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0490 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 490 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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474   183. COTTON

different rubrics; he has been followed by BRETSCHNEIDER (Botanicon Sinicum, II, 348, 350) and STUART (Materia Medica, 312, 423); both agree to see in the t'ung the Paulownia imperialis and in the wu-t'ung the Sterculia platanifolia, and to state that the tree from the bark of which cloth was woven was the Sterculia. I am convinced that the latter opinion is a double mistake. First, I cannot discover any ancient text which speaks of cloth made from the bark of the wut'ung tree. Kuo I-kung's Kuang chih, as cited in the T'ai-p'ing yü-lan (966, 9 b) says : « There is white wu-t'ung. The kingdom of P'iao ( = Burma) has the white t'ung tree (po-t'ung-mu) ; its leaves (It yeh) have a white down (fi ts'ui); the people take this down, soak it, and make it into threads with which they weave cloth. » Apart from the first sentence, the quotation also occurs earlier in the T'ang encyclopaedia I-wên lei-chü (85, 28 b). The T'u-shu chi-ch'êng (ts'aomu tien, 239, chi-shih, 2 a) gives it in the same form as the T'ai-p'ing yü-lan. Ch'ên Chu's T'ung p'u, «Monograph of t'ung », dated 1049, cites it in identical terms (T'u-shu chi-ch'êng, ts'ao-mu tien, 237, 11 a). I have no doubt, however, that S yeh, «leaves », is an old graphic

corruption of   hua or t hua, «flower ». As a matter of fact, the passage of the Kuang chih,
as cited in the commentary of the Hou-Han shu (116, 8 a; cf. BEFEO, iv, 173), does not give yeh, but hua (the compiler of the fragments of the Kuang chih in the Yü-han-shan fang chi ishu, 2, I b, seems to have used a bad edition of the Hou-Han shu). Although the main compiler of the I-wen lei-chü, Ou-yang Hsün, died A. D. 641, whereas the commentary of the Hou-Han shu was completed only in 676-678, we have no edition of the I-wên lei-chü earlier than the one revised under the Ming dynasty, and cannot be sure that Ou-yang Hsün's original text already gave the faulty reading.

However that may be, the fact that hua, and not yeh, is the only possible reading can be established by another series of arguments. As we have seen, the Hou-Han shu says that cloth was made from the « flowers » of the wu-t'ung tree, and so does the Hua-yang kuo-chih (4, 18 a-b), which says in like terms : « In Yung-ch'ang, there is the wu-t'ung tree (mu), the flowers of which are soft like silk threads (,$ set). The people spin them to make cloth, every strip of which is about

five feet broad; it is clean and white and does not get soiled; its popular name is j   i t'ung-
hua pu (' t'ung-flower cloth '). They cover the dead with it, and afterwards wear it and sell it to others » (the quotation in T'u-shu chi-ch'êng, ts'ao-mu tien, 339, chi-shih, 2 b, copied from T'aip'ing yü-lan, 957, 9 b, is most inaccurate). In the same way, Tso Ssû (3rd cent.), in his « Ode on Ch'êng-tu» (Shu-tu fu), too famous not to have been genuinely preserved, says (Wen-hsüan,

ch. 4) : «For cloth (pu), they have the flowers of t'ung (   t'ung-hua); for flour, they have
the kuang-lang (cf. supra, p. 473) ». The rare character used by Tso Ssû, t'ung, not discussed in botanical works, is historically homophonous of the t'ung of wu-t'ung, and is certainly to be regarded as its equivalent. The commentary adds : « The tree is called t'ung; its flowers have a soft down which can be spun to make cloth. It grows in Yung-ch'ang ». In speaking of cloth made from the « bark » of the wu-t'ung, BRETSCHNEIDER expressly refers to Lu Chi's « Memoir on natural history in the Book of Odes » (Mao-Shih ts'ao-mu niao-shou ch'ung-yü shu). This is a

well-known work by   411 Lu Chi, txic j j Yüan-k'o, a man of the Wu kingdom who lived in
the middle of the 3rd cent. (LEGGE, Chin. Classics, iv, Proleg., 178, and BRETSCHNEIDER, Botanicon Sinicum, I, 33, still confuse this Lu Chi of the Three Kingdoms with the celebrated author