, 1213-1216. The first essay of the Mongols to introduce bank-notes dates from the time of Ogodai Khan (1229-1242), but Chinese history only mentions the fact without giving details. At that time silk in skeins was the only article of a determinate value in the trade and on the project of Ye lü ch’u ts’ai, minister of Ogodai, the taxes were also collected in silk delivered by weight. It can therefore be assumed that the name sze ch’ao (i.e. bank-notes referring to the weight of silk) dates back to the same time. At any rate, at a later time, as, under the reign of Kubilai, the issuing of banknotes was decreed, silk was taken as the standard to express the value of silver and 1000 liang silk was estimated = 50 liang (or 1 ting) silver. Thus, in consequence of those measures, it gradually became a rule to transfer the taxes and rents originally paid in silk, into silver. The wealth of the Mongol Khans in precious metals was renowned. The accounts regarding their revenues, however, which we meet with occasionally in Chinese history, do not surprise by their vastness. In the year 1298, for instance, the amount of the revenue is stated in the Siu t’ung Kien to have been:—

19,000 liang of gold = (190,000 liang of silver, according to the exchange of that time at the rate of 1 to 10).

60,000 liang of silver.

3,600,000 ting of silver in bank-notes (i.e. 180 millions liang); altogether 180,250,000 liang of silver.

The number seems indeed very high for that time. But if the exceedingly low exchange of the bank-notes be taken into consideration, the sum will be reduced to a modest amount.” (Palladius, pp. 50-51.)—H. C.]

[Dr. Bretschneider (Hist. Bot. Disc., I. p. 4) makes the following remark:—”Polo states (I. 409) that the Great Kaan causeth the bark of great Mulberry-trees, made into something like paper, to pass for money.” He seems to be mistaken. Paper in China is not made from mulberry-trees but from the Broussonetia papyrifera, which latter tree belongs to the same order of Moraceae. The same fibres are used also in some parts of China for making cloth, and Marco Polo alludes probably to the same tree when stating (II. 108) “that in the province of Cuiju (Kwei chau) they manufacture stuff of the bark of certain trees, which form very fine summer clothing.”—H. C.]

[1] Even now there are at least eight different taels (or liangs) in extensive use over the Empire, and varying as much as from 96 to 106; and besides these are many local taels, with about the same limits of variation.—(Williamson’s Journeys, I. 60.)

[2] [The Archimandrite Palladius (l.c., p. 50, note) says that “the ting of the Mongol time, as well as during the reign of the Kin, was a unit of weight equivalent to fifty liang, but not to ten liang. Cf. Ch’u keng lu, and Yuen-shi, ch. xcv. The Yuen pao, which as everybody in China knows, is equivalent to fifty liang (taels) of silver, is the same as the ancient ting, and the character Yuen indicates that it dates from the Yuen Dynasty.”—H. C.]

[3] This is also, as regards Customs payments, the system of the
Government of modern Italy.

[4] The first edition of this work gave a facsimile of one of this unlucky
minister’s notes.

[5] On both sides, however, was the Mahomedan formula, and beneath that the words Yiranjín Túrjí, a title conferred on the kings of Persia by the Kaan. There was also an inscription to the following effect: that the Emperor in the year 693 (A.H.) had issued these auspicious chao, that all who forged or uttered false notes should be summarily punished, with their wives and children, and their property confiscated; and that when these auspicious notes were once in circulation, poverty would vanish, provisions become cheap, and rich and poor be equal (Cowell). The use of the termchao at Tabriz may be compared with that of Banklot, current in modern India.



You must know that the Great Kaan hath chosen twelve great Barons to whom he hath committed all the necessary affairs of thirty-four great provinces; and now I will tell you particulars about them and their establishments.

You must know that these twelve Barons reside all together in a very rich and handsome palace, which is inside the city of Cambaluc, and consists of a variety of edifices, with many suites of apartments. To every province is assigned a judge and several clerks, and all reside in this palace, where each has his separate quarters. These judges and clerks administer all the affairs of the provinces to which they are attached, under the direction of the twelve Barons. Howbeit, when an affair is of very great importance, the twelve Barons lay in before the Emperor, and he decides as he thinks best. But the power of those twelve Barons is so great that they choose the governors for all those thirty-four great provinces that I have mentioned, and only after they have chosen do they inform the Emperor of their choice. This he confirms, and grants to the person nominated a tablet of gold such as is appropriate to the rank of his government.

Those twelve Barons also have such authority that they can dispose of the movements of the forces, and send them whither, and in such strength, as they please. This is done indeed with the Emperor’s cognizance, but still the orders are issued on their authority. They are styled SHIENG, which is as much as to say “The Supreme Court,” and the palace where they abide is also called Shieng. This body forms the highest authority at the Court of the Great Kaan; and indeed they can favour and advance whom they will. I will not now name the thirty-four provinces to you, because they will be spoken of in detail in the course of this Book.[NOTE 1]

NOTE 1.—Pauthier’s extracts from the Chinese Annals of the Dynasty, in illustration of this subject, are interesting. These, as he represents them, show the Council of Ministers usually to have consisted of twelve high officials, viz.: two Ch’ing-siang [Chinese] or (chief) ministers of state, one styled, “of the Right,” and the other “of the Left”; four called P’ing-chang ching-ssé, which seems to mean something like ministers in charge of special departments; four assistant ministers; two Counsellors.

Rashiduddin, however, limits the Council to the first two classes: “Strictly speaking, the Council of State is composed of four Ch’ing-sang (Ch’ing-siang) or great officers (Wazírs he afterwards terms them), and four Fanchán (P’ing-chang) or associated members, taken from the nations of the Tajiks, Cathayans, Ighurs, and Arkaun” (i.e. Nestorian Christians). (Compare p. 418, supra.)

[A Samarkand man, Seyyd Tadj Eddin Hassan ben el Khallal, quoted in the Masálak al Absár, says: “Near the Khan are two amírs who are his ministers; they are called Djing San [Arabic] (Ch’ing-siang). After them come the two Bidjan [Arabic] (P’ing Chang), then the two Zoudjin [Arabic] (Tso Chen), then the two Yudjin [Arabic] (Yu Chen), and at last the Landjun [Arabic] (Lang Chang), head of the scribes, and secretary of the sovereign. The Khan holds a sitting every day in the middle of a large building called Chen [Arabic] (Sheng), which is very like our Palace of Justice.” (C. Schefer, Cent. Ec. Langues Or., pp. 18-19.)—H. C.]

In a later age we find the twelve Barons reappearing in the pages of Mendoza: “The King hath in this city of Tabin (Peking), where he is resident, a royal council of twelve counsellors and a president, chosen men throughout all the kingdom, and such as have had experience in government many years.” And also in the early centuries of the Christian era we hear that the Khan of the Turks had his twelve grandees, divided into those of the Right and those of the Left, probably a copy from a Chinese order then also existing.

But to return to Rashiduddin: “As the Kaan generally resides at the capital, he has erected a place for the sittings of the Great Council, called Sing…. The dignitaries mentioned above are expected to attend daily at the Sing, and to make themselves acquainted with all that passes there.”

The Sing of Rashid is evidently the Shieng or Sheng (Scieng) of Polo. M. Pauthier is on this point somewhat contemptuous towards Neumann, who, he says, confounds Marco Polo’s twelve Barons or Ministers of State with the chiefs of the twelve great provincial governments called Sing, who had their residence at the chief cities of those governments; whilst in fact Polo’s Scieng (he asserts) has nothing to do with the Sing, but represents the Chinese word Siang “a minister,” and “the office of a minister.” [There was no doubt a confusion between Siang [Chinese] and Sheng [Chinese].—H. C.]

It is very probable that two different words, Siang and Sing, got confounded by the non-Chinese attachés of the Imperial Court; but it seems to me quite certain that they applied the same word, Sing or Sheng, to both institutions, viz. to the High Council of State, and to the provincial governments. It also looks as if Marco Polo himself had made that very confusion with which Pauthier charges Neumann. For whilst here he represents the twelve Barons as forming a Council of State at the capital, we find further on, when speaking of the city of Yangchau, he says: “Et si siet en ceste cité uns des xii Barons du Grant Kaan; car elle est esleue pour un des xii sieges,” where the last word is probably a mistranscription of Sciengs, or Sings, and in any case the reference is to a distribution of the empire into twelve governments.

To be convinced that Sing was used by foreigners in the double sense that I have said, we have only to proceed with Rashiduddin’s account of the administration. After what we have already quoted, he goes on: “The Sing of Khanbaligh is the most eminent, and the building is very large….Sings do not exist in all the cities, but only in the capitals of great provinces…. In the whole empire of the Kaan there are twelve of these Sings; but that of Khanbaligh is the only one which has Ching-sangs amongst its members.” Wassáf again, after describing the greatness of Khanzai (Kinsay of Polo) says: “These circumstances characterize the capital itself, but four hundred cities of note, and embracing ample territories, are dependent on its jurisdiction, insomuch that the most inconsiderable of those cities surpasses Baghdad and Shiraz. In the number of these cities are Lankinfu and Zaitun, and Chinkalán; for they call Khanzai a Shing, i.e. a great city in which the high and mighty Council of Administration holds its meetings.” Friar Odoric again says: “This empire hath been divided by the Lord thereof into twelve parts, each one thereof is termed a Singo.”

Polo, it seems evident to me, knew nothing of Chinese. His Shieng is no direct attempt to represent any Chinese word, but simply the term that he had been used to employ in talking Persian or Turki, in the way that Rashiduddin and Wassáf employ it.

I find no light as to the thirty-four provinces into which Polo represents the empire as divided, unless it be an enumeration of the provinces and districts which he describes in the second and third parts of Bk. II., of which it is not difficult to reckon thirty-three or thirty-four, but not worth while to repeat the calculation.

[China was then divided into twelve Sheng or provinces: Cheng-Tung, Liao-Yang, Chung-Shu, Shen-Si, Ling-Pe (Karakorum), Kan-Suh, Sze-ch’wan, Ho-Nan Kiang-Pe, Kiang-Ché, Kiang-Si, Hu-Kwang and Yun-Nan. Rashiduddin (J. As., XI. 1883, p. 447) says that of the twelve Sing, Khanbaligh was the only one with Chin-siang. We read in Morrison’s Dict. (Pt. II. vol. i. p. 70): “Chin-seang, a Minister of State, was so called under the Ming Dynasty.” According to Mr. E. H. Parker (China Review, xxiv. p. 101), Ching Siang were abolished in 1395. I imagine that the thirty-four provinces refer to the Fu cities, which numbered however thirty-nine, according to Oxenham’s Historical Atlas.—H. C.]

