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0479 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 479 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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183. COTTON   463

and the same blanket two years. Thus mu-mien was clearly not a luxury (the Imperial tents were usually made of black felt outside, but lined and decorated with pieces of vermilion silk; cf. T'ang liu-tien, 11, 9-10). CIBOT (Mém. conc. les Chinois, ii, 603) has spoken of the «robe de coton » of Wu-ti, and the same has been done by MAYERS, W. Williams (The Middle Kingdom, II, 36-37), PARKER (China Review, xix, 192), and Dyer BALL (Things Chinese`, 149); but I can find no authority for such a meaning of chang (the only alternative meaning, instead of « tent », would be « curtain »). Though without a verb, the sentence mu-mien tsao-chang is independent

from the preceding one. The K'ang-hsi tzû-tien (s. v.    mien), which cites the Tzû-chih t'ung-
chien, suppresses the first sentence and then, wanting a verb, gives « Liang Wu-ti sent ( sung) a black tent of mu-mien », which is an alteration of the text. This, however, like the misquotation from Shih Chao which follows (cf. infra, p. 501), was merely copied by the authors of the K'ang-hsi tzû-tien from an earlier dictionary or encyclopaedia, since it is already quoted, in the same terms, by the Ch' an-fang p'u of 1630 (Mien p'u section, 5 b) from the Wu-Hsün tsa-p'ei, then a recent work (cf. supra, p. 438).

I shall not dwell on the mere mentions of mu-mien in the T'ang period (the term occurs in the works of at least half a dozen T'ang poets), and still less under the Sung and Yüan, when cotton gradually spread over central and north-western China, but I wish to draw attention to a fact which is not without interest for the use of cotton, of whatever sort it may have been, among the aboriginal tribes of Yün-nan. These tribes were often designated from some particular characteristic of their dress or of the products of their country. Now one of them, belonging to the group of the ifx Pu (which included the Tattooed Pu, the Red-mouth Pu, etc.), was known as the Mu-mien Pu, « the Cotton Pu » (cf. also BEFEO, viii, 367, where the name is left untranslated). This information occurs in a group of five quotations expressly said to be drawn from Kuo I-kung's Kuang chih; they have been preserved in the T'ai-p'ing yü-lan, 192, 3 b, and are found also, without indication of source in the T'ung tien, 187, 8 b-9 a, and in the T'ai-p'ing huan-yü chi, 179, 16 b-17 a; I do not know why they have been left out in the Yü-han-shan fang chi i-shu (perhaps because the compiler thought that the attribution was erroneous). The text is as follows : « In the country of the Mu-mien Pu, there is the mu-mien tree, which has abundant leaves, and very numerous carpels; in the carpels, the floss is similar to that made by silkworms; [the pod] is a big as the fist ».

We have seen that the word used for « cotton », mu-mien was made with the word which meant silk-floss, to which mu had been added to mark that it was a vegetal floss. But when cotton became

of more common use in China, a new graphic specification was made, and ij, mien began to be

written ]M mien. Although the K'ang-hsi tzû-tien gives only the latter form in mu-mien, even for examples of pre-T'ang and T'ang times, and although P'ei-wên yün fu arbitrarily gives some of

these examples under one form and some under the other, there is no indication that the new

character was ever used before the Sung dynasty; it has not been traced before the Kuang yün (A. D. 1007-1011), and it is given as a new form by Yüan Wên (12th cent.) in his Wêng-yu hsien-

p'ing (4, 3 a; cf. also Kuei-ssü lei-kao, 7, 21 a-b; 14, 6 a). But it is then of frequent occurrence, and, if we can trust the texts established by Ch'ien-lung's Commissioners for the Ssü-k'u ch'üanshu, it is regularly used by Chou Ch'ü-fei (1178; 10, 9 a), Chao Ju-kua (1225), Wang Chêng (1313, with some inconsistencies in the present editions), the authors of the Nung-sang chi-yao (1273;