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0390 Cathay and the Way Thither : vol.1
Cathay and the Way Thither : vol.1 / Page 390 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000042
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managing is this, that ten or twelve households will unite to

money ; a term in common use throughout the East, but vulgarly pronounced fils. According to the author of the Kâmus it also signifies sigillo impressa charta in collo pendens, quo tributarium esse significabatur. Perhaps this term was similarly applied to the stamped paper money of the Tartar dynasty." This is almost satisfactory, but does not quite carry conviction, both because we find Arabic authors like Ibn Batuta using bdlisht as a distinct word, and because its meaning seems to have been that of a certain sum or monetary unit, apart from any connexion with paper currency. The Arabic fais, according to Reinaud (Hem. de l'Acacl. des Insc., xviii, 237), is merely a corruption of obolus, representing copper coin, as dirhe,n from drachma represents silver coin, and dinar from denarius gold. It seems therefore unlikely that it should be applied to a large sum of gold or silver. Ibn Batuta tells us that bâlisht means the same as a dinar or piece of gold with us," whilst we find that Shah Rokh's embassy to the Ming Emperor in 1420 receives, amongst other presents, eight balish of silver. Another of the presents is five thousand chao, which was the genuine Chinese name for the paper money. In a story about certain merchants, related by Gregory Abulpharagius in connexion with the invasion of Turkestan by Chinghiz, we find the Khan ordering one balish of gold to be paid for each piece of gold brocade, and two balish of silver for each piece of muslin. We are told also that Hulaku deposited his treasures in a castle on Lake Urumia, after casting his gold into balish.

D' Ohsson does not explain the word, but he quotes three valuations of it from Persian historians. The author of Tarikh Jahan Kushai (d. 1282) says that the balish, whether of gold or silver, was a weight of five hundred mithkals. Wassaf, in the beginning of the fourteenth century, says the balish of gold was equal to two thousand dinars; the balish of silver, two hundred dinars; and the balish chao, or of paper money, was but ten dinars. The author of Rozcct ul Jancct, written in the fifteenth century, estimated the balish of gold at five hundred dinars. I may add that the author of the Livre du Grant Caan, a contemporary of Odoric, says the balisme of gold was equal to one thousand golden florins. Petis de la Croix says (but I do not know on what authority) that a balish of gold was worth seventy-five golden dinars, and adds that in short a balish was what in his own day was in Turkey called a purse. (Vie de Genghiz Can, Ital. tr. Ven., 1737, p. 195.)

With regard to the paper balish, Ibn Batuta tells us only that twenty-five notes went to it, whilst Odoric says five notes went to it, and that it was worth a florin and a half, i.e., about fourteen shillings. Pegolotti says four balish were worth a sommo, and that was worth about five florins. This would make the balish about twelve shillings.

It would seem from these various statements that the value of the metallic balish had varied, though perhaps a weight of five hundred mithkals was its original standard. The difference in value of the paper and silver balish was probably entirely due to the depreciation of paper caused