(Cathay, 263 seqq. and 137; Mendoza, I. 96; Erdmann, 142; Hammer’s Wassáf, p. 42, but corrected.)



Now you must know that from this city of Cambaluc proceed many roads and highways leading to a variety of provinces, one to one province, another to another; and each road receives the name of the province to which it leads; and it is a very sensible plan.[NOTE 1] And the messengers of the Emperor in travelling from Cambaluc, be the road whichsoever they will, find at every twenty-five miles of the journey a station which they call Yamb,[NOTE 2] or, as we should say, the “Horse-Post-House.” And at each of those stations used by the messengers, there is a large and handsome building for them to put up at, in which they find all the rooms furnished with fine beds and all other necessary articles in rich silk, and where they are provided with everything they can want. If even a king were to arrive at one of these, he would find himself well lodged.

At some of these stations, moreover, there shall be posted some four hundred horses standing ready for the use of the messengers; at others there shall be two hundred, according to the requirements, and to what the Emperor has established in each case. At every twenty-five miles, as I said, or anyhow at every thirty miles, you find one of these stations, on all the principal highways leading to the different provincial governments; and the same is the case throughout all the chief provinces subject to the Great Kaan.[NOTE 3] Even when the messengers have to pass through a roadless tract where neither house nor hostel exists, still there the station-houses have been established just the same, excepting that the intervals are somewhat greater, and the day’s journey is fixed at thirty-five to forty-five miles, instead of twenty-five to thirty. But they are provided with horses and all the other necessaries just like those we have described, so that the Emperor’s messengers, come they from what region they may, find everything ready for them.

And in sooth this is a thing done on the greatest scale of magnificence that ever was seen. Never had emperor, king, or lord, such wealth as this manifests! For it is a fact that on all these posts taken together there are more than 300,000 horses kept up, specially for the use of the messengers. And the great buildings that I have mentioned are more than 10,000 in number, all richly furnished, as I told you. The thing is on a scale so wonderful and costly that it is hard to bring oneself to describe it.[NOTE 4]

But now I will tell you another thing that I had forgotten, but which ought to be told whilst I am on this subject. You must know that by the Great Kaan’s orders there has been established between those post-houses, at every interval of three miles, a little fort with some forty houses round about it, in which dwell the people who act as the Emperor’s foot-runners. Every one of those runners wears a great wide belt, set all over with bells, so that as they run the three miles from post to post their bells are heard jingling a long way off. And thus on reaching the post the runner finds another man similarly equipt, and all ready to take his place, who instantly takes over whatsoever he has in charge, and with it receives a slip of paper from the clerk, who is always at hand for the purpose; and so the new man sets off and runs his three miles. At the next station he finds his relief ready in like manner; and so the post proceeds, with a change at every three miles. And in this way the Emperor, who has an immense number of these runners, receives despatches with news from places ten days’ journey off in one day and night; or, if need be, news from a hundred days off in ten days and nights; and that is no small matter! (In fact in the fruit season many a time fruit shall be gathered one morning in Cambaluc, and the evening of the next day it shall reach the Great Kaan at Chandu, a distance of ten days’ journey.[NOTE 5] The clerk at each of the posts notes the time of each courier’s arrival and departure; and there are often other officers whose business it is to make monthly visitations of all the posts, and to punish those runners who have been slack in their work.[NOTE 6]) The Emperor exempts these men from all tribute, and pays them besides.

Moreover, there are also at those stations other men equipt similarly with girdles hung with bells, who are employed for expresses when there is a call for great haste in sending despatches to any governor of a province, or to give news when any Baron has revolted, or in other such emergencies; and these men travel a good two hundred or two hundred and fifty miles in the day, and as much in the night. I’ll tell you how it stands. They take a horse from those at the station which are standing ready saddled, all fresh and in wind, and mount and go at full speed, as hard as they can ride in fact. And when those at the next post hear the bells they get ready another horse and a man equipt in the same way, and he takes over the letter or whatever it be, and is off full-speed to the third station, where again a fresh horse is found all ready, and so the despatch speeds along from post to post, always at full gallop, with regular change of horses. And the speed at which they go is marvellous. (By night, however, they cannot go so fast as by day, because they have to be accompanied by footmen with torches, who could not keep up with them at full speed.)

Those men are highly prized; and they could never do it, did they not bind hard the stomach, chest and head with strong bands. And each of them carries with him a gerfalcon tablet, in sign that he is bound on an urgent express; so that if perchance his horse break down, or he meet with other mishap, whomsoever he may fall in with on the road, he is empowered to make him dismount and give up his horse. Nobody dares refuse in such a case; so that the courier hath always a good fresh nag to carry him.[NOTE 7]

Now all these numbers of post-horses cost the Emperor nothing at all; and I will tell you the how and the why. Every city, or village, or hamlet, that stands near one of those post-stations, has a fixed demand made on it for as many horses as it can supply, and these it must furnish to the post. And in this way are provided all the posts of the cities, as well as the towns and villages round about them; only in uninhabited tracts the horses are furnished at the expense of the Emperor himself.

(Nor do the cities maintain the full number, say of 400 horses, always at their station, but month by month 200 shall be kept at the station, and the other 200 at grass, coming in their turn to relieve the first 200. And if there chance to be some river or lake to be passed by the runners and horse-posts, the neighbouring cities are bound to keep three or four boats in constant readiness for the purpose.)

And now I will tell you of the great bounty exercised by the Emperor towards his people twice a year.

NOTE 1.—The G. Text has “et ce est mout sçue chouse“; Pauthier’s Text, “mais il est moult celé” The latter seems absurd. I have no doubt that sçue is correct, and is an Italianism, saputo having sometimes the sense of prudent or judicious. Thus P. della Valle (II. 26), speaking of Shah Abbas: “Ma noti V.S. i tiri di questo re, saputo insieme e bizzarro,” “acute with all his eccentricity.”

NOTE 2.—Both Neumann and Pauthier seek Chinese etymologies of this Mongol word, which the Tartars carried with them all over Asia. It survives in Persian and Turki in the senses both of a post-house and a post-horse, and in Russia, in the former sense, is a relic of the Mongol dominion. The ambassadors of Shah Rukh, on arriving at Sukchu, were lodged in the Yám-Khána, or post-house, by the city gate; and they found ninety-nine such Yams between Sukchu and Khanbaligh, at each of which they were supplied with provisions, servants, beds, night-clothes, etc. Odoric likewise speaks of the hostelries called Yam, and Rubruquis applies the same term to quarters in the imperial camp, which were assigned for the lodgment of ambassadors. (Cathay, ccii. 137; Rubr. 310.)

[Mr. Rockhill (Rubruck, 101, note) says that these post-stations were established by Okkodai in 1234 throughout the Mongol empire. (D’Ohsson, ii. 63.) Dr. G. Schlegel (T’oung Pao, II. 1891, 265, note) observes that iam is not, as Pauthier supposed, a contraction of yi-mà, horse post-house (yi-mà means post-horse, and Pauthier makes a mistake), but represents the Chinese character [Chinese], pronounced at present chán, which means in fact a road station, a post. In Annamite, this character [Chinese] is pronounced tram, and it means, according to Bonet’s Dict. Annamite-Français: “Relais de poste, station de repos.” (See Bretschneider, Med. Res. I. p. 187 note.)—H. C.]

NOTE 3.—Martini and Magaillans, in the 17th century, give nearly the same account of the government hostelries.

NOTE 4.—Here Ramusio has this digression: “Should any one find it difficult to understand how there should be such a population as all this implies, and how they can subsist, the answer is that all the Idolaters, and Saracens as well, take six, eight, or ten wives apiece when they can afford it, and beget an infinity of children. In fact, you shall find many men who have each more than thirty sons who form an armed retinue to their father, and this through the fact of his having so many wives. With us, on the other hand, a man hath but one wife; and if she be barren, still he must abide by her for life, and have no progeny; thus we have not such a population as they have.

“And as regards food, they have abundance; for they generally consume rice, panic, and millet (especially the Tartars, Cathayans, and people of Manzi); and these three crops in those countries render an hundred-fold. Those nations use no bread, but only boil those kinds of grain with milk or meat for their victual. Their wheat, indeed, does not render so much, but this they use only to make vermicelli, and pastes of that description. No spot of arable land is left untilled; and their cattle are infinitely prolific, so that when they take the field every man is followed by six, eight, or more horses for his own use. Thus you may clearly perceive how the population of those parts is so great, and how they have such an abundance of food.”

NOTE 5.—The Burmese kings used to have the odoriferous Durian transmitted by horse-posts from Tenasserim to Ava. But the most notable example of the rapid transmission of such dainties, and the nearest approach I know of to their despatch by telegraph, was that practised for the benefit of the Fatimite Khalif Aziz (latter part of 10th century), who had a great desire for a dish of cherries of Balbek. The Wazir Yakub ben-Kilis caused six hundred pigeons to be despatched from Balbek to Cairo, each of which carried attached to either leg a small silk bag containing a cherry! (Quat. Makrizi, IV. 118.)

NOTE 6.—”Note is taken at every post,” says Amyot, in speaking of the Chinese practice of last century, “of the time of the courier’s arrival, in order that it may be known at what point delays have occurred.” (Mém. VIII. 185.)

NOTE 7.—The post-system is described almost exactly as in the text by Friar Odoric and the Archbishop of Soltania, in the generation after Polo, and very much in the same way by Magaillans in the 17th century. Posts had existed in China from an old date. They are spoken of by Mas’udi and the Relations of the 9th century. They were also employed under the ancient Persian kings; and they were in use in India, at least in the generation after Polo. The Mongols, too, carried the institution wherever they went.

Polo describes the couriers as changed at short intervals, but more usually in Asiatic posts the same man rides an enormous distance. The express courier in Tibet, as described by “the Pandit,” rides from Gartokh to Lhasa, a distance of 800 miles, travelling day and night. The courier’s coat issealed upon him, so that he dares not take off his clothes till the seal is officially broken on his arrival at the terminus. These messengers had faces cracked, eyes bloodshot and sunken, and bodies raw with vermin. (J. R. G. S. XXXVIII. p. 149.) The modern Turkish post from Constantinople to Baghdad, a distance of 1100 miles, is done in twenty days by four Tartars riding night and day. The changes are at Sivas, Diarbekir, and Mosul. M. Tchihatcheff calculates that the night riding accomplishes only one quarter of the whole. (Asie Mineure, 2’de Ptie. 632-635.)—See I. p. 352, paï tze.



