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0493 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 493 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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183. COTTON   477

devoted to a i,   so-lo mien-shu, or « so-lo cotton tree », which existed west of the district

city of T'ung-wang. It required the extended arms of three or four men to embrace it; it first gave flowers, and lacer gave leaves; the flowers opened only when there was a warm summer. The

pistils   'ui of the flowers had a floss   mien) which was called ;1:

p   (~ 1 )   (~t~,   )   ~   n so-lo mien, « so-lo

cotton » (no stress can be laid upon the use of the two forms of mien in our very faulty editions of the T'ai-p'ing kuang-chi). It is to be remarked that this tree was brought into a miraculous connection with a famous deceased Buddhist monk, and that some of the particulars given about the tree (its size, and the flowers preceding the leaves) recur in descriptions of so-lo trees in texts which are supposed to refer to gala trees. In fact, the tree of Li-chou may have been a Bombax.

The Pên-ts'ao kang-mu (36, 72 b) cites an interesting text which it says occurs in T5 r Chu

Mu's A l'1L   Fang-yü chih (« Geography ») : « - - j P'ing-mien produces   so-lo trees (shu);
the big ones are thirty or fifty feet high. They form seeds (tza) which have floss (mien). This floss is made into threads and woven to make white felt (q tff po-chan; perhaps a misreading of

ftt po-tieh) [and] tou-lo-mien. » LAUFER (Sino-Iranica, 491), when using this important text, said that Chu Mu was an author of the Sung dynasty. It is true that Chu Mu, of the Sung dynasty,

published about 1239 a geographical work entitled fj t   Fang-yu shêng-lan (cf. Ssû-k'u ... ,
68, 10 a), but the circuit (lu) of P'ing-mien (« Pacified Burma »), in the region of the present T'êng-yüeh, was established only in 1276 ( YS, 61, 13 a). So there can be no doubt that the quo-

tation really comes not from Chu Mu's Fang-yü shêng-lan, but from the [ ti .j   -- ] Shêng-
ch'ao hun-i fang-yii shêng-lan which was published under Qubilai's reign (1260-1294; cf. MIA° Ch'üan-sun's I fêng-t'ang to-shu hsü-chi, ,3, 1 a) and incorporated (in 1307?; cf. Kuan-ku-t'ang ts'ang-shu mu, 3, 27 b, where « 31th » to-tê year must be a slip for « 11th ») into the [-rte

] a A   [Shih-wên lei-chü] Han-mo ta-ch'üan; unfortunately I have at present no access to
the latter collection. It is, at any rate, clear that the so-lo tree of this text is either a cotton tree or a silk-cotton tree. The size would suggest a silk-cotton tree, but it is only the floss of the cotton tree which could be used for weaving tou-lo-mien.

The same may be said of the passage from the Ko-ku yao-lun also adduced by LAUFER (ibid.). The Ko-ku yao-lun was published in 1387 and again in 1388, and added to in 1456-1459. Among the passages which belong to the original redaction, we read (Hsi-yin-hsüan ts'ung-shu ed., 8, 4 b) :

«91d,   Tou-lo-chin. The tou-lo-chin is a product of the Southern Barbarians (Nan-Fan), of
the Western Barbarians (Hsi-Fan) and of Yün-nan. It is woven with the n chin inside the seeds

of the   so-lo tree (shu), and is similar to velvet (4 a chien-jung). It is five or six feet in
breadth, and is much used for making blankets (pei) and also clothes can be made of it. » Chin means «brocade », but tou-lo chin must be a corrupt reading for tou-lo-[ . ,]mien, as already said by LAUFER. As we have seen above (cf. supra, p. 431), tou-lo-mien was under the Ming dynasty the designation of a cotton velvet; moreover, it is mien, « floss », not chin, « brocade », which is found «inside the seeds » of the so-lo tree, and this so-lo tree must be the cotton tree, Gossypium arboreum.

This conclusion is fully borne out by the fact that so-lo, as a designation of the cotton tree, has survived down to the present day, mainly in the modernized form already used in the Ko-ku

yao-lun. According to the Ming i-t'ung chih (87, 17 b), completed in 1461, the «   so-lo tree