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0221 Cathay and the Way Thither : vol.1
Cathay and the Way Thither : vol.1 / Page 221 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000042
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after the temporary transfer of the Court to Nanking, and the buildings were yet under reconstruction. The envoys were conducted straight to the palace, in an inner court of which they found a numerous assemblage of courtiers and officers waiting for the Emperor's appearance. "Each held in his hand a tablet of a cubit in length and a quarter as much in breadth, on which he kept his eyes steadfastly fixed.' Behind these were troops in countless numbers, of spearmen and cuirassiers, a part of whom held drawn swords. All preserved the profoundest. silence. You would have thought it an assembly of the dead." As "the Emperor came out of the women's apartments they set against the thrones a silver ladder of five steps, and placed a golden chair on the top of the throne. The Emperor mounted and took his seat upon this chair. He was a man of the middle height ; his face neither very large nor very small, and not without some beard ; indeed two or three hundred hairs of his beard were long enough to form three or four curls upon his chest. To right and left of the throne stood two young girls with faces like the moon, who had their hair drawn to a knot on the crown ; their faces and necks were bare ; they had large pearls in their ears ; and they held paper and pen in their hands ready to take down the Emperor's orders. It is their duty to write down whatever falls from the Emperor's mouth. When he returns to the private apartments they submit this paper to him. Should he think proper to change any of the orders, a new document is executed, so that the members of his Council may have his mature decisions to follow.

" When the Emperor had taken his seat on the throne, and everybody was in place in the royal presence, they made the ambassadors come forward side by side with certain prisoners. The Emperor proceeded to examine the latter, who were some seven hundred in number. Some of them had a dvshcikah (or wooden yoke) on their necks ; others had both neck and arms passed through a board ; some five or ten were held together by one long piece of timber, through holes in which their heads protruded.3 Each prisoner had a keeper by him who held him by the hair, waiting for the Emperor's sentence. Some were condemned to imprisonment, others to death. Throughout the Empire of Cathay no Amir or Governor has the right to put any person whatsoever to death. When a man has committed any crime the details of his guilt are written on a wooden board which is hung round the delinquent's neck, as well as a memorandum indicating the punishment incurred according to the infidel law, and then with a wooden pillory on and a chain attached to him he is

I See allusion to these tablets by Odoric, infra, p. 141, and the note there.

z By throne is to be understood an elevated ottoman or cushioned platform.

a These are varieties of the portable pillory called by our travellers, after the Portuguese, Canguc.