Now you must know that the Emperor sends his Messengers over all his Lands and Kingdoms and Provinces, to ascertain from his officers if the people are afflicted by any dearth through unfavourable seasons, or storms or locusts, or other like calamity; and from those who have suffered in this way no taxes are exacted for that year; nay more, he causes them to be supplied with corn of his own for food and seed. Now this is undoubtedly a great bounty on his part. And when winter comes, he causes inquiry to be made as to those who have lost their cattle, whether by murrain or other mishap, and such persons not only go scot free, but get presents of cattle. And thus, as I tell you, the Lord every year helps and fosters the people subject to him.

[There is another trait of the Great Kaan I should tell you; and that is, that if a chance shot from his bow strike any herd or flock, whether belonging to one person or to many, and however big the flock may be, he takes no tithe thereof for three years. In like manner, if the arrow strike a boat full of goods, that boat-load pays no duty; for it is thought unlucky that an arrow strike any one’s property; and the Great Kaan says it would be an abomination before God, were such property, that has been struck by the divine wrath, to enter into his Treasury.[NOTE 1]]

NOTE 1.—The Chinese author already quoted as to Kúblái’s character (Note 2, ch. xxiii. supra) says: “This Prince, at the sight of some evil prognostic, or when there was dearth, would remit taxation, and cause grain to be distributed to those who were in destitution. He would often complain that there never lacked informers if balances were due, or if corvées had been ordered, but when the necessities of the people required to be reported, not a word was said.”

Wassáf tells a long story in illustration of Kúblái’s justice and consideration for the peasantry. One of his sons, with a handful of followers, had got separated from the army, and halted at a village in the territory of Bishbaligh, where the people gave them sheep and wine. Next year two of the party came the same way and demanded a sheep and a stoup of wine. The people gave it, but went to the Kaan and told the story, saying they feared it might grow into a perpetual exaction. Kúblái sharply rebuked the Prince, and gave the people compensation and an order in their favour. (De Mailla, ix. 460; Hammer’s Wassaf, 38-39.)]



The Emperor moreover hath taken order that all the highways travelled by his messengers and the people generally should be planted with rows of great trees a few paces apart; and thus these trees are visible a long way off, and no one can miss the way by day or night. Even the roads through uninhabited tracts are thus planted, and it is the greatest possible solace to travellers. And this is done on all the ways, where it can be of service. [The Great Kaan plants these trees all the more readily, because his astrologers and diviners tell him that he who plants trees lives long.[NOTE 1]

But where the ground is so sandy and desert that trees will not grow, he causes other landmarks, pillars or stones, to be set up to show the way.]

NOTE 1.—In this Kúblái imitated the great King Asoka, or Priyadarsi, who in his graven edicts (circa B.C. 250) on the Delhi Pillar, says: “Along the high roads I have caused fig-trees to be planted, that they may be for shade to animals and men. I have also planted mango-trees; and at every half-coss I have caused wells to be constructed, and resting-places for the night. And how many hostels have been erected by me at various places for the entertainment of man and beast.” (J. A. S. B. IV. 604.) There are still remains of the fine avenues of Kúblái and his successors in various parts of Northern China. (See Williamson, i. 74.)



Most of the people of Cathay drink wine of the kind that I shall now describe. It is a liquor which they brew of rice with a quantity of excellent spice, in such fashion that it makes better drink than any ther kind of wine; it is not only good, but clear and pleasing to the eye.[NOTE 1] And being very hot stuff, it makes one drunk sooner than any other wine.

NOTE 1.—The mode of making Chinese rice-wine is described in Amyot’s Mémoires, V. 468 seqq. A kind of yeast is employed, with which is often mixed a flour prepared from fragrant herbs, almonds, pine-seeds, dried fruits, etc. Rubruquis says this liquor was not distinguishable, except by smell, from the best wine of Auxerre; a wine so famous in the Middle Ages, that the Historian Friar, Salimbene, went from Lyons to Auxerre on purpose to drink it.[1] Ysbrand Ides compares the rice-wine to Rhenish; John Bell to Canary; a modern traveller quoted by Davis, “in colour, and a little in taste, to Madeira.” [Friar Odoric (Cathay, i. p. 117) calls this wine bigni; Dr. Schlegel (T’oung Pao, ii. p. 264) says Odoric’s wine was probably made with the date Mi-yin, pronounced Bi-im in old days. But Marco’s wine is made of rice, and is called shao hsing chiu. Mr. Rockhill (Rubruck, p. 166, note) writes: “There is another stronger liquor distilled from millet, and called shao chiu: in Anglo-Chinese, samshu; Mongols call it araka, arrak, and arreki. Ma Twan-lin (Bk. 327) says that the Moho (the early Nu-chên Tartars) drank rice wine (mi chiu), but I fancy that they, like the Mongols, got it from the Chinese.”

Dr. Emil Bretschneider (Botanicon Sinicum, ii. pp. 154-158) gives a most interesting account of the use and fabrication of intoxicating beverages by the Chinese. “The invention of wine or spirits in China,” he says, “is generally ascribed to a certain I TI, who lived in the time of the Emperor Yü. According to others, the inventor of wine was TU K’ANG.” One may refer also to Dr. Macgowan’s paper On the “Mutton Wine” of the Mongols and Analogous Preparations of the Chinese. (Jour. N. China Br. R. As. Soc., 1871-1872, pp. 237-240.)—H. C.]

[1] Kington’s Fred. II. II. 457. So, in a French play of the 13th century, a publican in his patois invites custom, with hot bread, hot herrings, and wine of Auxerre in plenty:—

      “Chaiens, fait bon disner chaiens;
Chi a caut pain et caus herens,
Et vin d’Aucheurre à plain tonnel.”—
(Théat. Franç. au Moyen Age, 168.)



It is a fact that all over the country of Cathay there is a kind of black stones existing in beds in the mountains, which they dig out and burn like firewood. If you supply the fire with them at night, and see that they are well kindled, you will find them still alight in the morning; and they make such capital fuel that no other is used throughout the country. It is true that they have plenty of wood also, but they do not burn it, because those stones burn better and cost less.[NOTE 1]

[Moreover with that vast number of people, and the number of hot baths that they maintain—for every one has such a bath at least three times a week, and in winter if possible every day, whilst every nobleman and man of wealth has a private bath for his own use—the wood would not suffice for the purpose.]

NOTE 1.—There is a great consumption of coal in Northern China, especially in the brick stoves, which are universal, even in poor houses. Coal seems to exist in every one of the eighteen provinces of China, which in this respect is justly pronounced to be one of the most favoured countries in the world. Near the capital coal is mined at Yuen-ming-yuen, and in a variety of isolated deposits among the hills in the direction of the Kalgan road, and in the district round Siuen-hwa-fu. (Sindachu of Polo, ante ch. lix.) But the most important coal-fields in relation to the future are those of Shan-tung Hu-nan, Ho-nan, and Shan-si. The last is eminently the coal and iron province of China, and its coal-field, as described by Baron Richthofen, combines, in an extraordinary manner, all the advantages that can enhance the value of such a field except (at present) that of facile export; whilst the quantity available is so great that from Southern Shan-si alone he estimates the whole world could be supplied, at the present rate of consumption, for several thousand years. “Adits, miles in length, could be driven within the body of the coal…. These extraordinary conditions … will eventually give rise to some curious features in mining… if a railroad should ever be built from the plain to this region … branches of it will be constructed within the body of one or other of these beds of anthracite.” Baron Richthofen, in the paper which we quote from, indicates the revolution in the deposit of the world’s wealth and power, to which such facts, combined with other characteristics of China, point as probable; a revolution so vast that its contemplation seems like that of a planetary catastrophe.

In the coal-fields of Hu-nan “the mines are chiefly opened where the rivers intersect the inclined strata of the coal-measures and allow the coal-beds to be attacked by the miner immediately at their out-croppings.”

At the highest point of the Great Kiang, reached by Sarel and Blakiston, they found mines on the cliffs over the river, from which the coal was sent down by long bamboo cables, the loaded baskets drawing up the empty ones.

[Many coal-fields have been explored since; one of the most important is the coal-field of the Yun-nan province; the finest deposits are perhaps those found in the bend of the Kiang; coal is found also at Mong-Tzu, Lin-ngan, etc.; this rich coal region has been explored in 1898 by the French engineer A. Leclère. (See Congrès int. Géog., Paris, 1900, pp. 178-184.)—H. C.]

In various parts of China, as in Che-kiang, Sze-ch’wan, and at Peking, they form powdered coal, mixed with mud, into bricks, somewhat like our “patent fuel.” This practice is noticed by Ibn Batuta, as well as the use of coal in making porcelain, though this he seems to have misunderstood. Rashiduddin also mentions the use of coal in China. It was in use, according to citations of Pauthier’s, before the Christian era. It is a popular belief in China, that every provincial capital is bound to be established over a coal-field, so as to have a provision in case of siege. It is said that during the British siege of Canton mines were opened to the north of the city.

(The Distribution of Coal in China, by Baron Richthofen, in Ocean Highways, N.S., I. 311; Macgowan in Ch. Repos. xix. 385-387; Blakiston, 133, 265; Mid. Kingdom, I. 73, 78; Amyot, xi. 334; Cathay, 261, 478, 482; Notes by Rev. A. Williamson in J. N. Ch. Br. R. A. S., December, 1867;Hedde and Rondot, p. 63.)

Aeneas Sylvius relates as a miracle that took place before his eyes in Scotland, that poor and almost naked beggars, when stones were given them as alms at the church doors, went away quite delighted; for stones of that kind were imbued either with brimstone or with some oily matter, so that they could be burnt instead of wood, of which the country was destitute. (Quoted by Jos. Robertson, Statuta Eccles. Scotic. I. xciii.)



You must know that when the Emperor sees that corn is cheap and abundant, he buys up large quantities, and has it stored in all his provinces in great granaries, where it is so well looked after that it will keep for three or four years.[NOTE 1]

And this applies, let me tell you, to all kinds of corn, whether wheat, barley, millet, rice, panic, or what not, and when there is any scarcity of a particular kind of corn, he causes that to be issued. And if the price of the corn is at one bezant the measure, he lets them have it at a bezant for four measures, or at whatever price will produce general cheapness; and every one can have food in this way. And by this providence of the Emperor’s, his people can never suffer from dearth. He does the same over his whole Empire; causing these supplies to be stored everywhere, according to calculation of the wants and necessities of the people.

