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0176 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 176 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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160   116. CAPDOILLE

abbreviation as in « sperm whale », such terms as « sperm oil » and « sperm candle » have been created as late as the middle of the last century to designate the oil found with the spermaceti or candles prepared with spermaceti. The word spermaceti itself has been traced in English to 1471 (MURRAY).

Spermaceti and oil are found mainly in the head of the cachalot, but also, to a lesser degree, in other parts of its body. Moreover, some other whales and dolphins yield the same products, although to a much lesser extent. But « ambergris » is almost exclusively a secretion of the cachalot, so that Polo's « whalefish and capdoille » are more or less pleonastic (see « Ambergris »).

QAZwiNi (-i- 1283) speaks of the oil which was obtained from the head of what certainly is the cachalot (cf. Y, II, 408). We find the same information in Chinese texts. One of the authorities formerly adduced must, however, be left out. The Yu-yang tsa-tsu of the 9th cent.,

which describes a cetacean six to nine yards long under the unexplained names of    IV? pên fu
(perhaps for p'ên [1] fu, « spouting fu r) and ' IA chi, says that one of these « fish » yielded thirty to forty bushels of oil (ft kao) which could be used to feed lamps; but it was only by punctuating the text erroneously that RocKHILL made it mean that the oil was obtained from the head of the pen fu (TP, 1915, 158). On the other hand, Chao Ju-kua, writing in 1225, is unambiguous. According to his notice of Chung-li (= Somali coast), huge dead fish thirty odd yards long were stranded there every year. The natives did not eat their flesh, but « cut out their brains, marrow and eyes to get oil ( yu), sometimes as much as three hundred odd if& têng (from one fish)» (cf. HR, 131). Perhaps the eyes were taken out for another reason than to get oil; at any rate, « whale eyes » were more than once offered as tribute (cf. LAUFER in TP, 1913, 342; add the text of the Yüan-ho chün-hsien t'u-chih of the early 9th cent. in which « big fish eyes » [ A _: 114 ta-yü-ching] are mentioned as a tribute sent to the Court from the modern Hui-chou-fu in Kuang-tung [34, 6 b]). The value of têng is uncertain. HIRTH and ROCKHILL (HR, 69, 132, 283) say that, in Buddhist works, it is generally the Skr. to/d, a small weight equal to four mâsa (but cf. YULE, Hobson-Jobson2, s.v. « tola » and « mace », where the « tola » is equal to twelve mâsa), but must here represent « some other foreign word, Persian probably ». I do not know HIRTH and ROCKHILL's authorities, but cannot trace têng as a measure in any Chinese text, Buddhist or otherwise, except that of Chao Ju-kua; moreover the told is a weight of late date, not likely to appear in Indian Buddhist texts. My own impression is that we have here to deal with a purely Chinese, though dialectical, term for which there was no regular character. Chao Ju-kua wrote it f têng, but I think it probable that it is the same word which occurs many times a little more than a century later in the Tao-i chih-lio, where it is written with the unauthorized character II (? têng). In his partial translation of the Tao-ichihlio (TP, 136, 251, 266), ROCKHILL rendered the latter form as « jar » without any remark. He was certainly right, and the unauthorized character of the Tao-i chih-lio is still used now to write ding, « jar », of the Fu-chou dialect (cf. MACLAY and BALDWIN, An alphab. dictionary of... the Fouchow dialects [1898], 195). In such a case, Chao Ju-kua would mention a limit somewhat above three hundred jars of oil for a whale; it is much nearer the true figures than the thirty to forty bushels of the Yu-yang tsa-tsu.

One difficulty remains, for which I can offer no satisfactory solution. The « tunny » is of