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0475 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 475 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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183. COTTON   459

ku-lü t'êng or lü-t'êng; the terms ku t'êng and lü t'êng occur fairly often in literature, but merely in the sense of t'êng that are old or of t'êng that are green. Whatever the case may

be, the main point is that the   ' !r if ku lü-t'êng, from which cloth was made, is hardly

different from the cloth giving   ffié ku-chung t'êng in the pseudo-Nan-yüeh chih text; one

of the two forms must be a graphic corruption of the other, but I am not in a position to tell which. One result, however, has been reached, I think, by this provisional inquiry : the « kuchung creeper », which has played too important a part in European research on the history of cotton in China, should disappear altogether from Chinese botanical nomenclature. It is almost needless to add that LAUFER'S attempt at connecting ku-chung with Lepca ka-cuk ki-kun, « cotton tree », Sin-pro ga-dun, id. and Meo coa, « cotton », is valueless.

MU-MIEN. — In discussing the question of ku-chung, I have referred several times to cotton as mu-mien, and we have seen that LAUFER rendered it « tree-cotton », which is indeed a word-for-word translation (mu, « tree »; mien, « cotton »), as if the term had been created in contradistinction to ts'ao-mien, lit. « plant-cotton », the Gossypium herbaceum. But this is a

mistake. The word   mien, formerly and more regularly written   mien, is very ancient in
Chinese as the designation of « floss silk ». When cotton became known in China, cotton fabrics were designated as tieh or po-tieh, but unwoven cotton, and by extension the tree or plant which produced cotton was called mu-mien, where mu does not really mean « tree » in contradistinction to « plant », but vegetal in contradistinction to mien alone or to ssû-mien, which was « floss silk ». The most that can be said is that, if the Chinese then created the term mu-mien (tree -!- floss), and not ts'ao-mien (plant - ; floss), it may be due to the nature of the cotton-yielding vegetable with which they first became acquainted; it may have been first the silk-cotton tree , and the name would have soon been extended by analogy to the cotton tree and the cotton plant. But this is not binding, and the Chinese may have done what the Germans did when they called cotton « Baumwolle », i. e. « tree-wool », although they certainly did not have in view a true tree like the Bombax. As late as the end of the 16th cent., LI Shih-chên did not know how to distinguish between the tree (or trees) and the plant except by speaking of «the mu-mien which is like a tree » and « the mu-mien which is like a plant ».

The earliest mention of mu-mien I have found occurs in a fragment of the geographical section of the afltWu-lu of 4K fjj Chang Po (last quarter of the 3rd cent.; cf. Sui thing-chichih k'ao-chêng, I, 12 b, and MASPERO, in BEFEO, XVIII, III, 25), which has been preserved in

a 5th cent. work, the   & » T>ftï Ch'i-min yao-shu (Chin-tai pi-shu ed., 10, 44 b; it is also
given in T'ai-p'ing yü-lan, 960, 17 a, but is not included among the fragments of the Wu lu

collected in the Shuo fu in 120 chs., ch. 59) : « In the district (hsien) of t   Ting-an of [the
chün] of x Jjfr (x CIE in T'ai-p'ing yii-lan and T'u-shu chi-ch'êng, ts'ao-ma tien, 303, 2 a) Chiao-chih, there is the mu-mien tree (shu), which is ten feet high. Its fruit (shih) is like a wine cup; at its orifice (q k'ou, retained in the T'u-shu chi-chêng; but the T'ai ping yü-lan gives

chung, ' inside [the fruit] ', which seems preferable; the next quotation, parallel to this one, gives chung), there is floss (mien) like the floss of the silkworm. It can also be used for making cloth, which is called 0 ,` po-hsieh (on this form, cf. supra, p. 449), and by some, ' woollen