NOTE 1.—”Le fait si bien estuier que il dure bien trois ans ou quatre” (Pauthier): “si bien estudier” (G.T.). The word may be estiver (It. stivare), to stow, but I half suspect it should be estuver in the sense of “kiln-dry,” though both the Geog. Latin and the Crusca render it gubernare.[1] Lecomte says: “Rice is always stored in the public granaries for three or four years in advance. It keeps long if care be taken to air it and stir it about; and although not so good to the taste or look as new rice, it is said to be more wholesome.”

The Archbishop of Soltania (A.D. 1330) speaks of these stores. “The said Emperor is very pitiful and compassionate … and so when there is a dearth in the land he openeth his garners, and giveth forth of his wheat and his rice for half what others are selling it at.” Kúblái Kaan’s measures of this kind are recorded in the annals of the Dynasty, as quoted by Pauthier. The same practice is ascribed to the sovereigns of the T’ang Dynasty by the old Arab Relations. In later days a missionary gives in the Lettres Edifiantes an unfavourable account of the action of these public granaries, and of the rascality that occurred in connection with them. (Lecomte, II. 101; Cathay, 240; Relat. I. 39; Let. Ed. xxiv. 76.)

[The Yuen-shi in ch. 96 contains sections on dispensaries (Hui min yao kü), granary regulations (Shi ti), and regulations for a time of dearth (Chen Sü). (Bretschneider, Med. Res. I. p. 187.)—H. C.]

[1] Marsden observes incidentally (Hist. of Sumatra, 1st edition, p. 71) that he was told in Bengal they used to dry-kiln the rice for exportation, “owing to which, or to some other process, it will continue good for several years.”



I have told you how the Great Kaan provides for the distribution of necessaries to his people in time of dearth, by making store in time of cheapness. Now I will tell you of his alms and great charity to the poor of his city of Cambaluc.

You see he causes selection to be made of a number of families in the city which are in a state of indigence, and of such families some may consist of six in the house, some of eight, some of ten, more or fewer in each as it may hap, but the whole number being very great. And each family he causes annually to be supplied with wheat and other corn sufficient for the whole year. And this he never fails to do every year. Moreover, all those who choose to go to the daily dole at the Court receive a great loaf apiece, hot from the baking, and nobody is denied; for so the Lord hath ordered. And so some 30,000 people go for it every day from year’s end to year’s end. Now this is a great goodness in the Emperor to take pity of his poor people thus! And they benefit so much by it that they worship him as he were God.

[He also provides the poor with clothes. For he lays a tithe upon all wool, silk, hemp, and the like, from which clothing can be made; and he has these woven and laid up in a building set apart for the purpose; and as all artizans are bound to give a day’s labour weekly, in this way the Kaan has these stuffs made into clothing for those poor families, suitable for summer or winter, according to the time of year. He also provides the clothing for his troops, and has woollens woven for them in every city, the material for which is furnished by the tithe aforesaid. You should know that the Tartars, before they were converted to the religion of the Idolaters, never practised almsgiving. Indeed, when any poor man begged of them they would tell him, “Go with God’s curse, for if He loved you as He loves me, He would have provided for you.” But the sages of the Idolaters, and especially the Bacsis mentioned before, told the Great Kaan that it was a good work to provide for the poor, and that his idols would be greatly pleased if he did so. And since then he has taken to do for the poor so much as you have heard.[NOTE 1]]

NOTE 1.—This is a curious testimony to an ameliorating effect of Buddhism on rude nations. The general establishment of medical aid for men and animals is alluded to in the edicts of Asoka;[1] and hospitals for the diseased and destitute were found by Fahian at Palibothra, whilst Hiuen Tsang speaks of the distribution of food and medicine at the Punyasálás or “Houses of Beneficence,” in the Panjáb. Various examples of a charitable spirit in Chinese Institutions will be found in a letter by Père d’Entrecolles in the XVth Recueil of Lettres Edifiantes; and a similar detail inNevius’s China and the Chinese, ch. xv. (See Prinsep’s Essays, II. 15; Beal’s Fah-hian, 107; Pèl. Boudd. II. 190.) The Tartar sentiment towards the poor survives on the Arctic shores:—”The Yakuts regard the rich as favoured by the gods; the poor as rejected and cast out by them.” (Billings, Fr. Tranls. I. 233.)

[1] As rendered by J. Prinsep. But I see that Professor H. H. Wilson did not admit the passage to bear that meaning.



[There are in the city of Cambaluc, what with Christians, Saracens, and Cathayans, some five thousand astrologers and soothsayers, whom the Great Kaan provides with annual maintenance and clothing, just as he provides the poor of whom we have spoken, and they are in the constant exercise of their art in this city.

They have a kind of astrolabe on which are inscribed the planetary signs, the hours and critical points of the whole year. And every year these Christian, Saracen, and Cathayan astrologers, each sect apart, investigate by means of this astrolabe the course and character of the whole year, according to the indications of each of its Moons, in order to discover by the natural course and disposition of the planets, and the other circumstances of the heavens, what shall be the nature of the weather, and what peculiarities shall be produced by each Moon of the year; as, for example, under which Moon there shall be thunderstorms and tempests, under which there shall be disease, murrain, wars, disorders, and treasons, and so on, according to the indications of each; but always adding that it lies with God to do less or more according to His pleasure. And they write down the results of their examination in certain little pamphlets for the year, which are called Tacuin, and these are sold for a groat to all who desire to know what is coming. Those of the astrologers, of course whose predictions are found to be most exact, are held to be the greatest adepts in their art, and get the greater fame.[NOTE 1]

And if any one having some great matter in hand, or proposing to make a long journey for traffic or other business, desires to know what will be the upshot, he goes to one of these astrologers and says: “Turn up your books and see what is the present aspect of the heavens, for I am going away on such and such a business.” Then the astrologer will reply that the applicant must also tell the year, month, and hour of his birth; and when he has got that information he will see how the horoscope of his nativity combines with the indications of the time when the question is put, and then he predicts the result, good or bad, according to the aspect of the heavens.

You must know, too, that the Tartars reckon their years by twelves; the sign of the first year being the Lion, of the second the Ox, of the third the Dragon, of the fourth the Dog, and so forth up to the twelfth;[NOTE 2] so that when one is asked the year of his birth he answers that it was in the year of the Lion (let us say), on such a day or night, at such an hour, and such a moment. And the father of a child always takes care to write these particulars down in a book. When the twelve yearly symbols have been gone through, then they come back to the first, and go through with them again in the same succession.]

NOTE 1.—It is odd that Marsden should have sought a Chinese explanation of the Arabic word Takwím even with Tavernier before him: “They sell in Persia an annual almanac called Tacuim, which is properly an ephemeris containing the longitude and latitude of the planets, their conjunctions and oppositions, and other such matter. The Tacuim is full of predictions regarding war, pestilence, and famine; it indicates the favourable time for putting on new clothes, for getting bled or purged, for making a journey, and so forth. They put entire faith in it, and whoever can afford one governs himself in all things by its rules.” (Bk. V. ch. xiv.)

The use of the term by Marco may possibly be an illustration of what I have elsewhere propounded, viz. that he was not acquainted with Chinese, but that his intercourse and conversation lay chiefly with the foreigners at the Kaan’s Court, and probably was carried on in the Persian language. But not long after the date of our Book we find the word used in Italian by Jacopo Alighieri (Dante’s son):—

  “A voler giudicare
Si conviene adequare
Inprimo il Taccuino,
Per vedere il cammino
Come i Pianeti vanno
Per tutto quanto l’anno.”
Rime Antiche Toscane, III. 10.

Marco does not allude to the fact that almanacs were published by the Government, as they were then and still are. Pauthier (515 seqq.) gives some very curious details on this subject from the Annals of the Yuen. In the accounts of the year 1328, it appears that no less than 3,123,185 copies were printed in three different sizes at different prices, besides a separate almanac for the Hwei-Hwei or Mahomedans. Had Polo not omitted to touch on the issue of almanacs by Government he could scarcely have failed to enter on the subject of printing, on which he has kept a silence so singular and unaccountable.

The Chinese Government still “considers the publication of a Calendar of the first importance and utility. It must do everything in its power, not only to point out to its numerous subjects the distribution of the seasons,… but on account of the general superstition it must mark in the almanac the lucky and unlucky days, the best days for being married, for undertaking a journey, for making their dresses, for buying or building, for presenting petitions to the Emperor, and for many other cases of ordinary life. By this means the Government keeps the people within the limits of humble obedience; it is for this reason that the Emperors of China established the Academy of Astronomy.” (Timk. I. 358.) The acceptance of the Imperial Almanac by a foreign Prince is considered an acknowledgment of vassalage to the Emperor.

It is a penal offence to issue a pirated or counterfeit edition of the Government Almanac. No one ventures to be without one, lest he become liable to the greatest misfortunes by undertaking the important measures on black-balled days.

The price varies now, according to Williams, from 1-1/2_d._ to 5_d._ a copy. The price in 1328 was 1 tsien or cash for the cheapest edition, and 1 liang or tael of silver for the édition de luxe; but as these prices were in paper-money it is extremely difficult to say, in the varying depreciation of that currency, what the price really amounted to.

[Illustration: Mongol Compendium Instrument seen in the Observatory

[Illustration: Mongol Armillary Sphere in the Observatory Garden]

[“The Calendars for the use of the people, published by Imperial command, are of two kinds. The first, Wan-nien-shu, the Calendar of Ten Thousand Years, is an abridgment of the Calendar, comprising 397 years, viz. from 1624 to 2020. The second and more complete Calendar is the Annual Calendar, which, under the preceding dynasties, was named Li-je, Order of Days, and is now called Shih-hsien-shu, Book of Constant Conformity (with the Heavens). This name was given by the Emperor Shun-chih, in the first year of his reign (1644), on being presented by Father John Schall (Tang Jo-wang) with a new Calendar, calculated on the principles of European science. This Annual Calendar gives the following indications: (1°) The cyclical signs of the current year, of the months, and of all the days; (2°) the long and short months, as well as the intercalary month, as the case maybe; (3°) the designation of each day by the 5 elements, the 28 constellations, and the 12 happy presages; (4°) the day and hour of the new moon, of the full moon, and of the two dichotomies, Shang-hsien and Hsia-hsien; (5°) the day and hour for the positions of the sun in the 24 zodiacal signs, calculated for the various capitals of China as well as for Manchuria, Mongolia, and the tributary Kingdoms; (6°) the hour of sunrise and sunset and the length of day and night for the principal days of the month in the several capitals; (7°) various superstitious indications purporting to point out what days and hours are auspicious or not for such or such affairs in different places. Those superstitious indications are stated to have been introduced into the Calendar under the Yüan dynasty.” (P. Hoang, Chinese Calendar, pp. 2-3.)—H. C.]

