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0173 Cathay and the Way Thither : vol.1
Cathay and the Way Thither : vol.1 / Page 173 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000042
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In a later passage, after speaking of the simplicity of primitive habits, he goes on :-

"Hence, one wonders more and more, how from beginnings so different, we have come now to see whole mountains cut down into marble slabs, journeys made to the Seres to get stuffs for clothing, the abysses of the Red Sea explored for pearls, and the depths of the earth in search of emeralds ! Nay, more, they have taken up the notion also of piercing the ears, as if it were too small a matter to wear these gems in necklaces and tiaras, unless holes also were made in the body to insert them in !" (xii, 1).

And again:—

" But the sea of Arabia is still more fortunate ; for 'tis thence it sends us pearls. And at the lowest computation, India and the Seres and that Peninsula put together drain our empire of one hundred million of sesterces every year. That is the price that our luxuries and our womankind cost us !" (xii, 41).



" Now, the Land of Elis is not merely fruitful in other products, but also, and it is not the least of them, in Byssus.' Flemp and flax and byssus are sown by such as have soils appropriate to the cultivation of each. But the filaments from which the Seres make their stuffs arc the growth of no plant, but are produced in quite another manner ; and thus it is. There exists in their country a certain insect which the Greeks call Sr,é but by the Seres it is not called Sér, but something quite different. In size 'tis twice as big as the biggest of beetles : but, in other respects, it resembles the spiders that spin under trees ; and, moreover, it has eight legs as spiders have. The Seres keep these creature, and make houses for their shelter adapted to summer and winter respectively. And the substance wrought by these insects is found in the shape of a slender filament entangled about their legs. The people feed them for about four years upon millet, and in the fifth year (for they know that the creatures will not live longer than that) they give them a kind of green reed to eat. This is the food that the insect likes best of all ; and it crams itself with it to such an extent that it bursts

dumb trade indeed prevails more or less in most Asiatic countries, including Mongolia (Hut and Gabet, 112) and possibly China, I mean that by which bargains are driven and concluded by the two parties fingering each other's knuckles under a shawl without a word spoken. Could the stories of the Serie trade have risen out of this practice ?