We may note that in Polo’s time one of the principal officers of the
Mathematical Board was Gaisue, a native of Folin or the Byzantine
Empire, who was also in charge of the medical department of the Court.
Regarding the Observatory, see note at p. 378, supra.

And I am indebted yet again to the generous zeal of Mr. Wylie of Shanghai, for the principal notes and extracts which will, I trust, satisfy others as well as myself that the instruments in the garden of the Observatory belong to the period of Marco Polo’s residence in China.[1]

The objections to the alleged age of these instruments were entirely based on an inspection of photographs. The opinion was given very strongly that no instrument of the kind, so perfect in theory and in execution, could have been even imagined in those days, and that nothing of such scientific quality could have been made except by the Jesuits. In fact it was asserted or implied that these instruments must have been made about the year 1700, and were therefore not earlier in age than those which stand on the terraced roof of the Observatory, and are well known to most of us from the representation in Duhalde and in many popular works.

The only authority that I could lay hand on was Lecomte, and what he says was not conclusive. I extract the most pertinent passages:

“It was on the terrace of the tower that the Chinese astronomers had set their instruments, and though few in number they occupied the whole area. But Father Verbiest, the Director of the Observatory, considering them useless for astronomical observation, persuaded the Emperor to let them be removed, to make way for several instruments of his own construction. The instruments set aside by the European astronomers are still in a hall adjoining the tower, buried in dust and oblivion; and we saw them only through a grated window. They appeared to us to be very large and well cast, in form approaching our astronomical circles; that is all that we could make out. There was, however, thrown into a back yard by itself, a celestial globe of bronze, of about 3 feet in diameter. Of this we were able to take a nearer view. Its form was somewhat oval; the divisions by no means exact, and the whole work coarse enough.

“Besides this in a lower hall they had established a gnomon…. This observatory, not worthy of much consideration for its ancient instruments, much less for its situation, its form, or its construction, is now enriched by several bronze instruments which Father Verbiest has placed there. These are large, well cast, adorned in every case with figures of dragons,” etc. He then proceeds to describe them:

“(1). Armillary Zodiacal Sphere of 6 feet diameter. This sphere reposes on the heads of four dragons, the bodies of which after various convolutions come to rest upon the extremities of two brazen beams forming a cross, and thus bear the entire weight of the instrument. These dragons … are represented according to the notion the Chinese form of them, enveloped in clouds, covered above the horns with long hair, with a tufted beard on the lower jaw, flaming eyes, long sharp teeth, the gaping throat ever vomiting a torrent of fire. Four lion-cubs of the same material bear the ends of the cross beams, and the heads of these are raised or depressed by means of attached screws, according to what is required. The circles are divided on both exterior and interior surface into 360 degrees; each degree into 60 minutes by transverse lines, and the minutes into sections of 10 seconds each by the sight-edge[2] applied to them.”

Of Verbiest’s other instruments we need give only the names: (2)
Equinoxial Sphere, 6 feet diameter. (3) Azimuthal Horizon, same diam. (4)
Great Quadrant, of 6 feet radius. (5) Sextant of about 8 feet radius. (6)
Celestial Globe of 6 feet diameter.

As Lecomte gives no details of the old instruments which he saw through a grating, and as the description of this zodiacal sphere (No. 1) corresponds in some of its main features with that represented in the photograph, I could not but recognize the possibility that this instrument of Verbiest’s had for some reason or other been removed from the Terrace, and that the photograph might therefore possibly not be a representation of one of the ancient instruments displaced by him.[3]

The question having been raised it was very desirable to settle it, and I applied to Mr. Wylie for information, as I had received the photographs from him, and knew that he had been Mr. Thomson’s companion and helper in the matter.

“Let me assure you,” he writes (21st August, 1874), “the Jesuits had nothing to do with the manufacture of the so-called Mongol instruments; and whoever made them, they were certainly on the Peking Observatory before Loyola was born. They are not made for the astronomical system introduced by the Jesuits, but are altogether conformable to the system introduced by Kúblái’s astronomer Ko Show-king…. I will mention one thing which is quite decisive as to the Jesuits. The circle is divided into 365-1/4 degrees, each degree into 100 minutes, and each minute into 100 seconds. The Jesuits always used the sexagesimal division. Lecomte speaks of the imperfection of the division on the Jesuit-made instruments; but those on the Mongol instruments are immeasurably coarser.

“I understand it is not the ornamentation your friend objects to?[4] If it is, I would observe that there is no evidence of progress in the decorative and ornamental arts during the Ming Dynasty; and even in the Jesuit instruments that part of the work is purely Chinese, excepting in one instrument, which I am persuaded must have been made in Europe.

“I have a Chinese work called Luh-King-t’oo-Kaou, ‘Illustrations and Investigations of the Six Classics.’ This was written in A.D. 1131-1162, and revised and printed in 1165-1174. It contains a representation of an armillary sphere, which appears to me to be much the same as the sphere in question. There is a solid horizon fixed to a graduated outer circle. Inside the latter is a meridian circle, at right angles to which is a graduated colure; then the equator, apparently a double ring, and the ecliptic; also two diametric bars. The cut is rudely executed, but it certainly shows that some one imagined something more perfect. The instrument stands on a cross frame, with 4 dragon supporters and a prop in the centre.[5]

“It should be remembered that under the Mongol Dynasty the Chinese had much intercourse with Central Asia; and among others Yelewchootsae, as confidential minister and astronomer, followed Chinghiz in his Western campaign, held intercourse with the astronomers of Samarkand, and on his return laid some astronomical inventions before the Emperor.

“I append a notice of the Observatory taken from a popular description of Peking, by which it will be seen that the construction of these instruments is attributed to Ko Show-king, one of the most renowned astronomers of China. He was the chief astronomer under Kúblái Kaan” [to whom he was presented in 1262; he was born in 1231.—H. C.]

“It must be remembered that there was a special vitality among the Chinese under the Yuen with regard to the arts and sciences, and the Emperor had the choice of artizans and men of science from all countries. From the age of the Yuen till the arrival of the Jesuits, we hear nothing of any new instruments having been made; and it is well known that astronomy was never in a lower condition than under the Ming.”[6]

Mr. Wylie then draws attention to the account given by Trigault of the instruments that Matteo Ricci saw at Nanking, when he went (in the year 1599) to pay a visit to some of the literati of that city. He transcribes the account from the French Hist. de l’Expédition Chrestienne en la Chine, 1618. But as I have the Latin, which is the original and is more lucid, by me, I will translate from that.[7]

“Not only at Peking, but in this capital also (Nanking) there is a College of Chinese Mathematicians, and this one certainly is more distinguished by the vastness of its buildings than by the skill of its professors. They have little talent and less learning, and do nothing beyond the preparation of the almanacs on the rules of calculation made by the ancients; and when it chances that events do not agree with their calculation they assert that what they had calculated was the regular course of things, but that the aberrant conduct of the stars was a prognostic from heaven of something going to happen on the earth. This something they make out according to their fancy, and so spread a veil over their own blunders. These gentlemen did not much trust Father Matteo, fearing, no doubt, lest he should put them to shame; but when at last they were freed from this apprehension they came and amicably visited the Father in hope of learning something from him. And when he went to return their visit he saw something that really was new and beyond his expectation.

“There is a high hill at one side of the city, but still within the walls. On the top of the hill there is an ample terrace, capitally adapted for astronomical observation, and surrounded by magnificent buildings which form the residence of the Professors…. On this terrace are to be seen astronomical instruments of cast-metal, well worthy of inspection whether for size or for beauty; and we certainly have never seen or read of anything in Europe like them. For nearly 250 years they have stood thus exposed to the rain, the snow, and all other atmospheric inclemencies, and yet they have lost absolutely nothing of their original lustre. And lest I should be accused of raising expectations which I do not justify, I will do my best in a digression, probably not unwelcome, to bring them before the eyes of my readers.

“The larger of these instruments were four in number. First we inspected a great globe [A], graduated with meridians and parallels; we estimated that three men would hardly be able to embrace its girth…. A second instrument was a great sphere [B], not less in diameter than that measure of the outstretched arms which is commonly called a geometric pace. It had a horizon and poles; instead of circles it was provided with certain double hoops (armillae), the void space between the pair serving the purpose of the circles of our spheres. All these were divided into 365 degrees and some odd minutes. There was no globe to represent the earth in the centre, but there was a certain tube, bored like a gun-barrel, which could readily be turned about and fixed to any azimuth or any altitude so as to observe any particular star through the tube, just as we do with our vane-sights;[8]—not at all a despicable device! The third machine was a gnomon [C], the height of which was twice the diameter of the former instrument, erected on a very large and long slab of marble, on the northern side of the terrace. The stone slab had a channel cut round the margin, to be filled with water in order to determine whether the slab was level or not, and the style was set vertical as in hour-dials.[9] We may suppose this gnomon to have been erected that by its aid the shadow at the solstices and equinoxes might be precisely noted, for in that view both the slab and the style were graduated. The fourth and last instrument, and the largest of all, was one consisting as it were of three or four huge astrolabes in juxtaposition [D]; each of them having a diameter of such a geometrical pace as I have specified. The fiducial line, or Alhidada, as it is called, was not lacking, nor yet the Dioptra.[10] Of these astrolabes, one having a tilted position in the direction of the south, represented the equator; a second, which stood crosswise on the first, in a north and south plane, the Father took for a meridian; but it could be turned round on its axis; a third stood in the meridian plane with its axis perpendicular, and seemed to stand for a vertical circle; but this also could be turned round so as to show any vertical whatever. Moreover all these were graduated, and the degrees marked by prominent studs of iron, so that in the night the graduation could be read by the touch without a light. All this compound astrolabe instrument was erected on a level marble platform with channels round it for levelling. On each of these instruments explanations of everything were given in Chinese characters; and there were also engraved the 24 zodiacal constellations which answer to our 12 signs, 2 to each.[11] There was, however, one error common to all the instruments, viz. that, in all, the elevation of the Pole was assumed to be 36°. Now there can be no question about the fact that the city of Nanking lies in lat. 32-1/4°; whence it would seem probable that these instruments were made for another locality, and had been erected at Nanking, without reference to its position, by some one ill versed in mathematical science.[12]

[Illustration: Observatory Terrace]

[Illustration: Observatory Instruments of the Jesuits.]

“Some years afterwards Father Matteo saw similar instruments at Peking, or rather the same instruments, so exactly alike were they, insomuch that they had unquestionably been made by the same artist. And indeed it is known that they were cast at the period when the Tartars were dominant in China; and we may without rashness conjecture that they were the work of some foreigner acquainted with our studies. But it is time to have done with these instruments.”—(Lib. IV. cap. 5.)

In this interesting description it will be seen that the Armillary Sphere [B] agrees entirely with that represented in illustration facing p. 450. And the second of his photographs in my possession, but not, I believe, yet published, answers perfectly to the curious description of the 4th instrument [D]. Indeed, I should scarcely have been able to translate that description intelligibly but for the aid of the photograph before me. It shows the three astrolabes or graduated circles with travelling indexes arranged exactly as described, and pivoted on a complex frame of bronze; (1) circle in the plane of the equator for measuring right ascensions; (2) circle with its axis vertical to the plane of the last, for measuring declinations: (3) circle with vertical axis, for zenith distances? The Gnomon [A] was seen by Mr. Wylie in one of the lower rooms of the Observatory (see below). Of the Globe we do not now hear; and that mentioned by Lecomte among the ancient instruments was inferior to what Ricci describes at Peking.

I now transcribe Mr. Wylie’s translation of an extract from a Popular
Description of Peking:

“The observatory is on an elevated stage on the city wall, in the south-east corner of the (Tartar) city, and was built in the year (A.D. 1279). In the centre was the Tze-wei[13] Palace, inside of which were a pair of scrolls, and a cross inscription, by the imperial hand. Formerly it contained theHwan-t’ien-e [B] ‘Armillary Sphere’; the Keen-e [D?] ‘Transit Instrument’ (?); the Tung-kew [A] ‘Brass Globe’; and the Leang-t’ien-ch’ih, ‘Sector,’ which were constructed by Ko Show-king under the Yuen Dynasty.

“In (1673) the old instruments having stood the wear of long past years, had become almost useless, and six new instruments were made by imperial authority. These were the T’ien-t’ee ‘Celestial Globe’ (6); Chih-taoue ‘Equinoctial Sphere’ (2); Hwang-taoue ‘Zodiacal Sphere’ (1); Te-p’ing kinge‘Azimuthal Horizon’ (3); Te-p’ing weie ‘Altitude Instrument’ (4); Ke-yene ‘Sextant’ (5). These were placed in the Observatory, and to the present day are respectfully used. The old instruments were at the same time removed, and deposited at the foot of the stage. In (1715) the Te-ping King-wei-e‘Azimuth and Altitude Instrument’ was made;[14] and in 1744 the Ke-hang-foo-chin-e (literally ‘Sphere and Tube instrument for sweeping the heavens’). All these were placed on the Observatory stage.

“There is a wind-index-pole called the ‘Fair-wind-pennon,’ on which is an iron disk marked out in 28 points, corresponding in number to the 28 constellations.”[15]

+ Mr. Wylie justly observes that the evidence is all in accord, and it leaves, I think, no reasonable room for doubt that the instruments now in the Observatory garden at Peking are those which were cast aside by Father Verbiest[16] in 1673 (or 1668); which Father Ricci saw at Peking at the beginning of the century, and of which he has described the duplicates at Nanking; and which had come down from the time of the Mongols, or, more precisely, of Kúblái Khan.

Ricci speaks of their age as nearly 250 years in 1599; Verbiest as nearly 300 years in 1668. But these estimates evidently point to the termination of the Mongol Dynasty (1368), to which the Chinese would naturally refer their oral chronology. We have seen that Kúblái’s reign was the era of flourishing astronomy, and that the instruments are referred to his astronomer Ko Shéu-king; nor does there seem any ground for questioning this. In fact, it being once established that the instruments existed when the Jesuits entered China, all the objections fall to the ground.

We may observe that the number of the ancient instruments mentioned in the popular Chinese account agrees with the number of important instruments described by Ricci, and the titles of three at least out of the four seem to indicate the same instruments. The catalogue of the new instruments of 1673 (or 1668) given in the native work also agrees exactly with that given by Lecomte.[17] And in reference to my question as to the possibility that one of Verbiest’s instruments might have been removed from the terrace to the garden, it is now hardly worth while to repeat Mr. Wylie’s assurance that there is no ground whatever for such a supposition. The instruments represented by Lecomte are all still on the terrace, only their positions have been somewhat altered to make room for the two added in last century.

Probably, says Mr. Wylie, more might have been added from Chinese works, especially the biography of Ko Shéu-king. But my kind correspondent was unable to travel beyond the books on his own shelves. Nor was it needful.

It will have been seen that, beautiful as the art and casting of these instruments is, it would be a mistake to suppose that they are entitled to equally high rank in scientific accuracy. Mr. Wylie mentioned the question that had been started to Freiherr von Gumpach, who was for some years Professor of Astronomy in the Peking College. Whilst entirely rejecting the doubts that had been raised as to the age of the Mongol instruments, he said that he had seen those of Tycho Brahe, and the former are quite unworthy to be compared with Tycho’s in scientific accuracy.

The doubts expressed have been useful in drawing attention to these remarkable reliques of the era of Kúblái’s reign, and of Marco Polo’s residence in Cathay, though I fear they are answerable for having added some pages to a work that required no enlargement!

[Mr. Wylie sent a most valuable paper on The Mongol Astronomical
Instruments at Peking
to the Congress of Orientalists held at St.
Petersburg, which was reprinted at Shanghai in 1897 in Chinese
. Some of the astronomical instruments have been removed to
Potsdam by the Germans since the siege of the foreign Legations at Peking
in 1900.—H. C.]

On these auguries, and on diviners and fortune-tellers, see Semedo, p. 118 seqq.; Kidd, p. 313 (also for preceding references, Mid. Kingdom, II. 152; Gaubil, 136).

NOTE 2.— + The real cycle of the Mongols, which was also that of the Chinese, runs: 1. Rat; 2. Ox; 3. Tiger; 4. Hare; 5. Dragon; 6. Serpent; 7. Horse; 8. Sheep; 9. Ape; 10. Cock; 11. Dog; 12. Swine. But as such a cycle [12 earthly branches, Ti-chih] is too short to avoid confusion, it is combined with a co-efficient cycle of ten epithets [celestial Stems, T’ien-kan] in such wise as to produce a 60-year cycle of compound names before the same shall recur. These co-efficient epithets are found in four different forms: (1) From the Elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, attaching to each a masculine and feminine attribute so as to make ten epithets. (2) From the Colours: Blue, Red, Yellow, White, Black, similarly treated. (3) By terms without meaning in Mongol, directly adopted or imitated from the Chinese, Ga, Yi, Bing, Ting, etc. (4) By the five Cardinal Points: East, South, Middle, West, North. Thus 1864 was the first year of a 60-year cycle:—

  1864 = (Masc.) Wood-Rat Year = (Masc.) Blue-Rat Year.
1865 = (Fem.) Wood-Ox Year = (Fem.) Blue-Ox Year.
1866 = (Masc.) Fire-Tiger Year = (Masc.) Red-Tiger Year.
1867 = (Fem.) Fire-Hare Year = (Fem.) Red-Hare Year.
1923 = (Fem.) Water-Swine Year = (Fem.) Black-Swine Year.

And then a new cycle commences just as before.

This Calendar was carried by the Mongols into all their dominions, and it would appear to have long survived them in Persia. Thus a document issued in favour of Sir John Chardin by the Shaikh-ul-Islám of Ispahan, bears the strange date for a Mahomedan luminary of “The year of the Swine.” The Hindus also had a 60-year cycle, but with them each year had an independent name.

The Mongols borrowed their system from the Chinese, who attribute its invention to the Emperor Hwang-ti, and its initiation to the 61st year of his reign, corresponding to B.C. 2637. [“It was Ta-nao, Minister to the Emperor Hwang-ti, who, by command of his Sovereign, devised the sexagenary cycle. Hwang-ti began to reign 2697 B.C., and the 61st year of his reign was taken for the first cyclical sign.” P. Hoang, Chinese Calendar; p. 11.—H. C.] The characters representing what we have called the ten coefficient epithets are called by the Chinese the “Heavenly Stems”; those equivalent to the twelve animal symbols are the “Earthly Branches,” and they are applied in their combinations not to years only, but to cycles of months, days, and hours, such hours being equal to two of ours. Thus every year, month, day, and hour will have two appropriate characters, and the four pairs belonging to the time of any man’s birth constitute what the Chinese call the “Eight Characters” of his age, to which constant reference is made in some of their systems of fortune-telling, and in the selection of propitious days for the transaction of business. To this system the text alludes. A curious account of the principles of prognostication on such a basis will be found in Doolittle’s Social Life of the Chinese (p. 579 seqq.; on the Calendar, see Schmidt’s Preface to S. Setzen; Pallas, Sammlungen, II. 228 seqq.; Prinsep’s Essays, Useful Tables, 146.)

[“Kubilai Khan established in Peking two astronomical boards and two observatories. One of them was a Chinese Observatory (sze t’ien t’ai), the other a Mohammedan Observatory (hui hui sze t’ien t’ai), each with its particular astronomical and chronological systems, its particular astrology and instruments. The first astronomical and calendar system was compiled for the Mongols by Ye-liu Ch’u-ts’ai, who was in Chingis Khan’s service, not only as a high counsellor, but also as an astronomer and astrologer. After having been convinced of the obsoleteness and incorrectness of the astronomical calculations in the Ta ming li (the name of the calendar system of the Kin Dynasty), he thought out at the time he was at Samarcand a new system, valid not only for China, but also for the countries conquered by the Mongols in Western Asia, and named it in memory of Chingis Khan’s expedition Si ching keng wu yüan li, i.e., ‘Astronomical Calendar beginning with the year Keng wu, compiled during the war in the west.’ Keng-wu was the year 1210 of our era. Ye-liu Ch’u-ts’ai chose this year, and the moment of the winter solstice, for the beginning of his period; because, according to his calculations, it coincided with the beginning of a new astronomical or planetary period. He took also into consideration, that since the year 1211 Chingis Khan’s glory had spread over the whole world. Ye-liu Ch’u-ts’ai’s calendar was not adopted in China, but the system of it is explained in the Yuen-shi, in the section on Astronomy and the Calendar.

“In the year 1267, the Mohammedans presented to Kubilai their astronomical calendar (wan nien li, i.e.), the calendar of ten thousand years. By taking this denomination in its literal sense, we may conclude that the Mahommedans brought to China the ancient Persian system, founded on the period of 10,000 years. The compilers of the Yuen-shi seem not to have had access to documents relating to this system, for they give no details about it. Finally by order of Kubilai the astronomers Hui-Heng and Ko Show-King composed a new calculation under the name of Shou-shi-li which came into use from the year 1280. It is thoroughly explained in the Yuen-shi. Notwithstanding the fame this system generally enjoyed, its blemishes came soon to light. In the sixth month of 1302 an eclipse of the sun happened, and the calculation of the astronomer proved to be erroneous (it seems the calculation had anticipated the real time). The astronomers of the Ming Dynasty explained the errors in the Shou-shi-li by the circumstance, that in that calculation the period for one degree of precession of the equinox was taken too long (eighty-one years). But they were themselves hardly able to overcome these difficulties.” (Palladius, pp. 51-53.)—H. C.]

[1] Besides the works quoted in the text I have only been able to consult Gaubil’s notices, as abstracted in Lalande; and the Introductory Remarks to Mr. J. Williams’s Observations of Comets … extracted from the Chinese Annals, London, 1871.

[2] Pinnula. The French pinnule is properly a sight-vane at the end of a traversing bar. The transverse lines imply that minutes were read by the system of our diagonal scales; and these I understand to have been subdivided still further by aid of a divided edge attached to the sight-vane; qu. a Vernier?

[3] Verbiest himself speaks of the displaced instruments thus … “ut nova instrumenta astronomica facienda mihi imponeret, quae scilicet more Europaeo affabre facta, et in specula Astroptica Pekinensi collocata, aeternam Imperii Tartarici memoriam apud posteritatem servarent, prioribus instrumentis Sinicis rudioris Minervae, quae jam a trecentis proxime annis speculam occupabant, inde amotis. Imperator statim annuit illorum postulatis. et totius rei curam, publico diplomate mihi imposuit. Ego itaque intra quadriennis spatium sex diversi generis instrumenta confeci.” This is from an account of the Observatory written by Verbiest himself, and printed at Peking in 1668 (Liber Organicus Astronomiae Europaeae apud Sinas Restitutae, etc.). My friend Mr. D. Hanbury made the extract from a copy of this rare book in the London Institution Library. An enlarged edition was published in Europe. (Dillingen, 1687.)

[4] On the contrary, he considered the photographs interesting, as showing to how late a period the art of fine casting had endured.

[5] This ancient instrument is probably the same that is engraved in Pauthier’s Chine Ancienne under the title of “The Sphere of the Emperor Shun” (B.C. 2255!).

[6] After the death of Kúblái astronomy fell into neglect, and when Hongwu, the first Ming sovereign, took the throne (1368) the subject was almost forgotten. Nor was there any revival till the time of Ching. The latter was a prince who in 1573 associated himself with the astronomer Hing-yun-lu to reform the state of astronomy. (Gaubil.)

What Ricci has recorded (in Trigautius) of the dense ignorance of the Chinese literati in astronomical matters is entirely consistent with the preceding statements.

[7] I had entirely forgotten to look at Trigault till Mr. Wylie sent me the extract. The copy I use (De Christianá Expeditione apud Sinas … Auct. Nicolao Trigautio) is of Lugdun. 1616. The first edition was published at August. Vindelicorum (Augsburg) in 1615: the French, at Lyons, in 1616.

[8] “Pinnulis.”

[9] “Et stilus eo modo quo in horologiis ad perpendiculum collocatus.”

[10] The Alidada is the traversing index bar which carries the dioptra, pinnules, or sight-vanes. The word is found in some older English Dictionaries, and in France and Italy is still applied to the traversing index of a plane table or of a sextant. Littré derives it from (Ar.) ‘adád, enumeration; but it is really from a quite different word, al-idádat [Arabic] “a door-post,” which is found in this sense in an Arabic treatise on the Astrolabe. (See Dozy and Engelmann, p. 140.)

[11] This is an error of Ricci’s, as Mr. Wylie observes, or of his reporter.

The Chinese divide their year into 24 portions of 15 days each. Of these 24 divisions twelve called Kung mark the twelve places in which the sun and moon come into conjunction, and are thus in some degree analogous to our 12 signs of the Zodiac. The names of these Kung are entirely different from those of our sign, though since the 17th century the Western Zodiac, with paraphrased names, has been introduced in some of their books. But besides that, they divide the heavens into 28 stellar spaces. The correspondence of this division to the Hindu system of the 28 Lunar Mansions, called Nakshatras, has given rise to much discussion. The Chinese sieu or stellar spaces are excessively unequal, varying from 24° in equatorial extent down to 24′. (Williams, op. cit.) [See P. Hoang, supra p. 449.]

[12] Mr. Wylie is inclined to distrust the accuracy of this remark, as the only city nearly on the 36th parallel is P’ing-yang fu.

But we have noted in regard to this (Polo’s Pianfu, vol. ii. p. 17) that a college for the education of Mongol youth was instituted here, by the great minister Yeliu Chutsai, whose devotion to astronomy Mr. Wylie has noticed above. In fact, two colleges were established by him, one at Yenking, i.e. Peking, the other at P’ing-yang; and astronomy is specified as one of the studies to be pursued at these. (See D’Ohsson, II. 71-72, quoting De Mailla.) It seems highly probable that the two sets of instruments were originally intended for these two institutions, and that one set was carried to Nanking, when the Ming set their capital there in 1368.

[13] The 28 sieu or stellar spaces, above spoken of, do not extend to the Pole; they are indeed very unequal in extent on the meridian as well as on the equator. And the area in the northern sky not embraced in them is divided into three large spaces called Yuen or enclosures, of which the field of circumpolar stars (or circle of perpetual apparition) forms one which is called Tze-Wei. (Williams.)

The southern circumpolar stars form a fourth space, beyond the 28 sieu. Ibid.

[14] “This was obviously made in France. There is nothing Chinese about
it, either in construction or ornament. It is very different from all
the others.” (Note by Mr. Wylie.)

[15] “There follows a minute description of the brass clepsydra, and the
brass gnomon, which it is unnecessary to translate. I have seen both
these instruments, in two of the lower rooms.”—Id.

[16] [Ferdinand Verbiest, S.J., was born at Pitthens, near Courtrai; he
arrived in China in 1659 and died at Peking on the 29th January,
1688.—H. C.]

[17] We have attached letters A, B, C, to indicate the correspondences of
the ancient instruments, and cyphers 1, 2, 3, to indicate the
correspondences of the modern instruments.



As we have said before, these people are Idolaters, and as regards their gods, each has a tablet fixed high up on the wall of his chamber, on which is inscribed a name which represents the Most High and Heavenly God; and before this they pay daily worship, offering incense from a thurible, raising their hands aloft, and gnashing their teeth[NOTE 2] three times, praying Him to grant them health of mind and body; but of Him they ask nought else. And below on the ground there is a figure which they call Natigai, which is the god of things terrestrial. To him they give a wife and children, and they worship him in the same manner, with incense, and gnashing of teeth,[NOTE 2] and lifting up of hands; and of him they ask seasonable weather, and the fruits of the earth, children, and so forth.[NOTE 3]

Their view of the immortality of the soul is after this fashion. They believe that as soon as a man dies, his soul enters into another body, going from a good to a better, or from a bad to a worse, according as he hath conducted himself well or ill. That is to say, a poor man, if he have passed through life good and sober, shall be born again of a gentlewoman, and shall be a gentleman; and on a second occasion shall be born of a princess and shall be a prince, and so on, always rising, till he be absorbed into the Deity. But if he have borne himself ill, he who was the son of a gentleman shall be reborn as the son of a boor, and from a boor shall become a dog, always going down lower and lower.

The people have an ornate style of speech; they salute each other with a cheerful countenance, and with great politeness; they behave like gentlemen, and eat with great propriety.[NOTE 4] They show great respect to their parents; and should there be any son who offends his parents, or fails to minister to their necessities, there is a public office which has no other charge but that of punishing unnatural children, who are proved to have acted with ingratitude towards their parents.[NOTE 5]

Criminals of sundry kinds who have been imprisoned, are released at a time fixed by the Great Kaan (which occurs every three years), but on leaving prison they are branded on one cheek that they may be recognized.

The Great Kaan hath prohibited all gambling and sharping, things more prevalent there than in any other part of the world. In doing this, he said: “I have conquered you by force of arms, and all that you have is mine; if, therefore, you gamble away your property, it is in fact my property that you are gambling away.” Not that he took anything from them however.

I must not omit to tell you of the orderly way in which the Kaan’s Barons and others conduct themselves in coming to his presence. In the first place, within a half mile of the place where he is, out of reverence for his exalted majesty, everybody preserves a mien of the greatest meekness and quiet, so that no noise of shrill voices or loud talk shall be heard. And every one of the chiefs and nobles carries always with him a handsome little vessel to spit in whilst he remain in the Hall of Audience—for no one dares spit on the floor of the hall,—and when he hath spitten he covers it up and puts it aside.[NOTE 6] So also they all have certain handsome buskins of white leather, which they carry with them, and, when summoned by the sovereign, on arriving at the entrance to the hall, they put on these white buskins, and give their others in charge to the servants, in order that they may not foul the fine carpets of silk and gold and divers colours.]

NOTE 1.—Ramusio’s heading has Tartars, but it is manifestly of the
Cathayans or Chinese that the author speaks throughout this chapter.

NOTE 2.—”Sbattendo i denti.” This is almost certainly, as Marsden has noticed, due to some error of transcription. Probably Battono i fronti, or something similar, was the true reading. [See following note, p. 461.—H. C.]

NOTE 3.—The latter part of this passage has, I doubt not, been more or less interpolated, seeing that it introduces again as a Chinese divinity the rude object of primitive Tartar worship, of which we have already heard in Bk. I. ch. liii. And regarding the former part of the passage, one cannot but have some doubt whether what was taken for the symbol of the Most High was not the ancestral tablet, which is usually placed in one of the inner rooms of the house, and before which worship is performed at fixed times, and according to certain established forms. Something, too, may have been known of the Emperor’s worship of Heaven at the great circular temple at Peking, called T’ien-t’ân, or Altar of Heaven (see p. 459), where incensed offerings are made before a tablet, on which is inscribed the name Yuh-Hwang Shang-ti, which some interpret as “The Supreme Ruler of the Imperial Heavens,” and regard as the nearest approach to pure Theism of which there is any indication in Chinese worship (See Doolittle, pp. 170, 625; and Lockhart in J. R. G. S., xxxvi. 142). This worship is mentioned by the Mahomedan narrator of Shah Rukh’s embassy (1421): “Every year there are some days on which the Emperor eats no animal food…. He spends his time in an apartment which contains no idol, and says that he is worshipping the God of Heaven.”[1] (Ind. Antiquary, II. 81.)

[Illustration: Great Temple of Heaven, Peking.]

The charge of irreligion against the Chinese is an old one, and is made by Hayton in nearly the same terms as it often is by modern missionaries: “And though these people have the acutest intelligence in all matters wherein material things are concerned, yet you shall never find among them any knowledge or perception of spiritual things.” Yet it is a mistake to suppose that this insensibility has been so universal as it is often represented. To say nothing of the considerable numbers who have adhered faithfully to the Roman Catholic Church, the large number of Mahomedans in China, of whom many must have been proselytes, indicates an interest in religion; and that Buddhism itself was in China once a spiritual power of no small energy will, I think, be plain to any one who reads the very interesting extracts in Schott’s essay on Buddhism in Upper Asia and China. (Berlin Acad. of Sciences, 1846.) These seem to be so little known that I will translate two or three of them. “In the years Yuan-yeu of the Sung (A.D. 1086-1093), a pious matron with her two servants lived entirely to the Land of Enlightenment. One of the maids said one day to her companion: ‘To-night I shall pass over to the Realm of Amita.’ The same night a balsamic odour filled the house, and the maid died without any preceding illness. On the following day the surviving maid said to the lady: ‘Yesterday my deceased companion appeared to me in a dream, and said to me: “Thanks to the persevering exhortations of our mistress, I am become a partaker of Paradise, and my blessedness is past all expression in words.”‘ The matron replied: ‘If she will appear to me also then I will believe what you say.’ Next night the deceased really appeared to her, and saluted her with respect. The lady asked: ‘May I, for once, visit the Land of Enlightenment?’ ‘Yea,’ answered the Blessed Soul, ‘thou hast but to follow thy handmaiden.’ The lady followed her (in her dream), and soon perceived a lake of immeasurable expanse, overspread with innumerable red and white lotus flowers, of various sizes, some blooming, some fading. She asked what those flowers might signify? The maiden replied: ‘These are all human beings on the earth whose thoughts are turned to the Land of Enlightenment. The very first longing after the Paradise of Amita produces a flower in the Celestial Lake, and this becomes daily larger and more glorious, as the self-improvement of the person whom it represents advances; in the contrary case, it loses in glory and fades away.'[2] The matron desired to know the name of an enlightened one who reposed on one of the flowers, clad in a waving and wondrously glistening raiment. Her whilom maiden answered: ‘That is Yangkie.’ Then asked she the name of another, and was answered: ‘That is Mahu.’ The lady then said: ‘At what place shall I hereafter come into existence?’ Then the Blessed Soul led her a space further, and showed her a hill that gleamed with gold and azure. ‘Here,’ said she, ‘is your future abode. You will belong to the first order of the blessed.’ When the matron awoke she sent to enquire for Yangkie and Mahu. The first was already departed; the other still alive and well. And thus the lady learned that the soul of one who advances in holiness and never turns back, may be already a dweller in the Land of Enlightenment, even though the body still sojourn in this transitory world” (pp. 55-56).

What a singular counterpart the striking conclusion here forms to Dante’s tremendous assault on a still living villain,—or enemy!

    —”che per sua opra
In anima in Cocito già si bagna,
Ed in corpo par vivo ancor di sopra.”
Infern. xxxiii. 155.

Again: “I knew a man who during his life had killed many living beings, and was at last struck with an apoplexy. The sorrows in store for his sin-laden soul pained me to the heart; I visited him, and exhorted him to call on the Amita; but he obstinately refused, and spoke only of indifferent matters. His illness clouded his understanding; in consequence of his misdeeds he had become hardened. What was before such a man when once his eyes were closed? Wherefore let men be converted while there is yet time! In this life the night followeth the day, and the winter followeth the summer; that, all men are aware of. But that life is followed by death, no man will consider. Oh, what blindness and obduracy is this!” (p. 93).

Again: “Hoang-ta-tie, of T’ancheu (Changshu-fu in Honan), who lived under the Sung, followed the craft of a blacksmith. Whenever he was at his work he used to call without intermission on the name of Amita Buddha. One day he handed to his neighbours the following verses of his own composing to be spread about:—

  ‘Ding dong! The hammer-strokes fall long and fast,
Until the Iron turns to steel at last!
Now shall the long long Day of Rest begin,
The Land of Bliss Eternal calls me in.’

Thereupon he died. But his verses spread all over Honan, and many learned to call upon Buddha” (103).

Once more: “In my own town there lived a physician by name Chang-yan-ming. He was a man who never took payment for his treatment from any one in poor or indifferent circumstances; nay, he would often make presents to such persons of money or corn to lighten their lot. If a rich man would have his advice and paid him a fee, he never looked to see whether it were much or little. If a patient lay so dangerously ill that Yanming despaired of his recovery, he would still give him good medicine to comfort his heart, but never took payment for it. I knew this man for many a year, and I never heard the word Money pass his lips! One day a fire broke out in the town, and laid the whole of the houses in ashes; only that of the physician was spared. His sons and grandsons reached high dignities” (p. 110).

Of such as this physician the apostle said: “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him.”

[“By the ‘Most High and Heavenly God,’ worshipped by the Chinese, as Marco Polo reports, evidently the Chinese T’ien, ‘Heaven’ is meant, Lao t’ien ye in the common language. Regarding ‘the God of things terrestrial,’ whose figure the Chinese, according to M. Polo, ‘placed below on the ground,’ there can also be no doubt that he understands the T’u-ti, the local ‘Lar’ of the Chinese, to which they present sacrifices on the floor, near the wall under the table.

“M. Polo reports, that the Chinese worship their God offering incense, raising their hands aloft, and gnashing their teeth. Of course he means that they placed the hands together, or held kindled joss-stick bundles in their hands, according to the Chinese custom. The statement of M. Polosbattendo i denti is very remarkable. It seems to me, that very few of the Chinese are aware of the fact, that this custom still exists among the Taouists. In the rituals of the Taouists the K’ow-ch’i (Ko’w = ‘to knock against,’ch’i = ‘teeth’) is prescribed as a comminatory and propitiatory act. It is effected by the four upper and lower foreteeth. The Taouists are obliged before the service begins to perform a certain number of ‘K’ow-ch’i, turning their heads alternately to the left and to the right, in order to drive away mundane thoughts and aggressions of bad spirits. The K’ow-ch’i repeated three times is called ming fa ku in Chinese, i.e. ‘to beat the spiritual drum.’ The ritual says, that it is heard by the Most High Ruler, who is moved by it to grace.

“M. Polo observed this custom among the lay heathen. Indeed, it appears from a small treatise, written in China more than a hundred years before M. Polo, that at the time the Chinese author wrote, all devout men, entering a temple, used to perform the K’ow-ch’i, and considered it an expression of veneration and devotion to the idols. Thus this custom had been preserved to the time of M. Polo, who did not fail to mention this strange peculiarity in the exterior observances of the Chinese. As regards the present time it seems to me, that this custom is not known among the people, and even with respect to the Taouists it is only performed on certain occasions, and not in all Taouist temples.” (Palladius, pp. 53-54.)—H. C.]

NOTE 4.—”True politeness cannot of course be taught by rules merely, but a great degree of urbanity and kindness is everywhere shown, whether owing to the naturally placable disposition of the people, or to the effects of their early instruction in the forms of politeness.” (Mid. Kingdom, II. 68.) As regards the “ornate style of speech,” a well-bred Chinaman never says I or You, but for the former “the little person,” “the disciple,” “the inferior,” and so on; and for the latter, “the learned man,” “the master,” or even “the emperor.” These phrases, however, are not confined to China, most of them having exact parallels in Hindustani courtesy. On this subject and the courteous disposition of the Chinese, see Fontaney, in Lett. Edif. VII. 287 seqq.; also XI. 287 seqq.; Semedo, 36; Lecomte, II. 48 seqq. There are, however, strong differences of opinion expressed on this subject; there is, apparently, much more genuine courtesy in the north than in the south.

NOTE 5.—”Filial piety is the fundamental principle of the Chinese polity.” (Amiot, V. 129.) “In cases of extreme unfilial conduct, parents sometimes accuse their children before the magistrate, and demand his official aid in controlling or punishing them; but such instances are comparatively rare…. If the parent require his son to be publicly whipped by the command of the magistrate, the latter is obliged to order the infliction of the whipping…. If after punishment the son remain undutiful and disobedient, and his parents demand it at the hands of the magistrate, the latter must, with the consent of the maternal uncles of the son, cause him to be taken out to the high wall in front of the yamun, and have him there publicly whipped to death.” (Doolittle, 102-103.)

NOTE 6.—[Mr. Rockhill writes to me that pocket-spitoons are still used in
China.—H. C.]

[1] “In the worship carried on here the Emperor acts as a high priest. HE only worships; and no subject, however high in rank, can join in the adoration.” (Lockhart.) The actual temple dates from 1420-1430; but the Institution is very ancient, and I think there is evidence that such a structure existed under the Mongols, probably only restored by the Ming. [It was built during the 18th year of the reign of the third Ming Emperor Yung Loh (1403-1425); it was entirely restored during the 18th year of K’ien Lung; it was struck by lightning and burnt down in 1889; it is being re-built.—H. C.]

[2] In 1871 I saw in Bond Street an exhibition of (so-called) “spirit” drawings, i.e. drawings alleged to be executed by a “medium” under extraneous and invisible guidance. A number of these extraordinary productions (for extraordinary they were undoubtedly) professed to represent the “Spiritual Flowers” of such and such persons; and the explanation of this as presented in the catalogue was in substance exactly that given in the text. It is highly improbable that the artist had any cognizance of Schott’s Essay, and the coincidence was assuredly very striking.